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 CBSSports.com 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.

Comments

Since: Jul 30, 2009
Posted on: August 26, 2011 7:50 pm
 

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

When you do not see Kobe Bryant’s name as one of the top five players in the NBA you start to wonder about the basketball knowledge being presented in this article.  When you see Pau Gasol’s name on the second page of this article listed as the 9<sup>th</sup> best player in the league you then wonder about the writer’s credibility.  I do not like to attack writers, but this article is a joke and I stopped reading after the 2<sup>nd</sup> page of rankings.  Please let CBS know how you guys feel about this article!!! 

Kobe has a lot of mileage on his legs but is still one of top 5 players in the league…




Since: Jun 9, 2008
Posted on: August 26, 2011 4:55 pm
 

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

Dwayne Wade ahead D Rose, Kobe, and Durnat?  Seriously?



Since: Dec 12, 2006
Posted on: August 26, 2011 3:39 pm
 

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

How do you NOT have Kevin Durant in the Top 5?  Dwight Howard is NOT #2, I'm sorry.  As Charles Barkley would say, that's "Turr-a-Bull" (sic)



Since: Jun 17, 2007
Posted on: August 26, 2011 2:36 pm
 

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

  • OK, I'm not hating here, but naming LeBron #1 is so completely full of holes, that's it's not even arguable.
  • 1 - If he's the #1 player in the NBA, how come, on the game's biggest stage, the NBA Finals, he was COUPLED with the #4 best player on this list, and they could not beat a team that only had the #3 best player?  So, if what they say is true, 1 (LeBron) + 4 (Wade) < 3 Nowitzki?  Just doesn't make sense.
  • 2 - How can you make LeBron the best player in the NBA when he seldom plays well when it counts?  Look, there are a lot of players who can put up great numbers when it's not the most important part of the game.  But the truly special players bring it when it counts.  Again, I'm not a LeBron hater, but he is a choker, plain and simple.  Until he grows out of that, if he ever does, than he will never be the best player on any list.  Talent and ability means ZIP if it's not coupled with a head that can use it correctly.
  • 3 - LeBron = Zero Championships.  How can you rank him as the best player in the NBA when he doesn't have a ring yet, while #3 does?  Kobe has multiple rings, including a very short time ago.
  • This list is somewhat ridiculous.  And the very fact that Royce Young thinks that just because these three have decided that LeBron is the best, that there is no longer a debate.  How hilarious.  No, it just means that if you are that arrogant in your declaration, that I can't help but deduct from your credibility score.  LeBron wasn't #1 in 2011, he sure wasn't #1 any time before that, he could be #1 in the future, but he'll have to figure out how to play when it's crunch time.
  • I'm going to throw this in as well.  Magic Johnson and Larry Bird came to teams that were not very good (the argument of LeBron supporters who defend him in the Cleveland years) but Larry, in his 2nd year, was part of a Championship Team.  He made everyone around him better.  Magic Johnson, shortly thereafter won a Championship.  What about LeBron?  Why no championship in Cleveland?  The "best" players make their teams better. 



Since: Aug 23, 2009
Posted on: August 26, 2011 2:08 pm
 

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

Someone must have lost there mind Kobe not even in the top 5 that's per nonsense.



Since: Aug 24, 2011
Posted on: August 26, 2011 9:39 am
 

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

sman, your idiocy knows no bounds.  You've obviously got a vendetta against LBJ, which is fine, but you probably shouldn't let everyone know how stupid you are if you want to be taken seriously.  Not only does your most recent post not display any sort of knowledge of what goes on in competetive athletics, but it's still irrelevant to the topic at hand.  We're not comparing career history here, this is purely who's best now.  So leave past rings and failures in the finals out of this, and only use material from this past year.  Otherwise I'll start bringing up how your boy Kobe and his unbelievably stacked Lakers choked hard in the finals vs my vastly underdog Pistons in '04 or how Dirk and his Mavs choked away a 2-0 lead vs the Heat in '06.  See how dumb that would be to use as a reason why they're not good now, especially when now is the only thing this list is concerned with?  Of course LBJ choked this year.  It still doesn't matter, because if you look at it, the only players who didn't choke this year are the Mavericks, so by your reasoning, the only player who even has a shot (pun intended) to be rated higher than LBJ is Dirk.  Not Kobe or anyone else.  And the part about being too humiliated to recover? Do you even read what you write? That doesn't even deserve a response. Yeah, you should probably just keep your unintelligent babblings to yourself.



Since: Jan 5, 2007
Posted on: August 26, 2011 6:50 am
 

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

Sman you're a joke.


sman2011
Since: Dec 19, 2010
Posted on: August 26, 2011 1:59 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator




Since: Oct 14, 2010
Posted on: August 26, 2011 12:00 am
 

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

YOUR PROVED YOURSELVES WRONG, GUYS!  Your argument in favor of LeBron as #1 is very good.  But the conclusion should be that LeBron is the best athlete--he can pass, defend, chase down, block, score, etc.   But telling us all his flaws and failures can't lead to any ohter conclusion but that he is not the best player.  The best player has to be the best player with a championship ring.  Kobe, Dirk, Wade...one of those guys.  No geniuses, the best player can't be described as one who succeeded in Rounds 1, 2, and game 1 of the Finals. 



Since: Mar 20, 2011
Posted on: August 25, 2011 7:33 pm
 

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

Yeah, do they mention how he is Americas worst tipper.



A true deadbeat from Akron....Nothing new for that city. 



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