2008 NBA Awards Revisited

Sun, 10/05/2008 - 12:54pm

By Jon Nichols

Explanation of Composite Score Player Rating System
2008 Composite Score Rankings
The Importance of Efficiency

As the next NBA season approaches, I’d like to take one more look at the last one. Therefore, I’m going to be taking a look at the award winners for the 07-08 season as voted on by the media and see how those match up with what my Composite Score statistic tells me. Be warned: you probably won’t agree with everything you read below, and you may find some of it shocking. But before you decide to put me on your personal “ignore” list, try to think about what these numbers are telling us. They may not be perfect, but they can show how we overrate certain things and how some players who greatly help their teams win are underrated. Of course, I don’t claim to be smarter than the experienced media members who’ve been covering this game for years. But I’m going to show you what I’ve got anyways…

Most Valuable Player
Actual Winner: Kobe Bryant
Composite Score Winner: Kevin Garnett
Composite Score Honorable Mentions: Chauncey Billups, Paul Pierce, Manu Ginobili

For the sake of discussion, I’m going to interpret “Most Valuable” as “Most Productive.”

The cat’s out of the bag. Kobe Bryant ranks as just the 8th best player in the league according to my numbers. Probably even more surprising to some people is that he ranks as just the 11th best offensively. Don’t stop reading! There’s a reason for this. One, he wasn’t as deadly efficient as say a Chris Paul or Chauncey Billups, and efficiency plays a large role in my rating system. Also, although the Lakers were obviously much better on offense when he was in the game, they were still ok even when he wasn’t playing.

Garnett was actually only a little better on offense, ranking 7th in the league. But his defense simply blows the competition away. His offensive and defensive talents combined make him the top player. Billups’ rank may surprise some people, but he was tremendous on offense and not too shabby on defense. Pierce and Ginobili were solid on offense and excellent on defense. Actual MVP runner-up Chris Paul ranks 6th according to my system, just behind LeBron James.

Jamario Moon

Rookie of the Year
Actual Winner: Kevin Durant
Composite Score Winner: Jamario Moon
Composite Score Honorable Mentions: Carl Landry, Joakim Noah, Thaddeus Young

As it turns out, Kevin Durant rated quite poorly in my system. His final numbers put him as the 223rd best player in the league, in the 31st percentile. Why so low? For one, although he scored in bunches, he did it quite inefficiently. His offensive rating was a very low 100. However, his PER was slightly above average and his plus-minus was practically zero, so he still ranked as an above average offensive player. Defense was a different story. Durant rated terribly in every defensive category, putting him near the bottom of the league.

Moon had a tremendous season. He was very good on offense and dominant on defense, ranking as the 10th best defender in the league. Overall, he ranked as the 2nd best player on his team and the 15th best player in the league. The honorable mentions were far behind Moon. Simply put, he was the best rookie in the NBA last year, and it wasn’t even close.

Durant’s case shows that sometimes people are just looking at the wrong numbers. He may have scored a lot of points, but he did it in a bad way, and he appeared to have totally ignored the other end of the floor. Despite that, when all is said and done, he still may end up being a superstar.

Coach of the Year

Actual Winner: Byron Scott
Composite Score Winner: Byron Scott

Unfortunately, I don’t have any numbers for coaches. So I’ll go with the media on this one.

Most Improved Player Award

Actual Winner: Hedo Turkoglu
Composite Score Winner: Kendrick Perkins
Composite Score Honorable Mentions: Andrew Bynum, Rajon Rondo, Mike Dunleavy

This one was a toss-up, as Perkins and Bynum both made tremendous improvements over last year. Perkins went from being ranked 182nd in 2007 to 12th this year, and Bynum went from being ranked 152nd in 2007 to 11th. However, Perkins stayed healthy and his team was dominant, so he gets the nod. Perkins was solid and efficient on offense this year, but the real story was his defense. He ranked as the 2nd best defender in the league, behind Garnett. Bynum was great on both ends, ranking near the top in both offense and defense.

Rondo was another key player in the Boston defense, and his numbers reflect that. Dunleavy became one of the better offensive players in the league. Turkoglu was left off the list but it wasn’t his fault. He was very good this season; he simply wasn’t that bad in the past. Turkoglu has always been an underappreciated player. It took a strong season from him for people to finally notice that.

