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Who Are the Most Similar Players to This Year’s All-Stars?

Posted by Neil Paine on February 19, 2011

Reading yesterday about Dave Duerson's tragic passing made me think about the player similarity system he inspired at PFR, and that in turn caused me to remember a similar system I concocted for basketball players.

Using the methodology I outlined, who are the most comparable players to this year's All-Stars in terms of career quality and shape (through their current age)?


Pos Player Team Age Comp #1 Comp #2 Comp #3 Comp #4 Comp #5 Comp #6 Comp #7 Comp #8 Comp #9 Comp #10 Comp #11 Comp #12 Comp #13 Comp #14 Comp #15
PG Rajon Rondo BOS 24 Baron Davis Isiah Thomas Jason Kidd Tony Parker Brian Taylor Devin Harris Mark Jackson Maurice Cheeks Mike Bibby Calvin Murphy Kenny Anderson Phil Ford Louis Williams Norm Nixon Johnny Davis
PG Derrick Rose CHI 22 Magic Johnson Russell Westbrook Kevin Johnson Isiah Thomas Rajon Rondo Baron Davis Stephen Curry Mike Bibby Tony Parker Deron Williams Stephon Marbury Calvin Murphy Mack Calvin Eric Money Mike Conley
SG Ray Allen BOS 35 Reggie Miller Clyde Drexler George Gervin Michael Finley Joe Dumars Hal Greer Jason Terry Jeff Hornacek Steve Smith Vince Carter Rolando Blackman Hersey Hawkins Mitch Richmond Eddie Jones Dick Van Arsdale
SG Joe Johnson ATL 29 Rolando Blackman Hersey Hawkins Gail Goodrich Hal Greer Byron Scott Pete Maravich Jason Terry Steve Smith Mitch Richmond Jeff Malone Richard Hamilton Michael Finley Cuttino Mobley Brian Winters Jason Richardson
SG Dwyane Wade MIA 29 Jason Terry Hersey Hawkins Hal Greer Vince Carter Clyde Drexler Steve Smith Rolando Blackman Sidney Moncrief Reggie Miller George Gervin Richard Hamilton Joe Johnson Joe Dumars Eddie Jones Gail Goodrich
SF LeBron James MIA 26 Adrian Dantley Julius Erving Tracy McGrady Marques Johnson John Drew Paul Pierce Rashard Lewis Jack Twyman Carmelo Anthony Shawn Marion Peja Stojakovic James Worthy Cedric Maxwell Andrei Kirilenko Rick Barry
SF Paul Pierce BOS 33 Julius Erving Chet Walker Bob Dandridge Rick Barry Shawn Marion Dominique Wilkins Mark Aguirre James Worthy Peja Stojakovic Glen Rice Chris Mullin Scottie Pippen Cedric Maxwell Detlef Schrempf Rashard Lewis
PF Chris Bosh MIA 26 Shareef Abdur-Rahim Kevin Garnett Elton Brand Pau Gasol Shawn Kemp Carlos Boozer Terry Cummings Dirk Nowitzki Spencer Haywood LaMarcus Aldridge George McGinnis Mark Olberding Rasheed Wallace Larry Kenon Buck Williams
PF Kevin Garnett BOS 34 Tim Duncan Dolph Schayes Charles Barkley Horace Grant Rasheed Wallace Dirk Nowitzki Bob Pettit Otis Thorpe Buck Williams Larry Nance Bailey Howell Kevin McHale Bobby Jones A.C. Green Jerry Lucas
C Al Horford ATL 24 Yao Ming Dave Robisch Bob Lanier Neal Walk Hakeem Olajuwon Mike Lewis Tom Owens Al Jefferson Jermaine O'Neal James Edwards Alonzo Mourning Tree Rollins Alvan Adams Dan Issel Dale Davis
C Dwight Howard ORL 25 Tyson Chandler Hakeem Olajuwon Moses Malone Wes Unseld Jermaine O'Neal Bill Russell Yao Ming Artis Gilmore Dan Issel Shaquille O'Neal Brad Daugherty Alvan Adams Alonzo Mourning Jack Sikma Bob McAdoo
C Amare Stoudemire NYK 28 Jim Eakins Dan Issel Brad Miller Yao Ming Billy Paultz Alonzo Mourning Tyson Chandler Bob Lanier Willis Reed Vlade Divac Brad Daugherty Clyde Lovellette Swen Nater Mehmet Okur Walt Bellamy


