PER And Fantasy Basketball
The term “PER” (Player Efficiency Rating) is firmly planted in statistical aficionados’ vocabulary. Considering the fact that fantasy basketball is all about a player’s on-court statistical contributions and efficiency numbers, PER translates well when building a fantasy team.
The very nature of the phrase piqued the interest of competitive fantasy players long ago. Every devotee of the game routinely checks this number – the correlation cannot be denied – while understanding many other factors must be weighed for a true assessment.
Famed columnist and analyst John Hollinger created PER with the mindset of assigning a single number to represent a player’s per-minute on-court statistical effectiveness. In Hollinger’s own words: “(PER) includes positive accomplishments such as field goals, free throws, three-pointers, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals, and negative ones such as missed shots, turnovers and personal fouls. Two important things to remember about PER are that it’s per-minute and is pace-adjusted.”
The formulas Hollinger utilizes to compute a player’s PER (thoroughly explained in his book “Pro Basketball Forecast”) are beyond complex. Put simply, negative stats are subtracted from positive stats via a statistical point value system, then at season’s end, a final PER is determined and recorded in commonly found resources that house players’ statistics. Note – PER is weighted to make the league average exactly 15.00.
For your amusement, here is the PER formula Hollinger created according to Basketball-Reference.com, as modified:
uPER = (1 / MP) * [ 3P + (2/3) * AST + (2 - factor * (team_AST / team_FG)) * FG + (FT *0.5 * (1 + (1 - (team_AST / team_FG)) + (2/3) * (team_AST / team_FG))) - VOP * TOV - VOP * DRB% * (FGA - FG) - VOP * 0.44 * (0.44 + (0.56 * DRB%)) * (FTA - FT) + VOP * (1 - DRB%) * (TRB - ORB) + VOP * DRB% * ORB + VOP * STL + VOP * DRB% * BLK - PF * ((lg_FT / lg_PF) - 0.44 * (lg_FTA / lg_PF) * VOP) ]
where: factor = (2 / 3) – (0.5 * (lg_AST / lg_FG)) / (2 * (lg_FG / lg_FT))
VOP = lg_PTS / (lg_FGA – lg_ORB + lg_TOV + 0.44 * lg_FTA)
DRB% = (lg_TRB – lg_ORB) / lg_TRB
PER = [uPER*(lgPace/tmPace)]*(15/lguPER)
PER is not without its share of detractors. Some point to a defensive specialist (say, a Shane Battier type) who may not rack up blocks or steals, but is nonetheless critical to a team’s success. Hollinger agrees his number isn’t a final, be-all and end-all representation of a player’s complete contributions on the floor. However, for purposes of how it translates to fantasy games, contributions measured by real numbers are what counts. Callous as it may sound, wins are immaterial in most fantasy formats. Individual player stats are the name of the game.
The statistical categories in Hollinger’s definition listed above pretty much make up the basis of a typical nine-category fantasy basketball league. Fantasy novices may think “Draft the highest-ranking PER players possible – going down the list – and you’ve got winning team.” Of course that’s a simplistic view, otherwise every fantasy owner would win their league. Most players cannot contribute meaningfully in every statistical category, i.e. Dwight Howard isn’t going to give you the assists you need, just as Derrick Rose won’t give provide the rebounds needed.
PER, however, certainly aids fantasy owners in determining on-court efficient players who warrant closer examination.
