Top 100: Notable omissions
Creating a defined list inevitably leads to snubs, the likes of which run deep with our ranking of the NBA’s top 100 players.
In some sense, stopping at 100 is an arbitrary end point. There isn’t a dramatic difference between our final pick and those players who narrowly missed the cut, and one could make a compelling case for many of those omitted to claim one of the final spots in our list. Beyond that, there are handfuls of relevant players who are well regarded but noticeably absent, unseated by the sheer number of qualified candidates. The list below is a combination of those two groups — a collection of 25 notable omissions, though not squarely a queue of those players next in line.
A quick introduction for those not familiar with some of the “advanced” statistical measures used below:
PER (Player Efficiency Rating) – PER is a per-minute summary of a player’s efficiency and performance, weighted so that a league-average player registers a 15. It generally skews in favor of big men and does not account for defensive contributions that don’t show up in the box score.
Win Shares – A metric that uses box score data to estimate the total number of wins a given player contributes. Last season, Win Shares ran on a scale of -1.5 (Michael Beasley) to 19.3 (LeBron James), but only 10 players finished with more than 10.
RAPM (Regularized adjusted plus-minus) – A variation of plus-minus that compares the on-court impact of every NBA player to a league-average standard (0). The adjustment helps account for much of the statistical noise that exists in raw plus-minus measures.
Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic
2012-13 stats: 36 MPG, 16.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 43.9 FG%, 30.0 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 13.0 PER, 2.0 Win Shares, -2.1 RAPM
A five-year, $43 million contract seems to have brought the worst out in Afflalo, a once-ideal complementary player who has lost the precious equilibrium in his game. Since signing that deal with Denver in 2011, Afflalo’s defense regressed. His shooting efficiency dropped. The restraint that once underlined his value disappeared, whether because of the perceived need to create more shots for Orlando (which acquired him in the Dwight Howard trade in August 2012) or simply from a standing desire to validate his paycheck. Afflalo still has all the tools necessary to be a fine contributor to a winning team down the line, but over the last two seasons he has seemed too willing to force poor shot attempts while checking out defensively in uncharacteristic fashion. — Rob Mahoney
Ray Allen, Miami Heat (G, 38)
2012-13 stats: 25.8 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 44.9 FG%, 41.9 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 14.7 PER, 5.4 Win Shares, -1.6 RAPM
Imagine, for a moment, how awesome it must feel to know that LeBron James, a player with the talent to eventually challenge Michael Jordan for the greatest-of-all-time title, owes you. And he owes you big. That’s life for 2013 Finals hero Allen, whose equalizing step-back corner three-pointer against San Antonio in the closing seconds of regulation of Game 6 will still be shown on highlight reels when James’ great-grandchildren are dominating the NBA. That cold-blooded glory moment was why Miami targeted him in 2012 free agency and it helped cover up Allen’s mediocre or subpar advanced numbers and his ugly on/off defensive splits (the Heat’s defensive rating dropped from 97.2 without him to 103.7 with him). He’s an aging shooter with serious limitations almost everywhere else who has found himself the absolutely perfect spot to write a great final chapter. — Ben Golliver
Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies (G, 31)
2012-13 stats: 26.7 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 44.5 FG%, 12.5 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 13.2 PER, 6.1 Win Shares, +1.0 RAPM
Allen, an All-Defensive first-team selection for two years in a row, loves locking into a one-on-one perimeter assignment more than anyone else in the league. He has everything you want in a pit-bull-style stopper: toughness, quick feet, good instincts, solid size and intensity. Those credentials would make him a shoo-in as a top-100 player if his offensive game were a little more adequate. Push came to shove during the 2013 conference finals against the Spurs, and Allen’s inability to stretch the floor (he attempted only 24 threes in 2,100 minutes last season) limited his playing time and Memphis’ chances to keep up in the series, which ended with a San Antonio sweep. Re-signing with Memphis on a four-year deal made all the sense in the world for both player and team, as he’s a popular figure locally who helps make one of the league’s best defenses go. — BG