Pos Player Team Age Comp #1 Comp #2 Comp #3 Comp #4 Comp #5 Comp #6 Comp #7 Comp #8 Comp #9 Comp #10 Comp #11 Comp #12 Comp #13 Comp #14 Comp #15
PG Chris Paul NOH 25 Magic Johnson Kevin Johnson Stephon Marbury Deron Williams Isiah Thomas Steve Francis Tony Parker Jerry West Oscar Robertson Mack Calvin Gilbert Arenas Mike Bibby Calvin Murphy Walt Frazier Brian Taylor
PG Russell Westbrook OKC 22 Isiah Thomas Kevin Johnson Baron Davis Stephen Curry Rajon Rondo Deron Williams Derrick Rose Mike Conley Mike Bibby Calvin Murphy Mack Calvin Chauncey Billups Steve Francis Ramon Sessions Devin Harris
PG Deron Williams UTA 26 Mack Calvin Calvin Murphy Nick Van Exel Kevin Johnson Bob Cousy Kenny Anderson Terry Porter James Silas Mike Bibby Isiah Thomas Steve Francis Norm Nixon Damon Stoudamire Stephon Marbury Walt Frazier
SG Kobe Bryant LAL 32 George Gervin Ray Allen Reggie Miller Clyde Drexler Vince Carter Hal Greer Hersey Hawkins Jason Terry Rolando Blackman Steve Smith Allen Iverson Michael Finley Sidney Moncrief Dick Van Arsdale Eddie Jones
SG Manu Ginobili SAS 33 Sam Jones Eddie Jones Doug Christie Richie Guerin Jeff Hornacek Ricky Pierce Danny Ainge Fred Brown Dan Majerle John Starks Joe Dumars Randy Smith Brent Barry Bill Sharman Jeff Mullins
SF Carmelo Anthony DEN 26 John Drew Rashard Lewis Andrei Kirilenko James Worthy Derrick McKey Jamaal Wilkes Tim Thomas Luol Deng Paul Pierce Sean Elliott Richard Jefferson Marvin Williams Purvis Short Rodney McCray Sonny Parker
SF Kevin Durant OKC 22 Tracy McGrady John Drew LeBron James Adrian Dantley Andrei Kirilenko Marques Johnson Rashard Lewis Carmelo Anthony Julius Erving Rick Barry Luol Deng Paul Pierce Danilo Gallinari Jack Twyman Marvin Williams
PF Tim Duncan SAS 34 Kevin Garnett Buck Williams Rasheed Wallace Charles Barkley Horace Grant Larry Nance Bobby Jones Dolph Schayes Otis Thorpe Shawn Kemp A.C. Green Bob Pettit Dirk Nowitzki Terry Cummings Sam Perkins
PF Pau Gasol LAL 30 A.C. Green Tom Chambers Kevin McHale Horace Grant Terry Cummings Buck Williams Jerry Lucas Rasheed Wallace Bobby Jones Otis Thorpe Larry Nance Larry Johnson Sam Perkins Shareef Abdur-Rahim Rudy LaRusso
PF Blake Griffin LAC 21 Terry Cummings Dirk Nowitzki Pau Gasol Clark Kellogg Charles Barkley Carlos Boozer Shareef Abdur-Rahim Serge Ibaka Zach Randolph Buck Williams Shawn Kemp Lamar Odom Charlie Villanueva Tim Duncan Paul Millsap
PF Kevin Love MIN 22 Elton Brand Dirk Nowitzki Shareef Abdur-Rahim Pau Gasol Carlos Boozer Danny Fortson George McGinnis Larry Johnson Bob Pettit Terry Cummings Charles Barkley Zach Randolph Kenny Sears Troy Murphy Shawn Kemp
PF Dirk Nowitzki DAL 32 Charles Barkley Bob Pettit Kevin Garnett Bailey Howell Dolph Schayes Tim Duncan Jerry Lucas Horace Grant Pau Gasol Larry Nance Karl Malone Kevin McHale Otis Thorpe Rasheed Wallace Antawn Jamison
C Yao Ming HOU 30 Tyson Chandler Jim Eakins James Edwards Tree Rollins Raef LaFrentz Jermaine O'Neal Dale Davis Rik Smits Emeka Okafor Brad Daugherty Byron Beck Dave Robisch Joe Barry Carroll Samuel Dalembert Jack Sikma

