The Greatest and Worst NBA Players of All Time!

I feel obliged to say that all time means from 1978 onwards as that is the timeline when the modern day boxscore, which allows us to calculate Wins Produced, entered the NBA. (Thanks Lee Meade!)

Josh Weil (@joshweil) of the great blog Everything and Nothing and the newest member of the Wages of Wins network has been diligently working with the data. He’s produced a spreadsheet of every player since the 1978 season (using the data from Arturo Galletti)

Josh also used a similar take on Wins that we’ve recently used on points. Wins Produced judges players against an average player at their position. However, we still credit the player with that average. For instance, a team of “Average Players” would earn 41 wins. If you had an above average player on that team (let’s say 4 wins above average) the team would then win 45 games. Rather than credit the player with the “par” (average) wins, Josh just credits the player with the +4 wins. So now we can look at the top players in terms of wins they added to the team. And all of that data is available in this awesome spreadsheet here.

For fun, let’s take a look at the current top 10 and the current bottom 10 players of all time using this view.

Greatest player careers from 1978-2012

Player Position Seasons Minutes Played Wins Produced over Par
John Stockton  Point Guard 19 47,764 210
 Magic Johnson Point Guard 13 33,245 180
 Charles Barkley Power Forward 16 39,327 179
 Dennis Rodman Power Forward 14 28,838 147
 Jason Kidd Point Guard 20 47,765 147
 David Robinson Center 14 34,272 141
 Ben Wallace Forward-Center 17 31,812 132
 Dikembe Mutombo Center 19 36,620 124
 Kevin Garnett Power Forward 17 45,500 124
 Michael Jordan Shooting Guard 15 41,013 123

Some very good names (Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon) just missed the cut. Tim Duncan, Steve Nash and LeBron James are three players in the top twenty close to breaking the top ten. Now let’s check out the worst of all time. We can also notice that Michael Jordan is the only shooting guard on the list. And we can only wonder what if he hadn’t decided to play baseball right in the middle of his prime. Let’s take a list at the less than stellar players.

Worst player careers from 1978-2012

Player Position Seasons Minutes Played Wins Produced over Par
Clifford Robinson  Power Forward 19 42,458 -88
 James Edwards Center 22 28,356 -76
 Juwan Howard Power Forward 21 36,313 -68
 Tom Chambers Power Forward 16 33,917 -67
Al Harrington Power Forward 16 27,089 -64
 Antoine Walker Power Forward 13 31,336 -57
 Eddie Johnson Small Forward 10 32,616 -57
 Jeff Malone Shooting Guard 15 29,660 -56
 Mike Mitchell Small Forward 11 24,537 -53
 Vernon Maxwell Shooting Guard 16 24,270 -52

Clifford Robinson may never be dethroned. Al Harrington earns every bit of my disdain with his terrible play, which is still going. One of our favorites in Andrea Bargnani (-40) is close to  making the cut too. It’s also surprising how none of our bad players are point guards. Of course, we’ve mentioned that teams seem to have figured out how to judge point guards, if still needing help on the rest of the spots.

Enjoy the list. As Josh mentioned on our recent podcast, Kobe is a bit far down the list (although still in the top 100) and as we mentioned, despite the hate he has for advanced stats, Reggie Miller finishes third behind Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler in the land of elite shooting guards, which are rare. We’d love to hear any other great insights you find in the data. Please comment, send us any posts and of course tweet out your thoughts at #wagesofwins.


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