Blog Entry

The EOB Elite 100, 1-5: Best of the best

Posted on: August 23, 2011 8:44 am
Edited on: August 23, 2011 12:50 pm

By Matt Moore

This is the final segment of the Eye on Basketball Elite 100, counting down the top-100 players in the NBA. The goal was to create the best ranking of players based on total value, which comprises everything from respect and status to upside to statistical production and intangibles. All three of our NBA bloggers ranked every player, then we took the average to determine our ranking.

Check out the earlier installments: 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-6

We've come to the end, my friends. 

What we discovered while making this list is that the NBA has such remarkable athletes, that the gap between one to the next is quite small. There are no clear dividing lines. You make the best estimation off of overall value, take the aggregate, and may the basketball gods have mercy on your soul. You look at every player near the top and say, "that's got to be too low," until you look at the players above him. Then you begrudgingly move on to those players who you feel much the same about. We're blessed with incredible players in this league, versatile and extremely talented. Our attempt in ranking them wasn't perfect, and the best aspect is finding out your thoughts.

No one's going to agree on these lists completely. For every item you find accurate, there will be 10 you disagree with. And we're betting our top spot will neither surprise you nor please you. But, after watching these players night in and night out, this is the top of the chart in comparison to all others. It's been fun figuring out who goes where, even if it kept us up nights. And we promise we'll keep watching and working to figure it out every night to come. 

You know, once we have a season again.

Here now are the top five players in the NBA in overall value according to the EOB Elite 100.

5. Derrick Rose, PG, age 22, Chicago Bulls
2011 stats: 25.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 7.7 apg, 1.0 spg, .6 bpg, 44.5 FG percentage, 23.5 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 5, 5, 4

What I love about Rose ending up here is that he's simultaneously too low and too high and both arguments are valid. He's the reigning MVP. His team secured the top spot in the playoffs overall and won the most regular-season games. He led the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals. Rose is young, brilliant, explosive, and seems to improve with every game. He's also inefficient at times, both in shooting percentage and turnovers. He's got great assist numbers and yet never blows you away with his passing game. He has elite speed and tremendous finishing ability, but his mid-range jumper is a work in progress and his 3-point shot, which improved considerably in 2010-11, is wildly inconsistent. He'll shoot 70 percent from the arc one game and go 1 of 5 the next. The end result is a career-best percentage that could go way up if he manages to stabilize it. 

Rose is an elite player in this league, but ... 1: We haven't seen MVP-level play from him beyond this season, and those above him have been at it for years; 2: His postseason struggles, particularly against the Heat stick with us. The problems did go beyond the Heat series, however. Rose had a 35.2 usage rate in the playoffs, which is astronomical (and he had to; have you seen Carlos Boozer?) yet only had a 43 effective field goal percentage. The way the Heat were able to adjust to solve him lingers, despite a stellar 2011 campaign. 

What Rose did stands out. I described Chris Paul as the best pure point guard in the league earlier, and I still believe him to be the best point guard. But that's because Rose isn't a point guard by any traditional sense. He's not even really a point guard by any advanced metric. This isn't to say he can't do what point guards do. He does, and quite well. It's that Rose is so prolific in his game, that he extends beyond the traditional position evaluations. I'm fond of saying, "Rose isn't a point guard, he's not a shooting guard, he's not even really a guard. He's Derrick Rose." His versatility and explosiveness are so unmatched, his specific style and approach so unique, he extends beyond the traditional models and establishes himself as his own entity. Even if that entity sometimes shows hiccups we saw in the ECF. 

Don't get too upset, Bulls fans. This ranking definitely hides the fact that our committee definitely believes that this will be the last time Rose is this low, and that his shot at the top spot next year is as strong as anyone's. And yet any drop-off from his tremendous season would be a huge letdown. This is the top of the NBA, where Rose belongs, and all of these factors make up the reasons why at No. 5. He's at once too low and too high for anyone and everyone. Say hello to Derrick Rose, the NBA's newest most-polarizing player. -- MM

4. Dwyane Wade, SG, 29, Miami Heat
2011 stats: 25.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 4.6 apg, 50 FG percentage, 30.6 3-point percentage, 25.65 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 4, 5, 4

Most of the talk about the Miami Heat has centered around LeBron James. He's the lightning rod, the controversial figure, the talking point. But here's what should tell you that Dwyane Wade still is entirely legit: The Heat are still his team. LeBron may generate most of the chatter, but the Heat just feel like Wade's team.