Defensive Player of the Year

Actual Winner: Kevin Garnett
Composite Score Winner: Kevin Garnett
Composite Score Honorable Mentions: Kendrick Perkins, Chuck Hayes, Manu Ginobili

No argument here. As I mentioned earlier, Garnett was far and away the best defender. He’s always been a great defender, and ranked 6th in the league in 2007. The only difference this time is that he was part of a much better overall defensive team in the Celtics, which undoubtedly helped his numbers even more. Chuck Hayes has always been an underrated defender (22nd in 2006 and 13th in 2007), but he took it to a new level this season. Ginobili has also always been good (he ranked 1st defensively in 2005), but you wonder how much of his numbers are a product of Bruce Bowen taking the other team’s best perimeter player combined with the Spurs’ overall superb team defense.

As a side note: Does anyone else find it odd that there is an award for Defensive Player of the Year, but not a similar one for the Offensive Player of the Year? I assume it’s because most people tend to overlook defense and in essence consider the MVP award to be all about offense. That would explain the media’s voting for that award in the past, including this year’s selection of Kobe Bryant. Composite Score, on the other hand, weights offense and defense equally, inevitably leading to confused and angry e-mails from my readers.

Sixth Man Award
Actual Winner: Manu Ginobili
Composite Score Winner: Manu Ginobili
Composite Score Honorable Mentions: Leon Powe, Carl Landry, Bobby Jackson

If Ginobili is considered a 6th man (which is slightly debatable), he’s the clear winner of this award, and will be seemingly for eternity as long as he comes off the bench. Ginobili received a bit more hype than usual this year, but I still say he’s underrated. His overall Composite Score ranks since I began keeping track of it in 2004 are as follows: 28, 1, 1, and 5. Yes, you heard right. By my numbers (which are based on the numbers of some very smart people), Ginobili was the best player in the league in 2005 and 2006, and not too bad in ’04, ’07, and ’08. This should also be a tribute to the dominance of the Spurs; on most other teams, Ginobili would rank very high, but probably not this high.

Powe has become a solid player who plays his role to perfection on both offense and defense. The Houston Rockets actually had two bench players at the top of this list in Landry and Jackson, which may help explain how the team won so many games even after Yao Ming went down with an injury.

So there you have it. There were some surprises. But in the end, the media did a good job and didn’t make any terrible picks, with the possible exception of Durant. I’d love to see your comments below (I have a feeling I’ll be hearing from fans of the Black Mamba…).

Also, if you’d like to see more of my work, check out
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Joined: 07/24/2008
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I still disagree with the

I still disagree with the defensive part of your ranking... so with the whole ranking.
I will not talk again about Ginobili. He is a great player even if on defense he is not as good as your numbers tell.

I have nothing against Perkins, but I don't think he improved much since last year... except that now, he plays next to KG... this is a great help for both his offensive defensive efficiency. Actually, this is a reason why I think you can't rank player through statistics only. Tim Duncan for example, does rank well but not great on offensive efficiency, but he still commands double team... and that makes a huge difference for his team efficiency.

I agree on Durant, he was probably not ready for the NBA and would not have been ROY if Seattle did not chose to force feed him with the ball. That said, it is easier to be efficient on offense when you don't have to create. Jamario had a great season, but was in an easier situation. So, I would probably keep Durant as ROY, because he concluded the season with a greatly improved efficiency (at least on the offensive end).

I will not debate the rest of your post, most of the players you talk about are very good and your ranking does not sounds too bad.

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Joined: 07/24/2008
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The edit did not work. So

The edit did not work.

So for Durant, I should have wrote
"(at least on the OFFensive end)"

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Joined: 06/13/2008
Points: 2
The Real Award Winners

Listen, I do appreciate statistical evidence as much as anyone, but I also tend to watch basketball and see what players do to their teams. In the case of your "composite player rankings", I feel the system is incredibly flawed, hence the reason that most of your "real" award winners, are for lack of a better word, ridiculous. I do not want to knock you, if the system works for you, than by all means follow it, but I just feel that your rankings seemed to leave out quite a bit, and really mocked what I believed to be, quite uncommon might I add, some good picks for award winners. Let me state my case:

MVP: It is ludicrous that Kobe Bryant has gone this long without winning an MVP award. That being said, this was not a "make-up" MVP, as many of the past few have tended to be. While I agree that Kevin Garnett was the key to the Celtics success and that if you took him out the equation, the Celtics more or less are a mediocre team, this probably applies ten fold for Kobe in accordance to the Lakers. I feel Kobe should have easily won the MVP two years ago (where he finished in 4th place!!), and this year I felt he was just as deserving. Leading his team to the best record in the Western Conference, which was absolutely stacked, was as great if not a greater feat than Boston's trumping of the east (and yes, I know they had a great record against the west, but, they are in the east and that is where they win the bulk of their games).

