You Are Here > Basketball-Reference.com > BBR Blog > NBA and College Basketball Analysis

SITE NEWS: We are moving all of our site and company news into a single blog for Sports-Reference.com. We'll tag all Basketball-Reference content, so you can quickly and easily find the content you want.

Also, our existing Basketball-Reference blog rss feed will be redirected to the new site's feed.

Basketball-Reference.com // Sports Reference

For more from Neil, check out his new work at BasketballProspectus.com.

Career Playoff Quality of Defenses Faced (1991-2010)

Posted by Neil Paine on May 28, 2010

Yesterday, we had a discussion about Kobe Bryant's surprisingly Vince Carter-esque numbers in career "crucial" games (defined as a Conference Semifinal game or later; Game 3 or later; series tied, within 1 game either way, or an elimination game for the trailing team). A commenter brought up the possibility that Bryant had faced tougher defenses than other stars in his playoff career, so today I'm going to run the numbers for players since 1991 and see who actually has faced the toughest defenses in their playoff careers, first in all games, then just in "crucial" games.

There are two ways to approach this: we can either weight the career average by minutes played against each opponent, or by possessions used. Each has their advantages -- possessions is directly looking at a player's offensive role, so we can say each of his shots/assists/turnovers/OReb came against a defense of a particular quality. However, there is a hidden selection bias when you use possessions, which is that better defenses will tend to limit your ability to use possessions in the first place (it's tougher to get a shot off vs. a good defense than a bad one), which could artificially over-weight performance vs. worse defenses. So we'll look at this both ways, just to be safe.

First, the career numbers (1991-2010) in all games, weighted by possessions used in each game (minimum 100 possessions used):

(Note: oppDPAA includes combined playoff and regular-season defensive performance by each opponent.)

Player ovrPoss oppDPAA_poss
Desmond Mason 205 6.19
Michael Redd 247 5.49
Marvin Williams 189 5.35
Stanislav Medvedenko 107 5.19
Andre Iguodala 279 5.04
Thaddeus Young 118 4.98
Samuel Dalembert 140 4.96
Willie Green 122 4.92
Louis Williams 125 4.86
Al Horford 284 4.83
Kareem Rush 101 4.74
George McCloud 117 4.65
Mark Blount 101 4.59
Josh Smith 436 4.54
Rony Seikaly 136 4.54
Jamal Crawford 161 4.37
Rodney Stuckey 215 4.37
Derrick Rose 282 4.37
Joakim Noah 140 4.26
Joe Johnson 695 4.23
Jason Maxiell 130 4.23
Zaza Pachulia 163 4.20
Tyrus Thomas 153 4.10
Isaac Austin 132 4.10
Rex Chapman 160 4.05
Terrell Brandon 396 3.99
Muggsy Bogues 192 3.92
Kenny Anderson 372 3.92
Malik Sealy 102 3.86
Earl Boykins 191 3.82
Joe Smith 295 3.79
Chris Mills 147 3.76
Walter McCarty 153 3.75
Vern Fleming 196 3.74
Juan Dixon 126 3.73
Alonzo Mourning 1153 3.70
J.J. Redick 172 3.64
Mitch Richmond 237 3.63
Voshon Lenard 315 3.62
Tony Battie 209 3.62
Bobby Phills 200 3.61
Jerome Williams 125 3.60
Ronnie Brewer 162 3.58
Eric Williams 198 3.57
Matt Harpring 376 3.55
Courtney Lee 161 3.52
Gordan Giricek 178 3.51
Ricky Davis 144 3.50
Felton Spencer 200 3.49
Jamaal Tinsley 344 3.47

Bryant's is 2.79, which ranks 124th out of 488 qualified players. Here's how the biggest possession-users stack up:

Player ovrPoss oppDPAA_poss
Shaquille O'Neal 4555 2.80
Kobe Bryant 4223 2.79
Karl Malone 3568 2.48
Tim Duncan 3563 0.84
Michael Jordan 3217 2.04
Scottie Pippen 2917 2.13
Tony Parker 2411 0.71
Richard Hamilton 2245 2.84
Reggie Miller 2149 3.10
Chauncey Billups 2139 2.33
Hakeem Olajuwon 2135 1.59
Gary Payton 2126 2.04
John Stockton 2079 2.22
Dirk Nowitzki 2061 1.69
Patrick Ewing 2052 2.49
Jason Kidd 2045 2.72
Steve Nash 2032 2.00
Rasheed Wallace 1996 2.73
Allen Iverson 1926 1.57
LeBron James 1854 2.35
Robert Horry 1843 1.87
Paul Pierce 1831 2.93
Clyde Drexler 1788 1.65
David Robinson 1772 0.92
Kevin Garnett 1705 1.25

Also, let's look at the players who faced the best Ds, weighted by minutes played (minimum 200 MP):