10 Responses to “Who Are the Most Similar Players to This Year’s All-Stars?”

  1. Mike Goodman Says:

    Neil, maybe you shouldn't file this under 'Totally Useless', as it could evolve into something useful.
    Maybe even something like -
    Good luck!

  2. Ed Says:

    Love the Dirk Nowitzki/Charles Barkley comp!!!

  3. JTaylor21 Says:

    Can someone explain to me how this comparisons work?

  4. Neil Paine Says:

    #1 - Right, I suppose it's not "totally useless"... but it's also isn't really finding similar players in the traditional Bill James sense, and I wanted to convey that it's probably less useful than a system which does that.

    #3 - First, I took every player-season in NBA/ABA history and pro-rated their OWS/DWS to 82 team games. Then, for a given pair of players at the same position, I calculated the squared difference between their prorated OWS & DWS at each age, and summed those differences across their entire career. The historical player with the smallest squared differences is the one who had the most similar career arc in terms of shape and quality.

    Here's Michael Jordan, for instance:

    WS by Age
    Player Pos Type 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39
    Michael Jordan SG OWS 10.3 1.0 11.9 15.2 14.6 14.7 14.9 12.1 12.0 0.0 1.2 14.2 13.3 10.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.2 2.9
    DWS 3.7 0.5 5.0 6.1 5.2 4.3 5.4 5.6 5.2 0.0 1.1 6.2 5.0 5.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.1 3.4

    Then you try to match up the SGs with the most similar career paths (in order from most to least similar):

    Clyde Drexler
    Ray Allen
    Reggie Miller
    George Gervin
    Kobe Bryant
    Eddie Jones
    Joe Dumars
    Hal Greer
    Sidney Moncrief
    Jeff Hornacek
    Vince Carter
    Jason Terry
    Dwyane Wade
    Hersey Hawkins
    Walter Davis

    It's not trying to find players who were necessarily stylistically similar to MJ (other than being SGs & having a similar OWS/DWS split); instead it just wants to find players who were roughly as good at him at the same ages. And obviously in the case of someone like Jordan, even the best comparison is going to be weak, because he was such a major outlier as a player.

  5. AHL Says:

    I think that's why systems such as Basketball Prospectus's SHOENE were developed.

  6. DWarner Says:

    Interesting and hilarious! Gotta love Amare's comps! Good laugh...

  7. Willie Says:

    Off topic but my opinion on the current ELO rankings:

    [ELO Most Overrated]
    Tim Duncan
    Steve Nash
    Dennis Rodman
    Bernard King
    Bill Walton
    Sam Bowie (WTF?)

    [ELO Most Underrated]
    Bill russell
    Julius Erving
    George Mikan (Below Domonique?)

  8. Nick Says:

    How similar is LeBron to the closest match? I wouldn't think it would be close at all, much like Jordan.

  9. Brian Says:

    More valid comparisons (based on style)

    Amare Stoudamire -- Shawn Kemp, Spencer Haywood
    Kevin Love -- Wes Unseld, Jerry Lucas, Dolph Schayes (?)
    Kevin Durant -- George Gervin
    Tim Duncan -- Elvin Hayes
    Kobe Bryant -- Michael Jordan (do we have to wait for Kobe to hit 30,000 points before we can make this comparison)

  10. Bob M. Says:

    Carmelo's comparisons are not that impressive. Do you all think his low win share numbers over his career are accurate or misleading? i don't watch the nuggets that often personally to know. If they're accurate, i'd stay away from him I were the Knicks or Nets, especially the Nets. they're giving up just about everything but Brook Lopez in their offer.