Surprisingly, Jason Maxiell made it all the way to No. 239 in ESPN’s rankings of the top 500 current NBA players and incoming rookies. The surprise, for me at least, is that Maxiell finished where he did yet Chris Wilcox, a much better player last season, finished nearly 100 spots lower at No. 330.
I believe Maxiell’s ranking is mainly a product of people remembering his highlight reel plays and energy he became known for a few years ago and not realizing that statistically, his production has fallen off a cliff over the last two seasons. James Herbert at Hardwood Paroxysm recently discussed the Maxiell phenomenon:
Go to YouTube and type in his name. You’ll love him.
K, now go to Basketball-Reference. Same thing. Yeah, see that 2010-2011 season? Do you still love Jason Maxiell? He’s the worst.
You can and should still love Maxiell’s dunks and blocks, but let’s be realistic about his prospects as a rotation player. Aside from highlights plays, screen-setting, and baby-eating, you’re not getting anything from him. He could never shoot, pass, or dribble. He’s regressed in a big way on the boards. Last year was the third straight season that his production has dropped and this time he found himself out of the rotation for long stretches. It’s sad when the undersized overachiever stops overachieving.
Maxiell earned his spot in a NBA rotation because, despite being undersized, he had amazing athleticism which allowed him to rebound well, block some shots and finish strong around the basket. But guys whose games are predicated on athleticism don’t always have a long shelf life. Maxiell got a little older. He got a little heavier (hey, it happens to the best of us as we age). And his other basketball skills, as Herbert pointed out, just didn’t develop enough for him to add new wrinkles to his game as he aged.
Like many Pistons who have big contracts and who have underperformed, I still maintain hope that Maxiell can get back to his old form. But unfortunately, based on his last two seasons, he’s ranked much too high in the ESPN rankings.
If you’re on Twitter, feel free to follow along. The @NBAonESPN account is unveiling the names and picking the best comments that use the #NBARank hashtag for retweets and also featuring some on ESPN.com.