Player ovrMP ovrPoss oppDPAA_mp
Josh Childress 205 43 7.55
Kevin Edwards 203 73 6.53
Desmond Mason 607 205 5.97
Michael Redd 505 247 5.55
Marvin Williams 641 189 5.24
Stanislav Medvedenko 331 107 5.21
Brevin Knight 250 71 5.11
Andre Iguodala 694 279 5.04
Thaddeus Young 390 118 4.99
Samuel Dalembert 518 140 4.98
Willie Green 352 122 4.97
Louis Williams 284 125 4.90
Kareem Rush 379 101 4.82
Al Horford 917 284 4.77
Steve Blake 427 99 4.74
Rony Seikaly 405 136 4.67
George McCloud 338 117 4.65
Johnny Newman 249 87 4.63
Etan Thomas 245 75 4.60
Mark Blount 370 101 4.51
Derrick Rose 526 282 4.48
Joakim Noah 459 140 4.47
Jamal Crawford 351 161 4.38
Josh Smith 1039 436 4.37
Erick Strickland 201 77 4.36
Derek Strong 292 79 4.34
Rex Chapman 394 160 4.29
Tyrus Thomas 384 153 4.27
Jarvis Hayes 200 67 4.23
Joe Johnson 1664 695 4.22
Isaac Austin 402 132 4.20
Rodney Stuckey 508 215 4.19
Zaza Pachulia 526 163 4.14
Malik Sealy 289 102 4.07
Dean Garrett 267 64 4.03
Vern Fleming 501 196 4.03
Pete Myers 314 93 4.02
Brian Scalabrine 414 85 3.96
Brian Skinner 200 55 3.93
Jason Maxiell 581 130 3.92
Muggsy Bogues 636 192 3.92
Kenny Anderson 1005 372 3.92
Terrell Brandon 946 396 3.89
Calbert Cheaney 242 70 3.87
Walter McCarty 742 153 3.85
Chris Mills 524 147 3.74
Earl Boykins 412 191 3.74
Voshon Lenard 952 315 3.72
Courtney Lee 550 161 3.71
Malik Allen 318 99 3.71

And how about the top minute-getters?

Player ovrMP ovrPoss oppDPAA_mp
Shaquille O'Neal 8087 4555 2.86
Kobe Bryant 7480 4223 2.80
Robert Horry 6813 1843 1.87
Tim Duncan 6739 3563 0.93
Karl Malone 6730 3568 2.66
Scottie Pippen 6580 2917 2.06
Rasheed Wallace 5683 1996 2.76
Gary Payton 5481 2126 2.30
Derek Fisher 5282 1466 2.92
Michael Jordan 5221 3217 2.07
Reggie Miller 5183 2149 3.14
Chauncey Billups 5174 2139 2.46
John Stockton 5172 2079 2.30
Jason Kidd 4953 2045 2.80
Richard Hamilton 4800 2245 2.93
Tony Parker 4796 2411 0.83
Horace Grant 4632 1202 2.04
Ben Wallace 4525 1035 2.31
Tayshaun Prince 4409 1371 2.95
Patrick Ewing 4319 2052 2.50
Dirk Nowitzki 4299 2061 1.73
Steve Nash 4196 2032 2.03
Bruce Bowen 4191 716 1.02
Hakeem Olajuwon 3922 2135 1.69
Michael Finley 3901 1282 1.38
Charles Oakley 3883 1184 2.82
David Robinson 3846 1772 1.01
Jeff Hornacek 3809 1332 2.61
Paul Pierce 3708 1831 2.85
Clyde Drexler 3699 1788 1.64

Kobe has definitely faced some of the toughest defenses of any big star during his career, so that's something to take into consideration when looking at yesterday's numbers.

Now, let's repeat the tables above, but only count opponents in "crucial" games, as defined yesterday (minimum 50 crucial possessions):

Player cruPoss oppDPAA_poss
Delonte West 149 6.03
Stanislav Medvedenko 61 5.80
Joe Johnson 68 5.64
Anthony Johnson 128 5.37
Voshon Lenard 76 5.30
Jermaine O'Neal 186 5.19
Rafer Alston 145 5.18
David West 74 5.17
Chris Paul 89 5.17
Courtney Lee 67 5.11
Jamaal Tinsley 119 5.07
Kerry Kittles 170 5.05
Dell Curry 61 5.02
Mo Williams 119 5.01
Devean George 95 4.97
Haywoode Workman 109 4.95
Austin Croshere 95 4.92
Mickael Pietrus 95 4.91
Dwight Howard 249 4.91
Rashard Lewis 215 4.89
Richard Jefferson 289 4.80
Kenyon Martin 294 4.78
J.J. Redick 57 4.77
Rodney Rogers 133 4.76
Brian Grant 91 4.71
Lucious Harris 88 4.70
AaRon Williams 63 4.66
Alonzo Mourning 313 4.65
Jason Collins 73 4.60
LeBron James 644 4.57
Damon Jones 88 4.53
Carl Herrera 65 4.50
Anderson Varejao 129 4.47
Reggie Miller 614 4.44
Damon Stoudamire 86 4.34
Zydrunas Ilgauskas 177 4.33
Isaiah Rider 70 4.32
Glen Davis 110 4.29
Rik Smits 393 4.28
Jason Kidd 444 4.25
Tony Battie 63 4.25
Walt Williams 77 4.24
Greg Foster 65 4.23
Jameer Nelson 74 4.22
Corliss Williamson 133 4.21
Ronald Murray 56 4.20
Chris Morris 75 4.19
Dale Davis 272 4.19
Antawn Jamison 60 4.16
Arvydas Sabonis 82 4.15

Here are the top possession users:

Player cruPoss oppDPAA_poss
Shaquille O'Neal 1238 3.45
Kobe Bryant 1165 3.59
Michael Jordan 1086 2.28
Tim Duncan 1001 1.37
Scottie Pippen 904 2.96
Karl Malone 900 3.78
Richard Hamilton 865 3.85
Patrick Ewing 756 3.29
Tony Parker 717 1.22
Chauncey Billups 707 4.04
Steve Nash 684 3.02
Rasheed Wallace 666 4.03
Hakeem Olajuwon 653 2.27
LeBron James 644 4.57
Reggie Miller 614 4.44
Dirk Nowitzki 612 2.00
Sam Cassell 579 1.42
Charles Barkley 569 2.23
Robert Horry 546 2.54
Clyde Drexler 541 2.13
Allen Iverson 534 -0.09
Manu Ginobili 529 1.10
Gary Payton 518 2.84
Tayshaun Prince 512 3.69
Paul Pierce 499 3.65
John Starks 489 3.32
John Stockton 482 3.49
Ray Allen 481 3.81
Latrell Sprewell 470 1.22
Kevin Garnett 448 1.34
Jason Kidd 444 4.25
Charles Oakley 438 3.40
Kevin Johnson 415 2.14
Michael Finley 411 2.29
Ben Wallace 398 3.74
Vlade Divac 397 1.84
Rik Smits 393 4.28
David Robinson 389 1.09
Derek Fisher 375 3.39
Shawn Kemp 374 2.34
Horace Grant 374 3.22
Jeff Hornacek 370 3.76
Sam Perkins 361 2.22
Derrick McKey 361 3.27
Dwyane Wade 357 3.71
Hedo Turkoglu 344 3.22
Nick Van Exel 344 3.10
Allan Houston 338 2.66
Mark Jackson 336 3.51
Shawn Marion 323 2.75

