#NBArank debates: Players 1-30

Originally Published: April 10, 2013
ESPN.com

LeBron James Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

#NBArank is complete. Our panel breaks down the top 30 players in the league according to our experts' ratings.


1. Which player ranked 1-15 should have been higher?


Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Marc Gasol is the league's best center right now, abdominal tear and all. He anchors the West's best defense and serves as the fulcrum for an offense with very little stretch. For sheer thrills, Kyrie Irving (at No. 12) can rival anyone on the list. But a big man who can pass, post, pick, shoot, body up and rotate is a magician in his own right.

Andrew Han, ClipperBlog: Marc Gasol likely has been the best center in the NBA this season. And with the increase in possessions running through him after the Rudy Gay trade, Gasol's importance to the Grizzlies is only magnified. Next to Tim Duncan would be a proper spot for the Spaniard.

Brett Koremenos, HoopSpeak: Marc Gasol. The younger Gasol brother should certainly be ahead of Dwight Howard, who is ranked ahead of him at No. 11. Though they share roughly the same PER -- Gasol is at 19.5 while Howard is at 19.3 -- the Memphis center has been the anchor of a much, MUCH better defense and far less of a distraction in his locker room.

Chris Palmer, ESPN the Magazine: What Kobe Bryant has done this season at age 34 is literally unprecedented in NBA history but his No. 4 ranking sits well. So that leaves Blake Griffin (No. 13). He needs to be ahead of Tim Duncan (No. 10). By NBA standards Timmy is a saint, so I get the love. But Griffin is the best power forward in the game. Get used to it.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN Insider: Give the beard a boost! James Harden shot up the NBA rankings, all the way to 8 from 26. That's a big jump, but I have to wonder if Harden's still suffering the stigma of formerly coming off the bench. If a better-known star notched 26 points on hyper-efficient shooting to go along with 6 assists, he'd probably punch higher than "8."


2. Which player ranked 1-15 should have been lower?


Arnovitz: Kyrie Irving. There's a certain brand of electric and charismatic player whose style and imagination thrill us from Day 1, and Irving has been that guy since he stepped foot on an NBA court. He's certain to crack the top 10 in short order -- once he refines his defense and stays on the floor for 70 games.

Han: Kyrie Irving has sat for 24 games this season. Almost every player in the top 30 who has missed significant time (other exception being John Wall) has seen their rank drop. One could argue it's a correction from being too low in the last rankings, but factoring in the injury time, 12 seems a bit too high.

Koremenos: Kyrie Irving. His talent is clearly evident and his stat line is certainly overwhelming, but the young Cavs point guard probably isn't deserving of a top-15 spot for two reasons -- he has struggled with injuries all season, missing 24 games, and his team hasn't even sniffed .500 when he's been on the court. Next year, with improved health and better teammates, he'll be much more deserving of a higher rank.

Palmer: I mean, Dirk Nowitzki? Respect for his MVP, ring and being the best Euro in the game's history, but no way he's the 15th-best player in the NBA. Ahead of Derrick Rose and Chris Bosh? Love Dirk, but get outta town.

Strauss: This one's easy. Kobe Bryant at No. 4? What year were those results mailed from? Kobe's not even top-two at his own position right now, when you consider that Dwyane Wade and Harden scored more efficiently for better teams. The Lakers have been a catastrophe relative to expectations, and Bryant's miserable defense contributed to his team's greatest weakness. Kobe's season was impressive for his age, but "impressive for his age" doesn't mean he should be ranked above better current players.


3. Which player not in the top 30 should have been?


Arnovitz: Watch Mike Conley perform the workaday tasks of being an NBA point guard and it's tough to see many weaknesses -- other than the fact that he's not very tall. He's running an offense that's been efficient since the Prince-Gay trade (one without any potent perimeter shooters ... except him), has learned to create for himself and has quietly become a superb defender who never stops working.

