Commentary

Risers and fallers in player rankings

Yi Jianlian, Anthony Tolliver could move up in the NBA Player Rankings.

Originally Published: September 22, 2011
By David Thorpe | ESPN Insider
Lamar OdomNoah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith his long adjustment period over and his defense improved, Yi Jianlian could blossom.

Editor's note: Be sure to check out ESPN.com's full Player Rankings.

Ranking players is an extremely difficult task in terms of looking forward, considering how fluid an NBA player's career is. Injuries to them or the guys in front of them, coaching changes, or midseason trades/acquisitions have huge impacts on how a player is going to produce. Naturally, production is the best way to rank players, so there is the problem. Ignoring the old guys who earned a top-400 ranking simply based on name recognition (guys like Francisco Elson, Theo Ratliff, Jamaal Magloire and Jerry Stackhouse), there are guys who look primed to jump up the list, or fall out of it.

Let's take a quick look at the prime candidates to make a major move up or down.

Moving up:

No. 280 -- Yi Jianlian, PF, Washington Wizards

Let me state my bias at the beginning. I know this young man well, and I love him as a person. He's perhaps the most misunderstood player I've ever encountered, someone who was not remotely "Americanized", yet absolutely looked the part. Last year was probably the first season that he actually understood more than 25 percent of what his coaches were saying. This is why he had such a huge summer in the World Championships (China's national team has an American coach), then played very solid defense in Washington for the first time in his NBA career. He's still a freak athlete with great shooting range, and now that he can be a plus defender, he's a sure bet to find solid rotation minutes for a playoff team that needs shooters and defenders. General managers often ask me why he's not in Miami. After the lockout, perhaps he will be.