When ESPN released their NBA player rankings for the 2013 – 2014 season, a lot of us here at Pro Sports Daily questioned their methodology. Specifically, we questioned why they would rank Kobe Bryant #25 with players like Roy Hibbert, Chris Bosh and other questionable players ahead of him. We understand the injury but Russell Westbrook, another player not ready to start the season, still found his way into the #5 spot.
We weren’t about to stand for it, so we’ve decided to release our own rankings. We know some won’t agree with them either, but we promise they will be better than what ESPN released. We’re also open to discuss so use the comments at the bottom to let us know what you think.
For our rankings we are looking at two things: stats and value to the team. The best players do more than put up big numbers in certain stats. They put the team on their back, make other players better and do whatever it takes to help the team win. We’re also basing this on expected talent when on the floor, regardless of current injury status. This allows us to put Bryant, Westbrook and Rondo in the places they deserve. With the combination of the two, we’ve come up with our own ranking from 1 – 25 for the upcoming 2013 – 2014 NBA season.
The ESPN rankings are included in the player bio for comparison purposes.
11:31pm EST | Oct 28
Don't forget to comment below if you think someone is in the wrong spot or we left anyone out of the top 25 you feel deserves a place.
11:54am EST | Oct 28
25. Roy Hibbert
Indiana Pacers | C | Age: 26 | ESPN rank: #22
Hibbert has benefited from some much needed time in the weight room. When he first entered the league as a bean-pole, he was easily pushed around and had a hard time adapting to the physical style of the NBA. Now sitting at 290 pounds, the 7’2” Pacers’ center is now the one pushing others around and defending the rim like crazy. By the end of last season, he averaged 2.6 blocks per game along with 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds with a 44.8 FG%. At his size though, Hibbert needs to be bringing in over 10 rebounds a game and improve his FG% to prove his value as one of the top centers. His playoff performance last year gave us a glimpse of his true potential and provided a huge boost of confidence entering his 6th year. The Pacers are going to rely on Hibbert to be the defensive catalyst and push them towards another deep playoff run.
11:51am EST | Oct 28
24. John Wall
Washington Wizards | PG | Age: 23 | ESPN rank: #21
Injuries have been a serious issue for the former #1 overall pick, limiting him in each of his three season in the NBA. When healthy though, Wall is equally as talented as the likes of Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. He knows how to score and dish with career averages of 16.9 PPG and 8.0 APG. Entering his 4th season, it’s now time for Wall to display his leadership abilities as the Wizards are in desperate need of a playoff run and the team will look to Wall to lead them there.
11:50am EST | Oct 28
23. Al Horford
Atlanta Hawks | PF | Age: 27 | ESPN rank: #19
Horford is a well-rounded offensive talent that tends to be one of the more underrated big men in the NBA. He produced some very good numbers last year, especially after the all-star break with 19.7 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.3 SPG and 54.8 FG%. With Josh Smith out, his offensive role with the team should increase meaning he may finally become a true 20 point/10 rebound player. With Millsap coming in, Horford will most likely be pushed to center, which should see an increase in blocks as well. This will be his team now, so the pressure is on to step into the spotlight and lead this team into the playoffs as real contenders.
11:47am EST | Oct 28
22. Deron Williams
Brooklyn Nets | PG | Age: 29 | ESPN rank: #20
He’s coming into this season in much better shape than last year down around 15 pounds lighter and also surrounded by the talented new signings Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The new-look Nets went from a fringe playoff team to a contender in the East. Williams will be the glue to bring this squad together. He’ll likely take fewer shots this season and get back to distributing, but he is still a scorer when he needs to be. He has ankle issues that require cortisone shots every two weeks so he will most likely miss a few games here and there as a precaution to rest in case of a lengthy playoff run. Regardless, he is still one of the best point guards in the league and with Jason Kidd’s new offensive focus of moving the ball and getting away from the isolation situations, Deron should look more like the Utah Jazz version of himself where he produced almost 20 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds a game.
11:46am EST | Oct 28
21. Blake Griffin
Los Angeles Clippers | PF | Age: 24 | ESPN rank: #14
There is no doubt that Blake Griffin is an entertaining and talented basketball player. He put up some solid numbers last year with 18.0 ppg, 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists. These numbers are actually a decline in production from the previous seasons for the high-flier but he was still important in helping the Clippers win their first division title. We know how talented he is, but the question surrounding Blake is can he help you win games? With no mid-range jumper and a poor free throw percentage, his highlight reel capabilities can become a liability late in games as teams can foul and put him to the line rather than give him an easy dunk. He is only 24, so he has some time to improve his shooting abilities and round out his game to become an elite NBA player.
