Ranking The Rankings Of The Mavs
The preseason is the best time to rank things. Teams, players, coaches, organizations, ball boys, whatever. Rankings are a great way to get fans excited for the upcoming season and ESPN is quite aware of that.
The "World Wide Leader" has a few NBA rankings of their own, one of which has raised a few eyebrows in DFW.
Before we go any further we should make two things clear: preseason rankings are both fun and arbitrary. No one's set of rankings are better than anyone else's because at the end of the day they mean nothing. The season still has to be played out.
Starting last month ESPN.com set out on the ambitious task of ranking the top 500 players in the NBA. The list did not necessarily intend to focus on past accomplishments, but to predict the productivity and effectiveness of each player coming into this season.
Where did The Dallas Mavericks franchise cornerstone and former regular season and Finals MVP rank in the list? All the way down to number 26. Ahead of Nowitzki are players like Deron Williams, Dwyane Wade, Al Horford, John Wall, Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah.
Many who have been following the Mavericks the past few years feel that Nowitzki is being disrespected in the rankings. One of the more common complaints is that fellow power forward Chris Bosh is ranked two spots ahead of him. Nowitzki averaged 16.8 points per game and 6.8 rebounds last season. Bosh averaged 16.6 points per game and 6.8 rebounds. Why does Bosh get the nod over Nowitzki especially considering all Nowitzki has accomplished?
To be fair, Bosh has been extremely durable over the past few years while Nowitzki missed significant time with a knee injury last year. Bosh also is comfortably within a system alongside Wade and LeBron James meaning his productivity should not go too far up or down. Nowitzki is once again joined by a new cast of teammates making his productivity a little bit more of a question mark.
The fact that players like Hibbert and Wall are ranked ahead of Nowitzki is more disrespectful, in my opinion. The truth is that if either of those players were to join the Mavericks tomorrow they would be considered the second best player on the team. Hibbert's defensive presence is undeniable, but to suggest he impacts the game with 11.9 points per game and 8.3 rebounds as much as Nowitzki is ridiculous. Neither of those players (as well as a number of others ranked in the top 25) can carry a team the way Nowitzki has the past two years.
Nowitzki is sandwiched in the rankings between number 25, Kobe Bryant, and number 27, Rajon Rondo. All three are NBA champions and three of the best players of the past decade. Nowitzki and Bryant have combined for 26 All-Star appearances. Those three players might not be in the top 20 in October, but they have all played in June for a reason. It might be a little early to count any of them out.
Similarly, Grantland.com's Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe created the "NBA League Pass Rankings," which are a list that the two admit to be based off somewhat silly criteria, but the gist is basically determining which teams will be the most intriguing to watch on a nightly basis. The Mavericks came in at 21st on the list.
While it may seem like Grantland is disrespecting the Mavs' watch-ability, Simmons and Jalen Rose were much more generous in their actual rankings of all 30 teams. Rose and Simmons agreed on the Mavericks as the 14th-best team coming into the season with Simmons gushing about a comeback "I'm-not-done-yet!" season from Nowitzki, even making a bold claim that he will average 26 points per game and eight rebounds and grab a spot on the second-team All NBA honors.
Will Dirk Nowitzki finish the season as the 26th best player in the NBA? Probably not. Will there be 20 teams more enjoyable to watch than the revamped Dallas Mavericks? That's debatable (c'mon, we have Monta Ball!). Will the Mavs finish with the 14th best record at season's end? Who's to say?
They are just arbitrary rankings.
But I won't go so far as to say no one pays them any attention. Recently Kobe Bryant changed his Twitter avatar to simply the number "1225." What's it mean? Well, we may never know. But 12th is where ESPN.com ranked the Lakers to finish in the standings. 25th is where they ranked Bryant in the player rankings.
But maybe that's just a coincidence.
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