Best Player in the NBA by the Numbers
- By: The Professor
- On: 3/23/2011 2:49:00 PM
- View Comments : 5
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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.
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.
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.
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)
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|
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.|
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.)