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
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.