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|Seems appropriate to point out all-time 3-point shooter Ray Allen has a good case for his ranking.|
ESPN.com's #NBArank project heads to the edge of the top 30 on Monday, which means the star quality is rising, along with the pitch of the debate.Whose rating is too high? Too low? Just right? Get some instant analysis after each player is unveiled with some wrangling among our five-man panel, and then let your voice be heard on Twitter.
Tim Donahue, Eight Points, Nine Seconds: Surely, jerseys don't lie, do they? Well, not in this case. After injury problems early in his career, Nene has played 75 games or more the last three seasons. It's mildly troubling that his efficiency dropped so much as his usage increased, but still 31 is just about right for this young center.
Rashad Mobley, Truth About It: Too high. In the last three years, Nene has distinguished himself as a center whose ability to score, rebound and block shots is above average. Ranked six spots below Nene at No. 37 sits Tyson Chandler, whose scoring abilities are below average, but has the game-changing ability to rebound and defend. I'd place Nene right below Chandler.Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Just right. A highly active big around the rim, Nene brings the ability to bang with the best. A notch under the LaMarcus Aldridges and Kevin Loves of the world, but I love his heart. He's on the fringe of All-Star-caliber, so 31 makes a lot of sense to me.
Rob Peterson, Hardwood Paroxysm: Too high, but just a touch. I'd flip Nene with Bogut. After the 2007-08 season, when he had surgery for testicular cancer, Nene in the top 40 was unimaginable. But in the last three seasons, Nene has become a solid post player who rarely misses a game or a shot (.615 from the field last season), and he's a decent defender.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Hoopspeak: Like his minute total, Nene is too low here. Quick, mobile, powerful. Perhaps the Nuggets never lost their best player when Carmelo Anthony stutter-stepped East.
Tim Donahue, Eight Points, Nine Seconds: Joe Johnson's contract has made him something of a punching bag during this lockout conversation, which is both deserved and undeserved. He's in that no man's land where he is so overpaid that people only see what he can't do. However, 32 feels about right for Iso Joe.
Rashad Mobley, Truth About It: Just right. Joe Johnson's contract would lead one to believe that he's a top-10 NBA player, and his numbers are worthy of a top-30 spot. But his inability to put the Hawks on his back in key moments and lead them to significant playoff victories pushes his value down a bit. Thirty-two is a fair compromise.Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Too low. The first thing a lot of people do is look at Johnson's contract and assume he's overrated. But money doesn't make you overrated; lack of production does. It could be argued that his 18/4/4 is simply not enough, but I don't buy it. But since the coaches have named him to five straight All-Star Games, I'm going to side with them. Needs to be a bit higher.
Rob Peterson, Hardwood Paroxysm: Too high. Joe Johnson is a nice player and he's reliable (only missed 19 games in the last four seasons), but does he bring anything exceptional to the game? Is he a lights-out shooter? Is he a lockdown defender? He is a better-than-average passer, but I just can't get excited about Joe Johnson, and at times during games, it seems that neither can he.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Hoopspeak: Too high, and I don't understand why he's more valuable than teammate Josh Smith. Perhaps he's the shining example of how we overvalue perimeter scoring. And perhaps Monta Ellis glares brighter.
Tim Donahue, Eight Points, Nine Seconds: If Bogut weren't coming off his "recovery" season from his horrific injury 18 months ago, I would probably be calling 33 too low. Unfortunately, we're still waiting to see if he can come all the way back. There's every reason to believe he will, but based on 2011, I'm going to call this a little high.
Rashad Mobley, Truth About It: Too high. If this extended lockout allows Bogut to get 100 percent healthy, and that leads to a productive two or three seasons, then a No. 33 ranking could prove to be too low. But given that he's yet to fully return to his pre-dislocated elbow form, and he's never done anything of consequence in the playoffs, this ranking is a bit inflated.Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Just right. Never quite lived up to the No. 1 pick but he's better than most think and worth the ranking. His appearance on the All-Defense second team -- thanks in part to his career-best 2.6 blocks -- means he's got tons of value but has a way to go before he gets legit top-24 ranking consideration. Bucks could do a lot worse at center than a 26-year-old who grabs 11 boards a game.
Rob Peterson, Hardwood Paroxysm: Too low. So, the league's second-best center rates only No. 33? Last season he may have come back too quickly from his elbow injury, but when Bogut's healthy, the Bucks are a playoff team. He is a game-changer on defense, can use either hand to score on the blocks and is more athletic than most give him credit for.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Hoopspeak: Perfect. I was inclined to say "too high," but then I remembered there are fewer good centers than people who love this lockout.
Tim Donahue, Eight Points, Nine Seconds: It feels right that Iggy is so close to Danny Granger (No. 36), two talented young players asked to do too much to cover their younger teammates. Luol Deng found himself in the same boat a couple years ago, before finding the right role with the Bulls. However, since Deng sits at No. 46, I'm calling No. 34 too high for Iggy.
Rashad Mobley, Truth About It: Just right. Iguodala has the talent to be Scottie Pippen on offense and Dennis Rodman on defense. But his inconsistency, along with the lack of a strong supporting cast in Philly, has prevented him from reaching his full potential. If that rumored trade to the Clippers ever pans out, his game (and his ranking) will rise.Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Too low. Only two small forwards averaged at least 6.3 assists last season. (LeBron James was the other.) His scoring was down a bit last season -- largely because he had difficulty staying healthy and finding some consistency -- but he remains one of the most versatile players in the game. He's one of the better defensive 3s around and excellent in transition, so we've definitely underrated Iguodala.
Rob Peterson, Hardwood Paroxysm: Too low, but only by a couple of spots. You can't build an offense around him because he's too inconsistent and he's only an OK shooter, but Iguodala's on-the-ball defense and his athleticism in the open court make him valuable. Also, he's better than average at dishing the rock (he averaged a career-high 6.3 per last season).
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Hoopspeak: Perfect. I'm proud of THN for ranking Iggy this high, considering how casual fans ignore him. Andre does that which is valuable, that which fans ignore. Defense, passing and rebounding help your team more than they help your Q score.
Tim Donahue, Eight Points, Nine Seconds: There is no single skill in the game of basketball more important than shooting. There may be no player in the game today better at that skill than Ray Allen. That's good enough to make 35 sound just right to me.
Rashad Mobley, Truth About It: Too low. Ray Allen should be ranked higher than the four guys right above him. He's playoff-tested; when he's on, his range is limitless; and he has the ability to wear out his defender simply by running from baseline to baseline through screens. That unique skill set should be rewarded.Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Just right. Among the oldest players in the top 50 of our rankings, the league's all-time leading 3-point shooter is still a quality producer (16.5 points), reliable (played in 80 games) and accurate (44 percent from 3). There are a handful of guys who are better than him who weren't All-Stars last season, so no complaints about the ranking.
Rob Peterson, Hardwood Paroxysm: Just right. He's not the player he was in Seattle or Milwaukee, but Allen, thanks to his meticulousness and his work ethic, is still in great shape. He averaged 36.1 minutes per game last season, which is fifth all-time for guards aged 35 or older. And is there any other player in the NBA who you'd want to nail a crucial 3?
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Hoopspeak: Too high. Still a valuable player, but "still a valuable player" does not a top-35 ranking make. Allen's a Hall of Famer and a surprisingly decent movie actor. He's also -- much like Rip Hamilton before him -- getting too many individual accolades on account of playing for a fine collective.