The final positional rankings. Where do the members of the Hydra fall?
Last year, to much fanfare, our own Jacob Padilla broke down his letter grades and rankings of players at each of the positions in the NBA. This year, I'm going to do the same thing, but with two twists.
First, I am going to introduce a slight empirical element to this grading system. Instead of going entirely by the gut, I will base at least part of my grades on a composite ranking scale that takes into account a players ranking on four aggregate statistics from the 2013-14 season that all have slightly different emphases: Win Shares per 48 (from basketball-reference.com), ESPN's Real Plus/Minus, PER, and PoP48 (from BoxScoreGeeks.com). This hopefully adds a little objectivity to the analysis. (Note: because there are players who didn't play last year, the rankings cannot be entirely based upon this.)
Second, I am taking a cue from the great Bill Simmons, who invites commentary from the infamous Cousin Sal in his NBA rankings columns, and inviting commentary from my friend and Suns junkie Gottlieb. Whereas I rely on statistics to inform my grades, Julian Gottlieb will provide gut check evaluations.
The grading system will remain roughly the same as last season:
S: Best in the Game (LeBron James)
A+: Second Best in the Game (Kevin Durant)
A: Top 5 Player
A-: Likely All-Stars/Top 10 at the Position
B+: All-Star Caliber/Top 10 at the position
B: Above Average Starters/Fringe All-Star Caliber
B-: Above Average Starters
C+: Average Starters
C: Fringe Starter/Bench Player
C-: Good Bench Player
D+: Average Bench Player
D: Fringe Rotation Player
D-: Fringe NBA Player
F: Soon to be Puerto Rican League All-Star!
NOTE: Order within the grades is arbitrary.
I am evaluating the Point Guard Position today (link takes you to the publicly viewable Google Sheets page for all position raw rankings).
Please keep comments relatively civilized - this is a family friendly community where opinions are bound to differ.
Chris Paul (1)
At some point it had to happen, and it did: all four metrics agree that Chris Paul is the best PG in the game right now. The eye test, and least my eye test, confirms this. He hasn't enjoyed post-season success, really, which lowers him in the eyes of many, but I still think he's undeniably the most talented NBA point guard.
Steph Curry (2.25), Kyle Lowry (4.75), Russell Westbrook (5), John Wall (17), George Hill (18.25)
Alright, so I cheated and changed the key so that I wouldn't have to make tough calls. You caught me. There is no real substantive difference between players in the A- and B+ categories, except that the guys in A- are the All-Star 'front-runners' in my eyes. Steph Curry is amazing. Lights out offensively, and while not super defensively talented, at least puts in the effort. Lowry had a career year, and I don't expect too much regression from him with most of the same parts in Toronto. Westbrook, despite the fact that I don't particularly like his game, is undeniably one of the best two way point guards in the game and a tenacious scorer, who will need to carry his team with KD out. John Wall I think is just a small step below Curry and Westbrook in terms of overall play, but he's arguably the best PG in the East. George Hill might seem like a stretch to put here instead of Kyrie, but remember that what defines this group is making the All-Star game, and votes from Cleveland are going to be split. Combine that with that fact that Hill will be the prime offensive weapon on his team, increasing the likelihood that his production will likely be nearer to his 2012-13 levels, and I don't think its unreasonable to argue he'll get the All-Star nod.
Goran Dragic (5.25), Mike Conley (8.25), Eric Bledsoe (10.25), Ty Lawson (11.25), Kyrie Irving (24.75)
I think Goran and Bledsoe lose out in the All-Star voting, but not because they are all that noticeably worse than the other guys. Goran showed last season that in isolation, he is an All-NBA caliber player. The thing is, these guys won't play in isolation. Together, while they will be very effective in producing wins, they might not put up enough raw stats to get an All-Star nod compared to Paul, Westbrook and Curry. Conley was once again a solid performer, and had what I think was his best season as a pro. He is largely the reason why the team was able to squeak into the playoffs despite declining production from many of the core team members. Lawson had a really productive season on a bad team, something of an aberration in this data. Irving is bumped considerably because a) he's the most likely alternative All Star in the East, and b) he's playing with some really great players this season who should, hopefully, help raise his game.
Dragic. The slovenian scorcher. Seeing him blossom from Nash's understudy to a full fledged court general has been an absolute pleasure. He brought me one of the greatest joys as a tortured suns fan when he lit up the Spurs for 23 in the 4th quarter en route to a sweep of our bitter rivals. Last year he was an All-Star snub. He is no longer flying under the radar and the expectations are high for him, especially with only 1 year left on his contract. I'm skeptical he can do more than he did last year, but he seems to raise the bar every year. I guess this year it's point guardians of the galaxy or bust?