11:44am EST | Oct 28
20. Dwyane Wade
Miami Heat | SG | Age: 31 | ESPN rank: #18
Even at 31 years old, Wade is still a talented offensive weapon that has helped the Heat to back-to-back championships and his third in total. We know he can do it all and last year proved that: 21.2 points, 5 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.9 steals last year on 52% shooting from the floor in the regular season. If it wasn’t for his body breaking down due to multiple injuries, specifically his knees, he would still comfortably sit in the top 10 players in the NBA, but we can’t ignore the decline in production when he averaged 30 ppg in the 2008 – 2009 season. He will still be a vital part of the Heat’s success for a run at a three-peat, but expect his numbers to decrease slightly again this season.
11:43am EST | Oct 28
19. LaMarcus Aldridge
Portland Trail Blazers | C | Age: 28 | ESPN rank: #17
Last season was arguably Aldridge’s best since entering the NBA. With 21.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.2 blocks, he is also one of only a few big men who can hit a free throw with an 81% average from the charity stripe last year. He knows how to score with a nice touch down low but can also battle for boards. At 6’11”, he should be blocking more shots but he is still one of the most talented big men the league has on both ends of the floor. If he can stay healthy, the Trailblazers have a young core of Lillard, Batum and Aldridge that should start competing in the West and get back to the playoffs.
11:42am EST | Oct 28
18. Rajon Rondo
Boston Celtics | PG | Age: 27 | ESPN rank: #27
The triple-double machine saw his season end prematurely last year after tearing his ACL. Taking his time coming back similar to Rose, before the injury however, Rondo was one of the most all-around guards in the league. He averaged 13.7 ppg, 11.1 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals last season. He still has plenty of work to do on his shooting, specifically from the charity stripe (65% free throw percentage in 2013). If he is using his rehab time wisely to improve his shooting abilities (which were basically non-existent to begin with out of college) Rondo will continue to move up the rankings into the elite class of NBA point guards fairly quickly. With so few options around him this year as the Celtics rebuild, he may have a frustrating year from a team success point of view but his statistics should actually increase across the board when he returns.
11:39am EST | Oct 28
17. Dirk Nowitzki
Dallas Mavericks | PF | Age: 35 | ESPN rank: #26
How quickly we forget. The 2011 NBA Champion and Finals MVP had a slow start after recovering from a knee injury last season. Once his health returned, Disco Dirk found his shooting touch once again with 18.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.3 3-pointers a game after the All-Star break. He is no doubt starting to show his age, slowing him down, but lucky for the Mavs speed was never his strong suit. He can still shoot over defenders and get deep inside when needed to pull down some boards on both ends of the court. The Mavs may have failed to make the post season in 2013 due to their slow start but with a healthy Dirk, they’ll get back to their winning ways and put a smug smile back on Mark Cuban’s face.
11:38am EST | Oct 28
16. Tim Duncan
San Antonio Spurs | PF | Age: 37 | ESPN rank: #16
It’s hard to believe that at 37 years old, Duncan can still be listed in the top 20 players heading into an NBA season. Considering how well he played last year, we have to believe that given the right amount of rest by Popovich, there is no reason Duncan can't repeat his performance levels from 2013. Through 69 games, he posted averages 17.8 ppg, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 blocks on 50% shooting. Popovich knows what he is doing and that was even more evident during the playoffs where Duncan saw his numbers increase to 18.1 ppg, 10.2 rebounds while his shooting percentage only dropped to 47%. Until Duncan retires, he will always have a home on the top players list. The real question is how many years does he have left?
11:37am EST | Oct 28
15. Marc Gasol
Memphis Grizzlies | C | Age: 28 | ESPN rank: #10
His abilities are evident on both ends of the floor. He’s a skilled offensive center that averaged 14.1 ppg last season with 7.8 rebounds, 4 assists and boasted an impressive 49% field goal percentage. Defensively, he averaged 1.7 blocks and 1 steal per game. Most impressively, he shot 84% from the free throw line, best among the league’s big men. He produces in every single way a basketball player can and led the Grizzlies to 5th in the West, only 2 games back of the Spurs in the Southwest. They would eventually fall to the same Spurs team in the conference finals after knocking off the Thunder and the Clippers. He was apart of the only trade in history where a player was traded for his brother but the Lakers really couldn’t have gone wrong with either Pau or Marc Gasol on their roster.
