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There is little doubt that advanced metrics have helped the Houston Rockets become the best team in the NBA so far in 2018.  In terms of how the team plays and was built, modern analytics have significantly contributed to their success.    In the spirit of celebrating NBA analytics I thought that I would compile as much advanced player evaluation data as I could to answer the un-answerable: Who is the best player in the NBA this year?

Most Valuable” is such a loaded term these days.  Everybody has their own idea about what makes an MVP.  Some people think it’s the best player on the best team.  Other people focus on old-timey, box score statistics like who’s scored the most points or gotten the most rebounds.  I’ve heard people focus on the word valuable as in this good team would not be good without player x because he adds the most value…

I’ll leave that for message board warriors and x-jock t.v. analysis wanna-bee’s.    What I was looking for was who was having the best season based on advanced NBA analytics.  I only used stats like:

I’m not going to give away all my secrets, but suffice to say that I mixed up these stats with a handful of others to rank 2018 NBA players.  I loaded my data in Pandas, wrote a little Python algorithm, and refined it a couple dozen times.  I normalized my data, and…  I got some very interesting results.  I quickly made some graphs and logged in to post…

The Top 25 (or so) players in the NBA 2018

Top 25 NBA Players by position

The positions of the top 25 players in the NBA are fairly evenly distributed although there are almost 3 times the number of point guards then centers. This is consistent with how  The Association has changed over the years.

You might expect Golden State to have 3 of the top 27 players ( I said or so, I tried to cut it off at 25 but #26 & #27 were much closer to 25 than they were to 28…).  What you might not expect was the only other team with 3 of the top 27 players in the 2018 NBA was the Philadelphia 76’ers (Covington, Embiid, Simmons).  Washington, Houston, Minnesota, Toronto, OKC, and New Orleans were the only other teams with multiple players on the list with 2 a piece.

Best players in the 2018 NBA by team

Ummm…  About LeBron’s 2018 NBA Season

Before i give you these results I repeat: I just used some math to mix up a bunch of advanced stats.  No opinions or agendas, just the maths. 

Additionally at the time of this posting there are a number of other lists ( see  http://www.espn.com/nba/statistics/rpm/_/sort/RPM Last Updated: April 8, 2018 2:00:02 PM PDT for one…)  Where Lebron James is not listed in the top 10.  Yes, he kills the box score stats – but he is a defensive liability at this stage of his career (by the numbers – -0.95 DRPM at the moment).  Additionally his offensive efficiency is at not nearly at the level of some other high usage players.   LeBron is still a very good basketball player.  There are ways that you could “prove” he’s still “the best”.  This experiment has him at 12th best in the NBA in 2018.  Still higher than ESPN’s RPM…

triprank name team pos
0 95.5731 James Harden HOU sg
1 76.9646 Chris Paul HOU pg
2 75.7872 Victor Oladipo IND sg
3 73.2784 Robert Covington PHI sf
4 72.1153 Kyle Lowry TOR pg
5 71.9810 Nikola Jokic DEN c
6 71.4736 Damian Lillard POR pg
7 70.5612 Anthony Davis NO pf
8 70.3846 Jimmy Butler MIN sg
9 70.2284 Russell Westbrook OKC pg
10 68.7456 Giannis Antetokounmpo MIL pf
11 65.2181 Otto Porter WSH sf
12 61.6626 Stephen Curry GS pg
13 61.1272 LeBron James CLE sf
14 50.3506 Joel Embiid PHI c
15 45.5868 Karl-Anthony Towns MIN c
16 44.1320 Kemba Walker CHA pg
17 38.5336 Al Horford BOS pf
18 37.4865 Ben Simmons PHI pg
19 35.6829 Draymond Green GS pf
20 35.0920 Jrue Holiday NO pg
21 33.0902 LaMarcus Aldridge SA pf
22 30.1530 Paul George OKC sf
23 27.5124 Kevin Durant GS sf
24 27.0793 Joe Ingles UTAH sf
25 17.7625 DeMar DeRozan TOR sg
26 15.2076 Bradley Beal WSH sg

As I was posting this and proofreading it, etc., it occurs to me that maybe this should be titled “NBA Player(s) Having the Best Season(s). It’s clear that (James Harden + CP3) > than the sum of it’s parts. They are both producing seasons that are off the charts and obviously benefit greatly playing together.

Robert Covington,  Nikola Jokic, and Victor Oladipo being ranked so high is surprising; however you can’t deny that they are having amazing seasons.    Of course people will argue against James Harden being the MVP.  He is the best player ( and if he’s not #2 is ) on the best team  at this point.  He is the most effective offensive player and his DRPM is better than, LeBron James, for example…

The best players in the NBA in 2018