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## David Berri

Posted: August 31, 2010 10:16 PM

# The Most Overrated Scorers in the NBA

Who is the most overrated player in the NBA?

To answer this question, we need to first define what we mean by "overrated". Dictionary.com tells us that the word "overrated" means: to rate or appraise too highly; overestimate.

The word "high" is a relative term. To argue that something is "too high" or "too low" requires a reference point. Actually, to be precise, you need two points of reference.

For example, batting average in baseball will overestimate a player's contribution if that player fails to draw walks and/or can't hit for power. If we wish to argue that batting average overestimates a player's contribution, though, we must note where a player is ranked in terms of batting average and also where he is ranked in terms of a measure that considers plate discipline and power (i.e. OPS). In sum, we need two metrics to make the "overrated" argument.

Batting average has been calculated in baseball since the 19th century and it remains the most cited measure of a hitter's effectiveness (one only needs to watch a baseball game on TV to see this point). When we turn to basketball, the "batting average statistic" (i.e. oldest and most cited) is points scored per game (PPG).

As we note in The Wages of Wins and in Stumbling on Wins, this single metric does a remarkably good job of explaining the player evaluations of the coaches (i.e. allocation of minutes, voting for the All-Rookie team), general managers (i.e. free agent salaries), and the sports media (i.e. voting for MVP). And just like batting average, PPG is obviously not a perfect measure.

Focusing just on scoring ignores other factors that contribute to wins (such as shooting efficiency, rebounds, turnovers, steals, etc...). Scoring totals can also be inflated with more minutes and/or more shot attempts (a fact players certainly understand). In other words, lofty scoring totals may not coincide with scoring efficiency. Despite these shortcomings, PPG still dominates the discussion of a basketball player's value.

Although scoring totals often coincide with perceptions of a player's value, scoring alone does a poor job of capturing a player's overall contribution to wins. In contrast, Wins Produced (a measure of performance detailed in The Wages of Wins and in Stumbling on Wins) does connect a player's statistical production to wins. And with these two measures in hand, we can look at the most overrated scorers in the NBA in 2009-10.

Last season, 129 players logged at least 2,000 minutes in the regular season. These players were ranked in terms of PPG and Wins Produced. For example, here are the top ten scorers -- with PPG reported for each player -- from 2009-10:

1. Kevin Durant: 30.1 2. LeBron James: 29.7 3. Carmelo Anthony: 28.2 4. Kobe Bryant: 27.0 5. Dwyane Wade: 26.6 6. Monta Ellis: 25.5 7. Dirk Nowitzki: 25.0 8. Danny Granger: 24.1 9. Chris Bosh: 24.0 10. AmareStoudemire: 23.1

When we consider all of these player's statistics we see that most of the players were well above average in terms of their impact on wins. In fact, LeBron James -- who produced 27.2 wins last season -- was the most productive player in the game. And Kevin Durant -- with 19.7 wins produced -- ranked third in overall productivity.

Most, though, is not all. Three players -- Carmelo Anthony (6.0 wins Produced), Monta Ellis (1.9 wins Produced), and Danny Granger (3.8 wins produced) -- are what we call "unproductive scorers." Yes, each player can score. But once again, a player primarily impacts wins by shooting efficiently and taking actions that get and keep possession of the ball (i.e. rebounds, steals, and avoiding turnovers). And when we consider the factors that dictate wins, we see that Anthony, Ellis, and Granger come up short. In sum, each is overrated.

In fact, one of these players was the most overrated scorer in the NBA last season. To identify this player, the wins produced rankings were compared to the scoring rankings. The players with the largest positive difference were considered the most overrated. And topping the list of the fifteen most overrated -- as the following table indicates -- is Monta Ellis.

Ellis ranked 6th in scoring (out of the 129 players examined). But his production of wins only ranked 112th in our sample.

The problem for Ellis is familiar. Although he is a prolific scorer, this is primarily because he is prolific with respect to shot attempts. For a shooting guard, he is below average with respect to shooting efficiency and rebounds. Consequently, his efforts as a scorer are not quite as helpful as his scoring totals would suggest.

Ellis was not the only "unhelpful" scorer. Anthony and Granger also appear on our list. And Rudy Gay -- who signed an \$82 million extension this summer -- is 8th on the list.

Both Granger and Gay are playing for Team USA this summer. Also appearing on this roster are Derrick Rose and Eric Gordon. Each of these players was selected because they can score. But once again, these players are simply not quite as productive as their scoring totals suggest.

Of course, fans of these players will object to the overrated designation. After all, many NBA fans are not different from coaches, general managers, and the sports media. But scoring totals simply do not capture accurately a player's contribution to wins. And although players are not always rewarded for doing more, teams don't win much when players respond strictly to the incentives given to them by fans and decision-makers in the NBA.

