November 8, 2018
Find out who the most average player in the NBA is and whether his contract is a good value or not.

How often do you hear fans complain that a player on his favorite team is a bust? Or he sucks. Or he just doesn’t contribute. This kind of criticism bothers me since any player who makes it to the NBA is one of the top 400 players in the world. Of course, some players never find their best situation and never reach their potential, but it shouldn’t take away from what they’ve accomplished just making the NBA.

What I set out to do was look at the average player. What does the average player at each position look like? If we could go into Frankenstein’s lab, grab various body parts, and stitch them together, what kind of production would you expect from the average Small Forward?

POSPGSGSFPFC
GMS7472716869
MIN24.426.625.924.627.9
PTS10.711.29.710.412.8
REB2.73.13.85.67.4
AST42.21.51.51.6
STL0.90.80.70.60.9
BLK0.20.20.30.41.2
TO1.71.41.11.21.4
TS%51%53.40%54%54.1%51.6%
3PT%30.9%36.4%34.3%39%21.4%
FT%81.3%80%77.6%73.20%70%
Salary$3,553,917$3,750,000$3,278,000$5,700,000$4,800,000

The Average Production By Position in 2014-15
And how about if we looked at the average salary at each position and compared it to the players who most closely resembled our FrankenAverage Player? All of a sudden, a player who we thought sucked ends up being very average – not good, but not bad. And perhaps his salary is lower than the average salary at that position, making him an overall value.

So this is what we did: With the help of Arturo Galletti’s expert number crunching machine (elves?), we computed the exact average production for all five positions. Granted, we are slowly moving more towards positionless basketball, where point guards score more and small forwards play the 4. But to keep it simple, we calculated a player’s position using Basketball Reference’s position data, which is why you’ll see Avery Bradley in the point guard group, and Terrence Jones at center.

From this, wesee that Jordan Clarkson’s numbers were closest to the average point guard data, and as a rookie at this tough position, this was a revelation that earned him All-Rookie 1st Team honors. Factor in his low rookie salary, and he’s an absolute bargain – in fact, he’s among the best values of any of the backcourt players.

On the flip side, Avery Bradley made the most money out of the 10 most average point guards, which means he’s making over $3.5 million more than the average salary. As the Celtics begin their ascent as a power in the East, they will certainly expect his production to improve, or realize they’ve got a problematic contract on their hands. That said, he makes up for his offensive shortcomings with stellar defense at a key position.

POSPG
GMS74BLK0.2
MIN24.4TO1.7
PTS10.7TS%51%
REB2.73PT%30.90%
AST4FT%81.30%
STL0.9Salary3,553,917
PlayerSalaryAvg Salary ∆
Clarkson507,3363,046,581
Burke2,548,5601,005,357
Watson2,077,0001,476,917
LaVine2,055,8401,498,077
J Jack6,300,000-2,746,083
A Brooks915,2432,638,674
McCallum816,4822,737,435
Cole2,038,2071,515,710
A Bradley7,191,011-3,637,094
R Jackson2,204,3691,349,548

The average shooting guard doesn’t exactly fill up the stat sheet, but does shoot about NBA average from three-point range. The player whose stats most closely resemble the average is O.J. Mayo of the Bucks, however he is also paid over 4 million dollars more than the average shooting guard salary. The best value last year was Tim Hardaway, Jr., who might have been perceived as a bust, but has contributed enough to be one of the top 10 most average scoring guards in the NBA – and at a rookie salary, the best value amongst anyone at his position.

POSSG
GMS72BLK0.2
MIN26.6TO1.4
PTS11.2TS%53.40%
REB3.13PT%36.40%
AST2.2FT%80%
STL0.8Salary3,750,000
PlayerSalaryAvg Salary ∆
Mayo8,000,000-4,250,000
Stuckey915,2432,834,757
McLemore3,026,280723,720
G Henderson6,000,000-2,250,000
J Crawford5,450,000-1,700,000
Hardaway1,250,6402,499,360
G Green3,500,000250,000
Fournier1,483,9202,266,080
Foye3,000,000750,000
Waiters4,062,000-312,000

Small Forward is an interesting position these days, as more and more of them are playing power forward for longer stretches. As a result, their production isn’t overwhelming, and the average salary is the lowest of all the positions. 3 players tied for best value amongst average small forwards since they all had the same salary: Omri Casspi, Jae Crowder and Wes Johnson. The player with the worst value of the group is the guy who’s numbers were most average: Danilo Gallinari. That said, he was coming back from a major knee injury, and played really well over the last quarter of the season. The next guy in line was Paul Pierce, who got over $2 million more than the average salary.