Wade sometimes is forgotten as a superstar for reasons I don't exactly know, but he's a champion, a Finals MVP, an elite defender and a top-tier scorer. His production may have dipped a bit because he's sharing duties with LeBron and Chris Bosh, but don't forget he averaged 30.2 points a game on nearly 50 percent shooting in 2008-09. Don't forget that he's averaging 6.3 assists a game for his career with two seasons of 7.5 a game. In fact, don't forget that for his career, he goes 25-6-5.

Wade is 29 though, and he's had a few major injuries and surgeries so he might start trending down in the next few seasons. He's the type of player that plays so hard he's borderline reckless. Eventually the wear and tear is going to slow him down. But he's still elite because he's a complete player. You may think of LeBron first when someone brings up the Heat but it's Wade's team and that's not changing. -- RY

3. Dirk Nowitzki, F, 33, Dallas Mavericks
2011 Stats: 23.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 51.7 FG percentage 23.52 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 5, 2, 3

We’ve arrived at the pinnacle of Nowitzki’s NBA career, a summit from which the German forward triumphantly holds up the Larry O’Brien and his NBA Finals MVP trophies and looks down upon all the critics who said he was too “soft” and not wired to be a No. 1 option on a title-winning team. The Mavericks were somewhat improbable champions and nobody benefited from their victory more -- at least from a perception standpoint -- than Nowitzki, whose unbelievable scoring efficiency and unmatched ability to hit off-balance shots stole the show during the 2011 playoffs.

Bracketed by Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler, it didn’t much matter that Nowitzki still isn't an All-NBA defender and never will be. He performed capably in man-to-man or zone looks, but his overall offensive game was his ace in the hole; nobody could stop him when he needed to get a bucket in the postseason. Nowitzki wasn't only a weapon when he's leaning back and falling away, uncorking a jumper at an impossible angle. He’s agile enough, even at his size, to take most NBA bigs off the dribble and he can finish around the rim in a variety of creative ways, usually more smooth rather than emphatic. He commands constant attention and is a surgeon when it comes to picking apart weak, early or late help defense, equally adept at threading the needle to cutters or throwing on-the-money skip passes. He can shoot with range, from a stop or on the move; he can set picks and find his spots. Despite the spotlight, he’s still an underrated rebounder. And, please, don’t leave out his ability to pump fake to draw fouls and to convert his free throws at a ridiculous 89.2 percent.

Put simply, Nowitzki is so good on offense that he we’ve ranked him ahead of all but the very best two-way players in the league. Not too shabby for a soft, choking European who is afraid to play down low. -- BG

2. Dwight Howard, C, 25, Orlando Magic 2011 stats: 22.9 ppg, 14.1 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 59.3 FG percentage 26.13 PER Composite rankings (random order): 2, 2, 3

There's one question to ask yourself when decided where you want to place Dwight Howard: How much do you value defense? Do you see it as the downtime in between offensive possessions (aka the Don Nelson philosophy) or do you see it as an equally important part to the game as offense, and in some cases more important?

The way you lean there tells you what to do with Howard, because he's the league's best defensive player and it's not especially close. He's won three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards and it's not only because he blocks shots and grabs a lot of rebounds. It's really about the shots he doesn't block. Officials stats don't keep track of altered shots or probably better, non-attempted shots that might've been taken had Howard not been looming in the lane. But I can guarantee you Howard leads the league in both those categories and it's not close. He changes every game, and does it just by being on the floor.

That makes it sound like he's one dimensional, which isn't accurate. He's not a dynamic offensive player. He scores in brutish ways -- alley-oops, put-backs, easy baskets. He gets it done with little finesse and without a go-to shot. But however it happens, he still averaged 22.9 points a game last year and shot an outstanding 59 percent from the field. He's getting better offensively and at only 25, he still has some space to grow.

If Howard's offense ever catches up to his defense, he'd make a realistic push at the top spot on this list. In terms of how much a game is impacted per night, Howard is king. His win shares are ridiculous (14.4) and his PER is outstanding (26.13). Pretty much any way you want to measure Howard, he lives up. And that's without being as good as he really could be on one end.  Now that's scary. 

1. LeBron James, SF, 26, Miami Heat
2011 stats: 26.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 7.0 apg, 1.6 spg, .6 bpg, 51.0 FG percentage, 27.3 PER
Composite rankings (unanimous): 1, 1, 1

Thoughts from all three of our panel members on the top player in the NBA.

