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Who Ruled the Top Defenses in 2011?

Posted by Neil Paine on July 25, 2011

Which players excel against the best defenses, and which ones get their numbers by feasting on the weakest Ds?

To answer those questions, here's the latest installment of a series I started in 2009 and continued in 2010... The concept is simple: I rate each team defensively using the BBR Rankings formula (including regular-season and playoff games), then track how well each player performed offensively against opponents of varying defensive quality.

Here were the final defensive rankings for 2011:

Rk Team Poss Def Rk Team Poss Def
1 BOS 8169.1 -6.28 16 ATL 8296.1 0.19
2 CHI 8787.5 -6.17 17 CHA 7335.1 1.08
3 ORL 7990.2 -4.66 18 SAC 7826.2 1.26
4 MIL 7355.0 -4.50 19 LAC 7612.1 1.28
5 MIA 9237.3 -3.05 20 HOU 7754.0 1.64
6 DAL 9268.4 -2.86 21 UTA 7481.6 2.78
7 MEM 8765.0 -2.69 22 PHO 7810.7 2.97
8 LAL 8312.7 -2.62 23 NJN 7427.8 3.13
9 SAS 8115.5 -1.97 24 MIN 7904.3 3.23
10 NOH 7770.3 -1.89 25 GSW 7778.0 3.23
11 PHI 7972.7 -1.52 26 WAS 7734.9 3.26
12 IND 8201.9 -0.82 27 NYK 8182.7 3.50
13 DEN 8274.6 -0.35 28 CLE 7618.2 4.69
14 OKC 9257.5 -0.35 29 DET 7329.6 5.15
15 POR 7696.3 -0.22 30 TOR 7603.2 6.04

First, let's look at the players who played the best -- and worst -- on offense (according to bopOSPM, a.k.a. Offensive Basketball-on-Paper Statistical Plus/Minus) vs. better-than-average defenses (average being 0.00 on the list above):

Rk Player (min 520 MP) MP Poss PProd ORtg %Pos Floor% bopOSPM
1 Derrick Rose 1809.5 1126.9 1235.8 109.7 33.8 0.505 6.42
2 Dirk Nowitzki 1985.5 1018.2 1194.7 117.3 28.0 0.539 6.24
3 Deron Williams 1283.9 677.3 774.7 114.4 28.1 0.518 5.84
4 LeBron James 2327.1 1271.3 1446.9 113.8 29.9 0.533 5.69
5 Kevin Durant 2195.9 1187.9 1368.7 115.2 28.5 0.521 5.64
6 Kevin Martin 1388.1 757.0 866.6 114.5 28.2 0.498 5.50
7 Chris Paul 1647.3 736.5 873.5 118.6 24.7 0.541 5.04
8 Russell Westbrook 2024.0 1317.3 1410.0 107.0 34.4 0.503 4.74
9 Kevin Love 1425.0 638.1 763.6 119.7 22.6 0.551 4.52
10 Carmelo Anthony 1615.2 957.7 1045.2 109.1 30.6 0.501 4.45
11 Kobe Bryant 1716.8 1054.6 1114.1 105.6 33.4 0.490 4.17
12 Dwyane Wade 2172.1 1251.6 1351.9 108.0 31.5 0.515 4.16
13 LaMarcus Aldridge 1927.2 839.7 963.3 114.7 24.5 0.559 4.06
14 Dwight Howard 1391.6 705.9 802.8 113.7 27.1 0.574 3.95
15 Zach Randolph 1829.0 881.2 991.8 112.6 25.9 0.550 3.90
16 Pau Gasol 1803.9 721.8 858.4 118.9 21.8 0.577 3.76
17 Monta Ellis 1646.2 893.3 954.0 106.8 27.9 0.482 3.62
18 Chauncey Billups 1317.8 586.7 671.0 114.4 23.1 0.488 3.44
19 Manu Ginobili 1370.4 708.9 781.8 110.3 27.3 0.480 3.35
20 Steve Nash 1356.3 652.6 720.4 110.4 24.9 0.497 3.33
...
Rk Player (min 520 MP) MP Poss PProd ORtg %Pos Floor% bopOSPM
245 Jason Maxiell 537.4 138.0 129.6 93.9 13.9 0.473 -3.79
246 Steve Blake 906.7 170.2 167.9 98.7 10.2 0.404 -3.83
247 Taj Gibson 1000.7 294.4 284.1 96.5 15.9 0.474 -3.96
248 Yi Jianlian 546.8 163.2 152.9 93.7 15.3 0.462 -4.06
249 Marcus Camby 941.0 205.2 208.8 101.7 12.3 0.493 -4.20
250 Gilbert Arenas 813.8 406.2 353.3 87.0 26.7 0.381 -4.29
251 Ben Wallace 588.2 101.3 98.7 97.5 9.3 0.477 -4.39
252 Ekpe Udoh 537.9 135.0 129.2 95.7 12.9 0.461 -4.45
253 Paul George 725.2 222.1 199.2 89.7 15.8 0.401 -4.47
254 Donte Greene 638.7 221.9 196.3 88.4 17.8 0.393 -4.48
255 Omer Asik 545.2 128.8 118.4 91.9 12.8 0.462 -4.50
256 Zydrunas Ilgauskas 596.1 174.2 167.9 96.4 16.0 0.471 -4.51
257 Jason Smith 564.2 169.1 152.7 90.3 16.3 0.436 -4.55
258 Darko Milicic 886.7 345.0 298.3 86.5 19.8 0.428 -4.74
259 Mike Miller 657.8 161.6 152.0 94.0 13.4 0.392 -4.86
260 Stephen Graham 528.9 118.3 99.2 83.9 12.2 0.400 -4.93
261 Kendrick Perkins 823.3 189.6 172.5 91.0 12.4 0.443 -5.00
262 Al-Farouq Aminu 750.3 247.4 213.6 86.4 17.2 0.389 -5.31
263 Eric Bledsoe 947.9 362.7 304.1 83.8 20.0 0.389 -5.39
264 Jonny Flynn 552.0 205.6 163.7 79.6 19.0 0.360 -6.25

