Over the past couple of months ESPN.com released its NBA player rankings, a process in which 91 basketball experts ranked 500 NBA players (including rookies and certain free agents) on a scale of 0 to 10 based off of the playerâ€™s current value.
To no surprise, many of the rankings started controversy on Twitter, Facebook and the ESPN comments section. However, a perturbing trend in the fan reaction to the rankings has been the overvaluing of offensive-minded players, an ode to these playersâ€™ apparent bond with fans.
Fans and writers alike can discuss and determine player rankings all they want, but for the most part there appears to be a clear-cut hierarchy in the NBA. There are superstars (LeBron James), stars (Amarâ€™e Stoudemire), All-Stars (Kevin Love), sixth men (Lamar Odom), role players (Tyson Chandler), young players with potential (JaVale McGee), journeymen (Matt Barnes), benchwarmers (D.J. Mbenga) and â€¦ Mike Bibby.
Certain players donâ€™t have palpable placements, though. Carmelo Anthony seems to border the superstar and star titles. Monta Ellis is a good scorer, but does that alone merit a top-30 rating (I mean, he doesnâ€™t contribute much else)? Where do John Wall and Blake Griffin rank, based off of the fact that theyâ€™ve only played one season and still have ostensible flaws?
In the reaction to these player rankings, the public shows what they value most in a basketball player. Is it efficiency? Production? What about the good oleâ€™ eye test? Locker room guys?
The intangibles that factor into player rankings are too difficult to quantify or explain; theyâ€™re different for everyone. But the one asset that always seems to factor into most fansâ€™ voting â€“ albeit, a flawed view â€“ is offensive output, particularly scoring.
Look no further than the most controversial reactions to #NBArank. The rankings that caused the most quarrels (other than LeBron at #1) were Kobe Bryant (#7), Derrick Rose (#8), Carmelo Anthony (#11), and Monta Ellis (#41). To most fans â€“ from their Twitter and Facebook reactions â€“ Kobe and Rose shouldâ€™ve been in the top-5, Anthony should be top-10, and Ellis should be top-30 at the worst.
The four players all ranked in the top eight in scoring and are unquestionably a few of the leagueâ€™s most exciting players to watch. They warrant much of the opposing defensesâ€™ attention, can create scoring opportunities from almost anywhere on the floor, and are capable of scoring 40 points on any given night. They must be all be underrated, right?
On the surface, these players should rank higher.
Rose was last seasonâ€™s MVP, and led his team to the Eastern Conference Finals. He has engraved himself in the hearts of Bulls fans and is in the conversation for best point guard in the NBA.
Kobe is arguably a top-10 player of all-time. Heâ€™s the best player on the NBAâ€™s most illustrious franchise (yes, even more so than the Heat or the Celtics), is the gameâ€™s â€œclutchestâ€ player (perception-wise), and is arguably the gameâ€™s most popular player (along with LeBron).
Anthony is playing in one the leagueâ€™s biggest markets (with one of its biggest and most loyal fan-bases), is widely considered to be one of — if not the most — complete scorers in the game, has a fan-friendly â€œthugâ€ perception, and is clearly one of the gameâ€™s most popular players.
Ellis is the apple of most Warriorsâ€™ fans eyes (except Ethan Sherwood Strauss, and rightfully so), the offensive engine of one the leagueâ€™s fast-pace, high scoring teams (eh, I’d say it’s more of Stephen Curry, but I’m going with perceptions here), and is an exciting and sometimes dominant scorer.
Honestly, whatâ€™s there to complain about?
Well, a lot. All four players have significant flaws that (theoretically) led to their drop in the rankings and coming up shorter than most expected.
Bryantâ€™s athletically ability and offensive dominance is quickly fading as time ticks away and his knees wear out. He’s still an elite player, but a shell of what he used to be.
Anthony doesnâ€™t play much defense (and no, George Karl wasn’t the first to notice), and doesnâ€™t create well for others (heâ€™s basically above-average in only two categories â€“ scoring and rebounding).
But to fans, none of this matters. Most generic basketball fans only care about two things: winning and scoring.
Fans, naturally, love when their team wins. Thatâ€™s the main goal in sports, isnâ€™t it? [Insert clichÃ© about how character and values matter.] If the team is winning, all is usually well. But fans also love offense. They love players that can score, especially in creative manners (no matter the inefficiency). They love seeing crossovers, 360 dunks, step-back jumpers and buzzer beaters. If a player can give them exciting, fast-paced, highlight-filled games, they will love him â€“ no matter his weaknesses.
Regardless of what statistics, bar graphs or charts say or tell you, fans have loyalties to the players that excite them, take their breath away, and leave them wanting more. That is why they are so adamant in defending these offensive-minded players; by ranking them lower than where the general fans feels the player should be ranked, a fan takes it as a disrespect to something he or she likes. No one likes to be disrespected.
In this case, Bryant, Rose, Anthony and Ellis are those players. Is there a chance the more analytical, stat-based voters were a little too harsh on low-efficient scorers that sometimes hurt their teamâ€™s offense more than they help it?
Sure. Thereâ€™s always room for error.
But either way, the fans canâ€™t be swayed, as theyâ€™ve developed a bond and connection with the players they look up to and hope to emulate. Sometimes it seems most fans use too much emotion to judge players, while analysts stick by the numbers. Is one way better than the other?
At this point in time, itâ€™s unclear. Thatâ€™s a conversation for another day. I lean towards statistics in my arguments, but thatâ€™s just me. Both sides have their advantages. At least these rankings breed discussion, which sparks and maintains fan interest in the sport we all love.
In the time of a lockout, some basketball conversation is better than none.