Carmelo: ESPN's No. 64 ranking is 'blatant disrespect'

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports / Action Images

His prime has passed him by and Carmelo Anthony can no longer be the leading figure on a playoff team, but he's still undoubtedly a quality player after averaging over 20 points a night for a 15th straight season.

And yet, a panel of ESPN writers had Anthony listed as the NBA's 64th-best player heading into the upcoming season. That put him one slot ahead of Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (who is offensively inept despite tremendous defensive tenacity), and behind Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball (who is an unproven 19-year-old rookie).

Unsurprisingly, Anthony took exception to his rather harsh grade and fired back at ESPN on Twitter.

The critiques of Anthony largely center around his aversion to defense and affliction for midrange jumpers. Those factors outweigh the many positives that Anthony brings, his detractors would argue. These evaluations are about the totality - both the good and the bad - that a player brings.

Where the conflict arises is when role players are compared to stars. By definition, role players like Smart have limited responsibilities, and will be the last priority of the opposing defense, so they can focus on maximizing their narrow roles. Star players like Anthony have a greater responsibility to create for others despite being the focus of defensive attention, but taking on more possessions leaves more room for error and less energy for defense.

So how does a good role player like Smart compare to a waning star in Anthony? It's a difficult question that leads to awkward answers where Anthony feels offended.