Saturday, May 3, 2014

Mr. Reliable

Earlier this week a headline came out in the Oklahoman newspaper which most know by now.  The "Mr. Unreliable" headline grabbed national attention and it was perceived this small Oklahoma City market was deriding the (arguably) No. 1 player in the NBA and likely MVP of 2014 of their own team.  The writer of the article came out and apologized for the headline he was not responsible for, and dismissed the implication that OKC perceived Kevin Durant as an "unreliable" player.

I'm not sure what the headline was getting at when it described KD as "unreliable".  Maybe "unreliable" at making free-throws in that game?  We'll probably never know fully what exactly that headline was getting at.  For Kevin Durant, he was a champ about it, didn't care, basically had the "I've got a game to play" mentality that rose above the chatter, and put up 36 points.

In terms of what reliability in an NBA player is, in general I thought about it as consistency.  Is the player consistently good or can we rely on them to perform well.  To measure where we could place KD, I took the deviation of minutes and points for the top 20 scorers in the NBA and graphed them against each other.  There are plenty of other metrics, just chose minutes and points.

As you can see, there are several players in the top 40% (top 8) whose "consistency" in minutes played and points is high (or low deviation from what they averaged for the season).  Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis are the most consistent by this measurement.  But obviously this isn't a necessarily impressive stat unless we know how many points they are making or how many minutes they are playing.  Consistency or reliability isn't helpful for a team if a player is consistently bad, not that these two players are at all bad.  

Below is another graph showing the total number of minutes played and the total number of points made during the regular season.  Not totally surprisingly, KD is in another realm this season in both minutes and points compared to the other top 40%.  This is important because no one else in the top 40% of consistent players in minutes and points is in the top 40% of total minutes and points except Kevin Durant and Kevin Love.  

Kevin Durant is playing an incredible amount of time and scoring an incredible amount of points.  While doing that, he's in an elite group of "consistent" or "reliable" players.  He's not only in a top tier in terms of minutes and points reliability, but is being reliable in the most awesome way.