(For an updated version, WITH a starting five, check out our new White American NBA Player Power Rankings here)
There are a lot of really good white players in the NBA. Obviously there is a far larger depth of really good black players, which maybe even enhances the appearance of how talented their fairer skinned co-workers are. Regardless, no one could possibly debate that Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol, Luis Scola and Andrew Bogut are amongst the very best the NBA has to offer. But what do all these guys have in common besides a lack of melatonin and an undoubted common love of The Wire? They're all foreigners. I am counting Canada as a foreign country. They're savages up there, you know.
A couple weeks ago, I was in attendance as YOUR...Los Angeles Lakers played the Utah Jazz in Staples Center. With MAMBINO correspondent Alvy to my right, we had engaged in our usual repartee of egregious over-reaction, merciless player heckling and general bile-filled negativity. It was glorious. In the middle of our conversation, we looked at the court and noticed that the Lakers' on-floor squad was Steve Blakers at point, Jason Kapono at the other guard, Metta World Peace and Josh McRoberts at the forward spots and Pau Gasol holding down center. We laughed at the prospect of the 2011 Los Angeles Lakers looking more like the 1955 Minneapolis Lakers squad. It wasn't that the team had a mostly white line-up on the floor; it was that most of them were American.
The most skilled white players in the league are either European or South American (Argentine, to be specific). End of discussion. For whatever reason, since the 1980's America hasn't been able to produce Caucasian ballers that are anything more than role-players or fringe All-Stars. The last wave of prolific white American NBA-ers came almost 30 years ago, when Kevin McHale, John Stockton and Larry Bird all played on the level of the best black players in the league.
So as always with Alvy, the Lakers thrust us into yet another sports minutiae discussion. This time, it was one of our favorite all-time questions: who currently are the top 5 best white AMERICAN players in the league?
In the past few years, the list was a pretty easy call - Brad Miller was always towards the top, or close to it, with Troy Murphy somewhere trailing. Raef LaFrentz, Keith van Horn and "White Chocolate" Jason Williams were perennial considerations for this prestigious top-5 list that absolutely no one took any value in.
However, the old generation has been overturned and a new set of set of rhythmically challenged pasty ballers have been crowned. Congratulations gentlemen, and welcome to the top 5.
1. Kevin Love
With a bullet. Not even a question at this point. Love has done something that no white American player has done since Larry Legend - be one of the best 10 to 15 players in the league. In 6 games in this young season, Love is averaging 25.7 ppg, 15 rpg, while shooting 48% from the floor, 77% from the stripe and a staggering 42% from behind the line. Even more amazing beyond the fact that a big man can so astutely shoot the three-ball from 30 feet out and still manages to lead the league in offensive rebounding (one of the most amazing stats I've ever heard of), is that he's done this for a second year in a row after losing nearly 20 pounds. Love is probably the most unique player even in a league with LeBron, Dirk and Dwight. Him topping the White American NBA Player Power Rankings is a mere formality.
2. David Lee
David Lee's run at the top of these rankings came to a screeching halt last year when Love emerged as an All-Star. Lee is a career 54% shooter to go along with 13.6 ppg and 9.6 rpg. While not known for his defensive acumen, he's always been known for his hustle and inability to take a single play off. Being second place to Kevin Love on any list is definitely acceptable, except for a beauty contest. David Lee obviously wins that. He's so dreamy.
3. Chris Kaman
Here's a guy who is not winning any beauty pageant, in any place or any time. And I mean any time. Like, time period. I mean, I don't know what look you're going for here dude, but it's just not working.
But what Kaman has consistently won is a place on these power rankings, and thus, a place in my heart. This brutal-looking human being has carved out quite a nice career for himself, playing in the forgotten wasteland known as Clipper Nation. A career 12/8 center who blocks shots and plays defense, Kaman's only hindrance towards being one of the best centers in the NAB has been his relative anonymity on a regularly terrible squad and a somewhat poor health record. While steadiness and solid career averages aren't going to win superstardom in the NBA, it will win a high spot in the BWANP Power Rankings.
4. Tyler Hansbrough
I don't want to be the one to point this out, but can white Americans do anything besides scrap, rebound and get easy buckets? Seems that way so far. Either way, Hansbrough is the epitome of those things. After a very nice 2011 campaign, Hansbrough came back this year as a backup to the newly signed David West, but with even better play than last year. Well deserving of the four spot here.
His eyes still freak me out though. It always looks like the guy just went to the optometrist and got his eyes dilated.
5. Kirk Hinrich
Hard to believe that the BWANP Power Rankings mainstay is the best white American guard in the country. That's pretty sad America; not because Hinrich is a bad player, but he's just a solid, if unspectacular player. He's spent 2012 on the inactive list so far, but I can only expect the same steady point guard play and semblance of an offensive repertoire when he returns (13/3/5 for his career). With Jimmer, Hayward and Budinger just at the beginning of their careers, Kirk's time in the top 5 may be limited.
Honorable mentions: Jimmer (already), JJ Reddick, Ryan Anderson, Spencer Hawes
Mentions: Luke Ridnour, Gordon Hayward, Chris Anderson, Chase Budinger, Josh McRoberts, Steve Blakers
Dishonorable Mentions: Jeff Foster, Troy Murphy, Luke Walton, The Immortal Brian Cardinal, Brian Scalabrine
In other words, it's a terrible time to be a white American guy. I mean, not in society. Being a white guy is great in American society. But in basketball, not good.
I expect these rankings to change as the season wears on, especially the latter part of it. Jimmer, Ryan Anderson, Hansbrough and Hawes could be some of the breakout players of the entire NBA this season. But what won't change is how much I love this question. Let the debates begin.