NBA

NBA Rank Revisited

NBA Rank was released by ESPN earlier this season ranking the top 100 NBA players of All-Time. I wrote an article with my opinions as to who was over and under rated. Check that out here http://wp.me/p6GuYQ-1TM. There are several active players that made moves based on this year’s performances. In my opinion active players can move up or down. Retired players cannot be passed by other retired players (no revisionist history), but can be passed by active players. If an active player outside the Top 20 stayed the same, I didn’t feel a need to include them, but if the player is being moved up or down, I have listed them below. Let me know your thoughts on my rankings.

 

Dec 23, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts in the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Lebron James #3 ↑ #2

Yes, this just happened. In my book Lebron James is now the 2nd greatest player of All-Time behind only Michael Jordan. The way Lebron performed in the biggest moment of his career in leading the Cavs back from a 3-1 deficit to what was thought to be an unbeatable and historic Warriors team was spectacular to watch. His 41-41-triple-double combination in three close-out games (two on the road) was one of the greatest achievements I have ever witnessed. Lebron was stellar again this season as he notched his 12th season averaging at least 25 points per game, tying Karl Malone for the most consecutive seasons ever. Leading his Cavs back to the Finals, to make his 6th straight Finals appearance. For years I have been in the anti-Lebron camp and felt that he was seriously lacking in closing skills and leadership. I cannot deny it any longer, Lebron is better than Magic, Bird, Wilt, and now Kareem. Kareem may have 6 MVPs and 5 titles, but he also played with Magic and Oscar (two of the ESPNrank’s top 10 to ever play the game). Lebron’s best sidekick is Dwyane Wade, who sits at 27 and was not healthy in one of the title runs with Lebron. Jerry West recently stuck up for Lebron saying that criticizing Lebron’s Finals record wasn’t fair. This coming from the guy sitting one spot behind Lebron on the All-Time Points per Game list with a 1-7 Finals record. West finished 2nd in the MVP voting four times and averaged 27/6.7/5.8 per game. West was an All-Star all 14 seasons, was All-NBA 1st Team 10 times, and All-Defensive Team 5 times. He sits at #13 on NBARank with 1 title and no MVPs. Nobody gives West a pass for his Finals record, but I can’t help but think that had he won 3 titles and 4 MVPs like Lebron if West wouldn’t rank a little higher. I’m sure he would. Kareem was Finals MVP only twice in his 6 titles, which illustrates how much help he had. Lebron is 3-for-3 in Finals MVPs and should have won it last year on the losing team when he averaged 35.8 points, 8.8 assists, and 12 rebounds, when they gave it to the guy who allowed him to post those numbers. After this crown-jewel of a Championship run, I can deny Lebron no more, he trails only MJ as the greatest ever.

Tim Duncan #8 ↔ #8

After a solid, but unspectacular season, Duncan face-planted in the Playoffs and became a bystander, rarely on the court in key moments. That said, he’s not going to drop because he finally showed his age at the end of his brilliant career. Let’s hope he steps away quietly instead of subjecting us all to a Kobe-style embarrassment, I mean, farewell tour. Rank #8.

Kobe Bryant #12 ↔ #12

Kobe’s swan song was one for the ages, but his legacy was already cemented prior to dropping 60 on the Jazz. It was tempting to drop him a spot or two after such a horrendous end to his career, but the last game was just enough to help basketball fans forget one of the most inefficient and painful shooting seasons in NBA history. May we all remember Kobe for what he once was and not for what we saw this season. Rank #12.

Dirk Nowitzki #17 ↔ #17

Dirk did nothing to rise or fall in the rankings this season. Steph’s miracle year threatened Dirk’s spot, but Dirk’s longevity holds Curry off for now. The Mavs surprised everyone this season by making the Playoffs after many experts pegged the Mavs to be among the league’s worst. Dirk continued as the best player on his team, even at age 37. Not a lot of players in history can make that claim. Rank #17.

Kevin Durant #22 ↓ #23

Adding insult to injury, Steph stole Durant’s spot in the Finals after the Warriors fell down 3-1 before rallying, and now Curry steals his spot on this list as well. Durant had another spectacular year and was somehow not All-NBA First Team. Still, Durant is not done moving up this list and it’s only a matter of time before he passes Garnett and Robinson, but not this year. Durant rank #23.

Is there anyone you would pick over Curry to start your franchise?

