One of my favorite topics when it comes to sports is player comparison. Was Barry Bonds a better hitter than Babe Ruth? Was Jim Brown the best running back of all time? Who was the most efficient scorer in basketball history?
In a sport such as baseball, questions similar to those above are easier to answer thanks to the detailed statistical history of the game.
But in basketball, we are left with a very incomplete statistical record prior to the mid-1970s. The NBA did not record offensive rebounds, steals, or blocks until the 1973-74 season, and player turnovers were not recorded until the 1977-78 season.*
* It should be noted that the ABA was ahead of the game in this regard. Player turnovers are available for all ABA seasons; offensive rebounds are available for all players starting with the 1968-69 season; and steals and blocks are available for all players starting with the 1973-74 season.
Since most of the advanced player evaluation tools require the use of these statistics, it is difficult to compare an Oscar Robertson to a Magic Johnson.
On Monday I wrote I a piece for ESPN Insider that used multiple years of MVP voting to determine who was generally viewed as the best player in the NBA on a season-by-season basis.
This post is an extension of that idea, although I’m going to make the following tweaks:
- Win shares will be used rather than MVP award shares.
- Three seasons of data will be used rather than four seasons of data.
- Win shares in season n will receive a weight of 1⁄2, win shares in season n − 1 will receive a weight of 1⁄3, and win shares in season n − 2 will receive a weight of 1⁄6.
Without further ado, here are the players who — based on win shares, at least — had established themselves as the best players in the game:
Earlier this week over at ESPN Insider I took a look at the average career value produced by each of the top 14 NBA draft picks (i.e., the lottery picks).
You have to be an Insider in order to read that piece, so let me briefly summarize what I did in order to get a career value for each player:
- A player’s season value is equal to his regular season win shares plus his postseason win shares.
- The player’s season values are ordered from best (highest) to worst (lowest).
- The player’s career value is equal to 100 percent of his best season, plus 95 percent of his second-best season, plus 90 percent of his third-best season, etc.
In the Insider column I went on to give the average value for each of the lottery picks as well as the top three players and bottom three players for each slot.
In today’s post I’m going to expand on that idea a bit by building a model to figure out the expected value for each lottery pick*, then use that model to find some of the best and worst draft picks since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976.
* From here on out I will use the term “lottery pick” to refer to a top 14 pick even though the draft lottery did not start until the 1985 draft, not to mention that not all top 14 picks were technically lottery picks.