Nov. 21, 2017
Who's the Most Average NBA Player?
I made a post at the end of last season about the NBA's worst player. That player was Semaj Christon, and he is no longer in the league. Shocker. Recently, I saw a video about the NBA's most average player, and I was intrigued by the concept. However, after watching this video, I felt that the execution was poor. The person who made the video listed the most average player by position without saying who was the most average overall, and the players they listed were down-right disrespectful. All 5 players were guys that I (and most basketball fans) would consider to be top-100 players. In a league without around 450 players, how could you make the claim that a player who ranks in the top 100 was average? The answer is simple. The person set a standard of minimum playing time, similar to what I did for my post on the league's worst. However, this standard was far too strict and only qualified a relatively small group of players. That, to me, ruined the integrity of the video because it wasn't really answering the question of who the league's most average player was. So I adjusted the standards to what I found to be fair, and here it is:
All players must have played a total of 684 minutes or more last season to qualify. This figure is based on the number of minutes that a player would need to play for us to be able to consider their stats significant, or as a fair model of their actual talent. For example, if a player only played 3 minutes all season, there wouldn't be enough information for his stats to be compared to guys who played over 2000 minutes. I figured that if a player participated in 57 games (about 70% of their team's games) and played 12 minutes per game (1 quarter of each game) then they would have enough minutes under their belt to qualify (57 x 12 = 684). There were about 60-70 qualified players per position.
From there, I went by position to figure out what the median numbers were for 6 major stats: Points per-36 minutes, assists per-36 minutes, rebounds per-36 minutes, steals per-36 minutes, blocks per-36 minutes, and effective field goal percentage (which is similar to field goal percentage, but accounts for the fact that 3-point shots are worth more than 2-point shots, essentially raising the shooting percentage of players who take more difficult shots). After that, I listed all the players that had averages within 1 point of the median, 1 assist of the median, 1 rebound of the median, 0.5 steals of the median, 0.5 blocks of the median, and 4% of the median. Once I had that list of players with stats very similar to the median numbers for their position in every category, I figured out which player averaged being closest to the median for the 6 stats. That player was deemed the most average player for their position. Once I had the 5 players by position, I assessed which player was the NBA's most average by determining who was closest to the median stats for their position. Here are the results!
Remember that the stats are per-36 minute numbers, not per-game numbers.
Point Guard - Yogi Ferrell (Dallas Mavericks)
Median Point Guard Stats - 14.5 points, 6.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, 48.7 EFG%
Yogi Ferrell Stats - 13.9 points, 5.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, 49.2 EFG%
Analysis: While most teams would be disappointed that their starting point guard is the most average point guard in the league, the Mavs should actually be satisfied with this. Why? Because Ferrell was a rookie last season and is already an average point guard despite going undrafted and being waived by the Nets. The only minor problem I could see with this is that his stats are actually mostly below the averages for point guards despite being the best match for the stat line. However, he's also 2 inches shorter than the average NBA point guard, standing only 6'0".
Shooting Guard - Wesley Matthews (Dallas Mavericks)
Median Shooting Guard Stats - 14.9 points, 2.9 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 0.3 blocks, 50.7 EFG%
Wesley Matthews Stats - 14.2 points, 3.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks, 49.6 EFG%
Analysis: Okay, now Mavericks fans have a reason to be angry. They had a 84.4% chance of not having a single player make the list, but took it to the next level by beating the 99.9% chance that they wouldn't have 2 players make it. On top of that, the news that your starting backcourt is as average as can be can't be great to hear, especially when they are 2 of your best players. Most people would say that the eye-test proves that Wesley Matthews is well above average, but look at those stat-lines and tell me it's a coincidence. I think not.
Small Forward - Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics)
Median Small Forward Stats - 13.5 points, 2.2 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 0.5 blocks, 51.1 EFG%
Jaylen Brown Stats - 13.8 points, 1.7 assists, 5.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks, 50.8 EFG%
Analysis: Like Yogi Ferrell, Jaylen Brown was a rookie last season, so his mediocrity can definitely be overlooked due to his potential. Also, Brown has scored 25 and 18 points in the Celtics' first 2 games of the season, so he is looking like a young player that will begin his climb to All-Star status sooner than later. He certainly will not be anywhere near the title of most-average small forward at the end of this season.
Power Forward - Marvin Williams (Charlotte Hornets)
Median Power Forward Stats - 14.2 points, 2.0 assists, 8.0 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 0.6 blocks, 51.0 EFG%
Marvin Williams Stats - 13.3 points, 1.7 assists, 7.8 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 0.8 blocks, 51.0 EFG%
Analysis: Marvin Williams is a player that I would have considered to be a top-100 player just 2 years ago. But the 31-year-old is undoubtedly on the decline, and will likely dip below the league averages this season, especially with all of the additions Charlotte made in the offseason. However, you could definitely argue that Williams is the best player on this list.
Center - Willie Cauley-Stein (Sacramento Kings)
Median Center Stats - 15.6 points, 1.7 assists, 11.0 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 1.4 blocks, 54.2 EFG%
Willie Cauley-Stein Stats - 15.5 points, 2.0 assists, 8.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.1 blocks, 53.0 EFG%
Analysis: You may have noticed that Willie Cauley-Stein does not meet the criteria of being within 1 rebound of the positional median. The reason for that is because there were no centers that met the criteria perfectly (which was strange because there were several qualifiers in every other position), so I allowed for each player to be off on 1 of the 6 stats. Cauley-Stein is another very young player, but after 2 years is already being called a bust due to being drafted 6th overall in 2015. I think it's way too early to tell because he has played behind DeMarcus Cousins for a majority of his first few seasons, and he isn't a bad player (as you can see) when he does play. He doesn't rebound well, but he can score and play defense at a solid level. He may never become an All-Star, but I think he'll be a solid starter for Sacramento.
So who is the most average player in the NBA? The answer is Jaylen Brown, who is only 0.3 points away from the median small forward number, 0.5 assists away, 0.1 rebounds away, 0.3 steals away, 0 blocks away, and 0.3% away for shooting. Also, he is slightly above-average in some areas while he is slightly below-average in others, making him a great fit for the title of most average.