Posted by Neil Paine on June 12, 2011
As a follow-up to Thursday's post about the best Finals performances according to Statistical Plus/Minus, here's a playoff ranking since 2003 with a few tweaks:
- I finally re-ran the Offensive SPM formula without steals and blocks. Steals in particular were causing certain players to be extremely overvalued offensively, and there's little reason to include those defensive stats in an offensive regression. (DSPM is the same as before -- and yes, it still includes several offensive stats, but DSPM wouldn't explain more than 25% of defense without them, while OSPM's explanatory power was barely affected by dropping steals & blocks out.)
- At the request of readers, instead of per-minute SPM players are ranked by per-game "Impact", which is SPM times the % of team minutes played.
- All of a player's games are weighted by Championship Leverage, which takes into account how much the game will potentially swing the odds of a team winning the NBA title. Leverage is relative to the average playoff game in a given season (which always has a leverage index of 1.00). For instance, Game 1 of the Magic-Hawks 1st-round series had a leverage of 0.44, while Game 5 of the Finals had a leverage of 5.28. This means that, in terms of influence on championship probability, Thursday's game was 12 times as important as Game 1 of a 1st-round series, and the rankings will reflect this.
Anyway, here were the top playoff performers since 2003 according to per-game SPM impact, weighted by the importance of the game (minimum 10 games):
LeBron James? That choker is #1?
Well, take a look at LeBron's performances in his highest-leverage playoff games (leverage >= 1.5):
I will concede that he has had negative performances in 4 of his 5 most important games, but right below those we also see double-digit impact ratings in extremely high-leverage games.
Besides, if you look at someone like Kobe Bryant, you'll also see a Top 10 littered with negative impact ratings in huge games:
Not even the great Dwyane Wade, perhaps the best Finals performer of his era, is immune to poor games in big spots. While his overall record (like James' and Bryant's) is outstanding, in the 3rd-most-important game of his playoff career to date, he threw up a 7-for-20, 5 turnover, 113 DRtg performance vs. Detroit.
The point? Everyone has bad games in big spots, some far more odious than James' worst offerings (Kobe's 2008 Game 6 vs. Boston was perhaps the worst big-game performance by a great player in the last decade*). But on average, the best SPM playoff performer since 2003 was LeBron -- something to keep in mind as you watch the 6.1-leverage index Game 6 tonight.
(* - Btw, the best big-game performance -- meaning the highest-leverage double-digit impact game since 2003 -- was this closeout by Tim Duncan: 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, 8 blocks, and played all but 2 minutes for a team that allowed 0.835 pts/possession.)