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More Fun with Statistical +/-

Posted by Neil Paine on February 27, 2009

The other day, I talked at some length about "statistical plus/minus," which is just a regression of pure adjusted +/- on the conventional boxscore stats. In that post, I looked into the possibility of predicting the following season using a weighted average of the 3 previous seasons' SPM scores, but I realize that I sort of skimmed over the statistical +/- metric itself -- what are its strengths and weaknesses? What kind of players does it overrate and underrate?

In an effort to better understand the metric and answer these questions, I calculated the career leaders in SPM (combined NBA + ABA, minimum 15,000 career MP) through last Saturday's games. Here's the list:

Player          Pos     G       Min     SPM
---------------+--+----------+--------+------
michaeljordan   G       1072    41013   12.85
wiltchamberlain C       1045    47859   11.59
davidrobinson   C       987     34272   10.79
lebronjames     F       444     18083   10.00
charlesbarkley  F       1073    39330   9.03
k.abdul-jabbar  C       1560    57446   9.01
magicjohnson    G       906     33245   8.82
larrybird       F       897     34443   8.81
juliuserving    F       1243    45227   8.57
shaquilleo'neal C       1089    39103   8.21
bobpettit       F       792     30690   7.87
clydedrexler    G       1086    37537   7.79
oscarrobertson  G       1040    43886   7.75
hakeemolajuwon  C       1238    44222   7.70
elginbaylor     F       846     33863   7.59
karlmalone      F       1476    54852   7.50
andreikirilenko F       533     16671   7.37
timduncan       F       877     32481   7.30
tracymcgrady    F       784     27463   7.12
kevingarnett    F       1051    39570   6.91
boblanier       C       959     32103   6.24
kobebryant      G       921     33584   6.22
jerrywest       G       932     36571   6.17
bobbyjones      F       941     25728   6.16
conniehawkins   F       616     22232   6.08
dirknowitzki    F       812     29663   5.97
neiljohnston    C       516     18298   5.94
vincecarter     G       752     28333   5.88
billrussell     C       963     40726   5.85
larrynance      F       920     30697   5.74
dolphschayes    F       866     29800   5.65
johnstockton    G       1504    47764   5.63
rickbarry       F       1020    38153   5.56
waltfrazier     G       825     30965   5.45
paulpierce      F       788     29570   5.30
artisgilmore    C       1329    47150   5.16
docrivers       G       864     23567   5.16
alvinrobertson  G       779     24669   5.13
d.wilkins       F       1074    38113   5.10
billycunningham F       770     26844   5.09
scottiepippen   F       1178    41069   4.97
booutlaw        F       914     20750   4.91
eltonbrand      F       643     24421   4.87
gilbertarenas   G       431     16115   4.80
waltbellamy     C       1043    38940   4.72
chriswebber     F       831     30847   4.71
marquesjohnson  F       691     23694   4.65
sidneymoncrief  G       767     23150   4.60
rogerbrown      F       605     21454   4.57
wesunseld       C       984     35832   4.56
adriandantley   F       955     34151   4.55
natemcmillan    G       796     20462   4.53
jerrylucas      F       829     32131   4.43
larryjones      G       551     18956   4.43
fatlever        G       752     23814   4.33
granthill       F       759     27209   4.27
georgemcginnis  F       842     28179   4.26
shawnmarion     F       720     27136   4.23
m.r.richardson  G       556     18589   4.22
eddiejones      F       954     32777   4.21
barondavis      G       649     22998   4.17
alleniverson    G       880     36589   4.10
jasonkidd       G       1081    40211   4.10
paugasol        F       557     19806   4.10
alvanadams      C       988     27203   4.04
johndrew        F       739     21828   3.97
georgegervin    G       1060    35597   3.87
cliffhagan      F       839     24074   3.84
danissel        C       1218    41784   3.82
harrygallatin   F       496     15813   3.81
stevefrancis    G       576     21632   3.79
patrickewing    C       1183    40594   3.79
edmacauley      C       506     18071   3.75
chaunceybillups G       810     25891   3.73
baileyhowell    F       951     30627   3.70
benwallace      C       897     27787   3.66
rayallen        G       919     34244   3.65
reggiemiller    G       1389    47621   3.61
brentbarry      G       893     23447   3.61
vladedivac      C       1134    33838   3.53
shanebattier    F       591     19740   3.48
ronartest       G       577     20024   3.45
garypayton      G       1335    47117   3.44
mookieblaylock  G       889     31026   3.34
bobmcadoo       C       852     28327   3.32
