Month: August 2020

  • Introducing – NFL “CORP” 1.0

    Introducing – NFL “CORP” 1.0

    NFL – Championship Odds over Replacement Player (“CORP“): an estimate of the percent odds a player provides his team to win a Super Bowl

    The origin of the term “CORP” was attributed to Backpicks‘s metric of the same name to measure the odds a player provides a random team to win a championship. Due to the lack of widespread value metrics in American football, I created an NFL equivalent to provide a framework for quantitative player valuation.


    CORP, as stated earlier, is an estimate of a player’s championship equity. It’s an attempt to quantify a player’s contributions toward the most important goal of an NFL team: to win a Super Bowl.

    • Expected Points Added

    To quantify CORP, the formula required a base value to estimate a player’s impact on a rate basis. RBSDM supplies an EPA/Play statistic to estimate the average point value of a play in which a player was involved. EPA/Play, along with the Plays tallies provided by the site, created an estimate of a player’s total point contributions in a given season. EPA totals were used to calculate a player’s expected value in a sixteen-game season as well as scale for “pace” (normalizing a team’s offensive plays per game). 

    • Game-Scaling Value

    As mentioned earlier, a step in the CORP calculation results in an “expected” EPA per sixteen games for players. Expected EPA/G (xEPA) could act as a functioning element in CORP, although there’s additional room for team context. The aforementioned “pace” adjustment relies on the principle that more play opportunities typically garner stronger xEPA results. For the purpose of eliminating skewing based on pace, xEPA normalized results to a 65-plays per game (for teams) basis. The percentage of plays a player was involved in was also included to draw outlier seasons closer to the mean.

    • Calculating Title Odds

    The concluding step in the CORP calculation involved converting game-scaled xEPA to championship equity. Sports-Reference‘s team evaluation metric, Simple Rating System (opponent-adjusted point differential), was regressed onto ten seasons of win percentage to create the formula to approximate the odds a player provides his team with winning a game against an average team. The equal opponent difficulty for players contextualizes the raw data (eliminate biases based on opponent difficulty), as EPA measures value relative to expected values, similar to SRS. The regression formula creates the CORP score.


    CORP is not a perfect metric, and as a result, it doesn’t pinpoint certain aspects of a player. It is not a measurement of talent; it’s a measurement of a player’s contributions in an entire season. It’s extremely dependent on health; a talented player isn’t helping his team if he isn’t playing. Additionally, regular season and postseason games are weighed equally. As indicated by the “1.0” element of “CORP 1.0,” a follow-up model may place more stock into Playoff games to account for settings. At the moment, all games are treated the same. 

    Due to the inherent noisiness of contemporary metrics, they’re often presented in three-to-five-year intervals to allow a level of play to stabilize. CORP is no exception; multi-year CORP scores weigh three seasons worth of data, with a given season weighed twice as high as the one preceding it. Multi-year CORP scores, displayed on Cryptbeam, are only calculated for the current season. Single-year results will (eventually) date back as far as the 1999 season. Scores are only calculated for quarterbacks now due to data accessibility, although all offensive positions will (eventually) be measured. To view the Cryptbeam database for CORP, click here.


    As is with every custom metric on Cryptbeam, the end result is not intended to be a definitive player ranking. CORP is not perfect, and is planned to act as a framework to model player value and promote more analysis.

  • And Then There Was One

    And Then There Was One

    The inevitability of an Eastern Conference Finals matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors is increasingly prevalent as the NBA Playoffs descend upon us. FiveThirtyEight‘s RAPTOR forecast is one of few projections in which the aforementioned series isn’t expected to occur; the model favors the Boston Celtics (it is worth noting the scrapped Elo forecast paints Toronto as the title favorites, although it’s reimplementation as a secondary forecast increases the noise surrounding it). Basketball-Reference recognizes Milwaukee and Toronto as the likely Eastern Conference Finals pairing. My own (unpolished) projection model paints Milwaukee as the conference favorites with Toronto as a steady second. The plethora of predictions, projections, and information to base them on strongly implies the likelihood of the potential series, and as a result, it’s a matchup worth examining.

