Come on, say it with me: “I will not get worked up over meaningless rankings. I will not get worked up over meaningless rankings. I will not get worked up over meaningless rankings ….”
I try to remind myself of that sentiment each time I open up preseason rankings of any kind. More often than not, I fail to abide by my own words, but this will not be one of those times! How do I know? Let’s call it past experience.
Top-100 player rankings have proven to be nothing short of goofy over the years. Two seasons ago Otto Porter, Lauri Markkanen, and Thaddeus Young were ranked higher than Zach LaVine. Flashback to the last offseason, and LaVine found himself sitting No. 56-overall behind players like Christian Wood, Jusuf Nurkic, and Lonzo Ball (no offense to #MyPointGuard). A lot can change in just one season, so reading too much into where one publication ranks a guy is never worth it. But, hey, it’s still some kind of indication of how a team’s players are perceived around the league, which has value in itself, and the Bulls seem to be in pretty good standing for once!
ESPN and Sports Illustrated have started to roll out their Top-100 projections a week before training camp is set to tip-off. Four Chicago Bulls have appeared in each outlet’s list, with LaVine (duh) holding the top spot on the team.
Here is how both sites ranked the four players:
Sports Illustrated: 76th
While skepticism might loom over the Chicago Bulls because of their lack of a consensus top-20 talent, it’s hard not to be encouraged by that list above. Not to mention, while we might all like to see LaVine even higher, he at least made a significant leap from last season in both rankings.
Remember: ESPN had LaVine as the 56th-best talent, while SI put him – crazily – at 75th. He has clearly proven to doubters around the league that he is one of the top offensive threats in the league. And based on some of the names ahead of him, he appears to be in a great position to vault higher up the ranks with a strong 2021-22 campaign. Sports Illustrated put players like Jrue Holiday, Jaylen Brown, and Khris Middleton right ahead of him. Meanwhile, ESPN has Klay Thompson, Ja Morant, and CJ McCollum in front of LaVine. Surpassing those players will not be a cakewalk, but leading this Bulls team to a winning season with similar offensive efficiency and slight improvement on the defensive end should do the trick.
As for DeRozan and Vucevic, I feel like that 39-45 range is fair. Both could impact winning more than they have in quite some time on this Bulls team, but neither will do so in the driver’s seat. Players like Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Domantas Sabonis, and Julius Randle are some of the fellow names in this range on both lists. All have the capability of being the No. 1 guy on any given night, but the upside to lead a winning product consistently on their own might not be 100 percent there. We also have to keep in mind that a player’s current situation is factored in, and both will fight to play a secondary role to LaVine.
Ball finds himself with two drastically different rankings, but the message behind both is the same: He is this team’s fourth guy. If these rankings were built around long-term potential and trajectory, Ball would find himself in an even more favorable spot. However, for the time being, he projects to be a ball mover and complementary piece to the Vucevic-DeRozan-LaVine trio. Can he immediately prove to be more than that? Absolutely, and I think the wide range in ranking demonstrates that potential. But going into this season, Ball should be viewed as the fourth piece of the puzzle.
All right, that’s enough of that. If you want to give your own critique/look at each publications list, I’ll drop the links below:
SI’s Top 100 list is back this week. This year’s list is the collective brainchild of @Herring_NBA, @RohanNadkarni, @MichaelVPina and myself. And yes, I specifically crafted this tweet so I’m not the only one who gets yelled at online this time aroundhttps://t.co/u4JXk8l2c6
— Jeremy Woo (@JeremyWoo) September 20, 2021
Next 25 in our NBArank 👀
— ESPN (@espn) September 22, 2021