cedricmaxwell   F       835     23769   3.31
marcuscamby     C       738     22742   3.30
jeffhornacek    G       1077    33964   3.28
johnsalley      F       748     16524   3.28
chrismullin     F       986     32163   3.22
clydelovellette C       704     19075   3.20
markaguirre     F       923     27730   3.18
mauricecheeks   G       1101    34845   3.16
kevinmchale     F       971     30118   3.10
kevinjohnson    G       735     25061   3.10
jacksikma       C       1107    36943   3.04
bradmiller      C       684     20685   3.01
cliffordray     C       784     19940   2.99
davidthompson   G       592     19406   2.98
warrenjabali    G       447     15264   2.98
alonzomourning  C       838     25976   2.94
paulpressey     G       724     19659   2.93
chrisbosh       F       414     15341   2.91
georgeyardley   F       472     15767   2.91
johnhavlicek    F       1270    46471   2.90
vernmikkelsen   F       567     18443   2.88
richkelley      C       814     17711   2.88
williewise      F       552     18438   2.87
davecowens      C       766     29565   2.86
herseyhawkins   G       983     32034   2.76
tomgola         G       698     22529   2.76
jimeakins       C       767     19013   2.73
pennyhardaway   G       704     23713   2.70
danmajerle      G       955     30206   2.69
richieguerin    G       847     27447   2.69
treerollins     C       1156    24028   2.68
footswalker     G       658     15036   2.67
donbuse         G       966     26180   2.65
worldb.free     G       886     26893   2.64
terrellbrandon  G       724     21545   2.63
braddaugherty   C       548     20029   2.63
larryfoust      C       677     19926   2.63
jimmyjones      G       686     23463   2.60
raywilliams     G       655     18462   2.60
detlefschrempf  F       1136    33597   2.59
bernardking     F       874     29417   2.57
guswilliams     G       825     25645   2.54
timhardaway     G       867     30626   2.54
ronharper       G       1009    31199   2.54
samjones        G       872     24285   2.53
tomheinsohn     F       654     19254   2.53
tonikukoc       F       846     22212   2.49
terryporter     G       1274    35354   2.48
rasheedwallace  F       992     33685   2.48
danroundfield   F       813     24210   2.48
donniefreeman   G       648     21026   2.45
d.armstrong     G       840     19915   2.45
hotrodwilliams  F       887     26327   2.44
roberthorry     F       1107    27066   2.44
isiahthomas     G       979     35516   2.44
rashardlewis    F       752     25981   2.38
paularizin      F       648     24897   2.36
lamarodom       F       639     23423   2.35
lennywilkens    G       1077    38064   2.33
michaelredd     G       550     18707   2.31
samlacey        C       1002    31873   2.28
briantaylor     G       601     19149   2.26
mickeyjohnson   F       904     25005   2.24
andremiller     G       787     27421   2.23
michaeladams    G       653     20446   2.22
bobdandridge    F       839     29502   2.22
jeromekersey    F       1153    28115   2.20
jasonterry      G       776     26350   2.20
willisreed      C       650     23073   2.18
dikembemutombo  C       1191    36715   2.18
dougchristie    G       827     26080   2.16
dickmcguire     G       606     17170   2.13
dannymanning    F       883     24202   2.13
zelmobeaty      C       889     29676   2.12
kerrykittles    G       507     16929   2.11
normvanlier     G       746     26171   2.08
rodstrickland   G       1094    33633   2.08
alexenglish     F       1193    38063   2.07
c.laettner      F       868     25764   2.05
shawnkemp       F       1051    29295   1.98
natethurmond    C       964     35875   1.95
georget.johnson C       904     18102   1.94
bobcousy        G       855     30167   1.92
larryd.johnson  F       707     25685   1.91
chetwalker      F       1032    33433   1.90
derekharper     G       1199    37786   1.88
nickanderson    F       800     24922   1.86
carmeloanthony  F       419     15190   1.86
terrycummings   F       1183    33898   1.85
jamesposey      F       717     20099   1.84
chrismorris     F       747     18748   1.84
billbridges     F       926     30878   1.83
billlaimbeer    C       1068    33956   1.83
horacegrant     F       1165    38621   1.80
derrickmckey    F       937     27229   1.76
samcassell      G       993     29811   1.76
mosesmalone     C       1455    49444   1.75
markprice       G       722     21560   1.74
terrydischinger F       652     17841   1.74
stevemix        F       788     18831   1.74
derrickcoleman  F       781     25903   1.69
jasonrichardson G       564     20218   1.69
redrobbins      F       586     18745   1.65
reggiewilliams  F       599     16013   1.65
jamesworthy     F       926     30001   1.65
