ESPN released its annual Top-100 preseason player rankings on Tuesday, and only two Bulls players have appeared to make the cut. To be sure, only Nos. 51-100 have been shared thus far, but considering Zach LaVine is the team’s best player and checked in at No. 56, I think it’s safe to say no other Bulls roster members will crack the Top-50.
The other player to sneak his way into the Top-100 is the guy who’s played only 29 out of 94 possible games in a Bulls uniform – Otto Porter. The veteran forward checked in at No. 98, dropping a bit from his previous ESPN ranking of 90-overall. Meanwhile, LaVine’s No. 56 spot is also lower than his previous ranking at No. 55, which is a tad surprising since the Bulls leading scorer is coming off arguably his best season of professional hoops.
Porter’s ranking draws no beef. The guy has been considered one of the better 3-and-D wings, but that’s only when he is fully healthy, which we haven’t seen in roughly two seasons. All things considered, the guy is pretty fortunate to still be viewed this valuable in league circles despite his recent injury trouble. With that said, if he can get a majority healthy season under his belt once again, he should move up several spots on this list. The guys ahead of him include Derrick White, Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jarrett Allen, and Ricky Rubio. Proving to be more valuable than any one of those players isn’t necessarily easy, but I wouldn’t deem it all that difficult either, especially with the important role Porter is expected to play this season.
As for LaVine, we got enough beef to fill a meat locker.
Take a look at how his “tier” stacks up:
• No. 60: Robert Covington
• No. 59: Tyler Herro
• No. 58: Goran Dragic
• No. 57: Tobias Harris
• No. 56: Zach LaVine
• No. 55: Christian Wood
• No. 54: Lonzo Ball
• No. 53: Jusuf Nurkic
• No. 53: Deandre Ayton
• No. 51: Michael Porter Jr.
Is that Lonzo Ball two spots ahead of LaVine?
Look, LaVine needs to prove he can win. I get it. In fact, I get it so much that putting him at No. 56 is actually relatively reasonable to me. I’m not going to argue that he should be significantly higher nor am I going to argue that he should be way lower. The problem has more to do with the talent we see in front of him.
Here are last year’s numbers:
• LaVine: 34.8 MPG, 25.5 ppg (FG 45%, 3PT 38.0%), 4.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.5 steals
• Ball: 32.1 MPG, 11.8 ppg (FG 40.3%, 3PT 37.5%), 7.0 assists, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.4 steals
• Wood: 21.4 MPG, 13.1 ppg (56.7%, 3PT 38.6%), 1.0 assist, 6.3 rebounds
I know, stats (specifically, points scored) aren’t everything. Ball is a better defender than LaVine, and he also promotes more playmaking. At the same time, he played with a far more competent team around him last season, and he has not been tasked with the same kind of workload as LaVine. As for Wood, the guy rightfully earned himself a big-time contract this offseason, but he still has to prove he can do what he did last season at a consistent level. Ranking him this high just feels a bit premature.
And if “winning” is the real determining factor between these kinds of players, Ball and Wood have not at all shown they are far superior in that category. Ball has not experienced a single winning season over his three years in the league, and his VORP currently sits at 1.3. Other than 13 games with Milwaukee, Wood has also not played for a winning franchise over his four seasons in the league, and his VORP checks in at 1.7 (LaVine isn’t that much better at 2.4 … but still).
The only thing that makes this ranking somewhat more palatable is the fact that it’s largely with the future in mind. I can’t rule out Ball or Wood taking some kind of All-Star leap this season, but the same goes for LaVine. If anything, we have even more reasons to be optimistic about LaVine’s future now that he has a competent coach at the helm of his team.
Anyway, it’s not worth wasting too much energy on some preseason rankings. After all, there happens to be plenty of other equally bizarre rankings across the board (Ball and Wood are also ahead of guys like Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, and Mike Conley). Go ahead and make up your own mind.
For a complete look at the No. 51-100 players, make sure to check out the post below. Proceed with caution.
We're ranking the top 100 NBA players for the 10th year ‼️
— ESPN (@espn) December 8, 2020