Han: Kevin Garnett is easily the most important defensive player for the Celtics and likely their best player after Rajon Rondo. How crucial is Garnett? Boston is 7.3 points worse per 100 possessions on defense when he's not in the game; the highest on the team.

Koremenos: Mike Conley. The Grizzlies point guard has been quietly terrific since the Rudy Gay trade but fails to make the top 30 over a teammate, Zach Randolph, who is infinitely more replaceable. If Memphis makes a deep playoff run this year, lots of people will be scratching their heads as to why Conley wasn't higher on this list.

Palmer: Gimme Jrue Holiday. Wasn't he an All-Star this year?

Strauss: Serge Ibaka's offensive development has been impressive and largely taken for granted. Perhaps he's still not the most intuitive of defensive players, but few things are more rare than the elite shot-blocker who hits long jumpers. The overshadowed Ibaka has done much to make OKC top-five on both sides of the ball.


4. Which player not in the top 15 should have been?


Arnovitz: You'd think that after three seasons in Miami, we'd price in some statistical compensation for Chris Bosh. He's a 50 percent midrange shooter (virtually unprecedented), a surefire finisher around the basket and one of the best pick-and-roll defending big men in the game. Playing alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade shouldn't be a demerit.

Han: Chris Bosh, the unsung star of the Miami 3. Bosh has adapted his skills to fit the needs of his team, be it positionally or developing a deadeye mid-range shot; all at the sacrifice of his own personal stats. But it's not even that he could be a star on another team, Bosh does star work for the Heat. It's simply less flashy.

Koremenos: Tie between Chris Bosh and Stephen Curry. Both of these players are integral to the success of their teams. Without Curry, the Warriors would struggle mightily to produce any type of consistent offense. Bosh, as Ethan Strauss recently pointed out, is a rare superstar who also doubles as a glue guy for his team.

Palmer: Stephen Curry. Dude's the best shooter on the planet. Maybe ever. Numbers are not far off of Westbrook's or any other PG, plus shooting percentage from deep is unmatched. My head is raw from scratching it wondering why he isn't regarded as a top-5 point. Also Derrick Rose at No. 23: Ugh.

Strauss: Like Ibaka, Chris Bosh's role depresses his rank stock some. If he weren't forced to mostly shoot jumpers and seal off his man when teammates snag rebounds, his raw statistics would likely look better. They look good as is, and that's without counting a much better defensive effort than what Kyrie Irving (No. 12) provides. I'd also put Bosh above Dirk (No. 15), since the aging Nowitzki's gotten so slow he's become a defensive liability.


5. What result was the most pleasant surprise in #NBArank?


Arnovitz: Seeing Tim Duncan get his due for an incredible season at age 36. There will always be a contingent that doesn't enjoy watching Duncan play basketball -- and they might not even remember him when he's gone -- but craftsmanship like this is rare at any age.

Han: Not any one result in particular, but the aggregate. From the fan perspective, every release of #NBArank seems to produce a firestorm of obscene snubs or overrating of players. This time, coming at the close of a season, there doesn't seem to be significant controversy. Players appear to be at their consensus rank, plus or minus a few spots. Probably because the rankings are more reflective of the fresh season than its typically more nebulous definition.

Koremenos: That Tim Duncan was still in the top 10. It's not a coincidence that the 36-year-old looks as spry as ever for a San Antonio team that's among the league's elite defensive units. The wily veteran is still as important than ever for a Spurs team in the hunt for yet another title.

Palmer: Love the respect for Marc Gasol. But No. 14? Eh. But glad to see him finally getting actual credit for his very unique and effective game. Little brothers everywhere stand up.

Strauss: It was nice to see Stephen Curry get some recognition at No. 16. Curry was the perfect storm for underrated before this season. He played for a bad team in the wrong time zone and suffered frequent injuries. Now, after an explosive Madison Square Garden performance and historic 3-point shooting season, the greater public has gotten the message that Steph's career didn't end at Davidson.