For the blogger whose subject material has been confiscated indefinitely, two avenues suggest themselves immediately - taking regular, unannounced vacations of up to five weeks at a time, thus killing off any semblance of a readership or making lists. SI's Zach Lowe and ESPN's network of writers have opted for the latter, creating rankings of the NBA's top players. While I'm not huge on the idea of cross-positional comparisons, Zach's whole list is worth reading (ESPN's is still underway) and gives us a chance to look at where individual Hornets rank.
Before the jump, an excerpt of Zach's explanation of his ranking system:
"[T]hese rankings are designed to... spotlight the 100 best NBA players, regardless of salary or current team context, based on where they stand at this very moment, approaching the (still theoretical) 2011-12 season.
There is no objective criteria for these rankings. The list is represents my opinion after watching far too many basketball games, scouring every statistic available, recalling conversations I've had while reporting on the league and poring over hours and hours of clips on Synergy Sports. And even with all that information, separating some of these guys amounts to making an impossible subjective call."
Sounds good to me. Jump on it.
Just Missed the Cut: (had to include him)
Marcus Thornton, SG, restricted free agent (Sacramento Kings): His late-season scoring spree in Sacramento isn't enough, I'm afraid, though he's a Point Forward League Pass favorite. He could never carve out a full-time rotation spot in New Orleans, and he way too many defensive lapses. Still, he's brimming with potential, he showed last season he can run a decent pick-and-roll and he looks to be a key part of Sacramento's future.
Emeka Okafor, C, New Orleans Hornets
2010-11 Stats: 10.3 PPG, 57.3 FG%, 56.2 FT%, 9.5 RPG, 0.6 APG, 1.8 BLK
Okafor is a bit of mooch, in an endearing way, on offense: He's dependent on Chris Paul to find him on cuts and pick-and-rolls, or to draw so much attention from defenses that no one is there to block him out. He'll post up now and then, but he's not an elite back-to-the-basket force
Okafor's defense is what really gets him this ranking, though. Opponents shot just 20-of-80 against him in isolation and just 82-of-203 (40 percent) on post-ups - elite numbers, per Synergy. At 6-foot-10, he's not a disruptive pick-and-roll defender on the level of Dwight Howard or Tyson Chandler, but he's a force of a different kind.
David West, PF, unrestricted free agent (New Orleans Hornets)
2010-11 Stats: 18.9 PPG, 50.8 FG%, 80.7 FT%, 7.6 RPG, 2.3 APG
West's ugly knee injury, which cost him the final month of last season, did not really affect his ranking. He should be able to recover just fine, and explosiveness hasn't been a huge part of his game for years. West is like an anti-Josh Smith - totally unspectacular, but spectacularly reliable.
He's a pick-and-pop beast on offense. He also ranked among the league's top 50 in points per possession last season on both isolations and post-up chances, according to Synergy. He'll function well without Paul, if it comes to that, though perhaps not quite as well. West is unselfish and a good passer.
Chris Paul, PG, New Orleans Hornets
2010-11 Stats: 15.9 PPG, 46.3 FG%, 38.8 3PT%, 9.8 APG, 4.1 RPG, 2.4 STL
Scour this blog and you won't find a single reference to any other player as the league's greatest point guard, not even while Rose was running away with the MVP. Even easing his way back from a serious knee injury, Paul led all point guards in PER and proved with a couple of masterpieces in the postseason that no point man can match his combination of deadeye shooting, patience, vision and defense.
He is knocking on the 50-40-90 door (50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the line), and the idea of Paul's morphing into a Nash-level shooter should terrify the league because it will make him even more dangerous and lengthen his career by allowing him to pick his spots for drives to the hoop. He shot the ball better than Rose from all over the court, and he shot it less often, opting to involve his teammates more. Rose supporters will point out that Chicago's middling supporting cast forced the MVP to shoot more. But I look at the Hornets' lineup, and I see Marco Belinelli, Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, and I wonder how they ever scored enough to win. Paul was the reason. He knows how - and where, and when - to create the best looks for each of his teammates.
The only possible knock on Paul is his durability. We'll see how he holds up in Year Two post-knee surgery, and when you're comparing players this good, it should matter that Paul might be getting to a point where he'll save his full game for the postseason. But for now, he still holds the title of League's Best Point Guard, regardless of where the MVP trophy is.
Definitely go read the entire list to get a sense of the context; I feel bad copy-pasting as much as I did here. It's one of the most comprehensive, excellently researched, and intricately explained player rankings we're likely to get this summer.