larrycostello   G       706     21198   1.64
stevesmith      G       942     28856   1.60
jackcoleman     F       498     16479   1.60
jacktwyman      F       823     26147   1.59
michaelcooper   G       873     23635   1.57
davebing        G       901     32769   1.56
sidneywicks     F       760     25762   1.55
elvinhayes      F       1303    50000   1.54
gregballard     F       802     22073   1.54
paulwestphal    G       823     20947   1.53
kennyanderson   G       858     25868   1.52
s.abdur-rahim   F       830     28878   1.52
rodneymccray    F       768     24876   1.49
hedoturkoglu    F       654     18074   1.49
coreymaggette   F       626     18361   1.49
anthonymason    F       882     30606   1.48
stephonmarbury  G       823     31471   1.47
caronbutler     F       470     17106   1.45
r.jefferson     F       547     19586   1.41
jermaineo'neal  F       767     21712   1.41
theoratliff     F       731     19337   1.40
markeaton       C       875     25169   1.40
derekanderson   G       615     17974   1.39
darrellwalker   G       720     18601   1.35
bryonrussell    F       841     19804   1.30
dannyainge      G       1042    27755   1.29
m.l.carr        F       678     16390   1.27
c.robinson      F       1380    42561   1.27
redkerr         C       905     27783   1.23
samperkins      F       1286    36598   1.23
mackcalvin      G       755     21593   1.22
shawnbradley    C       832     19531   1.22
frankramsey     F       623     15330   1.21
charlessmith    F       564     16378   1.21
deebrown        G       608     16843   1.19
gusjohnson      F       632     20893   1.19
billypaultz     C       1124    30392   1.19
markjackson     G       1296    39121   1.18
mitchrichmond   G       976     34309   1.17
stevenash       G       909     28168   1.17
z.ilgauskas     C       679     19718   1.15
bobsura         G       657     15596   1.14
spencerhaywood  F       844     29408   1.13
marioelie       G       732     18654   1.13
dennisjohnson   G       1100    35954   1.13
greganthony     G       757     15850   1.11
davedebusschere F       875     31202   1.11
johnnygreen     F       1057    24624   1.11
brevinknight    G       703     17914   1.10
donnelson       F       1053    21685   1.08
wAl Williams    F       708     18818   1.08
campyrussell    F       566     16781   1.07
daverobisch     C       930     22780   1.07
tomowens        C       877     20836   1.06
cobydietrick    C       842     16287   1.04
rubenpatterson  F       649     15956   1.03
robertparish    C       1611    45704   1.03
pejastojakovic  F       696     23947   1.03
p.j.brown       F       1089    33823   1.01
aaronmckie      G       793     19156   1.00
melhutchins     F       437     16574   0.98
edpinckney      F       793     15698   0.98
jamessilas      G       685     20363   0.92
jeffmullins     G       804     24574   0.90
freddielewis    G       750     24924   0.90
petemaravich    G       658     24316   0.89
billsharman     G       680     21793   0.89
johnstarks      G       866     23514   0.88
grantlong       F       1003    28514   0.86
meldaniels      C       639     22466   0.82
rudylarusso     F       736     24487   0.82
halgreer        G       1122    39788   0.82
kenyonmartin    F       531     17320   0.81
lonnieshelton   F       673     18530   0.81
donyellmarshall F       944     24925   0.80
walterdavis     G       1033    28859   0.80
tomgugliotta    F       763     23556   0.79
vinniejohnson   G       984     24308   0.79
tayshaunprince  F       505     16741   0.77
calvinnatt      F       599     18818   0.77
jimfox          C       743     17294   0.77
calvinmurphy    G       1002    30607   0.77
fredbrown       G       963     24422   0.76
purvisshort     F       842     24549   0.75
raferalston     G       591     17142   0.74
kentbenson      C       680     15719   0.74
rickfox         G       930     23723   0.74
mikegale        G       842     20645   0.74
rodneyrogers    F       866     21873   0.71
jerrysloan      G       755     25750   0.70
elmoresmith     C       562     17879   0.69
kendallgill     G       966     29481   0.67
mikemiller      F       610     19644   0.66
archieclark     G       725     23581   0.65
c.powell        F       599     18636   0.64
daledavis       F       1094    29607   0.62
benpoquette     F       718     15763   0.62
earlmonroe      G       926     29636   0.61
vernfleming     G       893     24721   0.61
louhudson       F       890     29794   0.61
craigehlo       G       873     21071   0.60
otisthorpe      F       1257    39822   0.55
trenttucker     G       756     15671   0.54
mikebibby       G       777     28077   0.53
otisbirdsong    G       696     21627   0.51