Andrea Bargnani, New York Knicks (F/C, 27)
2012-13 stats: 28.7 MPG, 12.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 39.9 FG%, 30.9 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 11.2 PER, 0.1 Win Shares, -2.4 RAPM
Frustration has unfortunately become a constant with Bargnani, who was in and out of the Raptors’ lineup over the last few seasons due to injury and seemingly lost all interest in playing even vaguely passable defense. Bargnani seemed to put it all together in a brief, 13-game stretch at the start of the 2011-12 season, when he submitted a solid defensive effort while posting some of the best offensive marks of his career. A nagging calf injury brought that month of good feelings to an unceremonious end, and since then Bargnani has been unable to recapture that level of play. If he can pick back up as a top pick-and-pop option rather than an inefficient shooter, he’ll have a chance to do some relative good for the Knicks this season. But rebounding and defense have been such consistent problems that we have little reason to expect improvement — and thus little reason to otherwise include a one-dimensional player of wavering effectiveness. — RM
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards (G, 20)
2012-13 stats: 31.2 MPG, 13.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.4 APG, 41.0 FG%, 38.6 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 13.6 PER, 3 Win Shares, -2.0 RAPM
To co-opt an often-referenced (over-referenced, really) line from The Wire: “Beal’s coming yo! Beal’s comin’.” The NBA desperately needs some young talent at shooting guard, and Beal looks like a top candidate to lead the next generation. Smooth and composed for his age, Beal’s rookie season took off with John Wall’s return from a knee injury. With a real point guard to set him up, Beal’s shooting and scoring numbers improved dramatically after the season’s first two months. The only thing standing between Beal and top-100 recognition is time (and likely not much). — BG
Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors (C, 28)
2012-13 stats: 24.6 MPG, 5.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.7 BPG, 45.1 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 13.8 PER, 1.7 Win Shares, +2.0 RAPM
I wish I could trust Bogut’s claim that he is now 100 percent healthy, but his availability has been so inconsistent over the last year as to warrant considerable skepticism. Plus, it’s not as if Bogut’s injury woes were some recent fluke; he’s played in barely more than half of his teams’ games over the past five seasons, so he comes saddled with a heftier burden of proof than most. Golden State couldn’t play him in back-to-back games last season and had to carefully regulate his minutes — conditions that could be lifted in the coming year, after which a far more favorable ranking might follow.
In full and healthy form, Bogut is an easy inclusion in the top 100. But until he proves he can return to that level, Bogut has been too frequently out of the lineup to be depended on, to say nothing of his now-marginal offensive contributions. His defensive play and rebounding ability are clearly valuable, but Bogut’s post game has evaporated in recent seasons (he returned just 0.5 points per play on his post-up opportunities last year, according to Synergy Sports, a dismal mark that ranked 166th in the league) while he’s struggled to finish around the basket overall. Hopefully he has better basketball days ahead of him, along with his rightful return to the ranks of the NBA’s top centers. — RM
Nick Collison, Oklahoma City Thunder (F/C, 32)
2012-13 stats: 19.5 MPG, 5.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 59.5 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 13.6 PER, 5.2 Win Shares, +1.5 RAPM
One of the league’s consummate glue guys, Collison’s ability to take charges and his devotion to respecting the principle of verticality makes him a darling to the basketball purists. His +12.3 net rating, among the best on the Thunder, only reinforces his perception as a “winner” who “does the little things” to put his team over the top. Collison’s shot selection is worthy of some praise, too, as he fully understands his limitations and has connected on better than 56 percent for five straight seasons. Last year, more than 68 percent of his shots came from inside the basket area. Cracking the top 100 while playing fewer than 20 minutes a game is next to impossible, especially for a player without significant untapped upside, but letting Collison’s contributions go unnoticed somehow feels wrong. “Honorable mention” suits him quite nicely. — BG