Finally, here are the players who faced the toughest defenses, weighted by minutes (min. 100 crucial minutes):

Player cruMP cruPoss oppDPAA_mp
Joe Smith 114 26 7.08
Rodney Stuckey 119 47 6.45
Pete Myers 109 35 6.44
Fred Jones 152 32 6.31
Brian Scalabrine 155 30 6.27
Vern Fleming 117 48 6.18
Delonte West 412 149 6.14
Jason Maxiell 130 26 6.11
Luke Ridnour 124 40 6.04
Caron Butler 129 32 6.00
Kareem Rush 127 30 5.91
Stanislav Medvedenko 176 61 5.83
Joe Johnson 171 68 5.65
RasuAl Butler 114 29 5.39
Anthony Johnson 399 128 5.35
Mikki Moore 125 41 5.32
Jermaine O'Neal 449 186 5.32
Isaac Austin 136 42 5.30
Courtney Lee 233 67 5.27
Voshon Lenard 248 76 5.26
Rafer Alston 353 145 5.26
David West 162 74 5.17
Chris Paul 160 89 5.17
Tyson Chandler 138 24 5.17
Kerry Kittles 487 170 5.16
Austin Croshere 295 95 5.12
Devean George 406 95 5.07
Mike James 117 43 5.06
Keyon Dooling 126 49 5.05
Marcin Gortat 140 25 5.03
Mo Williams 320 119 5.01
Jannero Pargo 117 49 4.94
Haywoode Workman 350 109 4.92
Rashard Lewis 569 215 4.90
Jamaal Tinsley 281 119 4.87
Dell Curry 163 61 4.87
J.J. Redick 210 57 4.86
Dwight Howard 561 249 4.85
AaRon Williams 228 63 4.79
Lucious Harris 261 88 4.78
Brian Grant 324 91 4.74
Kenyon Martin 684 294 4.73
Jason Collins 423 73 4.66
Isaiah Rider 135 70 4.65
Rodney Rogers 350 133 4.64
Richard Jefferson 737 289 4.61
Alonzo Mourning 692 313 4.57
Mickael Pietrus 337 95 4.55
Daniel Gibson 288 88 4.43
LeBron James 996 644 4.42

And how the top minutes-earners fared:

Player cruMP cruPoss oppDPAA_mp
Shaquille O'Neal 2334 1238 3.57
Kobe Bryant 2117 1165 3.59
Scottie Pippen 2029 904 2.90
Robert Horry 1996 546 2.29
Rasheed Wallace 1841 666 4.09
Tim Duncan 1827 1001 1.44
Richard Hamilton 1819 865 3.93
Chauncey Billups 1809 707 3.98
Ben Wallace 1789 398 3.70
Karl Malone 1779 900 3.92
Michael Jordan 1736 1086 2.32
Tayshaun Prince 1711 512 3.83
Patrick Ewing 1641 756 3.27
Reggie Miller 1595 614 4.35
Tony Parker 1518 717 1.33
Gary Payton 1449 518 3.19
Charles Oakley 1449 438 3.42
Bruce Bowen 1431 232 1.47
Steve Nash 1398 684 3.17
Horace Grant 1387 374 3.22
Derek Fisher 1368 375 3.31
Michael Finley 1274 411 2.04
John Stockton 1257 482 3.55
Sam Cassell 1250 579 1.51
Dirk Nowitzki 1248 612 2.13
Ray Allen 1244 481 3.68
Hakeem Olajuwon 1237 653 2.45
Dan Majerle 1232 319 2.89
Sam Perkins 1223 361 2.26
Manu Ginobili 1219 529 1.29

One last table I wanted to share for comparison's sake was the top players by crucial possessions used, with their Basketball on Paper performance stats and their quality of defenses faced side-by-side:

