Ranking Every Player for the Boston Celtics since 1977

Posted on May 28, 2009 by


A few days ago I posted a Ranking Every Player in the History of the Utah Jazz. Jason Chandler noted in the comments to this post that it was “Best. Post. Ever.”

There have been 892 posts in this forum, and although I don’t wish to disagree with Jason, am not sure I think this was the best post ever.  Then again, Jason is a Jazz fan. And I might not be the best judge of what is “best”.

So with Chandler’s words in mind, I thought I would see if I could strike gold with fans of the Boston Celtics.  So here is what every Boston Celtic since 1977-78 has done with respect to Wins Produced.

Table One: Ranking the Boston Celtics (1977-78 to 2008-09)

Topping the rankings is… Larry Bird.  Larry Legend produced 261.9 wins for the Celtics. Across these 32 seasons, this mark is easily the best.  Of course, one suspects that if we went back before 1977-78 we would see Bill Russell produced more than Bird.  But alas, we don’t have the data so we don’t really know (well, we have enough data to be pretty sure Russell would be number one in Boston history).

Sticking with the years where we have data, here is the rest of the top ten.

2.         Robert Parish

3.         Paul Pierce

4.         Kevin McHale

5.         Cedric Maxwell

6.         Danny Ainge

7.         Rajon Rondo

8.         Reggie Lewis

9.         Kevin Garnett

10.       Dee Brown

Looking over the list we see a couple of surprises.  For example, I am not sure Maxwell is regarded as one of the five most productive Boston players across the last three decades.  And it’s hard to believe that Rondo (in just three seasons) and KG (in just two) already are in the top 10. Beyond who is on the list, the other big surprise is that 64.6% of the team’s Wins Produced since 1977 can be tied to these ten players. 

Beyond reporting the rankings, I wanted to take a moment to comment on reactions to such analysis.  In general, reactions to any post where players are ranks follow two forms.  If the person reacting likes the analysis (i.e. I always knew Larry Bird was the best), then the reaction will look like this… “Professor Berri – with some of the best analysis I have ever seen – has confirmed that Bird is the greatest Boston player since 1977.”

If the person, though, doesn’t like the analysis (i.e. Danny Ainge is the 6th?), then you see… “Berri  (does anyone seriously thinks he knows what he is talking about?) actually thinks Ainge was a good player.  That’s all you need to know to see how stupid all the advanced stats are.  Why can’t these geeks put the computer down and watch a freakin’ game.”  Or something like that (usually the language is more colorful).

Although I like the first approach (and I am not too keen on the second), both reactions have the same problem.  In both instances the person reacting is arguing from conclusion back to evidence.   In other words, their reaction to Wins Produced is entirely dictated by whether or not what it says confirms what the person already believed.  If it does, then Wins Produced is great.  If not, then it’s stupid.

Unfortunately, this is not how one should do analysis.  When we do research we start with the evidence and work to the conclusion.  And if we think a conclusion is incorrect, we have to actually go out and find sufficient evidence that allows us to reach a different conclusion.  Oh, and by sufficient, I mean the new evidence shouldn’t be accurately described as “horseshit”.

One last note that is completely unrelated… previously I mentioned that there have been nearly 900 posts in this forum.  On average, each post is at least 1,000 words.  The Wages of Wins was only about 120,000 words, so this means I have offered enough material in this forum to fill seven more books.  And that doesn’t count the comment section.  The Wages of Wins is currently selling for $13.57 at Amazon.com.  If you read all these posts (and if  you did, I am sorry), does this mean you now owe me $94.99? 

– 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.