Last summer, I profiled the 12 players in the 2012-13 season who managed to maintain an Offensive Rating of at least 120 (points per 100 possessions) while playing at least 1000 minutes. While it was fun and somewhat revealing, I had no intentions of doing it again this summer. Until a couple weeks ago. While in Las Vegas, I was bored enough one night to head on over to Basketball Reference and see how many players managed the feat this past season. Lo and behold, the number was the same: 12, though not the exact same 12 players. For whatever reason, I found this fascinating, so in an attempt to uphold some sort of continuity, I’ll try to break down how and where these players find their high-volume efficiency on the court.
Players ordered from highest to lowest Offensive Rating (via Basketball-Reference). All averages per 36 minutes. Other pertinent statistics (Season, Age, Team, Games played, Minutes played, True Shooting (TS)%, effective field goal (eFG)%, Free throw rate, 3-point attempt rate, and usage %) listed with the player in question.
Player #1: Brandan Wright- Dallas Mavericks
As you might expect, Brandan Wright is primarily a finisher. He’s done the thing that all the Anthony Randolph/John Henson types aim to do: he’s figured out how to use his wingspan effectively around the rim. Having just finished his 7th NBA season, Wright is still listed at a slight 205 pounds, and yet played the vast majority of his minutes last season at the 5, where his speed and leaping ability is most useful. Still only 26 years old, Wright is one of the more important bench pieces in Dallas, where is career and role stabilized after several seasons split between Golden State and the then New Jersey Nets. While he played the fewest minutes and second fewest games of anyone on this list, Wright’s general effectiveness around the rim on both ends of the floor make him one of the better specialist big men in the league, and one of its premiere backups.
Player #2: Chris Andersen- Miami Heat
Player #3: Robin Lopez, Portland Trail Blazers
Player #4: Pablo Prigioni- New York Knicks
Our first point guard on the list is perhaps the purest spot up shooting threat we have. A staggering 73% of his shots came from behind the arc, where he connected on a .464 rate. These numbers would seem to belong to a prolific marksman like Kyle Korver or Anthony Morrow, and yet, Prigioni is one of the least prolific guys here. All of this points to both his scant playing time, his age and his marginal effectiveness. As efficient a shooter as he is, he’s not a guy who can play major minutes. Or, more pertinently, he’s not a guy you should expect to replicate his numbers in large minutes. He’s an efficient player, not a productive one.
Player #5: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul is a player whose reputation does not seem to accurately represent what he is. When CP3 is discussed, especially in context to the other elite point guards in this league, phrases like “pure point guard” and “pass-first” are bandied about, and not for bad reasons: Chris Paul remains one of the best and most anticipatory passers in the game. He also remains one of its best shot-creators. According to NBA.com’s shotcharts, nearly 40% of Paul’s shots come midrange (8-24 feet), significantly his largest area of distribution. Perhaps more tellingly, a paltry 22% of his made baskets are of the assisted variety, a far smaller amount than Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Tony Parker, or John Wall, all of whom have long been considered more aggressive shot creators than Paul. That he manages to be this consistently efficient while operating primarily from midrange, without the benefit of a great three point stroke or dominant athleticism is proof that his grasp on being the third best player in the world is legitimate.
Player #6: Kevin Durant- Oklahoma City Thunder
If you’re stupid, you still might consider Kevin Durant’s offensive arsenal to consist of getting to the free throw line and jacking up threes. Even if that was ever the case, it’s not now. After putting up one of the most prolific offensive seasons in the history of the NBA, Durant deservedly won his first MVP award. He was the highest usage player in basketball, and yet, didn’t shoot below average from anywhere on the court. That being said, Durant was still incredibly productive from the foul line, drawing fouls on over 15% of his attempts, resulting over 9 free throws per 36 minutes on an 87% conversion rate. His true shooting was well over .600, and his 3PR (three pointer rate) a healthy .291. He shot from wherever he wanted whenever he wanted more than anyone else in the league, and was efficient enough to outpace all but 11 other players. He’s 26 years old, by the way.