Steph Curry #23 ↑ #20

Steph makes the biggest leap of all players in the top half of the rankings. Steph became just the 11th player in history to win back-to-back MVPs. The other ten? MJ, Kareem, Lebron, Wilt, Magic, Bird, Russell, Duncan, Moses, and Nash numbers 1-8, #15, and #30 all-time. By posting one of the greatest seasons in NBA history and leading the Warriors back to the Finals (even though they ultimately lost), the undersized, underrated, and under-recruited guard from Davidson just moved up 3 spots, past Durant, KG, and the Admiral. I am not prepared to move him past Stockton, Sir Charles, Dirk, or the Mailman because Curry needs to sustain a high level for a longer period of time. That said, at the rate he’s going, it’s probably only a matter of time before we see Curry in the Top 15.

Russell Westbrook #49 ↑ #48

Westbrook was crazy good this year. He added another 1st Team All-NBA selection and All-Star selection and in any other season would have added an MVP. His stats are off the charts and he creates so many opportunities for he and his teammates it’s scary. Even when he misses it results in the defense being so out of position that his teammates get a ton of easy offensive put-backs. Westbrook passes Willis Reed, but I don’t think he has passed George Gervin and Allen Iverson…yet.

Blake Griffin #75 ↓ #77

Blake had a bad season this year for his legacy. He punched his trainer buddy and broke his hand and had a quad injury that ended his Playoff run. He didn’t make the All-Star team, and didn’t sniff an All-NBA Team. His team was arguably better without him. I can’t keep him ahead of Nate Archibald and Joe Dumars after a stinker of a season.

Marc Gasol #95 ↓ NR

Gasol spent much of the season on the sideline, but not after first getting off to a slow start. He wasn’t the dominant defensive player he had been in years past and took a step back offensively. I thought it was premature to put him in the Top 100 with career averages of  just 14 and 7 and two All-Star Teams. How can he be ranked higher than James Harden?

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 30: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the game against the Detroit Pistons on November 30, 2015 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

James Harden #97 ↑ #90

Harden did not make the All-NBA Team this year, but he became the first player to average 29/7/6 to not be named to the 1st-Team, let alone any of the teams. I’m not a big Harden fan, but the man can score and can do pretty much whatever he wants to on offense. The Rockets expect so much out of him on the offensive side and when coaches allow you to get away with it, it is not surprising that he doesn’t give much effort on defense. Still, Adrian Dantley wasn’t a good defender and also wasn’t a team guy and he’s still ranked #72. Harden is a four-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA with two First-Teams, which moves him ahead of Bobby Jones, Marc Gasol, Mark Price, Lenny Wilkins, Nate Thurmond, and Maurice Cheeks. Harden lands at #90.

Kevin Love #99 ↓ NR

Love had an okay year, but when you are already a borderline selection on the Top 100 players ever, an okay year doesn’t cut it. His team is probably better without him and I am predicting that Love will be traded this off-season even after a Cavs championship. I’m sure the Lakers would be interested. New additions to the list, knock Love out of the Top 100.

040815-sports-buzz-Kawhi-LeonardKawhi Leonard NR ↑ 95

Yes, he’s still young, but he also has a Finals MVP, two All-NBA selections, and two Defensive Player of the Year Awards. He has turned into a consistent scorer and a deadly 3 point shooter for an elite team. He was 1st Team All-NBA this year, edging out a worthy Kevin Durant. That’s better than anything Marc Gasol has done to earn a #95 ranking.

Klay Thompson NR ↑ 97

Similar to Kawhi, Klay is very young to make this list, but he’s made All-NBA 3rd Team the last two seasons, had some of the greatest shooting seasons ever, and has helped the Warriors to back-to-back Finals and winning one title. He is a stellar defensive player as well. His explosive scoring binges are a thing to behold.

This season resulted in a couple of major changes in the Top 25

ESPN NBA RANK UPDATED LEGEND GROWS RANK
Michael Jordan 1 1
Lebron James 3 2
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 2 3
Wilt Chamberlain 4 4
Magic Johnson 5 5
Larry Bird 6 6
Bill Russell 7 7
Tim Duncan 8 8
Shaquille O'Neal 9 9
Hakeem Olajuwon 10 10
Oscar Robertson 11 11
Kobe Bryant 12 12
Jerry West 13 13
Julius Erving 14 14
Moses Malone 15 15
Karl Malone 16 16
Dirk Nowitzki 17 17
Charles Barkley 18 18
John Stockton 19 19
Steph Curry 23 20
David Robinson 20 21
Kevin Garnett 21 22
Kevin Durant 22 23
Scottie Pippen 24 24
Isiah Thomas 25 25

 

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