Posted by Justin Kubatko on July 24, 2009
Since we're nearing the end of another decade, I thought it would be interesting to come up with All-Decade teams for the 2000s. I know that technically the decade is not over yet, but the NBA has a split season, and since we've already crowned the 2009 NBA champions it seems to me that the 2008-09 season is a good breaking point.
Rather than choose the teams arbitrarily, I wanted to come up with a method to select the teams. I decided to use a weighting scheme similar to what Doug Drinen of PFR uses. Here's Doug's description of the method:
My opinion is that most people mentally rank players by counting all the players’ seasons, but weighting their best seasons more. In order to mimic that, I’ve defined each player’s approximate career “value” to be:
100% of his best season, plus 95% of his 2nd-best season, plus 90% of his 3rd-best season, plus, ….
So, for two players with the same career [value], the one with the higher peak will be rated a little higher. And junk seasons at the end of a player’s career count for almost nothing.
In order to find each player's "value" for a particular season, I decided to add his regular season Win Shares to his post-season Win Shares. I also tweaked Doug's weights slightly. Since we're dealing with a period of 10 years rather than entire careers, a player's best season gets a weight of 1, his second-best season gets a weight of 0.9, his third-best season gets a weight of 0.8, etc. This will help to prevent players who may have missed a season due to injury or were drafted later in the decade from being penalized too harshly. I also decided to mimic the All-NBA voters and not make fine distinctions at each position, so a particular team might have two power forwards rather than one small forward and one power forward.
OK, that's enough background. Here we go with the first team...
|All-Decade First Team|
I have a good feeling what the two most common reactions to these results are going to be, so let me tackle them now:
Here is a comparison of their per game statistics for the decade:
Aside from the big advantage Nash has in assists, their per game statistics are quite similar. However, when you consider that Nash's teams never finished lower than 7th in pace factor, while Billups's teams were usually near the bottom of the league in pace, most of Billups's per game numbers are actually better than Nash's.
There's also the matter of playoff performance. Billups was on seven straight teams that reached the conference finals, a remarkable achievement. What happens if we remove playoff performance from the equation? Nash comes out ahead by the slimmest of margins, 62.0 to 61.9. However, it did not seem right to me to exclude playoff performances because (a) they do matter and (b) it would be silly to tweak the method just to reach a pre-determined result.
Reaction #2: How can you have Dirk Nowitzki over
In my opinion, Nowitzki, although thought of highly by most people, still manages to be underrated. Consider:
- Nowitzki earned a decade-best 137.6 Win Shares during the regular season.
- Nowitzki finished fifth in the decade with 17.4 playoff Win Shares, but while Nowitzki played in only 97 playoff games, no one above him played him in fewer than 133 games.
- Nowitzki is an almost perfect blend of productivity and efficiency. Among players with at least 400 games played during the decade, he had the 15th-highest usage percentage, the 8th-lowest turnover percentage, and the 6th-highest offensive rating.
- The Mavericks have won 50 or more games nine consecutive seasons, including seasons of 60 and 67 wins after losing two-time MVP Steve Nash. The one constant during this streak? Nowitzki.
None of this is meant to slight Garnett, who I think is a great player. I just think — and this system happens to agree — that Nowitzki was a little bit greater.
Moving on to the second team...
|All-Decade Second Team|
The only surprise here might be Ray Allen, but he was named to the All-Star team nine times during the decade and he was/is a phenomenally efficient scorer, not to mention that he has also been a clutch playoff performer.
Finally, the third team...
|All-Decade Third Team|
Again, no big surprises, although I had to make a bit of a judgment call at center. Pau Gasol finished ahead of Stoudemire, but I think most people view Gasol as a power forward, not a center. Since Stoudemire was named to three All-NBA teams at center, I decided to go with him. Actually, Stoudemire ended up being the lowest-ranked player to make the team. Here are the players who finished ahead of Stoudemire in the rankings but were squeezed out due to positional quotas:
+------+---------------------+-------+--------+ | Rank | Player | Years | Rating | +------+---------------------+-------+--------+ | 14 | Elton Brand | 10 | 60.7 | | 16 | Vince Carter | 10 | 58.5 | | 17 | Peja Stojakovic | 10 | 58.2 | | 18 | Pau Gasol | 8 | 58.2 | | 19 | Allen Iverson | 10 | 57.5 | | 20 | Dwyane Wade | 6 | 54.6 | | 21 | Manu Ginobili | 7 | 54.3 | +------+---------------------+-------+--------+
Some people might be surprised that Dwyane Wade does not rank higher, but keep in mind that Wade only played six seasons, and in two different seasons Wade missed 31 games due to injury.
Just to recap, once again here are the All-Decade teams for the 2000s:
|First Team||Second Team||Third Team|
|G||Kobe Bryant||88.2||Steve Nash||70.0||Tracy McGrady||63.4|
|G||Chauncey Billups||76.1||Ray Allen||66.3||Jason Kidd||59.9|
|F||Dirk Nowitzki||95.4||Kevin Garnett||86.8||Shawn Marion||72.4|
|F||Tim Duncan||91.5||LeBron James||76.9||Paul Pierce||69.1|
|C||Shaquille O'Neal||86.1||Ben Wallace||60.8||Amare Stoudemire||54.1|
In the coming weeks I'll try to do the same thing for the 1990s and 1980s. Stay tuned...
Update: Coaches are covered in this blog post.