Next, let's look at the best and worst players vs. below-average defenses:

Rk Player (min 520 MP) MP Poss PProd ORtg %Pos Floor% bopOSPM
1 Steve Nash 1140.6 576.2 736.5 127.8 25.8 0.570 8.71
2 Dwyane Wade 1479.7 870.9 1060.9 121.8 30.9 0.580 8.13
3 Kobe Bryant 1416.2 933.1 1069.6 114.6 34.5 0.530 7.74
4 LeBron James 1657.5 1032.7 1210.3 117.2 32.9 0.555 7.54
5 Derrick Rose 1865.9 1134.4 1288.9 113.6 32.7 0.519 7.25
6 Kevin Love 1185.6 569.7 724.6 127.2 23.8 0.577 6.65
7 Kevin Martin 1214.5 659.3 780.2 118.4 27.5 0.516 6.23
8 Chris Paul 1483.2 627.9 799.3 127.3 22.8 0.587 6.13
9 Kevin Durant 1563.9 865.7 1008.1 116.4 28.6 0.525 6.11
10 Chauncey Billups 1026.9 481.0 595.1 123.7 23.3 0.521 5.74
11 Amare Stoudemire 1367.2 824.5 937.3 113.7 30.4 0.545 5.58
12 Tony Parker 1296.1 664.1 776.9 117.0 26.5 0.556 5.52
13 Rodney Stuckey 1083.7 529.2 620.5 117.2 26.3 0.549 5.49
14 Eric Gordon 1066.6 537.1 621.6 115.7 26.4 0.517 5.42
15 Manu Ginobili 1229.5 598.9 722.0 120.5 25.2 0.527 5.30
16 Pau Gasol 1591.2 674.1 839.1 124.5 22.1 0.598 5.27
17 Russell Westbrook 1461.7 929.5 1028.3 110.6 33.0 0.525 5.27
18 Dirk Nowitzki 1344.4 670.2 781.4 116.6 26.0 0.538 5.17
19 Deron Williams 1181.0 625.9 706.5 112.9 28.1 0.511 5.08
20 Blake Griffin 1477.8 800.1 913.1 114.1 28.1 0.562 5.04
...
Rk Player (min 520 MP) MP Poss PProd ORtg %Pos Floor% bopOSPM
229 Zaza Pachulia 527.5 148.5 155.8 104.9 15.3 0.505 -2.61
230 Ronnie Brewer 1047.1 270.8 289.0 106.7 13.9 0.515 -2.71
231 Omer Asik 592.3 148.3 156.5 105.5 13.5 0.532 -2.74
232 Mickael Pietrus 607.6 177.4 176.2 99.3 15.5 0.391 -2.81
233 Carlos Arroyo 696.9 180.4 182.5 101.2 13.6 0.452 -3.04
234 Spencer Hawes 916.7 342.4 333.0 97.3 19.6 0.476 -3.14
235 Travis Outlaw 1201.6 363.8 341.6 93.9 16.2 0.419 -3.15
236 Thabo Sefolosha 1108.0 218.9 235.8 107.7 10.2 0.503 -3.20
237 Darko Milicic 799.6 326.2 307.3 94.2 20.2 0.461 -3.23
238 Al-Farouq Aminu 701.5 224.5 217.3 96.8 16.7 0.431 -3.30
239 Dante Cunningham 824.0 228.0 229.1 100.5 15.0 0.494 -3.30
240 Corey Brewer 751.6 267.2 256.7 96.0 17.7 0.451 -3.38
241 Vladimir Radmanovic 553.8 163.1 167.8 102.9 14.8 0.425 -3.45
242 Andris Biedrins 726.9 168.6 181.7 107.8 11.8 0.525 -3.46
243 Steve Blake 820.0 204.2 199.3 97.6 13.0 0.395 -3.52
244 Marcus Camby 766.3 198.3 208.0 104.9 14.0 0.501 -3.55
245 Ben Wallace 650.0 129.5 140.3 108.3 10.8 0.522 -3.59
246 Kurt Thomas 721.8 134.4 141.5 105.3 10.0 0.510 -3.60
247 Yi Jianlian 565.1 202.8 190.7 94.0 18.4 0.459 -3.64
248 C.J. Watson 639.9 264.6 251.0 94.8 22.3 0.422 -3.89

