The scope of our ranking is relatively simple (no weight is given to long-term development, and as little emphasis as possible was placed on team context), but there is nonetheless a daunting complication inherent to the exercise itself. Put simply: While we made a considered effort to somehow compare an incredible assortment of NBA talent, there’s little grounds to suggest that players can be assigned any kind of absolute basketball value.
It’s simply important to note that a player’s worth shifts dramatically with his surroundings, and with that comes an unavoidable imbalance to any and every comparative ranking of this kind.
Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans (G, 24)
2012-13 stats: 30.1 MPG, 17.0 PPG, 3.3 APG, 40.2 FG%, 32.4 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 15.4 PER, 1.1 Win Shares, +0.2 RAPM
Though once tabbed as a potential All-Star, Gordon has since gone about acquiring an assortment of red flags. He’s now two seasons removed from high-level basketball, having struggled to stay on the court (Gordon played in just 47 percent of his teams’ games over the last three seasons) and stumbled through his playing time on it. His inefficiency, in particular, was alarming; of the 41 players who attempted as many field goal attempts per game as Gordon did last season, only four posted a lower effective field goal percentage. That he posted the worst turnover rate of his career didn’t exactly help matters, nor did the lesser defense he played as a result of his diminished lateral movement. If Gordon were better on the court, his injury history and problematic relationship with the Hornets/Pelicans could be overlooked (to some degree) for the sake of basketball returns. Gordon can get back to playing at that high level, surely, but for the moment is reliable only in his unreliability. — RM
65. Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Hornets (G/F, 23)
2012-13 stats: 31.0 MPG, 15.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 47.8 FG%, 33.8 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 18.1 PER, 4.4 Win Shares, -0.2 RAPM
Figuring out how to best use Evans can be a chore, but his instincts and physicality translate to some impressive individual production. In theory, he could fill a variety of roles: an oversized point guard, a slashing wing, a one-man juggernaut off the bench, a supporting ball-handler or even a post-up facilitator. But the Kings never quite figured out how to strike the appropriate balance around Evans. That task now belongs to the Pelicans, who gave him a four-year, $44 million deal in a sign-and-trade with Sacramento. Whether New Orleans can provide the right fit for Evans remains to be seen, but its far more intriguing roster could make better use of the enigmatic guard’s flexibility. Regardless, Evans doesn’t have a great feel for running an offense and has a long way to go as a defender and shooter. He produces despite those limitations, but they do complicate matters when constructing lineups around his rare talents. — RM
57. Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Hornets (F, 25)
2012-13 stats: 30.9 MPG, 16.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 42.3 FG%, 38.2 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 18.1 PER, 6.5 Win Shares, +0.4 RAPM
What Anderson supplies is unique even in a league keen on stretchy bigs, as his shooting range has now been tested against volume (only Stephen Curry attempted more three-pointers than Anderson last season) and context (having moved out from Dwight Howard’s shadow in Orlando to a much stranger offense in New Orleans). He’s a singularly prolific and accurate shooter for his position, a distinction which holds corresponding benefit. The threat of Anderson’s shooting draws an opposing big man out of the lane, clearing room for drives or post-up sequences. Such a matchup advantage isn’t without its remedies (many opponents have assigned smaller defenders to Anderson to good effect), but his very presence on the floor forces compromise in the game plan and rotation of the Pelicans’ opponents. — RM
We don't need to fix tanking, because tanking is not a problem. The Bucks are not victims of the rebuilding style du jour because the Bucks know how the system works and choose their path in spite of it. But we ought to encourage teams like the Bucks, Hawks and Nuggets, who attempt to give their fans an entertaining, competitive product while looking for long-term solutions.
48. Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans (G, 23)
2012-13 stats: 37.5 MPG, 17.7 PPG, 8.0 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 43.1 FG%, 36.8 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 16.7 PER, 3.3 Win Shares, +0.7 RAPM
The Sixers’ decision to trade Holiday to the Pelicans for No. 6 pick Nerlens Noel and a future first-round pick on draft night prompted an immediate and sharp debate. Supporters liked the idea of scooping up a slipping Noel, hording assets and tanking for the 2014 draft. Detractors wondered why a team building for the future would want to part with a 23-year-old All-Star, two-way point guard who just completed a career year, has no off-court red flags and is locked into an affordable rookie extension (four years, $43 million) until 2017.