Player cruMP cruPoss ORtg %Pos DRtg oppDPAA_mp oppDPAA_poss
Shaquille O'Neal 2334 1238 113.3 29.1 105.1 3.57 3.45
Kobe Bryant 2117 1165 107.4 29.8 108.5 3.59 3.59
Michael Jordan 1736 1086 114.1 35.1 105.1 2.32 2.28
Tim Duncan 1827 1001 109.2 30.4 99.7 1.44 1.37
Scottie Pippen 2029 904 105.8 24.9 101.9 2.90 2.96
Karl Malone 1779 900 107.6 28.8 102.1 3.92 3.78
Richard Hamilton 1819 865 103.6 27.4 104.4 3.93 3.85
Patrick Ewing 1641 756 102.6 26.0 101.0 3.27 3.29
Tony Parker 1518 717 94.6 26.0 110.0 1.33 1.22
Chauncey Billups 1809 707 114.3 22.3 105.0 3.98 4.04
Steve Nash 1398 684 117.0 25.3 115.7 3.17 3.02
Rasheed Wallace 1841 666 98.7 20.7 99.4 4.09 4.03
Hakeem Olajuwon 1237 653 109.9 28.6 100.8 2.45 2.27
LeBron James 996 644 107.2 36.0 102.1 4.42 4.57
Reggie Miller 1595 614 116.3 21.6 108.6 4.35 4.44
Dirk Nowitzki 1248 612 117.1 25.4 110.2 2.13 2.00
Sam Cassell 1250 579 105.0 25.1 109.9 1.51 1.42
Charles Barkley 1133 569 115.9 26.6 110.8 2.27 2.23
Robert Horry 1996 546 114.6 15.0 107.4 2.29 2.54
Clyde Drexler 1141 541 107.5 25.1 111.6 2.06 2.13
Allen Iverson 873 534 102.3 34.3 107.9 -0.14 -0.09
Manu Ginobili 1219 529 120.2 23.9 102.9 1.29 1.10
Gary Payton 1449 518 111.0 19.8 110.9 3.19 2.84
Tayshaun Prince 1711 512 98.6 17.3 102.4 3.83 3.69
Paul Pierce 1059 499 105.6 25.7 103.1 3.69 3.65
John Starks 1207 489 104.6 22.7 108.5 3.32 3.32
John Stockton 1257 482 111.3 21.7 105.2 3.55 3.49
Ray Allen 1244 481 108.5 21.4 110.0 3.68 3.81
Latrell Sprewell 997 470 99.3 26.3 103.9 1.06 1.22
Kevin Garnett 922 448 109.6 26.7 100.1 1.48 1.34
Jason Kidd 1041 444 101.2 22.9 103.1 4.35 4.25
Charles Oakley 1449 438 103.3 17.0 104.4 3.42 3.40
Kevin Johnson 820 415 118.5 26.0 119.0 2.14 2.14
Michael Finley 1274 411 109.6 16.8 113.3 2.04 2.29
Ben Wallace 1789 398 99.6 12.7 93.3 3.70 3.74
Vlade Divac 1003 397 106.6 21.0 106.1 1.94 1.84
Rik Smits 843 393 110.4 26.1 106.7 4.13 4.28
David Robinson 908 389 106.1 23.8 100.5 1.30 1.09
Derek Fisher 1368 375 110.8 14.8 109.9 3.31 3.39
Shawn Kemp 795 374 112.7 25.8 106.9 2.38 2.34
Horace Grant 1387 374 122.6 14.8 105.2 3.22 3.22
Jeff Hornacek 1110 370 115.6 18.7 107.1 3.82 3.76
Sam Perkins 1223 361 116.0 16.0 112.1 2.26 2.22
Derrick McKey 1192 361 109.6 16.7 110.2 3.41 3.27
Dwyane Wade 622 357 117.5 31.8 101.1 3.85 3.71
Hedo Turkoglu 933 344 104.0 19.7 107.7 2.87 3.22
Nick Van Exel 823 344 104.3 22.3 114.6 2.91 3.10
Allan Houston 805 338 96.2 23.7 108.4 2.64 2.66
Mark Jackson 912 336 113.4 20.7 111.2 3.49 3.51
Shawn Marion 906 323 117.4 18.4 107.1 2.90 2.75
Dan Majerle 1232 319 107.6 13.7 111.2 2.89 2.76
Alonzo Mourning 692 313 96.3 25.5 96.9 4.57 4.65
Chris Webber 638 302 106.8 24.9 106.1 2.08 1.81
Mike Bibby 746 302 107.7 20.9 107.9 1.31 1.29
Rajon Rondo 690 301 101.9 23.9 103.4 3.61 3.65
Kenyon Martin 684 294 88.9 23.1 100.6 4.73 4.78
Pau Gasol 767 294 119.0 20.4 108.1 2.79 2.72
Richard Jefferson 737 289 99.1 21.2 100.6 4.61 4.80
Vince Carter 531 283 106.5 29.5 107.5 3.44 3.35
Josh Howard 634 278 104.5 23.0 111.8 1.09 0.95
Lamar Odom 766 276 115.9 19.3 107.8 3.31 3.36
Dale Davis 1072 272 110.9 14.3 104.6 4.35 4.19
Tim Hardaway 557 270 106.2 26.5 105.2 4.03 4.03
Dikembe Mutombo 960 267 114.0 15.7 104.1 0.79 0.70
Jason Terry 631 264 111.5 22.1 117.1 1.07 1.19
Jerry Stackhouse 595 261 101.5 23.2 112.8 1.58 1.54
Anthony Mason 967 259 107.8 15.1 109.1 3.30 3.35
Jamal Mashburn 609 257 94.4 24.0 103.7 2.58 1.67
Peja Stojakovic 732 255 101.5 18.0 109.2 1.85 1.46
Aaron McKie 755 251 106.0 18.7 108.8 -0.46 -0.61
Toni Kukoc 738 250 117.8 19.1 105.9 1.91 2.07
B.J. Armstrong 785 249 111.9 17.5 112.3 3.52 3.33
Dwight Howard 561 249 112.9 24.4 97.1 4.85 4.91
Antonio Davis 823 249 108.9 17.1 104.6 4.14 4.11
Bryon Russell 935 249 109.6 15.2 104.3 3.90 3.86
Larry Johnson 748 242 102.4 18.2 106.6 3.14 3.10
Eric Snow 751 238 93.6 18.0 106.7 0.68 0.40
Jerome Kersey 615 235 111.7 20.3 113.3 2.23 2.26
Doug Christie 689 234 105.5 17.3 105.9 0.82 0.80
Amare Stoudemire 407 233 120.0 29.3 113.4 3.26 3.65
Bruce Bowen 1431 232 103.7 9.0 107.7 1.47 1.59
Ron Artest 543 229 88.9 23.7 102.5 3.69 3.84
Antoine Walker 597 228 101.6 20.4 97.5 3.32 3.45
Clifford Robinson 615 227 98.9 19.8 106.7 2.95 2.95
Avery Johnson 610 223 110.0 20.4 114.5 1.00 1.00
Stephen Jackson 580 223 85.6 20.9 100.5 2.34 2.34
Derek Harper 656 220 109.6 18.8 105.1 3.36 3.34
Terry Porter 608 219 126.2 18.9 115.8 2.32 2.20
Detlef Schrempf 615 219 109.1 20.1 115.2 2.65 2.63
Mario Elie 762 216 111.5 15.0 111.2 2.11 1.93
Rashard Lewis 569 215 104.2 20.8 105.8 4.90 4.89
Antonio McDyess 665 213 106.6 18.6 101.2 3.98 4.07
Charles Smith 634 211 104.7 18.6 106.1 2.53 2.50
Kenny Smith 627 205 111.5 17.8 111.4 1.98 1.76
Danny Ainge 655 205 117.9 16.3 117.3 2.31 2.29
Steve Smith 531 205 99.6 21.6 114.4 3.23 3.15
Anfernee Hardaway 478 205 113.0 23.1 115.9 3.01 3.15
Lindsey Hunter 722 205 87.1 16.1 100.3 3.72 3.64
Elden Campbell 558 204 91.8 20.2 104.1 1.61 1.44
Leandro Barbosa 500 202 97.5 21.1 115.5 2.71 2.84