Finally, here are the players (minimum 520 minutes vs. both types of defense) who had the biggest disparities between their OSPM against above- and below-average Ds:

Vs. Above-Average Defenses Vs. Below-Average Defenses
Rk Player MP ORtg %Pos bopOSPM MP ORtg %Pos bopOSPM Diff
1 Jared Dudley 1164.1 120.4 16.8 1.80 975.6 111.0 16.1 -0.33 2.14
2 Tony Allen 1131.5 107.8 20.2 -0.55 712.7 102.6 18.5 -2.51 1.96
3 Ryan Anderson 674.4 122.6 18.9 2.69 897.4 117.0 18.1 0.96 1.73
4 Vladimir Radmanovic 615.4 110.2 14.5 -1.74 553.8 102.9 14.8 -3.45 1.71
5 Jose Calderon 1047.0 114.5 19.3 1.82 1055.1 107.0 19.9 0.32 1.51
6 C.J. Watson 587.2 98.9 22.5 -2.46 639.9 94.8 22.3 -3.89 1.43
7 Zaza Pachulia 911.1 112.0 15.1 -1.24 527.5 104.9 15.3 -2.61 1.37
8 Ron Artest 1443.0 108.6 15.2 -1.25 1253.5 99.3 15.5 -2.58 1.33
9 Matt Bonner 896.3 128.4 11.5 0.24 657.9 112.7 13.8 -1.03 1.28
10 Tyson Chandler 1707.6 139.3 12.3 1.85 1030.7 120.5 16.0 0.67 1.18
11 Beno Udrih 1410.4 121.7 16.6 2.60 1323.2 114.5 18.0 1.46 1.14
12 Randy Foye 786.5 102.9 19.9 -0.15 764.8 100.8 19.6 -1.28 1.13
13 J.J. Redick 771.2 115.8 15.7 0.74 861.8 108.7 16.8 -0.35 1.09
14 Dirk Nowitzki 1985.5 117.3 28.0 6.24 1344.4 116.6 26.0 5.17 1.07
15 Kenyon Martin 766.5 107.8 17.5 -1.02 614.8 102.7 16.8 -2.02 1.00
16 Ronnie Brewer 994.8 113.9 13.1 -1.73 1047.1 106.7 13.9 -2.71 0.98
17 Emeka Okafor 1345.0 112.2 15.5 -0.62 1129.4 105.7 16.6 -1.59 0.97
18 Corey Brewer 781.8 98.9 18.5 -2.46 751.6 96.0 17.7 -3.38 0.92
19 Monta Ellis 1646.2 106.8 27.9 3.62 1580.5 106.5 27.8 2.77 0.85
20 Tayshaun Prince 1307.5 109.7 20.2 1.65 1254.1 105.9 20.8 0.86 0.78
...
Rk Player MP ORtg %Pos bopOSPM MP ORtg %Pos bopOSPM Diff
220 Taj Gibson 1000.7 96.5 15.9 -3.96 1025.3 113.0 17.2 -0.57 -3.39
221 Eric Bledsoe 947.9 83.8 20.0 -5.39 892.7 101.4 19.0 -1.98 -3.40
222 Andre Iguodala 1315.9 100.4 20.6 -0.71 1334.7 116.1 20.2 2.74 -3.45
223 Amare Stoudemire 1636.4 103.3 29.7 2.10 1367.2 113.7 30.4 5.58 -3.47
224 Carlos Delfino 616.6 89.1 17.3 -3.66 973.9 110.7 16.9 -0.18 -3.48
225 Paul George 725.2 89.7 15.8 -4.47 672.5 109.6 17.8 -0.97 -3.50
226 Kobe Bryant 1716.8 105.6 33.4 4.17 1416.2 114.6 34.5 7.74 -3.57
227 Chase Budinger 879.2 98.9 18.2 -2.36 858.3 115.4 19.4 1.36 -3.72
228 Hakim Warrick 806.3 107.0 18.5 -0.58 609.2 118.3 22.7 3.17 -3.74
229 Shannon Brown 894.3 94.3 20.6 -3.66 840.0 110.0 20.5 0.21 -3.86
230 Brandon Jennings 1014.2 92.0 25.3 -1.69 1154.5 107.4 25.7 2.22 -3.90
231 Dwyane Wade 2172.1 108.0 31.5 4.16 1479.7 121.8 30.9 8.13 -3.97
232 D.J. Augustin 1393.6 103.6 21.8 0.86 1363.5 120.6 22.3 4.83 -3.97
233 Joe Johnson 1731.2 98.4 25.2 0.08 1319.8 111.9 26.5 4.18 -4.10
234 Jerryd Bayless 843.1 96.9 23.3 -1.60 651.4 115.9 22.7 2.92 -4.52
235 Josh Smith 1659.1 93.3 25.9 -2.65 1423.7 111.3 24.0 1.93 -4.58
236 Jameer Nelson 1152.3 98.0 23.5 -0.95 1383.0 117.8 23.0 3.95 -4.90
237 Steve Nash 1356.3 110.4 24.9 3.33 1140.6 127.8 25.8 8.71 -5.38
238 Antawn Jamison 1037.7 94.5 24.6 -1.72 804.6 114.3 23.9 3.69 -5.42
239 Charlie Villanueva 843.2 93.7 21.8 -3.00 822.5 120.0 20.1 2.52 -5.51

For obvious reasons, most players will naturally play at a lower efficiency/SPM against above-average defenses than below-average ones. When I started this series in 2009, though, I found that Kobe Bryant was more resistant to these effects than most players, including LeBron James (and recall that James' 2009 was one of the greatest statistical seasons in NBA history).

