Amazing NBA Seasons and How Love Can Make Your Team Better

Posted on April 21, 2010 by


A quick note… we have many questions from Freakonomics to answer (would like to get these answered by tomorrow).  Plus this is the last day of classes at Southern Utah University.  So this post is going to be short (yet hopefully still interesting).

ilikeflowers – a frequent commentator in this forum – asked the following question last night: has there ever been a 0.400+ player who didn’t reach the finals in their career?

To answer this question we need a list of all players who posted a 0.400 WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] in a season.  Our data only goes back to 1977-78.   Plus, I am going to restrict the examination to all players who appeared in at least 41 games and played more than 30 minutes per contest.

Given these restrictions, here are the 14 players who made this mark (in alphabetical order):

  • Charles Barkley
  • Larry Bird
  • Kevin Garnett
  • LeBron James
  • Magic Johnson
  • Michael Jordan
  • Shawn Marion
  • Hakeem Olajuwon
  • Shaquille O’Neal
  • Chris Paul
  • David Robinson
  • Dennis Rodman
  • Ben Wallace
  • Bill Walton

From this list, only Chris Paul and Shawn Marion have failed to make it to the NBA Finals. 

Beyond that observation, one should note that only twelve teams have ever employed such a player (Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, LA Lakers, Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Antonio).  And only Chicago, Detroit, LA Lakers, and San Antonio have had two players reach the 0.400 mark in their uniform.

At the midpoint of this season, though, Kevin Love of the Timberwolves was above the 0.400 mark.  Had Love maintained this production (he didn’t by the way), then Minnesota would have joined the list of teams that once employed two 0.400 players.  And of these teams that drew a pair, only Minnesota would have failed to reach the NBA Finals. 

This point is important because I saw a rumor (this was a few weeks ago and I don’t wish to find the link) that the T-Wolves are thinking of giving up on Love.  From their perspective, Al Jefferson is the better power forward. 

So this is one way your favorite team can get better this summer.  Give Minnesota something for Love.  Okay, that won’t work if your favorite team is the T-Wolves.  If that is the case… well, how about those Twins (or Vikings)?

– DJ

The WoW Journal Comments Policy

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.