The Basketball Jones 40: What does that mean exactly? Well, it’s a little hard to define. It’s certainly not a list of the 40 best players in the league right now — in fact, a couple players on the TBJ 40 would be ones that teams would gladly pay just to go away (and some have). And it’s not a list of our 40 favorite players, either — the combined man-hours that some of us have spent rooting against a couple of these guys would certainly disqualify that as well. It’s not even the 40 funniest or most interesting players, as a couple players are dull as dishwater off the court, but do enough on the hardwood to make their inclusion undeniable.

No, the best way we can define the Basketball Jones 40 is as the 40 players that are most important to our site right now. The players we write about the most, the players we follow the closest, the players that TBJ could least afford to be without. And what goes into that is an entire series of factors, ranging from their on-court success to their off-court headline making to their general likability as athletes, celebrities and human beings.

From these general factors, we’ve delineated ten specific categories — 2011 Season, Legacy/Career, Drama/Controversy, Go-To Move, Highlight Play, Comedic Potential, Nicknames, Definitive Quote, Non-Hoops Ventures and Most Poignant NBA Relationship — and used them as a grading rubric to determine just how crucial these players are to our blog in September 2011. (For the record, the general structure is lifted from the Popdust 40, a project I worked on earlier this year, which used a similar scoring system to grade the 40 biggest pop stars.)

So check in with us over the course of the next week and a half as we count down from 40-1 on our list, starting with abbreviated explanations of our scoring and eventually growing into full-bodied essays for our top ten. And if you disagree with our rankings … well, it’s not your blog, so you wouldn’t even know, would you?

No. 40: JOHN WALL

2011 Season (12/20), Legacy/Career (2/10), Drama/Controversy (1/10), Go-To Move (2/10), Highlight Play (7/10), Comedic Potential (2/10), Nicknames (2/10), Quote (1/10), Non-Hoops Ventures (2/5), Poignant NBA Relationship (3/5)

Total Score: 34

Don’t blame John Wall for Blake Griffin being so awesome. Despite being overshadowed by a guy drafted a year earlier, Wall still had a great season, taking home four Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month awards and making first team All-Rookie at the end o the year. If this summer is any indication — the crossovers, the hilarious Reeboks, the non-title predictions — Wall should be flying up this list in the future. (TK)

*****

No. 39: BRAD MILLER

2011 Season (2/20), Legacy/Career (4/10), Drama/Controversy (1/10), Go-To Move (1/10), Highlight Play (1/10), Comedic Potential (10/10), Nicknames (3/10), Quote (10/10), Non-Hoops Ventures (5/5), Poignant NBA Relationship (4/5)

Total Score: 41

How does one who averaged 6.4 PPG last season crack The Jones Top 40? Easy. Rock some camouflage shorts, look like Trey Kerby, and drop the greatest scouting report of all-time: “[You have to] keep [Joakim Noah] off the glass and hit him with some slow pump fakes. Make him laugh and distract him.” Bloody brilliant. Long live the “YMCA All-Star.” (JE)

*****

No. 38: KEVIN LOVE

2011 Season (16/20), Legacy/Career (2/10), Drama/Controversy (5/10), Go-To Move (2/10), Highlight Play (3/10), Comedic Potential (10/10), Nicknames (2/10), Quote (2/10), Non-Hoops Ventures (4/5), Poignant NBA Relationship (3/5)

Total Score: 49

Don’t bother searching “Kevin Love highlights” — the forage will be mostly fruitless. We at The Jones appreciate the “specialists” of the NBA. The same year Dennis Rodman was inducted in to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the “Love Machine” was putting up Rodman-like rebound numbers, which included a modern day record 53 consecutive double-doubles. If only he would drop the volleyball career. (TM)

*****

No. 37: BRIAN CARDINAL

2011 Season (10/20), Legacy/Career (4/10), Drama/Controversy (2/10), Go-To Move (6/10), Highlight Play (3/10), Comedic Potential (9/10), Nicknames (10/10), Quote (5/10), Non-Hoops Ventures (3/5), Poginant NBA Relationship (3/5)

Total Score: 53

When Seth Meyers made a couple of Brian Cardinal jokes at the ESPYs this year, it cemented the unlikeliest breakout season of last season. Not that Cardinal’s stats were all that great (2.6 points a game, well short of even his 5.0 career average) — but the unexpected PT he got in the Mavs’ finals upset of the Heat (hitting two 3′s!) made him as close to a household name as he ever could have hoped for. With a championship ring and a couple of the greatest (if most insulting) nicknames in recent NBA history on his resumé, Brian Cardinal is now a force to be reckoned with in this league—even if he’d be lucky to get a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum when the NBA finally returns. (AU)

