Over the past several days, ESPN released a “panel of experts” rankings of the top 100 NBA players for this coming season. And Jimmy Butler came in at 17.
Trae Young was ranked at 16, which is egregious. Did everyone forget that the Miami Heat defense bottled up Young in the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs, while Butler dominated?
Trae Young turned the ball over 30 times against the Miami Heat in this series.— jeremy taché (@jeremytache) April 27, 2022
Trae Young made 22 total field goals against the Miami Heat in this series.
They completely and utterly shut him down.
I know the rankings are a projection, but has Young had a playoff run like Butler had in 2022, including this masterpiece in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals?
Jimmy Butler in Game 6 of the 2022 eastern conference Finals:— Mink Flow (@currypistonn) August 28, 2022
47 points , 9 rebounds , 8 assists and 4 steals.
Another player Miami bottled up in the playoffs who is ranked higher than Butler? James Harden, who came in at 11. Now, Harden apparently worked out this off-season to regain his old form. But he shouldn't be ranked higher than Butler until he can show he’s better.
At @ringer/@ringernba: I wrote about how Miami's defense smothered Joel Embiid, James Harden, and the 76ers in Game 5, pushing the Heat within one win of another Eastern Conference Finals and pushing the Sixers to the brink: https://t.co/T47NNDcNeQ— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) May 11, 2022
Rankings are tough, especially when they project ahead to the next season. Paul George and Damian Lillard were ranked 15 and 14, respectively. They are both coming off injury-riddled seasons. How do we know they’ll bounce back? Kawhi Leonard didn’t play last year and is ranked 12, but he’s a two-time Finals MVP.
We find out who the best players are during the playoffs, not the regular season. It’s absurd the ESPN panel didn’t account for Butler’s superb 2022 playoff performance in these rankings.
In a blurb about why Kyle Lowry came in at 61 in the rankings, Nick Friedell wrote that the 2019 NBA champion had a “lackluster first season in Miami.” While Lowry certainly had a lackluster playoffs, he drove the team when Butler and Bam Adebayo were injured in the middle of the season. That helped the Heat secure the No. 1 seed, something no one predicted.
If Lowry is voted down for his poor playoff performance — he was ranked 43 last year — Butler should be rewarded for his dominance in all three rounds he carried the Heat through. Butler was ranked 16 last year and slipped to 17 this year. There’s no reason that should’ve happened.