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2004-2005 Adjusted Plus-Minus Ratings

By David Lewin

For an introduction to this method and the numbers for the 2005-2006 season please see this article: http://82games.com/lewin2.htm

Before we take a look at the 2004-2005 adjusted plus-minus leaderboard Iíll remind everyone what happened that year. The San Antonio Spurs won the title, beating the Pistons in 7 games. Steve Nash won his first MVP, and Emeka Okafor edged out Dwight Howard for rookie of the year.

Now for the leaders:

2004-05 Top 15
 Player Team Min. Rating 
 Paul Pierce Celtics 2960 18.57 
 Tim Duncan Spurs 2200 17.64 
 Elton Brand Clippers 3001 13.22 
 Stephon Marbury Knicks 3289 12.40 
 Brendan Haywood Wizards 1865 12.38 
 Emanuel Ginobili Spurs 2196 12.36 
 Tony Allen Celtics 1251 11.94 
 Jamaal Tinsley Pacers 1299 11.70 
 Jason Kidd Nets 2446 11.15 
 Rashard Lewis Supersonics 2698 10.41 
 Dirk Nowitzki Mavericks 3024 10.32 
 Vladimir Radmanovic Supersonics 1859 9.81 
 Brad Miller Kings 2089 9.76 
 Shane Battier Grizzlies 2513 9.75 
 Kevin Garnett Timberwolves 3115 9.48 

Obviously there are some surprises here. Paul Pierce comes in number one in a year that many considered a down year for him. However, taking a look at the rest of the players on a team that won 47 games and the Atlantic Division, Pierce must have been playing out of his mind.

Itís easy to see why the Spurs won the title given that they started two of the top six players in league in Ginobili and Duncan. The Spurs finished the regular season behind the Suns in the standings only because Duncan and Ginobili both missed games and played only about 30 minutes per game when they were healthy. During the playoffs when their minutes increased they continued to play at a high level and the Spurs cruised through the playoffs (until the finals at least).

Also see: the full list of '04-05 ratings for all players.

It seems that the outcry over Nashís MVP win was justified, as Nash was not even among the top twenty in impact. Shaq was the popular alternative, but he had even less of an impact than Nash did. Tim Duncan probably should have won his third MVP in four years, while Pierce certainly deserved consideration for his role in the Celtics improbably playoff run. Dirk Nowitzki probably deserves mention as well for keeping making the Mavs better than the previous year despite the loss of Nash.

Stepping away from the numbers for a minute, it is possible that Steve Nashís value is understated by this method because he offers leadership for the Suns and fosters a style of play that continues even when he leaves the court. From a statistical standpoint however, the 2004-2005 Phoenix Suns were an ensemble team that didnít fall apart when Nash went to the bench.

Continuing with the Suns, you can see why Steve Belkin fought to veto the Joe Johnson-Boris Diaw deal. The Hawks were giving up two first round draft picks, and their best player in Diaw, for the right to pay max money to a player who was slightly below average in the previous season. While Joe Johnson has posted excellent numbers with the Hawks, he hasnít brought them much help in the win column and they donít play better with him court. Diaw, on the other hand, has continued doing for the Suns what he did with the Hawks: making the team better team when he is on the floor.

2004-2005 plus 2005-2006

Looking at two years together can help alleviate the sample size issues inherent in adjusted plus-minus analysis. Below are the top players in terms of average adjusted plus-minus over past two seasons. It should be noted that this is different from what Dan Rosenbaum did in his article here at 82games.com combining the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 seasons. Dan combined the data from those two season and ran a regression on that new larger data set. This is allows a greater number of player combinations and creates a more accurate regression. The downside of this method, when compared to simply taking the weighted average of the numbers from the past two years, is that it treats a player as being unchanged from year to year, whereas we know that players can improve and decline from year to year. Overall running the regression on two years of data is probably the better method, but simply averaging (weighted by minutes) a playerís numbers from the past two years gives a good picture of who the best players have been.

