Preseason player rankings made by media outlets shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Sometimes it’s enjoyable to speculate as a respective sport prepares for a new season, but such insight or projections should by no means be taken as gospel. Still, it’s easy to understand why when a massive media outlet like ESPN comes out with such a player ranking, so many people still hold it in high regard.
For the more casual fans and basketball followers, charting off an ESPN report is all they need to make judgements about the upcoming season. For the more passionate and analytical followers of the game, such a ranking provides an opportunity to analyze, confirm, disprove, agree or disagree with such an evaluation. Players perceive the way these rankings are held in high regard and recognize the opportunity for scrutiny that is sure to come their way. That’s why Carmelo Anthony responded in such a blatant way to ESPN placing him 64th in their annual ranking for the forthcoming season.
“Can’t Make Sense Out Of Non Sense,” he penned in an responding Instagram post, later adding, “ESPN Don’t be so Blatant with the disrespect.”
Many NBA players have come to Anthony’s defense, some calling into question the media’s ability and/or power to rank players. If a writer has never (professionally) stepped foot on a basketball court, how can they relate? What gives them the right to create such a hierarchy? Are they quailed to do so? As a result, should they themselves be ranked?
Here’s the thing: it’s part of the media’s job to predict and make analysis. They shouldn’t be criticized simply for doing so. The entire “rank the media” prospective should be nullified, because the media is only doing their job. It does not fall within an athlete’s job description to publicly rank (or attempt to ridicule) media members because they may disagree with their ranking by a publication. That said, there’s certainly room for debate when such rankings are released if there are discrepancies.
With that in mind, it’s absolutely fair for Anthony to disagree, and in this case, he’s more than justified.
Ranking Anthony as the 64th best player in the NBA is a far cry from where he should be, especially considering the fellow players ranked around him. There are only thirty teams in the NBA. Despite the budding emergence of young stud Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony is still the best player on his — whether or not he’s still the good for New York’s situation is up for discussion, but the talent is undeniable. He was an NBA all-star for the tenth time last season, an honor that only 24 of the league’s players garner. Despite sharing the floor with other capable offensive weapons like Porzingis and Derrick Rose last season, Anthony still led his team with a steady 22.4 point per game with shooting percentages of 43% from the field, 36% from deep, and 83% from the charity stripe. His 5.9 rebounds per game paled in comparison to his previous career numbers, but Anthony deferred to some of New York’s rugged front-court players more than before. What’s more, he played in 74 games for just the third time since 2008-09, proving to be especially durable.
The 33 year old can still score in bunches, fill it up, and find a very clutch rhythm. His overall game might not be suited to carry an NBA team anymore, as there are facets of the game that his skills lack. He needs other talented players around him to cover more ground, but Anthony’s scoring prowess is still at an elite level. He’s simply not as versatile as he used to be, or could have been. There are better “two-way” players out there, but how many of them can score anywhere close to his level? The pros still outweigh the cons.
Anthony’s RPM and direct impact on a given contest can flounder if that same offensive spark is nowhere to be found. He’s not the kind of player that can pick things up on the other end of the floor. Still, as Anthony gets older, he’s learning to defer and lean on others. There were times where he stood tall as the Knicks’ best passer and playmaker last season, even if it were by default more than anything else. Unfortunately, his recent adaptations haven’t translated to more victories and that’s a problem. As the centerpiece in New York, that’s a reflection on him and the proof is in the pudding when it comes to the analytics.
Analytics shouldn’t be ignored, but neither should the more traditional eye test. Anthony has earned a certain respect level given his consistency on the offensive end…or at least, he should have by now. He’s an elite scorer, and even if that’s only one dimension of his game, it should still be enough to slot him above the likes of Robert Covington and Malcolm Brogdon. He’s proven himself in more ways, done so consistently, all while performing on a grander stage. As for Lonzo Ball (placed 63rd, one above Anthony), the hype is real but the proven results are not. Preseason rankings (which rely heavily upon the past) are the perfect time to pump the breaks a bit.
There are other questionable players ahead of Anthony. The list goes on and thus, he’s justified in taking exception to it. He has pride in his game and respective abilities, and rightfully so. The list seems to reward potential a bit more than present talent. He deserves to be higher on the list and it’s refreshing to see the debate open up further following his response.