For the fourth straight year, ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network are ranking every NBA player and counting them down on Twitter (@ESPNNBA), from No. 500 to No. 1.
In doing so, the ESPN Forecast panel predicts the overall level of play for each player for the upcoming NBA season using a 1-to-10 scale. This includes both the quality and the quantity of each player's expected contributions, combined in one overall rating. While elite players in their prime, such as LeBron James, score close to the 10 level, players at the bottom of the rankings, such as Shayne Whittington (No. 500 this year), typically score around the 1 level.
Every year, the voters are pretty tough on incoming NBA rookies.
I'm not here to debate whether our panel is generally right or wrong in ranking rookies so low. Depending on what statistical models you use to quantify rookie impact, you can make the argument either way. For example, a little over a month ago, Steve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann wrote that rookies rarely, if ever, help their teams win when viewed through the lens of ESPN's real plus-minus (RPM) statistic. They asserted that even LeBron and Kevin Durant were drags on their teams as rookies.
Last season was especially brutal, no matter what metric you used: No rookie finished in the top 100 in RPM, player efficiency rating (PER) or wins above replacement player (WARP). And just one rookie, Michael Carter-Williams, cracked the top 100 in estimated wins added (EWA).
On Tuesday, Kevin Pelton took a contrarian viewpoint, writing that on average, rookies ranked five spots lower in #NBArank than they did in his statistical rankings. Carter-Williams was ranked No. 198 by voters last year. Even in a down year, that was way too low. The year before, our panel ranked 2012 Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard at No. 211. He should have been, by virtually every metric, at least 100 spots higher.
So too high or too low is up for debate. But the fact they are ranked low isn't. Though we have yet to put out the top half of our Top 500 rankings, here's a bit of a spoiler alert: Only one rookie, Jabari Parker, cracked the Top 100 this year. And just three others -- Nerlens Noel, Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle -- cracked the Top 150.
Many heralded this draft as one of the best in the past decade. However, our voters weren't buying it. In this year's edition, Parker, the highest-ranked rookie, netted an average score of 5.86 out of 10, which will likely put him below players like Tony Allen, Robin Lopez, Danny Green and Wesley Matthews. Tiago Splitter is ranked higher than Noel. Mason Plumlee was ranked ahead of Wiggins. Even Corey Brewer and JaVale McGee got the nod over Randle. (Watch next week to see where the rooks actually placed in #NBArank.)
Those scores don't particularly fit the draft narrative about these players. Multiple teams tanked their seasons to get these guys. Scouts believe Parker had the ability to be the next Carmelo Anthony. Wiggins drew comps to Tracy McGrady.
While the voters based their scores on how well they think the players will perform this year as opposed to the future, they're still pretty brutal. Historically, they've been that way. And after the poor performance of the 2013-14 rookie class, maybe a certain amount of jadedness is to be expected.
But beyond evaluating the list based on WARP, RPM or PER, which rookies are poised to either overperform or underperform their ratings based on scouting and NBA team/system fit? Here's my take on eight rookies in this year's Top 200.