Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Top 50: 15 - 11

ESPN, SLAM and a variety of basketball media outlets have been slowly unveiling their lists of the top current basketball players. The theory is a countdown to the start of the 2011/12 NBA season, which was scheduled to start November 1st, but lockout negotiations are ongoing to say the least. ESPN did a top 500 list, and made it interactive over twitter with the hashtag #NBArank, and SLAM's messaging boards have topped 500 comments for the Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose pages.

While these outlets were generating buzz, I was becoming inspired.

Who really was the best?

Everybody has an opinion, so I've gathered some of the best of them and grouped it with other relevant information. Each player is listed with relevant rankings from various trusted basketball outlets, statistical information for the top 5 categories (pts, reb, ast, FG%, FT%) and an indication if they finished in the top 10 in another category like blocks, 3FG%, or turnovers.

I also looked at advanced statistical measures such as PER, Net Production, and Simple Rating which are relatively explained in the links.

For some players, certain ranking systems do not apply, and are simply not listed.

In all, this was an attempt to be unbiased, to gather and reflect on existing sources, and ultimately form an educated opinion that is at once objective, and also completely my own.

SLAM's list is for "projected production in the upcoming '11/12 season," and this means that steady regular season production is a factor. The good teams have always paced themselves, and Kobe could still go for 30, but he knows he doesn't need to. Plus, you're speculating on fantasy and future.

My list is based on right now. If the lockout were to end, and instead of a season all we got was a Finals. Who would you pick to lead your team? Who could have the most impact in just a series, when all the chips are down?

Please engage me on this, I want to hear your thoughts. No list is permanent, and subject to change.

Wed October 26: 50 - 41
50 - Andrew Bogut
49 - Nené
48 - Marc Gasol
47 - Andrew Bynum
46 - Lamar Odom
45 - John Wall
44 - Tyson Chandler
43 - Carlos Boozer
42 - Al Horford
41 - Gerald Wallace
Thurs October 27: 40 - 31
40 - David West
39 - Jason Kidd
38 - Josh Smith
37 - Stephen Curry
36 - Joachim Noah
35 - Eric Gordon
34 - Kevin Garnett
33 - Tim Duncan
32 - Tony Parker
31 - Al Jefferson
Fri October 28: 30 - 21
30 - Ray Allen
29 - Kevin Martin
28 - Tyreke Evans
27 - Andre Iguodala
26 - Rudy Gay
25 - Danny Granger
24 - Monta Ellis
23 - Kevin Love
22 - Joe Johnson
21 - Manu Ginobili
Sat October 29: 20 - 16
20 - Zach Randolph
19 - Paul Pierce
18 - Steve Nash
17 - Chris Bosh
16 - LaMarcus Aldridge
Sun October 30: 15 - 11
Mon October 31: 10 - 6
Tues November 1: 5 - 1
Rajon Rondo
-       ESPN rank 17 (8.19)
-       SLAMonline rank - 15
-       CBS rank 70 (72.21)
-       2k12 rank 14 (85)
-       Yahoo 2011 Fantasy Draft Average Pick -26
-       Sports Illustrated #27
-       Eye on Basketball #22
-       10.6 pts, 4.4 reb, 11.2 ast, 47.5 FG%, 56.8 FT%
-       2010/11 Season Steals #2
-       2010/11 Season 7th Most Turnovers

Rondo stole my heart when he came back from that gruesome dislocated elbow in the playoffs to be the player of the game, and inspire and lead the Celtics to a big playoff win over Miami. Rondo is a great player, and can lead a team like maybe none else. Some have questioned if Rondo's defensive prowess has overshadowed his weak offensive game, and that the Boston Celtics system has made him the player that he is. Rondo is an excellent defender, evidenced by his league second place in steals. On offense, Rondo has not been given the assignment of scoring, instead setting up his Hall Of Fame teammates, and ended the season second in the league in assists. Rondo is the youngest member of the Celtics, and the highest rated on my top 50.


Pau Gasol
-       ESPN rank 11 (8.53)
-       SLAMonline rank - 13
-       CBS rank 7 (89.61)
-       2k12 rank 12 (86)
-       Yahoo 2011 Fantasy Draft Average Pick -9.4
-       Player Efficiency Rating #11
-       Sports Illustrated #10
-       Eye on Basketball #9
-       360special All-Time rank - 81
-       18.8 pts, 10.2 reb, 3.3 ast, 52.9 FG%, 82.3 FT%
-       Estimated wins added – #8 – 17.9

I feel like this is a bit high for Pau actually. But then again his offensive game as a seven-footer is almost unrivaled in the NBA other then Dirk. Other sources have him even higher than this. He's not quite a 20-10 guy, but he could surely stretch it if he had a good season. He adds wins, and is efficient beyond this rating. And besides, his supposed weakness, and lack of rebounding is laughable when you see Raptors fans drooling at his 10.2 rebound per game. Any fans really are just hating Pau because they know he's that good. And as far as international competition goes, he's pretty much the general of the Spanish team, the USA's primary competition. It may be just the lingering stink from the Lakers playoff run that makes me half-doubt him, but he'll prove me wrong.

