While the main result of the annual ESPN NBArank is meaningless endless debate from fans that takes up days of the preseason, it does serve to give a landscape of the league heading into each season. The Lakers’ superstar pair of Anthony Davis and LeBron James features highly on the list, as expected, though with some surprises involved in that.
Davis came in ranked 20th, 11 spots lower than his rank last season. It’s not a shock considering how much he struggled with injury, a recurring trend for him. Dave McMenamin listed the following explanation as to how he would exceed his ranking this season and, of course, it’s based on his health.
Davis missed 78 of the Lakers’ 154 games the past two seasons because of various injuries. Just by virtue of some good health and some good luck, Davis can and should impact winning the way he did in his first season in L.A. when the Lakers won it all.
While Davis’ ranking isn’t all that shocking, there was some surprise with LeBron’s. Despite the best scoring season of his career — while also battling injury — LeBron dropped three spots in the NBA rank. Here’s the reasoning given:
For the second time in four seasons as a Laker, James missed the playoffs — this after only missing the postseason twice in his first 15 years in the league. James’ 30.3 points per game average was unprecedented for a 19-year veteran, but the 26 games he lost to various injuries and an ill-fitting roster around him made for one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.
James has already redefined the notion of how long a player’s prime can last, so it would be foolish to write him off too soon, but it’s impossible to ignore that the Lakers had a negative net rating with James on the floor last season, which is reason enough to drop him out of the top five in the rankings no matter his impressive offensive output.
Singling out his net rating as the reason for dropping him three spots feels a bit like cherry-picking. Especially considering how well he played in so many other aspects, like in his shift to the center position or his continually-improving 3-point shot.
There’s probably an argument for LeBron at sixth given the names above him, but it isn’t centered on his negative net rating. But, again, this ranking is made to encourage debate among fans and probably shouldn’t really be taken as anything other than that.