10 Most Egregious Top 100 Rankings of ESPN's NBA Rank

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2012

10 Most Egregious Top 100 Rankings of ESPN's NBA Rank

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    Let the debates begin.

    ESPN has nearly concluded its annual ranking of every player in the NBA, and when it’s all said and done, parts of the top 100 should leave many of the league’s most avid fans scratching their heads.

    According to ESPN, a panel of experts rated each athlete from zero to 10 based on “the current quality of each player.” After polling 104 panelists from ESPN and the TrueHoop Network, NBA players are ranked in numerical order based on their average rating.

    Rating players is subjective by nature, but there are a handful of spots on this list that should be brought to the forefront as the most questionable.

    *ESPN has made it through No. 6 as of Sept. 27 at 12:00 a.m. EDT.

Honorable Mentions

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    No. 8: Dwyane WadeToo Low

    For Dwyane Wade, 2012 was the injury-riddled year when he officially handed the team over to LeBron James. The 6’4” guard is still one of the most complete players in the NBA, but while No. 8 may seem low, you must ask yourself, who in the top seven would you remove to make room for the 30-year-old veteran?

    No. 11: Dirk NowitzkiToo Low

    Dirk Nowitzki has flown under the radar for much of his career, and without a big-time NBA Finals appearance in 2012, he finds himself once again outside the top 10. The seven-footer has averaged more than 21 points per game for 12 straight years, and while his numbers declined in a lockout-shortened season, the current quality of his game deserves more credit.

    No. 57: Marcin Gortat—Too High

    Marcin Gortat has been surprisingly productive the past few seasons, but his spike in production is likely a byproduct of playing alongside one of the greatest facilitators that the game has to offer. With Steve Nash gone in 2013, Gortat’s impact will likely be felt more on the defensive end.

No. 86: DeAndre Jordan

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    Reason: Too High

    DeAndre Jordan is an incredible athlete with superior leaping ability, but the truth is, the Los Angeles Clippers center wouldn’t have leapt from No. 114 to No. 86 without Chris Paul on his side.

    Paul has an absurd ability to make his teammates better, and Jordan has benefited from having a point guard who can lob the ball perfectly at the rim.

    The big man has virtually no post moves, he can’t handle the ball and when he gets to the foul line, things don’t usually end well for him and his team.

    Jordan is a solid rebounder and shot-blocker, but for a player making more than $10 million a year, you’d like to see a bit more versatility.

No. 59: David Lee

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    Reason: Too Low

    David Lee is one of the better offensive players at the power forward position, as he can handle the ball well, his mid-range jumper is reliable and he plays at a pace unlike most men his size.

    But like many of the players on this list, Lee has fallen victim to the notion of being a one-way player.

    Lee, a 6’9”, 240-pound power forward, has become known as a complete liability on defense. He lacks the strength to defend in the paint, he can’t help double-team down low and he’s only recorded .4 blocks per game for his entire career.

    Simply put, he and the Golden State Warriors are a perfect fit.

    However, to put Lee at No. 59 isn’t giving him credit for what he does do well. The big man runs the floor, his shooting percentages have been between 50 and 60 percent every season he’s played and he’s an outstanding rebounder, having posted an average of 9.6 per game over his seven-year career.

No. 43 Amar’e Stoudemire

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    Reason: Too Low

    Amar’e Stoudemire had an off year in 2012, but to claim that there are 42 players who are better than he is has to be second-guessed by most fans of NBA basketball.

    The 6’10” forward doesn’t play defense; this we know. But how many big men can line up a defender and take him off the dribble the way Stoudemire has for so many years?

    His mid-range jumper has improved throughout his career, which has made him more of a threat in the half-court game, complementing his ability to get up and down the floor and score in transition.

    Stoudemire probably has one of the biggest ranges when it comes to public perception. Some will think he’s too high, some will think he’s too low and some will say he simply deserves whatever he gets.

    If 2013 comes and goes and Stoudemire still isn’t back to his old form, so be it—drop him as many spots as you’d like. But with his athletic abilities and ferociousness on offense, he deserves the benefit of the doubt until we know for a fact his best days are behind him.

No. 42: DeMarcus Cousins

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    Reason: Too Low

    DeMarcus Cousins may only have one good season under his belt, but ESPN has clearly looked past the fact that he’s becoming one of the NBA's best centers.

    At just 22 years old, the big man broke out in 2012. His averages of 18.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks were unexpected by many of the league’s biggest fans, and his overall shooting percentage rose slightly despite his attempts increasing more than three shots per game.

    The biggest concerns surrounding Cousins are consistency and maturity. Whether he can produce on a regular basis, and whether he can stay disciplined are two reasonable questions.

    ESPN has placed the big man at No. 42, and you have to wonder how much of these concerns went into their ratings.

    If Cousins can continue to improve and have another great season, he should find himself climbing the ranks heading into the 2013-14 season.

