Tuesday, October 29, 2013

LeBron James vs. the other active MVP's

Through 10 seasons, how does the career of LeBron James stack up against the other active MVP's? Here's a look at the year-by-year PER and minutes played for LeBron, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, and Derrick Rose. (Yes, I excluded Steve Nash. Trust me, he doesn't really compare well on a season-by-season basis to these dominant stars.)

Quick Takeaways:

- Good God, LeBron. The combination of dominance and durability is frightening. On a year-by-year basis, he "wins" 8 of his 10 seasons so far vs. all these other Hall-of-Famers. Even if he starts experiencing a dip within the next year or two and follows the same trendline as others have, he could still be pumping out 26+ PER seasons until at least his mid-30's. Those are MVP caliber seasons. Until his mid-30's. Or later.
- Dirk's peak 4 years were really, really great.
- KG's peak was even (ever so slightly) better.
- I'd argue that Kobe's biggest strength isn't his peak (his two best seasons are lower than LeBron's, Garnett's or Dirk's), but rather how well he's held up in years 12+. It really adds to his legacy when you compare his later years to the other older superstars.
- D-Rose's growth from year 1 to year 3 was unusually strong. Let's hope his (real) year 5 brings more of the same.

I'm going to run this visualization again later in two other ways: once to pit LeBron against current stars like Durant, Dwight and Wade, and then to pit him against all-timers like MJ, Bird, Magic and Hakeem. Let me know if there's anyone in particular you want to see on either of those visualizations.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The greatest rebounders in modern NBA history

Let's look at the best rebounding seasons in modern NBA history (1974-2013) in two different ways.

First, who's dominated rebounding on both ends of the court? In Sheet 1, I've plotted the 48 player seasons that had the highest mix of rebounding on both ends of the court, as measured by DRB% and ORB%. (Those are the percentages of all available rebounds that the player collected while they were on the court.) The size of the circles represents the number of minutes played (min 1500 mins to qualify). Thanks to Basketball Reference for the stats.

Next, I wanted to look just at defensive rebounding dominance over time. Why isolate on just def rebounds? Two reasons:

1. Offensive rebounding opportunities are often determined by the team's scheme. For example, the Doc Rivers-era Celtics teams punted on offensive rebound opportunities almost completely to focus on getting back on D. Kevin Garnett didn't forget how to grab offensive rebounds when he went to Boston. He was simply instructed not to.
2. Players with high usage rates on offense are generally less likely to have offensive rebound chances than someone who's allergic to the ball and just camps out at the basket.

So Sheet 2 shows every player since 1974 who's had multiple seasons of DRB greater than 28%. I'm looking for guys who've dominated the glass year after year.


- When it comes to combined rebounding on both ends, as with most things, Dennis Rodman is on another planet. His 1994-95 season is statistically the best mix of offensive and defensive board work in modern NBA history, and it's not close. But bear in mind he played only 49 games that season, thanks to a mix of butting heads with the Spurs organization and injuries. Personally, I'd put his 1992-93 at the top of his rebounding list. He played over 3300 minutes that season, grabbed over one-third of all defensive rebound chances and 18% of potential offensive boards. It's an amazing combination of stamina, talent and effort.
- Moses Malone, y'all. Young Moses was relatively thin, quite good on the defensive glass... and a preposterous beast on the offensive boards. He started in the ABA at age 19, and led his respective league in total offensive boards eight of his first nine pro seasons. Moses finished his career with just over 7300 off rebs. No one else in modern NBA history has over 4800. (Bear in mind, they didn't keep off reb stats during the Russell-Wilt era.)
- I knew Maurice Reggie Evans had a great rebounding season in 2012-13. I didn't realize his defensive board work was the best in the past 40 years. Hoovering almost 38% of available boards... wow.
- Get / stay healthy, Kevin Love and Dwight Howard. You're both on historic paths if you stay upright.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Visual proof that Steph Curry is an alien

Here's a graph of every player from the 2009-2013 seasons who attempted more than 6 3PA / game, plotted against their 3P%.