August and September used to be the dead zone for NBA coverage. With the rise of social media paired with moving up the start of the season to mid-October, that’s no longer the case. The addition of many publications doing yearly rankings of individual players means we nearly always have something to discuss.
This week, Sports Illustrated released their Top 100. Three Dallas Mavericks made the list: Nerlens Noel, Dirk Nowitzki, and Harrison Barnes. (SI does not include first-year players in their rankings.)
Nerlens Noel came out at 86th overall:
“Reach, athleticism, and timing make Noel (8.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.0 BPG) a natural candidate for rim protection—arguably the most important element of a center’s defensive repertoire. The potential is there.”
SI argues that the upside for Noel is clear and that if he can pair his defensive disruptiveness (steals, etc.) with more consistent rim protection then his value could skyrocket.
Dirk Nowitzki ranked at 71st, a number that sounds wrong but might well be accurate:
“There’s just no way for a defense to fully account for a big with Dirk’s shooting ability and reputation—much less his unblockable release.”
The problem comes with Dirk’s age paired with his more recent injury history. He’s been an issue defensively for sometime, which makes building a two-way team quite challenging.
Harrison Barnes ended up at 49th, a reasonable position given the remainder of talent on the list.
“We whiffed on Barnes when we made last year’s list... He proved not only that his offense was scalable, but that his game could accommodate a different degree of shot creation than he had seemed comfortable with previously.”
SI has an interesting perspective of Barnes, considering him a defender first with a solid offensive game. Though Barnes had a spectacular offensive season last year, his best role on a good team is second or third best player.
The removal of rookies from rankings resulted in a very balanced approach from Sports Illustrated. The lack of top-end talent for Dallas is reflected in these rankings, despite the hope Mavericks fans have for Noel, Smith, and Harrison Barnes. However, a jump in production and playing time for Noel paired with the addition of Dennis Smith, Jr. should give Mavericks fans plenty of reason for hope.