Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight attempted earlier this week to find the 20 most valuable NBA players since the 1976-77 season using something that the site recently constructed and refers to as “Robust Algorithm (using) Player Tracking (and) On-court/off-court Results” (or RAPTOR for short). Paine compiled his unique GOAT list by averaging “a player’s career WAR with his best seven (nonconsecutive) seasons to balance between total and peak value.” (WAR = Wins Above Replacement Player)
Two of the greatest Spurs, Tim Duncan and David Robinson, made it onto Paine’s list. Duncan occupies the sixth spot just ahead of long-time nemesis Kevin Garnett and just below Magic Johnson. Robinson came in ranked 12th, ahead of contemporaries Karl Malone and Charles Barkley and right below Scottie Pippen.
Some other notable data:
- NBA fans who grew up on a steady diet of the league in the ‘80s and ‘90s will feel validated (and possibly vindicated) as the list includes many of the luminaries that lifted the league up into its prominence — including 75% of the original Dream Team.
- Michael Jordan would appear to have gotten the better of LeBron James in this discussion via a better sustained peak and better performance on the defensive side of the ball.
- John Stockton made it to #3(!) on the list and is credited for two-way excellence throughout the entirety of his career.
- The only currently active players who made the list are LeBron, Stephen Curry, and perhaps surprisingly Chris Paul.
- Jordan was credited with seven of the ten greatest individual seasons, while Duncan’s 2003 championship season made the list, as well. At the other end of the spectrum, long-forgotten players, such as former Spur Uwe Blab, Sharone Wright, and John Amaechi, were credited with the worst seasons in history.
What do you think of this method for determining GOAT’s and the Spurs greats who made? (It has to be better than whatever their method for predicting team records is, right?)