It’s the NBA preseason (even though it’s December) and that means it’s time for all the big sports broadcasters and publishers to generate debate-ready content. And nothing is more debatable than top 100 lists!
ESPN is first out of the gate this year, dropping the bottom half of their Top 100 list today. There’s only one Toronto Raptor listed between #100 and #50, and that’s fourth-year forward OG Anunoby, who comes in at #68.
Here’s what ESPN’s Tim Bontemps has to say about our guy OG:
Anunoby made bigs strides last year after missing the 2019 postseason due to an appendectomy. Now, he enters his final season before restricted free agency, and his swing skill is his offensive game as a whole. Anunoby’s defense is among the league’s best; if he can take a big step forward offensively, he will go from an elite role player to a handsomely rewarded breakout star with a new contract.
I may make jokes at the expense of ESPN and this whole ranking exercise, but, uh, that’s pretty spot-on from Bontemps! He must have like, actually watched a few Raptors games!
But while the write-up is on the money, we can quibble with the rankings exercise as a whole. 68 seems pretty reasonable on the surface, especially when you consider some of the players behind OG, including a few with around the same age/experience:
- Buddy Hield, #87
- John Collins, #84
- Aaron Gordon, #78
- Montrezl Harrell, #76
- Myles Turner, #74
- D’Angelo Russell, #69
I would rank OG ahead of all those guys, yes!
But then... there are some players ahead of OG that are real head scratchers, none moreso than Tyler Herro at #58. I like Herro! He’s gonna have a long career! But maybe let’s see the guy do it for more than one season, and perhaps play just a little bit of defense, before we declare him a top-60 player?
We also have TJ Warren at #63, and while he absolutely has a more refined offensive game than Anunoby, he’s way worse defensively, and I really don’t trust that the offensive explosion we saw in the bubble will lead to anything more (and it certainly didn’t lead to, you know, winning, which is kinda important). Besides, he did all that without Domantas Sabonis and with a hobbled Victor Oladipo.
Then there’s Michael Porter Jr. at #51. You’re telling me there are only 50 NBA players better than Michael Porter Jr.!? COME ON. He’s only played 55 games and while sure, he shot 42% from downtown and was an offensive force during the bubble seeding games, he couldn’t crack the Nuggets’ starting lineup in the postseason due to his defensive woes, and then he complained about it publicly during the team’s playoff run. He has tons of potential and may well end up better than OG Anunoby and a lot other guys on the list, but for now? I’m sorry, Michael Porter Jr. is not the 51st best player in the NBA.
Dammit. Look, they did it. ESPN got me riled up with their stupid list. I hate myself for it, but they did it.
Before we go, there’s one other thing we should talk about here, and that’s that, for the first time that I can recall, ESPN has locked this list behind it’s ESPN+ Insider paywall.
I will admit that I’m torn about this. On the one hand, I’m a big proponent of paying for journalism. On the other hand, ESPN is, well, not exactly the struggling local newspaper or independent alternative publication that I think of when I think about journalism that needs support. It’s tough to find a true value for ESPN overall, thanks to its position as one of many brands under the Disney umbrella, but that in itself tells the story: ESPN is not some struggling publisher that is scraping together funds to pay for quality writers. They’re part of a giant corporation that is worth approximately $130 billion.
Is it worth it for me to pay $8 a month (the cost of ESPN+ in Canada, if you purchase it through the ESPN app) to get access to their paywalled content? I mean, Zach Lowe on his own is probably worth it, although really, Zach really doesn’t actually write all that much. You’re getting Kirk Goldsberry, too, who’s usually worth reading. And you’ll get other NBA features like this ranking, and of course, if you’re following other sports, you’re also getting all of that content. It’s definitely a good amount of content for $8! (It must also be noted that Canada doesn’t get access to all the streaming video that subscribers in the U.S. get.)
But: it’s Disney. It makes me uncomfortable to give any giant company more of my money, and I’m already giving Disney money for Disney+ and the Marvel comics and Star Wars shit I buy and God knows what else at this point — they don’t need any more from me! I’d rather give it to a Canadian publication, something local, or something smaller that’s trying to build itself up. Heck, if I could pay that $8 directly to Lowe and Goldsberry, I would! (I doubt they’re getting a raise thanks to their work being paywalled.)
So I don’t know. I’m stuck in this in-between-position where I’m saying “pay for journalism” but I’m also saying “paying for this journalism sucks”. I’m not sure how to reconcile both positions other than to say that absolutes are garbage, so we should each use our own judgment and make our own informed choices on a case-by-case basis.
One thing I’m sure of though: Michael Porter Jr. is not the 51st best player in the NBA, and I’m not gonna ask you to pay me $8 to tell you that.