    I issued a poll on Discuss TheGame, a sports social platform, in which users would vote for the team they predicted would win the Eastern Conference this season. Milwaukee maintains a relatively strong 57% of voting shares, followed by Toronto (39%), with the other 4% allocated among the remaining contenders in the Eastern Conference, like Boston and Philadelphia. It’s a seemingly valid representation of the perceived playing field, although the depths of these stances reveal a clearer picture. If one were to question the individuals, the result would be a strong following of Toronto. Despite the general advantage toward Milwaukee in the eyes of the people, Toronto gained a solid foundation of supporters on Discuss TheGame. It was the revelation of this, as someone who sees the Bucks as strongly advantageous, that prompted my writing of this article. Today, I’ll explain my reasoning toward the Milwaukee Bucks as the eventual sole remaining team in the Eastern Conference.

    To understand the deficiencies of Milwaukee in the team’s previous Playoff series against Toronto, we must take a trip into the past. More specifically, May 19th of 2019. 

    2019 Eastern Conference Finals

    Milwaukee, the foremost regular-season team of the year, was positioned to advance to the NBA Finals after the first two games of the series. The team was maintaining a stellar +31 cumulative point differential and required a mere two wins to conclude the series. It was the aforementioned date, May 19th, at which point Milwaukee’s season fell apart. Toronto proceeded to win four consecutive games en route to one of the largest upsets of the year. Milwaukee’s proficiency in the regular season begot the notion, for it was worse than the 50th percentile outcome. Examinations of the six Playoff games may draw out crucial information on how Milwaukee’s performance wavered, and how a potential matchup could end in the team’s favor. 

    Series Analysis

    I’ll use last year’s Eastern Conference Finals to estimate how the Bucks’ deficiencies affected the outcome of the series. To determine the “winning formula” for Milwaukee in the series, I’ll plot the correlation between several descriptive statistics and cumulative performance from the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals.

    Dean Oliver’s “Four Factors”

    Dean Oliver’s “Four Factors” are an assortment of descriptive statistics to model the offensive and defensive proficiencies of basketball teams. The measurements account for scoring efficiency (eFG%), limiting turnovers (TOV%), offensive rebounding (ORB%), and free-throw frequency (FTr). I’m taking note of the four factors due to a multiple linear regression I ran in which the factors were input values to estimate ORtg and DRtg for teams using regular-season data from the 1973-74 season to the 2019-20 season. The four factors were strongly predictive toward team offensive and defensive proficiency, posting adjusted Pearson correlations of 0.986 and 0.989, respectively. I duplicated the same process for Milwaukee in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals, and the results were similarly promising.

    • 0.996 adjusted R^2 to predict Milwaukee’s rORtg
    • 0.982 adjusted R^2 to predict Milwaukee’s rDRtg

    Due to the strong correlation between the four factors and Milwaukee’s relative performance, as well as the aforementioned regression accounting for more than four decades, it’s likely Milwaukee’s scores in the four statistics during the Playoffs will play a large role in claiming a Finals berth. Next, I’ll account for Milwaukee’s changes from the regular season to the Playoffs by calculating the difference between the team’s four factors from the regular season to the second season.

    • 55.0 eFG% –> 49.1 (-5.9%)
    • 12.0 TOV% –> 10.4 (-1.6%)
    • 20.8 ORB% –> 23.1 (+2.3%)
    • 19.7 FTr –> 23.4 (+3.7%)

    Milwaukee’s alterations in the four factors don’t seem to align with expectations at a first glance. The team actually improved in three of the four statistics. However, there may exist a rational ground to explain this occurrence. During my aforementioned regression, I assigned weighted values to the factors, assuming I had 100 percentage points to allocate, to estimate the importance of the factors. Efficiency accounted for 67% of importance to the regression, making it the distinct leverage point toward offensive proficiency. Therefore, if Milwaukee aims to dethrone Toronto as Eastern champions, the most important aspect of the four factors the team needs to improve in is scoring efficiency. The differential in eFG% last year was significant, a near 6% drop. Part of the anomaly might’ve been Toronto’s excellent defense (-7.1 rDRtg in the series) as a result of “The Wall,” a crescent-shaped alignment of defenders in the paint to eliminate some of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s paint presence. 

