Updated Rankings of NBA's Most and Least Efficient Stars
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
There are some things you can't hide from:
Street-cleaning tickets, weirdos telling you that you've totally gotta see Breaking Bad or ESPN showing each and every ball that has moved in New York.
In the NBA, superstars can no longer hide behind simply their scoring average.
Today's league critic is advanced, overloaded with statistical material to spotlight any area of strength or weakness.
The player efficiency rating (PER) has become a measure of complete contribution. Scoring is important, but the efficiency rating takes into account shot attempts, rebounds and assists, too.
Admittedly, the efficiency rating doesn't reveal the true barometer of a player as a defender, though steals and blocks are included. Overall, this is more of an offensive ranking.
The NBA's formula is as follows: ((Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks) - ((Field Goals Att. - Field Goals Made) + (Free Throws Att. - Free Throws Made) + Turnovers)).
This list compiles the most and least efficient NBA stars, players who are a top piece for their franchise.
While the list is not based purely on the statistic itself, the selection of the included stars is a result of analysis of expectations vs.efficiency positioning.
(The Player Efficiency Rating is updated via NBA.com through Jan. 6.)
Least Efficient No. 7: Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki hasn't had much chance, but he hasn't been efficient in his return from injury.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Dirk Nowitzki: 10.6 EFF
If Nowitzki were playing well, we'd credit him. So why can't we list his early inefficiencies?
The Dallas Mavericks are eight games under .500 and have lost six of seven games since Nowitzki returned from injury.
His minutes have increased as of late. To be fair, Nowitzki played less than 30 minutes in the first six games of his return and obviously needed a warm-up period through his first four games.
His efficiency has increased with more playing time and in his last three games, he is averaging 16.7 points in 26.7 minutes per game on 50-percent shooting and 55.6-percent three-point shooting.
Overall it's not enough for a fair sample size, but Nowitzki has been inefficient and hasn't been able to help the Mavericks the way we're accustomed to seeing. Still, the superstar remains loyal and says he won't quit.
Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News quoted Nowitzki:
I’m looking at myself. I’m pushing, trying to get better and get to the point where I can take over games down the stretch. I’m sure we’ll win our fair share. I’ll keep pushing. That’s the only way I know.
I never quit. So I’m going to keep pushing to get back to where I was at the end of last year when my knee was right.
Least Efficient No. 6: Deron Williams
Deron Williams has had a disappointing start in Brooklyn.
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Deron Williams: 17.3 EFF
Williams is underachieving for the Brooklyn Nets.
He is talked about as one of the league's elite guards, but his efficiency ranks just within the league's top 50 at No. 49.
That's not elite.
Williams' shooting percentage is just over the 40-percent mark and he's shooting 31.6 percent from three-point range. While his assists (7.8 per game) are fine by league standards, they are his lowest since his rookie season, and he's not producing enough in other statistical categories.
Least Efficient No. 5: Monta Ellis
Monta Ellis is a great scorer, but his efficiency rating isn't so great.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Monta Ellis: 16.0 EFF
The Bucks are 16-16, have lost four in a row and are currently the seventh-best team in the Eastern Conference.
It's not Monta Ellis' fault, or maybe it is. An article for another day is the addition-by-subtraction Ellis trade by the now-surging Golden State Warriors.
Ellis was a borderline All-Star with a bad Warriors team. Now, he's a pretty good scorer for the mediocre Bucks.
He has the fifth-most shot attempts in the league as the 12th-leading scorer.
Ellis, a career 45.9-percent shooter, is down to just 40 percent this season with a 25.9-percent three-point percentage. He also averages three turnovers per game.
Least Efficient No. 4: Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay is the least efficient of a contending team's best players.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Rudy Gay: 15.5 EFF
Memphis Grizzlies fans are about to go nuts.
But in the category of a contending team's best player, Rudy Gay is the least efficient.
The poor efficiency rating is mostly due to a low shooting percentage, paired with a nearly even ratio of 2.5 assists to 2.4 turnovers.
At 41.2 percent from the field, Gay is having his worst shooting season. He's also just 32 percent from three-point range. His 5.8 rebounds per game are his lowest totals in recent years.
Gay does not rank in the top 15 in any major statistical category. Not one.
This is why the Memphis Grizzlies are not a true contender. You cannot win in this league without a superstar. (The 2004 Detroit Pistons are the only exception since before Michael Jordan.)
Least Efficient No. 3: Jeremy Lin
Jeremy Lin has not been the same player in Houston.
Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Jeremy Lin: 15.1 EFF
When Lin went insanity mode in 25 starts for the New York Knicks last season, he shot 44.5 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three-point range to score 18.2 points per game. He struggled controlling the ball, recording 4.7 turnovers to his 7.7 assists per game.
This season, he's averaging 12.1 points and 6.4 assists, though his turnovers are down to three per game. His shooting percentage is down just slightly, and he still can't hit the three-point shot (28 percent).
