One non-lockout-related item that has been abuzz lately is the ESPN player rankings, where a panel of ESPN experts ranked every player in the NBA from No. 500 to No. 1. In case you missed it, No. 1 was, of course, Lebron James, followed by Dwight Howard, his stablemate Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and latest NBA champ Dirk Nowtizki.
As for the Pacers, they didn't fare so well. Let me break it down.
Considering the Pacers made the playoffs last season and pushed the top seeded Bulls in 5 gruelling games, it was a bit of a disappointment to see how low the Pacers players were ranked. Or perhaps that's a good thing, demonstrating a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. After all, Miami has two of the top three players in the rankings and they still couldn't win the title.
The top ranked Pacers player was obviously Danny Granger, who came in at a low 36. Fair enough, but the next highest ranked player? New addition George Hill at 91, followed by Darren Collison (94) and Roy Hibbert (96). Those are the only players in the top 100. In a league of 30 teams, each team should theoretically have around three to four players in the top 100, so I guess from that perspective the Pacers didn't do too badly.
At the other end of the scale, the worst ranked Pacer was Solomon Jones, who came in at 389. In my humble opinion that's not too bad. Can you even think of 30 players that were worse than Solo last season?
Here's the full list:
36. Danny Granger
Player score: 7.26/10 (to put things in perspective, Lebron scored a 9.91/10)
2010-2011 stats: 20.5ppg, 5.4rpg, 2.6apg
5 players ranked above: Ray Allen, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Joe Johnson, Nene
5 players ranked below: Tyson Chandler, Stephen Curry, Eric Gordon, John Wall, Monta Ellis
Thoughts: As clearly the best player of a playoff team (ie, a top 16 team in the NBA), 36 does appear to be a bit low for Danny Granger. Sure he ought to be a better leader, a better rebounder, a better passer, a better slasher and a better defender, and he appears to have peaked and is starting to decline, but Granger is still the key player on a middle of the pack, up-and-coming team. Given that some teams have multiple stars, a rank around the mid or even late 20s would have been more suitable, particularly if you look at the guys ranked above Granger. Sorry, but as good a shooter Ray Allen is, he's not better than Granger. Iguodala is a better defender and all-round player, so I can accept that, but Nene? 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game Nene? I'm not so sure.
91. George Hill
Player score: 5.69
2010-2011 stats: 11.6ppg, 2.6rpg, 2.5apg
5 players ranked above: Andrei Kirilenko, Andre Miller, Chris Kaman, Caron Butler, Marcin Gortat
5 players ranked below: JJ Barea, OJ Mayo, Darren Collison, Kendrick Perkins, Roy Hibbert
Thoughts: Mmm...not that I think 91 is too high for George Hill, but I don't think he is necessarily better than the other two Pacers players ranked below him (Collison and Hibbert). Going forward, I can't imagine Hill being a more important piece than Hibbert, and I'm still not convinced he can supplant Collison as the starting PG. If Hill is the sixth man, does that warrant him being the second best player on the team? Don't get me wrong, but I think being a role player on San Antonio has somehow inflated his worth.
94. Darren Collison
Player score: 5.68
2010-2011 stats: 13.2ppg, 2.8rpg, 5.1apg
5 players ranked above: OJ Mayo, JJ Barea, George Hill, Andrei Kirilenko, Andre Miller
5 players ranked below: Kendrick Perkins, Roy Hibbert, Ron Artest, Shane Battier, JaVale McGee
Thoughts: Collison's stock fell drastically after a season in which he failed to live up to lofty expectations, but judging from the players he is ranked amongst I think he's roughly in the right place. I believe he has the potential to crack the top 50 though.
96. Roy Hibbert
Player score: 5.67
2010-2011 stats: 12.7ppg, 7.5rpg, 2.0apg
5 players ranked above: Kendrick Perkins, Darren Collison, OJ Mayo, JJ Barea, George Hill
5 players ranked below: Ron Artest, Shane Battier, JaVale McGee, Wesley Matthews, DeMar DeRozan
Thoughts: Roy is another underachiever but he showed glimpses of what he is capable of. Based on that assessment, I think Hibbert is ranked too low and ought to be the Pacers' second best player right now -- though given that he is only 0.01 behind Collison and 0.02 behind Hill I can't complain too much. I think he is definitely better than the overrated Kendrick Perkins.
