Nerd Numbers Guest Post: Top 25 Players Part Two

Nerd Numbers here. Arturo let me post the first part of a follow up piece to Mosi of the Miami Heat Index and Devin of NBeh?. Both looked at the top 50 NBA players list from a few year back and updated it. In terms of stats the NBA is an odd bird. It wasn’t until 1978 when individual turnovers (an important piece of several advanced stats) were tracked. As a result I kept my picks in this era. To keep it interesting I limited my choices to 25 players. I based my picks on individual and playoff performances. My top 10 was a lot of fun.  Anyway, here are my final 15 picks for the top 25 players of the turnover era.

#11 Dennis Rodman

  • Regular Season – 28838 Minutes, 246 Wins Produced (12th Overall), 0.409 Career WP48
  • Playoff – 4789 Minutes, 28 Wins Produced (12th Overall), 0.282 Career WP48

Check out Rodman’s 1992 season. It is the best season of any player in the last 33 years. The only reason Rodman’s out of the top 10 is the fact he did not play as many minutes as some of the other top players. Definitely one of the most underrated players of all time and a key piece of two repeat title teams.

#12 Kevin Garnett

  • Regular Season – 41417 Minutes, 282 Wins Produced (6th Overall), 0.327 Career WP48
  • Playoff – 3755 Minutes, 19 Wins Produced (25th Overall), 0.247 Career WP48

Kevin Garnett has the second most regular season wins of any active player. Unfortunately he hasn’t gotten a lot of playoff time. If he can stay healthy and help the Celtics to more playoff success he’ll climb this list before his career is through.

#13 Ben Wallace

  • Regular Season – 31799 Minutes, 207 Wins Produced (18th Overall), 0.313 Career WP48
  • Playoff – 4524 Minutes, 30 Wins Produced (11th Overall), 0.318 Career WP48

Ben Wallace is definitely a player that deserved more playing time in his prime. He was an absolutely beast for Detroit and arguably should have earned an MVP in his time there. Some health issues and age ruined what could have been a great tandem with him and LeBron in Cleveland.

#14 Moses Malone

  • Regular Season – 42553 Minutes, 236 Wins Produced (16th Overall), 0.266 Career WP48
  • Playoff – 3278 Minutes, 19 Wins Produced (29th Overall), 0.275 Career WP48

I’m a big fan of the only MVP in the turnover era on a team with fewer than 50 wins. Some more playoff time could have helped his standing. That said he still ranks as the fifth best center in the last 33 years by my measure.

#15 Clyde Drexler

  • Regular Season – 40265 Minutes, 238 Wins Produced (15th Overall), 0.283 Career WP48
  • Playoff – 5572 Minutes, 25 Wins Produced (17th Overall), 0.211 Career WP48

The second best shooting guard after Jordan. 1989-1991 was a rough stretch where Portland had the chance to be a champion three years in a row and ran into Johnson, Jordan and Rodman instead. He was a great player that got to be a savior and a champion but arguably for the wrong team.

#16 Karl Malone

  • Regular Season – 54852 Minutes, 322 Wins Produced (2nd Overall), 0.282 Career WP48
  • Playoff – 7907 Minutes, 28 Wins Produced (13th Overall), 0.167 Career WP48

I had a rough time placing Malone this low. The truth is he wasn’t a great playoff player. He had a long and great career for Utah. He did a LeBron like move to end it but sadly it didn’t work out. That said, he ended his career as a member of the 300 win club and a top power forward.

#17 LeBron James

  • Regular Season – 21804 Minutes, 139 Wins Produced (43rd Overall), 0.305 Career WP48
  • Playoff – 3089 Minutes, 19 Wins Produced (27th Overall), 0.295 Career WP48

I have to agree with Mosi. A lot of the Anti-LeBron sentiment is just hater talk. As a Denver fan that’s seen domestic abuse, drug use and driving issues with “star” players I can’t honestly say being a prima donna is that offensive. LeBron’s short career has been amazing. Excluding the 2007 finals against the Spurs, LeBron’s career performance has been great. I’m genuinely curious to see how much higher he’ll climb before his career is over.

