The Better Barry

Posted on March 9, 2008 by


Brent Brent began the season with the Spurs, but was traded to the Sonics last month. The Sonics then waived Brent, and he’s now waiting to re-sign with the Spurs.

As we wait for Brent to return home, I thought I would ask a few Barry related questions.

1. How good is Brent Barry?

2. Who is the best Barry brother?

3. What do the Barry brothers do well (or not so well)?

4. And most importantly, how do the Barry brothers compare to the father?

How good is Brent Barry?

Quick answer… really, really good. 

Brent Barry is in his 13th NBA season.  In every season he has posted a WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] that was above average.  His career mark of 0.209 is more than twice the average performer (average is 0.100), and he has surpassed the 0.200 mark in eight of the past nine seasons.  That streak includes the remarkable 2001-02 season when he produced 20.1 wins and posted a 0.317 WP48.

Barry entered the 2007-08 season with 96.9 Wins Produced.  This year he has only played 541 minutes so his wins production – despite a 0.213 WP48 – is only 2.4. But if he comes back and maintains his current WP48, he will hit the 100 win mark with just 158 more minutes.

Who is the best Barry brother?

Brent has produced nearly twice as many wins as Drew and Jon combined.  So in terms of Wins Produced, Brent is the best Barry.  But Brent has also played nearly 8,000 additional minutes.   And when we look at each brother on a per-minute basis, the difference becomes smaller.

Table One: Wins Produced by the Barry Brothers

Table One reports the career performance of each Barry brother in terms of both Wins Produced and WP48.  Jon Barry finished his career in 2005-06 with 51.2 wins.  In terms of WP48, he was above average in eleven of the fourteen seasons he played.  The lone exceptions were his first season, his last season, and his last season in Sacramento. His career mark was 0.177, which is not quite Brent-like, but still very good.

Although Brent and Jon were very productive, the same cannot be said about Drew.  The youngest Barry played only 598 minutes in his NBA career.  His rookie season – when he played 256 minutes – he posted a 0.151 WP48.  After this promising start, though, he was below average in his second year; and then quite bad his last season.  Of course, Drew wasn’t given much of a chance.  His NBA minutes were quite limited and he did have to play for a different team each year he played.  So one could argue that Drew might have been as productive as his two brothers.

What do the Barry brothers do well (and not so well)?

Okay, two of the three Barry brothers were very good (the third brother didn’t play enough for us to see for sure how good he was going to be).  Exactly why, though, were Brent and Jon so good?

Table Two: Comparing the Barry Brothers to Rick Barry

Table Two reports the career performance (for Brent, prior to the 2007-08 season) of each Barry across each of the box score statistics.

When we look at Brent and Jon we see some clear similarities.  Both Brent and Jon excelled with respect to shooting efficiency.  In addition, they also offered some steals and assists.  What separates the brothers is adjusted field goal percentage.  Jon had a very good mark of 52.4%.  Brent, though, had an outstanding career mark of 56.9%.

To put Brent’s career performance in perspective, last season only two guards in the NBA managed to play at least 500 minutes and post a better mark.  All-Star point guard Steve Nash’s adjusted field goal percentage was 61.3% in 2006-07. And Brent Barry had a mark of 62.6%, a conversion rate that was unmatched by any player in the Association last year who played significant minutes (more than 500).

What about Drew? Like his brothers, Drew was also able to hit his shots.  But his numbers with respect to every other statistical category, except assists, were quite a bit below average.

How do the Barry brothers compare to the father?

So the Barry brothers could shoot.  Oddly enought, when we turn to the father we see a different story.  Rick Barry averaged nearly 25 points per game in his Hall-of-Fame career.  Yes, he could score.  But unlike his sons, he couldn’t score efficiently.

Before we get to that issue, let’s review the career of Rick Barry. He began his NBA career in 1965.  After two seasons he joined the ABA, where he lasted for four seasons.  In 1972 he was back in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors.

In 1973-74 the NBA began tracking offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, steals, and blocked shots.  Although turnovers weren’t tracked until the 1977-78 campaign, we do have enough turnover data from Rick Barry – from the ABA and his latter NBA career – to guess what his turnover numbers looked like in 1973-74.  And with turnovers estimated, we can evaluate the last seven years of Rick Barry’s career.

This evaluation is reported back in Table Two.  From this evaluation we can see – as noted above — that Rick was not quite as good as his sons with respect to shooting efficiency.  In the NBA his best mark with respect to adjusted field goal percentage was 46.9%, and that occurred his last year in the league.  Across his last seven NBA seasons his adjusted field goal percentage was 45.3% (his career NBA mark was 45.1%).

Yes, the elder Barry did play in an era when shooting percentages were lower.  And yes, he took more shots than his sons (although the link between shot attempts and efficiency is weak, at best).  Still, you would expect the father of three great shooters to be better at getting shots to go in the basket.  And his marks -given the time he played – were still just average (at best).

Despite his woes from the field, the elder Barry did post a career Win Score above that of an average small forward.  He was able to do this because he was above average with respect to assists, steals, and free throw shooting.  Still, despite some positive aspects to his game, I don’t think Rick Barry contributed as much as either Brent or Jon.  At least not on a per-minute basis.

So let me summarize.  Brent is the most productive Barry brother.  Despite this honor, Brent will never be in the Hall-of-Fame as a player (scoring only 9.7 points per game for your career probably disqualifies you from that honor).  But if we look beyond total points at the entire package, Brent did produce more wins than his father.  And that makes Brent the better Barry.


Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.