    If Milwaukee is to minimize efficiency woes against Toronto in the Playoffs, the team would’ve likely displayed improvements in, specifically, eFG% from last season to now. Milwaukee posted a 55.0 eFG% in the 2019 regular season, the highest score in the Eastern Conference. The team did improve on last season’s score, finishing the 2020 regular season with a 55.2 eFG%. It’s an improvement, although, at a first glance, it may not be enough to overcome the original drop-off in scoring efficiency. Milwaukee’s offense actually regressed in the past year; the team’s ORtg/A of 113.9 in 2019 followed with one of 112.7, a notable reduction. The other half of the equation we have to address is Toronto’s defense. Toronto administered one of the greatest Playoff defenses in league history last season (~ 9 rDRtg), and the year-to-year regular-season differences don’t work in favor of Milwaukee. Toronto’s DRtg/A of 108.4 last season was quickly followed by one of 106.1, a two-point improvement from last year. 

    Toronto held opponents 1.5% lower than league-average in scoring efficiency last season, a mark replaced with 2.7% this season. Additional consideration can be placed in the opposing offensive quality Toronto faced in the last two seasons; the team played against an average -0.4 rORtg last year, a score followed by -0.2 this year. Toronto has limited opponent scoring efficiency to a higher degree while facing tougher opponents. Initially, these points don’t seem to advance Milwaukee’s case, and on their own, it doesn’t. However, there’s one factor we haven’t accounted for yet: luck. Toronto’s defense was historically-great last season, although a portion of it can be attributed to luck. The Raptors were an effective team in limiting opponents’ eFG% in 2019, as the aforementioned 1.5% mark indicated, but they limited the Bucks’ eFG% nearly four times greater (5.9%). Toronto’s rDRtg was slightly less than three times greater in the Playoffs than the regular season last year, an increment that doesn’t situate with the eFG% limitations.

    Therefore, Milwaukee’s efficiency drop was, in part, due to poor luck as well as Nick Nurse’s “wall.” It’s likely the wall alone wouldn’t have limited Milwaukee’s scoring efficiency to as high a degree without significant luck. It’s now an appropriate point at which I’d like to introduce the closeness of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Despite the four-game win streak and six-game closure, the series was won on the margins. Toronto outscored Milwaukee by one point per 100 possessions. If we substitute Milwaukee’s 5.9% drop-off in scoring efficiency with Toronto’s regular-season limitations of eFG% last year, the former team would’ve been in a position to win the series. Two of my viewpoints play a role in my favoring of Milwaukee, one being the “luck” factor and the other being the instability of historic play. The latter relates to teams’ difficulties in replicating historically-great performances from season to season. For example, the 2004 Pistons, the greatest Playoff defense ever, had an ~ 11 rDRtg in the Playoffs, a figure they didn’t come close to maintaining in the following seasons. Historic trends state the same will occur with Toronto.

    During the time in which I’ve analyzed the potential matchup between Milwaukee and Toronto, the Net Rating of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals has been stuck in my head. Milwaukee was notably inferior last season, improving in NRtg/A by roughly +1.5 points, and it required the second-greatest Playoff defense in league history to outscore them by a single point per 100 possessions. Since then, Milwaukee has systematically improved while Toronto lost arguably the greatest wing defender of the current era. Adding in the “luck” factor and the instability of historic play, and I see a reasonable case in which Milwaukee reverses their scoring efficiency woes against Toronto in an upcoming Eastern Conference Finals.

    Toronto’s Offense

    Up until this point, the topic of conversation solely revolved around Milwaukee’s offense and Toronto’s defense. However, the inverse is equally important: how will Toronto’s offense perform against Milwaukee’s defense? At first glance, Milwaukee has some notable advantages. The team has improved its DRtg/A from 106.2 to a league-leading 103.7. Milwaukee currently possesses the foremost defense in the entire league by a wide margin; the runner-up in the statistic (Toronto) is more than two points behind. Conversely, Toronto’s offense has regressed. The team’s ORtg/A of 113.8 last season dropped to 112.0 this season, a significant decrease (likely) due to the loss of Kawhi Leonard. Although Leonard was likely never capable of anchoring a great offense during his time in Toronto (his passing was inadequate with the Raptors), he was the driving force on that side of the ball last year. Although some of Toronto’s key players like Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet have improved their situational value in Leonard’s absence, it hasn’t shown any improvement in cumulative performance.