ShareThis

37 Responses to “Career Playoff Quality of Defenses Faced (1991-2010)”

  1. Neil Paine Says:

    Manu Ginobili has been a beast in crucial games (although the opposing defenses have been relatively weak); Tony Parker has played surprisingly poorly, especially when you consider the opposing Ds.

  2. Mike G Says:

    This is great! Maybe.
    What the heck is OppDPAA_poss?

    (I could guess, but most likely I'm not the only one wondering.)

  3. Jason J Says:

    Neil - I'm having a little trouble interpreting this last table. Is this saying that Shaq put up a 113ORtg against a defenders who were (on average) 3.45DRtg better than replacement, hence we could credit Shaq with 116.45ORtg for his efforts? Or is that extrapolation way off?

  4. UB Says:

    Neil, I missed the post from yesterday, but can I make a suggestion when discussing "crucial" games?

    The concept that a crucial game includes "an elimination game for the trailing team," I believe is pretty flawed. That includes all 3-0 and 3-1 games?

    I think your "crucial" stat covered it much better just removing those criteria and simply keeping the rest. To wit:

    "Game 3 or later in a 7-game series; Conference Semifinals or later; series tied, within 1 game either way" = 2-1; 2-2; 3-2; 3-3.

    Adding in "elimination for the trailing team" games simply adds 3-0 and 3-1 games, which are by far the least crucial of the bunch (if you REALLY want to include 3-1 games I wouldn't argue too much, but 3-0 strikes me as a humongous stretch).

  5. Neil Paine Says:

    Sorry, should have included a key to the abbreviations! "oppDPAA" is opponent defensive points above average; it's league defensive rating minus team defensive rating. When there's an underscore, that's what it's weighted by -- "_mp" means it's weighted by minutes played in each game, and "_poss" means it's weighted by the individual possessions used in each game. So if you weight the average opponent Kobe's faced in his playoff career by the possessions he used in each game, their defensive rating has been 2.79 points/100 possessions better than the league average.

    As for a "crucial game" definition, like I said, there's definitely room for argument. But I think facing elimination, even if you're down 3-0 or 3-1, is still a crucial game (it's literally a "must-win"). Also, understand that a game like that only counts as a "crucial game" for the team trailing. So Game 5 of the Celtics-Magic series counted as a crucial game for Orlando, but not for Boston.

  6. UB Says:

    Neil,

    I get what you mean, but one could argue that every playoff game is "crucial" (certainly, it's true in announcer-land, which is the odd and scary realm where all broadcast cliches are true). I don't remember the exact percentage of times the team that wins Game 1 wins the series, but it's something like 80%, correct? So the delta (value) between 0-0 and 1-0 is 30% increased likelihood of winning the series, assuming that there's no inherent advantage in being tied at 0. Meanwhile, obviously as of right now being down 0-3 has a 0% conversion rate to having won the series, though the Magic are certainly trying to change that. But being down 1-3 also still has a very low conversion rate (it's only happened, what, 8 or 9 times ever?), so the delta (value) of winning game 4 there is very low.

    To take a current example...

    Imagine an existing player. We'll call him JaLon Brames. JaLon's an amazing player, but in the fourth game of a series in which his team is totally outmatched, he goes 10/30 from the field, just 2-6 from the line, for 24 points (TS 40% - eugh), with 6 turnovers (though he does get 10 assists and 6 boards to mitigate that somewhat). However, he's not particularly called out for the game, given that it's very unlikely his team will win the series anyway, and their playoff opponents have an unbelievable defense.

    Fastforward a couple of years, with Brames's team now down only 2-3. JaLon now goes 8/21 from the field, 9/12 from the line, for 27 points (TS 64% - quite good), though his 9 TOs hurt his team a ton. But his 10 assists and 19(!) rebounds are certainly a plus for his Javaleers in a losing effort (big coffee conglomerate ownership). After the game he is absolutely KILLED in the media, even though this game was pretty significantly better - simply because the loss of this game was seen as far more damaging given that a win would have set up a game 7 for the Javaleers at home, a much more likely possibility for a victory in the series than still being down 1-3.

    I'm not saying...
    I'm just saying.

  7. Neil Paine Says:

    So what you'd like is basically a "leverage index" within a series for how important each game is based on its location the series score going in. I can actually do that -- look for a post next week.

  8. UB Says:

    Neil - that sounds really interesting. Thanks for considering it!

  9. Hank Says:

    Very interesting post, but it appears that the Eastern Conference is given a little too much credit defensively, and the Western Conference not enough. At least part of the reason for the high ratings given to Eastern defenses is that they are facing weaker offenses more often throughout the regular season.

  10. themojojedi Says:

    Great work in following up this topic Neil, I really like the breakdown weighted by both minutes and possessions.

