Introducing the NERD Rankings

by January 20, 2012

While we at SLAMonline take pride in our yearly Top 50 rankings (Kobe’s making us look good so far), we acknowledge that we aren’t the only folks breaking down the NBA, and we surely aren’t crunching the numbers on a nightly basis, whipping up statistical models and algorithms to project the best teams and players. We live and breathe the game, not the numbers. But with the influx of advanced statistics in pro basketball, we’re willing to look beyond the box score to learn more about the game’s best.

numberFire is a sports analytics platform that uses algorithmic modeling to better understand sports—and they’ve developed the numberFire Efficiency Rating Derivative (NERD) to better evaluate every player in the NBA using offensive and defensive efficiency numbers. The nerdier, the better, according to these guys. A player’s NERD rating represents how many games above or below .500 an average team would be if they added him to its roster (based on an 82-game season). For example, LeBron James posted an 18.3 rating in the 2010-11 season, which means that if he played on a team with four league-average players, you would expect that team to finish 18 games over .500 (50-32). An average player has a NERD rating of 0, and to qualify, a player must play at least five minutes per game, based on the team’s total games. Visit numberFire to check out a detailed explanation of the NERD stat for player efficiency and see the full list of NERD rankings.

numberFire says:

The Philadelphia 76ers are playing at the top of their game and their players’ rankings reflect it. They have three players in our top 15, including the studly Spencer Hawes, Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala, and seven players in total in the top 50. While the Sixers have been solid on offense, their success comes on the defensive side of the ball. Philadelphia leads the League in terms of defensive efficiency, allowing only 93 points per 100 possessions.

Despite being sixth in the league in scoring, Monta Ellis is one of the least efficient players in the league. Ellis has the fourth highest usage rate in the league at 32.6 percent (behind only Melo, Kobe, and LeBron) yet scores less than a point per possession. Not only that, he ranks in the bottom 20 in terms of defensive efficiency, and Golden State ranks 26th on D.

2010’s first overall draft pick, John Wall, currently ranks in the bottom in NERD. His rating of -12.5 is mirrored by the struggles of the Wizards. It’s tough to play without much of a supporting cast, but Wall’s dismal 0.93 points per possession while using 25 percent of the Wizards possessions is not passable. He is shooting just 37.6 percent and is third in the league in turnovers at 55.

The NERD power rankings are powered by numberFire, a sports analytics platform that uses algorithmic modeling to better understand sports. Follow Nik Bonaddio at @numberfire, and Keith Goldner at @drivebyfootball. Check out numberFire on Facebook.