    Milwaukee’s defense is tailored to exploit Toronto’s weaknesses. According to, Toronto was one of the least-efficient teams in the paint (59.1% on attempts within 5 feet). On the other hand, Milwaukee is the foremost interior defensive unit in the league; they permitted the lowest FG% from within 5 feet of any team. Milwaukee isn’t especially proficient at limiting opponent three-point efficiency; the team held opponents 0.3% lower than league-average from long-range. Toronto is in the 87th percentile in three-point percentage among teams. However, as coach Mike Budenholzer and Milwaukee’s defensive schematics have taken note of, the most valuable shot in basketball is close to the basket. By limiting the efficiency and frequency of these attempts, Milwaukee has evolved into the greatest defensive team in the NBA. This strategy, as stated by the contemporary coordinations of the game, should serve well in any situation. If we take note of solely “input” statistics, or the stats that account for the “hows” in Milwaukee’s defense and Toronto’s offense, the former team garners stronger advantages.

    Additionally, if we view the grander view of events through cumulative performance statistics, Milwaukee’s defense is further poised to contain Toronto’s offense. During their sole season with Kawhi Leonard on the roster, the Raptors outscored an average team by 113.8 points per 100 possessions. The aforementioned drop paints Toronto as less than one standard deviation greater than league-average. Although the team’s players who were on the roster last year have grown and developed in their own rights, their isolated value remains relatively stagnant compared to their situation value. The loss of Kawhi Leonard diminished Toronto’s regular-season offense, and last year’s Playoff offense was nothing special with him. Playing against a team of Milwaukee’s defensive caliber, putting forth an offense like Toronto’s, isn’t likely to garner strong results unless an offense is great, an asset Toronto lacks. Milwaukee’s defense, as stated earlier, is one of the most ameliorated units in the NBA relative to last season, and Toronto’s modest Playoff offense isn’t in a position to instill a strong impression on Milwaukee’s new and improved defense. 

    Although a more firm supporter of Milwaukee, I see a rational argument in Toronto’s favor. Nick Nurse’s “wall” (partially) contained Giannis Antetokounmpo, although the most devastating effect was Milwaukee’s mediocre distance scoring, an asset forced to work more rigorously in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Toronto has permitted the lowest three-point percentage of any team this season. However, the Greek Freak is vastly superior to last season and Toronto lost two of the team’s key perimeter defenders (Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard). Budding star, OG Anunoby, is now available for them in the second season, yet it’s unlikely he’ll fully replicate the value those two provided last year. Add in Milwaukee’s invigorated defense and the instability of historic play (as well as the Bucks’ heightened distance scoring) and the evidence in Milwaukee’s favor is prevalent to me. Recently, in place of my “ChromCast” Playoff forecast, I retrodiction-tested NRtg/A scores for teams to estimate how well they match up against postseason opponents. Using this method, Milwaukee stands a 65% chance of winning a series against Toronto, and it’s a figure that largely aligns with my own thoughts. Therefore, Milwaukee is my foremost prediction to remain the sole team standing in the Eastern Conference this year.

  • Top 5 Scorers in the NBA

    Top 5 Scorers in the NBA

    Determining the best scorer in the NBA; it’s an intriguing premise and for good reason. Individual scoring is the most direct way to positively influence the scoreboard, and proficient scorers generally contribute higher amounts of value on random teams. I’ll be attempting to answer the aforementioned question to, hopefully, provide a solid framework through which we can further examine the league’s top scorers.

    – Rationale –

    The elements of scoring are properly tracked through visual and analytic principles, both of which were employed in compiling this list. The former more strongly relates to a player’s scoring “arsenal,” or the various ways a player scores within his traditional efficiency and volume stats. This includes observing different types of scoring moves, for example, floaters, fadeaways, and step-backs. However, the most relevant application of visual methods is examining a player’s off-ball scoring, a field unmeasured by statistics, that acts as one of the defining aspects of a player’s scoring repertoire. The presence of visual deductions is key in adding key context to a player’s scoring arsenal and incorporating what can’t be measured.

    Statistics will play an important role in measuring scoring proficiency as well. The traditional measurement of scoring volume is represented as “points per game” (PPG). In place of PPG, I’ll use “points per 75 possessions” (PTS/75), a stat that takes playing time and team pace into account to add context to the conventional measurements. Similarly, True Shooting Percentage (TS%) will be used in place of traditional shooting splits (FG% – 3P% – FT%). It’s noted as a superior efficiency measurement to the typical shooting splits taken together, and TS% can be more easily compared across seasons through Relative True Shooting (rTS%). The other widespread statistics I’ll use are free-throw percentage and three-point percentage to solely measure free-throw proficiency and three-point accuracy, respectively.