    If I've understood the definition of terms correctly, this methodology treats an opponent with a defensive rating of 106 in a year where the league rating is 108 as an equally tough defensive opponent as a team with a defensive rating of 100 in a year that the league average was 102. This is clearly not the case. I've only really looked at players in the mold of high-usage perimeter scorers, but those guys absolutely FEAST on defenses with ratings greater than 106 and even the greatest have struggles against the teams with ratings less than 100.

    For this reason, when I was originally having a look at this topic I decided not to assess the opposing team defense against the league average, but rather use the raw defensive ratings. Why? I think you need to directly assess the statistical productivity of a player in the statistical environment in which it was produced, and that environment has fluctuated significantly between 1991 and 2010.

    If we look at a player's Offensive rating as a return on investment, then a 10% return on investment is much more valuable during the lean times of the Global Financial Crisis than during periods of economic prosperity. And for NBA scoring efficiency, 1999-2004 was the Global Financial Crisis.

    During Jordan's first 3-peat the yearwise league average ORtg/Drtg was around 108 in the regular season and 110 in the playoffs. Scoring was cash money, and MJ logged around a 32% of both his career playoff games and minutes during this span. Things remained fairly fruitful in the next 5 seasons, with a yearly average rating of 106.8 in the regular season and 107.1 during the playoffs. MJ played approximately another 38% of his career playoff games and minutes during this stretch.

    From the start of the Tim Duncan championship season in 1999 to the End of the Shaq/Kobe Lakers era in 2004 the yearwise league rating was 103.4 in the regular season and 103.0 in the playoffs. You might as well have hid your money under the mattress, because times were tough. These 6 years were the 6 lowest for ORating/DRating in the last 20 regular seasons and included the lowest 5 for the last 20 playoff seasons. Duncan played around 43% of his career playoff games during this stretch and 45.47% of his total playoff minutes, Shaq around 46.7% (51.5% of minutes) and Kobe 52% (and 56% of his total playoff minutes).

    Since then things have picked up again with average ratings of 106.2 regular season and 107.0 playoffs from 2005-2007 and 107.8 regular season and 108 playoffs from 2008-yesterday. Obviously the modern era of stars like Dwade, LeBron and Chris Paul have played all or nearly all of their playoff games during these years when the points are flowing freely again.

    I really want to write a detailed analysis in full when I find the time, but consider this brief breakdown of the best and worst opponent defenses for just Jordan, Wade, LeBron and Kobe. (These include series prior to 91 and were compiled before the 2010 playoffs, so slightly out of date).

    These 4 guys have played a series against an opponent with a defensive rating better than 102 on 27 occasions in their careers:
    3 times for Jordan - 3 series wins against 93 NY, 97 MIA, 98 IND, includes No Finals, 1 series against ratings better than 100
    3 times for Wade - 3 series losses against 04 IND, 05 DET, 07 CHI, includes No Finals, 2 series against ratings better than 100
    3 times for LeBron - 3 series losses against 07 SA, 08 BOS, 09 ORL, includes 1 Finals, 2 series against ratings better than 100
    18 times for Kobe - 14 series wins, 4 series losses, includes 5 Finals, 13 series against ratings better than 100 including 4 Finals

    These 4 guys have played a series against an opponent with a defensive rating worse than 106 on 29 occasions in their careers:
    16 times for Jordan - Includes 1 Finals (2 other Finals in the 105s, 2 more in the 104s), 6 series against rating worse than 108
    2 times for Wade - Includes 0 Finals (06 DAL at 105), No series against rating worse than 108
    6 times for LeBron - Includes 0 Finals, 3 series against ratings worse than 108
    5 times for Kobe - Includes 0 Finals, No series against ratings worse than 108

    We can also breakdown the defenses faced by alternative statistical measures such as EFG% defense versus the player's EFG%, or look at the quality of defenses as measured by the All-D teams or DPOY awards of the direct man on man perimeter defenders faced (GP, Kidd, Starks, Bowen, Majerle, Christie, Prince, Battier, Artest etc) and the intimidating shot-blocking and help D interior presence faced (Ben Wallace, Duncan, KG, Dikembe, Ewing, Oakley, Robinson, PJ Brown, Zo, The Davis boys etc). For these awards I like to use a 5 year rolling window including awards achieved in the season that the player faced that defender and the 2 years before and after, but that's another story.....

  11. hk Says:

    I think Neil was trying to account for players that under perform against soft defenses as well.

    MJ didn't win titles in all top 6 of his post-seasons (going by WS/48). Teammates do carry even the greatest players. "Jalon Brames" shouldn't feel too bad, he's generally over performed in his playoff career.

  12. hk Says:

    Solid discussion between the both of you, by the way. These last couple of debates and blog posts have been interesting.

  13. Mike G Says:

    If we don't try to measure a player's "offense" and how it stacks up an opponent's "defense" -- rather, check the player's playoff Win Shares (and WS/48) vs his opponents' SRS -- we can avoid a lot of these uncertainties.

    In regular seasons, opponents' SRS total very close to zero, W% close to .500. In playoffs, they are mostly > 0 , equivalent to an avg W% of .600-.620 . We won't get as many WS/48 vs .600+ teams; if we do, we've overachieved.

    WS and SRS seem to go back to the beginning of time, so we could do so with this assessment, too. The only assumption would be equal Min/G vs each playoff opponent.

    I'd tend to agree that all playoff games are equally vital. After Jordan got 63 against Boston (losing), he was pretty wiped out for the finale.

  14. Jayson Says:

    Excellent post, themojojedi.. I love the idea for this blog post, but I think the implementation could have been done much better.

    I've made a few postings asking this to be done for a while now, and I'm glad to see it finally being done..

    Not sure I like how it's been done by possesssion though.

  15. nimble Says:

    KB showed he has been/will the man,however advanced naphta you throw at him.kb=mj,en of story.