POSSF
GMS71BLK0.3
MIN25.9TO1.1
PTS9.7TS%54%
REB3.83PT%34.30%
AST1.5FT%77.60%
STL0.7Avg Salary3,278,000
PlayerSalaryAvg Salary ∆
Gallinari10,854,850-7,576,850
Ross2,793,960484,040
Brewer4,702,500-1,424,500
Pierce5,305,000-2,027,000
Barnes3,396,250-118,250
Johnson915,2432,362,757
Hood1,290,3601,987,640
Crowder915,2432,362,757
Hill1,302,8401,975,160
Casspi915,2432,362,757

Let’s shift to the big men, where the average power forward had the lowest point, assist, steal, output of any position. And who most resembles the average NBA player? You guessed it: Quincy Acy was actually an exactly average power forward for the Knicks last year. The rest of the field looks like this, and now let’s look at relative value. Acy tops the list of best value, with Shawne Williams of the Heat right behind him. On the other end of the spectrum, Brandon Bass made over $1 million more than the average power forward salary, with everyone else on this list making less than the average. What is even more surprising is that this position has the highest median salary among all the positions.

POSPF
GMS68BLK0.4
MIN24.6TO1.2
PTS10.4TS%54.10%
REB5.63PT%39%
AST1.5FT%73.20%
STL0.6Avg Salary5,700,000
PFSalaryAvg Salary ∆
Acy915,2434,784,757
Tolliver3,000,0002,700,000
Bennett5,563,920136,080
Collison2,242,0033,457,997
Jerebko4,500,0001,200,000
Copeland3,135,0002,565,000
Scott3,333,3332,366,667
Booker5,000,000700,000
Bass6,900,000-1,200,000
Williams1,227,9854,472,015

And on to our final position – the center. Interestingly, this position plays the most minutes per game, scores the most points, and grabs the most rebounds. And the player who most closely resembles these numbers is Derrick Favors. And for his average production, he makes 8 million over the average salary. But that’s not the biggest gap: Brook Lopez scored well, but every other category was very close to the average production, and he earned almost $11 million more than average. Al jefferson and Nene are notable for their differences. And on the other end of the spectrum, Henry Sims gave the Sixers the most value, with Gorgui Dieng not far behind.

POSC
GMS69BLK1.2
MIN27.9TO1.4
PTS12.8TS%51.60%
REB7.43PT%21.40%
AST1.6FT%70%
STL0.9Avg Salary4,800,000
CSalaryAvg Salary ∆
Favors12,833,333-8,033,333
Dieng1,413,4803,386,520
Sullinger1,424,5203,375,480
Nene13,000,000-8,200,000
Jones1,618,6803,181,320
Jefferson13,500,000-8,700,000
Lopez15,719,063-10,919,063
Sims915,2433,884,757
Motiejunas1,483,9203,316,080
Mozgov4,650,000150,000

Now that we’ve gotten a handle on who exactly is average, and at what price, I hope you adjust your line of thinking next time you want to scream “Wesley Johnson stinks!” at the TV screen. It turns out Wes Johnson is simply average, and is a complete bargain at that.

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Coach Nick

Coach Nick is the founder of BballBreakdown, coached the Triangle Offense at the high school level, and counts Tex Winter and Pete Newell as mentors. For more of our conversation, follow him @BBALLBREAKDOWN.

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9 comments

  • Derrick Favors is not a center. Additionally, I would think that deviation from the mean isn’t graphed on a line but a curve, where the farther you get from the mean the faster your value rises.

    This exercise also seems to undervalue defensive contributions. Avery bradley, green, and favors all provide significant value to their teams on the defensive end. On the same thread, the value of certain players like Foye, Burke, Sims, and Collison might be overstated because of their D liabilities.

  • Nice premise. Great way for GMS to be able to know the value of a player.

    You can tinker around with this model using more advanced stats to measure a players value even more

  • Yes – @Run_Pappy – I need to add defense in here, probably with Defensive Win Shares. In fact, I need to do this again with Win Shares for Offense and Overall. Derrick Favors played center a lot for the Jazz, we were using basketball-reference, he played center 25% of the time…

  • Good stuff here. But I think in order to really evaluate a player’s quality, we have to also take into account how one’s teammates affect a player’s numbers (WOWY analysis). For example: How are JJ Redick’s numbers inflated/deflated with Chris Paul on the floor?

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