Russell Westbrook
-       ESPN rank 15 (8.24)
-       SLAMonline rank - 12
-       CBS rank 13 (86.87)
-       2k12 rank 10 (88)
-       Yahoo 2011 Fantasy Draft Average Pick -13.0
-       Player Efficiency Rating #8
-       Sports Illustrated #12
-       PSD Top 10 - #13
-       Eye on Basketball #14
-       21.9 pts, 4.6 reb, 8.2 ast, 44.2 FG%, 84.2 FT%
-       2010/11 Season Steals #4
-       2010/11 Season Most Turnovers
-       Estimated wins added – #8 – 17.9

I rank Russell Westbrook ahead of Rajon Rondo because independantly of team situations, I believe Westbrook is the better overall player. That is not to say he is better that Rondo at playing point guard, because Rondo has flourished as a pass-first All-Star. Westbrook, meanwhile wants to break out as an individual and dynamic offensive talent. He definitely has the offensive ability with 21.9 points per game last season, and 23.8 in the playoffs, and he is extremely athletic. He can get all the way to the rim with his explosive leaping ability and has a penchant to posterize unsuspecting, flat-footed defenders, even good ones. Advanced stats show that he is the eighth most efficient player in the NBA, invaluable for a point guard who is questioned for his decision-making. He gets steals at a fair clip, but it doesn't balance out his league-leading turnover rate. Still, Westbrook adds 17.9 wins? That's pretty impressive, like this guy should continue to be.
Blake Griffin
-       ESPN rank 10 (8.78)
-       SLAMonline rank - 14
-       CBS rank 3 (91.24)
-       2k12 rank 14 (85)
-       Yahoo 2011 Fantasy Average Pick -18.7
-       Player Efficiency Rating #15
-       Sports Illustrated #14
-       Eye on Basketball #10
-       22.5 pts, 12.1 reb, 3.8 ast, 50.6 FG%, 64.2 FT%

Blake stormed through the NBA in his delayed rookie campaign, and captured the attention of even non-fans. Blake is as exciting a player as I've ever seen, but he still needs to round out his offensive arsenal. His offense isn't even as pretty as Pau's or as skilled, but he gets by with pure, out-of-this-world athleticism.  Oh, and dunks. Did I mention dunks? Yeah, lots of dunks. But also a surprisingly solid 22.5 and 12.1 for a Rookie of the Year. And a Dunk Contest win. I don't think he's top 10 in the NBA right now, I think a good defender in a playoff series could limit his effectiveness. That being said, not many can contend with a flying 6'10", 250 pound jackhammer. Blake, just get better at the little things so the purists aren't forced to whine about something they actually love.

Amar’e Stoudemire
-       ESPN rank 13 (8.39)
-       SLAMonline rank - 11
-       CBS rank 8 (89.36)
-       2k12 rank 10 (88)
-       Yahoo 2011 Fantasy Draft Average Pick -15.1
-       Player Efficiency Rating #12
-       Sports Illustrated #19
-       PSD Top 10 - #12
-       Eye on Basketball #11
-       360special All-Time rank - 66
-       25.3 pts, 8.2 reb, 2.6 ast, 50.2 FG%, 79.2 FT%
-       2010/11 Season Blocks #7

 Amar'e was a tough cut out of the top 10. He's an offensive force, but it's too easy to cite his injury-riddled career as haven taken the most explosive element of his game. Amar'e's dunks were Blake Griffin before Blake Griffin. As a strong, athletic, bouncy, Rookie of the Year power forward with the ability to grab a quarter off the top of the backboard, Amar'e defined his early career as the punchline to MVP Steve Nash's symphony. But Amar'e has carved his own niche on the Knicks, and is an exciting player to have in New York. He's also the kind of talent that has the starpower to recruit teammates (see; Anthony, Carmelo). He's about as efficient as his ranking here, he can score in bundles, he gets blocks at a fair rate, and has shown to be clutch in late-game situations. Amar'e could grab more than 8.2 rebounds per game, goodness, Blake outrebounded him by 3.9 per game. But Stoudemire has the playoff experience and leadership quality that should make him a top 10 player in the NBA. He falls just short.

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