Plenty of stars ascended toward the top of the NBA pack during the 2014-15 season. Stephen Curry and James Harden battled it out for MVP all year, while LeBron James and Anthony Davis continued to prove their otherworldliness on a regular basis.
Ask five people how to organize just those four standouts, and you'll probably get five different answers.
Now, let's provide the real answer.
It's time for the ultimate ranking of the Association's best and brightest: the B/R NBA 200. Buckle up your seat belts and settle in for a wild ride as we count down all of the NBA's standout performers this year before arriving at a definitive answer to the aforementioned question, as well as so many others.
Over the next few weeks, we'll be going position by position and determining the top dogs at each one based on a combination of extensive scouting and plenty of number-crunching fun. But before we dig into the ranking process, a couple of caveats are necessary.
First, these aren't going to be the positions you're used to. Well, not entirely. Positions are increasingly fluid in today's NBA, meaning players aren't necessarily pigeonholed into one spot in the lineup.
Players such as Draymond Green and Tobias Harris routinely suit up as both small forwards and power forwards. We have guards such as Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic who are perfectly comfortable running the show as point guards or taking on more off-ball duties as shooting guards. Anthony Davis and Tim Duncan defy description as either true power forwards or true centers.
To account for the burgeoning irrelevance of the five typical positions, we're breaking down the top 200 into nine types of players: point guards, combo guards, shooting guards, swingmen, small forwards, combo forwards, power forwards, combo big men and centers. If and when you don't see your favorite player at the expected traditional position, check out his profile on 82games.com or Basketball-Reference.com, and you'll probably see that he slots into a different set of rankings.
Second, we're looking at the 2014-15 season and nothing else. Reputation, past success, previous accolades—none of these things were taken into account, nor was potential going forward. It's all about each player's performance this year and this year alone.
Unfortunately, that means not everyone is eligible, including injured stars (Ricky Rubio and Paul George), as well as high-potential players (Julius Randle). In order to qualify for the rankings, they must have suited up at least 20 times and spent 400 or more minutes on the court as of March 10. It's especially unfortunate for those such as the Spanish point guard, who had played only 19 games at the time of data collection.
Nine categories were used to evaluate these players, though each was weighted to account for its importance at each position. We'll go over these metrics at the beginning of each positional ranking, but first, let's give a brief overview of how we define each category.
Below, you can click on certain hyperlinked categories to view the exact formula used to provide the baseline score—a foundation that was invariably tweaked to account for context.
- Scoring: This accounts for volume, efficiency and the ability to create shots for oneself. The best scorers are those who can put up points in bunches without racking up misses but also those who are able to score off the dribble rather than relying on the passes of teammates.
- Facilitating: It's all about generating opportunities for teammates and putting them in a position that allows them to capitalize on those opportunities. Oh, and turning the ball over is a big no-no.
- Off-ball offense: This is a subjective, scouting-based category that evaluates a player's ability to distract defenses as an off-ball scoring threat (whether as a cutter or spot-up shooter). Additionally, a penchant for setting hard, effective screens and doing little things conducive to effective team offense is beneficial, especially for big men.
- On-ball defense: How well does a player fare when guarding isolation sets, navigating pick-and-roll plays and fighting against post-up situations?
- Off-ball defense: How well does a player track men without the ball, following them around screens, cutting off lanes to the basket and closing out on spot-up shooters? Involvement is also key here, as you don't want a player loafing around the court.
- Rim protection: Only applicable for combo forwards and up, this category is a combination of how well a player limits opponents' field-goal percentage at the rim and how often he's in position to alter shots.
- Rebounding: A score was given based on rebounding volume, the rate at which boards were compiled and the more subtle aspects of this skill—contested versus uncontested rebounds and opportunities generated by being in the vicinity of a missed shot. This was subjective last year, but that's no longer the case.
- Conduct: Every player was given a perfect score to start, and points were only docked when distractions, pouting, legal issues and other negative headlines popped up during the 2014-15 season.
- Durability: You have to stay on the court to make a big impact, so missed games were detrimental in this category.
All players' total scores were out of 100. Again, not because of potential or historical output, but just by how well they performed in 2014-15. Ties were broken subjectively by determining which would be more desirable if constructing a team right now. That was done by a voting committee comprised of myself, two National NBA Featured Columnists (Grant Hughes and Dan Favale), two Associate NBA Editors (Ethan Norof and Joel Cordes) and an Associate NBA Editor-turned-Quality Editor (Jacob Bourne).
Now that you understand the process—if you don't, leave a comment below—here's the schedule for publication. Do note that the number of players at each position will not be equal. For example, the NBA is a point guard-dominated league, so that position will contain 34 players:
Note: This intro is an updated version of the one that appeared prior to the 2014 B/R NBA 200. Special thanks to Kelly Scaletta, who helped me develop the metrics used for scoring, facilitating and rebounding during the 2014 offseason.