The number of career games a certain player has won in the NBA is known as his “post-playoff” stat, and it’s easy to understand why.
As the NBA moves into a more analytics-driven era, there are many players who don’t post an enormous amount of post-playoffs production, and the statistics surrounding them often suggest they should.
But how do you determine how much post-performance value a player had at the end of a season?
And how does that number compare to other players of his time?
I spoke to Nate Silver, the head basketball writer for ESPN, to find out.
“The best players who have had the most post-season success are the guys who won a championship,” Silver said.
“But the best players, the ones who had the best post-game stats, are the ones that made the playoffs at the most.”
Silver is right about that, as well as the fact that the post-scoring stats of post players generally don’t correlate very well with their post-playing careers.
That’s because players who post a lot of post scoring often get less playing time than players who are good at finishing plays and getting to the free throw line.
In other words, when we look at a player’s post-Playoff statistics, we’re mostly looking at their post scoring stats, and they are generally pretty low on the overall list of post scorer statistics.
“So it’s not necessarily that post scoring is more predictive of post performance,” Silver explained.
“Post scoring is predictive of other things.”
The numbers above only include the most recent data available, so we’re not really talking about post scoring when we talk about post performance.
But if you were to take all of the post scoring data from players who played in the league’s first two decades, and then add in post scoring of players who came after them, you get a very reasonable idea of what post scoring was like.
Silver pointed to a handful of players whose post scoring did correlate with post-Performance stats, including Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson.
But those players don’t really fit the mold of the “post scorer” that Silver describes.
They’re good players who scored a lot, but did so at a slower pace.
In Silver’s opinion, the best example of a post scorer is Kobe Bryant.
He averaged a career-high 1.2 points per game, and played in just 589 regular season games.
But he also posted a career high in post-Post Performance stats, averaging a whopping 1.6 points per play, which was nearly as high as the other players in his post-post-Performance group.
Silver also said that the best statistical comparison to an “old school” post scorer was Larry Bird.
“Bird’s post scoring wasn’t really like what you see today, but he was a very good scorer at a very slow pace,” Silver noted.
“And that’s because he had a lot more of a passing style, so he wasn’t passing a lot.
He was more of an offensive guy.
And that’s what you saw in his games.”
But what if we were to look at post scoring that has been analyzed more closely over time?
That’s when we get to the most interesting data from the modern era.
The average number of post scores in the modern NBA is 3.3, and a player who averaged 3.4 post scoring points per contest would be a post-Player of the Year candidate in 2017-18.
It’s a bit of a stretch to think that players like LeBron James and Stephen Curry are on a level playing field with the likes of Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul.
But it’s important to note that these numbers don’t include any of the more extreme numbers of post scorers.
For example, Kobe’s career-best post scoring average was 1.3 points per 100 possessions, but it was actually a career low in that category, at 0.8.
And in fact, the closest comparison to the player who had that mark is the Hall of Famer Karl Malone, who averaged 1.8 points per 90 possessions at his peak.
Malone also scored at a slow pace.
Malone was more a passing player than a scoring one, and he had an average of just over 10 post scoring possessions per game.
That doesn’t even account for the fact Malone also averaged 1,000 free throw attempts a season.
So Malone was not a post scoring monster.
Silver’s point here is that, for now, it’s impossible to determine exactly what the post scorer should look like.
There’s a ton of great work being done in the analytics community right now to improve on these numbers, and Silver said he’s excited to see what the future holds.
But in the meantime, we should probably remember to keep an eye on the numbers.