rickypierce     F       969     23665   0.51
rodhiggins      F       779     17189   0.50
eldencampbell   F       1044    25775   0.50
happyhairston   F       776     24330   0.49
michaelfinley   G       1029    36435   0.48
tomchambers     F       1107    33922   0.48
robertreid      F       919     25109   0.46
tonyparker      G       584     19369   0.45
muggsybogues    G       889     25429   0.45
clifflevingston F       830     16962   0.44
davidwesley     G       949     30272   0.43
t.r.dunn        G       993     23080   0.41
glenrice        F       1000    34985   0.41
braddavis       G       961     22302   0.40
larryhughes     G       648     20452   0.39
randysmith      G       976     31444   0.38
jamalmashburn   F       611     22762   0.37
byronbeck       C       747     19197   0.35
riksmits        C       867     23100   0.34
rudytomjanovich F       768     25714   0.33
tinyarchibald   G       876     31159   0.32
paulsilas       F       1254    34989   0.32
byronscott      G       1073    30153   0.31
darryldawkins   C       726     17235   0.30
o.woolridge     F       851     24041   0.30
quinnbuckner    G       719     16245   0.29
stevehawes      C       688     15831   0.28
morrispeterson  F       646     18219   0.28
antoniomcdyess  F       837     24081   0.26
jimbrewer       F       703     15936   0.25
kellytripucka   F       707     20959   0.24
rayscott        F       811     23709   0.23
ericsnow        G       846     23132   0.23
charliescott    G       717     25524   0.21
kurtrambis      F       880     16299   0.20
latrellsprewell G       913     35269   0.20
reggietheus     G       1026    34603   0.20
jayhumphries    G       788     23062   0.19
terrytyler      F       871     21740   0.18
billyknight     G       821     23746   0.17
travisbest      G       708     15150   0.16
fattytaylor     G       640     17706   0.13
tyronecorbin    G       1065    27657   0.13
bonziwells      G       591     15133   0.12
darrallimhoff   C       801     17894   0.12
danabarros      G       850     19480   0.12
chrisford       G       794     22043   0.11
wiljones        F       725     21931   0.11
wallyszczerbiak F       627     19594   0.10
antoinewalker   F       893     31531   0.09
mychalthompson  C       935     27764   0.08
carlbraun       G       617     18409   0.07
antawnjamison   F       773     28418   0.05
dickvanarsdale  G       921     31771   0.05
joecaldwell     F       782     25261   0.02
joejohnson      G       597     21884   0.01
jimcleamons     G       652     16994   0.00
jerrystackhouse G       854     28502   -0.01
johnlucas       G       928     25556   -0.03
sleepyfloyd     G       957     26383   -0.07
billyowens      F       600     17619   -0.08
brucebowen      F       847     23634   -0.08
donchaney       G       790     18881   -0.09
cuttinomobley   G       747     27618   -0.10
georgelynch     F       774     17682   -0.12
stephenjackson  F       586     18984   -0.12
richardhamilton G       720     23937   -0.13
markolberding   F       946     23692   -0.15
chrismills      F       568     17282   -0.15
philchenier     G       578     19116   -0.16
jalenrose       G       923     27926   -0.16
buckwilliams    F       1307    42464   -0.16
antoinecarr     F       987     19780   -0.17
bobbyjackson    G       737     16317   -0.18
davegreenwood   F       823     23370   -0.18
wesleyperson    G       733     20727   -0.19
jackmarin       F       849     24590   -0.19
bobboozer       F       874     25549   -0.19
jamaalwilkes    F       828     27275   -0.19
seanelliott     F       742     24502   -0.21
joedumars       G       1018    35139   -0.22
xaviermcdaniel  F       870     25201   -0.23
willieanderson  G       555     15974   -0.24
jonkoncak       C       784     16409   -0.24
dennisrodman    F       911     28839   -0.24
mikebantom      F       706     19725   -0.25
jamalcrawford   G       582     18847   -0.26
michaelcage     F       1140    29716   -0.26
billhanzlik     G       748     15534   -0.28
c.weatherspoon  F       915     27735   -0.28
staceyaugmon    G       1001    21659   -0.29
k.c.jones       G       676     17501   -0.30
frankbrickowski F       731     16278   -0.30
damonstoudamire G       878     29106   -0.30
mikenewlin      G       837     24574   -0.30
mauricelucas    F       1021    30112   -0.31
laphonsoellis   F       624     17616   -0.31
luciusallen     G       702     20159   -0.33
louiedampier    G       960     32201   -0.34
mikewoodson     G       786     20021   -0.37
spudwebb        G       814     20288   -0.37
kikivandeweghe  F       810     24521   -0.38
gailgoodrich    G       1031    33527   -0.38
lindseyhunter   G       919     23103   -0.41
