IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

On Estimating the Ability of NBA Players


  • Fearnhead Paul

    (Lancaster University)

  • Taylor Benjamin Matthew

    (Lancaster University)


This paper introduces a new model and methodology for estimating the ability of NBA players. The main idea is to directly measure how good a player is by comparing how their team performs when they are on the court as opposed to when they are off it. This is achieved in such a way as to control for the changing abilities of the other players on court at different times during a match. The new method uses multiple seasons data in a structured way to estimate player ability in an isolated season, measuring separately defensive and offensive merit as well as combining these to give an overall rating. The use of game statistics in predicting player ability will be considered. Results using data from the 2008/9 season suggest that LeBron James, who won the NBA MVP award, was the best overall player. The best defensive player was Lamar Odom and the best rookie was Russell Westbrook, neither of whom won an NBA award that season. The results further indicate that whilst the frequently-reported game statistics provide some information on offensive ability, they do not perform well in the prediction of defensive ability.

Suggested Citation

  • Fearnhead Paul & Taylor Benjamin Matthew, 2011. "On Estimating the Ability of NBA Players," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 7(3), pages 1-18, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:jqsprt:v:7:y:2011:i:3:n:11

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: For access to full text, subscription to the journal or payment for the individual article is required.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Zak, Thomas A & Huang, Cliff J & Siegfried, John J, 1979. "Production Efficiency: The Case of Professional Basketball," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(3), pages 379-392, July.
    2. Kubatko Justin & Oliver Dean & Pelton Kevin & Rosenbaum Dan T, 2007. "A Starting Point for Analyzing Basketball Statistics," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 3(3), pages 1-24, July.
    3. Entine Oliver A & Small Dylan S, 2008. "The Role of Rest in the NBA Home-Court Advantage," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 4(2), pages 1-11, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bpj:jqsprt:v:7:y:2011:i:3:n:11. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Peter Golla). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.