ESPN ranks Marcus Smart as the 12th best rookie so far, using some pretty fuzzy logic

Here's a lesson in how not to analyze players, be they rookies or veterans.

ESPN's David Thorpe recently put out an article (Insider) where he ranked the top-20 rookies in the league right now. Where did Marcus Smart finish? Thorpe had him at 12.

At first that seemed a tad low, but someone could make a case with compelling arguments that 11 other rookies have played better than Smart. It'd take some convincing, but it's not absurd. Unfortunately "compelling arguments" are not what Thorpe provides.

Thorpe lumped Smart into the "struggling" category:

As a catch-and-shoot guy, Smart continues to play well. He has to be accounted for off the ball because he can make perimeter shots, including 3s, off the catch.

As a pick-and-roll player, however, Smart is still mostly clueless, constantly settling for long and/or bad jumpers with five or more seconds left on the shot clock. The good news is he's getting a lot of minutes and opportunities in the ball-screen game, giving him many reference points to study come summer.

Alright, fine. Not a single word about Smart's defense, but he makes good points. That is until you look at a couple of the other rookie point guards Thorpe has on his list.

Coming in at No. 7 is Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson:

Although his perimeter shooting is not a strength right now, he does play with some poise in the pick-and-roll game, something many young players struggle with.

And another guard put into the "showing signs" category is the player picked right before Smart, Dante Exum of the Utah Jazz:

With the Jazz playing great, you might expect their prized rookie, who is playing a lot, to be one of their most improved guys on offense. That is not the case here, as Exum continues to struggle a great deal on that end.

On defense, however, there is a different story to tell. He hounds opposing point guards as if he is Muggsy Bogues, pestering them on seemingly every dribble. Of course he's over a foot taller and far longer than Bogues, and this helps him set a defensive tone that is far better than what he showed earlier this season.

Hold up, let me get this straight. So Thorpe first acknowledges in Clarkson's analysis that "many young players struggle with" the pick-and-roll, but then proceeds to knock Smart for it?

The Exum analysis is even worse. According to Thorpe, Exum's offense is a dumpster fire, but hey he plays great defense. That means he's "showing signs," while Smart is "struggling" despite that fact that Smart's defense, which Thorpe ignores, is great and he admits that Smart can actually score points? The only saving grace is that Thorpe ranks Exum No. 16, a few spots behind Smart.

Oh wait, I just noticed that Thorpe has New York Knicks guard Langston Galloway ranked No. 8, a player by Thorpe's own admission that will have to seriously work just to stick in the league. Yea, that's a top-10 rookie. Never mind, I'm pretty sure Thorpe is just trolling us. No wonder the article is behind the pay wall.

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