That was then... and this is now. 2011 marks the second straight season that Kobe has done far more statistical damage against bad defensive teams than good ones. Just like last year, Kobe was nearly the league's best offensive performer vs. sub-par defenses but ranked outside the top 10 vs. good Ds. (By comparison, James ranked 1st vs. each type of defense last year, and 4th vs. both types this season.) Steve Nash and Dwyane Wade showed even bigger splits than Kobe in 2011, although for Wade it's at least not part of a larger trend -- in 2009 he was more resilient vs. top defenses than both Bryant and James, and he ranked 2nd vs. each type in 2010.

On the other hand, kudos go out to James, Derrick Rose, who ranked in the top 5 vs. each type of defense (including #1 vs. above-average Ds), and Dirk Nowitzki, who actually ranked higher vs. above-average defenses (#2) than below-average ones (#18). And last but not least, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, Devin Harris, & Ramon Sessions deserve a mention for playing at an equally high level vs. each type of defense.

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44 Responses to “Who Ruled the Top Defenses in 2011?”

  1. Mike G Says:

    This is a really great use of data.

  2. Mike G Says:

    "... Dirk Nowitzki, who actually ranked higher vs. above-average defenses (#2) than below-average ones (#18)..."

    It shouldn't be surprising that a player's RANKING is higher vs better-than-avg defenses; half of all players will do this. That Dirk was one of relatively few who had BETTER bopSPM vs above-avg defenses, THAT is the anomaly.

    What fraction of all players had better offensive numbers vs the better defenses?
    Is there a correlation between better offensive players and their impervious-ness to opponent D?

  3. Myles Says:

    Derrick Rose has the benefit of never having to play the #2 defense in the league.

  4. Mike G Says:

    In mid-January, I actually looked at LeBron, Rose, and Dwight vs NBA teams, divided into 4ths -- not defensively ranked, but by SRS.
    Rose did best against the top 1/4 (Mia, SA, LA, Bos, Den, Orl) and worst vs the 2nd 1/4 (Dal, Okl, Mem, Hou, Por, NO, Phl, NY).
    Of course, the rankings may have changed since then.

  5. Jay Says:

    That was a really interesting piece. Thanks for posting!

  6. Jason J Says:

    Neil - Could you apply this technique to some historic seasons? I feel like that LeBron v. Kobe argument (re: Bron outperforming Kobe generally and Kobe outperforming Bron against better D) could be applied to DRob & Hakeem & Shaq in 1995 or Jordan vs. Malone in '97 & '98 (MVP discussion).

    Is it something you could do with cumulative seasons (I guess find the average bopSPM against the defensive ranking for each opponent annually over a given time span)? Might be an interesting twist on best the offensive players of all time debate.

  7. AYC Says:

    "Derrick Rose has the benefit of never having to play the #2 defense in the league."

    And Dwight never had to face the 3rd best team, and Lebron never had to face the 5th best team, and Dirk never had to face the 6th best team.... Btw, the top 5 teams were all in the east, so that's another advantage Dirk/Kobe/Paul/etc had.

    I am a little surprised Rose did so well, since playoff stats are included. Also, Deron Williams is a small surprise near the top of the list

  8. Slick Ric Says:

    Im a little surprised Rose was number one, expected him to be around that number just not number one, but Im not surprised kobe did not fair to well, I noticed that during the season. unfortunately, Kobe may be slowing down a bit.

  9. JTaylor21 Says:

    What do you know. Yet another fact aka stats that points to Kobe being one of the most overrated players in history and yet another jordan wannabe that's benefiting off the Air Jordan hype.

  10. sudoku Says:

    Haters will always roam about because of the envy.

  11. MO Says:

    How does this make Kobe overrated? He was clearly past his prime in 2011. Look at his last prime season--2009. Better vs better defenses. smh

  12. Imadogg Says:

    About guys like Kobe and Wade, it's not as much about them being horrible against the best defenses - 11th/12th out of 264 qualifying players in the best defense list is still pretty damn good (top 5%) - but more about playing much better against bad defenses and not as well vs the good ones. There's a difference.

    And don't feed the obvious troll...

    Good stuff Neil.

  13. huevonkiller Says:

    Kobe's not even in his prime anymore, no need to take a cheapshot at him.

    I'd like to see what most of these other players look like at 32-33. Kobe's better per minute than Wade, of course Points produced is what matters. LeBron and Wade play more minutes and are superior to better "per minute" players.

    Kobe's career is just fine.

  14. huevonkiller Says:

    NP you stopped halfway during your 2009 analysis dude.

    LeBron had 9 games against top 5 defenses after March 27. He had 8 before March 27. That's a pretty important detail.

