A visualization of how it works, and response to early criticism

Here is a screenshot of how the rankings would be conducted. If you don’t understand how to read this, the player in question is down the rows, and teams are along the columns. If a certain team takes a certain player, there is a +1. If a team maybe takes a certain player, there is a +0.5 If the team does not take this player, there is a +0.

This does not reflect real data, but just me using less than a minute of thought for each player and mocking up a screenshot to make some sense of my system.

Image

The idea is that LeBron is better because the Thunder would think about taking LeBron, whereas the Heat would never take Durant.

So now we just need more participants! This methodology can easily be applied to other sports. Again if you are interested, please email smokerafer@gmail.com with your name, what team(s) you want to represent, and why you are qualified to represent these team(s).

We now take a break and move on to the boring stuff that not everyone wants to read.

Here’s some early criticism from r/nba

I think its flawed because you might not want a player to replace your team’s current starter due to the needs/chemistry of the team. In my opinion it is not a conclusive method of ranking players.

I know there are a lot of confounding factors, but all these confounding factors balance out when you take into account all the possible needs and every single playing style for each NBA team. Think about how the league is roughly split in half into good teams and bad teams. 16 playoff bound teams and 14 in the lottery.

Some hypotheticals – If the Warriors had a chance to have Paul Pierce to replace Harrison Barnes, I would definitely think about that as a Warriors fan, because that would give us enough leadership and offense to contend in the playoffs. However if I’m a Bobcats fan I want no piece of Paul Pierce. Since we are surveying the whole population, confounding effects should just about balance out.

From Basketballforum

Far too many flaws in that system, but nice effort put into the article nonetheless.

Sorry, but fans and players for that matter are too emotionally invested in their team for that ranking system to work in pure honesty and unbiasedness. Even all of China voted for Yao Ming to be a starter in the 2011 All-Star game, even though Yao may not have deserved a starting spot, or a spot at all for that matter.

Even if millions of people voted in your manner, there will still be confrontation over who is better than whom. Even someone on this forum made a thread questioning if MICHAEL JORDAN OF ALL PEOPLE was the greatest to ever play the game.

We are selecting fans based on them giving their most unbiased and objective opinion. We trust people who have watched a team enough to give an honest opinion on whether a certain player would be good to have on their team or not. If someone’s homer-ism is getting way too blatant, other panels can try and correct this.

Of course there will be debate and discussion, which is why a ‘maybe’ option is accounted for and a viable answer. That is real life. A lot of times, a certain player is not necessarily better, or worse than a second player. Say we had JR Smith up for discussion. OKC fans cannot decide on whether or not JR Smith it would be in the best interest of the team if JR Smith replaced Kevin Martin. So this is recorded as a ‘maybe.’

In my opinion trying to rank players based on their actual display of skill is the wrong way to think about it. Their display of skill is just a product of their system. If you put Tracy McGrady in Michael Jordan’s situation, T-Mac could probably have at least two rings. If you stuck Jordan in McGrady’s position in Orlando, there is no way he wins 6 rings. So if we instead rank players off the logic of how they would fit into our situation, it would be more indicative of a player’s overall value, and desirability.

I’m not saying that this is THE way, but could be a new and interesting way to think about how we could want to rank players.

A little more justification.

Yes, this system relies heavily on the so called eye test, but that may just be the best way to evaluate basketball players. But any statistics ever created has its flaws, and the point of creating statistics is to minimize these flaws. The PER is not very telling of defense and hustle. Win Shares only take into positive contributions and do not count for negative ones. The +/- stat does not account for the fact that second units are often playing against other second units, thus skewing the +/- numbers.

I think in the end, the ‘eye test’ is a viable metric.

If we used conventional ranking techniques, Kyrie Irving probably would not rank about Rondo, Westbrook, probably Tony Parker in terms of elite point guards. But if you ask the Celtics, Thunder, and Spurs if they would take Irving instead of whoever they have at point guard, I think it’s possible that the Thunder and the Celtics take Irving. Spurs might stay put.

What’s more indicative of being a better player? I think my system works better rather than just trying to compare their output and numbers, then bringing all these absurd true shooting percentages and effective field goal percentages into the equation. If Westbrook is a “better” player than Irving, then how come the Thunder would strongly consider taking Irving in his place?

Hopefully that made a little sense, and you start to see the logic on how and why I want to rank players this way.

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