'These Rankings Are the Worst!'

The competitive nature of basketball (and generally all sports) has brought us into an era where rankings have more emotional value than ever before. Let's be clear: rankings do'not'matter. It's a nice measuring tool for scouts and spectators, but most people tend to look far too deep at the political side of things. Our rankings are subjective, just like everyone else's, and there's simply no possible way to put out a 'correct' list. Right now, anyone could go to a national media outlet and they'll find many differing opinions from their own. The same concept applies to state rankings. Piecing together a top-five or top-ten list of prospects is going to be easy; the problem comes into play around fifty or sixty, where guys start becoming more interchangeable. Obviously, these are still based on the preference of each individual scout, though the census always wins. There have been various attempts to challenge our respective views of the game, but that's a thoughtless take with no real evidence behind it. Rankings are meant to be debated and discussed, not squashed completely due to the dissatisfaction of parents and other biased parties. A lot of different variables go into the ranking process and hopefully this article will paint a clearer picture than ever before.

Preference

There are many beautiful things about basketball, but the uniqueness and individuality of the sport can make some players more difficult to evaluate than others. Look at the difference in how Billy Donovan, Bo Ryan, and Brad Stevens constructed Florida, Wisconsin, and Butler, respectively. Three guys that all coached in the modern-era, yet each clearly have their own stylistic preference of how to approach the game. The same thing comes in play with these rankings. Perhaps one individual prefers three-point shooting while their counterpart prefers an athletic catch-and-rip penetrator (of the same level). How can someone be wrong in this equation' Different players affect the game in different ways. At this point, with the world having seen so many truly unique prospects, it seems unusual that people are losing their minds over rankings. How favorable were rankings to guys like Steve Nash' Tyler Ennis was ranked (and drafted) far ahead of Jordan Bell and Josh Hart, but one could argue that the 'Cuse product holds the least value of the trio. So was his high school ranking not properly justified' Did they overcompensate for his productivity' The answer is somewhere in-between the two. Bell and Hart have both carved out space in the NBA as quality role players while the top-twenty Ennis is preparing for his first season in Turkey.

Production vs. Potential

The 'preference' concept ties in heavily with the 'production vs. potential' debate, but both factors should be included separately during the ranking process. On one hand, production is typically the main basis for establishing a player's ranking. How is this player performing from game to game' Are they doing everything or just one thing' Is this player a benefit to their team' Production has many different faces, but potential opens up an endless realm of possibilities. What if Player Y can go from being an abysmal three-point shooter to an above-average threat' The things that might never come to fruition can often be the toughest questions.

Every player has potential; it just varies wildly from one prospect to the next. The likelihood of a 6-foot-1 power forward going to play high-level college basketball is low, regardless of their skillset or productivity. However, the opposite is also true. There are plenty of seven-footers at the Division I level with minimal skillsets, but the idea that they could develop is too enticing for coaches to ignore. Why take a chance on a prospect that is less proven' It's clearly due to upside. So shouldn't player rankings account for potential' They should, but too many people are hunting for nonexistent biases.

There are countless questions worth asking during the evaluation process, but majority of the pressing information relies on the player's future abilities. For example, Player X might dominate everyone from April to July, but there's no guarantee that they'll be successful at the next level. So when trends come into play, things get even cloudier. Just this year, Caleb Mills saw an incredible blow-up in his recruitment, yet his ranking (eighth, at the time) already reflected the appropriate level. Prior to his bump to the fourth spot, Mills only trailed Wendell Moore, Patrick Williams, Jalen Lecque, Josh Nickelberry, Jae'lyn Withers, Greg Gantt, and Keyshaun Langley. These types of situations happen quite often, but the difference between those four spots clearly had nothing to do with Mills' recruitment'so why does it actually matter' Well, as mentioned above, they don't. That answer will never change.

The nation's leading sports network, ESPN, does a breakdown each year, ranking NBA players from first to four-hundredth. This is an impossible task with no correct answers. Why' Each individual utilizes their own eye and methodology for evaluating players. The same applies to high school scouting. Differing opinions is what allows our society to embrace debate, though no one seems to be interested in the counter-perspective anymore. Again, player rankings are meant subjective at all levels.

Context

Overall, the general backlash comes from coaches, parents, and spectators who feel like their players have been slighted. Not even from the actual prospects. We see these guys perform in various different settings, from camps to high school games to summer ball, which is a large basis for our opinions. Outsiders are delusional to believe that we show bias to players that attend our events, because our evaluation goes beyond the Phenom stage and each prospect receives a fair, thorough process to determine their appropriate level or ranking. That being said, most people neglect sample size in general and don't understand how to comparatively rationalize from one player to the next.

A high school coach will see kids on his team thirty times, making it relatively impossible for them to have a full scope of all others in the state. Often times you'll hear, 'we shut him down' or 'we didn't let him do anything against us' in regards to a random prospect, but the reality is that their sample size is just too small. Is it too small to respect and appreciate the differing opinions of others' Of course not, but it's difficult to juggle so many perspectives and please everybody when creating rankings. Unfortunately, everyone thinks they have the next great prospect on their hands. In some cases, that type of talk is justified, but usually it just sets unfair expectations for these adolescent hoopers and the folks in their camp. Instead, we should allow them to learn and grow at their own pace while enjoying the sport of basketball. Rankings have never held real significance outside of their usefulness as a measuring tool, and it would be foolish to change our way of thought now.

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