  15. JTaylor21 Says:

    Kobe's not in his prime anymore, fair point but what was he doing in his prime for people to claim that dude's the best player since MJ? Losing in the 1st round to those "great" suns squad and bashing teammates in parking lots while failing to lead his team to even an 8th seed. No one is hating on dude, I'm just tired of everyone acting like he's one of the 10 greatest players of all-time when in reality, he's the 3rd best SG of all-time (behind MJ/West) and a Top-15 player at best. That's when you become overrated, when people rank you higher than your numbers and accolades deserves.

  16. Anon Says:

    Kobe doesn't outperform Bron against better D, he just stays closer to HIS baseline performance. People/media play off of this perception - hence the Kobe myth.

  17. sudoku Says:

    Hence, Dwyer and Abbott earn their clicks while Lebronze myth dances on the sidelines..

  18. David Says:

    Nice piece...

    Kobe? This guy's been done with his dominance for the past 2 or 3 seasons and where did he land on the All-NBA team? And All-Defensive team? That's right, 1st team on both in 2011. And 2010, while DWade was clearly the superior shooting guard, yet falling behind him in the post season popularity accolades. This is where Bryant is overrated. In the court of public opinion. Based on numbers he's clearly been stellar, but also grossly over credited. So many people I talk to act as if he only follows MJ in the pantheon of NBA greatness... Advanced statistical measurements do a nice job shedding light on such inaccuracies.

    Looks like NY didn't get much from Amare when it counted either...

  19. HJ Says:

    Here's the logical fallacy for all of you people declaring whether Kobe or LeBron, or any other player, have an advantage due to not having to play against "good" or "bad" defenses. In pure statistical terms, all of these are endogenous (mutually dependent).

    For example, while it is true that the top defensive teams on paper are all from the east. But the question here is that is it because they are truly superior defensive teams? Or is it because the east is plagued with bad offenses? Because if there is a substantial difference between the overall level of offensive play between the east and the west, then their defensive statistics includes that.

    Since the defensive rankings are influenced by the overall level of offensive talent in each conference, therefore the player rankings presented here are also not entirely accurate and should be adjusted via a system of multiple models to remove conference effect. Then use these models to estimate the conference-neutral defensive statistics, then formulate a ranking.

  20. Neil Paine Says:

    The defensive ratings are adjusted for strength of schedule using what we call the Simple Rating System:

    http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=37

    It's essentially a system of 60 equations with 60 unknowns -- an offensive and defensive variable for each team. All are solved simultaneously, and all of the ratings are connected to the other ratings, so as long as there is inter-conference play, it theoretically accounts for any difference in conference strength or offense-defense bias from conference to conference.

  21. huevonkiller Says:

    #15

    Kobe is just as good as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson if you go by the advanced metrics.
    If anything those other two players are overrated because they're considered right below Jordan, so that argument doesn't make sense.

    Kobe seemed pretty underrated by the media back in 2005-2007, now he's overrated. It happens to every great player when they don't win, and then win. It'll happen to the next great player when he joins a popular team.

    The point being no need to belong to either extreme, the guy is definitely worthy of top 10 he is probably the greatest Laker of all time; at the very least a great case can be made for him.

    #17

    Jordan didn't have amazing numbers in the Olympics, people should drop the Bronze thing.

    #20

    It is confusing when you keep citing 2009 though. That's not even 50% complete against top-level defenses.

  22. Heretic Says:

    I'm with JTaylor21 regarding Kobe.

    Actually, he's my favorite player, but I can't put him in the top 10 just yet. Not with a playoff ws/48 of 0.158.

    Kobe is comparable with Bird but is clearly behind Magic, who had a playoff ws/48 of 0.208.

    Anyway, Jordan, Kareem, Wilt, Magic, Hakeem, Admiral, Shaq, Duncan are clearly ahead of Kobe. One should probably also add Russell to that list too, if leadership should be a factor.

    Then, you still have Robertson, West, Bird, Barkley, Malone, Garnett, Dirk... And you can make a strong case for them being ahead of Kobe too.

  23. Agood Says:

    In the past three years, Kobe has played the equivalent of 5 seasons of basketball because of their playoff runs and the Olympics.

  24. James Says:

    If you look at last seasons statics per game, Kobe in my view was nearly the best player. First, what he did, he did in 5 less minutes on the court than Durant for example. He avergaed .75 points per minute. If he played the additional 5 minutes per game, you get just over 29 points per game. In addition he is doing that with a messed up knee and still broken finger. Now considering his age and how many miles he put on the court, that is not too shabby. I do not want to take away from any of the other players in the league who did great, but Kobe is still right up there. The other advantage I still see with Kobe compared to other great players, is he still has the killer instinct. I watched Derrick Rose throw the ball to a teammate in the final second of the last two playoff games he played last season and end up getting stuck with horrible shots rather than just taking Lebron off the dribble. Kobe would have taken on Lebron and scored on him too.

  25. Knicksfan84 Says:

    You know what gets me... Devin Harris!!! This dude NEVER plays and when he does it always feels like he's getting spanked by the opposing PG. This is a nice set of stats but it doesn't take into account (UNLESS I'm WRONG) what their opponent is doing against them in said games...

