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Simply Rank: Debating ESPN’s Controversial Top 100 Picks

Ryan Murphy

by Ryan Murphy in NBA Basketball

Sep 15, 2017 · 6:49 PM PDT

DeMar Derozan faces off against Otto Porter Jr. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License

Oscar Wilde once observed that “there is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” That hasn’t been a problem for ESPN this week after the Worldwide Leader released its NBA Top 100 list. The annual compendium of the league’s elite has been picked apart mercilessly by players and pundits alike. Blazers guard C.J. McCollum has criticized the “weak-ass journalists” responsible for the rankings; Carmelo Anthony has accused ESPN of being disrespectful; and Stephen A. Smith has bitten the hand that feeds him by calling the list “garbage nonsense” and questioning the acumen of the experts who made the selections.

Were the picks really that putrid or do McCollum and Melo just have a little too much time on their hands before training camp? In this edition of the Matt/Ryan Show, Matt McEwan (MM) and I (RM) take a closer look at the controversial list and debate which picks ESPN screwed up. We’ll also offer props and odds for the future production of the contentious players.

Is Carmelo Anthony really the 64th best player in the NBA?

RM: I hate to admit it, but I actually agree with Stephen A. Smith on this one (although at a slightly lower decibel level). It’s easy to make fun of Anthony given the Knicks’ woes, but the ten-time All-Star is just 32 and is coming off a highly productive season in which he averaged 22.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Sure, he can’t guard a chair, but name me five elite scorers who can.

MM: No. At the very worst, he’s 63rd. There’s no reasonable argument for Ricky Rubio to be ranked ahead of him.

Odds Carmelo Anthony will finish top 10 in scoring in 2017-18: 12/1
Odds Anthony broke something in his home when he saw he was ranked 64th: 3/2

Dirk lets it all hang out. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License

Do the Mavs really deserve to have four players in the top 100?

RM: Hell no. There’s no way any lottery-bound team should have this many players on ESPN’s list, especially a team as mediocre as the Mavs. Dirk Nowitzki (97) is eight years removed from his prime; Nerlens Noel (91) only started 19 games last season; Dennis Smith Jr. (75) has yet to play a minute in the NBA; and Harrison Barnes (58) posted a 16.34 PER last season, placing him just a notch above T.J. Warren and Shabazz Muhammad among NBA small forwards.

MM: Can someone tell me what Nerlens Noel has done in his three years on an NBA court to deserve this? I didn’t think we were grading potential here. And it’s amazing to still see Dirk on this list, considering ESPN clearly put a tremendous premium on defense. I get that he’s a legend, but Nowitzki couldn’t guard me right now. (And I’m only slightly more agile than that chair Ryan just mentioned.)

Over/under on how many three-pointers Dirk Nowitzki will make in 2017/18: 101.5

Is Lou Williams (81) really better than J.J. Redick (87)?

RM: It’s a close call, but I give the nod to Redick. He’s a superior three-point shooter, a more disciplined scorer, and a reliable defender. He’s also playing in a far weaker conference than Sweet Lou. I expect Redick to put up career-high numbers as the Sixers lean heavily on his court-spacing and veteran leadership.

MM: This is not a close call. Both players best serve their respective teams as three-point specialists. Lou Williams has never shot better than .367 from downtown, while JJ Redick has shot at least .429 from behind the arc in three straight seasons. This is as disrespectful as saying Rudy Gay is a better dunker than Vince Carter.

Odds the Clippers win more games than the Sixers in 2017-18: 7/8

DeMar DeRozan hoops it up in Drew League action. Photo by GAMEFACE-PHOTOS (Flickr) CC License

Would you rather have Khris Middleton (35) instead of DeMar DeRozan (39)?

RM: I get that Middleton is an analytics darling, but I can guarantee you he doesn’t keep opposing players and coaches awake at night. DeRozan, meanwhile, is a three-time All-Star who will send you running to your momma after one of his thunderous slams. I’m not a fan of his iso-heavy game — nor its reliance on the mid-range — but there’s no denying he’s one of the league’s premier offensive threats.

MM: Raptors fans would love to see DeRozan put in a Middleton-like effort on the defensive end, but Bucks fans would kill for Middleton to possess even half of DeRozan’s offensive skill. There’s no way this trade would go through on NBA 2K.

Over/under on DeMar DeRozan’s scoring average in 2017-18: 26.0

What do you think of CJ McCollum’s idea of ranking all the journalists responsible for the list?

RM: I like it a lot. I’m not about to hand out my mailing address, but I do believe that journalists, and critics at large, should be accountable for what they write. If you’re going to scrutinize a player’s physique and effort, it’s only fair that they can call you out for your run-on sentences and dangling participles.

MM: I think it’s brilliant. And I hope when CJ McCollum makes his list, he remembers that I ranked him and Damian Lillard no. 1 and 2 on my list …

Odds the Blazers return to the playoffs in 2017-18: 5/3

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