Taking the over/under on Awards for Big Men

Posted on October 7, 2010 by


The following is taken (stolen, copied, whatever word you like) from Nerd Numbers the Blog (i.e. from Andres Alvarez, the person responsible for automated Wins Produced).  I am copying this post for thee reasons (beyond the obvious “copying is easy”).

1.  Overrated and Underrated arguments always make for good discussions (or at least “discussions”).

2. Andres notes the productivity of Bill Laimbeer (one of the all-time great Pistons).

3. Andres makes a great point at the end of this article about Basketball-Reference.  We all enjoy the numbers from Basketball-Reference. So we (and I mean Andres, Arturo Galletti, and I) think we should all support this resource.  Andres and Arturo have already sponsored a page. I plan on choosing a page to sponsor in the next week or so.  Hopefully everyone who reads posts here can do the same.

This article may use several advanced stats. All of these are based on box score statistics that are adjusted for other factors including pace, position and team. A general scale is given for these, and links to advanced explanations are listed at the bottom of the page.

  • Wins Produced per 48 Minutes (WP48) – The number of wins a player produces in 48 minutes of play. 0.100 is average and 0.250 is considered the “superstar threshold”.
  • Win Shares per 48 Minutes (WS/48) – Very similar to Wins Produced per 48 minutes. This is also the number of wins a player generates in 48 minutes of play with 0.100 being average. Win Shares better players tend to have a threshold closer to 0.200.
  • Player Efficiency Rating (PER) – This is a per minute stat based on box score data and league pace. It is adjusted so that 15.0 is average, 18.0 is good and 22.5 is “all-star”

Evan caught a mistake I made. I somehow left Bosh out of the top 10 big men of the last two years. I will actually say you readers have been great at catching my mistakes and pointing them out in a polite fashion. In traditional media I’d have an editor and you’d have to wait for content. Now you guys are my editors and it seems to be working out.

From that tangent I’ll get to the point. Evan earned a post as thanks. Evan could have wasted this on a simple question but Evan went for broke. Could I name the most overrated/underrated big men of all time? This is actually a huge and interesting problem. Learning from my mistake with role players, I’m going to start small and potentially grow this article. I may go along with this problem more. Arturo may snatch it up and do amazing analysis at some point. All that said I’ve started my analysis and have a fun bit to share with you.

Let’s start with rating. There are two real hallmarks of time that define player ratings; Awards and All-Star games. All-Star games are fan driven. While this certainly is a good place to look for perception, I am going to focus on awards. Awards are picked by coaches and writers. Another way to think of this is “experts” pick award winners. If they choose the wrong player then it clearly shows a bias for/against a player. In 1983 the NBA started keeping track of the Defensive Player of the Year. That seemed a good place to start looking at overrated/underrated big men. For part one of this problem I just counted up the number of MVPs, Defensive Player, All-NBA team and All-Defense team awards a player received. I then counted up the number of seasons (from 1983-2010) the player was a top 10 big man in the league. (I used Dr. Berri’s numbers for these). To rank underrated players I looked at players that never received an award but had been in the ten big men at least once. To rank overrated player I looked for players that received at least one award but never placed in the top ten big men. Here are the lists, I hope you enjoy them!

Top  Overrated Big Men from 1983-2010

1) Kareem Abdul Jabbar

  • Awards: 1983 All NBA 1st Team, 1984 All NBA 2nd Team and All-Defense 2nd Team, 1985 All NBA 1st Team, 1986 All NBA 2nd Team
  • Award Year Minutes: 10450
  • Award Year Wins: 37.8
  • Award Year WP48: 0.173

Kareem was a great player before 1983. However, by 1983 he was long past his prime. The league still handed him five awards. Now, Kareem was still a good player, he was just far removed from the amazing player he was earlier in his career. Also in 1985 Kareem showed some life and played quite well. Unfortunately he fell just short of top of the top ten. This overrated player is probably easiest to swallow as heck he had been arguably the greatest center of the 70s and he was still winning championships. It’s a shame age caught up with him. This story has been painfully retold with Shaq.

2) Clifford Robinson

  • Awards: 2000 All Defense Team 2nd Team, 2002 All Defense 2nd Team
  • Award Year Minutes: 5512
  • Award Year Wins: -6.0
  • Award Year WP48: -0.052

I wanted to avoid picking a fight. Players with just All-Defense awards are hard to say are overrated using an all-inclusive metric like the Wins Produced. However, in Clifford’s case I take exception. He may have been a good role player. His net effect on the court was negative wins! I can’t really accept a player as “All” anything if they are losing games for the team.