Player #7: LeBron James- Miami Heat
As always, LeBron did a little bit of everything as a scorer. His back to the basket game has evolved to the point that it is routinely considered a thing to be feared, as he shot over 50% from the left block area. At this point he’s established himself as a good three point shooter, if not the most prolific. He remains an absolute terror on the fastbreak and pretty much whenever he gets to the rim, and while the midrange is not a large part of his game, he performs fairly well from there. His only real weakness as a scorer is from the line, where’s he very much an average shooter. Of course, he gets to the line a ton, so those appearances tend to add up to make it still a net positive for him. Not a whole lot else to say, except for the fact that for the seventh straight season, he raised his overall field goal percentage, which now stands right with some of the big men on this list. Nearly a quarter of his shots were three pointers. He took nearly four per 36 minutes. Think about that for a second.
Player #8: DeAndre Jordan- Los Angeles Clippers
Consider this answer an ancillary claim to Chris Paul’s deserved spot as the #3 player in the sport. Nearly a quarter of DAJ’s field goals were dunks, and nearly three quarters were assisted. I imagine there was a fair amount of lobbing being done in there, somewhere. To Jordan’s credit, though, he’s learned how to position himself on the fast break to receive the prolific amounts of oops that take place in the City Formerly Known as Lob. He’s also refined his ability with the ball in his hands enough to the point that he at least has to be considered a threat. He has to be guarded. When Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford, the aforementioned Point God and J.J. Redick are running around, that’s a valuable skill to have. His defensive explosion might have been a little overrated this season (opponents still shot over 50% against him at the rim), Jordan is now, definitively, a starting center in this league. Maybe even a very good one.
Player #9: Andre Drummond- Detroit Pistons
Before his NBA career, the common perception of Andre Drummond was that his best-case scenario would hover around someone like his predecessor on this list, DeAndre Jordan. While they are remarkably similar players, Drummond has already surpassed his fellow Andre as a focal point in the post, where his superior athleticism, speed, and surprisingly deft touch around the rim make him essentially unstoppable when he gets a head of steam. He’s also, in many ways, the best garbage man on this list, already one of the league’s best rebounders on both sides of the ball. He’s played two NBA seasons and already looks like an All-Star (which he probably should have been) and one of the two or three best long term center prospects in the entire Association. If he ever learns how to shoot free throws, he could be a larger version of Dwight Howard. So you see why Stan Van Gundy was intrigued.
Player #10: Mason Plumlee- Brooklyn Nets
Perhaps the most surprising member of this list, the Middle Plumlee is, like Prigioni, probably a guy who can’t replicate this level of efficiency in heavy minutes. That being said, he represents part of a growing trend in the NBA: athletic centers who adapt to the NBA game much better than they did the NCAA. Mason’s brother Miles, Steven Adams, and Andre Drummond would all fall into this group, with more surely to come. That being said, Plumlee is perhaps the most interesting guy here, as he took only nine shots outside of the paint all season, connecting on none of them. With an 81% assisted rate ranking him as the most specialized guy here, Plumlee will have to greatly expand his game to become even what his brother is in Phoenix, but the building blocks are there, and in a rookie class likely to go down as one of the worst in NBA history, at least the concept of something
Player #11: Jose Calderon- Dallas Mavericks
Last year’s list was dominated by shooters. Thabo Sefolosha, Shane Battier, Steve Novak, and Calderon. Of those four only Calderon (joined by Prigioni) would seem to qualify as a shooter, given his 3PR and the fact that 57% of his made field goals were three pointers. As evidenced by the shotchart above, he hit at least 40% from every spot on the floor, and the fact that he took over 6 threes per 36 elevates him above part-time shooters like Prigioni. While his defense is usually as bad as advertised, Calderon is nothing short of a lethal shooter, and continues to maintain high assist to turnover rates even well into his thirties. As it stands, Calderon is and remains one of the most remarkable statistical anomalies in recent NBA history and one of it’s very best offensive players.
Player #12: Tyson Chandler- New York Knicks
Finally falling from his perch as the NBA’s most efficient offensive player, Tyson Chandler still managed to fight his way onto this MOST PRESTIGIOUS list despite the Knicks (and occasionally his own body) falling to pieces around him. The undisputed master of the garbage men, Chandler’s tip-in game is rivaled by few, as is his ferocious efficiency on the receiving end of the alley-oop. Outside the paint, he’s not much to pay attention to, and his post game remains perfunctory at best, but he, above anyone else here, is evidence that a post game might not be all it’s cracked up to be, at least in this context. Tyson Chandler isn’t a high usage guy. He’s not Al Jefferson. But Al Jefferson isn’t here, is he?