  16. nimble Says:

    will be**

  17. UB Says:

    Hk -

    I agree, "Jalon's" performance has been excellent. I was more trying to highlight the difference in reaction to a game that was really quite poor (G4 2006) and one that really wasn't nearly as bad as people seem to be treating it (G6 2010), which I believe has a lot to do with the situation in the series (0-3 vs 2-3).

  18. Anon Says:

    Themojojedi,

    You presented some thoughtful and accurate points. However, it's not like this blog HASN'T visited the "How would a prime MJ do against today's defenses?" topic before, and he has still come out ahead of anybody you want to compare him to in a contextual application of the numbers (such as the points you presented in your post).

  19. Neil Paine Says:

    Themojojedi,

    You can't look at raw defensive ratings w/o regard to the league average, because it completely ignores rule changes, changes in playing styles, etc. that have occurred over time. For instance, our best estimate of the league average defensive rating in 1958 was 89.1. By your logic, that means every team in the NBA that year was significantly better defensively than the best defenses of the past 25 years! But we know that's not necessarily true -- it's just the way the game was played back then, the strategy was to run down the court as quickly as possible and jack up the first shot you could get (pace factor in 1958: 118.9!!). If we compare to the league average, we still see that the 1958 Celtics (DRtg: 84.9) were a good defensive team, but they were more like a team with a 103 DRtg in today's game, not a team with an 85 DRtg.

    Now, it's true that a DRtg of 100 in a league where avg = 102 is slightly more valuable than a DRtg of 106 where avg = 108, simply because when the scoring environment is lower, 2 points of efficiency differential is more valuable. So we could plug the numbers into the pythagorean formula and come up with a slightly more accurate read on the relative value of defense. But you still have to compare to the league average somehow.

  20. Neil Paine Says:

    Really, Jayson, "the implementation could have been done much better"? How would you have done it? (Keeping in mind that I've already explained why it's necessary to compare opponent's defensive ratings to the league average.)

  21. Neil Paine Says:

    In fairness, I should have included the league average ratings in the final table to compare the offensive ratings to as well. But the main emphasis of the post should be on the tables that preceded the final one; I simply added that last one because the data was on hand and I thought it would be cool.

  22. UB Says:

    Neil,

    Just to back themojojedi on one point...

    Your production metric of choice is Game Score, is it not? To quote from the glossary: "Game Score; the formula is PTS + 0.4 * FG - 0.7 * FGA - 0.4*(FTA - FT) + 0.7 * ORB + 0.3 * DRB + STL + 0.7 * AST + 0.7 * BLK - 0.4 * PF - TOV."

    In other words, it's a counting stat. So I can kind of understand his concerns with not normalizing the data. Because a game score of 15 during the 1958 season just isn't the same as a game score of 15 during the 2010 season.

    Also, unless I'm misreading it, he's also claiming that there's a significant kink in the graph at DRtgs of 106 and 100.

  23. Neil Paine Says:

    It was the metric of choice for the post on Thursday, yes. Would I use it for anything but the most simplistic of studies? No. I don't even prefer to use PER, and Game Score is the poor man's version of PER. As for ratings of 106 and 100, I'll have to investigate that. I suspect that there's nothing magical about those benchmarks, except that in the years we have data, the league rating has stayed basically in the 106-109 range, so it just seems like those are important numbers. Basically, he's just saying that good scorers do best against below-average defenses and struggle against the best in the league.

  24. themojojedi Says:

    Neil,

    I think there are many situations when comparing to the league average is necessary. The example you presented of determining how fundamentally "good" a defense is between years and eras is one of them. There it is particularly important to understand the effect of rule changes, the 3-point line, pace, style of play etc. That is, how well was a team able to work within the confines of the prevailing environment to produce statistically tough defense.

    My logic does not assume that a lower team defensive rating means a "better" defensive team. My logic assumes that a lower team defensive rating means that the team has demonstrated over the course of the regular season that it more difficult for the opposing players to score a high number of points per possession against them than a team with a worse defensive rating. This is regardless of the year,era or league average rating of the two teams. We should statistically evaluate how a player actually does perform offensively directly against the statistical standard of defense.

    I don't think the 1958 Celtics (DRtg 84.9) defenses are fundamentally better defensively than the 2008 Celtics (DRtg 98.9). Even if the two teams had a DRtg an equal number of points below league average DRtg for their season I'm still not judging Bob Pettit for shooting 42.3% on field goals (and whatever his corresponding ORtg would have been) in the 1958 Finals series against Boston as harshly as I would judge Kobe for shooting 40.5% or LeBron for shooting 35.5% in their respective playoff series against the 2008 Celtics.

    I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, but I don't think that 'points better than league average' is an appropriate comparative measure of how tough it is to produce numbers against teams with low defensive ratings. People say defense was much tougher during the 1990's hand-check era, and physically it probably was. But is that toughness reflected in the Defensive ratings of the top teams of the era?

    Don't worry Anon, I'm not trying to stir up anything against Jordan. To me he is the best player that has ever played the game, at least that's what the Jordan memorabilia plastered all over my walls seem to reflect.

  25. themojojedi Says:

    Regarding the 100 and 106, no magic numbers there. I had just been dividing the team DRtgs into classes above and below 100 points per 100 possessions with a width of 2 since that's what a field goal is worth.

    And during these playoffs Kobe finally got to play against a DRtg worse than 108 as Jordan had done 6 times and LeBron 3 times. I think I'd classify his series against the Suns (110.2) as an offensive feast, right?

  26. DSMok1 Says:

    Where did APBRmetrics go?

    Neil--you had mentioned some source data for APM/SPM regressions? I'm interested...

    BTW this is an interesting discussion above.

