ESPN NBA Rank: Analyzing Players 380-361

July 17, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Memphis Grizzlies player Tony Wroten (8) during the first half of the game against Washington Wizards the at Cox Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

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.

Today’s list is players ranked 380-361.  To the analysis!

  • DeMarre Carroll of the Utah Jazz kicks things off today at 380.  He made nary a blip on the radar until being inserted into a depleted Jazz wing rotation late last season, and in the process he showed some real chops for defending and running the floor in transition.  He can’t shoot and doesn’t have much offensive game to speak of, but Carroll is a classic 12th man type, capable of playing multiple positions and filling a role when he’s called upon.
  • Memphis Grizzlies rookie guard Tony Wroten comes in at 379th, and this is another case of a first-year player’s ranking meaning very little.  Wroten likely won’t get any run this season in a crowded Griz backcourt, but he has all the makings to be one of the league’s most unique players in a few years.  Blessed with great size, quickness, and court vision, he’s a true point guard at 6’6” and can defend any perimeter position.  Wroten’s jumper is abysmal – seriously abysmal – but he got to the rim at will in summer league regardless and fill the stat sheet with assists, rebounds, and steals, too.  That awful shot may keep him from ever becoming a true impact player, but Wroten should be much higher on this list several seasons from now.  Players with his combination of size, athleticism, court sense, and competitiveness are few and far between.
  • Lakers reserve guard Andrew Goudelock is ranked 377th and that might be too high.  He’s a classic combo guard without a 1’s ballhandling ability and vision and the size or skill to play the 2, and to make it worse he’s a middling at best defensively.  The only thing Goudelock has going for him at this point is a somewhat reliable long ball; he hit on 37.3% of his three-point tries last year and should see more opportunities from there with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard aboard.  This is a big season for the second-round pick and will go a long way in determining the trajectory of his career whether it’s with the Lakers or not.  If 2012 second-rounder Darius Johnson-Odom can improve his jumper, Goudelock will be pushed for a spot in the rotation.
  • Greg Oden is ranked 372nd despite his insistence that he’s far away from any sort of NBA comeback.  You hate to see anyone injured let alone a player with his wealth of basketball talent, and his presence here reminds how the fortunes of an entire organization often hinge on the health of a player or two.  With Oden and Brandon Roy fully healthy, the Portland Trailblazers would be challenging the Thunder and Lakers for Western supremacy.  Instead they’re in a full re-build behind LaMarcus Aldridge.  Sigh.  Here’s hoping Oden’s balky, balky knees hold up long enough for him to see the floor again, contributing off the bench for a good team.
  • Chicago Bulls’ sophomore wing Jimmy Butler is ranked 371st and that’s a surprise.  By the end of the season he’ll have far outplayed this ranking as he’s due for a major, major increase in playing time and showed flashes of rotation-level talent in his rookie year.  Long with quick feet and an aggressive demeanor, Butler will step right into the role vacated by Ronnie Brewer as Chicago’s other perimeter stopper opposite Luol Deng and thrive.  How good he’ll ultimately be depends whether or not his streaky jumper develops; Butler was a complete non-threat from 20′ and out last season.  Regardless, he’s a likely fixture for the Bulls alongside Derrick Rose, Deng, and Joakim Noah over the next several seasons and will prove a solid, dependable player.
  • Ranked 365th is Orlando Magic rookie and Dwight Howard-trade piece Moe Harkless, the 15th pick in June’s draft.  Harkless’ case is an interesting one in terms of both his college production and status in the league.  He played in the post for a St. John’s team lacking size and thrived, using his supreme athleticism and relentless motor to dominate on the glass and beat slower defender to the ball and rim.  Harkless is clearly a wing in the NBA, though, and his lack of perimeter skills accounts for him slipping to the middle of the first-round.  But his raw talent suggests he could eventually be a defensive-minded impact player there, and that’s no doubt how the Magic see him at the very least long-term.  Most intriguing is a YahooSports piece on the Howard trade that reads “relaxed trade restrictions on Harkless sent new Orlando GM Rob Hennigan over the moon.” Just what do the Magic see in Harkless’ future? Maybe more than every other team in the league and writer/analyst that covered the trade, which would make what seems like pennies on the dollar for Dwight to the majority much more for Orlando.  Interesting.

jackwinter