The Abdur-Rahim Lesson

Posted on November 9, 2008 by

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The following eight players share the same two characteristics. Each was selected in the 1996 draft.  And each has appeared in at least two all-star games (stats are after the conclusion of the 2007-08 season).

  • Kobe Bryant: 10 All-Star games, 136.0 Wins Produced, 0.207 WP48
  • Allen Iverson: 9 All-Star games, 64.8 Wins Produced, 0.090 WP48
  • Ray Allen: 8 All-Star games, 113.1 Wins Produced, 0.168 WP48
  • Steve Nash: 6 All-Star games, 122.7 Wins Produced, 0.222 WP48
  • Jermaine O’Neal: 6 All-Star games, 52.2 Wins Produced, 0.133 WP48
  • Peja Stojakovic: 3 All-Star games, 67.9 Wins Produced, 0.146 WP48
  • Antoine Walker: 3 All-Star games, 24.9 Wins Produced, 0.038 WP48
  • Stephon Marbury: 2 All-Star games, 68.9 Wins Produced, 0.105 WP48

An average player posts a WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] of 0.100.  So although all of these players made multiple appearances in the NBA’s All-Star game, some of these players (see Allen Iverson, Antoine Walker, and Stephon Marbury ) have not consistently been very productive players.

The Amazing Abdur-Rahim

The idea of an unproductive All-Stars has been discussed previously in this forum. This post, though, is not on this topic.  No, I wish to discuss a player from the 1996 draft who was quite productiuon and yet will probably be forgotten by many NBA fans.

This past summer Shareef Abdur-Rahim retired from the game.  Abdur-Rahim only appeared in one All-Star game.  And he only made one appearance in the post-season (an appearance that lasted just six games).  Despite a lack of acclaim and team success, he was actually a more productive player than many of the aforementioned “stars”. In fact, if we review the 1996 draft (something we did in The Wages of Wins), only four players selected twelve years ago produced more wins in his career than Abdur-Rahim (Bryant, Nash, Marcus Camby, and Ray Allen). 

The Prospects of the Trailing Pack

As noted, Abdur-Rahim is done playing so he’s not adding to his 82.9 career Wins Produced.  After Abdur-Rahim, the next five most productive players from the 1996 draft are Marbury, Stojakovic, Iverson, Jerome Williams (64.4 Wins Produced), and Jermaine O’Neal.  Of these five, only Williams is done playing.  So can the other four catch Abdur-Rahim?

  • Marbury is currently modeling suits on the New York Knicks bench. In other words, he seems stuck at 68.9 career wins for awhile. And since he has only produced 8.8 wins over the past three seasons, it seems unlike Marbury is going to move up on this list even if he does play again.
  • Stojakovic is still getting minutes, but like Marbury, isn’t offering much production. The past two seasons his WP48 has been below average and last year he only produced 5.4 wins. If he doesn’t revert to what we saw a few years ago, it will take him three more years to catch Abdur-Rahim.
  • Iverson – who recently became one of my favorite players – produced 9.5 wins last year. So he could overtake Abdur-Rahim during the 2009-10 season. Iverson, though, is already 33 years old and he just switched teams. With his contract expiring this summer, he will likely switch teams again. All that moving around at his age probably won’t help him move up this list.
  • And then there is Jermaine O’Neal. Relative to Abdur-Rahim, O’Neal has appeared in more All-Star games and has been paid more money. In other words, it’s likely that O’Neal is considered the better player. In terms of Wins Produced, though, Abdur-Rahim offered more. For O’Neal to catch Abdur-Rahim he will have to produce 26 more wins. Across the last four seasons, though, O’Neal has only produced 13.9 wins. So O’Neal is going to need to pick up the pace in Toronto to surpass Abdur-Rahim.

The Lesson Learned

Whether or not the players listed below Abdur-Rahim can eventually surpass his career win total is not really the point of the story.  The key point I wish to make is the lesson I think his career teaches. 

A basketball player can be very talented and he can be taken very high in the draft.  The player can see his talent translate into real production on the court.  And a player can stay healthy so that his production of wins surpasses many of his peers.  But if a player is not surrounded by quality teammates, the perceptions of a player will suffer.

In both 1999-00 and 2000-01, Abdur-Rahim ranked among the top 15 in Wins Produced.  His WP48 in each season exceeded 0.200 (twice the average).  This production, though, was with the Vancouver Grizzlies.  Because Vancouver was very bad, Abdur-Rahim’s production went unnoticed by those selecting All-Star teams.  And a player like Jermaine O’Neal -who has never matched what Abdur-Rahim did those two seasons – eventually earned more money and certainly received more acclaim (primarily because O’Neal played for better teams in Indiana).

So we see, how you are perceived – and probably how much money you make – is influenced by the quality of your teammates.  With the data the NBA collects -which does a wonderful job of separating a player from his teammates – this shouldn’t be the case.  Unfortunately, often it’s true. Good players on bad teams are often discounted (while bad players on good teams are often over-estimated).

In closing, we might want to think of a few players that are following in Abdur-Rahim’s footsteps.  One that leaps to mind is his former teammate in Sacramento, Kevin Martin.  Martin has produced 26.4 wins across the past three seasons.  This production surpasses the productivity of Iverson, Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, and Joe Johnson.  One a per-minute basis, he surpassed the output of Brandon Roy in 2007-08.  And yet all of these other players appeared in the 2008 All-Star game while Martin (once again) stayed home.

Clearly, Martin fits the Abdur-Rahim pattern. If you can think of another example, please note this in the comment section.  

– DJ

The WoW Journal Comments Policy

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at wagesofwins.com 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.

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