    Proprietary data, provided by Backpicks, was also used to determine the scorers on this list. Listed below are the metrics that were taken into account, their abbreviations, and what they measure.

    • 3P Proficiency (3P Pro): an estimate of three-point scoring proficiency combining both efficiency and volume
    • Scoring Turnover Percentage (sTOV%): the percentage of Offensive Load that comes from scoring attempts
    • Scoring Value (ScoreVal): an estimate of the number of points per 100 possessions a player contributes through scoring
    • True Scoring Percentage (TSc%): a measurement of scoring efficiency factoring “scoring turnovers”

    I’ll cite these metrics regularly throughout the player profiles. However, since this group of stats consists of proprietary measurements, I’ll more frequently depict them through percentiles instead of actual scores. The distributor of these metrics typically releases certain amounts of its proprietary data in the form of percentiles. This way, the metrics can be put into proper perspectives while respecting the data’s privacy. I’ll include a series of bullet points for each player that illustrates their strengths and/or weaknesses, providing a brief summary of a player’s scoring proficiency and repertoire. As is with every list I make, the purpose of today’s ranking is less centered around the specific placements and more the exchange of data and deductions on the league’s top scorers. Resultantly, I’ll include a series of ranges (an idea inspired by Ben Taylor), or how much higher or lower I could see a player ranked based on how competitive the playing field is, underneath each player’s summary.

    5. Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves

    Towns’s name rarely enters the conversations on the league’s top scorers, yet he makes a relatively strong case. Minnesota’s star center possesses a three-dimensional scoring repertoire that starts with his interior play. Towns is tall and sturdy enough to compete with traditional big men, but his surprising agility and swiftness can dismantle opposing guards as well. His put-backs are relatively strong; Towns’s verticality can counter multiple defenders in the paint. His back-to-the-basket arsenal is increasingly proficient. Towns uses it to his advantage for passing, although it also serves well toward a strong post game, often resulting in quick turn-around jumpers. The strongest aspect of his scoring repertoire is his three-point shooting. Towns operates on the perimeter and weaves through opposing defenders like a guard. His quick form, seemingly just a flick of the wrist, created arguably the greatest-shooting center in league history. Towns is noted for his step-back three-point shot, which paired with his aforementioned long-range strengths, paints him as one of the premier outside shooters in the entire NBA.

    The value of Towns’s scoring is similarly reflected through his statistics. I calculated three-year weighted values of different scoring statistics with weights of 57.1% for a player’s most recent season, 28.6% for the prior season, and 14.3% for the season prior to that. Towns has a weighted scoring volume of 26.3 points per 75 possessions, which would rank in the 96th percentile (volume) among current players. His strong efficiency was a determining factor in his being here; Towns posted a weighted +7.5 rTS%, which when normalized to 2020 values, would stand in the 94th percentile (efficiency). However, the two most impressive figures in my eyes are his single-year 3P Pro (95th percentile), which matches his weighted score, and his league-leading ScoreVal this season, a mere two-tenths of a point lower than his weighted value. Towns elevates the Minnesota offense despite playing alongside a lackluster roster. The team’s Offensive Rating (ORtg) rises +12.22 points with him on the floor versus off the floor per PBP Stats. Towns makes a case as the league’s premier scorer this season, hence his fifth-place finish.


    • Strong in interior play with a diverse arsenal
    • Mobility counters guards and big men effectively
    • Operates on the perimeter like a wing player
    • Arguably the greatest shooter at his position ever

    Although his proficiency as a scorer this season is enough to guarantee a spot on the list, I see the argument that he drops out of the top five to make way for a different candidate, like Kawhi Leonard. Towns has yet to garner enough Playoff experience to paint a clear picture of his second-season equity, a field Leonard excels in. Leonard’s three-year Playoff ScoreVal is higher than all notable current stars, including Stephen Curry and LeBron James, except for Kevin Durant. Leonard’s regular-season scoring is also quite close to Towns’s, but the latter’s superior floor-spacing and efficiency were determining factors in his selection over Leonard. On the other hand, I could also see Towns rise one spot to land in fourth. His weighted efficiency, spacing, and free-throw scoring are prominently superior to his successor on the list, and as a result, Towns makes a reasonable case to move up one spot. However, I see him most properly placed as the league’s fifth-most proficient scorer.

