Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Last season, Yahoo! Sports and Basketball News paired up to publish an NBA preview magazine, and I was honored to be given a chance to contribute a list of who I thought were the top 30 players at each position within the magazine's ranks.

This year, with more goodies afloat, the magazine (which will come out sometime in early autumn) will not have room for those sorts of rankings (though a comprehensive fantasy-based list along the same lines will be offered), so we thought it best to bring those sorts of musings to BDL, instead. With summer waning (kids are going back to school, already? But my vacation just started!), and the NBA more or less set for 2010-11, we're going to rank players 1-through-30 at each position.

We'll have a few guidelines - heck, we'll have a litany of guidelines - along the way.

For one, the list is for 2010-11, so while past is prologue, it won't mean a lick when it comes to putting it all together for this season. Appreciate your history, veterans, but we're looking at who will bring the better game in two months, and not two years ago. It will also rank players based on who we think will be more valuable to a hypothetical team in a vacuum. So while Derek Fisher(notes) might be more important to the triangle offense than someone like John Wall(notes) would be ... come on, it's Derek Fisher vs. John Wall.

Also, while production matters, this will not be a fantasy sports-related ranking system. Stats will play a heavy role, because numbers (silly numbers!) do happen to be an on-paper documentation of what mostly went down on the court; but if you're using this list while conducting a fantasy draft in a few months ... good luck.

And production will go beyond (or, behind, even) your typical box score stats. You have to go about your night in an efficient way. We'll be looking at all manner of advanced statistics as we go about ranking these players, and if it doesn't make sense to you; well, make sense of it. If a dope like me could make sense of it, during the first George W. Bush administration no less, than you can too.

Of course, not all modes of production will accurately and consistently show up in even the most advanced and well-adjusted types of statistics. Defense is still usually in the eye of the beholder, and we behold quite a bit from night to night. A good mate of mine still gives me stick for ranking Kirk Hinrich(notes) (19) ahead of Baron Davis(notes) (21) last year, but Hinrich's defense was far superior to BD's awful work on that end in 2008-09, to say nothing of the leadership issues that went hand in hand with Davis' terrible offensive efficiency that season.

Finally, there's the, uh, finality of it all.

There's no way that I'm going to tell you that these are end-all rankings. I will tell you that I work my tail off in trying to follow this game at a level that no other pro writer does, so I think I've put myself in the best position possible to succeed at getting this stuff right, but the more you learn about this game the more you figure out that "right" changes from night to night.

There are just too many myriad complications that go into being able to tell you that, yes, I've got it sussed above all else. I won't insult you by telling you as much. But I can tell you that, through watching all these games from Halloween until the third week in June, I think I've got a good grasp. And I think the lists that will follow over the next week or so will be a good insight into the thoughts and opinions of a guy who has been obsessing and watching and writing for too long to admit without feeling a tinge of "where's my summer gone?"

So load up, have some fun with it, and shoot me a line during BDL's Wednesday chats, or on Twitter. The first two batches follow later today, starting with this league's point guards.

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