One thing we in the NBA community love to do is debate player rankings, and our favorite time to do it is in the offseason.
Is LeBron James still the greatest player on the planet? Is Chris Paul still in the top 10? Where does Kyrie Irving rank?
Such debates have their upside and their downside. Last year, I tried some rankings that would highlight the former while negating the latter — at least to the degree that’s possible.
What I like about rankings is that they open a discussion more into the strengths and weaknesses of a lot of players, particularly for those who aren’t necessarily in the MVP race. A good rankings discussion can both elucidate and educate.
The downside is that we can get wrapped into pointless discussions of whether No. 38 is really better than No. 39. Such conversations are unproductive because rankings are hardly that “hard.” You have to list players in an order and some calls are close.
To facilitate more discussion and less debate, I had a ceiling for every player which was the highest I expected that player could be ranked and a floor with the lowest feasible ranking. This made the rankings more of a soft ranking than a hard ranking and removed the rigidness from them. They give an idea of where a player should be considered but also allow for a bit of variance in opinion.
I also included an offense and defense section for each player. This included an explanation of his play on both ends of the court about why he is ranked where he is ranked. My goal was to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in his game, and I used both statistics and eye test analysis to that end.
As with most things in life, taking on a project like that came with its own lessons. There were two chief ones I took home from last year’s project.
First, no one’s rankings are perfect. There were players who I had initially ranked that after doing more research and scouting, I felt I didn’t even really agree with my ranking anymore. For that reason, I thought it would be beneficial to solicit a little more help in compiling them, so I asked fellow FanRag Sports writers Zach Harper, Nekias Duncan, Tom West and Jack Winter to offer their rankings as well.
There are a couple of notes on the criteria.
First, this is only veteran players. No rookies were included because it is too hard to predict what they will do. Who had Malcolm Brogdon being Rookie of the Year?
Second, the rankings are projections for 2017-18. They are of that year only, not career achievement rankings. So certain players on the downside of their career (e.g. Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki) will be lower than they would in a greatest players-type ranking.
All five of us provided rankings through the top 120, and these rankings are the average of those. The other writers also provided explanations for some (though, not all) of their rankings. Those comments will be included in the rankings.
Over the course of the remainder of the offseason, each day I will release a new ranking, along with the full explanation of why they are ranked. This should take us through the remainder of the offseason, with the No. 1 player being released the day before the regular season tips off.
Bear in mind there are things that could happen between now and then that I’m not aware of right now. So these rankings are effective as of July 11.
As each player is released, they will be listed below. Check back here for a full list and links to each write-up as we progress.