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Best Player in the NBA by the Numbers

I was planning to wait until the end of the season before I did this advanced stats overall player ranking, but it turns out I needed the info for today's Hoops Lab article so I went ahead and did it now.  I have already done this type of analysis to rank 10 of the best  point guards, 27 of the best wing players, and 25 of the best big men in the NBA this year so the methodology is well established.   

Methodology review: Again, I will show the raw values for each player in each stat, then at the end rank-order how each player finishes in each stat versus the other big men under consideration.  The end result gives an interesting rough-and-ready ranking of what "the numbers" say about who is really playing the best this year...not always the same thing as our perceptions. 

From those previous ranking lists, I took the top player groupings from each category and put them into this pool to grade 20 of the best-of-the-best players in the NBA against each other.  Without further ado...

PER: Hollinger's stat, probably the most popular of the "advanced stats", favorable (compared to other advanced stats) to volume scorers and players that generate a lot of free throws; generally ranks those considered "great" by the general public well, though also will tend to have role players with good scoring-per-minute very highly.


PER
LeBron James 27
Dwight Howard 26.3
Dwyane Wade 25.1
Chris Paul 24.6
Kevin Love 24.5
Dirk Nowitzki 24.4
Kevin Durant 23.9
Kobe Bryant 23.8
Russell Westbrook 23.6
Pau Gasol 23.4
Derrick Rose 23.3
Manu Ginobili 22.4
LaMarcus Aldridge 21.9
Steve Nash 21.8
Al Horford 21.8
Andrew Bynum 21.6
Deron Williams 21.3
Kevin Garnett 20.8
Paul Pierce 19.5
Rajon Rondo 17.1

Win Shares: From Basketball-reference.com, emphasizes shooting/scoring efficiency; loves points per shot (thus values FTs drawn).  To account for different minutes played, we're going to look at Win Shares per 48 minutes played.


WS48
Chris Paul 0.252
Dwight Howard 0.237
LeBron James 0.236
Pau Gasol 0.229
Dirk Nowitzki 0.224
Kevin Love 0.217
Andrew Bynum 0.213
Manu Ginobili 0.206
Dwyane Wade 0.204
Derrick Rose 0.201
Paul Pierce 0.2
Al Horford 0.199
Kevin Garnett 0.196
Kevin Durant 0.19
Kobe Bryant 0.179
LaMarcus Aldridge 0.171
Steve Nash 0.171
Russell Westbrook 0.155
Deron Williams 0.145
Rajon Rondo 0.129

Wins Produced: Dave Berri's controversial stat (most likely to be trashed on an APBRmetric board) is also the one seemingly growing fastest in popular usage; wins produced values what he defines as possessions, so loves rebounds, steals, and blocks and doesn't like TOs; doesn't value shot creation, but does value assists.  We'll look at Wins Produced per 48 minutes.


WP48
Kevin Love 0.472
Dwight Howard 0.41
Chris Paul 0.367
LeBron James 0.35
Kevin Garnett 0.313
Andrew Bynum 0.3
Steve Nash 0.297
Dwyane Wade 0.285
Al Horford 0.28
Pau Gasol 0.265
Rajon Rondo 0.259
Manu Ginobili 0.249
Paul Pierce 0.225
Kevin Durant 0.223
Deron Williams 0.203
Kobe Bryant 0.197
Dirk Nowitzki 0.194
Russell Westbrook 0.188
Derrick Rose 0.185
LaMarcus Aldridge 0.126

Roland Rating: 82games.com's Roland Rating is based upon a combination of PER and +/- stats.  It looks at the individual PER of each player, the PER of their primary defensive assignment, and subtracts the 2 for a 1-on-1 value then they combine that 1-on-1 value with a team-impact based on-court/off-court +/- stat to get the rating.  Tends to produce fewest "what???" rankings, because players that rank out highly in both the 1-on-1 and team stats are almost universally who we consider to be among the best in the game...though the order at the top isn't always what you'd expect. (Note: 82games last updated on March 5, so these results are only current to that date)



Roland Rating
LeBron James 15.8
Dwight Howard 14.6
Steve Nash 13.9
Kevin Garnett 12
Manu Ginobili 11.4
Dwyane Wade 11.3
Paul Pierce 11.3
Dirk Nowitzki 11.3
Chris Paul 10.6
LaMarcus Aldridge 10.1
Al Horford 9.7
Pau Gasol 9.4
Kevin Durant 8.8
Rajon Rondo 8.4
Kobe Bryant 8.1
Kevin Love 7.9
Andrew Bynum 7.1
Derrick Rose 6.7
Deron Williams 4.4
Russell Westbrook 2.8