stulantz        G       547     15267   -0.41
ronboone        G       1041    32391   -0.44
vinbaker        F       791     25737   -0.44
richjones       F       508     16991   -0.45
charlesoakley   F       1282    40280   -0.45
antoniodaniels  G       839     19385   -0.45
clemhaskins     G       681     17624   -0.46
glencombs       G       465     15275   -0.46
bryantstith     G       586     16417   -0.47
dicksnyder      G       964     25676   -0.47
jimpaxsonjr.    G       784     21357   -0.48
dellcurry       G       1083    23549   -0.49
scottwedman     F       906     25927   -0.49
johnjohnson     F       869     25681   -0.51
rajabell        G       577     15965   -0.51
philsmith       G       659     19166   -0.52
ervinjohnson    C       845     16988   -0.53
voshonlenard    G       565     15350   -0.53
dennisscott     G       629     17983   -0.53
kurtthomas      F       868     23166   -0.54
geneshue        G       699     23338   -0.55
caldwelljones   C       1299    35081   -0.56
bobnetolicky    F       618     20554   -0.56
allenleavell    G       700     16248   -0.56
jimbarnett      G       732     17410   -0.59
rashonesterovic C       749     17316   -0.60
willienaulls    F       716     20620   -0.61
joebarrycarroll C       705     22838   -0.61
daleellis       G       1209    34778   -0.62
rolandoblackman G       980     32087   -0.65
glennrobinson   F       688     25346   -0.66
sedalethreatt   G       951     22436   -0.66
terrymills      F       678     16422   -0.67
briangrant      F       756     21417   -0.67
wayneembry      C       831     21763   -0.69
royhinson       F       507     15543   -0.73
darnellhillman  F       682     17609   -0.73
eddiea.johnson  F       1199    32604   -0.76
ralphsimpson    G       705     19623   -0.76
rickeygreen     G       946     23271   -0.76
keithvanhorn    F       575     18150   -0.78
donkojis        F       814     19241   -0.79
mattharpring    F       644     17394   -0.79
jimmcmillian    F       631     20227   -0.80
derekfisher     G       919     23979   -0.85
georgemccloud   G       766     17417   -0.86
slatermartin    G       544     19488   -0.87
erickdampier    C       841     21291   -0.87
alattles        G       711     17826   -0.89
vinnydelnegro   G       771     19211   -0.91
ottomoore       C       682     16893   -0.93
dannyschayes    C       1138    21975   -0.96
rickmahorn      C       1117    25779   -0.97
altonlister     C       953     18965   -0.97
timthomas       F       788     20796   -0.97
tommeschery     F       778     23459   -0.98
scottskiles     G       600     16789   -0.99
mikeriordan     G       639     15890   -1.00
troymurphy      F       528     15155   -1.01
eddiejohnson    G       675     19975   -1.04
poohrichardson  G       639     19399   -1.04
jojowhite       G       837     29941   -1.04
cliffrobinson   F       629     19284   -1.05
garheard        F       787     19571   -1.06
rickydavis      G       695     21332   -1.06
stevekerr       G       910     16206   -1.07
harveygrant     F       783     20510   -1.08
a.c.green       F       1278    36552   -1.08
shermandouglas  G       765     21148   -1.08
jasonwilliams   G       679     21189   -1.09
juniorbridgeman F       849     21257   -1.10
joesmith        F       929     25949   -1.11
johnnynewman    F       1159    28435   -1.14
cazzierussell   F       817     22213   -1.14
blueedwards     G       704     18409   -1.15
lasallethompson C       985     21238   -1.15
chuckwilliams   G       638     17894   -1.17
geraldgovan     F       681     22925   -1.18
philhubbard     F       665     15863   -1.18
m.abdul-rahman  G       724     19202   -1.19
billmelchionni  G       646     16787   -1.19
allanhouston    G       839     28311   -1.19
nickvanexel     G       880     28969   -1.20
mikegminski     C       938     24058   -1.22
anthonypeeler   G       827     20463   -1.24
billcartwright  C       963     27491   -1.24
chuckperson     F       943     28941   -1.27
hermgilliam     G       578     15026   -1.27
herbwilliams    C       1102    28484   -1.28
bimbocoles      G       852     20319   -1.28
jamesedwards    C       1168    28356   -1.30
antoniodavis    F       903     26083   -1.34
kennorman       F       646     18992   -1.38
georgecarter    F       479     16234   -1.41
larrysmith      F       883     22879   -1.41
shandonanderson F       719     15946   -1.42
benoitbenjamin  C       807     21911   -1.45
dickbarnett     G       971     28937   -1.46
dannyferry      F       917     18130   -1.46
geraldhenderson G       871     18856   -1.49
andrewlang      C       737     15344   -1.51
jimjackson      G       885     29067   -1.51