Let’s compare the top 15 fantasy players projected for the 2011-12 season according to Yahoo! Sports to the 15 players who ranked the highest PER last season per Hoopsstats.com:
|-||TOP FANTASY PLAYERS||TOP PER||PER|
|1.||Kevin Durant||1. LeBron James||27.37|
|2.||LeBron James||2. Dwight Howard||26.18|
|3.||Chris Paul||3. Dwyane Wade||25.70|
|4.||Kevin Love||4. Kevin Love||24.26|
|5.||Derrick Rose||5. Kobe Bryant||23.86|
|6.||Dwyane Wade||6. Kevin Durant||23.73|
|7.||Dwight Howard||7. Chris Paul||23.70|
|8.||Pau Gasol||8. Russell Westbrook||23.60|
|9.||Dirk Nowitzki||9. Derrick Rose||23.60|
|10.||Stephen Curry||10. Dirk Nowitzki||23.49|
|11.||Kobe Bryant||11. Pau Gasol||23.28|
|12.||Russell Westbrook||12. Amar’e Stoudemire||22.79|
|13.||Al Jefferson||13. Zach Randolph||22.63|
|14.||Deron Williams||14. Tim Duncan||21.97|
|15.||Amar’e Stoudemire||15. Manu Ginobili||21.80|
While many players appear on both lists, two things jump out.
Three of Yahoo’s potential first-rounders – Stephen Curry, Al Jefferson and Deron Williams – did not make the Top 15 PER list. Curry’s PER is 19.40, Jefferson’s is 20.10 and Williams’ is 21.10.
On the flip side, three players on the Top 15 PER list – Zach Randolph, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili – did not make Yahoo’s Top 15 player list. Surprised to see Carmelo Anthony (21.7 PER), ranked third in points per game (25.6), missing from both lists? What about Steve Nash (20.8 PER) and Rajon Rondo (17.1 PER), ranked first (11.4) and second (11.2) in assists? These are all fantasy-worthy players, but others are more valuable with their multiple-contributing abilities.
Another eye-catcher surrounds across-the-board contributor, Kevin Durant. His PER ranks sixth, nearly four points less than the top ranking, yet he will be the first – maybe second – player drafted in most leagues.
There is no shortage of interesting facts about PER numbers. While Hollinger started this measure of overall efficiency in the late 1990s, statisticians were able to assess PER on players dating back to the 1951-52 season. George Mikan had the top PER from 1951 to 1954.
Last season, the league average for PER was 13.64. Only one player hit that number on the nose, Daniel Gibson.
Only 15 players have ever logged a season-average PER over 30.00. Wilt Chamberlain claims the first two spots; he logged 31.84 in the 1962-63 season, and 31.76 in 1961-62 (he also nabbed the fifth spot). Michael Jordan appears four times in the Top 15. Shaquille O’Neal appears three times, and LeBron James appears twice. Others with one appearance include David Robinson, Dwyane Wade and Tracy McGrady. Chris Paul barely missed this prestigious list with a 29.96 PER in 2008-09.
In fact, the 2008-2009 season was the only year having more than one player with a PER exceeding 30.0 (Wade and James).
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the record for most seasons with the highest PER (nine).
Hakeem Olajuwon had a 38.96 PER in the 1988 playoffs. In four games, he averaged 37.5 points and 16.7 rebounds. Now that’s impressive.
As far as career PER numbers, Jordan is first at 27.91, James is second at 26.91, O’Neal comes in third at 26.43, Robinson is fourth at 26.18 and Wilt Chamberlain rounds out the top five at 26.13.
James holds the league-high record PER each of the past four seasons (starting last season, going back: 27.27, 31.10, 31.67 and 29.14, respectively).
What about those players with the worst PER numbers last season?
Here are those with the lowest-ranked PER last season who averaged at least 28.0 minutes playing time:
|Anthony Morrow||12.05||58 (lingering knee pain)|
|Kirk Hinrich||12.30||72 (Washington, Atlanta)|
|Shane Battier||12.30||82 (Houston, Memphis)|
|Jeff Green||12.90||75 (OKC, Boston)|
|Carlos Delfino||13.05||49 (battled concussion issues)|
|Hedo Turkoglu||13.40||81 (Phoenix, Orlando)|
|Tyreke Evans||14.37||57 (plantar fasciitis among other issues)|
These low PER figures aren’t necessarily predictive of next season’s performance. Injuries and mid-season trades and other factors certainly played a part in the numbers. Others though, even with their enticing names, should concern fantasy owners.
The formula is a mystery to most, but it’s a very useful tool to fantasy owners. It’s ever-changing and should be monitored throughout the season for possible trade opportunities or waiver-wire steals.