Top 15 NBA Players List – Win Shares / 48 Minutes

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Below is a statistical game I was playing on basketball-reference.com. I found the results so interesting I wanted to share them.

1. Michael Jordan .276
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar .262
3. Wilt Chamberlain .259
4. Shaquille O’Neal .227
5. Magic Johnson .226
6. Oscar Robertson .220
7. Charles Barkley .219
8. Tim Duncan .219
9. Larry Bird .216
10. Jerry West .215
11. Dirk Nowitzki .214
12. Bob Pettit .213
13. Artis Gilmore .211
14. Julius Erving .208
15. Bill Russell .201

This is not MY definitive list.  Nor is it THE Win Shares definitive list.  Here I’ve set some very narrow criteria to achieve a list totaling 15 All-Time greats.  Said criteria=

Cumulative career boxscore stats
1955 and later – No to segregation; Yes to shot clock
Ages 20-32 – No teenage years or old age pulling down stats
700 games played or more – Sample size
36 minutes per game or better – Per minute stats need big minute players

Quick lesson on Win Shares from a mathletically challenged fan: WS rewards high efficiency (good shooting, low turnovers, etc.) and high Usage (percentage of plays used by a player to try to create a score) and is based on per possession production rather than total game production, which means we’re looking at cumulative box score stats that are first broken down by possessions and in this case reconstituted into per 48 minute chunks.

For being purely stat-produced, it’s a decent list. What I like is that it picks out most of the players you’d expect to find on a top 10 players ever list and does so in a purely objective way. It isn’t considering how clutch Jordan, West, or Bird were or what great leaders Magic, Russel, and Tim were, or how physically dominant Wilt, Doc, and Shaq were. It’s just the numbers, and those other arguments are out there to tweak a list like this.

To parse it out into more bite-sized pieces-

Guards: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West
Missing: Kobe Bryant (stats just don’t qualify).
Note: John Stockton actually makes it if the minutes per game req is lowered.

Forwards: Charles Barkley, Tim Duncan, Larry Bird, Dirk Nowitzki, Bob Pettit, Julius Erving
Missing: Karl Malone (stats), John Havlicek (stats), Elgin Baylor (games)
Note: Doc makes it with the ABA games

Centers: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaq O’Neal, Artis Gilmore, Bill Russell
Missing: Hakeem Olajuwon
Note: Artis Gilmore makes it with the ABA games.

By decade-

1950s: Pettit, Russell
1960s: Oscar, West, Russell, Wilt
1970s: West, Dr. J, A-Train, Kareem
1980s: Magic, Bird, Kareem, Dr. J, Jordan, Barkley
1990s: Jordan, Barkley, Shaq
2000s: Shaq, Timmy, Dirk

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2 Responses to “Top 15 NBA Players List – Win Shares / 48 Minutes”

  1. High Above Courtside Says:

    I am very glad to see Petit listed. A bit surprised Clyde Frazier isn’t somewhere as well as Gervin. I mean Gervin with 68 40 point games–inc ABA. Clyde was more defensive oriented, but brother could he score in the clutch

    • jpalumbo Says:

      I think Ice had an issue with efficiency. I’d have to check. None of those Knicks made it, and I’d bet it’s because they played too much team ball. That’s why just using stats is sincerely limited.

      Jason Palumbo

      Sent from my iPhone

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