122. Tyler Hansbrough
Player score: 5.20
2010-2011 stats: 11.0ppg, 5.2rpg, 0.6apg
5 players ranked above: Vince Carter, DeJuan Blair, DJ Augustin, Aaron Brooks, Glen Davis
5 players ranked below: Tyrus Thomas, Jeff Green, JJ Hickson, Richard Hamilton, Mo Williams
Thoughts: Based on the company I think Hansbrough is in the right zone, but he certainly has potential to be a much better player. His hustle and ability to rack up big games every now and then makes me wonder whether he ought to be ranked higher.
141. Mike Dunleavy
Player score: 4.97
2010-2011 stats: 11.2 ppg, 4.5rpg, 1.7apg
5 players ranked above: Kyrie Irving, Mehmet Okur, Derrick Favors, Brandon Bass, Marcus Thornton
5 players ranked below: Rudy Fernandez, JJ Reddick, Rashard Lewis, Kris Humphris, Nick Young
Thoughts: Mike has a big game every now and then (remember Denver?), but no matter how much the coaching staff talk him up he just doesn't appear to be much more than an occasionally relevant role player these days. I often think he is overrated, but when you take a look at the stats of the guys ranked above him it suggests to me that it's actualyl the other way around.
205. Paul George
Player score: 4.32
2010-2011 stats: 7.8ppg, 3.7rpg, 1.1apg
5 players ranked above: Ricky Rubio, Ed Davis, Brendan Haywood, Goran Dragic, Carlos Delfino
5 players ranked below: Jonas Jerebko, Jermaine O'Neal, Corey Brewer, Anthony Morrow, Jordan Crawford
Thoughts: Definitely the most underrated Pacers player in these rankings. Take a look at the people ranked above and below PG. Is there a single guy, with the potential exception of Rubio, that you would pick in front of him right now or in the future? And if 'potential' plays into the rankings (eg John Wall at 40, Blake Griffin in the top 10), how the heck is PG not a top 150 guy at the very least? Baffling.
232. Jeff Foster
Player score: 4.04
2010-2011 stats: 3.3ppg, 6.3rpg, 0.8apg
5 players ranked above: Martell Webster, Hakim Warrick, DeShawn Stevenson, Marco Belinelli, Ben Wallace
5 players ranked below: Francisco Garcia, Ryan Gomes, Ersan Ilyasova, Marreese Speights, Daniel Gibson
Thoughts: Considering Mr Offensive Rebound missed a bunch of games last season and clearly wasn't at his best, this ranking suggests to me that the voters were ranking him based on their respect for his past contributions. Foster is still a valuable contributor when healthy but his prime is far behind him. Chances are his value will only decrease from here.
250. Josh McRoberts
Player score: 3.87
2010-2011 stats: 7.4ppg, 5.3rpg, 2.1apg
5 players ranked above: Nate Robinson, Peja Stojakovic, Ronny Turiaf, Al Thornton, Wesley Johnson
5 players ranked below: Jordan Farmar, Michael Redd, Enes Kanter, Kurt Thomas, Keith Bogans
Thoughts: Whenever I look at Josh's stats I can't believe they are that low. Whenever I watched him play for the Pacers last season I thought he was pretty good, which is why the low ranking surprised me. Would you take him over Jeff Foster right now? Of course you would. Would you take him over any of the five guys ranked above him? I probably would. I think he deserved better, and will prove it next season, whether he's with the Pacers or not (and whether there is a season...).
269. Brandon Rush
Player score: 3.60
2010-2011 stats: 9.1ppg, 3.2rpg, 0.9apg
5 players ranked above: Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight, James Jones, Raja Bell, Jared Jeffries
5 players ranked below: Greivis Vasquez, Travis Outlaw, Earl Boykins, Jimmer Fredette, Jodie Meeks
Thoughts: Based on his stats, Rush's ranking is a little low, but to be honest I'd take any of the rookies ranked above or below him in a heartbeat. Rush has had enough chances to prove himself and I doubt he'll ever crack the top 200 in this league. Shame because the 'potential' to be a top 100 player is definitely there.
