It’s always fun to rank things. It rarely answers any questions definitively, but it’s provocative — it gets the people going — and it’s fun to argue about. Ranking things is actually half the reason that bars in America are as successful as they are, according to a survey I conducted this one time. (Margin of error plus-or-minus 50% due to the other half of the reason bars are so successful.)
Many a mainstream hoops outlet decided to throw their hat into the player ranking game this offseason. Below is a chart showing how all the Pacers players from last season (plus incoming Pacer guard George Hill) fared. As you will see, everyone got a trophy in ESPN’s “NBA Rank,” which ranked 500 players and came to its conclusion yesterday by announcing its top five of Dirk, CP3, Dwyane, Dwight and LeBron in that order. (Kobe was 7th.)
There were 91 ESPN experts involved in ranking each player from 0 to 10. All of the THN sites were invited to participate, but I declined. The Worldwide Leader managed to brave forward without my wisdom, however, and still even did a pretty good job.
There is a case for Danny Granger being up to 10 spots higher (which would put him ahead of Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, Tony Parker, Joakim Noah and Andrew Bynum), but I think he is within a few spots of the right position. He should be ahead of Ray Allen, as I noted today while discussing the top 50 with some other ESPN folks, but who really cares at the end of the afternoon?
You will see that SLAM was much more kind to captain Pacer while Zach Lowe (who did the SI Point Forward 100 by his lonesome) really hosed Granger somewhat inexcusably. Danny has fallen off a little since his career year in 2008-09, sure, but dude was great this year in the postseason while leading a spunky, overmatched Pacers team during the franchise’s first five playoff games since 2006. Within a horrid offense, he posted 21.6 points, 5.6 boards and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 47.8% on his way to a 22.0 PER. That has to count for something.
Lowe was more charitable to George Hill, however, ranking him 73rd overall — significantly better than his 91 in NBA Rank and mere honorable mention from CBS. (Kawhi Leonard, the soon-to-be-NBA-rookie that Indiana traded to the Spurs for Hill was ranked 296th, by the way.) Roy Hibbert made all three top-100 lists while Darren Collison slipped in at 94 on just one (ESPN Rank.)
The rest of the players’ spots on NBA Rank are below.
My partner in crime Tim Donahue took the NBA Rank results a little further.
Me and him have both long proclaimed that the NBA is uber-top heavy compared to other leagues and that this is the main reason the association has much less parity than the NFL and MLB. There are only so many LeBrons, Kobes, Wades and Dwights to go around. And if you don’t have a historically great player like them, you probably will not be winning any titles. It’s possible; ask the 2004 Pistons. But it’s really, really hard; ask the 90s Pacers.
Tim crafted a few chart that illustrative the league’s top-heaviness rather dramatically.
Again, with NBA Rank, each of the 91 experts assigned each player with a whole number rating on a 1-to-10 scale. When there were all averaged together, no player got a 100 ranking (roughly 8 people gave LeBron a 9 rather than a 10), and no player got a zero (enough people have actually heard of 500th-ranked Lavoy Allen to give him a positive rating).
LeBron finished with a 9.91. Lavoy had a 1.22. Everyone else is in the middle.
When you graph out all the point totals, here is what it looks like.
I’m not a mathematician, but that’s a rather steep climb after you get to the top 50. And it becomes even greater when you hit the top 10.