#18 Dikembe Mutombo

  • Regular Season – 39211 Minutes, 243 Wins Produced (13th Overall), 0.297 Career WP48
  • Playoff – 3177 Minutes, 16 Wins Produced (36th Overall), 0.245 Career WP48

It’s hard as a Nuggets fan not to wonder what could have been if Dikembe had stuck around. He was a defensive powerhouse that is definitely underrated. It’s a shame he didn’t get as much playoff time as some of the other big names but he still made an impact and did manage to get to two finals.

#19 Shawn Marion

  • Regular Season – 34880 Minutes, 198 Wins Produced (21st Overall), 0.272 Career WP48
  • Playoff – 2790 Minutes, 14 Wins Produced (45th Overall), 0.235 Career WP48

Marion was the first superstar on Phoenix. When they got Amare and Nash it was a thing of beauty. Sadly that time ended too soon with a bad trade for Shaq. Marion is a player that could do it all and definitely racked up some impressive numbers in his prime. He’s still a productive player and here’s hoping he can pull a title before his career ends.

#20 Mark Jackson

  • Regular Season – 44763 Minutes, 204 Wins Produced (19th Overall), 0.219 Career WP48
  • Playoff – 3775 Minutes, 17 Wins Produced (34th Overall), 0.220 Career WP48

In a world of scorers someone has to get them the ball. Jackson had a career average of almost 8 assists a game. Mark Jackson was a key piece of a strong Indiana team that did make it all the way. Sadly, the truth is Mark Jackson won’t get much love on other top lists but that’s what the Wages of Wins Network is here for.

#21 Marcus Camby

  • Regular Season – 27779 Minutes, 168 Wins Produced (27th Overall), 0.290 Career WP48
  • Playoff – 2075 Minutes, 10 Wins Produced (64th Overall), 0.231 Career WP48

Marcus Camby has been a great player that probably hasn’t gotten enough credit. He was a key playoff member of the 99’ Knicks that made it all the way to the finals. In Denver he made Melo look like a star and in Portland he has kept an injury ridden team respectable. It’s my hope he can end his career with a ring as I’m sure he’ll be ignored from the hall.

#22 Scottie Pippen

  • Regular Season – 41068 Minutes, 194 Wins Produced (22nd Overall), 0.227 Career WP48
  • Playoff – 8105 Minutes, 38 Wins Produced (6th Overall), 0.225 Career WP48

Easily the best side kick in the NBA. Pippen put up great regular season and playoff numbers and was a key members of one of the best teams of all time, twice! The Bulls and the Jazz are amazing in that they both drafted two of the top 25 players in the last 33 years.

#23 Dirk Nowitzki

  • Regular Season – 33405 Minutes, 152 Wins Produced (32nd Overall), 0.219 Career WP48
  • Playoff – 4301 Minutes, 23 Wins Produced (18th Overall), 0.251 Career WP48

The greatest European I can think of. Dirk is a crazy player. He’s a 7 footer that is a threat from anywhere on the floor. It’s a shame he missed his shot at the title  but he will leave a great legacy. He should be a walk for the hall and will end his career as one of the best of all time.

#24 Bill Laimbeer

  • Regular Season – 35785 Minutes, 158 Wins Produced (29th Overall), 0.212 Career WP48
  • Playoff – 3735 Minutes, 17 Wins Produced (33rd Overall), 0.223 Career WP48

Forget Isiah and Dumars the bad boy Pistons were all about Rodman and Laimbeer. Devin and Mosi both left him off their lists, which I consider a huge snub. Laimbeer was a top player in the regular season and the playoffs and definitely was underrated by everyone outside of Detroit.

#25 Steve Nash

  • Regular Season – 31404 Minutes, 148 Wins Produced (34th Overall), 0.226 Career WP48
  • Playoff –4228 Minutes, 18 Wins Produced (31st Overall), 0.204 Career WP48

How can I not put a mullet wearing Canadian that was the two time MVP on my list? He won’t stay here long with players like Dwight Howard just waiting to take this spot. That said, Steve Nash has a had a great career and somehow is still playing at a top level. It’s a shame he missed his title shot but somehow he’s stayed classy and is a great follow on twitter.