No. 41: Serge Ibaka

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    Reason: Too High

    Serge Ibaka is coming off a season where he led the NBA in blocks by a relative long shot, but the question has to be asked, is he really as good a defender as he gets credit for?

    The 6’10” power forward is an incredible shot-blocker, but he struggles at times in one-on-one defensive situations.

    In all honesty, the Oklahoma City Thunder did wonders for his reputation when they gave him a four-year, $48 million extension. The team did the right thing in locking him up before he could command a max-dollar deal elsewhere, but without the hype surrounding his big payday, you have to wonder if he’d command such a high ranking going into a contract season.

    With an improving jump shot and dominant shot-blocking presence, Ibaka could come back and show everybody that he actually deserves to be in the top 40. Until we see it, though, 41 is just too high considering some of the names left behind him.

No. 20: LaMarcus Aldridge

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    Reason: Too Low

    LaMarcus Aldridge has become the No. 1 option in Portland since Brandon Roy’s injuries came to surface a few seasons back, and while he may not be an MVP candidate in 2013, he certainly deserves praise as one of the league’s best big men.

    Aldridge has posted averages of 21.8 points and 8.4 rebounds over the past two seasons—the two years he’s been called upon in Roy’s absence—but what’s even more impressive is that he’s done it in one of the slowest offenses that the league has to offer.

    Being top 20 is a huge compliment for someone who has come so far in his development. He has a higher PER than nine of the 14 players ranked above him (so far), and at this point in his career, he is a player who should be recognized as one of the best power forwards in the game.

    This isn’t to say that Aldridge deserves top-five, or even top-10, consideration. It’s simply to say that he deserves to be recognized as a better option than most of his fellow power forwards.

No. 17 Carmelo Anthony

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    Reason: Too Low

    Criticize Carmelo Anthony all you want, but the 28-year-old deserves a better spot than 17th on ESPN’s NBA Rank.

    As horrible as Anthony is on defense, he is one of the best pure scorers in the league. Most players who simply watch their man dribble past them would be banished further down the list, but Anthony’s ability to put the ball in the bucket has kept him afloat as a perennial All-Star.

    Anthony knows how to bully forwards in the paint, he can pull up from mid-range or he can spread the floor with his shot from long distance. There’s no question he’s a one-way player, but when it comes to his placement on this list, just ask yourself one question.

    Are there really 16 players in the NBA better than Anthony?

No. 14: Blake Griffin

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    Reason: Too High

    Blake Griffin has become one of the most exciting players in the entire NBA, but with some of the names that have been left behind him in the rankings, No. 14 just seems too high at this point in his career.

    At just 23 years old, Griffin's numbers dropped following his rookie season. His PER, however, increased from 21.93 to 23.5.

    An improved jump shot has helped create diversity in his game, but having relied too much on the pick-and-pop in 2012, he’ll find he’s most successful when he attacks the rim in the 2013 season.

    Griffin’s fall from No. 10 to No. 14 appears to be a result of his statistical drop off, but his lack of any defensive presence is another reason he’s overrated on this list. Averaging less than a block per game, someone with his incredible timing and athleticism should be capable of making a much greater impact on that side of the floor.

    The 6’10” forward will climb this list throughout his career, but for now, there are names out there who deserve more praise.

No 9: Russell Westbrook

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    Reason: Too High

    At age 23, Russell Westbrook has officially become one of the NBA’s best point guards. The question is, has he truly surpassed two of the greats who came before him in Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo?

    Westbrook is a dynamic scorer; this we all know. But with his assists declining at a concerning rate and his shot attempts increasing at a similar pace, you have to wonder if his game is deserving of his No. 9 ranking.

    Deron Williams has seen a similar statistical trend the past two seasons, but the biggest difference comes in the fact that he is the No. 1 option on his team, while Westbrook clearly is not.

    As long as Westbrook remains on the Oklahoma City Thunder, he will be a part of Kevin Durant’s team.

    If he can get his turnovers down, his assists back up and take the role of facilitator to heart, his scoring and passing skills will combine to make one of the most lethal players that the league has to offer.

No. 6: Kobe Bryant

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    Reason: Too Low

    Say what you want about Kobe Bryant’s age and his willingness to jack up shots, but the 34-year-old veteran belongs in the top five of the NBA’s best players.

    If Bryant’s numbers had declined over the past few seasons, ESPN would have every reason to place him where they did, but with the 6’6” guard posting averages of 27.9 points, 4.6 assists and 5.4 rebounds in his 16th season, No. 6 just seems a bit too low for someone of his current stature.

    In ESPN’s defense, they did bump him up one spot from his No. 7 ranking in 2011. That being said, the Lakers are still Bryant’s team despite the moves they made this summer, and until his age truly starts to kick in, he’ll remain the No. 1 option on offense.

    This isn’t to say that Bryant is the best player in the game today—he’s not.

    But having been more banged up over the past few years than he’d ever truly let on, Bryant remains a warrior in this league, and he deserves a top-5 ranking for the 2013 season.