Ranking Agent Zero and the Arizona Alumni

On Monday, Henry Abbott at TrueHoop discussed the rivalry between Gilbert Arenas and Richard Jefferson. This discussion linked to Agent Zero’s blog at NBA.com. In a discussion of Jason Gardner’s wedding, attended by both Arenas and Jefferson, Arenas offered the following observation:

It really was a great time. Me and Richard, for some reason, always end up having a bragging session when we’re around each other and try to out-do one another. For some reason, he thinks he’s better than me. He can’t fathom that he’s only the third best player from Arizona, and I’m No. 1. He just hates that I’m No. 1. He hates to see me on my own video game, he hates that I’m a three-time All-Star, he hates the fact that he only got a bronze medal … all of that. He is bitter about it.

This quote raises a couple of questions:

1. Who, besides Arenas, does Agent Zero think is a better NBA player than Richard Jefferson?

2. And, perhaps the bigger questions, is it true that Arenas is the best player from Arizona?

You can actually answer both questions at the same time.  And it all starts at Basketball-Reference.com.  One of the many neat features at Basketball-Reference.com is the ability to look at all the players who have ever played in the NBA from each college or university.  According to Basketball-Reference.com there have been 35 players who have played in the NBA after attending Arizona.  Of these, I am going to focus on the 24 players who logged at least 1,000 minutes in the Association.

The Wins Produced Story

Let’s start our examination by looking at how many wins each player produced.  The top player is Jason Terry, who has thus far produced 58.4 wins.  He’s followed closely by Damon Stoudamire (56.9 wins) and Mike Bibby (55.9 wins).  Not coincidently, these Arizona players also rank in the top four in career minutes played.

Given differences in playing time, let’s focus on Wins Produced per 82 games (a stat I just made up). By this metric, the top Arizona grad is (drum roll please)….. Andre Iguodala.  As Table One indicates, Iguodala is the only Arizona alumni to post a career WP48 (Wins Produced per 48 minutes) in excess of 0.200.  Again, average is 0.100, so Iguodola’s average mark is twice the NBA average.

Table One: Ranking Arizona Alumni by Wins Produced

Per 82 games, Iguodala produces 13.4 wins, the only Arizona alumni to average in double figures.  Although he has only played three seasons, he has led the 76ers in Wins Produced every year he has played.

Okay, Iguodala is good.  What about Arenas and Jefferson?  In terms of both WP48 and Wins Produced per 82 games, Jefferson is a bit better.  This is not the story you would tell if you focused on the past three seasons.  Over the past three seasons, Arenas has been more productive than Jefferson (although not more productive than Iguodala).  When you focus on career performance, though, Arenas is only the third most productive Arizona product.

Searching for Player Number Two

Arenas not only claimed he was better than Jefferson, but that his former teammate was also ranked behind another Arizona graduate.  Who exactly was he talking about?

When I think about perceptions of performance my thoughts turn to metrics like NBA Efficiency.  This metric over-values scoring and thus is consistent with how performance tends to be perceived.  When we look at the Arizona grads via NBA Efficiency – and again I am going to focus on the measure per 82 games played – we see that Arenas is indeed the top Arizona graduate.

Table Two: Ranking Arizona Alumni by NBA Efficiency

But by this measure, Bibby and Iguodala rank ahead of Jefferson.  Arenas clearly said Jefferson was the third best player, so NBA Efficiency can’t be exactly what he had in mind.

So I decided to make this even simpler and just focus on scoring.  The following table ranks all Arizona alumni in terms of points scored per game.

Table Three: Ranking Arizona Alumni by Points Scored per game

Now we see a ranking consistent with what Arenas claimed.  When we focus solely on points per game, Arenas is the top Arizona graduate.  And Jefferson is ranked third behind Mike Bibby.

Is Bibby the mystery player?  Does Arenas only think of scoring when he evaluates himself and his peers? Did I take an Arenas post too seriously?  Are you taking this post too seriously?   Is this sounding like the end of an episode of Soap? If so, I would note that none of these questions will be answered in our next episode.

- DJ

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

Wins Produced and Win Score are 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

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