Matt Moore: You probably don't like this. That's OK. We don't like it much, either. LeBron James has showed an arrogance in the past year since The Decision that is so excessive the only way to defend it is to claim that all athletes are arrogant. Even then, it's the matter of degree that gets James in trouble. James never seems to say the right thing, never seems to take the right approach, never seems to put himself in the best light. This is a stunning change from four years ago when he was basically a shadow on the wall that sold shoes. It's a year after The Decision and we saw the best and worst of James. He continued to show the versatility that in large part puts him in this spot. His team made the Finals, and was two games away from a title, as they should have been with all that talent. And yet we saw James "shrink" or "choke" or whatever hyper-dramatic interpretation you prefer. There's no getting around the idea of whether you believe in "clutch" or not, James was not there when his team needed him most. That's pretty damning stuff. 

So how did he not only wind up as the top player, but the unanimous one?

Because he's better. Kobe Bryant's age is starting to affect him along with numerous injuries that have slowed him. Dirk Nowitzki is getting older and doesn't have the defensive impact James does (James remains an underrated individual and help defender, which is saying something considering how lauded he rightfully is for it). Rose is still learning to be efficient from everywhere on the floor and to be a better defender. Howard's still growing into his complete offensive game. For James, nothing he does is beyond reason anymore. A 40-point triple-double is conceivable from him (though not on this Heat team barring injuries because of usage). He can make the chase-down block at one end, lob a perfect outlet pass, then recover and jam home an alley-oop after leaving from mid-wing. He can pull-up and nail the mid-range jumper, even as that part of his game is at both still developing and something he turns to far too often. He can hit from the perimeter (ask the Celtics if you don't believe me) and bulldoze his way to the rim to draw the foul (ask the Bulls if you don't believe me). He's a one-man tour de force, able to cover the entire floor, able to play at any position, able to do more than any other player in the league. 

That's why he's No.1. Like it or not.

Royce Young: It's kind of a relief that we don't have to have the debate anymore. No longer is it "Kobe or LeBron?" No longer is it a question as to who the league's best player is. We all know. It's LeBron, whether you like it or not. 

You can try and talk yourself into someone else. You can try and single out LeBron's failures, his faults and his issues. You can try and point out his curious choke job in The Finals. You can try and devalue him simply because you don't like him. That's all fine. But you can't deny that he's the best player in basketball. He just is.  Even trying to fit in alongside two other All-Stars in Miami LeBron put out an incredible season. He still led the league in PER (again), still went for 26-7-7 and still was the single most dangerous player on the floor every night. And before you say, "Oh yeah, well people prove things in the playoffs and LeBron failed!" That's true, but only to a degree. Remember how he handcuffed Derrick Rose for the last two games of the Eastern Finals? Remember how he destroyed the Bulls in leading an incredible Game 5 comeback? Remember how he and Wade worked perfectly in concert in Game 1 of The Finals? It's easy to just forget all the good stuff because of how it all finished. But LeBron didn't completely lay an egg. He just did so in the last three games. Doesn't mean he's not still the best player in the game.  

Ben Golliver:2010-2011 was a boastful, bewildering season for James, who arrived in Miami with unprecedented hype and expectations, only to crash and burn in the NBA Finals as soon as his first title was within reach. The on-court imperfections are clearly established at this point: a difficulty impacting the offense without the ball in his hands, an erratic jump shot, and the occasional tendency to tighten up when the stakes are highest. The off-court annoyances are equally obvious: a lack of self-awareness, a massive ego, and an inability to relate to the common man or to productively process criticism.

Still, judging James or his season solely on his meltdown in the final three games of the NBA Finals would be a huge mistake. Zooming out to view the entire year, he was spectacular as always statistically, posting the top PER in the league despite the fact that he was getting acclimated to an entirely new set of teammates and a new way of sharing top dog priorities with Dwyane Wade. He was a menace defensively, sending the aging Boston Celtics into the past during the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs and swallowing NBA MVP Derrick Rose whole in the Eastern Conference Finals. James remains the NBA’s best and most versatile athlete and saw time at four -- if not five -- positions for the Heat this season. There’s not a player in the league who can guard him one-on-one and there's not really anyone that he couldn’t defend at least passably.

Even for his critics, who were rightfully gleeful when things fell apart against the Dallas Mavericks, there must be a sense that this was as tough as it will get for James, that the perfect storm of hatred and disgust that followed The Decision will eventually dissipate, leaving James to finally assume the throne he clearly believes belongs to him.