11:35am EST | Oct 28
14. Paul George
Indiana Pacers | SG | Age: 23 | ESPN rank: #13
His stats were fairly impressive last year: 17.4 ppg, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 steals. He took over the leadership role on a Pacers team that missed Danny Granger for almost the entire season. Taking them all the way to game 7 of the conference finals against the Heat was impressive for a 23 year old first time all-star who was also voted Most Improved Player of 2013. It was his defense that made him even more impressive as he was able to shut down some of the NBA most potent talents last year. He has plenty of time to continue to develop as a player and move even further up this list.
11:34am EST | Oct 28
13. Tony Parker
San Antonio Spurs | PG | Age: 31 | ESPN rank: #12
If the Spurs had held on in game 6 of the NBA finals, Tony Parker would have won the Finals MVP for a second time in his career. Even though he only played 66 games last season as a member of the Popovich Rest and Relaxation Program, it looks to have paid off. Parker had one of the best years in his career averaging 20.3 ppg, 7.6 assists, 3 rebounds on 52% shooting from the field. One of the trickiest players to defend, Parker is capable of not just getting tough shots off but draining them regularly. While he will no doubt continue to be rested by Popovich after a hectic summer at the Euro championships, Parker is one of the best scoring guards in the game and will undoubtedly lead the Spurs on another playoff run.
11:33am EST | Oct 28
12. Kevin Love
Minnesota Timberwolves | PF | Age: 25 | ESPN rank: #11
I think it is safe to say K-Love hasn’t been doing any knuckle pushups in the off-season this year. He only played 18 games in all of 2013 posting 18 ppg, 14 rebounds and shooting a dismal 35% from the field. He is ranked in the top 20 not for what he did last year but for what we know he can do when healthy. We know he is going to crash the boards and get some easy hoops while drawing defenders outside and knocking down threes when needed. Hard to believe a 6’10” power forward can have a career average of 35% from beyond the arc while still averaging over 12 rebounds. Look for the healthy Love to get back to his typical production levels and bounce back from a tough year. Trade rumors will no doubt surround him this year as well, so he'll want to prove his worth.
11:31am EST | Oct 28
11. Stephen Curry
Golden State Warriors | PG | Age: 25 | ESPN rank: #6
Curry had a crazy season in 2013. He was the most dangerous player from behind the arc, averaging at least seven 3-point attempts a game and hitting 45% of them. After overcoming the concerns over his often injured ankles in the previous season, Curry exploded and led the Warriors to second in the Pacific division, finishing ahead of the Lakers. The only downside to Curry is that when he is cold from beyond the arc, he tends to disappear in games. He’s developing more as a distributor and also has plenty of pieces around him to alleviate the pressure with guys like Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut, David Lee and Harrison Barnes. The Warriors and Curry are for real.
11:30am EST | Oct 28
10. Dwight Howard
Houston Rockets | C | Age: 27 | ESPN rank: #7
The other half to the Laker’s storyline from 2013, Howard opted for a fresh start with the up and coming Rockets. If his back is at 100%, his partnership with Harden will be tough to defend. His stats playing on a Kobe first team last year are still impressive at 17 ppg, 12.4 rebounds, 2 blocks on 57% shooting. He needs to continue to work on his free throws but now that he is out of Lakerland he should be able to get back to his old ways of dominating on the block and keeping the opposing offense from scoring easily.
11:29am EST | Oct 28
9. Kobe Bryant
Los Angeles Lakers | SG | Age: 35 | ESPN rank: #25
I don’t care who you are, nowhere in this world is it possible that a list can be produced where Chris Bosh can be listed higher than Kobe Bryant as the league’s best so we need to set the record straight. He may be rehabbing from a serious Achilles injury, but last season Kobe put up typical Kobe numbers: 27.3 ppg, 6 rebounds, 5.6 assists and shot 46% from the floor. One of the greatest in NBA history, if Kobe says he will come back then we know it will only happen if he can perform at the typical levels he is used to. One of the few true remaining competitors in the league, Kobe has kept the Lakers in the playoffs even through all the turmoil that surrounded Kobe and Howard last season. Are they still the top team in the West? Not right now. Does Kobe care? Yes. As long as he is an NBA player he will be one of the best NBA players. The Mamba will return and get the Lakers back in the playoffs as a true contender.
11:26am EST | Oct 28
8. Kyrie Irving
Cleveland Cavaliers | PG | Age: 21 | ESPN rank: #8
Uncle Drew is one of the best ball-handlers and finishers in the league. Not only can he slash and get to the rim quickly, but he knows how to dish. His numbers last year were stellar: 22.5 ppg, 3.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists and shooting 45% from the field. With a number of top draft picks, and barring any more injury setbacks, Irving is poised to turn the Cavs into a versatile contender in the East once again. At only 21 years of age, Irving has plenty of years to keep improving his game and reach the levels we are seeing Chris Paul perform at now.