    4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

    The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, has evolved into one of basketball’s premier scorers in the last three seasons. To understand his scoring prowess, one must be familiar with his interior and transition play. Antetokounmpo’s half-court scoring is driven by his athleticism and length. He weaves through multiple defenders when slashing en route to fruitful attempts at the rim. The Greek Freak’s verticality begets the end result of these attempts, with his 7’3″ wingspan guiding the ball into the hoop with frequency. Antetokounmpo’s transition proficiency equally models his aforementioned abilities. It’s among the league’s greatest individual skills; one of his strides covers arguably more ground than any other player in history. The Greek Freak generates 9.3 points per 75 possessions on transition plays with a 63.0 eFG%. He also leads the league in Real Adjusted eFG% (+2.39), a measurement of how efficiently a team scores with a player on versus off the court. Despite his massive strengths, he has little to no outside shot. Antetokounmpo converted on an adequate 39% of his mid-range attempts this season but stands in the 1st percentile in 3P%, the second-lowest mark in the league. Antetokounmpo dominates the paint and transition opportunities and, conversely, displays gaping holes in his scoring repertoire. Regardless, the Greek Freak remains a world-class scorer.

    Antetokounmpo was the highest-volume scorer of the season, despite lacking the potential to win this year’s scoring title. He played a mere 30.8 minutes per game, during which he managed to score 29.5 points. This translated to a league-leading 33.2 points per 75 possessions, surpassing the perennial scoring champion, James Harden. The Greek Freak is also one of the league’s most efficient scorers; he’s in the 90th percentile in weighted rTS%. Antetokounmpo’s most efficient area of scoring is close to the basket; he makes 73% of his shots at the rim (92nd percentile) on 11.5 attempts per 75 possessions. Despite his aforementioned three-point deficiencies, which paint him as arguably the worst shooter in the league, Antetokounmpo’s floor-spacing is considerably greater. Factoring in the number of attempts he takes from long-range, the Greek Freak is in the 34th percentile in 3P Pro, a significant increase compared to his standard percentage and a +6 increment from last season. Antetokounmpo may never grow into an elite, let alone good, outside scorer, but his improvements are sufficient in recognition as one of the league’s top-four scorers.


    • Historically-great weapon in transition
    • Near equally proficient in the paint
    • 100th percentile-level scoring volume
    • Lack of outside shot holds him back

    Antetokounmpo is a unique case among the players on this list. His efficiency, volume, and overarching scoring value seem adequate to propel him to a higher spot, but his lack of an outside shot is the main hindrance in doing so. As stated earlier, these deficiencies are enough for me to see him drop back to the fifth spot, but no lower. The Greek Freak’s league-leading volume and positive efficiency (as well as a 100th percentile ScoreVal), in my eyes, prohibit a further drop. Conversely, I don’t see the argument for him to rise any higher. The subsequent players on this list display similar volume and efficiency with the three-point proficiency that Antetokounmpo lacks. The range most fitting for the Greek Freak, in my eyes, results in his placement as the fourth or fifth-best scorer in the NBA.

    3. James Harden, Rockets

    James Harden was the recipient of the last two scoring titles and is due for his third by the end of this week, and for good reason. He’s noted as one of the NBA’s foremost isolation scorers, anchoring perennially-great Rockets offenses. Harden averaged 1.13 points per isolation possessions (92nd percentile) this season, translating to a generated 15.2 points per 75 possessions on these plays. He usually begins these possessions at the perimeter, where he dances with opposing defenders with his routine between-the-legs dribbling montage. Harden then either shoots from the three-point line, where he makes 35.4% of his attempts (30th percentile in 3P%), or the rim, where he makes 63% of his attempts. He takes 83.1% of his attempts in either the paint or from the three-point line. For the first time since the 2016-17 season, Harden’s three-point percentage has been lower than league-average. However, the volume at which he takes long-range shots is likely a product of diminishing returns on high shot frequency. Harden is presumably still a strong three-point scorer, despite what his percentages suggest. He’s surprisingly strong in the interior, muscling into the paint and converting at a modest 67% rate on attempts between 0-3 feet.

