Monday, August 6, 2007

On the best 100 NBA players of the 2000s (NBA)

As promised, I am using my value rating system to determine the best players in the recent years of the NBA. Before I get into it, a couple of definitions.

First, recent. By recent I mean the 2000’s. For the ratings that follow, I am exclusively using the 1999-2000 through 2006-2007 seasons. So Michael Jordan, for the purposes of this list, played only two seasons, both for Washington. This is the cutoff point because so far, that is all I have calculated. I decided after the lockout season was a good cutoff point for now.

Second, best. Is it a measure of how dominant a player was in his prime? Of how long his prime lasted? Of how long he lasted?

Probably a combination. Borrowing heavily from Bill James’ system in the Historical Baseball Abstract, I have defined three measures, using my Value Score (VS) system.

(1) Total Value Score.

(2) Value Score per 82 games.

(3) Value Score of Best 3 Consecutive Seasons

The first two measures consider a player’s entire body of work over the time period. The overall total rewards durability and consistency, and also encourages conservative ratings for young players who may only have a few years. The per-82 rewards pure quality, ignoring injuries or youth. The top 3 seasons is in there to measure how good the player was at his best. By the way, if someone hasn’t played three seasons, their total is still divided by three. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself on rating rookies and sophs.

I drew the line for consideration at any player who had reached a Value Score of 20 or greater in any of the eight seasons. 119 players fit this criterion. Once I had this pool of players, I normalized each of the three categories, to ensure the three dimensions were weighted equally. By adding up the z-scores by player, I determined my 100 Top Players of the 2000s.

One more thing. Value Scores are only for the regular season, but greatness is often defined in the playoffs. How does that factor in? I made adjustments for the postseason, both up and down. For example, in the 2006-2007 season, the Spurs were the highest adjusted team, credited with 11 extra wins for winning the NBA title. The Mavericks had the largest negative change, penalized 6 wins for their first-round loss to Golden State. Players on teams which missed the playoffs receive no adjustments. I didn’t decide on this method until after I coded the list, so it’s only up for the top 20. So just imagine somebody like Tony Parker is a few spots higher than he is.

Oh yeah, one absolute final last thing. There are a couple players who haven’t ever broken 20 VS, but whose consistency should put them in the top 100 anyway. Unfortunately, they got sorted out, and I don’t feel like looking back through to make sure I catch everybody, so for now I’ll just extend my apologies to Shane Battier, Mike Miller, and probably some others. If your favorite solid player didn’t make the list, that’s probably why.

Any more questions? OK then, here’s the chart, with some notes afterward (if the chart appears in an awkward format, sorry. I am working on it):

# Fname Lname
1 Kevin Garnett
2 Tim Duncan
3 Shaquille O'Neal
4 Jason Kidd
5 Dirk Nowitzki
6 LeBron James
7 Kobe Bryant
8 Steve Nash
9 Tracy McGrady
10 Ben Wallace
11 Shawn Marion
12 Gary Payton
13 Allen Iverson
14 Dwyane Wade
15 Chauncey Billups
16 Paul Pierce
17 Karl Malone
18 Stephon Marbury
19 Elton Brand
20 Chris Webber
21 Ray Allen
22 Vince Carter
23 John Stockton
24 Andre Miller
25 Steve Francis
26 Gilbert Arenas
27 Sam Cassell
28 Mike Bibby
29 Rasheed Wallace
30 Antoine Walker
31 Baron Davis
32 Lamar Odom
33 Pau Gasol
34 Jason Terry
35 Tony Parker
36 Andrei Kirilenko
37 Jermaine O'Neal
38 Marcus Camby
39 Michael Finley
40 Brad Miller
41 Dwight Howard
42 Yao Ming
43 Predrag Stojakovic
44 David Robinson
45 Jerry Stackhouse
46 Shareef Abdur-Rahim
47 Eddie Jones
48 Rashard Lewis
49 Anthony Mason
50 Chris Paul
51 Jamal Mashburn
52 Chris Bosh
53 Brent Barry
54 Richard Jefferson
55 Dikembe Motombo
56 Terrell Brandon
57 Darrell Armstrong
58 Manu Ginobili
59 Kirk Hinrich
60 Antwan Jamison
61 Latrell Sprewell
62 Reggie Miller
63 Jalen Rose
64 PJ Brown
65 Jason Williams
66 Amare Stoudamire
67 Damon Stoudamire
68 Nick Van Exel
69 Eric Snow
70 Doug Christie
71 Vlade Divac
72 Joe Johnson
73 Donyell Marshall
74 Carlos Boozer
75 Wally Szczerbiak
76 Michael Redd
77 Mehmet Okur
78 Tayshaun Prince
79 Andre Iguodala
80 Jason Richardson
81 Ron Artest
82 Scottie Pippen
83 Glenn Robinson
84 Antonio Davis
85 Allan Houston
86 Carmelo Anthony
87 Josh Howard
88 Derek Anderson
89 Mark Jackson
90 Luol Deng
91 Larry Hughes
92 Tyson Chandler
93 Rafer Alston
94 Alonzo Mourning
95 Drew Gooden
96 Grant Hill
97 Zach Randolph
98 Tim Hardaway
99 Brian Grant
100 Udonis Haslem