I feel the media has made the MVP into a joke, but Kobe winning finally provides some hope that someone can break the media formula. With the past few MVP's, I could give Nash the MVP in 2005, but 2006 clearly belonged to Kobe, and 2007 easily could have been Nash again or LeBron James, rather than one of the worst votes in NBA history giving it to Dirk Nowitzki. At the beginning of this season, I did believe that KG might bring home the MVP, but once the Gasol trade went down, and Kobe got some needed help, I believe that Kobe finally got his just due as MVP. The Celtics badly outplayed the Lakers in the Finals, but if you look at that team, it was Paul Pierce who was clearly the leader and played the most consistently. Not taking anything away from KG, who I still consider to be a top 5 player in the league, but I ask why take something away from Kobe Bryant when he is clearly playing basketball at a higher level than anyone has ever played. I could go on, but I feel like I am probably losing people here, but I could continue across both of their entire teams to prove my point, but I believe many will agree with me that the ranking system that places Kobe at any position below #1 (or at the very least 2), is leaving A LOT out of the equation.

Rookie of the Year: I was born and raised in Toronto, though I currently reside in Portland. But, that being said, I remain a Raptors fan, and was definitely shocked when Sabonis got as many votes for rookie of the year when Damon Stoudamire took it home in 96. With that being said, their is no way in hell Jamario Moon should have been considered for Rookie of the Year, even with his said "divine" efficiency. Moon was a great addition to the Raps, plays fantastic defense, and can jump as high as pretty much anyone in the NBA. But lets just try and put him in Kevin Durant's shoes. I mean, really? For the total deconstruction of the Super Sonics franchise, I thought 23 wins was actually a fairly impressive feat. Durant was not very efficient, but when you are thrust into a position of trying to carry a young and even less efficient team, than no rookie would be. I would be surprised if any player on that Super Sonics team was in your defensive top 100, and if they are, than that is further proof that their could be a major kink in the system.

Kevin Durant had to create his own shots, handle the ball and be the center piece on a team. Whenever Moon got the ball, if he kept it for more than 3 seconds, you wanted to cringe. I do know that I can not switch player for player, as both are stuck in their respective situations, but I still have a hard time saying that because of Moon's supposed efficiency in your system he is more deserving of ROY. The Raptors lost 6 more games than the year before, though with the balance of the East went from a 3 seed to a 6. Nonetheless, even with KD barely scraping 40% shooting (probably much worse from 3), I think he winning ROY was more than justified. His only comp was Al Horford, who while being effective, for a "play-off" team, was still not impressive enough to me to merit winning ROY over what Kevin Durant accomplished last season.

Most Improved Player: Hedo deserved the hell out of this award. When he got drafted in 2000, I immediately exclaimed "WHO THE HELL IS THIS GUY?" About a year or two later, I said "the Kings got a complete steal." Hedo had never lived up to what I thought he might be, which was another golden days Peja Stojakovic, until this year. Granted, he is not the stone cold assassin that was Peja, but he does so much more of the little things that Peja never would do, and probably has more of a skill set than Peja ever did. Hedo went from a classic underachiever to an All-Star caliber player, and to me, that was definitely deserving of MIP.

As far as the other candidates are concerned, Bynum would have definitely been a good candidate, but to be a legitimate one it is usually more efficient I would think to play more than 35 (or so) games. With Kendrick and Rajon, they both showed tremendous improvement, which I think in large part was due to the acquisition of (drum roll) Kevin Garnett, and to a lesser extent Ray Allen. Garnet gave the team an identity on the defensive end, and it should be noted that his presence is probably why both of these players efficiency went berserk. Dunleavy did in fact have a good season, but I do not think his transition was even close to that of Hedo's as a complete player. I do not even think your composite archives could convince me of that one.

