As the 2022-23 NBA season fast approaches, a number of preseason predictions and rankings are being published to get conversations across the league going.
In ESPN’s ranking of players heading into the upcoming season, Charlotte Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball was pegged as the 41st best player in the league, five spots ahead of Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Darius Garland.
NBA analyst and former Cavs big man Kendrick Perkins took issue with Ball getting the slight edge over Garland, and he made his feelings known during a recent episode of “NBA Today” on ESPN.
“I’m going with Darius Garland,” he said. “… He’s more reliable. He’s more efficient. He’s a better point guard. He’s not as flashy. I’m going with Darius Garland.”
Perkins was then alerted to the fact that his employer ranked Ball higher than Garland. He had a simple message in response.
“Shame on them,” he said.
Last season was a big one for both Ball and Garland, as they both received their first All-Star selections. Though ESPN loves to create drama by pitting one player against another, the truth is that both Ball and Garland are fantastic young point guards who have incredibly bright futures ahead of them.
Last season, Ball averaged 20.1 points, 7.6 assists and 6.7 rebounds per game. He had multiple eye-popping plays throughout the season.
Garland had an amazing season as well and averaged 21.7 points, 8.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game.
With that in mind, if one had to make a prediction about who will take yet another leap forward in the 2022-23 season, the smart money would have to be placed on Garland. That’s not just because of his immense talent, but also because of the fantastic team that surrounds him.
While the Hornets did little to improve their level of talent this offseason, the Cavs made arguably the biggest splash of the summer by trading for Donovan Mitchell. That move will give Garland even more room to facilitate for his teammates.
Moreover, he’ll likely benefit from far more one-on-one matchups on the offensive side of the ball because opposing defenses will have to worry about Mitchell and other dynamic Cavs players such as Evan Mobley and Caris LeVert.
So, while Ball got the nod from ESPN this summer, that might not be the case when rankings start coming out again a year from now.