Okay, the pre-season has already started, but I have a giant database of stats, a degree in operations research, and a weekend to kill. As I’ve described in two previous articles, I took seven different player metrics, converted them to percentiles, weighted them by correlation with minutes per game, and used that to represent overall player value, plus offensive and defensive value.
Based on these, plus games played, minutes per game, and 2022-23 salary, I decided to do some exploratory data analysis…and give out some awards in the process.
MVP Award: Nikola Jokic
Any way I sliced them, the stats said that The Joker should have earned his third straight MVP award. Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo were in a virtual dead heat behind him.
“Someone Has to be Last” Award: Blake Wesley
The overall court impact stats were almost unanimous in their ranking of Wesley as the worst player in the NBA to see significant minutes last year: no one did less with the time they were given.
“Unstoppable Force” Award: Nikola Jokic
This is the award for the player who did the most to make their team’s offense impossible to defend. It tries to capture everything by using a lot of on-court / off-court sub-statistics. Jokic might not lead the league in scoring, but no one did more to make their team’s offense better through scoring, spacing, screens, passing, avoiding turnovers, etc…
“Immovable Object” Award: Draymond Green
This is your Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) award, and the result shouldn’t be a shock. Draymond has made his career about defense, and the stats back it up. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brook Lopez rounded out the top three.
The “Four-on-Five” Award: Blake Wesley
I hate to pick on Wesley again, but the offensive measurements here were brutal. The verdict was basically unanimous: no one did more to drag down their team’s offense. Only one of the seven statistics put him above the 4th percentile (Offensive Rate Adjusted Plus Minus). The reason he took both this award and the overall LVP was because his defense was in the 6th percentile too.
“Traffic Cone” Award: Doug McDermott
This goes to the player who was the absolute worst on defense in terms of hurting his team. McDermott is a 3-point specialist on a rebuilding San Antonio Spurs team, but with his height he should be able to slow SOMEONE down a little. This one wasn’t even close: the seven stats were basically unanimous in ranking him either last, or near dead last.
“Trade You 3-for-2” Award: Damian Lillard
This award goes to the player with the biggest gap between their high-octane offense and apathetic approach to defense. Lillard wins this one by a wide margin, being in the 99.7th percentile on offense, and 8th percentile on defense. Jordan Clarkson and Trae Young placed a distant second and third respectively.
“I’m Sure Someone Else Will Score for Me” Award: Matisse Thybulle
The other side of the previous award is the player who will shank a guy before he lets them score. This player also parks themselves in the corner on offense and hopes the ball never comes near them, like the short kid with glasses in little league sent to the deep right field. It should come as little surprise that Matisse Thybulle wins this award (5th percentile on offense, 98th percentile on defense), but it does seem odd that the Suns traded for Nassir Little instead of Thybulle, who is long-time friends with Booker, who actually has one top-tier skill, and whose deficiencies wouldn’t matter so much alongside the big three. Bismack Biyombo was a close second in this category (3rd and 96th percentiles, respectively)
“Put Me in the Game, Coach!” Award: Moses Brown
This goes to the player who made the most of the minutes they were given, but could never crack the rotation. Moses Brown played 36 games for the Nets and Clippers last year and graded out in the 78th percentile overall in terms of on-court / off-court impact, but was only in the 5th percentile in terms of minutes played, with 8.2 minutes per game (MPG). He’s with Portland this year on a partially guaranteed one year contract, playing behind the recently acquired DeAndre Ayton. If Brown is anything like Jock Landale, and Ayton is Ayton, Moses might be closing out games by mid-year.
“Most Likely to Have Kompromat on the Coach” Award: Reggie Bullock
The opposite of guys who can’t seem to stay on the court despite making their team better is guys who are getting their teams killed but keep racking up big minutes. Small forward Reggie Bullock of the Mavericks graded out in the 11th percentile of players, but in the 75th percentile for MPG. Why did Jason Kidd keep giving him minutes? Kompromat? Family held hostage in a basement somewhere? The world may never know. As of now, Bullock is a free agent, and Jason Kidd has (presumably) witnessed the destruction of the only copy of the incriminating evidence.
“From Each According to His Ability” Award: Kevon Harris
This award goes to the guy who got exactly the minutes he deserved. Kevon Harris was in the 16% percentile for MPG, and 16% in terms of overall performance.
Mr. Average Award: Dennis Schroder
This goes to the player who was basically average at everything: overall court impact, offense, and defense. Schroder was in the 50th percentile overall, 50th on offense, and 54th on defense.
“The Statistics Gods Must be Crazy” Award: Hamidou Diallo
This goes to the player with the highest variance in their overall stats ratings. Hamidou Diallo of the Detroit Pistons is a complete mystery to statistical measurements of his performance. Overall he graded out in the 49th percentile, but his individual stats were all over the place. Luck-Adjusted Real Plus Minus had him in the 86th percentile overall, bur Real Plus Minus had him in the 9th. But, Box Plus Minus had him in the 48th percentile. Basically, I pointed the stat-o-meter at Diallo, the needle pinged back and forth rapidly a few times, and then the whole thing shorted out with a puff of acrid black smoke. Currently, Diallo is an unrestricted, unsigned free agent, so I think we can rule out “great”.
Aaron Holiday and TyTy Washington Jr. were a close second and third respectively in this category.
Annual Devin Booker “Is He Good at Defense?” Award: Jonas Valanciunas
There’s no quicker way to start a fight among fans than to ask if Devin Booker is any good on defense (I’ll answer this in my next article). Similarly, this award looks at where the seven advanced stats don’t agree at all on whether a player is a defensive contributor. There was zero agreement on Valanciunas’ defensive effects: Real Plus Minus Defense had him in the 99th percentile, and Expected Plus Minus had him in the 6th defensively. Bruno Fernando would have taken first, but he didn’t get enough minutes to qualify. Rounding out the rest of the top three are Hamidou Diallo and Kyle Kuzma.
“Human NFT” Award: Richaun Holmes
This goes to the player who lost all their value almost the instant some team paid way too much for him. Statistically, this was decided by minutes played times overall performance divided by annual salary. Holmes made over 11 million dollars last year, while rarely playing (42 games at 8.3 MPG) and ranking in the 6th percentile overall. Derrick Rose came in second, and Daniel Theis eked out a “win” over Blake Wesley for third.
“Kirkland Brand All-Star” Award: Immanuel Quickley
This is for the player who provided the most on court value at the lowest price: it’s effectively a measure of Return on Investment. Immanuel Quickley ranked in the 89th percentile in terms of court impact per minute, while playing in 81 games and averaging 31.5 mpg. He did this (of course) on a rookie salary scale of 2.316 million dollars last year, making him the best bargain in the NBA. Quickley will make 4.171 million this year and should cash in during the 2024 offseason. Herbert Jones and Austin Reaves rounded out the top three.
Overall Unanimous Decision Award: Nikola Jokic
There was basically no variation in the statistical ratings of The Joker: all but one of them rated him as the top offensive player (and Luck-Adjusted Regularized Plus Minus had him in the 98th percentile). Runner up was Devin Booker, whom the stats all agreed was somewhere between the 92nd and 96th percentile overall.
Defensive Unanimous Decision Award: Draymond Green
There was very little statistical variation for the DPOY award winner either: all of them had him between the 93rd and 100th percentile on defense. Ironically, the runner up was the worst defensive player: Doug McDermott, who never came out higher than the 8th percentile in any of the defensive player measurements.