    The totality of Harden’s scoring is massively stronger than his aforementioned statistics suggest. Last season, he set the regular-season record for scoring volume, averaging 36.1 points per 75 possessions (highest all-time). Harden’s three-year weighted value stands at 33.4 points per 75 possessions, while the current season places him at 32.5 points per 75 (100th percentile). Harden is also one of the league’s most efficient scorers in totality, posting a weighted +5.8 rTS% (90th percentile). The more impressive deduction on his efficiency is that despite its high value, it’s also a product of diminishing returns on high shot frequency. Harden was in the 99th percentile in TSA per 75 possessions this season. His three-year weighted ScoreVal would be the highest score in the NBA this year, and his current ScoreVal is in the 99th percentile. Harden’s three-point percentage isn’t indicative of his true abilities; he’s in the 58th percentile in 3P Pro. Harden is not an elite shooter, but his high volume consistently draws defenders to the perimeter.


    • Threat from all three main ranges
    • Highest-volume scorer in history (depending on interpretation)
    • Not elite, but high-volume three-point scorer
    • Diminishing returns undervalue his efficiency

    James Harden, as mentioned earlier, is (based on peak) the highest-volume scorer in NBA history. Among players who have averaged more than 33 points per 75 possessions, Harden has the highest rTS%. His ScoreVal in the 2019 season is in the 100th percentile historically (60th among players since 1955). Last season may not have been the greatest single-season scoring campaign in league history, but its record in volume puts Harden’s scoring into perspective. As a result, I could see Harden reasonably ranked as the game’s greatest scorer today. After all, his elite volume mark was set a sole season ago, which when paired with great efficiency, makes a strong case in Harden’s favor. Conversely, the lowest I see Harden ranked is the spot he’s currently in, third. His scoring doesn’t maintain value in the Playoffs like the successors on the list have displayed. Harden’s three-year Playoffs ScoreVal is a full point lower than his three-year weighted regular-season ScoreVal. Regardless of a number of setbacks from the top spot, Harden is one of the greatest scorers in NBA history.

    2. Kevin Durant, Nets

    I’m evaluating Kevin Durant on how he performed before his Achilles tear due to the uncertainty of his current scoring value, hence his second-place berth. Similar to his predecessor and successor on this list, Durant is a historically-great scorer. He’s highly proficient in the paint, mid-range, and three-point areas. Durant’s frame (6’10” without shoes) and long arms (7’5″ wingspan) allowed him to excel in interior play despite a more lanky build. He’d often catch fast-break passes at the half-court line and convert on feasible dunks. However, the most impressive aspect of Durant’s scoring is his mid-range proficiency. Last season, he put together one of the greatest mid-range campaigns in league history, making 52% of his attempts between 10-23 feet. Durant was also one of the NBA’s perennially-great distance scorers, making 38.4% of his three-point attempts with the Golden State Warriors. His length and shooting proficiency make Durant one of the NBA’s “unblockable” scorers. The apex of Durant’s jump shot is only rivaled by the longest of verticalities and wingspan, and as a result, only 3% of his attempts were blocked last season.

    Durant’s three-year weighted scoring volume stands at 27.1 points per 75 possessions; however, this measurement may be underestimating his true proficiency. Durant took 2.8 fewer field-goal attempts per 100 possessions from 2016 to 2017 (the season in which he joined Golden State), which likely deducted a noteworthy number of points from his volume statistics. Durant is one of the league’s most efficient scorers, having posted a rTS% no lower than +7.4 since 2017, a large testament to his conversion rate factoring shot frequency. Durant had the fourth-highest ScoreVal last season, corroborating the idea that he effectively incorporates volume and efficiency into the equation. His three-year weighted ScoreVal would be in the 100th percentile today. However, the more impressive mark is Durant’s translating to the Playoffs. He has the highest three-year ScoreVal in the postseason of any active star in the league. Durant’s reputation as an elite Playoff performer is ratified by this figure and makes him arguably the greatest scorer in the NBA.