  26. Mail Liw Says:

    statistic are only guide and they don't show a player true worth or impact in games. A player may have less points and other statistic point like in rebound, steal,block, assist and other. But the impact or influence he make in creating those to happen is what statistic don't record. Personally I don't look much at stats but impact a player have on his team!! That's what count to win than huge stats but lose the games.

  27. Heretic Says:

    #27

    Double facepalm when seeing such comments reach even here.

    Btw, Kobe has 5 rings, not 4, and nobody is denying him a place in the top 20. He probably even is in the top 15, but top 10 is IMO too high. On the plus side, he still can make it, he's only 33.

  28. CC Says:

    Different people have different opinions. How can you rank top all-time players without arguments? No way!! Too many variables, and it is really silly to compare players from different eras... I seriously don't understand why some people would always use words like "clearly" to discuss if one is better than the other, when they all have their own strengths. It is all about impression and preference. Facts?! Come on...

    This ranking is actually quite nice to see. Very interesting. Well done!

  29. Swagger Says:

    Just about every topic devolves into a discussion about Kobe.. Here's my two cents. Kobe is without question the most talented player we've ever seen. In a discussion of greats There's Jordan and then the rest.. Kareem, Wilt, Russell,Olajawan, Hayes,and Duncan are all great Centers in their own right. You could even make the case for Oneal and George Mikan. David Robinson sorry no way! While Larry and magic were amazing players on amazing teams, neither possessed the individual skills of Kobe Bryant. Dirk Nowitzski is as good a shooter and scorer as we've seen but his overall play is deficient in too many areas to rate as one of 50 greatest. Charles Barkley likewise not good enough.. Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, George Gervin, Oscar Robertson and David Thompson were tremendously gifted players,, Pete Marevich and Dominique deserve a special category but not quite good enough. The best point guards Magic not withstanding were Cousey, Nate Archibald, Isiah Thomas, and Clyde/Monoroe.. Players like Stockton, Steve Nash, Iverson Dennis Johnson are all very good. but not good enough. Julius Erving was the best of his era, Alex English, Rick Barry, Bernard King, John Havlicek were players that could single handedly take over games.. Kobe Is writing an amazing legacy. Yes he is an enigma.. but his talent is irrefutable. The Man is so Damn good it's scary. My suggestion is that we all sit back and enjoy the ride.

  30. huevonkiller Says:

    #22

    Heretic that's a pretty bad analysis though. Again you're penalizing Bryant for a longer career than Magic, not for having an inferior one.

    Many stats indicate Kobe is better than Magic, such as various versions of Plus Minus. And the clincher is his much longer career.

  31. huevonkiller Says:

    Just forgot to clarify:

    They're both worthy of the discussion, but when you start averaging stats from Kobe's teen years that throws things off. Like Shaq, Magic didn't stick around long enough to put his career that much ahead.

  32. Heretic Says:

    #30

    Huevonkiller, you make a good point. Kobe's first years do bring his numbers down and they should not be considered.

    However, this does not save Kobe from the fact that he underperformed in the playoffs on a consistent basis. Let's go year by year:

    2000 - both PER and WS indicate he was not much above average, and certainly below All-Star level.

    2001 - he was excellent. No argument here. One of his two great playoff performances.

    2002, 2003, 2004 - not much better than in 2000. Sub All-Star level and clearly inferior to Shaq. Not once had ws/48 above 0.150.

    2005 - did not make it.

    2006, 2007 - chokejobs, especially in 2006 (ws/48 below 0.100). Nothing special in 2007.

    2008 - a decent performance. Would have been a great performance but Boston series changed that.

    2009 - the other time when he performed great.

    2010 - good performance, but worse than in 2009 or 2001.

    2011 - chokejob, though injury could have played a large role. Ws/48 below 0.100 again.

    The facts are harsh: Kobe had just two great playoff performances, two decent ones and the rest were smaller or bigger chokejobs. He surpassed 25 PER just 3 times and 0.200 ws/48 just twice. Compare that to Magic and you'll see why I consider the latter a better player.

  33. Phill Says:

    Why wasn't bopOSPM defined?

  34. huevonkiller Says:

    #32

    I appreciate the intent of your post. I like these advanced discussions. From Neil's first bopSPM (posted July 11, 2011 in the comments):

    Kobe top BOPspm seasons in playoffs

    7.74- 23 games 2009
    7.51- 16 games 2001
    6.11- 21 games 2008
    6.09- 31 games 2010
    5.53- 12 games 2003
    4.76- 22 games 2004

    Magic top bopSPM seasons in playoffs

    6.72- 14 games 1986
    6.48- 18 games 1987
    6.02- 9 games 1990
    5.13- 21 games 1984
    5.05- 19 games 1985
    4.98- 19 games 1991

    Kobe's better here. In Neil's second bopSPM it is closer between these two though.

    You have to adjust PER for usage rate. Kobe's "25" PER 2001 post-season is superior/equal to many of Jordan's "27 PER" seasons. I like PER but I always keep that stat in mind.

    With WS/48 in their prime, Magic is a little better, although Kobe is at .18 WS/48 which is very respectable and has 23 Win shares. Magic has .211 WS/48 and is at 29 WS. I think the numbers are close enough that if we were to start using different metrics their careers would be very equal (as you can see with bopSPM). Also I don't not consider both eras comparable depth-wise or talent-wise.

