ESPN’s annual tradition of ranking the top 100 players in the NBA ahead of the season called NBARank has officially been revealed. Perhaps surprisingly, the Los Angeles Lakers do not have a player in the top 5 as LeBron James has dropped a couple of spots.
The Lakers’ trio of superstars were all ranked in the top 100 and LeBron is the highest of the bunch. Ultimately, James would come in at sixth overall in ESPN’s rankings with Dave McMenamin noting that injuries, and the Lakers struggles even when he was on the court, causing him to fall:
For the second time in four seasons as a Laker, James missed the playoffs — this after only missing the postseason twice in his first 15 years in the league. James’ 30.3 points per game average was unprecedented for a 19-year veteran, but the 26 games he lost to various injuries and an ill-fitting roster around him made for one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.
James has already redefined the notion of how long a player’s prime can last, so it would be foolish to write him off too soon, but it’s impossible to ignore that the Lakers had a negative net rating with James on the floor last season, which is reason enough to drop him out of the top five in the rankings no matter his impressive offensive output.
Statistically, James was unreal last season averaging 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists. But LeBron appeared in just 56 games and the Lakers finished an abysmal 33-49, failing to make even the Play-In Tournament.
Circumstances are different heading into this season as a new supporting cast surrounds James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook along with a new head coach in Darvin Ham. Expecting LeBron to match his performance from last season could be asking too much, even for James, who continues to defy all reasonable expectations. But he is certainly capable of putting together a season that could vault him back into the top five.
The five players ranked ahead of James are Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Anthony Davis ranks 20th, Russell Westbrook 65th in ESPN’s NBARank
For Davis, his injury issues and struggles while on the court caused the reasonable drop, while Westbrook is coming off perhaps the worst season of his career and has some questions to answer in 2023.
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