The debate really boils down to differing takes on Holiday’s ceiling: Is he a future No. 1 guy for a winning team or is he “merely” a top-10-caliber point guard who will be consistently above average, but not quite elite? Philadelphia needed the former but New Orleans seems content with the latter, as the Pelicans will belong fully to Anthony Davis soon enough. Holiday’s durability, ability to create for himself and others, leadership intangibles and desire to work defensively will all be welcome in New Orleans. – B.G.
41. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (F/C, 20)
2012-13 stats: 28.8 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 51.6 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 21.7 PER, 6.1 Win Shares, +0.8 RAPM
The No. 1 pick in 2012 had a superb rookie season, but he didn’t enjoy the full hype treatment because of New Orleans’ poor season, a series of minor injuries and the shadow cast by Damian Lillard’s award-winning campaign. The offseason is a good time for “take a step back” appraisals and Davis, a top high school recruit and a dominant force during his one year at Kentucky, is a perfect candidate for such an evaluation.
Davis, 20, won an Olympic gold medal and averaged 16.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.5 steals per 36 minutes while placing in the top 10 among power forwards and centers in PER and block percentage as a teenager. He can play at least two (if not three) positions, he’s already an excellent finisher around the hoop despite a slender frame that is filling out, and he spent the summer working on adding a mid-range jumper to his arsenal. By the way, if you forget about him for a few seconds, he’s liable to snatch the ball out of the air, dribble coast-to-coast and finish with a dunk for good measure.
If every NBA player were thrown into a draft, Davis would be selected in the top 10, at the very least, given his potential for perennial All-Star play on both sides of the ball and his drama-free, strictly basketball approach. Excited yet? — B.G.
I guess AR will make the list tomorrow, and the Nigerian Assassin will be in Friday's top 10
1. Which player ranked from 30 to 100 has the best chance of significantly outperforming his ranking?
Ben Golliver: Anthony Davis (No. 41). The Pelicans’ 20-year-old big man hits a number of key criteria to leap ahead of current reasonable expectations: He’s young, he’s already productive, his playing time should increase, his team should be better than it was last year and there are no obvious impediments to his growth. Even though I think our ranking showed him a significant amount of respect, given that he has played fewer than 1,900 NBA minutes, there’s a reasonable chance that Davis is a sexy pick among number crunchers for the 2014 All-Star team. A spot in the top 25, maybe even the top 20, heading into the 2014-15 season is also within reach.
How quickly the Pelicans can get into the playoff mix will help determine when Davis starts to receive national recognition, but it doesn’t take a lot of digging to realize that he’s on the fast track.
Consider this: Davis posted a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 21.7 and a Win Shares of 6.1 during his age-19 season (yes, it should be noted that he missed almost a quarter of the season with various injuries). Basketball-Reference’s database indicates that no one else has ever done that at age 19. When you start relaxing the standards — lowering the PER and Win Shares thresholds — the names that come up are a who’s who list of perennial All-Stars and future Hall of Famers: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. If you relax the age standard to determinewhich rookies have posted his PER/Win Shares combination, that list of 17 players includes Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson.
That heady company suggests that Davis is primed to enjoy a leap — a major one — soon. Will it be this season? Will it be next season? We all eagerly wait for that answer.
3. Which player ranked from 30 to 100 is the most volatile? In other words, which player has the highest ceiling above his ranking while also possessing serious crash-and-burn potential?
Mahoney: Tyreke Evans (No. 65). There are a number of good candidates to pick from beyond Bynum (who rather easily takes the lead on this question), but I’m inclined to examine the full range of possibilities for Evans. Despite career averages of 18 points, five assists, and 4.9 rebounds per 36 minutes, Evans has never registered a positive on-court impact by way of regularized adjusted plus-minus, and only once (in four years) improved his team’s overall performance in his on/off splits. For all of his evident talent, there’s just limited data to support the notion that what Evans does on the floor actually turns out to be a positive for his team.
His style of play more or less confirms the premise; Evans can be a bit of a ball hog even at his most productive, employs a fairly blunt driving style, doesn’t cut consistently enough when not in control and isn’t a good perimeter defender. Evans puts up some impressive numbers, but former Kings coaches Paul Westphal and Keith Smart were never able to find the optimal balance in his role and abilities.
I’m optimistic that Monty Williams might have better luck figuring out Evans in New Orleans, largely because Davis, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, and Eric Gordon form a well-rounded support staff. If all clicks into place, it’s entirely possible that Evans could be underrated here. Few players are capable of contributing across the board as he does, and a fresh start with a new team could go a long way toward unlocking his potential. But our ranking could also wind up as a rosy projection for such a peculiar player — a talent that remains unsolved after various roles in four seasons.