ESPN’s annual NBA Rank has commenced, an exercise that ranks every player in the NBA from 500 all the way to the very top. The worldwide leader asked 104 basketball experts – basically analysts, writers, and bloggers – to assign all players a grade from a whole number of 1 to 10. Once that’s done, the numbers are calculated into a finite answer that gives a player a numerical value. From there it’s as simple as listing the players’ grades from lowest to highest, and NBA Rank is done.
This is obviously an exercise rife with objectivity and potential for error, but it’s a fun one nonetheless to get the NBA world’s almost-consensus opinion of a particular player going into a season. Basketball Twitter’s been buzzing about NBA Rank for days, debating grades certain players deserve and trying to figure out how to distinguish a 5 from a 6, a 7 from an 8 and so on. For instance, if LeBron James is the best player in the NBA is he the only one worthy of a perfect 10? What to do with aging stars like Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce – how many points is regression worth? And the opposite goes for younger players and improvement.
Lists like NBA Rank are far from the be-all end-all of determining a player’s worth, but the analysis they spark and the questions they pose is great fodder during this dormant time of the off-season. So we’ll analyze NBA Rank the day each grouping comes out, noting individual rankings that stick out one way or another and gleaning what we can from the lists as a whole.
. To the analysis!
- Rookie Philadelphia big man Arnett Moultrie gets things started at 400. He slid a bit on draft day, falling to Miami at pick 27 before being shipped onto the Sixers for future draft considerations. It was an interesting trade for the Heat given their size, youth, and athleticism deficiencies up front; Moultrie is raw but big and and really run and jump. He likely wouldn’t have contributed much for the champs this coming season, but a fresh, energetic body to free LeBron James from the post during the regular season could certainly have been used. Moultrie is in Philly now, though, and figures to be a mainstay in the Sixers’ post rotation alongside Andrew Bynum for years to come provided he can develop into a reliable shooter from mid-range. If those two can play together, the Sixers will have one of the biggest frontlines in the NBA and should hardly struggle on the glass. Whether or not Moultrie is ranked correctly right now hardly matters, because this is a guy that’s likely to get much better.
- Tony Battie checks in just above Moultrie at 399th. Nothing here shocks except his listed age of 36 years-old. He seems much closer to forty than that.
- Atlanta Hawks first-rounder John Jenkins is ranked 398th, interesting given his stellar summer-league performance, prospective role this coming season, and his elite NBA skill – he might have been the best pure shooter in this draft. Jenkins will get ample opportunity to prove this ranking wrong with the trade of Joe Johnson, and if he can defend admirably should do just that. Shooters like him with solid size and average athleticism are rare, and it’s easy to imagine Jenkins leading all rookies in tries, makes, and percentage from beyond the arc in 2012-2013.
- At 395th, the Denver Nuggets‘ Quincy Miller is an interesting case. A long, deceptively quick athlete with a supposedly awesome stroke – though he’s yet to show it – MIller underwhelmed his one season at Baylor for the most part, failing to live up to his prodigious natural gifts. Part of that, Denver hopes, had to do with recovery from an ACL tear he suffered as a senior in high school that robbed him of his superior explosion. It was pretty shocking to see him fall to the second round on draft day; if he gets completely healthy and continues to add bulk, he seems perfectly suited for today’s NBA as a combo forward capable of running the floor with the Nuggets’ other thoroughbreds. He’ll hardly play at all this season for a deep Denver squad, but is the most intriguing second-round rookie in the league.
- OKC’s Cole Aldrich comes in at 390th, and the Western Conference champs no doubt hope he’ll outperform that ranking. The Thunder let Nazr Mohommed walk after this season and appear comfortable heading into the year with Aldrich as the team’s fourth big man, hardly lofty expectations for a former lottery pick. But Aldrich has hardly shown much in the way of NBA skill thus far in his career, appearing a step slow on both ends and little to no offensive game. But more troubling than his struggles with the ball are those on the other end. One of college basketball’s best defenders in 2010, Aldrich isn’t quick enough to defend pick-and-rolls and lacks the size to lock down post scorers like Bynum and Dwight Howard. He can still block shots, but OKC needs more from him and this ranking is indicative of that. Regardless, if the Thunder are forced to count on him in a potential Western Conference Finals against Howard and the Lakers, they’ll be in big trouble.
- 387th ranked Doron Lamb of the Milwaukee Bucks will out-play that mark this season. He’s a dead-eye shooter, moves well without the ball, is a deceptive athlete, and a game defender. His game doesn’t have much of a ceiling, but he seems perfectly suited as a 10-year pro that comes off the bench for a good team. And if Lamb ever develops his off-the-dribble game, could be even better than that.