  27. themojojedi Says:

    Should have reported the TS% for the Pettit, Kobe and LeBron example too:
    Pettit: 0.515 TS%
    Kobe: 0.505 TS%
    LeBron: 0.480 TS%

  28. Neil Paine Says:

    Themojojedi- I think you and I are on the same page, it's just that I was looking purely at the strength of opposing defenses without regard to player performance in this post, while you are talking about combining performance and SOS into an adjusted production rating. I can do that too, though, either next week or the week after that, using the pythagorean formula to adjust the player's base offensive ratings for strength of opposing defenses.

    DSMok - Yeah, I have no idea what's wrong w/ APBRmetrics, but I think the gist of my comment was that I'm interested in helping/collaborating with the new advanced-stat-based SPM it looked like you were working on (I think I missed your intro for that). I can send you the APM dataset I used for the most recent regression if you want (it's the Rosenbaum data + 2 yrs. of Lewin data + recent BBValue data; no Ilardi because Steve combined playoff numbers w/ regular-season ones). What was your R-squared on the first pass? Better than what we were getting w/ the Rosenbaum per-40 method?

  29. Jayson Says:

    Neil, when I said I thought it could be implemented better, I meant that performance should be taken into account with the team's defensive quality. Maybe a weighted scale or something where if facing a subpar defensive team - the player's value in terms of ortg or PER should be decreased to account for the defense they were facing, and vice-versa for great defenses. Not sure how it would work out, since I haven't got the greatest grasp on statistics, but I'm interested in seeing what you come up with.

    But I guess you already sorta came up to that point in the last post..

    - J

  30. DSMok1 Says:

    I posted a long reply on APBRmetrics, if it'll come back.

    R^2 are much higher, but I'm regressing against the low-noise 6 year average APM's of Ilardi, so there is no direct comparison.

    I'm using only context-neutral stats in the new regression like AST% and ORB%. I'm liking how that' turning out so far.

    I took the scoring/turnover term in a nonlinear direction, posing it as ((TS%*2*(1-C_1*TO%))-PPP_Threshold)*USG%*C_2, where C_1, PPP_Threshold, and C_2 are terms found by the regression. This contextualizes the turnovers to some extent. PPP_Threshold is in the .88 vicinity in my initial regression, and the C_1 term is about 1.35 (indicating that a turnover is worth 1.35 points). If I can figure out how to include assists both to and from the player within this same term, I think we're seriously on to a good regression.

    I would love to have the additional data for additionally refining the regression.

    A cut-down version of my spreadsheet is at: http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0Ah1NfCUslJwxdEhreTd4OGN3SzU1b2U5YXNmTG1JeVE&hl=en

  31. themojojedi Says:

    Okay Neil, I have been viewing this post as a follow-up on/extension to the performance in crucial games post which did make claims about player performance using GameScore, as does including the player's ORtg in the final table of this post.

    On an unrelated matter, I'm assuming there has been much discussion here or at APBRmetrics about the topic in years past, but what is the motivation for the Version 1.1 change to WinShares which removes the sum to team Wins adjustment? Is a team level adjustment viewed as too ad hoc and arbitrary in nature? Should Win Shares be titled something less snappy such as Efficiency Differential Shares?

    By the way I love Win Shares, so I'm just trying to understand the motivation and the implications of the refinements made to the methodology.

  32. Ryan. Says:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/blog/?p=3600

    I believe everything you're looking for can be found there, Themo.

  33. Ryan. Says:

    Would've helped if I had read that post correctly... FML.

  34. hk Says:

    I love Win Shares.

    Coincidentally LeBron has just over 25 win shares (regular and post-season) in a single season, slightly besting Jordan's peak. I don't think he has a problem against # 1 defenses, he destroyed the Magic last year and was still respectable against the Celtics this year.

  35. Ryan Says:

    Concerning the recent back-and-forths we've had regarding defense, I'd like to chip in.

    While I agree that adjusting for team-defense is an aspect of the utmost importance, I do believe there will always be a gigantic flaw when measuring the effect they have on players.

    In no way are we immediately able to quantify that during the Laker's first 3-peat, defenses were built and assumed around Shaquille O'Neal, who saw most of the attention and majority of the doubles. They adjusted dependent on approach and performance. These numbers make an adjustment based on the team's defensive performance, but those numbers exist because the defense gave Shaq a hard time than they gave Kobe.

    Likewise, these numbers don't show the Detroit Bad Boys being the best defensive team in the league. However, they were most certainly the best team and defending and containing Michael Jordan. They'd created and adapted the most comprehensive basketball scheme against on player in basketball history. 15 defensive schemes to contain Jordan. Surely, that defense has to have a higher weighting on Jordan's performance than the next.

    Similarly, while Lenny Wilkins coached some pretty good defensive teams, he was unequivocally the worst coach I've ever seen at scheming against Jordan.

    The one team that stands tall, much like the Boston C's, in this regard are the New York Knicks, circa '92. Top defensive team, and probably the best defensive approach I've ever seen against a single player.

    Over the course of an 82-game season, it's quite possible that the '08 Celtics were better than the '92/'93 New York Knicks. But they certainly didn't use the amount of men to stop one man.

    While not the same squad, I've always loved this clip:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4kmu4DS6vA

    And Neil, I think you'll like this. Amongst YouTube's laymen, there has been a defensive argument going on quite heavily for quite a while now. One Kobe fan posted this video, following the '08 Finals loss.

    Kobe Bryant vs Zone Defense:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kYBeNQdSCc

    While another poster made a sarcastic, satirical reply with this
    Michael Jordan vs. 1-1 isolation defense
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2s9_GKFNL9E

    Things like this make stepping away from the stat-sheet quite fun, and actually keep my somewhat sane.

  36. Ryan Says:

    Apologies for the abundance of typos.

  37. Ryan Says:

    Also, at the 2 minute mark of this video, Chuck Daily walks you through an aspect of The Jordan Rules

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcW0JrStspE