*****

No. 36. MATT BONNER

2011 Season (9/20), Legacy/Career (4/10), Drama/Controversy (1/10), Go-To Move (8/10), Highlight Play (3/10), Comedic Potential (8/10), Nickname (8/10), Quote (5/10), Non-Hoops Ventures (4/5), Poignant NBA Relationship (3/5)

Total Score: 53

Matt Bonner may never be a be a Hall of Famer, an All-Star, or with the exception of a stretch with the ’08-’09 Spurs, even a league starter. But he’s been one of the league’s most consistent deep threats off the bench for over half a decade now, and he’s proven himself to be one of the league’s most engaging personalities off the court—not to mention a personal friend of the blog, and possibly the league’s pre-eminent sandwich blogger. (AU)

*****

No. 35: HEDO TURKOGLU

2011 Season (7/20), Legacy/Career (3/10), Drama/Controversy (3/10), Go-To Move (2/10), Highlight Play (7/10), Comedic Potential (10/10), Nicknames (7/10), Quote (10/10), Non-Hoops Ventures (1/5), Poignant NBA Relationship (5/5)

Total Score: 55

If Turk didn’t look like Tas, then he wouldn’t be on this list. Duh. But the fact of the matter is he does, which is more than enough reason to include him. Not to mention, even if he didn’t look like the Internet’s favorite Greek basketball commentator, he still brings the funny on the reg. Exhibit A: Pizza. Exhibit B: “Ball.” (TK)

*****

No. 34: JAMES HARDEN

2011 Season (15/20), Legacy/Career (1/10), Drama/Controversy (5/10), Go-To Move (3/10), Highlight Play (9/10), Comedic Potential (9/10), Nicknames (7/10), Quote (2/10), Non-Hoops Ventures (2/5), Poignant NBA Relationship (2/5)

Total Score: 55

Almost all members of The Basketball Jones sport beards (Skeets would if he could), so it’s natural that we give a head nod to the best facial hair in the NBA. If only his ultra-talented game was regarded as highly as his whiskers. While currently overshadowed in OKC by Durant and Westbrook, it won’t be long before he has a pedestal to call his own. (TM)

*****

No. 33: RUSSELL WESTBROOK

2011 Season (14/20), Legacy/Career (3/10), Drama/Controversy (9/10), Go-To Move (6/10), Highlight Play (9/10), Comedic Potential (4/10), Nicknames (1/10), Quote (3/10), Non-Hoops Ventures (2/5), Poignant NBA Relationship (5/5)

Total Score: 56

For a guy who scored the most points, shot the best percentages, had the highest PER and won the most games of his career, while also making his first All-Star and All-NBA teams, Russell Westbrook gets a lot of flak. That’s what happens when you take shots away from a guy who’s led the league in scoring two years running. It’s all good though. Westbrook’s still one of the best at his position, the kind of guy 25 teams wish they could start, and he and Kevin Durant are bros. Throw on a pair of horn rim glasses and have a smile. Last year was chill, no matter what anyone says. (TK)

*****

No. 32: DERON WILLIAMS

2011 Season (14/20), Legacy/Career (4/10), Drama/Controversy (6/10), Go-To Move (8/10), Highlight Play (7/10), Comedic Potential (4/10), Nicknames (3/10), Quote (7/10), Non-Hoops Ventures (2/5), Poignant NBA Relationship (2/5)

Total Score: 57

We all love Deron Williams’ crossover, that’s for sure. Even NBA players love it, when they’re not the ones being made to look like fools. But other than that — and the fact that he’s one of the top three point guards in the NBA — Deron Williams is kind of nondescript. He’s got the terrible haircut and the bad panther tattoo that covered an even worse panther tattoo (Johnny Panthers over here), plus the time he didn’t realize he really had to play in London, but he’s just kind of a dude. A really good basketball playing dude, but still a dude. (TK)

*****

No. 31: MICHAEL BEASLEY

2011 Season (11/10), Legacy/Career (2/10), Drama/Controversy (9/10), Go-To Move (5/10), Highlight Play (6/10), Comedic Potential (8/10), Nicknames (7/10), Quote (6/10), Non-Hoops Ventures (1/5), Poignant NBA Relationship (2/5)

Total Score: 57

On the court, Be Easy hasn’t quite lived up to the #2 draft slot he was taken in back in ’08, though he has managed to turn things around a little in his first year in Minnesota. Off the court, however, he’s been a consistent delight, thanks to his ever-transmogrifying hairdo, his unpredictable quotability (“I’m a monster and everyday is Halloween,” he once commented on a good night of play) and his predilection for getting caught with pot at inopportune moments. (AU)

*** COMING TUESDAY: No.’s 30-21 ***