Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Top 50: 5 - 1

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
15 - Rajon Rondo
14 - Pau Gasol
13 - Russell Westbrook
12 - Blake Griffin
11 - Amar'e Stoudemire
Mon October 31: 10 - 6
10 - Deron Williams
9 - Carmelo Anthony
8 - Chris Paul
7 - Derrick Rose
6 - Kevin Durant
Tues November 1: 5 - 1
Dirk Nowitzki
-       ESPN rank 5 (9.67)
-       SLAMonline rank - 7
-       CBS rank 21 (82.89)
-       2k12 rank 14 (85)
-       Yahoo 2011 Fantasy Draft Average Pick -10.3
-       Player Efficiency Rating #10
-       Sports Illustrated #4
-       PSD Top 10 - #5
-       Eye on Basketball #3
-       360special All-Time rank – 16
-       On-Court Team Production #4 (+10.2)
-       Simple Rating – 11.2 (6th)
-       23.0 pts, 7.0 reb, 2.6 ast, 51.7 FG%, 89.2 FT%

By virtue of his Mavs being crowned 2011 NBA champions, Dirk is the best player on the best team, and currently on top of the heap as far as winners go. Dirk has never been my cup of tea for many reasons I talked about in my blog where I drew a new NBA logo featuring the "Big Goose-step." Dirk was fantastic in the playoffs and showcased his efficient game and legendary shooting stroke. For a seven-footer, Dirk must be ranked as the games greatest all-time shooter. His main detractor has always been defense and rebounding, as well as suffering from the Euro stereotype of "softness" and flopping. While Dirk's 7.0 rebounds per game is not so legendary, it is serviceable. He'll never be an amazing defender, unlike Kobe who has been named to the all-defensive first team nine times. His most impressive advanced stat must be his fourth-highest on-court team production, and it's indicative of the impact that he has on the game overall when he's on the court. There is almost no way to defend a seven-footer that can shoot from anywhere on the court including from deep, and once won the all-star three point contest. Until someone dethrones Dirk as NBA champ during a season (whenever that comes), Dirk has to be in the argument for best player in the game.


Kobe Bryant
-       ESPN rank 7 (9.40)
-       SLAMonline rank - 3
-       CBS rank 15 (86.68)
-       2k12 rating 3 (94)
-       Yahoo 2011 Fantasy Draft Average Pick -12.7
-       Player Efficiency Rating #5
-       Sports Illustrated #5
-       PSD Top 10 - #6
-       Eye on Basketball #6
-       360special All-Time rank – 3
-       Simple Rating – 10.1 (10th)
-       25.3 pts, 5.1 reb, 4.7 ast, 45.1 FG%, 82.8 FT%
-       Net Production #5
-       Estimated wins added – #6 – 18.6

It wracks my heart to put Kobe so low, and I know what you're thinking, maybe he's actually overrated at the four spot, and really, Kobe arguments have become passé. For the past three years Kobe was on top of the basketball world, but is now in doubt. Just so it's clear, I'm a Kobe guy. He's my favourite player. Statistical measures cannot tell the whole story but they can indicate factors beyond just what you see on the court. For a couple of reasons I ranked Dwyane Wade above Kobe in these rankings, and I will explain in my Wade write-up, but I want to say "Don't doubt Kobe." Until the Lakeshow derailed in the playoffs last year, they were the favourite to win the title behind Kobe and the Phil-Jackson-double-triple-dynasty-destiny. Kobe is still an elite defender, and was named to the all-defensive first team at the age of 33 with 15 seasons under his belt for his ninth all-defensive team nomination. Net production, wins added, PER, and a tenth place simple rating do not look good for the case for Kobe to be #1, and he falls just short. Kobe also has a tendency to save it all for the fourth quarter or for the playoffs and doesn't put up the same numbers he used to on younger legs. As Kobe showed us in last years' all-star game, he's still the best player in the NBA when he wants to be, and he has mastered to game like nobody since Jordan.

Dwyane Wade
-       ESPN rank 3 (9.72)
-       SLAMonline rank - 5
-       CBS rank 5 (90.9)
-       2k12 rating 2 (96)
-       Yahoo 2011 Fantasy Draft Average Pick -6
-       Player Efficiency Rating #3
-       Sports Illustrated #3
-       PSD Top 10 - #3
-       Eye on Basketball #4
-       360special All-Time rank – 20
-       On-Court Team Production #7 (+9.8)
-       Simple Rating – 13.0 (3rd)
-       25.5 pts, 6.4 reb, 4.6 ast, 50.0 FG%, 75.8 FT%
-       Net Production #3
-       Estimated wins added – #3 – 21.3

Dwyane Wade has "3" written all over him. It's his jersey number, his rating for PER, net production, simple rating, and estimated wins added. After all that it's hard not to put him third on this list, and above Kobe who finished 5th in PER, and net production, 10th in simple rating, and 6th in wins added. Wade is a great defender too, quick and strong he often plays passing lanes and goes for steals, but is quick enough to get back into position. Kobe shot .320 from three-point range last year, while Wade shot only .298, both of which are poor by NBA standards. Where Wade is best is getting to the rim and creating contact. Wade is able to draw fouls and get to the line more than almost anybody in the league, can run a team, and is clutch when the situation calls for it.