Well there’s my list. Devin and Mosi smartly didn’t order their lists but where’s the fun in that? Feel free to chime in with your thoughts.


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  1. Some Dude

    Marion. Camby. Top 20 all-time. There’s an NBA version of Poe’s Law joke to be had somewhere among this.

  2. Eitan Rosenberg

    Great stuff but this is kind of where the spkeptics on wins produced come out. Mark Jackson is ranked as a top 3 PG of all time…something just doesn’t sit right there.

    Would be interested in seeing if players now have different WP versus different opponents AND on back to back nights. A lot of analysis could be done regarding those two dynamics.

  3. 3/16/2011

    Hehe. I told Arturo right before I posted this that the odds were close to 100% that you’d hit on Camby. He made the finals with New York, hit the playoffs every year in Denver (and the West was rough) and has helped out Portland. Really Toronto and the Clippers missed out and really players underperforming in Toronto and the Clippers having a terrible team around a star is nothing new.

    Interesting. In this case I’d say I stand by my statement. In looking at other top PG lists I see a lot of pre 1978 (Oscar Robertson, man I wish we had full stats!) and some potentially overrated players (Gary Payton and Isiah Thomas) Mark Jackson was a key member on an awesome Indiana team. When he and Dale Davis left that team dropped by 20 wins! I’d say that type of analysis is definitely valuable but I think its value is in looking at short periods not over entire careers.

  4. Some Dude

    Camby has never been a top 20 player in a single NBA season. Camby made his only Finals played LESS than half a game and IIRC coming off the bench. he hasn’t been out of the 1st round in a decade. Denver always underachieved with him.

    He’s not even a top 200 player all-time, let alone close to top 20.

    Shawn Marion is as much a joke. A guy who always wilts in the playoffs, no less. I’m sorry, but in the NBA 1 player has way more effect on the game than in the other sports and for me to believe a guy like Marion is top 20 having never sniffed the NBA finals is ludicrous.

    And Steve Nash at #25! Same boat as Marion. Ignoring defense is awesome, isn’t it.

    Gary Payton would have taken that Phoenix Suns team to the Finals, something Nash could never do.

    I’m…I’m just amazed that people who watch adn enjoy basketball could come to such ridiculous conclusions. This must be the only corner in the basketball viewing world that would actually entertain the notions that some of the guys on this least are even top 100 players. Every year in the playoffs Marion is outplayed by a counterpart player. Marion by Duncan or Odom or Brand or Dirk/Josh Howard. Camby is always outplayed by Duncan, Pau, Amar’e. Nash for years was outplayed by Tony Parker and only got the best of him when Parker was injured.

    Marion was always a garbage scorer, scoring off run outs and hustle plays and for a short time open 3s. he could never score in isolation or in the pick n’ roll with the ball. His handles are awful. His defense was always overrated. Camby also overrated on D, but his issue is he’s a liability on offense in the playoffs. Nash, well he was so bad on defense he disrupted his own team’s ability to play D and it has always cost them the title shot.

    When the games actually matter, when teams try hard and when everything is on the line, the “elite” players have to have solid all-around games which those 3 do not. Ben Wallace too. You can’t win without that.

    One more thing. Marion and Nash played at their very peaks together. You take the 19th best and 21st best players and put them together for 3 seasons at their peak, have a supporting cast good enough to win 60+ games, and STILL never get within 1 game of the NBA Finals. That alone invalidates the list. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how basketball is played. Sorry.


    now go on ahead and cite stats act like i’m wrong. Sigh.

  5. Eitan Rosenberg

    I do also believe there’s this notion which ultimatley helps a player’s stats and then WP and that is the system he plays in. You specifically look at those Suns teams and Nash is in a perfect system for him there as is Marion along him. I will agree with somedude in those regards. I believe if you had subbed those two out with say John Stockton and Nique in their primes, they may come out as probably the best 2 players of all time.

    Pace is a huge key with some of those clubs. Also I know after a reporter criticized the statistic with Denver, saying that Melo helps others increase their stat line, a metric which is ignored by WP…and now something which is disproven by how Denver is playing…I wonder how true such a notion is with those Bad Boys teams. I mean Laimbeer and Rodman are both on that list, but Isiah is considered “overrated” by the metric. How did those players and those bad boys though do without him? Just curious.