Damian Lillard (15), Ricky Rubio (17.25), Tony Parker (18)
Lillard was fabulous last season, but plays in the West, which is stacked at PG. He could potentially sneak into the All-Star game, but I just don't see it. Rubio is a divisive figure - some people love him, some people hate him, some people wish they had his hair. This is the sink or swim year for Rubio - Kevin Love is no longer with the team to bail him out. He grades out higher than the eye test places him because of the defense and creativeness, but he has to fix his jumpshot. Finally, Tony Parker. I know there are a lot of fans of the Frenchman, and I could see him potentially getting into the All-Star game again this season. But I don't know if he'll deserve it compared to all of the superbly talented point guards above him.
Gottlieb's Gut Check
Lillard is a silky smooth finisher with a nice touch from beyond the arc (39%). He made a subtle but significant leap from rookie to sophomore year, cutting back on turnovers and getting to the line more. He will do battle with Dragon again for an All-Star spot.
Thomas really was electric last season, and I have no idea why the Kings decided to let him go. That being said, I have him declining a bit due to his playing time being somewhat reduced. Deron Williams declined in overall per game production last season, but it is hard to tell if it was just decline due to age, or tied to the increased level of talent around him (his usage rate went down) and his injury (he missed about a quarter of the season). Derrick Rose is hard to place. I don't think an All-Star bid is out of the question because of his popularity and the size of the Chicago market, but I don't know if his on-court play will deserve it. It very well might, but its been so long since we saw him healthy that its an open question.
Mills is overrated by the stats, as much as I love the Aussie. He would likely start or be a sixth man on most other teams, but he's not an All-Star caliber player. Beverley and Holiday are more defensive oriented point guards that complement more offensive oriented wings. Collison, Calderon, Walker, Lin and Teague are more offensively oriented. Calderon has been on the decline, and this might be the season he moves from an average starter to a solid bench reserve. Carter-Williams is underrated by the numbers - reigning rookie of the year, he's cursed with what is likely the worst team to ever grace an NBA court. I think Lin and Teague have the greatest potential to put up numbers better than their skills would indicate - Teague because he will have a more potent offense to run with the return of Horford, and Lin because he's going to shoulder a heavy offensive burden as the Lakers slowly but surely succumb to injury, age and general ineptitude.
Gottlieb's Gut Check
GET THIS KID SOME HELP PHILLY! MC-W is RONERY [NSFW]. Looking at you Nerlens…MCW is gonna have the green light all year so he should put up some big numbers even if he's a little inefficient. *Tearing up* Makes me a little nostalgic for the Iverson days. He gets to the hole and rebounds well for a guard. I would like to see him add a more consistent 3-pt shot but he's still young and the ceiling is high if Philly adds the right supporting cast.
Pablo Prigioni (21), Andre Miller (23), Mario Chalmers (27.25), Reggie Jackson (29.75), Rajon Rondo (35.75), Nate Wolters (45.75), Brandon Jennings (47), Brandon Knight (48.5), Trey Burke (56.5), Marcus Smart
Prigioni and Miller are both remarkably effective for guys at the end of their careers. Prigioni has quietly been one of the best roster decisions for the Knicks in recent memories. Burke, Wolters, and Jackson are all young guys who, at least in my mind, are in the fringe-starter discussion at this point. They have shown enough talent to warrant minutes - its just a question of whether they will get them. Knight and Jennings just both haven't turned the corner to make me think they are quite good enough to be starters. I don't know what to make of Rondo. He might legitimately not be the best point guard on the roster this season. Smart comes in as a talented, relatively experienced rookie, and Rondo looked...old at the end of last season. Mario Chalmers has already lost his starting role of Norris Cole - he might have been a strong beneficiary of the Extremes effect.
Shaun Livingston (27), CJ Watson (29.25), Cory Joseph (32), DJ Augustin (32.25), Nate Robinson (34.5), Greivis Vasquez (35.75), Ramon Sessions (36.5), Jameer Nelson (38), Matt Dellavadova (38.75), Nick Calathes (41.25), Jimmer Fredette (45.25), Kirk Hinrich (35.35), Kendall Marshall (47.25) Shabazz Napier, Jordan Clarkson, Spencer Dinwiddie, Elfrid Payton
These guys are all solid players. If a team needed them to step in and start games, most of them would be able to step in and put in spot starts, but really shouldn't be starting regularly. A couple of these guys are aging vets (Robinson - 30, Hinrich - 33, Livingston - 29, Watson - 30) who are still effective in more managed minutes scenarios. Vasquez, Napier, Nelson and Marshall are game managers - you can put them in, and they'll keep the offense moving and play well enough. Calathes, Sessions, Fredette, Augustin, Joseph and Dellavadova are more scoring oriented. I really don't know that any of these guys has the potential to win a starting job from anyone, barring injuries, but its possible Hinrich, who has been on the decline over the last few years, might lose the backup spot to Aaron Brooks.
