Seth Partnow of The Athletic is an excellent writer and statistical analyst, having spent time with the Milwaukee Bucks prior to his current writing position doing major analysis on the Bucks and the NBA at large. Since moving back to the public side, Partnow has put together a project over the last two seasons evaluating the entire NBA at large, putting his own spin on the offseason player rankings mania. Rather than put a specific number on a player, Partnow places players in different tiers and sub tiers, outlining what makes a player valuable in today’s league.
Naturally, when faced with ranking the entire league, the process generally calls for some takes. Partnow remains as neutral as possible with statistical barometers, and as a result, the Denver Nuggets appear to be ranked fairly favorably.
Here’s where Partnow ranked various Nuggets players, as well as some words from the author and links back to the original five-part series:
The outside looking in (Players ranked roughly 121st to 130th)
Partnow places Will Barton in this tier, noting that his lesser shooting aggression was what held him below other guard shooters like Tim Hardaway Jr., Devonte’ Graham, and Cameron Payne. Somebody slap specific Nuggets fans who just went slack-jawed at that statement.
Barton is firmly in a tier of starting caliber players though, or at least players that produce starting caliber production. The Nuggets getting Barton back on a two-year deal certainly keeps their talent at a stable level.
Tier 5A (Players ranked 80th to 120th)
Rather than make a distinction between the 84th best player and 117th best player, Partnow leaves it up to the audience by placing all names in alphabetical order and letting folks judge for themselves. What’s noticeable though is that Nuggets newcomer Jeff Green makes an appearance in Tier 5A after a strong season with the Brooklyn Nets. Though Green wasn’t as statistically valuable as others in this tier, he still offered versatility on both ends of the floor with switchability on defense and inside-outside scoring on the other end.
Tier 4B (Players ranked 57th to 79th)
The Nuggets have two appearances in Tier 4B with Aaron Gordon and his steady defense and rebounding at forward as well as Michael Porter Jr. and his dynamic shooting and scoring. This seems to be more of a projection for Gordon after briefly seeing what he looked like in his ideal role on both ends of the floor for the Nuggets after the trade deadline.
Here’s what Partnow had to say about Gordon:
“In contrast, Aaron Gordon was dropped into seemingly the perfect role in Denver after years of Orlando attempting to cast him as a primary on-ball player, an effort that never really took. The few weeks where Gordon got to serve as a defender, ball-mover and opportunistic cutter and scorer with the Nuggets was probably the best basketball he has played in his career. Unfortunately, with Jamal Murray likely out for much of this season, we might not get to see that version of Gordon again for a while.”
For Porter, a ranking in this tier might seem like a slight, but the playoffs showed viable weaknesses in Porter’s game that must be fixed before he can become a legitimate all-star.
Here’s how Partnow briefly described it:
“Michael Porter Jr. made tremendous strides in his second season — though, like the rest of the Nuggets, the absence of the bulk of Denver’s backcourt talent made the second round against Phoenix something of a whitewash. Porter’s size and shooting have gotten him to this point; to progress beyond that, he will have to diversify his offensive game to include a bit more playmaking and rim attacks while working on his defense.”
Tier 3B (Players ranked 24th to 30th)
The Nuggets have just one appearance in Tier 3B, and it’s made by the rehabbing Jamal Murray. Partnow ranked Murray in Tier 3A last year, and dropping him down a partial tier is seen as a small knock, “largely out of concern for whether he can retain his own explosiveness to the basket once he returns from the ACL injury,” Partnow says.
This is the tier for players that are basically all-star quality but are on the outside looking in due to the league being incredibly deep. Murray has been on the precipice of stardom for awhile now, and though many acknowledge just how good he is following an excellent bubble performance in the 2019-20 playoffs, it will always be difficult to garner full attention in a stacked Western Conference, especially at guard. Partnow gives Murray credit where credit is due.
Tier 1B (Players ranked 4th to 7th)
Nikola Jokić, after an MVP season, ranked in Tier 1B alongside Stephen Curry, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard. Jokić wasn’t quite in the highest tier reserved for Partnow’s three best players in the NBA currently, but this tier is higher than Jokić’s placement the year before. Jokić was the only player ranked outside of Tier 1 to jump into the upper echelons with LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and others.
“Last year, I expressed some skepticism that Nikola Jokic had sufficient athletic gifts to ascend to this level. I think my concerns about Jokic’s defensive versatility remain well-founded, but with somewhat improved conditioning and much more consistent night-to-night aggression looking for his own offense, Jokic produced one of the great offensive seasons from a center in the modern (post-2004 or so) era. He was an extremely worthy MVP, and for the third straight season, carried his excellence into the postseason.”
Once again, make sure to check out all of Seth’s work on The Athletic where he does an excellent job analyzing and evaluating the entire league. Player rankings are difficult, and the concept of tiered rankings adds a whole new layer to the process. Go read his work and yell that he hates your favorite team.
Which player ranking do you disagree with the MOST?
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Nikola Jokic - Tier 1B (4th to 7th)
Jamal Murray - Tier 3B (24th to 30th)
Michael Porter Jr. - Tier 4B (57th to 79th)
Aaron Gordon - Tier 4B (57th to 79th)
Jeff Green - Tier 5A (80th to 120th)
Will Barton - Honorable Mention (121st to 130th)