This past week ESPN released their list of the top 100 NBA players leading up to the league’s kickoff in just under two months. The list was met with little resistance save for a few unhappy and one very unhappy player. New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony was ranked 64th on the list and did not take too kindly with it posting on social media, “ESPN don’t be so blatant with the disrespect.” Melo’s reaction got as much if not more coverage than the list itself and brings up an interesting question.
Does Melo have a point? Is he being disrespected? Let’s find out.
To start let’s look at how ESPN does their rankings. An expert panel votes on a pair of players trying to determine who will have a better 2017-2018 season. In their decision the panel looks at both the quality and quantity of each player’s contribution to his team’s ability to win so after going through hundreds of pairings the panel comes up with their list. So there is obviously some subjectivity in the rankings but how accurate is this process? To find out I compared ESPN’s rankings against some actual quantifiable data, end of year Player Efficiency Rating (PER) Rankings. PER rankings measure how effective a player was during his time on the court, meaning players who play a lot don’t necessarily have better scores than players who play sparingly. Why are we going to use PER rankings? Because historically they are pretty good indicators of really good players. This past season’s top 5 PER players? Westbrook, Durant, Kawhi, Davis and LeBron. So let’s see how close ESPN’s ratings for Carmelo come to his end of year PER ranking:
Scared of charts? It’s okay we’ll get through this together.
The orange bar is how Melo performed during the season and the blue bar is how ESPN ranked Melo for the upcoming season. Pretty close together right? This means two things for our purposes. First, ESPN’s method of ranking is actually pretty accurate for Anthony. Second, that means that Melo doesn’t have any room to complain. Melo got ranked in the mid-sixties by ESPN cause last season he played like it. If anything the Knicks star should be happy the world wide leader in sports has been more optimistic about his decline than he is. Now don’t get me wrong, Carmelo Anthony is still a really good NBA player and in terms of people I’d want for a playoff series, a single game or even a possession he’s toward the top of a very short list. But if you are looking at building a team for 82 games and beyond, a mid-sixty rating seems fair for someone who’s PER is slipping to just above the league average.
Even though Carmelo is one of only four NBA players to average at least 20 points per game every year of his career and is a four time gold medal olympian, it’s obvious when you look at his numbers that he is on the wrong side of thirty and the tail end of his career. As an avid Knicks fan and firm believer that if Melo was allowed to play in a hoodie he would average 40 points a game this is all incredibly hard for me to take in but the numbers don’t lie. That bundled with the fact the Knicks only additions this offseason were overpaying for Tim Hardaway Jr. and drafting 19 year old Frank Ntilikina means that Knicks fan are in for more of the same mediocrity that has befallen them the past several seasons.
To recap – I really really really wanted to be able to defend Melo when this story broke… but I can’t.
Be better Melo.