tomsanders      F       916     22164   -1.52
austincarr      G       682     19660   -1.53
vernonmaxwell   G       855     24309   -1.54
boblove         F       789     25120   -1.55
larrykenon      F       752     24510   -1.57
rickysobers     G       821     22992   -1.57
waynehightower  F       565     15474   -1.58
juwanhoward     F       1029    34094   -1.59
keitherickson   F       766     18841   -1.59
billbradley     F       742     22799   -1.59
rayfelix        C       637     15188   -1.60
joegraboski     F       705     22197   -1.62
jackgeorge      G       506     15860   -1.62
curtisrowe      F       590     18277   -1.62
kennythomas     F       606     16993   -1.65
kevinporter     G       659     19107   -1.66
jayvincent      F       576     15556   -1.67
jimwashington   F       774     22668   -1.68
davecorzine     C       891     20772   -1.69
jamesdonaldson  C       957     26222   -1.69
brianwinters    G       650     19938   -1.70
swennater       C       722     20746   -1.72
alharrington    F       701     20816   -1.72
leroyellis      C       1048    27520   -1.73
chuckyatkins    G       646     16449   -1.74
bingosmith      F       865     22407   -1.77
rexchapman      G       666     19542   -1.77
kennysmith      G       737     22213   -1.78
mattguokas      G       735     16603   -1.81
tonycampbell    F       690     15180   -1.83
jimchones       C       788     23665   -1.84
conniedierking  C       706     15474   -1.85
kevinedwards    G       604     15332   -1.88
luciousharris   G       800     15701   -1.89
markwest        C       1090    20213   -1.89
tonybattie      C       732     16426   -1.90
jimmywalker     G       698     23590   -1.91
ericwilliams    F       658     15732   -1.91
bobweiss        G       783     17277   -1.93
guyrodgers      G       892     28661   -1.94
averyjohnson    G       1054    26615   -1.95
fredcarter      G       611     18328   -1.98
darrellgriffith G       765     21403   -1.99
tomhenderson    G       650     17690   -1.99
geraldwilkins   G       900     26084   -2.00
armongilliam    F       929     26421   -2.08
isaiahrider     G       563     17851   -2.11
ronyseikaly     C       678     21395   -2.12
lamondmurray    F       736     18477   -2.12
thurlbailey     F       928     24873   -2.12
waynecooper     C       984     20274   -2.14
dwightjones     F       766     16452   -2.18
sammitchell     F       994     22256   -2.18
kevingrevey     G       672     15246   -2.19
tomvanarsdale   F       929     28682   -2.19
b.j.armstrong   G       747     17790   -2.19
truckrobinson   F       772     25141   -2.19
normnixon       G       768     27250   -2.21
stevejones      G       704     21028   -2.23
tyronehill      C       801     22388   -2.23
jonmcglocklin   G       792     20930   -2.24
waymantisdale   F       840     23868   -2.26
kevinloughery   G       755     22308   -2.26
mikemitchell    F       759     24537   -2.28
howardeisley    G       786     16011   -2.29
kennycarr       F       674     17167   -2.33
henrybibby      G       675     15475   -2.34
brianshaw       G       942     21665   -2.35
dougwest        G       676     16649   -2.39
jeffmcinnis     G       576     15926   -2.43
eddiemiles      G       605     15681   -2.44
rorysparrow     G       836     22550   -2.49
clydelee        F       742     19885   -2.50
johnnydavis     G       750     21200   -2.53
johnbagley      G       665     17120   -2.55
c.williamson    F       822     18749   -2.62
lorenzenwright  F       776     18498   -2.63
geoffpetrie     G       446     16787   -2.63
m.abdul-rauf    G       586     15628   -2.64
lionelhollins   G       673     18453   -2.65
ronanderson     F       664     15112   -2.73
johnlong        G       893     22680   -2.78
stewjohnson     F       647     19201   -2.79
calbertcheaney  F       825     22008   -2.79
hubertdavis     G       685     15143   -2.85
craighodges     G       695     15077   -2.88
desmondmason    F       638     19570   -2.89
chrisdudley     C       886     16321   -2.94
johnwilliamson  G       516     15540   -2.94
j.r.reid        F       672     15370   -3.01
larrydrew       G       714     18370   -3.20
donohl          G       727     22414   -3.21
jeffmalone      G       905     29660   -3.22
loyvaught       F       689     16993   -3.34
tomhawkins      F       764     18465   -3.37
johnpaxson      G       772     17257   -3.44
oldenpolynice   C       1058    24884   -3.46
adriansmith     G       772     19010   -3.50
kevinwillis     F       1424    38364   -4.18
howardkomives   G       742     20211   -4.66
walijones       G       678     15759   -5.00
kevinduckworth  C       684     17462   -5.83
---------------+--+----------+--------+------

