Saturday, September 29, 2012

Future #NBARank Top 15

     Last year, ESPN sparked a ton of debate with it's inaugural NBA player rankings, from 500 to 1. This year has been no different, with two of the most griped-about rankings being those of  Dwyane Wade (#8) Kobe Bryant (#6). I have my issues with this list but I'll delve into that another time. This list got me to thinking about the landscape of the league, and in doing so, I came up with my top 15 five years from now, at the top of the 17-18 season. Rankings are based on personal projections, Enjoy:

15.) HARRISON BARNES- With confidence, and an NBA ready mid-range game, Barnes could be going into his fifth season as one of the best scorers in the league. His game reminds me of Carmelo Anthony's, not as fluid though.

14.) STEPHEN CURRY- One of only three players in league history to post career averages of 40+ 3P% and 90+FT%. (Mark Price, Steve Nash) If he can stay healthy, Steph's quick release and improving PG skills can make him a fixture near the top of the list.

13.) GREG MONROE: This versatile big man's trajectory would have him battling Anthony Davis as the best big in the league.

12.) ERIC GORDON: This guy gets buckets in his sleep, by this time I see him as a perennial All-star.

11.) KLAY THOMPSON: If my projections are correct, the Warriors could possibly be one of the league's scariest teams with three top-15 players. (Barnes, Curry) Klay Thompson's combination of skills, including great work off the ball, a pure shooting stroke, the ability to score off the dribble, and the ability to see the defense with his 6 foot 7 frame could make him the best of the Warriors young guns.

10.) DWIGHT HOWARD: Enough said, this guy is ranked third this year and I see the inevitable wear and tear causing him to fall to the bottom of the top 10 by now, but still very much an elite player.

9.)  JAMES HARDEN: Harden's do-everything game will earn him a top spot on this list on a yearly basis.

8.) PAUL GEORGE: George is one of the most intriguing players in the league now. This athletic freak is a 6 foot 10 shooting guard that can defend virtually every position, He is a committed and willing defender and passer, both skills I think will continue to flourish. With that improvement along with a more consistent stroke, George can truly become a dominant player on both ends of the floor. Think LeBron James 2.0

7.) RUSSELL WESTBROOK: By now, I expect for Russ to be a more composed, poised player. By now I see him channeling his energy better and becoming one of the best wingmen in league history as he rides shotgun with Kevin Durant on the way to what could be a burgeoning dynasty.

6.) KEVIN LOVE:  Gonna keep this one short and sweet. Love averaged 26 and 13 last season. If he can stay close to that production those aren't just elite player numbers, they're Hall of Fame numbers.

5.) ANTHONY DAVIS: He enters the league as one of the best big men defenders. He"ll only get better, stronger, and a more refined offensive game, which already included a good shooting stroke. He will be the best big man in the league, with a game reminiscent of Kevin Garnett when he was at his peak.

4.) KYRIE IRVING: By this time, Irving will easily be the best PG in the league not named Derrick Rose. At his best, Kyrie Irving will be a quicker Chris Paul with a much more consistent shooting stroke.

3.) LEBRON JAMES: By this time, LeBron will be what Kobe is now. The former undisputed best player in the game that has slipped a few rungs. Will have multiple rings, and still going toe to toe with the league's younger generation.

2.) DERRICK ROSE: By now, Derrick Rose will be the best player in the league not named Kevin Durant. He will be a multiple time champion and will have begun his assault on the record books and the league's historic PG hierarchy.

1.) KEVIN DURANT: Any doubt who would land number 1? After being 2 this year, its clear he is the heir apparent once LeBron's game takes it's slightest dip. At his current rate, Durant would be well on his way to Kareem Abdul-Jabaar's all-time scoring record.

Best of the Rest: Austin Rivers, Josh Smith, Nikola Mirotic, Roy Hibbert, Nerlens Noel, Shabazz Muhammad, Jabari Parker, Ty Lawson

~Justin Jones~

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Goodell: Get a Clue

     Overwhelmed, frightened, inept, just plain bad. All of these are words that have been used to describe the performance of the NFL's replacement officials through the first two weeks of the season. There have been countless phantom calls and obvious, egregious no-calls. Pass interference penalties are being called for looking at a receiver too long. The refs seem intimidated by the players and they make decisions based on their reactions as well as those of fans and coaches. An example of this would be Randall Cobb of the Packers, who returned a punt that was aided by an obvious clipping penalty, which was called on the field. After intense scrutiny from the Lambeau faithful, the refs picked up the flag and awarded the touchdown.
     The bigger issue than bad calls is just the simple operation of the game, with many instances of refs placing the ball in terrible spots, not knowing when to stop and start the play clock and above all, not applying the NFL's rules for player safety. They have allowed a lot of dirty plays and after the whistle stuff that has just been ignored. The refs don't have any control and have done a bad job at breaking up fights, they have allowed them to escalate and take fooorrrreeeevvvveeeerrr to sort them out. This was made painfully obvious during last Monday night's Falcons vs Broncos game. The refs were incapable of breaking the players up and didn't seem willing, or maybe courageous enough to use their authority. The most pressing issue I noticed is that the refs go listen to everyone plead their case before keeping the game going. This led to a first quarter that took over an hour to complete.
     Episodes like these, among many others have led to harsh criticism from all angles, including many current and former players. Steve Young, who works the Monday night games for ESPN said "the NFL doesn't care because people will still watch the games, they will still make money." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has come under fire for his inability to get a deal done with the officials. He has been called a hypocrite for going on and on about player safety, yet allowing these refs to work games and put players at risk. "There's no doubt the integrity of the game has been compromised not having the regular officials out there," Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka has said. "We've got to get that taken care of." 
     Simply put by the Giants linebacker, this has to be "taken care of." This entire ordeal has to be placed at the feet of Goodell. The refs can't be blamed because they just weren't prepared for the NFL game with many of them from high school or low-Division college football. Goodell is the man that even atop a massive, billion dollar corporation, won't give a few extra bucks to the refs. Players have griped about Goodell for years and his "my way or the highway" approach but this has reached an all-time low point. Petty just for petty's sake, is he trying to prove a point? Goodell owes it to the fans to go into the next negotiating meeting, give them a blank check and have them write in a reasonable amount, with pensions and all the perks included.
     The sooner the better, so we can get back to talking about what should be an exciting, intriguing season. The replacement refs are hopeless, everyone can see it. Once again, it's not their fault, they were set up for failure. Goodell needs to get this done and give his league it's integrity back, he owes it to the fans. In last week's Ravens-Eagles game, a ref told Eagles running back LeSean McCoy hey man I need you for my fantasy team;  another ref was pulled from the Saints-Panthers game after his allegiance to the Saints was discovered through his Facebook page. Get them off the field and back to watching Mr. Goodell. They make up part of the crazed fans that have helped you get the league to where it is; and they always say, you can't let the inmates run the asylum.

~Justin Jones~