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KCM7
I vote one way. Anti-bigot.
10:34 AM on 09/05/2010
Statistically speaking this is bunk.
If there was only one player on a team, his research may hold some weight...but there are five on the court at the same time. Mr.Berri's data does not take this into account.
You can be the best Bball player in the world, but if the other four are only mediocre Berri's data will show the best to be overrated.
He needs to collect data that compares perfomance when the player being evaluated is on the court with different teammates.
HUFFPOST SUPER USER
Always look on the bright side of life.
06:31 PM on 09/07/2010
Or at least on the court vs. off the court (team scoring - opponent scoring)
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capsaicin
01:43 PM on 09/04/2010
Interesting breakdown.. It's good to see sabermetric analysis making its way into other sports!
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Kenyatta J Yamel
02:14 PM on 09/02/2010
The point guard with the Cavs, named Williams, seemed overrated because he was always shooting and not carrying other aspects of the game. He was terrible in the playoffs.
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Militant Leftist
American seditionist
06:39 PM on 09/01/2010
#1 is Le-Quit James. Without a doubt. Chokes in the big games, has no heart, and no team loyalty.
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EndRacismNow
"Diversity is our greatest Strength"
07:14 PM on 09/01/2010
It's an NBA narrative to make Lebron the second coming of Jordan. It's not gonna happen, especially now. Any stat that makes him number one, they will promote. Unfortunately, Lebron burned his bridges with almost everyone in the country except for apathetic Miami fans.
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Militant Leftist
American seditionist
07:56 PM on 09/01/2010
Agreed. He lacks the integrity of a Jordan, or of a Karl Malone. Speaking of Karl, look up his acceptance speech on youtube into the hall of fame. Total class.
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Kenyatta J Yamel
02:16 PM on 09/02/2010
Fans need to get over themselves about LeBron James. Players have the closest thing to a free market they've had and they are taking advantage of it.
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Militant Leftist
American seditionist
03:17 PM on 09/02/2010
I repeat - Chokes in the big games, no heart, no integrity/loyalty.
06:03 PM on 09/01/2010
What team you're on also has to do with it. I'm a dedicated Warriors fan for life, but they weren't very good last year. Put Monta on the Boston Celtics instead and he probably takes fewer shots, but becomes a more effective player.
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EndRacismNow
"Diversity is our greatest Strength"
07:12 PM on 09/01/2010
I know a few Warriors fans and they were happy to see him go because of his ridiculous ball hogging.
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06:03 PM on 09/01/2010
...and FWIW- the most Underrated Deluxe Scorer in NBA history?
- Jerry West- the Complete Package..
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mr d
08:08 PM on 09/01/2010
The NBA logo underrated? One of the most successful GMs ever underrated? NOT quite!
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08:16 AM on 09/02/2010
If they had done it right, Bill Russell would have been the logo...my point being: West was so consistently excellent in all phases of the game, yet he was always considered on par with other great guards of the era---robertson, frazier, monroe, maravich ( briefly)- when he was a superior all around player to all of them. this generation - whose knowledge of the game's history does not exist before magic /bird - have no idea how complete he was nor how close he got to those rings now owned by Mr. Russell.
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05:43 PM on 09/01/2010
Even if stats can sometimes be fun to play with, I'll bet the books this guy's hawking are about as riveting as George Will's baseball tome.
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wallyone
05:11 PM on 09/01/2010
How about their D? How about the other four guys on the floor at the same time? How about what role the team needs at the time?

Re 'Mello, I can never give a player a high rating when he smiles after a bad play or bad call, as if to say to the fans that it was ridiculous and a joke and he is way above it.
hrc04
put on your pants and go home.
03:23 PM on 09/01/2010
Ok, I'm lost. Corey Maggette is a more "productive" scorer than Carmelo Anthony? Someone's been screwing with the machine...stats can share some useful info, but sometimes you just gotta go by the eye test.
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EndRacismNow
"Diversity is our greatest Strength"
03:58 PM on 09/01/2010
I'm wondering how they calculate 'produced wins'. Is this not a team sport? Sometimes these sports 'analysts' come up with the most ridiculous stats. Last year some outlets made up 'clutch factor' and it had Kobe Bryant way down the list. He responded accordingly by have 6 game winning shots that year.
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SGTDBK
you don't much look like a steer to me
04:41 PM on 09/01/2010
Thats the same thing I was wondering...I mean they have Kaman as -.1 of a win...first of all I don't know what that translates to in real life and second he plays for the Clippers...I mean they won what like ten games last year?

Too many stats if you ask me.
05:06 PM on 09/01/2010
Just like they came up with a formula proving Derek Jeter was the worst defensive player in baseball. Then he won a gold glove. Put the damn computers away. You understand numbers, but nothing of sports. Sports are an art, not a science. Stick to screwing up the economy.
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mr d
08:10 PM on 09/01/2010
He is not, the ranking is showing low to high. E.g, 1 is the best