Player rankings are always problematic. But in almost unanimous outrage, Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine may have been dealt the ultimate disrespect.
LaVine, who had a breakout scoring performance in 2019-2020, averaging an 11th-best 25.5 points per game among all NBA players last season, was ranked No. 56 on ESPN’s top 100 player rankings for the upcoming season, a spot higher than he was ranked in last year’s list.
Here’s ESPN’s valuation of LaVine:
There’s no denying LaVine is a bucket; his 25.5 points per game last season was the highest scoring average by a Bulls player since Michael Jordan averaged 28.7 points in 1997-98. Now, the question is whether he can lead Chicago back to relevance. LaVine is in shape after training in Washington throughout the pandemic, but he has never made the playoffs. Reaching that stage could bring validation to his career.
Bulls fans and NBA fans alike took to Twitter to air out their frustrations on the slight to LaVine, who somehow got worse after posting career highs in points, rebounds (4.8) and steals (1.5) per game.
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Lonzo Ball Better Than Zach LaVine?
The social media storm surrounding ESPN’s rankings all seemed to center around one villain who the media giant had overvalued and, in the process, underrated several of the league’s upcoming stars.
New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball was ranked No. 54 ahead of the likes of LaVine, DeAngelo Russell (No. 69), Blake Griffin (No. 65), John Wall (No. 81) and Demar Derozen (No. 82). Yes, the latter three players are on the decline of their primes, however, the slight to LaVine is likely attributed to the lack of team success he’s been a part of — a similar demerit to Russell whose move from the Golden State Warriors to the Minnesota Timberwolves saw his ranking take a steep hit from No. 26 in 2019.
Here are some of the best Twitter reactions to the rankings.
Zach Lavine lower than Lonzo Ball???? pic.twitter.com/CdlD2wGo73
— Jayden (@Jayden78352028) December 8, 2020
Zach is going off this season. pic.twitter.com/AlDAzdu6Ot
— Artūras Karnišovas Fan Club (@arturasfanclub) December 8, 2020
Whoever put this list together doesn’t even watch basketball…they are a stat head using biased stats…Lonzo Ball is rated this high? Just silly. Zach LaVine this low for a fringe all star last year. Give me a break. pic.twitter.com/uf50sh91qB
— Lawrence Algee (@la_smooth) December 9, 2020
Players ESPN #NBARank have ahead of Zach LaVine: Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, washed Gordon Hayward, Vucevic, JJJ, Fred Vanfleet, Malcolm Brogdon, SGA, MARCUS SMART!, Jrue Holiday, Jaylen Brown, TRAE YOUNG!!!, BRANDON INGRAM, Jamal Murray…
— The Chicago Bulls Charge (@thebullscharge) December 9, 2020
Otto Porter Jr. Makes the List
Amid the frenzy surrounding LaVine’s ranking was a surprise in Otto Porter Jr.’s ranking.
Porter, who has played 29 games in the past two seasons, was ranked No. 98 on the list, an eight-spot slight from 2019’s No. 90 ranking.
Here’s ESPN’s case for Porter:
For Otto Porter Jr., it’s staying healthy. A left foot fracture sidelined him for 51 total games last season, so availability is certainly in question when it comes to him. Porter is a proven scorer who can also make plays and will likely start. New Bulls coach Billy Donovan is a players’ coach who can possibly bring the best out of him.