October 4, 2009

Top Players of the Decade?

Filed under: Uncategorized — wwinston @ 7:49 am

                I am getting tons of flack about saying that last season Lamar Odom, per minute was more valuable to the Lakers than Kobe. This gets to the heart of how you evaluate basketball players (see my book Mathletics for more details).  There are two schools of thought on evaluating NBA players. One school says make the most of the box score data. For example, NBA efficiency measures a player based on the  following metric (evaluated on a per minute basis).

((Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks) – ((Field Goals Att. – Field Goals Made) + (Free Throws Att. – Free Throws Made) + Turnovers)).

       There are two problems with this metric: The box score stats are weighted towards offense (and basketball is half defense!) and the “weights” that multiply each box score stat are fairly arbitrary. In fact if a player shoots 35% (which is poor) taking more shots increases his NBA efficiency. I believe that David Berri and his colleagues (see http://dberri.wordpress.com/) have found the best set of linear weights based on box scores stats. By PER and NBA efficiency  Kobe was much better than Odom last season. By Win Score Kobe was only slightly better than Odonm and was inferior to Odom during the 2007-2008 season.

        My partner Jeff Sagarin and I believe in evaluating players based on  how they impact the score of the game and the chance of the team winning We find the set of player ratings that best fit the scores of the game segments which hare defined by who is on the floor. We call this Adjusted +/-, since we modify the old hockey measure to adjust for who you play with and who you play against. On this metric Lamar comes out much better than Kobe last season (but not in other seasons).  The nice thing about Adjusted +/- is that it measures defense as accurately as offense.

   Based on our ratings from 2000-2009 here are the top 10 players of the decade.           


Top 10 Players of the Decade

1.KG +11.7

2.Duncan +11.2

3. LeBron James +10.9

4. Dirk +10.4

5. Wade +8.9

6. Chris Paul +8.6

7. Kobe Bryant +8.4

 8. Stockton +8.2

9. Manu Ginobili +7.5

10. Rasheed Wallace +7.5

        Of course, you say, why is Rasheed Wallace here? In his prime (2001-2006), Rasheed averaged a +10 rating. How can he be better than Shaq?  First of all Shaq’s best years were in the 1990’s. Remember Rasheed’s team beat Kobe and Shaq in the championship. This only happened after the Pistons traded for Rasheed.  If Kobe and Shaq were so great how could this happen? By the way, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are #17 and #18 for the decade, so it looks like this year’s Celtics have 4 legitimate Hall of Fame Candidates (although they are all probably past their prime).  Rasheed’s technical fouls propensity may prevent him from being realized for the great player that he was (is?), but the numbers speak for themselves.


  1. [...] fans (and others) responded so emotionally that Winston felt the need to clarify his findings in this post on his personal blog, waynewinston.com. What’s interesting for our  purposes is [...]

    Pingback by The 20 Best Players of the Decade » Boston Celtics Basketball – Celtics news, rumors and analysis – CelticsHub.com — October 4, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

  2. [...] b. In addition to the book, Wayne has also set up a blog (waynewinston.com).  This blog provides additional analysis in the spirit of his book.  I did want to comment briefly on something Wayne said this past weekend: [...]

    Pingback by Should We Expect the Lakers to Repeat? « The Wages of Wins Journal — October 5, 2009 @ 11:17 am

  3. Is there a way to use +/- as the definitive defensive stat? As in use adjusted +/- only taking into account defensive possessions, (so theoretically only using the minus), and the player with the highest (aka least negative) rating would be the definitive best defensive player.

    The reason is a player who has a very high +/- could theoretically be bad defensively, just exceptionally good offensively. I want to find the players who have high +/- due to being very good defensively despite lackluster offense.

    Comment by Garron — October 5, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

  4. I don’t have a problem with Rasheed being on the list. He’s was underrated through his prime. However, I don’t agree with the anecdote you use to justify it (“Remember Rasheed’s team beat Kobe and Shaq in the championship. This only happened after the Pistons traded for Rasheed.”).

    It’s not as if that Pistons team played the Lakers in the finals without Wallace, so saying that the trade was THE pivotal event there is specious, especially since the Saq + Kobe lakers did play Wallace annually in the playoffs while he was on the Trailblazers- and weren’t beaten. Rasheed definitely helped the Pistons, but won as a result of several factors including Wallace (and the fact that Brian Cook was left to guard him after Malone went down), the Laker guards’ inability to defend Billups and Tayshaun Prince’s ability to guard Kobe, as well as locker room turmoil turning a difficult series worse.

    Comment by J.D. Hastings — October 9, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

  5. [...] has been the best player of the decade so far, with an adjusted plus-minus of 11.7, followed by Tim Duncan (11.2), LeBron (10.9) and [...]

    Pingback by Winston has thoughts on everything NBA — and stats to match | NBA Talks — October 27, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

  6. Wow, awesome blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is fantastic, as well as the content!

    Comment by Maria — February 11, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

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