Since: Apr 8, 2009
Posted on: August 24, 2011 4:19 am

The EOB Elite 100, 1-5: Best of the best

Oh and for anyone defending Lebron all I have to say is there isn't a single member of the original Dream Team that would let someone from taiwan dunk on them.  Just saying.  If the best player in the league can get dunked on in Taiwan then we stink at basketball.

Since: Apr 8, 2009
Posted on: August 24, 2011 4:16 am

The EOB Elite 100, 1-5: Best of the best

5. Howard     4. Rose    3. James   2. Dirk   1. Kobe

I don't know how you can give James the nod, he has never won anything, he can't carry a team, and he shrinks under pressure.  And as far as I am concerned, and I hate the lakers, as long as Bryant is in the league he is the best player, I don't care if he is using a walker. 

Since: Aug 19, 2006
Posted on: August 24, 2011 4:15 am

The EOB Elite 100, 1-5: Best of the best

 Glad to see the writers were unanimous in their #1 selection of LBJ. He is very very hard to like, I'll admit, but there's no denying he is the best all-around player in the game, and I don't think its even close. This season will be the big decider though, they had last year to gel, this year better be a title or there is something wrong. There is so much hate and venom when the topic of LeBron comes up, a lot of it is legitimate. But most real basketball fans, and not the ones who wear homer goggles (ie Kobettes), can admit that LeBron is the most all-around player in the game. He can guard virtually any position and exploit almost anyone in the game with regularity. You might not like him, and it's popular to jump on the hate-LeBron bandwagon, but his spot is legitimate.

Since: Aug 20, 2011
Posted on: August 24, 2011 3:32 am

The EOB Elite 100, 1-5: Best of the best

That previous comment was directed to .

Since: Aug 20, 2011
Posted on: August 24, 2011 3:30 am

The EOB Elite 100, 1-5: Best of the best

I wish you could explain more about your views on Howard at 2. There is no way you can argue he should not be ranked that high just because he is a poor free throw shooter. No one is able to anchor a defense by himself except for Howard. I think that alone puts him in the top 5. Add the fact that he is a great offensive presence and has carried a team to the Finals practically by himself, I think it is easy to see why he is number 2 on this list.

Since: Aug 20, 2011
Posted on: August 24, 2011 3:24 am

The EOB Elite 100, 1-5: Best of the best

I am happy that the author is able to admit that Rose is not a traditional PG...also that Paul is the best pure PG in the league. I agree with this. But I also think it is worth mentioning that Deron Williams is right up there with Paul as the best pure PGs in the NBA. I do think it is weird however that the author seemed to apoligize to Bulls fan for ranking him as low (?!?!) as 5. Either the author is being much too kind or Bulls fans are incredibly selfish. I will go with the former. Even though Bulls fans have their moments.
But that's not really even the most interesting topic in this article. It's the fact that are people out there that honestly don't think LeBron James is the best player in the NBA...and to be honest that kind of amazes me. I feel like if I had to make a comparison here, I would go with LeBron being like Kanye West...misunderstood by the mainstream (because of off the court/out of the studio antics) but hailed as a king by die hard followers of the sport/genre. People are brain washed, I think, quite frankly. 

No one else is doing something like 26-7-7. I agree with Royce Young when he said how it's no longer "Whose better? Kobe or LeBron." It is at the point where it is clear and I honestly think it very relieving. If you take a look at the top 5 in this list (the last of whom personally does not belong, but anyways...) there is absolutley no one better than James on this list. Howard (who I feel is the real MVP this season) is the only one even close because he is a lot like James in one respect - the impact he has if you place him on any NBA roster. Put Howard on your favorite team and you are instantly a top ten defense in the league. And unless you are one of the very worst defensive teams in the leage, it's more like top five. James, on the other hand, if placed on any team makes that team one of the ten best overall teams in the league. Not just on offense. Or just defense. Both. He makes the team elite in its entirety. And similar to Howard, unless you are putting him on one of the very worst teams in the entire league, it is more like top five. He is just that good. And no one else is that good. No one has an impact like that. No one. And it's really not close.

And just because, here is my top 5:
  1. James
  2. Howard
  3. Wade
  4. Nowitzki
  5. Bryant 

Since: Oct 17, 2008
Posted on: August 24, 2011 2:24 am

The EOB Elite 100, 1-5: Best of the best

As usual most of the postings that are done on here is simply biased and some what off base.

