Some thoughts on #NBArank, the Brooklyn Nets, and the Atlantic Division

ESPN finally announced Deron Williams’ name in ESPN’s NBA rankings today, ranking him as the tenth-best player in the NBA. We know two things: firstly, that Williams ranks as the best player in the Atlantic Division, and secondly, the NBArank of the entire Brooklyn Nets roster (and the rest of the division) is finally public.

Obviously the Nets have improved this summer. But how much have they changed in a year?

First, here’s a chart showing two teams: the opening night 12-man roster that beat the Wizards 90-84 on December 26th, 2011, and the top 12 Brooklyn Nets players in NBArank. Each list is ranked in order from best rank to worst, then compared by player rank year-over-year. Take a look:

[table]Last Year,Rank,Rating,This Year,Rank,Rating,Rank +/-, Rating +/-
Deron Williams,9,8.98,Deron Williams,10,8.69,-1,-0.29
Mehmet Okur,139,5.00,Joe Johnson,33,7.30,+106,+2.30
Kris Humphries,145,4.95,Brook Lopez,60,6.35,+85,+1.40
Anthony Morrow,209,4.25,Gerald Wallace,70,6.14,+139,+1.89
DeShawn Stevenson,229,4.08,Kris Humphries,84,5.77,+145,+1.69
Jordan Farmar,251,3.87,MarShon Brooks,148,4.84,+103,+0.97
Shawne Williams,303,3.25,C.J. Watson,230,4.03,+73,+0.78
Shelden Williams,338,2.81,Reggie Evans,237,3.96,+101,+1.15
MarShon Brooks,347,2.74,Josh Childress,249,3.79,+98,+1.05
Damion James,352,2.71,Andray Blatche,254,3.71,+98,+1.00
Johan Petro,373,2.59,Mirza Teletovic,415,2.45,-42,-0.14
Sundiata Gaines,402,2.34,Tyshawn Taylor,417,2.44,-15,+0.10

A few notes here:

  • The average NBArank of last year’s opening night roster: 258, 3.96. The average NBArank of this year’s top 12: 184, 4.96. The entire team, from 1-12, rates a full point higher on average.
  • Outside of the top spot (D-Will) and the bottom two, the average improvement was 1.36 points per player. On a rank-by-rank basis, spots 2-10 had an average NBArank 105 spots higher.
  • Last year’s rankings are further skewed by Mehmet Okur, who played with the intensity of a dorsal fin, succumbed to back injuries early in the year, and reportedly considered retirement, and DeShawn Stevenson, whose rank was the product of an NBA Championship run bump.
  • Johan Petro ranked ahead of Mirza Teletovic, presumably by accident. Pungent familiarity disease.

    NBARank and the Atlantic Division Starters

    The Atlantic Division is wide open this year. Unless you play 41 of your games in Toronto, there’s a fair chance that your team has a shot at winning the division this year. Below, take a look at how the starters rank by position in the Atlantic Divsion:

    Atlantic Division Starting Lineup Rankings

    Averaging the NBArank & rating of each Atlantic Division starting lineup:

    [table]Team,Average NBARank,Average Rating

    A few notes:

  • The Nets rank best at the two guard spots, rank in the middle at the two forward spots, and have the fourth-best center (behind Andrew Bynum, Kevin Garnett, and Tyson Chandler). Brooklyn’s Backcourt may just be a mantra, but it’ll also ring true as the best in at least 16 games this season.
  • The Celtics rank as the best starting lineup in the division despite not having the highest-ranked player at any position They’ve got great balance — three top-30 players, including one point, one wing, and one big.
  • Kris Humphries ranks as the best “worst” starter in the division, at 84th. The Celtics are the only other team that has all five starters in the top 100.
  • The Knicks boast the two worst guards in the division, the two best forwards, and the second-best center. I imagine the Nets will do an awful lot of firing from the perimeter on November 1st.
  • The “ideal” Atlantic Division starting lineup: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Andrew Bynum. Amare Stoudemire is the obvious weak link here, and could be replaced with either Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce (moving Anthony to power forward, where he’s more effective).
  • The Raptors rank poorly for two reasons: one, they are the worst team in the division, certainly. But rookie center Jonas Valanciunas further brings the rankings down, as he’s the only player in the division starters that ranks below #200. Rookies tend to have low rankings — just look at Mirza Teletovic. If Valanciunas is as good as advertised, the Raptors could pull out a few surprise wins this year.
  • This list only considers the starters, which limits its scope. But I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if that’s the division order at the end of the season. Given how close Boston & Brooklyn are, with New York and Philadelphia not significantly behind, An injury or two alone could swing the division.