Calculating the perfect NBA roster: The power of PER

by Chris Burrows

ESPN columnist John Hollinger developed the Player Efficiency Rating (PER) for easy comparisons across years, positions, and players–leaguewide. The ridiculous looking formula takes into account field goals, free throws, 3-pointers, assists, rebounds, blocks and penalizes players for missed shots, turnovers and personal fouls. It also accounts for pace of play meaning that teams that have fewer possessions in their games don’t compromise their players’ PERs.

However, one of the major criticisms of Hollinger’s holy-grail formula is that it’s largely a measure of offensive productivity. It offers a productivity-per-minute look at player stats with little attention given to defensive ability. This makes it perfect for the fantasy owner.

As a testament to the power of the PER, the career PER leaders include (in descending order): Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Lebron James, David Robinson and Wilt Chamberlain with Dwayne Wade, Charles Barkley, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Karl Malone and every other top name in the top 30.

Hollinger’s formula sets the average value at 15.00. As a reference Michael Jordan had a career PER of 27.91 and Lebron James led all 08-09 players with a PER of 31.76. Beginning fantasy-ers can see how this number can be useful in sifting out the static and breaking it down to a total player-to-player comparison of a single number.

Here are the rest of the top PER’s from the 2008-09 season.

LeBron James, Cavs, 31.76
Dwyane Wade, Heat, 30.46
Chris Paul, Hornets, 30.04
Dwight Howard, Magic, 25.44
Tim Duncan, Spurs, 24.51
Kobe Bryant, Lakers, 24.46
Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers, 24.34
Tony Parker, Spurs, 23.47
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavs, 23.20
Al Jefferson, Timberwolves, 23.16

So keep your PER table nearby and, if it comes down to it, a player’s PER is a reliable deciding factor in ranking players as it offers the most intensive per-minute look at any given player’s productivity on the court.