11:25am EST | Oct 28
7. Carmelo Anthony
New York Knicks | SF | Age: 29 | ESPN rank: #15
Melo being ranked at #15 by ESPN was one of the first things that made me question their approach. He won the scoring title in 2013 with a 28.7 ppg average, almost 7 boards and 3 assists, but some question Melo’s leadership abilities on the Knicks. They finished second in the East behind the eventual champions in Miami, and lost to Indiana in the conference semifinals. He may be greedy, but when you put up the points needed to help your team win and go deep in the playoffs, you can’t question his abilities as one of the best players in the league.
11:25am EST | Oct 28
6. Russell Westbrook
Oklahoma City Thunder | PG | Age: 24 | ESPN rank: #5
He may not be ready to start the season, missing his first regular season game in his 5 year career, but he is still one of the most athletically and explosive players the league has ever seen. Similar to Rose in playing style, Westbrook has put up some solid numbers alongside Durant, averaging 23.2 ppg last season along with 7 assists, 5 rebounds and almost 2 steals each game. He may take his time with recovery to ensure he can come back the same player, but his knee injury was not as serious as Rose’s ACL tear, meaning he should be back producing fairly quickly this season.
11:24am EST | Oct 28
5. Derrick Rose
Chicago Bulls | PG | Age: 24 | ESPN rank: #9
There are a number of skeptics out there that worry about the health of Derrick Rose’s knee following a lay-off of nearly 18 months. He was adamant he wouldn’t come back until he was his old self and it looks to have paid off. His performances so far this preseason have been, let’s just say, explosive. Having improved his ability to shoot a jumper or pull up behind the arc, Rose may have actually improved as a player during his rehab. Hard to believe a former regular season MVP (youngest in league history) could get much better but the Bulls will be rewarded for their patience with the star. At only 24 and a desire to be the best player in the NBA (again), Rose will prove he’s worthy of this ranking fairly quickly this season and get the Bulls franchise back on track.
11:22am EST | Oct 28
4. James Harden
Houston Rockets | SG | Age: 24 | ESPN rank: #4
When Harden left the OKC Thunder to join the Rockets, many questioned whether it was greed that made him leave. After his performance last season, it appeared he was worth the price tag and that he left to get out of the shadow of Durant and Westbrook. A shooting guard that runs the point, Harden ended the season averaging 25.9 ppg, almost 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 85% free throw percentage. These numbers are pretty good, but it was Harden’s ability to carry his team when needed late in games, hitting key shots and distributing the ball to the open man that puts him near the top of this list. Now with a few more key pieces on the roster, specifically Dwight Howard, the Rockets led by Harden are an obvious contender in the West.
11:21am EST | Oct 28
3. Chris Paul
Los Angeles Clippers | PG | Age: 28 | ESPN rank: #3
The best point guard in the league, Paul led the once laughable Clippers to their first division title in franchise history and making the playoffs for the only 9th time. With a better record in 2013 than the rival Lakers, Paul has completely changed the Clippers franchise to become true contenders in the West. Injury issues limited Paul last year, but when healthy is virtually unstoppable on offense averaging 18 points per game with almost 10 assists he is also one of the best on defense averaging over 2 steals a game in his career. With Doc Rivers now on the Clippers bench, this could be an exciting time to be a Clippers fan.
11:20am EST | Oct 28
2. Kevin Durant
Oklahoma City Thunder | SF | Age: 25 | ESPN rank: #2
Always finding himself behind Lebron in the basketball world, Durant has been trying to make the case for the #1 ranking since he entered the league. Unfortunately, it will take a few championships to usurp James from his throne. Durant, however, actually posted a higher points per game total of 28.1 than Lebron last year and also shot 51% from the field. His free-throw percentage was 90%, second in the league to Steve Nash. Durant seems more determined than ever to step out of that second best role and will look to have an explosive season to get his Thunder back to the NBA finals and gain his first title.
11:19am EST | Oct 28
1. LeBron James
Miami Heat | SF | Age: 28 | ESPN rank: #1
Undoubtedly, Lebron has been the best player in basketball over the past few seasons. Back to back championships with back to back regular season MVP awards. His numbers last year were staggering, averaging 26.8 points per game, 8 rebounds, 7.3 assists with a 56% field goal percentage. At only 28 and in the last year of his contract, expect another big season for King James and another big decision announcement when it’s over, no matter if the Heat win a third championship or not.