‘Twas the night before the 2016-17 NBA season, and all through the net, basketball websites were ranking, even Today’s Fastbreak had a set.
Here, we’ve compiled the individual rankings of every player from Bleacher Report, FiveThirtyEight (both stat-based), Sports Illustrated, BBALLBREAKDOWN and Today’s Fastbreak. Then, we averaged the rankings from each source to get a composite for every player in the league. And finally, the average ranks were averaged into each team’s top three, five and 10 players. The results are your ultimate guide to preseason rankings.
In this piece, you can find the results for the Pacific Division. Follow the links for the Atlantic Division, Central Division, Southeast Division, Northwest Division or Southwest Division to see their results. Or, go to the page for final league-wide team and player rankings.
*International rookies may not be listed due to their absence from any of the five outlets’ rankings.
**Bleacher Report’s rankings are the only ones in this exercise based on 2015-16, rather than on 2016-17.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Average Rank of Top 10 Players: 111.43
It’s pretty incredible that the Golden State Warriors have the two-time reigning MVP and he wasn’t the team’s top player from all five outlets.
Sports Illustrated had Kevin Durant ahead of Stephen Curry, but Curry’s average made him the top dog. The fact that Golden State has two guys with an average rank better than fourth is further evidence of how ridiculous this roster is.
Klay Thompson is one of the most unique and devastating offensive weapons in the NBA. He may be the best in the league at moving without the ball and hitting threes off the catch. But there isn’t a lot beyond that to suggest he’s a top-20 player, which is where four out of the five outlets had him.
Thompson doesn’t do a ton beyond the scoring (which is still extremely important and impactful for Golden State). And his defense may be more reputation than reality at this point. He’s never had a Defensive Box Plus-Minus over zero, and his minus-2.2 last season ranked 247th among the 271 players who qualified for the minutes leaderboard.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Average Rank of Top 10 Players: 140.39
Forget the narratives surrounding Chris Paul’s playoff performances. The Los Angeles Clippers point guard is among the greatest point guards in NBA history.
Paul’s had four seasons with averages of at least 19 points and 10 assists, while shooting at least 35 percent from three. Magic Johnson and John Wall are the only others in NBA history who can claim such seasons. Each did it once.
DeAndre Jordan finished well ahead of Blake Griffin in both stat-based lists, so much so that his average ranking gave him the slight edge.
There may not be many who think of Jordan as the Clippers’ second-best player, but he has an argument. Over the last two seasons, Jordan has a significant lead over Griffin in true shooting percentage, Win Shares per 48 minutes, total rebounding percentage and block Percentage.
Average Rank of Top 10 Players: 154.92
There isn’t even a hint of a debate here. DeMarcus Cousins is a top-20 player. Rudy Gay is borderline top 100. And the rest of the roster is either borderline starter level or worse.
Cousins, the clear No. 1 for Sacramento, is among the most talented and productive players in the NBA. We’re still waiting on that one year when that translates to winning for the Kings.
Willie Cauley-Stein had a decent rookie campaign in 2015-16, but I didn’t see a top-100 projection coming from FiveThirtyEight.
Kosta Koufos started alongside Cousins for five of his six preseason games, but this suggests Cauley-Stein may be the better option. His mobility and defensive ability would allow Cousins to focus on rebounds on one end and work from wherever he wants on the other.
Average Rank of Top 10 Players: 188.03
As long as he can stay healthy, the Phoenix Suns have a legitimate top-50 player starting at point guard.
Eric Bledsoe is a two-way guard, who made his name early in his career as a defensive ace for the Los Angeles Clippers. In his three years with the Suns, he’s averaging 17.9 points on 45.7 percent shooting.
Devin Booker is good. He may be really good pretty soon. But securing a spot in SI’s top 100 seems a bit premature.
His 13.8 points last season are decent for a rookie, but he was below league average in both field goal and three-point percentage. As his volume went up after the All-Star break, his percentages went way down. That’s to be expected of a rookie, though.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Average Rank of Top 10 Players: 191.39
Luol Deng, despite entering his 13th season, is still out there making winning plays, especially when he plays the 4.
According to 82games.com, Deng posted a Player Efficiency Rating of 12.2 when he played for the Miami Heat last season. That jumped up to 17.8 when he played the 4.
If you were to believe FiveThirtyEight’s Wins Above Replacement projections, the Larry Nance Jr./Julius Randle debate is pretty much already over.
Randle came in at No. 367 there, which puts him in the bottom quarter of the league. Nance’s ranking of 215 suggests he’s easily a rotation player.
Andy Bailey is on Twitter @AndrewDBailey.