An analysis of ESPN's Player Rankings, and how the Kings stack up

Lintao Zhang

ESPN just completed its annual player rankings. I don't usually give much credence to such lists, but with all our roster changes this year, I was curious as to how the Kings stack up this year when compared to other teams. So, I took each team's player ratings and plugged them into a spreadsheet. I thought I would share some findings.


  • I only counted the ten highest-ranked players on each team in the interest of time, simplicity, and so that teams' D-League fodder don't skew the numbers too badly.
  • ESPN asks a large panel of contributors to "rate" each player in order to arrive at these rankings, so these are highly subjective and should not be taken too seriously.

Here are this year's Kings rankings (top-ten players only) and how we stack up to other teams' players in the same slot. So. Cousins was compared to all other teams' highest rank player, Gay was compared to all other teams' second-highest rank player, and so on:

19 - DeMarcus Cousins (14th)

51 - Rudy Gay (18th)

148 - Darren Collison (29th)

205 - Carl Landry (29th)

208 - Ben McLemore (29th)

215 - Derrick Williams (26th)

218 - Nik Stauskas (22th)

223 - Ramon Sessions (13th)

243 - Jason Thompson (9th)

251 - Omri Casspi (5th)

Here's the sheet for the entire league (open image in new tab to zoom):


Averaging the rank of all top-ten players on each team is probably a flawed way to look at things since the inclusion a few low-ranked players in a team's top-ten can significantly alter the averages. But to no surprise, Philadelphia came in dead last with an average rank of 291.9. The Kings came in at 178.1, good for # 24 in the league. The San Antonio Spurs had an astounding 96.1 average, by far the best in the league. Is this a reflection of how good the Spurs are, or a reflection of the panel's bias towards Spurs players? Rounding out the top-five teams in order were the Warriors, Bulls, Clippers, and Nuggets.

Since a team's starters and best players usually take up the bulk of the minutes, I also tried weighting the rankings by % of game minutes that a player in each slot might be expected to play. I took a very simplistic approach assuming 35 minutes per game for each team's two best players, 30 for the rest of the top-five, and so on, down to 10 minutes each for the last couple players on the list. Then I just multiplied percentage of minutes with the player's rank, and added them up. This, of course, made things worse for the Kings. It dropped us down to 26th place in the league. Interestingly, teams typically only moved a few spots up or down when applying the weights, if at all.

Apparently, the best "one-two" punch in the league are Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, beating out both Lebron/Love and Durant/Westbrook. Injuries count in the rankings, so Durant was rated lower than usual. Cousins and Gay come in as the 16th-best duo in the league.

The biggest talent drop off for the Kings, not a surprise, are between our second and third-best players, Gay and Collison, a 97-spot drop. It's the second-worst talent drop league between the second and third slots better only than Philadelphia, which is not even a real NBA team. Worth noting that Philly's huge drop between Nerlens Noel and Mbah-a-Moute is not even the worst drop-off in the league. That honor goes to the Pelicans who have a catastrophic 190-spot drop between Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers.

Spots # 3 to # 7 are pretty dismal for the Kings. Collison, Landry, and McLemore are all the second-worse players to occupy those respective positions, only beating out Philly's entry in each case. Williams and Stauskas fare only marginally better at 26th and 22nd. Unfortunately, it shows that despite a deeper bench this year, the Kings are still desperately lacking in talent through the middle of our roster.

In unsurprising news, the best "big three" in league belong the Cavaliers. Due to the King's disparity between slots two and three, we drop to 23rd. For those Isaiah Thomas fans who are wondering, keeping IT would have kept the Kings at a more respectable 15th ranking when looking at team's top three players.

Looking at teams' top-five players dropped the Kings to a sad 29th place. The Spurs came out on top, followed by the Cavs, Clippers, Bulls, and Warriors. On the other hand, our eight to tenths spots look pretty good. It seems that the team's strength this year may lie in going 10-deep.


Other observations:

  • The panelists have an awful opinion of Jason Thompson. Brrrrrrr.
  • The Milwaukee Bucks have the lowest-ranked "best" player in Giannis Antetokounmpo, coming in at 88.
  • The Knicks, by far, have the biggest talent disparity between their best and second-best players. A whopping 112 spots between Carmelo and J.R. Smith.
  • The Nuggets have the best # 10 player in Randy Foye, rounding out their top-ten at 207. They are deep. The Kings have the fifth-best # 10 player: Yay Omri!
  • Not only is Philadelphia the worst overall team, but they have the worst "big-three", worst top-five, worst bottom-five, and are tied with Milwaukee for the worst "duo". They are rotten anyway you slice it.
  • The Lakers have three players who may very well start on opening night that are not in their top-ten: Wesley Johnson, Robert Sacre, and Ronnie Price (who doesn't appear to be ranked at all). Strange.
  • Due to injury, Paul George was not ranked whatsoever. However, guys like Andray Blatche and Jordan Crawford, who are playing in China, made the list.

As we embark on the season, it will be interesting to see if these rankings are a frightening indication of the year to come, or merely a reflection of last season's performances. The Spurs, for example, took a massive leap forward going from a team average of 131.6 last year (which would have only been good for # 7 this year) to an astonishing 96.1 average. Diaw alone jumped 99 spots. Did they really start playing all that better? Or does winning change perception?

Sobering as the rankings are, they're still subjective. I'm hoping for a respectable jump in the win column for the Kings this year, which would translate in higher rankings for our players next year. A lot will hinge on whether guys like Collison, McLemore, and Thompson can play better than their perceived rankings.

(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)