Two Year Top 20
2004-05 2005-06 Two Years
 Player Team Min Adj +/-  Team Min Adj +/-  MinTot 2YrAve 
 Rasheed Wallace Pistons 2694 7.18  Pistons 2776 20.20  5470 13.79 
 LeBron James Cavaliers 3380 5.99  Cavaliers 3357 19.59  6737 12.76 
 Andrei Kirilenko Jazz 1351 8.51  Jazz 2601 13.83  3952 12.01 
 Ron Artest Pacers 289 7.88  Kings 1603 11.83  2494 11.37 
 Emanuel Ginobili Spurs 2196 12.36  Spurs 1808 10.01  4004 11.30 
 Ben Wallace Pistons 2670 3.78  Pistons 2887 17.92  5557 11.13 
 Brad Miller Kings 2089 9.76  Kings 2918 11.07  5007 10.53 
 Stephon Marbury Knicks 3289 12.40  Knicks 2194 7.57  5483 10.47 
 Dirk Nowitzki Mavericks 3024 10.32  Mavericks 3085 10.52  6109 10.42 
 Kobe Bryant Lakers 2685 5.40  Lakers 3273 14.34  5958 10.32 
 Chris Paul   Hornets 2804 10.22  2804 10.22 
 Paul Pierce Celtics 2960 18.57  Celtics 3080 2.07  6040 10.16 
 Tim Duncan Spurs 2200 17.64  Spurs 2779 3.25  4979 9.61 
 Elton Brand Clippers 3001 13.22  Clippers 3092 5.33  6093 9.22 
 Kevin Garnett Timberwolves 3115 9.48  Timberwolves 2956 8.05  6071 8.78 
 Steve Nash Suns 2567 7.21  Suns 2794 9.63  5361 8.47 
 Jason Kidd Nets 2446 11.15  Nets 2968 5.90  5414 8.27 
 Tony Allen Celtics 1251 11.94  Celtics 976 3.36  2227 8.18 
 Alonzo Mourning Heat 242 1.12  Heat 1298 11.78  2001 8.03 
 Shane Battier Grizzlies 2513 9.75  Grizzlies 2835 6.00  5348 7.76 

This list shows us which players have consistently made their team better over the past two seasons. Rasheed and Ben Wallace are buoyed by abnormally high 2005-2006 numbers, the reasons for which have been discussed in the 2005-06 article. Even so they clearly deserve to be considered among the NBAís best, as they have led the Pistons to 118 wins over the past two years.

The other top names are largely as you might expect. LeBron, Nowitzki, Kobe, Pierce, Duncan, Brand, Garnett, Nash and Kidd all improved their team more than eight points per one hundred possessions above average. This seems to be about the cutoff for and elite player. Nineteen players reached this mark, of those eleven have been listed so far.

The remaining eight deserve some discussion. Andrei Kirilenko, Ron Artest, Manu Ginobili and Brad Miller are all guys who are generally left out of the best players in the league discussion, but seem to consistently have elite level impact. Stephon Marbury was once considered one of the brightest young stars in the league, but recently heís been under heavy fire from the media for not being ďa winner.Ē The numbers tell a somewhat different story as the Knicks clearly played much better with Marbury on the court over the past two years.

Chris Paul has only played one NBA season, so it remains to be seen if he can consistently play at an elite level, but if his rookie season is any indication he already merits discussion with Steve Nash and Jason Kidd as the leagueís best point guards. Alonzo Mourning is at the other end of his career. He is no longer considered an elite player, and rightly so because he plays limited minutes, but when he is out there he has consistently made an impact for the Heat.

The most surprising player in the top twenty would have to be Tony Allen. Allen had a superb rookie season in 2004-2005 followed by a mediocre 2005-2006 in which he struggled with injuries. This year Allen was playing extremely well before he tore his ACL (trying to dunk after the whistle was blown). As a Celtics fan, I hope he returns to 100% as he has shown the ability to be a true impact player.

At the opposite end of the list we some expected names and some less so. Primoz Brezec, Maurice Evans, DeShawn Stevenson, Mark Blount, Chris Mihm,, Michael Olowokandi, Sebastian Telfair and Eddy Curry have consistently killed their teams over the past two years. Apparently Al Jefferson and Steve Blake belong in that category as well, which saddens me because the Celtics have anointed Jefferson our franchise player and because Iíve been a fan of Blake since his Maryland days. Hopefully Jeffersonís improvement in traditional statistics this year has been accompanied by a similar improvement in effect on the team. Also worth noting is that the Celtics have had five of the ten worst players over the past three years (Telfair, Olowokandi, Mihm, Blount, Jefferson).

Also see: the full list of Two Year average Ratings for all players.

Coming in future columns:
- Individual offensive and defensive adjusted plus-minus ratings
- Player wins and losses based on adjusted plus-minus ratings

Special Thanks To:
Dan Rosenbaum
Roland Beech
Vittorio Addona

David Lewin is a 19 year-old college sophomore from Wayland, Massachusetts. He currently attends Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota where he plays football. He has contributed research and articles to Pro Football Prospectus 2006 and FootballOutsiders.com in addition to 82games.com. David is interested in a career in sports when he graduates and is always looking for interesting summer opportunities. A list of his articles can be found at 82games.com/lewin.htm. He can be reached at dlew33@yahoo.com

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