(Note that for pre-1978 players I have estimated TOV, BLK, STL, & ORB.)

So, what jumps out immediately? David Robinson 3rd all-time, right? D-Rob had some beastly seasons in the mid-1990s, but this metric clearly favors stat-stuffers who put up good numbers in multiple categories (Kirilenko!!). That one-dimensional huge scorers like Bernard King don't score as highly as players like The Admiral, who scored a bunch but also did a ton of other things, speaks to this stat's emphasis on versatility.

Another weird item of note in the list above is the presence of unselfish, "hustle"-type role players like Bobby Jones and Charles "Bo" Outlaw ahead of high-scoring superstars like Allen Iverson and George Gervin... Is this a glitch? Maybe so. But perhaps even the glitches can tell us something -- for instance, I've always felt that Jones and Outlaw were criminally underrated players; they always worked hard, did what their coaches asked of them, played tough D, and provided leadership in the locker room. Now, if we were talking baseball and I made these statements about, say, David Eckstein, I'd get fisked to death by the likes of Fire Joe Morgan... But this is another example of how basketball stats aren't the same as baseball stats. Simply put, teamwork matters, and there are a ton of "little things" that can't be picked up out of the boxscore at first glance. And I'm quite sure that the contributions of Jones and Outlaw go well beyond their PPG/RPG/APG averages.