277. Dahntay Jones
Player score: 3.60
2010-2011 stats: 6.3ppg, 1.4rpg, 0.7apg
5 players ranked above: Willie Green, Daequan Cook, Jodie Meeks, Jimmer Fredette, Earl Boykins
5 players ranked below: Shaun Livingston, Roger Mason Jr, Yi Jianlian, Aaron Gray, Chris Duhon
Thoughts: Is it just me or do players carrying great expectations with them always turn to crap when they join the Pacers? Dahntay Jones was the Pacers' prized signing a year ago and this season he barely played half of it. 277 is about right for Dahntay based on his recent performances. Kobe stopper he is not, but thank goodness DJ can still play some D.
285. TJ Ford
Player score: 3.44
2010-2011 stats: 5.4ppg, 2.0rpg, 3.4apg
5 players ranked above: Kelenna Azubuike, Reggie Williams, Chris Duhon, Aaron Gray, Yi Jianlian
5 players ranked below: Nazr Mohammed, Donte Greene, Jamario Moon, Anthony Tolliver, Craig Smith
Thoughts: He's been a professional through all of the turmoil but TJ Ford is as good as gone, without a potential destination in sight. Who would have thought things would turn out like this? And who would have thought the Pacers still have four players ranked below him?
291. James Posey
Player score: 3.35
2010-2011 stats: 4.9ppg, 3.0rpg, 0.7apg
5 players ranked above: Craig Smith, Anothony Tolliver, Jamario Moon, Donte Green, Nazr Mohammed
5 players ranked below: Jason Smith, Marquis Daniels, Julian Wright, Earl Watson, Kawhi Leonard
Thoughts: Last season the former NBA champion tried to live by the three but for the most part died by the three. At least Posey is still ranked above two former Pacers Daniels and Watson, and above rookie Leonard, whom the Pacers drafted but almost immediately swapped for George Hill. How did someone go from potential savior to a cringe every time he stepped on the floor?
324. AJ Price
Player score: 3.02
2010-2011 stats: 6.5ppg, 1.4rpg, 2.2apg
5 players ranked above: Terrence Williams, Sebastian Telfair, Trevor Booker, Maurice Evans, Tristan Thompson
5 players ranked below: Von Wafer, Brian Cardinal, Fabricio Oberto, Keyon Dooling, Carlos Arroyo
Thoughts: Too low for a regularly solid backup contributor like Price. No reason why he shouldn't have been ranked above Posey and Ford.
369. Lance Stephenson
Player score: 2.60
2010-2011 stats: 3.1ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.8apg
5 players ranked above: Alonzo Gee, Eduardo Najera, Pooh Jeter, Josh Powell, Wayne Ellington
5 players ranked below: Francisco Elson, Morris Peterson, Quinton Ross, Johan Petro, Renaldo Balkman
Thoughts: Born Ready to be ranked no. 369 in the NBA. Not sure if this is too high or too low. Are we looking at performance? On the court or off? What about potential? The kid has potential, but then again, so does (did) Brandon Rush. We've been saying that for years. How long will we give Stephenson?
389. Solomon Jones
Player score: 2.44
2010-2011 stats: 3.6ppg, 2.9rpg, 0.8apg
5 players ranked above: Ime Udoka, DJ White, Donatas Motiejunas, Quincy Pondexter, Hamed Haddadi
5 players ranked below: Jamaal Magloire, Nikola Vucevic, Ike Diogu, Avery Bradley, Nolan Smith
Thoughts: And here we are, the worst Pacers player in the NBA. And of course it had to be Solo, another guy brought in with high expectations but got worse and worse as he lost playing time and confidence. On the bright side, Solo is ranked above former Pacer (and practically the old Solo) Ike Diogu, and in a league of 500 players, there are more than a hundred ranked below him. That's kind of comforting.