3) Tom Chambers

  • Awards: 1989 All NBA 2nd Team, 1990 All NBA 2nd Team
  • Award Year Minutes: 5450
  • Award Year Wins: 3.4
  • Awar Year WP48: 0.0297

This guy made it to two consecutive WCF finals and averaged over 25 points a game. Of course he’s all NBA right? Unfortunately, the answer is no. The Suns had a good team but they also had a below average PF in Tom Chambers. On the plus side Kevin Johnson (the best player on the team) also got the same award both years so it wasn’t a complete loss.

4) Vin Baker

  • Awards: 1997 All NBA 3rd Team, 1998 All NBA 2nd Team
  • Award Year Minutes: 6100
  • Award Year Wins: 18.3
  • Award Year WP48: 0.144

I put Vin in the same boat as Kareem. He was good, just not great. I guess the lockout and alcohol induced problems stopped that from ever happening. He did crack 10 wins in a season, that’s something.

Top Underrated Big Men from 1983-2010

1) Bill Laimbeer

  • Years in top 10 Big Men: 83,84,85,86,87,88,89,90
  • Minutes Played: 22584
  • Wins Produced: 121.7
  • WP48: 0.259
    Dr. Berri has mentioned Bill Laimbeer quite a few times over the Wages of Wins Journal. The fans liked him but he never won an award in 8 years of dominating the big men of the NBA. Even with the Pistons winning two consecutive championships he got no respect. Of course Tom Chambers managed to make it to the All-NBA second teams, while Bill was out ruling the East.

2) Jack Sikma

  • Years in top 10 Big Men: 83,84,85,86,87
  • Minutes Played: 13285
  • Wins Produced: 67.4
  • WP48: 0.244
    Say Hello to another fan favorite that was snubbed. For five consecutive years Sikma put up great numbers, just teetering on the Superstar threshold. Earlier in his career he even got a ring. Of course he ended his career with no individual accolades. Sorry Jack!

3) David Lee

  • Years in top 10 Big Men: 07-10
  • Minutes Played: 9930
  • Wins Produced: 60.5
  • WP48: 0.292
    David Lee I’m so glad you left the terrible franchise that is the Knicks. Hopefully new ownership and a new coach will make people notice how great you actually are in Golden State. It’s still a travesty that Walsh let you go, but their loss is the Warriors gain.

4) Michael cage

  • Years in top 10 Big Men: 85-87
  • Minutes Played: 7865
  • Wins Produced: 56.6
  • WP48: 0.254
    Long before the Clippers were failing with Marcus Camby playing amazingly, they were failing with Michael Cage playing amazingly. According to Wikipedia he actually got into a “rebounding duel” with Charles Oakley! I find that cool. Sadly you won’t find any accolades next to his name, just a large resume on forgettable teams.

5) Tyson Chandler

  • Years in top 10 Big Men: 04,06-07
  • Minutes Played: 7497
  • Wins Produced: 45.1
  • WP48: 0.289
    Before injury took him down a peg, Chandler was a top player in the league. He teamed up with Chris Paul to help make the Hornets a contender. Sadly they blew their money on an overpaid shooter, Chandler went down with injury and no one noticed how good he was. The Mavs are hoping he’ll come back. I am too.

Thank Evan for the great post idea and I hope you enjoyed it. An interesting note on the underrated bigs is that excluding Chandler they were all good for several consecutive years and didn’t get noticed. The other sad part is that only Bill Laimbeer played on a team that was able to capitalize on his skills and actually compete. As for the overrated, I am happy I got to put Kareem up there, especially after my comment in jest.

See you next time,


P.S. In a recent conversation with DJ the point of Basketball-reference came up. A few days I put up a post about making sure we credited where the numbers come from (see below) Of course, the Economists brings up the topic of compensation. With that he suggested sponsoring a page. Arturo and I have both now done this. It’s a great idea and I highly recommend it. Sadly Melo was out of my price range and Iggy was taken, so I went with someone else. DJ will be posting about this next week, so you can find out then. (Or if I get lazy this weekend, it’s a nice trivia question)

The Stats