Dwight Howard
-       ESPN rank 2 (9.82)
-       SLAMonline rank - 6
-       CBS rank 4 (91.03)
-       2k12 rating 4 (93)
-       Yahoo 2011 Fantasy Draft Average Pick -7
-       Player Efficiency Rating #2
-       Sports Illustrated #2
-       PSD Top 10 - #2
-       Eye on Basketball #2
-       360special All-Time rank – 38
-       Simple Rating – 15.8 (1st)
-       22.9 pts, 14.1 reb, 1.4 ast, 59.3 FG%, 59.6 FT%
-       2010/11 Season Blocks #4
-       2010/11 Season 4th Most Turnovers
-       2010/11 Season Most Double-Doubles
-       Net Production #1
-       Estimated wins added – #2 - 22.7

If defense won championships, Dwight Howard would be his own dynasty. The winner of the past three defensive player of the year awards, Dwight changes the game on a fundamental level. He also changes it on a psychological level. Other players know he is lurking in the lane and if they think of driving into the post, there is definitely an intimidation factor in Dwight with the way he swats shots into the seats. As one of last in a dying breed of dominant seven-foot centres Dwight Howard is the only great pivot the league has, there's nobody to even argue is a better centre than Dwight.  His first overall simple rating shows his impact on the game, and he also leads the league in net production. Dwight could be ranked number one, but he has a fatal flaw. His scoring touch could better. Whether that's through developing post moves, extending his range, or pounding merciless defenders and not being embarrassed to be doing it so easily. He also needs to make his freethrows (said in a Stan Van Gundy voice). Dwight is consistent with double-doubles, gets his team wins, and scores at 59.3% from the field. He's also incredibly athletic. Dwight Howard can still improve on some key weaknesses and then nobody will be able to argue against the biggest and best player in the NBA.
LeBron James
-       ESPN rank 1 (9.91)
-       SLAMonline rank - 1
-       CBS rank 1 (98.27)
-       2K12 rating 1 (98)
-       Yahoo 2011 Fantasy Draft Average Pick -2.2
-       Player Efficiency Rating (PER) http://es.pn/vSl9OX #1
-       Sports Illustrated (Zach Lowe) #1
-       PSD Top 10 - #1
-       Eye on Basketball #1
-       360special http://bit.ly/ngovCZ All-Time rank - 15
-       On-Court Team Production #9 (+9.7)
-       Simple Rating http://bit.ly/hjDCkV – 15.7 (2nd)
-       26.7 pts, 7.5 reb, 7.0 ast, 51.0 FG%, 75.9 FT%
-       2010/11 Season Steals #10
-       2010/11 Season 3rd Most Turnovers
-       Net Production #2
-       Estimated wins added – #1 - 25.7

LeBron's probably been the best individual talent for a few years now, but even in those two  years where he won MVP, people still gave the number one rank to Kobe because they knew that when playoffs rolled around, the Lakers were the team to beat. This rings vs stats debate is the hardest one to conquer, because if somebody is the best they have to win, right? This is why Jordan repeatedly is ranked as the best of all-time, and people laugh if you say Wilt's ungodly numbers make him better because he only won one championship. And Oh!, how LeBron hears it for not winning a championship. He's done pretty much everything else; Rookie of the Year, All-Defensive First Team, 2-Time MVP, All-Star game MVP, Olympic Gold (and bronze...) Medalist. But something was blocking his natural progression to NBA champion. Surely LeBron would have gotten there eventually with the Cavs, but it wasn't on the timeline that the NBA and fans had created for him, he had to win now or be forever mocked. He kind of had no choice, and this expediated his moving to Miami. As far as rings, Kobe's got LeBron (and everybody else) beat, but statistics show why Bron is the most dominant player in the game right now. First I look at PER and Wins Added, both number one ranked in the NBA, and he's second only to Dwight in Net Production and Simple Rating. But on the court, Dwight can't do it all like LeBron can, and that's what we look for in a "best" player. Once the championships come rolling in, there will be no debate.

No comments:

Post a Comment