After a three month writing sabbatical I’m happy to say that I’m back and ready to unleash a several thousand word, nearly two month long odyssey counting down the best players in the NBA. I bet you’re just as excited as I am!
I’m different than most people my age. For example, after finishing up his last semester of college my friend Weston went on a two week vacation in Europe over the summer. He went on bar crawls, slept on floors of hotel lobbies, smacked a phone out of a European man’s hand… all of the stuff I imagine you’d do when you go to Europe.
I took a different approach. I helped my parents move. I played multiple hours of basketball every day. I took my girlfriend Maria on a trip back to the homeland (Elba, NY). And in my spare time, I crammed in several hours of NBA research; watching game highlights and player scouting videos, re-reading box scores and articles, talking with friends and family about my potential rankings. I did all of this just so I could confidently put together an NBA anthology that will in all likelihood be critiqued and ripped to shreds by everyone who tracks my countdown at The Runner Sports.
I’ve dealt with my fair share of mean comments over the last two years doing this countdown. Two years ago I had a few readers question my NBA knowledge and my ability to be an unbiased writer because I ranked Dwyane Wade 9th. This made me laugh because I ranked Wade only one spot lower than ESPN writers and analysts had ranked that same year. Last year one reader launched a profanity-laced tirade on me because I had DeMarcus Cousins ranked 39th. It was so bad that my cousin Gianni—a frequent contributor to the rankings, and someone who throughout the whole process suggested that I move Cousins up in the rankings—responded in the comments telling the reader that he shouldn’t be so mean.
The moral of the story is don’t get too wrapped up in this. Just remember:
A: In no way, shape, or form have I ever claimed to be an expert. I’m just an NBA fan who cares way too much about the league for my own good.
B: Everyone has an opinion, and that’s all this list is… my opinion. Remember, if there weren’t differing opinions about sports it wouldn’t be nearly as fun to discuss. I’m not trying to tell you my opinion is better than yours. I’m just expressing my opinion while also trying to encompass as much of the previous NBA season as I can. If this countdown proves anything it’s just that I’m a complete and total NBA nerd. I have an irrational love for the NBA and the game of basketball in general. In a roundabout way, that makes me very similar to a lot of you readers.
C: Just so there isn’t any confusion to how I came to my rankings, I will gladly show you the exact criteria I used during this process. I know it is my opinion, but still it wouldn’t be fair to you if you didn’t know what logic went into my decisions for the upcoming list. Think of it like the Declaration of Independence. That written document legitimized our Founding Fathers beliefs that the 13 colonies should be an independent nation of their own, completely separate from Great Britain. I wasn’t there, but when King George III received the Declaration, I imagine his reaction was something like, “I don’t like this, but I totally feel where these patriots are coming from. I appreciate that they explained this to me in a written format. I’m thirsty, I want some tea… Someone get me some tea damn it!!!” Again, I wasn’t there so I don’t know this for sure. Anyway, think of this as my Declaration of Independence, that way you don’t think I am disrespectfully forcing my rankings upon you. Feel free to enjoy some tea while reading my criteria.
1: Last Year and This Year
-The first thing to remember is that these rankings are based both on how good the player was last season and how productive I expect him to be this coming season. Every player is judged based on both. I’m not looking back at how good a player was in 2009 or how good he will be in 2019. It’s a two season sample size that I’m looking at, and because one of those seasons is yet to be played, I have to put on my clairvoyant cap when ranking these players. No wonder it turns out to be so damn difficult.
2: Individual Statistics/Accolades
-What were the players’ averages in the major statistical categories? (NOTE: Any career best or Playoff career best notices are for players with who have played 5 NBA seasons or have 3 postseason appearances). Did they win any individual awards? Did they make an All-NBA team, All-Defensive Team, or any teams that I made up on my own but seemed relevant?
-Simply put, how good is he at basketball?
-What is the players’ role on the team? How significant is that role? How well do they fit their role? A non-NBA example: Matthew Fox played Dr. Jack Shephard, the main protagonist on the show Lost. I would go as far as saying that Jack was a good lead character but he certainly wasn’t great. What made Lost interesting other than the fact that it was so incredibly unique was its depth of awesome supporting characters. I asked my friend Collin—another frequent contributor to my rankings—which characters were more interesting than Jack on Lost… we agreed that John Locke and Ben Linus were more interesting, and he acknowledged that my choices of Sawyer, Kate and Desmond were all potentially more interesting. So if I were counting down the best television characters of all-time, Locke and Ben would be ahead of Jack even though Jack was billed as the lead character. My point is this: A great role player could very easily be ranked ahead of a good player who shoulders a larger burden on a nightly basis than said role player.
5: Team Success
-How much of an impact does that player have on the win/loss record of his team? Did he make significant contributions to the team that led to more wins? Is he an empty stats guy?
6: Late Game Chops
-How good are they when the game is on the line? Do they play better in big games or tend to disappear? Do they have the eye of the tiger or look more like a deer in the headlights?
-How good of a teammate is the player? Do guys enjoy playing with him or is he despised? Does he do little things that make the team better or is he out for himself? Is he known as a hard worker and leader, or someone who doesn’t give a crap?
8: How Does He Stand Out
-Does he have any memorable games? Is there something unique about his game? Do you absolutely have to watch him play on NBA League Pass? Would you pay money to see him play in person?
Be sure to check out The Runner Sports for a ton of good sports content, plus the continuation of my NBA Player Rankings over the next fifty days!