Udrih, Blake, Felton and Telfair are veteran bench players who will contribute valuable minutes, but they really shouldn't start. Mack, Pargo and Farmar are of a different generation, and are probably better equipped for spot starting duty, but they are not the most talented guys around. Cole gets a bump here because he was just announced as a start for the Heat over two guys I have graded higher. I'm assuming there is some reason for this.
Casper Ware (47.5), Ish Smith (49.75), Brian Roberts (53.75), Jarrett Jack (58.25), Will Bynum (59.25), Garrett Temple (60.25), AJ Price (61.5), Phil Pressey (61.75), Ray McCallum (63.5), Isaiah Canaan (68.25), Dennis Schroeder (77.5), Tyler Ennis
Jarrett Jack has fallen quite a ways since his breakout performance two years ago. Along with Bynum, he's among the oldest of the fringe rotation players at this position. Smith and Roberts are relatively well established 3rd point guards who have a few surprising games every season. Schroeder is a bit of a stretch, but I'm betting on him realizing the potential that had so many scouts excited about him a few years ago. I think Ennis is going to be a good player, but he's raw, and he's buried in a deep guard rotation that I don't think he will break out of. Likely lots of D-League minutes for him.
Steve Nash (52.5), Aaron Brooks (54.75), Mo Williams (55), Jorge Gutierrez (64.5), Ian Clark (67), Shane Larkin (68), Tony Wroten (68.5), Gal Mekel (77), Nemanja Nedovic (78.75), Erick Green, Will Cherry
Nash unfortunately won't be playing this season, but it was questionable how well he was going to be able to perform anyways. Brooks and Williams are both offensively average but defensively deficient veterans who linger around but for uncertain reasons. Clark, Larkin and Gutierrez are still working on realizing their potential, but could quickly find themselves in Europe if things don't go well this season. Wroten is a walking highlight real, but he plays for a terrible team, and his on court metrics were terrible. Nedovic and Mekel are European veterans who just didn't manage to cut it in the NBA last season. Mekel is a free agent, but will likely see some NBA minutes on some team with a 10 day contract this season. Green is a really interesting player. He was absolutely electric for Virginia Tech (continuing a long tradition of Hokie point guards), but struggled in Italy last season. He's likely to get some seasoning in the D-League, and might eventually be a solid bench player in the NBA.
JJ Barea (65), Ronnie Price (67.5), Luke Ridnour (69.5), Marquis Teague (78.25)
Barea, Price and Ridnour are all veteran guys who are on their way out of the league. Teague is already on the outs. I would not be surprised if Price gets cut in the middle of the season for someone who can contribute more, while Barea, a Puerto Rican native, might actually go and play in Puerto Rico.
FULL DISCLOSURE: This has no merit and is just for laughs. Enjoy. (Maybe)
Entertainment at sporting events is hit or miss, at best. There is no exact science to get the perfect blend of music, fun, and family values in a game where the demographics are all over the place. At the first pre-season game for the Phoenix Suns they had an on the surface boring concept for a fan interaction contest.
The question was, "If Eric Bledsoe was a professional wrestler what would he call himself?"
Don't as what the choices were or what he decided, because that is besides the point. It was something cliche, pun driven, and terrible I'm sure. That was because the Suns did not tap into the resources and ocean of nonsense that is the internet. Instead of letting Bledsoe come up with his name they should have let the experts do the work for them, because oh my, the experts delivered with Bledsoe's name!
"The Nigerian Stink Snake"
That gave me, a wrestling fan, a brilliant idea to see who on the Suns roster would have the best wrestling name using the Pro Wrestling Name Generator.
This is a nifty tool whether you like wrestling or not. Coming from "Atomic Gravy" this is a cool tool. It allows one to get their wrestling name, or if you want to be a lucha libre there is that, as well as a diva name if that is your thing. Like I said, we are doing this, so buckle up and enjoy the WWSuns roster for what it is worth. I ran through and ranked the name through the lens of a nearly 20+ year wrestling fan. With Survivor Series around the corner pick your five and let's have ourselves a good old fashioned 5-on-5 elimination match!
For fun, or whatever:
So why not do the BSOTS staff while we are at it:
Which member of the Suns had your favorite wrestling name? Which BSOTS staffer? Oh, and what is yours?
It was Eric Bledsoe's night - he scored 16 points on 7 shots (3 of 4 on threes) with 9 assists and 6 rebounds by the end of the third quarter. Bledsoe was tossed after complaining about Kobe giving him a bloody lip on a clear foul that was not called.
"Yeah," coach Hornacek said after the game about Bledsoe's tech. "But you know Eric (Bledsoe) and Goran (Dragic), these guys deserve some respect from the calls. When these guys are getting slapped in the face and they're not calling it, then I don't mind a guy getting upset like that."
Bledsoe was not available to the media...