Simmons rolled out the second part of his mega-ranking yesterday afternoon. In the first part, he ranked players 50-27, and in this second part he takes us all the way to #1.
Previously we had noted where the Thunder's Serge Ibaka and James Harden ranked overall. In this second part, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant make their appearance. Simmons really does not have much to say about either of Westbrook or Durant, compared to Harden and Ibaka. Rather, he uses it in the greater context about where two other guys, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose, fit within the grand scheme of things:
12. Russell Westbrook
11. Kyrie Irving
A pure financial decision: I'd rather pay Irving $16.1 million from 2012 through 2014 than Westbrook twice as much. Also, if you're scoring at home, I moved past the "deeply regretting ever writing that Cleveland would regret passing on Derrick Williams for Irving" stage and entered the "Maybe I didn't go far enough when I said Kyrie was Kevin Johnson 2.0" stage about three weeks ago. What a gem. Could Cleveland really end up with Kyrie Irving AND Robert Griffin III?
3. Derrick Rose
2. Kevin Durant
Damn, if we weren't edging toward 10,000 words for Parts 1 and 2, I would have broken this one down, too. Allow me a couple of quick thoughts …
- Over the next few years, we're going to make a big fuss about Kobe becoming the first player to pass 40,000 career points. Just remember, Kevin Durant is closing in on 10,000 points (he'll get there by mid-April) … and he's only 23 years old.
- This is a weird comment that can't be backed up but I'm making it anyway: I don't think any NBA fan base loves a player more than Bulls fans love Derrick Rose. If you went into a Chicago sports bar and started trashing Rose during a Bulls game, you'd get beaten up and left for dead in an alley.
- You'd never think of these guys as our next Bird-Magic rivalry … but when you remember their ages (23), mind-sets (basketball-only, all the time, nothing else matters), positions (one's a guard, the other's a forward), conferences (one East, one West), situations (contenders for each), characters (everything they do is about their team), styles (balls-to-the-wall all the time), crunch-time chops (significant) and humility (you never hear either of these guys talk about himself as a brand, just a basketball player), suddenly that Bird-Magic tag isn't so farfetched. Kobe mentioned recently that he never had a "rival," which was technically true (although I blame Vince and T-Mac for not holding up their ends of the bargain). Rose and Durant have each other. Maybe. Regardless, whenever I think to myself, I love this season, I love the league and I love where we're headed, I think of these two guys first. A good sign for the future.
A few more comments after the jump.
- It is unfortunate that Simmons does not have more to say about Westbrook, because I think if he took the time to think about it he'd realize that, while having him at #12 makes a lot of sense, it is a bit premature to think of Kyrie Irving as already being a top 15 player in the league. I certainly agree with his logic that having Irving on the rookie scale gives him greater value within this type of ranking, and after seeing Irving play strong against the Thunder I cannot deny that he's got good pro potential, but it still seems awfully early to be comparing him favorably to ta two-time All-Star and one of the most ferocious competitors in the game. I don't think it's a slight on Westbrook, but just a bit ahead of the game for Irving. Even so, it is good to see the Cavaliers succeeding with the young point guard.
- The comments about Durant and Rose are a broader reflection about where the league is headed. While it still drives me batty when I hear people argue that they don't watch the NBA because it is a bunch of selfish players who don't work hard, all I can really do is remember these two guys. Durant and Rose both embody everything we claim we want our star athletes to be about. both the Thunder and the Bulls have a good chance of meeting in the Finals over the next few seasons, and Durant/Rose are the main reasons why.