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Everyone is losing their mind about Carmelo Anthony and Lonzo Ball’s ESPN rank

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It is early September and so you know what that means. Soon it will be team preview time! I know that because we are already deep into the early season rankings for players.

This typically results in some lively conversations, including several that include NBA players themselves. Usually, the big ruckus is all about some player who feels they are ranked too low. The noise is even worse when that player has a considerable fan base behind them. This has not changed in 2017.

Enter Carmelo Anthony.

According to ESPN’s “NBARank” for NBA players, the New York Knicks forward is ranked behind Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. Carmelo came in at 64th overall and Ball is just under him at number 63.

This got Anthony a bit ticked off, and he took to his Instagram account on Tuesday to let fans know how he felt.

A bit of a warning for NSFW language in the post below.

Via Instagram:

That sounds about right in terms of a reaction from a potential Hall of Famer being below a rookie who has yet to play an NBA game.

Meanwhile, other players are upset not only about Anthony’s ranking but how they have stood up in rankings at other outlets, including Sports Illustrated.

One of those players is Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum.

McCollum was arguably a better player for the Trail Blazers last season than star guard Damian Lillard (mostly due to a nagging injury) but he came in at just 39 on SI’s list — two spots below Anthony.

That’s certainly an interesting idea from McCollum, although it does trigger the question that at least one journalist has asked and that’s why any players in the league pay attention to these rankings at all.

I’ll let you peek behind the curtain here a little bit in case it’s not obvious: what’s really happening with these lists is an attempt to generate page views and chatter online. It’s not any more complicated than that, and it’s not very subtle, either.

Ranking individual players against each other before a game has even been played is ridiculous. Rankings also don’t make sense due to positional need, style, and team construction. They really don’t make sense within the world of professional team basketball, especially once you get below a certain threshold.

You could point out that McCollum was a journalism major, but he and many others don’t have the simple industry experience to suss out what is really happening here. These rankings are a thought experiment dedicated to draw the kind of reaction that McCollum expressed. It happens literally every year. Everyone lost their marbles when Kobe Bryant came in at No. 93 in 2015.

Seriously, you can just Google this stuff.

Should you take the ranking seriously? No. Neither should anybody else. This is part of a post-Twitter culture where we rank everything from fruits to Kanye West albums, where the answer is never clear and that fact doesn’t matter. It’s malleable and subject to opinion.

And, while this may come as a shock to many, there is no vast conspiracy against certain players in the NBA. When it comes to analyzing statements by writers — just as you were taught in college — it’s best to understand the environmental (or explicit) biases of writers rather than to proclaim organizational or industrial sabotage.

Things like original rooting interests, beat coverage, what other sports they cover, what time zone they’re in, and other factors all affect how a writer sees a player — or whether they even watch them at all.

That’s before we even get to the way that the ESPN NBA rank actually works. Without getting too dull, it simply functions on a player vs. player voting system where writers vote which player is better between two options. ESPN then uses a model to figure out where players rank based off of the head-to-head voting results.

Just another way that computers have ruined sports if you ask me.

So no, you shouldn’t be worried about whether or not Carmelo Anthony is ranked lower than Lonzo Ball. My own eyes tell me that even given Carmelo’s shortcomings, he is still a “better” player than Ball.

What does “better” mean? That question is the subject of much of the basketball writing you read that has any value today. It’s one that is incalculable, subjective, and difficult to ascribe to even a whole set of statistics.

If you think Carmelo is a better player than Ball, then do what you can to enjoy watching him when he plays, wherever he does end up playing.

Russell Westbrook wins union’s Players Voice MVP

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The players union released its long-anticipated long-overdue awards, and there are some doozies. First of all, I still can’t figure out what Chris Bosh – who was announced as the “host” of the Twitter-released awards – has to do with this. But let’s get to the actual winners.

Here are the major awards, with the traditional award/Players Voice equivalent:

No surprise Westbrook won both MVPs. He deserved them. Still, James Harden could’ve hoped for a split result like in 2015, when Stephen Curry won actual MVP and Harden won the players’ version.

There’s obviously slight differences in the other categories. I think Green had the best defensive season and deservedly won Defensive Player of the Year, but I also think Leonard is the NBA’s best defender and therefore deserved this honor. I would’ve picked Andre Iguodala for Best off the Bench (and Sixth Man of the Year, for what it’s worth), though that’s a minor quibble. But how on earth did Joel Embiid not win Best Rookie? He was the best rookie in years, let alone this season. I picked Brogdon for Rookie of the Year based on his overall contributions in far more playing time, but there should have been no question about the best rookie.

The union also released several awards without a corresponding NBA honor:

  • Comeback Player of the Year: Joel Embiid
  • Hardest to Guard: Russell Westbrook
  • Clutch Performer: Isaiah Thomas
  • Global Impact: LeBron James
  • Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team: LeBron James
  • Most Influential Veteran: Vince Carter
  • Best Dressed: Russell Westbrook
  • Best Social Media Follow: Joel Embiid
  • Coach You’d Most Like to Play For: Gregg Popovich
  • Best Home Court Advantage: Warriors

LeBron winning Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team has to be an implicit slap in the face to Kyrie Irving. I’m glad to see Thomas and Carter deservedly recognized.