    They are both worthy of being GOAT Laker. Kobe's career is still continuing though.

  35. huevonkiller Says:

    *Kobe played 23 games in 2010 not 31, that's what I meant.

  36. Heretic Says:

    #34

    You make fine arguments, so I'll just point to two things. The first thing is that what I like about Magic is that he performed on a consistent basis, with 1981 as the sole exception. Kobe unfortunately has not been consistent at all in the playoffs, as I pointed out earlier.

    The second point is that Magic's career, as you perfectly know, was cut at a moment when he was still at his peak and was still an elite player. 1991 regular season - 4th in PER, WS and WS/48. 1991 playoffs - 5th in PER, 2nd in WS and 9th in WS/48. Who knows where he would rank if he ended his career due to age, but it is very much possible that he would be completely out of Kobe's range.

    To sum things up, I think Kobe should achieve something more if he wants to be GLOAT. It will be more than fine with me if he does, since he's my favorite player.

  37. huevonkiller Says:

    #36

    Kobe's ten year regularized APM is 6.1, Tim Duncan is at 5.8 and Dirk is at 5.7.

    Consistency is relative, just look at the metric I provided above. I measured only their primes, ages 22-31 in the above study. So Magic being cut off in his peak has nothing to do with anything, Kobe's prime matches Magic and exceeds it according to bopSPM and versions of regularizedAPM. Kobe also had to share possessions with Shaq.

    Kobe is just as good as Magic or better. And this is assuming Magic played in a comparable era. Seems unlikely with the smaller pool of interest in the world.

  38. Heretic Says:

    #37

    You can't punish Magic for being born in a different era. This makes no sense whatsoever. One should only stick to the facts, Magic never played in Kobe's era and vice versa.

    Also, I don't know why you bring the "sharing possessions with Shaq" argument, since in 2003 Kobe had his highest postseason USG of 34% and in 2001-2004 generally had a 30% USG. Except for 2001, he wasn't very efficient, with a ORtg of 106.

    I brought up consistency because it is important. When a player regularly chokes - like Kobe did - he diminishes opportunities for his team to win. Had Kobe played on his regular season level, Lakers could have beaten the Spurs in 2003, the Pistons in 2004, the Suns in 2006 and even possibly the Celtics in 2008 and the Mavs in 2011. Magic was more consistent and there is little surprise that the Lakers were more successful (5 titles and 9 finals in 12 years), despite the fact that Magic at his prime never played with a player on Shaq's level or even Gasol's. Kareem was still good but not even close to superstar level from the mid 80's.

    And I don't know why you keep bringing up new metrics. I could do the same and point to Berri's WP, for instance, in which Magic is better even than Jordan and crushes Kobe. But I doubt it's a good stat. I wonder what are your favorite metrics (or rather which ones you consider best). Then, we can compare Magic and Kobe by those metrics and see who shows up better.

  39. huevonkiller Says:

    #38

    The 1980s had a much higher average league offensive rating in the playoffs. Heretic this is mostly about the advanced metrics lets not distract ourselves with the other stuff. The Dean Oliver stats you cited were incorrect as well.

    Kobe played in a much tougher league environment so the offensive rating stats you just mentioned are distorted. Again look at the July 11, 2011 post. It seems you have not grasped the advanced figures used in bopSPM, one of them being offensive rating above league average. Kobe is a better two-way player than Magic which is something team defensive rating will not capture, but other stats might.

    Well clearly you didn't read the explanation of bopSPM and ten-year rAPM. These are indeed respected metrics and bopSPM is based on the stats Win Shares uses. You did not make a great statistical defense for your position which is all that concerns me at this moment. Magic has played sub-par in plenty of playoff games and the figures reflect that.

    I've already proven Kobe is just as consistent, or more consistent. Your previous argument was that Kobe's prime does not match Magic's prime, but that's false. It is proven false by a variety of metrics that are respected around here. Wins Produced does not have that reputation.

    WP is not respected by the majority of APBRmetricians. APM and SPM are, and I use a variety of metrics not just one. There is no end-all metric so your philosophy is flawed. And WP doesn't rank Magic ahead of Jordan anyway.

    "You can't punish Magic for being born in a different era. This makes no sense whatsoever. One should only stick to the facts, Magic never played in Kobe's era and vice versa. "

    No one is punishing anyone, if his era is inferior that is not Kobe's fault. Now you could argue his era isn't inferior, but I doubt that given the increase in population and international interest. Billions of extra people now play basketball. I'll say this again, in 2030 the league will be even more talented than this one.

  40. Heretic Says:

    # 39

    I see that you consider bopSPM as a superior stat to win shares. OK, I did a little reading and indeed it seems to be a very fine metric. But only the "old" version exists, since the new version does not include playoff stats. So we will have to wait.

    I am still curious what are your favorite metrics. If you want to make a case that Kobe is at least as good as Magic was, then all you have to do is show that Kobe's numbers do look better. Magic has a much better ws/48, has a similar PER, and trails somewhat in the older version of bopSPM, but we will see about the new one. Where did you find the rAPM? Some other metrics you use, like Pelton's WARP?

    Also... It is simply untrue that I brought up the "Magic's peak is better than Kobe's peak" argument. Show it in my posts.

