In what has now become an annual tradition, we’re back to talk about Seth Partnow’s NBA player levels. To refresh your memory, we’ve already covered the 2020 and 2021 editions, and there were once again only two Spurs who made it this time around.
Once again, Partnow relied primarily on estimated plus-minus (EPM) and adjusted adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) year over year for the analysis, which are widely regarded as two of the best advanced statistics available today. today.
Before diving into notable players, it’s important to understand why using levels is often more useful than a generic ranking. In my opinion, the biggest advantage of levels is that they can take into account the different roles played by players. For example, Player A might have skills that make him extremely valuable as a role player on the contenders, but he might not shine as much on a more intermediate team.
On the other hand, Player B might be more suitable as a ground raiser who can lead a mediocre roster to the playoffs, but his dominant nature on the ball might not be as useful on a contender with better players.
Is one player more valuable than another? Well, it’s hard to quantify in a vacuum, which is why putting them in the same tier makes more sense than strictly labeling one as the 47th-best player in the league and the other as the 55th-best.
It’s also worth noting that some levels also have levels in themselves (Inception, anyone?). I’ve featured them below along with a few players to give you an idea of the differences between each tier.
Level 1 (MVP level cornerstones): includes 1A (Giannis Antetokounmpo), 1B (Luka Doncic) and 1C (LeBron James)
Tier 2 (All-NBA Franchise Players): Includes 2A (Jayson Tatum), 2B (Anthony Davis), and 2C (Paul George)
Tier 3 (Solid All-Stars): Includes 3A (Jrue Holiday), 3B (Bradley Beal), and 3C (Anthony Edwards)
Tier 4 (Marginal All-Stars/Above Average Beginners): Includes 4A (Fred VanVleet) and 4B (John Collins)
Level 5 (Above Average Spin Parts): Only includes 5A (PJ Tucker)
Notable Spurs and ex-Spurs
Keldon Johnson and Jakob Poeltl were the only current Spurs to make the list (both were tier 5A), while Dejounte Murray (4A), DeMar DeRozan (3B) and Derrick White (4B) were the other notable former Spurs included .
Of those five, I found Derrick and Dejounte’s placements slightly questionable. I was expecting the latter to be 3C level, but I guess the counter argument is that he’s only one time All-Star who made it as an injury replacement and n doesn’t have a long track record of being a “star.” Meanwhile, Derrick has long been underrated and can certainly be a starting guard on most teams, but I personally think he’s closer to being a level 5A player.
For reference, those at 3A and 3B are probably good enough to be the second option on a legitimate competitor, while the 3C and 4A players are probably better suited as a third banana. Given the seasons DeMar and Dejounte have just had, it’s reasonable to think they may be the best No. 2 and No. 3 players on a championship-level roster, but putting Derrick at Tier 4 also seems a bit tough – especially since he’s struggled for long stretches of the playoffs.
As I mentioned before, fit is really one of the most important elements of how players are analyzed. Baseline: Draymond Green is in the same level as DeMar in level 3B. Before some of you start smashing your laptops, I have to say there is some logic to these placements, although I ultimately disagree with them.
Fit, fit and even fitter
For the sake of argument, let’s say DeMar and Draymond have swapped places. Would the Warriors and Bulls have been as successful as last season? The answer, in my view, is definitely no.
In a team filled with scorers and snipers, Draymond’s play, defense and chemistry with Steph Curry make him more valuable than another playmaker like DeMar who is of next to no use when the ball is out. from his hands.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that Draymond was Golden State’s second most important player during its dynasty. in terms of style of play. Now that doesn’t mean it was their second better player (before Kevin Durant started tweeting furiously), only that his unique playstyle made the biggest contribution to the Warriors’ movement offense outside of Steph.
However, trading him for DeMar to a Chicago team that doesn’t have a pure scorer outside of Lavine certainly wouldn’t end well. Draymond’s lack of individual offensive creation would be further exploited and result in his value being neutralized, which is why his pairing with Steph is a heavenly match.
That said, I actually think Draymond should probably be at level 3C rather than level 3B, because creating effective shots is the most valuable skill in the league, and it’s essentially the antithesis of Draymond’s play . The point I’m trying to make, though, is that the difference between him and players like DeMar isn’t as big as one might think.
It’s easier to rank players like DeMar much higher because he ticks the boxes for what a traditional basketball player “should” do: score effortlessly, get guys on posters,
eat wormsshoot nice fadeaways, etc…
But when you evaluate them in specific textual contexts, their values become much fuzzier and arguments can be made on both sides.
What does this mean for Spurs?
Spurs have some great pieces in place such as Keldon, Jakob, Devin Vassell and Joshua Primo. However, none of them are likely to become much more than an above average starter (level 4 or so) who can be good players on the contenders.
This is exactly why PATFO traded Dejounte and entered the Victor Wembanyama contest. For the Spurs to become real contenders again, they will need at least one player good enough to compete for All-NBA selections (Tier 2) and another solid All-Star (Tier 3).
Being in a small market like San Antonio means the most realistic route to acquiring such talent is through the draft, and they’ll have to pick everything up high to maximize their chances of getting the franchise’s next cornerstone.
Fans’ patience will be tested and the basketball might be tough to watch, but it will be worth it if Spurs land another superstar. And now that the team has finally decided on a direction, I like their chances of accomplishing just that.