Now, I understand that you are going by your formula, I understand you have put a lot of work into it, and you may indeed have gained a different way, which you deem more effective, to look at basketball. Yes, you did say that these awards were given on productivity, but in that case, you might want to think about what being a productive basketball player really means and for me it goes beyond these composite scores.

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good teams=good players???

these dont make sense, the only "good" players are on good teams with other good players, so the guys who are the only option on their team and carry their team get no say for themselves, but the guys who have kg, pierce and ray allen helping them get ranked higher than a first option like kevin durrant... makes no sense to me

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Flaw: Team Success

I agree with derekmorris.

The only flaw in the stats is that good teams have inflated stats. Good teams have better players, so it makes sense that they'd be a bit higher. However, this is far too inflated.

In particular, the defensive stats look inaccurate. Think of a mediocre defender on a good team. ok, Ray Allen. Think of a great defensive player on a bad team. ok, Josh Smith.

Now lets compare their Defensive score. Does Ray Allens 28 mean he's a comparable defender to Josh Smith at 29?

Perhaps we need to consider the impact of a good team factoring in multiple times? For example, if a team like the Celtics has a high margin of victory, this should lead to good +/- for both offensive and defense. If we simply add them together, it would be double counting. (note: I don’t know all the technical details behind the stats, so it's just a suggestion)

It would be interesting to know what the standard deviation is for each score.

Lets look at this again, adjusting for team effects:

MVP: It's shocking that Kobe is only ranked 8th when you consider how good the lakers were this year. Statistically, there is no support here for him as mvp. Paul clearly has the best offensive rating, and if this is the biggest impact on mvp voting, he is arguably the mvp.
I think the winner here is KG. Although the Celtics have the most inflation because the Celtics had the best margin of victory, it’s clear that he had a major impact on the team defense. Thus, you can argue that he is responsible for the inflation of his own stats.

Defensive: It’s KG for the reasons above. However, there is some competition here. Josh Smith’s defensive rating is high at 29, despite the rest of the team dragging him down significantly. Other players with remarkably high ratings: Jamario Moon, Artest, Jermaine O’neal, Kaman, Joel Przybilla.

ROY: Jamario’s stats are truly amazing. I’m from Toronto, and I know that the raptors D is one of the worst in the league. (I pray that Jermaine's knees can change that). Jamario’s ability to still get a 40 in this system is crazy. However, he cleary gets a boost on offense. Though he deserves credit for good shot selection, his offensive score of 35 is clearly too high.
On the other hand, Durant has awful stats. But he was the only option on an awful team. Not only was he forced to shoot, but he was playing out of position for much of the year. I think Durant won the actual award by default, as no other player had so much responsibility. However, Jamario wins the statistical awards by default too, as he was fortunate to be on a good team, with a reasonable role.

MIP: Turkoglu, Rondo, Perkins, all play for good teams, which inflated their stats. For this reason, the pick is Mike Dunleavy. His stats are comparable to Turkoglu, except he's on a much worse team. Look at how awful his teammates ratings are. He basically carried them on his back the whole year (even on D!).

As much as I criticize the stats, I truly admire Jon’s work. I think this is already an incredibly useful stat and will only get better from here.

If I was a GM I’d definitely be looking at this.

[email protected]

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Joined: 10/12/2008
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New system always has detractors.

I agree with most,if not all others in that the Composite Score Player Rating Sysytem is difficult to understand (Which from now on in this comment will be refered to as the C.S.P.R.S.). However I get the "gist" of it and while I'm sure it will encour tweaks over the many decades, it is basically a fundumentally sound system. It is sound because it accurately calculates not only the players statistics but how they got to their stats in the process of the game. This is why, for example, we all pretty much agree on Kevin Durant. Will he be a star? No doubt. Is he not only an exeptional athlete but an exeptional basketbal player as well? Definately. Was he efficient in getting to his statistical averages? No.
I can understand people not understanding Ginobili's C.S.P.R.S., but that is only due to the fact that they don't see him play on a daily basis. While being the nation's 7th largest city in populace, the nation and the NBA as a whole would like to keep San Antonio as the crazy cousin who lives in the barn. Hence, national broadcast of Ginobili's exploits and value to the team are mostly kept under wraps.
I challenge Jon to come up with some sort of Coaching Effecientcy stat, however. That way we, who are fortunate enough to be able to have time arguing/debating this can have something else to converse about.

If i were a GM, I'd DEFINATELY be looking at this.

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