    • Length allows him to excel in the paint
    • Mid-range scoring is on a historic level
    • Three-point shooting at his size is unparalleled
    • Greatest Playoff scorer in the game today

    Kevin Durant, as evident from his historically-great scoring repertoire, is one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. His regular-season peak (2012-13) saw him post the seventh-highest ScoreVal of all time, a season in which he averaged 31.4 points per 75 possessions on +9.4 rTS%. Durant also holds the #8 and #20 spots on the all-time ScoreVal leaderboard, verifying the longevity with which he maintained historic scoring performances. In addition to his regular-season equity (Durant is third in three-year weighted ScoreVal in the regular season among players on this list), his lift in the Playoffs (Durant averaged nearly 30 (inflation-adjusted) points per 75 in the last three postseasons), in my eyes, creates a case as the league’s top scorer today. The only factor prohibiting him from finishing first is the fact that arguably the greatest offensive player of all time is currently playing. On the other hand, I could see him drop to the third spot on this list. James Harden’s historic volume and positive efficiency are enough for me to reasonably see Durant in third place.

    1. Stephen Curry, Warriors

    Stephen Curry is, in my eyes, a strong candidate as the NBA’s greatest offensive player in league history, and the strongest factor is his scoring. Curry was the driving force behind one of basketball’s greatest offensive dynasties ever. The Golden State Warriors posted an ORtg > 120 with Curry on the floor from 2017 to 2019, a testament to his aggregate offensive game. His scoring, however, stems from his distance shooting. Curry is the greatest three-point scorer in league history, having made 44% of his career attempts from long range. He’s the most gravitational player ever, drawing defenders from all over the court to prevent his historic range. Curry’s scoring inadvertently creates a large number of shots for his teammates, suggesting his scoring transcends simply putting the ball in the basket. The most undervalued aspect of Curry’s scoring, however, is his off-ball scoring. He’s one of the most proficient off-ball scorers in league history, routinely darting through screens and weaving through defenders on the perimeter. Curry’s scoring is perennially great, having arguably been the league’s greatest scorer in every season since his 2015-16 MVP campaign (perhaps with the exception of James Harden’s historic 2019). 

    Curry is in the 100th percentile in three-year RA-eFG%, boosting an average team’s eFG% by 3.15%. His individual scoring prowess translates to team proficiency as well as any player in the league. Curry’s three-year weighted 28.9 PTS/75 would be in the 98th percentile (volume) in today’s NBA, and his three-year normalized rTS% would be in the 97th percentile (efficiency) today. Curry is also the greatest free-throw shooter in history, converting on 90.6% of his career free-throw attempts, the highest mark (FT%) in league history. His weighted ScoreVal would be the highest in the NBA in 2020, and his weighted 3P Pro would similarly rank in the 98th percentile (3P Pro). Curry’s latest MVP season makes a case as the greatest single-season scoring campaign ever. He posted the highest single-season ScoreVal (+3.3 points per 100 possessions) in NBA history. The most impressive (and anomalous) statistic of Curry’s in the second season is his > 54 inflation-adjusted PTS/75 in the Playoffs, suggesting he maintains his regular-season value in the second season.


    • Greatest distance scorer in history
    • Greatest free-throw scorer in history
    • Arguably greatest off-ball scorer ever
    • Most gravitational player of all time

    I see Curry as one of the greatest scorers in league history due to the overarching points in his summary. He’s arguably the greatest scorer ever in three prominent aspects: distance, free-throw, and off-ball scoring. Curry draws more defenders than any player in basketball history, indicative of his perceived scoring threat in the minds of opposing defenses. The highest I could rank Curry in reason is his true spot, first. As stated earlier, he’s possibly the greatest offensive threat of all time; and when paired with historic volume and efficiency, creates a strong case as the league’s premier scorer today. Conversely, I could see Curry dropping to second for one key reason. His three-year ScoreVal drops in the Playoffs by 0.2 points. Although it’s a minor decrease, and still remains one of the highest scores in the league, it’s surpassed by stars like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard. It’s worth noting Curry has suffered numerous injuries in the past four postseasons, likely hindering him from historic Playoff scoring. However, it’s unlikely Curry would surpass Durant in Playoff scoring equity, and as a result, I could see the two reasonably switched.

    – Conclusion –

    As I mentioned earlier in the article, the order in which these players appear isn’t meant to act as a definitive assortment of scorers on my end. The concluding paragraphs of each player profile illustrated the various ranges in which I could reasonably see players ranked based on how close together some of them are. It’s also worth noting this list was a product of one person’s opinion using one person’s preferred rationale. My intention for this list is to share the information and thought process that went into these rankings and how I’d eventually stack these players against each other to, as stated earlier, provide a framework through which we can further assess these scorers. Thank you for reading, and I hope you all have a great rest of your day!