#1 All right. Garnett over Duncan? I can explain. There are five points I want to stress in regards to that decision.

1. It was very close.

2. The system rewards peak performance, and Garnett’s peak is the highest of the decade. KG used to win a lot of games with a minimal supporting cast. Consider that Minnesota won 58 games with Trenton Hassell, Fred Hoiberg and Mark Madsen in key roles. Or, better yet, they won 51 games the year before with Troy Hudson as the second best player on the team.

3. Durability played a role. Not that Duncan isn’t reliable, but Garnett averaged more than 80 games a season over the eight years, including six straight of 81 or more.

4. Over the course of their careers overall, Duncan would/will probably be ahead of Garnett. Remember, the Spurs won the title the year before the study began, and Duncan is slightly better than Garnett right now.

5. Don’t forget, it was very close.

I do not think there is much of an argument they should not be the top two.

#3 Shaq outdoes everyone outside those two, despite his recent injuries and the fact that a substantial portion of his prime came in the previous decade. Considering what a force of nature he was at his best, I think this is reasonable.

#7 That ranking also makes this one reasonable. There should be little doubt, really, that Kobe Bryant was the sidekick on the Lakers’ championship teams. Look at how far Shaq helped carry the Florida teams both before and since. After Shaq, Kobe has really performed as just another gunner, not good enough to carry a weak supporting cast much over .500. As far as the regular season is concerned, there isn't much evidence to put him ahead of Tracy McGrady, and even Kobe’s playoff success is tempered by the fact that during those runs, the best player on his team was somebody else. In contrast, there has rarely been a question of the best player on Kidd and Nowitzki’s teams, and there has been absolutely no question on LeBron’s. All of these teams have won a bunch of games and made a Finals appearance, which is far more than the post-Shaq Lakers can say. Also, while he is undoubtedly not as big a factor as Kobe, Lamar Odom’s contributions to the current Lakers are underestimated. The rumored Jermaine O’Neal trade, giving up Odom and Bynum, would not have been wise.

#11 I think it is worth noting that Shawn Marion was an established star even in the B.N. era. Nash is a great player, and fun to watch, but Marion has been almost as indispensable to these Suns. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened had he gone elsewhere.

#13 Iverson would have cracked the top ten if he could stay healthy a little better.

#17, #23 The fact that both of these Utah guys made the Top 25, in just five and four seasons at the end of their careers, shows how amazing they were.

#36 Kirilenko will be an interesting one to follow. His 03-04 through 05-06 seasons were worthy of a rising superstar, but last year was a major hiccup. If he finds his form, the Jazz will be extremely good for the foreseeable future.

#41 Not quite the trajectory of LeBron and Wade, but Howard will push the edges of the top 25 with another season like last year in 2007-08.

#50 Speaking of trajectory…let me tell you how good Chris Paul’s rookie year was. Not better than LeBron’s, Carmelo’s, or Wade’s. Not better than Howard’s, or Okafor’s, or Deron Williams’, or anybody’s. Not better; better. A LOT better. If not for injury, he would have had the best first two years of anyone in the sample; as it is he trails only King James. In short, this guy should never have fallen to fourth.

#66, #81 In fairness to Mr. Stoudamire, I should probably have counted 04-05 and 06-07 as consecutive seasons, considering he only played two games in between due to the knee injury. This would raise him about ten spots on the list. If I skipped over the Artest suspended season, it would have a smaller but similar effect. But since he decided to do that right as he and the Pacers were on their way up, that whole idea is a lot more speculative.

#72, #76, #83, #85, #86, #91 Proof that the system expects some quality supporting numbers to go with the points.

#92 Proof that the system does appreciate the numbers other than the points.

#105 Not listed, but this is the position MJ earned for his two Wizards’ seasons.

In the future, I hope to expand these ratings back into the 1990’s, and beyond.

No comments: