Monday, May 14, 2012

The 14 Greatest NBA Playoff Performers of All-Time

First, a guy completely in his own class - I have to recognize George Mikan. Despite a very short career, he had 17 playoff Win Shares and 5 titles, and improved his PER from 26.9 in the regular season to 28.5 in the playoffs. He is #2 to Jordan in all-time playoff PER, so we will forgive him not reaching 20 career playoff Win Shares (he only played 70 career playoff games).

For everyone else, we will sort and require a playoff PER of 20+ and 20+ Win Shares in the playoff.

That leaves us with only 13 guys (listed in order of most Win Shares): Jordan Kareem Magic Wilt Shaq Duncan Kobe Jerry West Bird Karl Malone Hakeem Dirk LeBron

[For those of you who are curious, Bill Russell and John Stockton and Chauncey Billups did not have playoff PER over 20].

Moving on, how do we rank these remaining 13 guys as far as playoff performers? Well, the top 5 in total PER would go: Jordan 28.6 LeBron 26.6 Shaq 26.1 Hakeem 25.7 Duncan 25.4

So, if LeBron is such a great playoff performer (and he is, make no mistake, he has twice reached the NBA finals, once coached by Mike Brown, once by Eric Spoelstra) then why is regarded as such a shitty performer?

Well, one reason is that there have been guys who improved in the playoffs, and LeBron is not one.

Of these 14 guys, the following guys have improved their PER in the playoffs over their regular season career PER: Hakeem + 2.1 Mikan +1.6 Dirk +1.1 Jordan +0.7 Duncan +0.7 Jerry West +0.2

All 8 other all-time greats actually lost PER in the playoff,

some just a little: Shaq -0.3 LeBron -0.6

Others lost a moderate amount: Kobe and Magic -1.1 Kareem -1.6

And 3 were significantly worse: Bird -2.1 Karl Malone -2.8 Wilt -3.3

The perception of LeBron is that he is not that good in the playoffs, and the numbers say that he is slightly worse overall than he is in the regular season.

So, if you are judging who is the "best" playoff performer based upon total career Wins Shares and actually getting objectively better in the playoffs, the top 5 are:

1 Michael
2 George Mikan
3 Tim Duncan
  4 Hakeem and
5 (tie) Dirk and Jerry West

Then you would go

7. Shaq
8 (tie). Magic and Kobe and Kareem
11. LeBron
12. Wilt
13. Bird
14. Karl Malone

Some names often described as clutch: Horry - was a +1.0 Worthy - +0.6 Chauncey - +0.4 Bill Russell = +0.5 McHale - -0.6 Stockton = -2.0

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