That's not to say this list is anything close to a definitive ranking of players. But I do think that certain players who initially appear "overrated" by this metric deserve a second look, because they may have been doing something important on the court and we need to dig deeper to find out what that may have been. On the flip side, players who don't score as well as you might expect are probably deficient in said "little things". And remember, there's a reason coaches harp on those little things all the time, because they're often the glue that holds together winning teams.

Anyway, I thought the career rankings would be a good conversation-starter, at the very least ("OMG, Kobe ranks behind Bob Lanier!!!")... So have at it -- who do you think this metric is overvaluing? Undervaluing?

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9 Responses to “More Fun with Statistical +/-”

  1. dan Says:

    the big surprise for me is tracy mcgrady ranking before kobe...

  2. Mike G Says:

    Hey, it's your lucky day. I am socked in by blizzard conditions, with nothing better to do.

    The guy who appears to be most overrated is Nate McMillan, or John Salley, or Bobby Jones.
    Most underrated : Kevin Willis, then Duckworth.

    I think Statistical +/- doesn't consider the defensive strength of the team, but tries to make up for that with high weights on individual D-stats (Blk and Stl)? How else to explain Kirilenko over Duncan and Garnett? Or this sequence:

    5.16 Doc Rivers
    5.13 Alvin Robertson
    5.10 Dominique Wilkins
    5.09 Billy Cunningham
    4.97 Scottie Pippen
    4.87 Elton Brand

    Or Mr Salley's neighborhood:
    3.28 John Salley
    3.22 Chris Mullin
    3.20 Clyde Lovellette
    3.18 Mark Aguirre
    3.16 Maurice Cheeks
    3.10 Kevin McHale
    3.10 Kevin Johnson
    3.04 Jack Sikma

    Big Shot Rob among Hall-of-Famers:
    2.44 Isiah Thomas
    2.44 Robert Horry
    2.44 HotRod Williams
    2.38 Rashard Lewis
    2.36 Paul Arizin
    2.35 Lamar Odom
    2.33 Lenny Wilkens
    ...
    2.18 Dikembe Mutombo
    2.18 Willis Reed
    2.16 Doug Christie
    2.13 Danny Manning
    2.12 Zelmo Beaty
    ...
    1.76 Derrick McKey
    1.75 Moses Malone
    1.74 Mark Price
    ...
    1.57 Michael Cooper
    1.56 Dave Bing
    1.55 Sidney Wicks
    1.54 Elvin Hayes
    ...
    1.13 Spencer Haywood
    1.13 Mario Elie
    1.11 Dave DeBusschere
    ...
    All the early-ABA guys are overrated, but that's another can o'worms.

  3. Tsunami Says:

    OMG LeBron is head and shoulders above everyone else of his generation. Wait that's not surprising at all.

  4. Sir Charles Says:

    Neil Paine...Question:

    1) You Think You Could Make An All-Time Statistical +/- for Every Player for the Play-Offs

    and

    2) A All-Time Statistical +/- for a Player comparing "His Teamates Statistical +/-s" and how much Impact that Player had v.s his Teamates.

    That would be asoume....

    Greetings

  5. SB Says:

    I'm confused. How did you manage to get a plus/minus stat for West, Wilt, Russell etc. What did u regress against what ?

    And as a litmus test, any measure that rates Wilt 2nd and Bill Russell 29th has to be viewed suspiciously.

  6. Neil Paine Says:

    I estimated their blocks/steals/turnovers/etc. from the rest of the stat line using an OLS regression formula from post-1978 players.

    And look, I'm actually pretty happy Russell ranks that high (PER ranks him 89th all-time!!). It's sort of remarkable considering that the "intangible" things he did best aren't even picked up in today's boxscore, much less an incomplete, roughly-estimated version from almost 50 years ago (we have to estimate his blocks, for goodness' sake!). Basically, all the stuff Wilt excelled at was tracked back then; the stuff Russell excelled at wasn't.

    Besides, I think the gap between the 2 as players has been overstated as the years have piled on (and I say this as a lifelong Celtics fan, btw). It's sort of like the thinking that causes Terry Bradshaw to be considered better than somebody like Fran Tarkenton because of a disparity in championships. I'm not necessarily saying Chamberlain was that much better, or even better at all, but you have to respect both players for their accomplishments and try to avoid the mythmaking that's been built up over the ensuing half-century.

  7. SB Says:

    Thanks Neil,

    One last question. Doesn't the model suffer from Omitted Variable Bias, (as does any basketball regression) since there is no proxy for individual defense. In that case, how can we take this as a reliable metric, if the model is misspecified.

    And, how about using team defense as a proxy (albeit a very weak one) for individual defense.

    I apologize if it appears I am questioning the validity of the model, I just don't get how you can run a reliable regression if one of the most important variables is missing. I can't imagine you'd get an R-squared above .65 without some sort of a proxy for defense.

  8. Alex Says:

    I think the rating needs to take into account who they are playing with when they are on the court, instead of just who is on the team with them. Because now, if you took a good player on the bench as the 6th man, and put him in when the majority of starters arn't, the team will still be doing poorly when he is in and well when he is not.

  9. fred f Says:

    you cany make up stats that didnt exitss then goods work thoug