Lastly, the union awarded a Teammate of the Year on each team:

Dirk Nowitzki won the NBA’s Teammate of the Year – which is voted on by current players after a panel of former players selects nominees – then didn’t even win for his own team here? That’s just weird.

Report: Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum did “good job of recruiting” Carmelo Anthony

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According to every report and every source, as of right now Carmelo Anthony will only waive his no-trade clause for the Houston Rockets.

That doesn’t mean plenty of people are not trying to get ‘Melo to broaden that list. The Knicks certainly are. So have been the Portland Trail Blazers, in the persons of C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN Radio’s The Russillo Show,

Wojnarowski had said before that Portland was a dark horse in the chase.

Lillard and McCollum have been public about it and worked hard to get Anthony to put Portland in the mix. So far to no avail, but the pair apparently has not given up.

Portland has the salary to make a trade work, particularly if the Knicks take on Evan Turner plus another rotation player, although with Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr. on the roster that may not work for New York. To match the salaries the Blazers could do Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Al-Farouq Aminu’s and Ed Davis, plus the Blazers can throw in picks and maybe one of their recent draftees. But I can’t see the Knicks taking on Leonard. Also, if the Knicks want a quality young player or if the Trail Blazers want to shed Leonard they will need a third team.

You could ask at this point how picky can the Knicks be, unless they want to bring ‘Melo into to training camp? However, GM Scott Perry has made it clear the Knicks are willing do just that.

All of this is fun speculation, but also moot if Anthony doesn’t add Portland to his list of destinations. So far, he has not.

 

Why a trade probably won’t alone cost Kyrie Irving a super-max extension

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Kyrie Irving getting his wish of being traded from the Cavaliers would immediately render him ineligible to receive a super-max contract – reducing his projected max on his next deal by $24 million over five years.

It probably won’t matter.

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement allows for designated-veteran-player contracts only to players with their original team or who changed teams only via trade in their first four seasons. So, Irving, entering his seventh season, could no longer qualify if dealt.

But to receive a designated-veteran-player extension next summer, Irving would also have to make an All-NBA team or win Defensive Player of the Year or MVP this season. To receive a designated-veteran-player contract in 2019 free agency, Irving would have to make All-NBA or win Defensive Player of the Year in 2018-19 or win MVP in either 2017-18 or 2018-19.

That’s unlikely.

For all his accomplishments – Rookie of the Year, four All-Star appearances, the game-winning shot in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals – Irving has made only one All-NBA team, the third team in 2015.

Five other players have made precisely one All-NBA team in their first six seasons since the league added an All-NBA third team in 1989: Marc Gasol, Derrick Rose, Chris Bosh, Latrell Sprewell and Larry Johnson. Only one – Gasol – reached another All-NBA team. That’s a small sample, but indicative of how Irving’s lone All-NBA selection doesn’t make repeated All-NBA inclusion inevitable.

The league’s current crop of guards doesn’t help, either. At least 11 players on this list must fall short for Irving to make All-NBA:

The competition could be even stronger if Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler and/or Gordon Hayward qualify as guards.

It’s obviously far from impossible for Irving to make All-NBA if he remains in Cleveland. Irving is a star whose biggest strength – scoring – earns the most accolades.

His All-NBA chances are obviously worth discussing. Nobody mentioned Ricky Rubio losing his chance at a designated-veteran-player deal when the Timberwolves traded him to the Jazz.

But it’s also worth noting that the odds are against Irving making an All-NBA team the next two years if he remains in Cleveland. That calculus surely factors into his trade request.

Damian Lillard says players who want to leave team owe teammates, fans truth

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Damian Lillard was making the rounds on a media tour Monday, and at virtually each and every stop he was asked about Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony. We told you about Lillard’s recruiting pitch to Anthony.

One of his stops was with one of my favorite radio shows,  Bill Reiter’s Reiter Than You on CBS Radio. Lillard talked about what players owe teammates when they try to push their way out of town.

“You owe your teammates first because those are the guys that you spend the most time around that you have relationships with, more so than anybody else,” Lillard said. “And also the fans because they are part of your team. They’re the people that come and cheer for you and support you as much as anybody. So I think they’re the two groups of people that you owe the truth. They deserve to know the truth in where you stand and what your plans are.”

Hard to argue with that.

Of course, honesty can lead to some bad blood. If Kyrie Irving went to his teammates and the fans in Cleveland and said, “Look, LeBron James is leaving in a year, and I don’t want to be the guy holding the bag, so I’m forcing my way out while I can” how would that go over? It’s the truth — or maybe the largest part of the truth, there is never just one thing — but it would rub a lot of people the wrong way. And Irving would get roasted in the media (more than he is already).

It sounds good to be honest, and a lot of guys try, but they have talked themselves into that narrative before they sell it everywhere else. Everything is spin, to a degree.