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.

As he chases record, LeBron says he has ‘no relationship’ with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers
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Later this season, health permitting, LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Kareem has said LeBron has earned it, but also has called out LeBron on COVID issues (something Abdul-Jabbar apologized for). Have the two legends started to build a relationship as LeBron marches toward the record? Not so much.

“No thoughts, no relationship.”

This question was asked of LeBron days after Abdul-Jabbar slammed former LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving in a Substack newsletter, calling him a “comical buffoon” and saying he is a poor role model. Abdul-Jabbar has been a vocal proponent of getting the vaccine, Irving remains unvaccinated, and LeBron has posted on social media questioning the severity of the virus and the response. Plus, LeBron and Irving are friends, which could have sparked LeBron’s terse response (as could the fact he was ready to get out of the arena after a dull preseason game).

A week earlier at media day, LeBron had been kinder when discussing Abdul-Jabbar and chasing his record.

“And you know, obviously Kareem has had his differences, with some of my views and some of the things that I do. But listen, at the end of the day, to be able to be right in the same breath as a guy to wear the same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that was a staple of this franchise along with Magic and Big Game [James Worthy] over there for so many years, especially in the 80s, and a guy that does a lot off the floor as well,” LeBron said. “I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Abdul-Jabbar has been more of a public persona in recent years, both around the game of basketball and discussing social justice issues through his writings. The NBA named its new social justice award after him. With that has come new relationships around the league.

One of those is not with LeBron. Will Abdul-Jabbar be in the building when LeBron does break the record?

We’ve got months for this relationship to evolve — if it does — before that big day.

 

Watch Zion Williamson score 13 in return to court for Pelicans

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Zion Williamson is back.

He certainly looked in better shape and flashed his insane explosiveness on his way to 13 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes Tuesday night against the Bulls, his first game after missing all of last season following foot surgery.

There was some rust, and the Pelicans are wisely bringing him along slowly and not breaking out the entire playbook for a preseason game, but in the moments we saw Zion looked like he was all the way back.

The questions now are can he sustain it, and how to the Pelicans mesh him with other scoring options in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

And maybe we shouldn’t leave rookie Dyson Daniels off that list, he looked good in his first NBA preseason game.

The Pelicans are one of the most intriguing teams this season, a team that made the playoffs last season with a push after McCollum arrived, and now they add the elite interior scoring and athleticism of Zion to Ingram’s outside shot and slashing, not to mention and a solid core of role players. This team has top six potential if it can get stops. But in a deep West, nothing will be easy.

Wembanyama scores 37, Scoot Henderson 28, as both make case to go No.1

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The NBA league office hates tanking — the action, the word, the mere suggestion of it.

But there is going to be some serious tanking in the NBA this season, and anybody who watched the Victor Wembanyama vs. Scoot Henderson game Tuesday (also known as the G-league Ignite vs.  Metropolitans 92 from France) knows exactly why.

What. A. Show.

Victor Wembanyama, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, showed why he is a true 7’4″ unicorn who can do seemingly anything. He finished the game with 37 points, hitting 7-of-11 from 3, with five blocks, showed off some handles and even brought the ball up court a couple of times.

This play sums him up well: at 7’4″ Wembanyama is the ball handler in a pick-and-roll, looks smooth, and when the defender goes under the pick casually drains a 3.

Scoot Henderson, expected to go No.2 in the next draft, flashed his explosive athleticism to the tune of 28 points, nine assists, and five rebounds.

Ja Morant was impressed.

There was a lot for fans, scouts, and GMs to be impressed with.

For all his shooting an offensive game, Wembanyama was just as impressive on defense. His length and mobility forces players to change their driving angles to the rim. He also showed a fearlessness in going after the big block.

Henderson showed high-level athleticism and an ability to get to the rim at will, but he also set up teammates and an improving shot. Henderson is a dynamic athlete and a season playing against the men of the G League is only going to sharpen his skills.

Henderson made his case Tuesday to be the No.1 pick — scouts say he has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone point guard, a top-10 player in the league, and he looked it in this game. He showed no fear, even going at Wembanyama a few times.

However, Wembanyama will go No.1 because he just breaks the mold, there is nobody like him. Anywhere. He looks like a generational talent, even if there is some work to do to realize it. Wembanyama started to show that Tuesday night.

These two teams face off again on Thursday night in Henderson, Nevada.

Royce O’Neal on Durant, Irving trade rumors: ‘That was the summer’

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets
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The Brooklyn Nets are trying to move on from a turbulent, awkward summer where their two best players tried to get tradedone throwing down a “me or the coach and GM” ultimatum — and they are tired of talking about it.

It sounds like they have moved on from the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving drama in the locker room, at least based on what Royce O’Neal told Michael Scotto of Hoopshype.

“That was the summer. Nobody cares about it now. We’re all here, and we’re going to make it work. We have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to go. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

No doubt that is the mantra in the locker room, and it’s easy to do during the carefree, optimistic days of training camp or even the first preseason games. The players believe they have moved on.

The real question about these Nets is what happens when adversity hits? And it will hit, it does every team. How will Ben Simmons handle the stress? Irving? Can coach Steve Nash keep the Nets all on task, or will the finger-pointing start, and will the locker room get split?

Those questions are why everyone is finding it hard to predict these Nets — they could win a ring, they could have Durant demanding a trade again by Christmas. Most likely they land in the middle somewhere, but every possibility is on the table.

Speaking of teams being broken up, Scotto also asked about O’Neal’s former team, the Utah Jazz, and Danny Ainge’s decision to trade Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell this summer. Ainge said “this team didn’t believe in each other,” but that’s not how O’Neal saw it. He was surprised the team was blown up.

“I was definitely shocked. I had been there for five years. The team we had for a couple of years fell short. I thought we were going to build on it. Things happened, so keep it moving.”

The question is will the Nets keep moving when things get hard?