This article will rank the premier TV and studio NBA analysts working for the major television networks. The analysts chosen for this article had to be either a studio analyst (Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson) or a TV analyst (Mike Fratello, Jeff Van Gundy) working for either TNT, ESPN/ABC or NBA TV.
I have chosen 17 analysts in all. So sit back, relax and see how your favorites stack up in the power rankings.
Chris Mullin is at the bottom of the rankings more for the fact this is his first year working as a full-time analyst than his performance.
So far he has been pretty solid. He is often paired by with Mike Tirico, who is one of the best play-by-play guys in the business, which I am sure has made Mullin’s transition into the booth that much easier.
Mullin doesn’t overstep his boundaries and try to talk over the play-by-play man, making what he does say all the more fresh and insightful. Also, his thick New York accent makes listening to his commentary a little more unique.
Let me start by saying that I have never been particularly impressed with any of the ESPN NBA analysts, particularly the studio ones. When they are on camera it often seems as though they are reading from a script rather than giving their own opinions, in contrast to TNT, where things feel a little more loose and relaxed.
I often catch Jon Barry flip-flopping. One game he will say team "X" is the team to beat. Then when the next broadcast airs he will say team "Y" is the best in the league.
Jon could take a few pointers from his brother, Brent Barry, who serves as a studio analyst for NBA TV, and in my opinion, is the better overall.
Photo courtesy of: nypost.com
Some of my fellow hoop junkies can’t get enough of Greg Anthony. I, however, am not one them. Maybe I don’t connect with Anthony’s analyst work because I really didn’t follow his playing career.
His explanations and analyses sometimes seem way too long and include too much “fluff,” which I interpret to mean he either loves the sound of his own voice, or he could be masking his lack of knowledge on some topics.
Photo courtesy of: celebritywonder.ugo.com
Steve Smith is by no means a terrible studio analyst. His analyst work just comes off as being stale and seems as though he takes his job a little too seriously.
More times than not, Smith will sit through an entire episode of Game Time, NBA TV’s flagship highlight show, with the same expression on his face, not providing any comments that leave me shaking my head in approval.
One of the biggest disappointments so far this season has been the work of Shaquille O’Neal working as an analyst working with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson. When it was first announced Shaq would be working as an analyst for Turner Sports, myself, and most basketball fans were thrilled, dreaming about all of the funny, heated discussions he and Barkley would have.
Shaq is not as much of a “natural” on TV as many thought he would be. When he is asked a question about a player or team, he often makes very stale one word answers such as: "He is a good player" and "They are a great team."
And when he decides to argue with Barkley on an issue, it often seems forced and awkward.
I have always loved Jeff Van Gundy as a coach. As a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, I was hoping the team would consider hiring him this past offseason when Phil Jackson retired.
But as an analyst, it’s a completely different story. It often seems as though he is looking to make a quick one-liner or funny observation rather than breaking down the basketball game.
Based on his analyst work alone, it’s hard to imagine him being a coach, especially when you compare him to other former coaches-turned-analysts (Hubie Brown, Mike Fratello), who seem more knowledgeable about the game overall.
In his defense, he has gotten better since Mark Jackson left the booth to become head coach of the Golden State Warriors. When Van Gundy, Jackson and Mike Breen (who is fantastic I might add) were all together, there were simply too many cooks in the kitchen.
Jackson and Van Gundy would often talk over the game, exchanging barbs or reminiscing about their days together with the New York Knicks.
For being one of the best players the league has ever seen, Magic Johnson has never really taken my breath away as a commentator. Not only does he not provide many interesting comments about games or players, but it seems as though all of his famous, one-of-a-kind charisma completely disappears when the ESPN/ABC camera turns on.
Probably the most “neutral” of all the major TV and studio analysts on the major networks is Reggie Miller. Miller is not especially good nor bad.
I often find him critiquing/analyzing the frontcourt players more during games rather than the perimeter ones, which strikes me as a little strange, considering he earned his keep as a player playing outside of the paint.
Chris Broussard and Mike Wilbon are sportswriters by nature. That could be the reason why I think they are the two best analysts on ABC/ESPN's underwhelming NBA Countdown pregame show.
On a show that lacks any real substance, Broussard and Wilbon often outshine Jon Barry and Magic Johnson, who serve as the two ex-players on the four-man panel.
Broussard and/or Wilbon will often make a comment or mention a statistic, which I continue to think about either at the start of the game or during the second half, which is not the case with Magic and Barry.
Photo courtesy of: frontrow.espn.go.com
I have always felt Dennis Scoot is the best NBA TV studio analyst. Despite being a former player who actually led the league in three-pointers made in 1995-96, Scott seems like your average, everyday basketball fan when he is doing his analyst work, much like Charles Barkley at TNT.
Scott is funny, knowledgeable and an all-around natural in front of the camera.
Photo courtesy of: allenlevin.com
Mike Fratello is the only former NBA coach TNT has working as a TV analyst. While he may not be one of the best analysts out there, he may be one of the more underrated ones.
The younger, more casual fans will obviously relate to analysts like Chris Webber and Reggie Miller more than they will Fratello. But the team of Fratello and Marv Albert may be the best broadcasting team in the game today.
For all the criticisms I have about Chris Webber the basketball player, he has completely taken me by surprise as both a TV and studio analyst working for NBA TV and TNT.
Webber is articulate, charming and, given the fact he is not that far removed from playing in the NBA himself, he provides a unique perspective on today’s NBA that other analysts cannot.
Of all the TV and studio analysts, there are none more knowledgeable about the game of basketball than Hubie Brown. When I watch a game when Brown is commentating, I always learn something I didn’t know, whether it’s about the game of basketball or an interesting piece of information about a current or former player.
Plain and simple, Brown is a basketball savant. The only knock I have on him is sometimes he gets players confused or calls them by different names.
As far as analysts are concerned, Kenny Smith is one of the best in the business. And while he is sometimes overshadowed by the larger-than-life Charles Barkley, Smith is the yin to the former "Round Mound of Rebound’s" yang.
What I like best about Smith, outside of his wonderful analyses, is he picks his battles with Barkley, not arguing with him just for argument’s sake. One thing I am a little concerned about is since Shaquille O’Neal has joined the TNT panel, Smith’s role has seemed somewhat diminished. He fights to squeak in a word edgewise, while Shaq often talks out of turn and interrupts the others on the panel.
Of all the TV analysts currently working for the major networks, Steve Kerr is my favorite. Kerr uses his words as wisely and effectively as any basketball analyst I have listened to. And when he does decide to breakdown something in depth, I often to find it very meaningful, whether it’s about the current game he is working or the NBA in general.
I wonder if his obvious, deep knowledge of the game has anything to do with the fact he played alongside Michael Jordan and was coached by Phil Jackson?
In a nutshell, what makes Charles Barkley the best of the best when it comes to analyzing basketball is that he says what he means and means what he says. But his strong opinions are not the only thing that makes Barkley a great analyst. He also provides wonderful breakdowns on players, teams and the current state of the NBA and doesn’t change his tune, even when proven wrong.
Sir Charles is simply must-see TV. In some cases, his analyst work is more entertaining than the games TNT is showing.