    As for WP, I was right that Magic is ahead of Jordan. Here is the link:

    http://wagesofwins.net/2011/06/30/just-desserts-100-greatest-wins-produced-players-since-1978/

    Not that it matters, I never said I like WP.

    I agree with the talent pool argument. Still, just because hundreds of millions more are playing does not necessarily mean much. It is the pure elite talent that matters, and the question is how much of that talent ends up playing basketball.

  41. huevonkiller Says:

    Another interesting discussion, I appreciate your thoughts Heretic.I consider a wide range of information before making a conclusion, especially when Magic has never dealt with anemic teammates. Kobe is clearly better offensively in his prime because all versions of plus minus said it and the usage-efficiency tradeoff plus MPG says it (popular metrics here). His prime is a bit underrated due to "defensive rating" on a bad team, an issue Magic never dealt with.
    Kobe won 57 games in 2010 when he was terrible for his standards, so it does matter.

    Magic was less consistent in the post-season than in the regular season in bopSPM I. He's not better in bopSPM II offensively (they're almost equal overall), Kobe's just penalized for being on a worse team defensively. Kobe didn't "choke" for Magic standards. Sometimes defensive rating does a good job of capturing defense, other times when you're freakishly good offensive player on a bad team, it does not. The metrics say Kobe is not a "worse" defender and the usage-efficiency tradeoff shows what a freakishly good offensive player Bryant is. rAPM adjusts for teammates and provides another context for Kobe and the tier he is at.

    I've seen "Wins Produced" adjustments that have Jordan as number 1, that's what I meant. Yeah it is shocking how bad real WP is (it is a team stat not individual stat) but SPM/rAPM are accepted along with WS/48 in this era.

    "Also... It is simply untrue that I brought up the "Magic's peak is better than Kobe's peak" argument. Show it in my posts."

    Sure you did, in post #36:

    ~~~~~~"The second point is that Magic's career, as you perfectly know, was cut at a moment when he was still at his peak and was still an elite player. 1991 regular season - 4th in PER, WS and WS/48. 1991 playoffs - 5th in PER, 2nd in WS and 9th in WS/48. Who knows where he would rank if he ended his career due to age, but it is very much possible that he would be completely out of Kobe's range."~~~~~~

    Also the depth of the league does matter not just how top heavy it is. If the worst player in the league was Andre iguodala (with the same top tier of talent), that would deflate every player's statistics. Also it is unlikely another superstar or two haven't been added to the league, if the pool of talent grows. Again you have not considered the full implications of adjusting for league average.

  42. Heretic Says:

    #41

    Thanks, I also enjoy our discussion.

    Kobe is indeed an excellent offensive player, his ten year offensive rAPM is tied for best with Lebron's, though the latter is higher thanks to defense. But I can't find rAPM numbers for Magic, I wonder if they are available at all for 80's players.

    Magic's teammates were better, true, though Shaq/Gasol at their peak aren't bad, and Kobe had them for all but 3.5 seasons. But one can argue that it was also so because Magic had a larger positive impact on his team than Kobe did. On court-off court +/- would be very helpful here but they are also unavailable for 80's players. Anyway, Magic's impact was seemingly huge as the Lakers dropped from 58 wins and NBA finals to 43 wins and first round exit in 1992.

    As for Magic's peak, maybe I put it in the wrong way. I wasn't arguing that Magic's peak was better than Kobe's. I mentioned that Magic's career had ended when he was still at his peak and that one should have that in mind when judging the player, because it seems fair. Who knows how many productive seasons Magic would have had, he even wasn't bad in 1996 when he briefly returned.

    I concur with you on the pool of talent argument. That surely works in Kobe's favor, especially since it was Magic and Bird (and a bit later Jordan) that popularized the NBA. Basketball almost certainly had a bigger impact on late 80's and early 90's youth than it did when Magic's generation was young.

  43. huevonkiller Says:

    I'll give you some more context since this is a fun topic. My point these last few weeks (not just against you Heretic) was to say, yes the media can get overzealous with Kobe but he might be the greatest laker ever, he's definitely at Magic level. Allen Iverson is not on Kobe's level but is also underrated because he played in a tougher defensive era than other popular stars.

    Kobe's not LeBron offensively because he loses in the usage-efficiency tradeoff, bopspm offense/defense I and II, rapm and other stuff but still Kobe is at a pretty impressive tier. Kobe's better than Magic offensively across the board with these figures not just rapm.

    The +/- isn't needed for Magic because we are comparing Kobe to players that are at/above Magic level like Duncan and Dirk in the rapm. Think of it like the "Big Mac index". It is easy to see prime Kobe is in a different team situation than prime Magic. Magic's teams are deep it isn't just about the top heavy talent like Gasol either.

    Remember Shaq only won 56 games in 2001 even though he played like an MVP and had an almost prime Kobe. How deep one's team is, is crucial. A good supporting cast has to play excellent defense too not just put up numbers. A good defensive team makes people underrate supporting casts, such is the case with Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. The advanced numbers sort through nostalgia and represent how comparable both these Laker greats are.

  44. Matthew Egan Says:

    I agree with Jason, it would be great to see this data among a historic season. Or compare only the greatest players of NBA history.