1-year Adjusted +/-: This is Basketballvalue.com's APM calculation.  For the point guards I used 1-year APM, which I don't love because APM is so incredibly noisy that a single year (or less) doesn't give conclusive answers.  For the wings I used 2-year APM (which still may be too short for an APM calculation and also includes data from last season, which I really don't like) because at the time there were too many "no freaking way" values in the 1-year APMs that didn't match either the 2-year average or any stretch of common sense.  I actually like longer APM calculations, 4 years or more, to really clean up the noise and give a robust effect.  Nevertheless, we're talking about this year specifically and the 1-year values seem to have been cleaned up since I did the wings, so I'm back to using the 1-year APM here (with associated standard error):


APM 1 yr APM 1 yr SE
LaMarcus Aldridge 17.45 6.06
Steve Nash 15.35 6.46
Chris Paul 15.19 6.2
Dirk Nowitzki 13.69 4.26
Dwight Howard 12.42 5.36
Kevin Garnett 12.2 5.98
Andrew Bynum 11.82 5.65
Pau Gasol 11.04 6.16
LeBron James 10.44 4.71
Paul Pierce 10.14 5.66
Manu Ginobili 9.64 4.88
Derrick Rose 9.17 9.64
Kevin Love 5.37 5.98
Kevin Durant 5.09 5.58
Dwyane Wade 4.15 5.7
Deron Williams 2.36 4.75
Al Horford 0.61 4.95
Russell Westbrook -1.75 8.37
Rajon Rondo -3.79 5.53
Kobe Bryant -6.68 6.93

Overall Rank orders: Giving each of our 20 guys a '1' through '20' ranking based on where they ranked in each stat, here is a summary of how each guy did.  I'll add an average across the 5 stats (with standard error) to give us a better idea how our seat-of-the-pants-advanced-stat-cross-section-view ranks 20 of the best players in the NBA this year:


PER WS48 WP48 Rld Rtg APM 
Avg. Std. Er.
Dwight Howard 2 2 2 2 5   2.6 0.6
LeBron James 1 3 4 1 9   3.6 1.5
Chris Paul 4 1 3 9 3   4.0 1.3
Dirk Nowitzki 6 5 17 6 4   7.6 2.4
Kevin Love 5 6 1 16 13   8.2 2.7
Dwyane Wade 3 9 8 8 15   8.6 1.9
Pau Gasol 10 4 10 12 8   8.8 1.4
Steve Nash 15 17 7 3 2   8.8 3.1
Kevin Garnett 18 13 5 4 6   9.2 2.7
Manu Ginobili 12 8 12 5 11   9.6 1.4
Andrew Bynum 16 7 6 17 7   10.6 2.4
LaMarcus Aldridge 13 16 20 10 1   12.0 3.2
Paul Pierce 19 11 13 7 10   12.0 2.0
Kevin Durant 7 14 14 13 14   12.4 1.4
Al Horford 14 12 9 11 17   12.6 1.4
Derrick Rose 11 10 19 18 12   14.0 1.9
Kobe Bryant 8 15 16 15 20   14.8 1.9
Russell Westbrook 9 18 18 20 18   16.6 1.9
Rajon Rondo 20 20 11 14 19   16.8 1.8
Deron Williams 17 19 15 19 16   17.2 0.8

Conclusions:

Interestingly, the top three players in this ranking corresponded to the top big man (Howard), the top wing (James), and the top point guard (Paul) from the previous three analyses.  I didn't expect it to break down quite that evenly.

We see some of the same dichotomies between the box score (PER, WS, WP) and +/- (Rol Rtg, APM) stats that I noted in the big man article.  The top-5 in the box score categories are Howard, James, Paul, Kevin Love and Dwyane Wade.  But if you look only at the stats that utilize +/-, the top five are Steve Nash, Howard, James, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Garnett.  Nash, Love and Garnett are the three extreme cases that were great in one type but much lower in the other, but even at the top the stat separation was clear as Paul wasn't top-5 in the +/- stats and LeBron was barely top-5 there.  Howard was the only one that was top-2 by both types of stats.

Point guards fared the worst of the three position types in this analysis, with four of the bottom five slots on the list.  Big men fared the best, with seven of the top-12 slots including three of the top-5.

Runaway MVP favorite Derrick Rose finished 16th out of this group of 20, slightly ahead of Kobe Bryant (who also gets a few MVP mentions) but well behind other contenders Howard and James.  On the whole, when I factor in statistical production with team impact and team results I would likely have Howard as my current MVP with James right on his heels.


(If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz.  Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio every Friday afternoon at 1:00 PM EST on Rotowire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 147, Sirius 211.)

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