No, Lebron James did not win the championship this year, reality the MIAMI HEAT did not win the championship.

Yes, Dirk Nowitski, did win the championship, reality the DALLAS MAVERICKS did win the championship.

People this list is not about teams, it is based off of individual players, who exhibit individual talent and how their talents rank among their peers in the league. Guess what, Lebron james is the best player in the league, hands down.  Just simply be honest, who in the hell on this list, is better than Lebron James. Honestly who? Forget the fact that his is arrogant, cocky, and horrible at addressing his OWN fans.

Who on this list is better than Lebron James, I can answer that for you NOBODY, there has not been a more physical specimen to hit this league since Chamberlain in his day. Is Lebron James clutch? No, he isn't but was Charles Barkley, what about Patrick Ewing, what about Clyde Drexler. We are not talking bout who is the "most clutch player in the game". The ranking is pound for pound the best player in the game. You may not like him, you may not think he is clutch or whatever, but even old heads that were in the NBA will tell you.

Lebron James is the best player in the league, hands down, no comparison. He plays both ends of the court, scores at will, blocks shots, rebounds, and passes the ball like a guard. This is not an arguement, this is not n opinon, this is a fact.     

Since: Dec 10, 2006
Posted on: August 24, 2011 1:15 am

The EOB Elite 100, 1-5: Best of the best

After 5 minutes to think further I have to add this: before giving Lebron the #1 and Wade the #4, you should replay the final, especially the last game. They looked like lost puppies in a pound. There was no heart, no extra effort, just two players resolved to the inevitable. And guys like Stephenson were completely shutting them down. This effort gets you top rankings in this article? Dirk's D dropped him from #1? Dirk always gave 100%.  What nonsense.

Also if Lebron had worked at his post up game he would be unstoppable but he continues to ignore what his strength/ advantage should be because he prefers the "show" of the windmill jams and the long 3 pointers. In golf we say "drive for show, putt for dough." With Lebron it is "put on a show but choke when it is time for the dough." If Lebron is the best then god help us.

Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: August 24, 2011 1:13 am

The EOB Elite 100, 1-5: Best of the best

The hard part about wading through the comments is that many are written from emotion and others from home town bias. Let the record reflect that I do not have a dog in the fight. And I don't feel emotional. This is just one list done by three pretty smart media members. The unanimous selection of LeBron at #1 mostly ends the argument about who belongs there (assuming that the three writers are being dispassionate and objective.) But there are some very good points written in the comments showing us some different perspectives.

If I had any quibble with the list it is that Wade is a spot too low, meaning that with reluctance I move Dirk one spot down in exchange for Wade. Consider this - what a rare event that a team with one returning player (Chalmers) made the finals the following year. I realize that many are wishing for failure for the Heat. I appreciate what Miami accomplished by playing both Boston and Chicago to get there and giving us game after game to thrill and amaze. The finals were a reprise of the previous meeting and this time only Wade had been there while the Mavericks were deep and diverse (and maybe better coached.) Through all of this LeBron was the most feared player on the floor from my perspective and that is defense as well as offense.

If Miami does not return to the finals next year there will be more basis for criticism. That they got there this year with mostly cast-offs from other teams filling 12 of the 15 spots is simply unprecedented. Let us remember what amazing playoff basketball we watched this year and remember that four of these five were the primary catalysts of those games.

Since: Dec 10, 2006
Posted on: August 24, 2011 12:59 am

The EOB Elite 100, 1-5: Best of the best

Ok I have tolerated these articles up to the top 5 but this really is way out there. Firstly, if there was no lockout, we would be discussing rookies, training camps, teams and matchups- no season- no news so here we are.

Dwight Howard at 2? Howard needs to hit free throws before being ranked that high.

Lebron at 1? He has the most potential but he really has not played well enough consistently to be ranked 1.

Dirk soft on D? Maybe at times but he played adequate defense through the playoffs and his game was filled with intangibles that you didn't count.

Wade at 4? Maybe he should be higher.

No Durant in the top 5? Rose- where does he fit? Tough calls.

Finally, this is a nonsensical argument. How can you compare a swingman to a post player? It is apples and oranges. Would Orlando have won more games with a Chandler in the middle and Wade or Kobe on the wing? If so Wade and Kobe should be ahead of Howard (although I am not sure how this would fit)

Dirk? He can do things no one else can. And he DID throughout the playoffs. Plus his D was good at times. After watching him FINISH GAMES how can you rank Lebron ahead of him?? It makes no sense.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or