Well folks, I hope you’ve all been preparing yourselves to do quite a bit of reading over the next two-ish months. I’m about to drop an entire season’s worth of NBA-related words, stories, memories, knowledge, factoids, tidbits, nuggets, questions, answers, riddles and opinions on you, as we, together, embark on my fourth annual Top 50 NBA Players.
Yes, you are indeed in this with me, and you guys actually have the easy job. I do all the research: re-watching of games and highlights, re-reading of past columns, articles, box scores and hot takes, agonizing over the list AND several thousands words-worth of writing. You guys read. That’s it. We, as humans, learn to do this shortly after we get a firm grasp on how to use a toilet, so I’m not asking too much from you here. If you want to share these columns and pass them along to your friends, it’s obviously greatly appreciated. If you want to leave nasty comments questioning my perceived biases, knowledge of the game, my manhood or anything else really, go for it! I have thick skin, so don’t worry about me. At least it means you cared enough to read what I had to write.
Then again before you go off on any tirades in the comment section, please remember:
A: I’ve never claimed to be an expert (at least not in writing, or to anyone who would think “Wow, he’s an arrogant jackass” if they heard me say it) … I’m simply an NBA fan who cares way too much about the league for his 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 it. 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 the beliefs of our Founding Fathers 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 absolutely 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 wouldn’t swear to this. 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 concerned with how good Dwight Howard was in 2010 or how good Andrew Wiggins might be in 2020. 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 (and thanks to NBA.com, not so major) statistical categories? (NOTE: Any career best or Playoff career best notices in resumes 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 are relevant and probably should be actual end of year accolades?
-What is the players’ role on the team? How significant is that role? How well do they fit their role? A good non-NBA example: Imagine I was ranking the all-time best TV characters, and assume that I was using the same sort of criteria to rank them as I am here with NBA players. You know, like show success, command of the screen, best scenes, best story arc, etc. Someone like Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad would rank really, really high on that list even though he wasn’t the main character or even the best character on his own show. In fact, he’d rank ahead of quite a few lead characters from other great shows because he was so damn good in his role. Jack Shephard from Lost is a good example. He was probably the most important character on his own show, but he wasn’t the best character. Other complimentary characters from other TV shows easily top him. My point is this: A great role player who consistently delivers and means more to their team than most people believe could very easily be ranked ahead of a good lead player who shoulders a larger burden on a nightly basis than said role player.
4: Team Success
-How much of an impact does the player have on the win/loss record of his team? Did he make significant contributions outside of statistics that led to team success? Is he an empty stats guy, or a good stats/bad team guy?
5: 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 in question? Do guys enjoy playing with him or is he not too popular with his peers? Does he do little things that make his team better or is he just out for himself? Is he known as a hard worker and leader, or someone who, for the most part, doesn’t give a crap?
7: How Does He Stand Out
-Does he have any memorable games or moments? Is there something unique about his game? Do you absolutely have to watch him play when his team is playing on National TV? Do you gravitate towards his teams games on NBA League Pass? Would you pay money to see him play in person? Does he have some sort of ‘It Factor’?
-It’s a fairly simple concept: how good is he at the game of basketball?
Let the 50 day countdown begin!