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On Monday I looked at the most competitive playoff series of all-time by the point differentials of the games, and I got some good feedback from readers about how to more accurately capture the "competitiveness index" of a series. Chief among the suggestions was what to do with overtime games, especially in light of the way Boston & Chicago's epic series last spring was perhaps being underrated by my initial metric. My favorite suggestion was that we simply count the point margin at the end of regulation time, which sets the margin of an OT game at 0 no matter what the final score was. I liked this because it was directly comparing apples to apples -- point differential at the end of regulation for both games that went into OT and games that didn't -- instead of forcing OT games to remain close for another 5 (or more) minutes. Also, I made the arbitrary choice to average raw point differential per game for each series rather than squared differentials, since it seemed like one blowout was being unfairly punished in an otherwise-close series. The results of these modifications are as follows:
When the book closed on last year's Boston-Chicago first-round matchup, it was already hailed as one of the great playoff series of all time, as 4 of the 7 games went into overtime (including one game in double-OT and one in triple-OT!) and 5 were decided by 3 points or fewer. But while there's no doubt Celtics-Bulls 2009 was an instant classic and a great thrill ride, was it the most competitive playoff series ever? In fact, how would we measure "series competitiveness" anyway?
This essay is a rather extreme case of late-night rambling -- just warning you ahead of time.
In case you stumbled upon this website and have no understanding of basketball, sports, or American culture in general, let me just say that the players in the NBA are really good at hoops. I mean, ridiculously good: so good that they have been dominant players their entire lives, at virtually every level. I always laugh when some fans are watching a game and say "I could do that!"... Well, no, you couldn't. The average fan seems to have a shaky grasp at times on the vast, gaping, astronomical chasm that exists between their own abilities (or even the abilities of the best basketball player they've ever known/played with) and those of the worst NBA player who ever played. There's simply no comparison there, as I learned the hard way when future D-Leaguer Patrick Ewing Jr. dunked over me, Freddy Weis style, in a high school AAU game in 2003. I was on a mediocre lower-tier HS team, we were playing the best crop of prospects in the state of Georgia (which at the time included Ewing, Stanford/Washington G Tim Morris, Evansville C Bradley Strickland, & Georgia Tech PG Matt Causey), and they beat us by nearly 100 points. And Ewing is the only player on that team with even a remote shot at the NBA! Talk about a harsh dose of reality.
Many NBA fans like to measure players by team accomplishments like wins and championships, perhaps because that is every team's ultimate goal before each season, and to a certain extent all players on teams that didn't win the championship have failed. With this in mind, I decided to compile a list of the greatest winners in NBA history (since 1952, at least) by taking the minute-weighted average of winning % and SRS for the teams they were on. Since we don't have game logs for players prior to 1986-87, this will serve as a reasonable proxy for what Dean Oliver calls "game by game winning percentages", or the team's W-L% when a player played for them. We'll break things up into 2 divisions -- small samples (those with at least 2,000 career MP but fewer than 10,000) and large samples (those with at least 10,000 career MP) -- and look at the best and worst players by career WPct and SRS. First, the top winning percentages:
I am pleased to announce the launch of College Basketball at Sports-Reference.com, the latest addition to the Sports Reference family of web sites. We have had plans to launch a college basketball site for quite some time, but for one reason or another we always ran into roadblocks, most of them data-related. However, thanks to the efforts of researcher extraordinaire Kevin Johnson, we now have a college basketball database that we believe to be second-to-none. Let me tell you a little bit about what the site does (and doesn't) have:
When I made a post about young stars last week, reader Johnny commented that he didn't know Anfernee Hardaway was as good as his Win Shares make him look. Like Johnny, I also had largely written off Penny as a relic of a bygone era, one of those early "Next Jordan" wannabes (see the image to the left) who were obliterated when the real "Next Jordan" came along a decade later... But you might be surprised to see that for a brief time, Hardaway was truly one of the game's top players, and not just an over-hyped, oft-injured product of the Nike advertising machine.
In his first game as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, things could not have gone much worse for Antawn Jamison -- the former Wizards F went 0-for-12 from the field in his Cavs debut, scoring just 2 points in 26 minutes off the bench. With the donut he produced from the floor, he also added his name to this group of embarrassing performances since 1987:
Talking about arguably the 4 biggest stars of the NBA's 25-and-under set today, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Dwight Howard, had me thinking about this crop of young stars and how they relate to their counterparts in the past... Is this current group the best ever? And if not, who is? Well, here's a simple way to measure how much contribution the NBA is getting from it's age <= 25 players -- divide the youngsters' Win Shares by the NBA's total WS and see what proportion of the league's wins are being added by the kids: