Based on all games through MLK Day, the three best players by Adjusted +/- ratings are Dirk, LeBron, and DWade in a virtually dead heat. After adjusting for the abilities of their opponents and teammates all three players rate 23 points per game better than an average player. The greatly improved KD is 4th (+18 points.)
Of course, I will be criticized for not having Kobe at the top of our list. Kobe is a great player (his Adjusted +/- is 12 points per game better than an average player), but due to the fact he has much better teammates than Dirk, LeBron and DWade , I think many people overestimate Kobe’s abilities. For the algebraically minded reader, here is an analysis of why Kobe (based on play this year) is probably not 25 points better than an average player.
With Kobe in the Lakers have played 11 points better than average. 65% of the time Kobe is in with Artest, 67% of the time he is in with Odom and 49% of the time he is in with Gasol. Thus on average Kobe is on the court with 1.8 of these excellent players and 2.2 other (not so good players).
Let’s assume Gasol, Artest and Odom average 5 points better than average (this is consistent with their past abilities and our estimates from this year). Then
(Kobe ability)+ 1.8(average ability of RA, PG and LO) + 2.2(Average ability of other Lakers) = 11
Let’s put in Kobe ability = +25 . Then we get
25 +1.8(5) +2.2(Average ability of other Lakers) = 11
or Average ability of other Lakers is around -10 points. There is no way the other Laker players are this bad. Farmar, Fisher, Bynum, Brown, Walton and Mbenga may not be superstars, but they are just not this bad.
Well let’s suppose that RA, PG and LO are just average players. Then for Kobe to be 25 points better than average we must have
25 + 1.8(0) +2.2(Average ability of other Lakers) = 11
or Average ability of other Lakers = -6 points.
Estimating other Lakers to be 6 points below an average player seems plausible. Therefore, if you want to believe Kobe is as good as Dirk, LeBron, or DWade, you should believe that Odom, Gasol and Artest (together) are of average ability. If you believe that, fine. I don’t believe that PG, RA and LO are average players!