The ranking business is a fun business. Everyone likes debating things that really have zero impact on reality. Our latest 3.0 definitive NML rankings evolved from a top 5 into a top 10. The boys from the ‘It Feels Right’ podcast, Adam Stone and Rob Nunnery, have upped us by starting with a top 25 men’s doubles rankings a couple of weeks ago. The rankings were done by Stone, and they have also come out with a women’s doubles top 25 that we’ll have a post on tomorrow. Stone made some changes to his rankings after their podcast came out, so we’ll use his version 2.0 as our basis for some reaction. You can go to the YouTube comments of their top 25 men’s podcast to see Stone’s rankings in the comments too.
There was some discussion on their most recent podcast about what ‘rankings’ mean to them. To clarify, for us, rankings means today, right now, where each player stacks up against one another. Here is the link to our men’s rankings from a couple of months ago in case y’all are curious.
We did not have any big disagreements with Stone’s top 10. There is definitely some nit-picking we will do later on, but our hard disagrees start after the top 10.
Erik Lange at #18: We may be full fledged members of the Erik Lange fan club at this point. When we did our rankings, we had him slotted somewhere in the top 15. #18 is not as egregious as #20, which is where Stone had him on the podcast, but it is still too low. When doing rankings, sometimes a good exercise can be to think about who players ahead of them would partner with. What player out there ahead of Callan Dawson, #17 on Stone’s list, is choosing Callan as their partner over Erik Lange? Is Collin Johns picking Thomas Wilson as his partner over Erik Lange? We don’t think so.
Travis Rettenmaier at #20: This is a right now rankings, not a future ranking. Joey Farias is a guy that the two of us disagree on where he would be ranked, but Farias’ podium results are undeniable this year. Farias struggled at MLP, but he has two good recent results with a podium in 2022 at APP Beer City and one 4th place in the PPA Cincinnati. He has only played 7 tournaments in 2022, not including MLP, where he did hold up quite well with JW.. Rettenmaier at #20 is just a very high ranking for a largely unproven player.
Dekel Bar at #5: Dekel Bar is tough because he is that left-sided stud with some inconsistent 2022 results. He won gold with Kyle Yates over JW/Dylan near the beginning of the year but his results in his less comfortable right-sided role with JW Johnson have not been all-worldly. Frazier and Daescu, #6 and #9 on Stone’s list, beat JW and Dekel. Of course, Frazier is a better fit next to any left-side player, but Dekel’s results have not been as high-end as we expected them to be throughout 2022.
Collin Johns at #7: Collin is the hardest guy to rank in the top 25, but his showing two weekends ago in Atlanta proved why he kind of has to be a top 5 guy until further notice. He’s beating what some consider to be the best men’s team out there, and it was largely on him to figure out how to be a lot better against Riley Newman head-to-head. Collin will always need a left-sided stud to optimize his results, but we can’t forget that at the PPA Championships last year he got a 4th place with Erik Lange, losing in 3 to Matt Wright and Ben Johns. It’d be fun to see what Collin would do with JW Johnson out there.
Thomas Wilson at #12: Stone had Wilson at #11 when he did his podcast, but moved him down a spot to #12 in favor of Zane Navratil. Either way, it’s probably too high for Wilson. If you’re wanting to include upside as part of the equation, Wilson is right up there at the top. It has not been a bad year by Wilson relative to other pro pickleball players, but Wilson seems to avoid harder critique due to his talent even though his results have been up and down, including at MLP. If you’re doing a draft right now, there are a number of guys lower on Stone’s list that are likely taken ahead of him.
Tyler Loong at #13: No respect for Tyler Loong. His game is not flashy, and it must be frustrating for other pros to see the relatively limited amount of work he appears to put into his game. His results are really good. He played well with Tyson McGuffin earlier in the year when Devilliers got stuck in France. Recently, Loong has gone bronze, bronze, semi-finals in his last 3 events. The two bronze medals came with Callan Dawson, who is all the way down at #17 on the list and the semi-final in Atlanta was with Spencer Smith, #22 on the list. He should be ahead of Thomas Wilson and Zane Navratil. Is anyone in the top 10 choosing Navratil or Wilson ahead of Loong as their partner?
Drake Bernstein at #25: You can’t say nobody knows Drake Bernstein. The above screenshot is a snippet of a text thread between the two of us when we were putting together our first set of rankings together in April of 2021. Drake hasn’t been around much since then, but let’s not forget the guy has a pickleball court in his backyard. He is not completely without pickleball. The question is whether you could throw Drake Bernstein into a pro tournament with all the best players and expect him to play at a top 25 level tomorrow. That is questionable as talented as Bernstein is. Granted, neither of us has seen Bernstein in ages.
Anna Leigh Waters No Longer Ranked: She was at #25 on the initial podcast then moved off. This would be a lot of fun to see Anna Leigh play some men’s pro. A couple of years ago, Ben Johns and Simone Jardim beat Adam Stone and Dekel Bar at a real tournament. Maybe that’s what Stone had on his mind when he put together his first list. It’s not as farfetched as some might think to have Anna Leigh somewhere in that top 25.
Dylan Frazier at #6: We completed our rankings a couple of months ago, and had Dylan Frazier at #7. His play since that time in men’s doubles has been stellar. We noted above that he won gold with Andrei Daescu against JW Johnson and Dekel Bar, who are both players that Stone had ahead of him. We thought Frazier should be ahead of Dekel Bar two months ago, and nothing has happened since then to change that opinion. Frazier almost beat Matt Wright/Riley Newman with JW Johnson, of course. Having Dylan ahead of Collin is definitely justifiable and we could get on board with an argument that Dylan is the best right-sided player in pickleball.
Tyson McGuffin at #10: Generally, we think that Tyson’s men’s doubles game is underrated. He plays his role well and gets left out of the discussion as a top player probably because of his long-term lack of upside, up and down 2022 results and the mechanical nature of his game. Tyson and Jay are starting to play up to their more expected level, and McGuffin’s results with Loong earlier in the year are another indication of Tyson’s rock solid game.
Players in the Mix who Missed the Cut (in no particular order): Eden Lica, Joey Farias, Pablo Tellez, James Ignatowich, Gabe Tardio, Wes Burrows, Hayden Patriquin, Stefan Auvergne, Hunter Johnson, Yates Johnson, Altaf Merchant, Ben Newell, Chuck Taylor, Austin Gridley.
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