    The Camby notion doesn’t surprise me considering the numbers that compile up the metric. It will highlight centers and particularly those with high defensive rebounding rates and who shoot efficiently. Camby was one of the better defensive bigs and was consistent enough over time. Now does that mean I’d rather have him than a player you may rank lower. No. I feel there needs to be emphasis on players in different categories. Distributors, Role Players, Scorers etc. It’s hard to throw all of these guys on the list and try and do apples to apples. Varying players by position and I feel roles, are key.

  6. 3/17/2011

    You bring anecdotes and I bring stats. I consider that similar to baby vs. rhino. That said I love that you’re using this weird “win when it matters” mentality on the players I selected. All but Nash and Marion have made a finals (and Nash and Marion made btb WCF finals) . Btw I was careful with wording. Camby’s 99 season was so-so, his playoffs were off the hook. Every major stat agrees that Camby was a stud for the Knicks in the 99 playoffs. The players I picked have all been on successful teams but apparently they don’t ‘matter’ In a weird similar note, it seems Kobe win when it matters. Of course when it matters translates to “plays next to a top 5 center”. . . just saying.

    You bring up some good points but let me help to address them. First off the WP48 metric has a Team adjustment and a Defense Adjustment. These are handled based on your minutes played. The team adjustment looks to see if your team has lots of assists and blocks and if so actually penalizes you. The defense adjustment looks at how well your team plays defense and rewards for good defense and penalizes for poor defense. So a fast pace team with poor defense will actually be adjusted by the formula.

    Second you say Melo upped the pace and inflated stats. Maybe so. The Nuggets were a top pace team all the years he was here. That said the difference in pace between the Nuggets and the average team was less than 5% every year except 08 when it was a little less than 6%. Even comparing the Nuggs to the slowest teams was less than 10% every year but 08 when it was around 13%. So even if you think players get an increase from pace it is not going to be substantial and it will be accounted for by team and defense. Also for a player to benefit from more possessions they actually need to do good actions.

    I disagree that pace is as huge of a factor as you think. I agree teams need different roles of players to win (the Celtics are the gold standard in this) but that said getting players good at getting possessions and/or scoring effectively is key and Camby has definitely been in that category.

  7. Some Dude

    You use stats. So do I. 0 NBA Finals for Nash and Marion combined. ZERO. That stat says a lot more about them than does WP. Sure, there would be an exception if they were playing alone on a crap franchise their entire careers, but this is not the case. They had multiple 60 win and 50 win seasons, and top seed or 2/3rd seeds. And they still came up very short.

    You say you cite stats, but the overall consensus in the analytic community says your stats are inaccurate. You say they’re wrong, but to assume a position of superiority is ludicrous. It doesn’t mean you’re not right, but without a consensus on your side, I see no reason to take your assumptions on “stats” as accurate in the least.

    Your own stat admittedly doesn’t take into account individual defense. Nash is given the same credit as Marion on defense for those teams. Anyone with half a brain knows this is absurd. So did you make subjective adjustments to your listings to take this into account when you rated Nash? My guess is no, and you just assumed WP48 captures everything when we already know it does not.

    You bring up Kobe. I have never mentioned him in this discussion. You must really be offended to bring him up.

    I agree with ’99 Camby, actually. It’s too bad he stopped playing within the team structure a few seasons later.

    Camby is a remarkable pick here. Can you remind me of a single Playoff series where he imposed his will post ’99? I sure as hell can’t. You claim it’s anecdotal but we’re RATING NBA PLAYERS. How can you not use anecdotes when he have head to head matchups to see who performs better? Regular season stats aren’t nearly as important.

    Like I said, you put Gary Payton on those Phoenix Suns teams and you’d get 2 titles at least out of them. I am certain of it. Then you would write pieces about how Marion is the team’s best player and leader.

    It is very obvious to me, I’m sorry to say, that you truly can’t put into context the WP48 number (even Arturo agrees it’s not just what your WP48 is, but how you get it that also matters) and consequently don’t have a very good fundamental understand of how the game is played, either.

    • Chicago Tim

      Marion has a ring now. Does that change your mind?

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