In 2020, I tried to come up with my own NBA player rating formula based on stats that would give give you an idea of just how much a player contributes to his team on a given night–the positive stuff minus the negative stuff.
I did this because, A. it was lockdown and I was bored, and B. because I’ve always been looking for an all-inclusive measure of an NBA player’s effectiveness, different than something like Holliger’s PER ratings.
PER is good, but when you look at the list, it’s clearly inaccurate in terms of ranking the best players in the league. I mean, it currently has Montrezl Harrell as the 12th-ranked player in terms of efficiency. Robert Williams is 17th. Both are very nice players, but they’re role players. They’re not top-20 guys. PER is kind of skewed toward big guys, and I wanted a system that’s more “position-neutral.”
Now, I don’t purport to be this statistical or basketball expert, and my system is not very complicated. But I like it, and I think it makes sense. I used to call it the Total Net Contribution stat, but now I’m changing the name to Hard Carry Rating, because I like that more, and at the end of the day, that’s really what it shows us: which players do the most for their teams on a nightly basis.
I’ll explain the formula quickly, and then I’ll get into the current rankings.
First, we look at a player’s basic stats and give them credit for the following:
- Points scored per game
- Offensive rebounds
- Defensive rebounds (0.7 weighting, meaning for every defensive rebound a player gets credit for 0.7 of them, compared 1.0 for an offensive rebound)
- Points generated by assists (0.7 weighting, meaning you don’t get full credit for the points you assist on; you get 70% credit for the points your teammates score off of your assists)
- Defensive Box Plus/Minus (this can either be positive, 0, or negative, so if you’re a defensive liability according to DBPM, you lose points).
Then we subtract the following:
- Missed field goals (here I use a player’s effective field goal percentage to calculate his missed shots rather than his raw field goal percentage. I wanted to ensure that the formula took into account the fact that a three is worth more than a two)
- Missed free throws
- Usage rate (divided by 10; thus, the more efficient players will lose fewer points)
So that’s everything that goes into it. When we combine all the figures, it gives us one nice, clean number we can use to quantify a player’s total impact on the game.
With that, here are the current ratings for the top 50 players:
As we can see, Jokic is completely off in his own category at the top. He does just so much for his team it’s ridiculous: he scores efficiently, he makes plays for his teammates and he defends.
The only player even remotely close to him is Giannis. Then we have LeBron, Joel Embiid and Luka Doncic basically tied to round out the top 5. KD comes in at 6.
The one name that obviously pops out as a major head-scratcher in the top-10 is Dejounte Murray at 7. Really? Dejounte Murray, the 7th best player in the league?
Well, I don’t necessarily believe that, but in terms of statistical contributions, he’s very overlooked. Right now, he averages an efficient 21ppg and 8.3rpg, plus a whopping 9.3 assists per game (4th best in the league) to go along with 2 steals per game. He only turns it over 2.6 times a game, he’s a plus defender and he has a relatively low usage rate for guys who score as much as he does.
Dejounte Murray is really a very well-rounded basketball player who does a hell of a lot for his team. That’s what my system rewards: guys who can not only score, but score efficiently, take care of the ball, rebound and dish out assists. Dejounte Murray is a very good all-around basketball player, and that’s really all there is to it.
I mean, PER has him ranked #16 in the league, so my rating for him is not all that crazy. He ranks 10th in the league in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) and 13th in total Box Plus/Minus.
Let’s put Dejounte Murray up against another player in a blind resume test, just to show you how underrated he’s been this season.
- PPG: 21.0
- REB: 8.3
- AST: 9.3
- STL: 2.0
- BLK: 0.3
- TOV: 2.6
- eFG: 49.8%
Now Player B:
- PPG: 22.6
- REB: 7.8
- AST: 10.1
- STL: 1.3
- BLK: 0.6
- TOV: 4.4
- eFG: 49.1%
Dejounte Murray is arguably having a better season than this player.
Any guesses at who he is?
It’s James Harden.
Most people consider James Harden to be a top-10 player in the league, and Murray is arguably having a better year than him right now.
So don’t sleep on Dejounte Murray.
And I think that’s my takeaway from these stats-based ranking systems: just because at first blush a result seems wildly incorrect to you doesn’t mean it is. It could be that we’re sleeping on a guy. I think a lot of us (myself included until I did the rankings) are sleeping on Murray.
Anyway, so Harden, CP3 and Trae Young round out my top-10 players on the Hard Carry list.
I’ll update the list again at the end of the season going into the playoffs.