Lin's efficiency rating is down nearly five points from 19.9 last season with the Knicks.
Least Efficient No. 2: Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson is not an efficient player.
USA TODAY Sports
Joe Johnson: 13.4 EFF
This season, Johnson is scoring at his worst rate since Phoenix in 2003-04. Johnson is shooting 43 percent from the field and 37.2 from three-point range.
Additionally, his rebounding numbers are the lowest of his career and so are his steals.
The 31-year-old's assists numbers are his lowest since 2002-03 with Phoenix.
Least Efficient No. 1: Jamal Crawford
Jamal Crawford is not offering much more than scoring.
Harry How/Getty Images
Jamal Crawford: 12.2 EFF
Not to break up this Los Angeles Clippers season-long love-fest, but Crawford isn't all that great.
He's doing his job as a scorer for one of the league's best teams, but it's not special.
His 42.2 field-goal percentage and 35.2 three-point percentage are slightly above his career average.
Mr. Sixth Man doesn't really do anything else. He is averaging 2.6 assists, his lowest total since his second season in 2001-02 with the Chicago Bulls. He only grabs 1.9 rebounds per game.
Is he really "instant offense" off the bench, or is he just a guy who is given a lot of attempts to hit at an adequate percentage?
Most Efficient No. 8: James Harden
James Harden has been efficient with Houston.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
James Harden: 23.8 EFF
The Houston Rockets were sold on Harden and he's paid off.
Houston has surged into the Western Conference-playoff picture with four consecutive wins and nine wins in its last 11 games.
Harden is the biggest reason for the Rockets' success.
Given the keys to the offense in his fourth year, Harden's numbers continue to inflate. Harden's 26.4 points is fifth in the NBA.
While his shooting percentage is down with his increased shot attempts, he has improved in other statistical categories. Harden has career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and minutes.
Most Efficient No. 7: Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan continues his all-around play in San Antonio.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Tim Duncan: 24.1 EFF
The efficiency stat is made for a guy like Duncan.
The veteran superstar shoots at a high percentage (51.3 percent) and ranks No. 23 in points per game (17.7 points).
Duncan is also Top Five in rebounds and blocks.
Still averaging 30 minutes per game at 37 years old, Duncan's robot-mode setting remains on.
Most Efficient No. 6: Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony is having an efficient season in New York.
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Carmelo Anthony: 24.4 EFF
You can't hide within the efficiency stat. For years, Anthony's scoring totals would cover up the overall picture of his statistics.
But this season, Anthony is doing it all and has increased his EFF statistic by more than four points.
Anthony is having one of his better shooting seasons, hitting at a career-high 43.5 percent from three-point range. His field-goal percentage (47.7) is his highest since 2007-08 with the Denver Nuggets.
He's second in the league in points per game (29.3). His rebounding numbers began higher than average, but have since come back down to his career average in that category.
Overall, though, Anthony is showing a better overall game, including a willingness to play team defense.
Most Efficient No. 5: David Lee
David Lee is having an incredible first half of the season for Golden State.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
David Lee: 25 EFF
Lee may be the most important piece behind this out-of-nowhere season of the Golden State Warriors.
Stephen Curry's deep three-pointers may consume the majority of the highlights, but it's the overall efforts of Lee that have been so valuable.
Proof of his all-around game: Lee is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 20 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Lee's deceptively quick release on the block and from mid-range creates matchup problems.
He is shooting 53 percent from the floor and ranked fourth in the league in field goals made.
Lee should be an All-Star this season.
Most Efficient No. 4: Anderson Varejao
Anderson Varejao is one of the league's most efficient players.
Anderson Varejao: 25.2 EFF
The Cleveland Cavaliers have one of the most efficient players in the league.
You can argue that Varejao has an advantage cleaning up offensive boards for the 29th-worst shooting team in basketball. Still, the veteran center's 14.4 rebounds per game tops the league.
Seventh in the league in double-doubles, Varejao is also averaging 14.1 points per game.
He's helping move the ball better than ever, averaging 3.4 assists, a career high. The 30-year-old had never averaged more than 1.7 assists per game.
Varejao also has a career-high 1.5 steals per game.
Most Efficient No. 3: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is having one of his more efficient seasons.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Kobe Bryant: 26.1 EFF
For a moment, let's not focus on any of the Los Angeles Lakers storylines.
Bryant is having a ridiculous season. The 34-year-old is shooting the highest percentage (48.1) of his now 17-year career. That's Barry Bonds- and Roger Clemens-like.
No accusations here.
Bryant is the league's top scorer at 30.5 points per game. His numbers across the board remain similar to his career average, proving there is still plenty of juice left.
Most Efficient No. 2: Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is the second most efficient player in the league.
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Durant: 30.2 EFF
While Kobe Bryant is still in the conversation, both Durant and LeBron James will battle for honors as the league's best player.
Both Durant and James are the only two players with an efficiency rating of 30 and above, evidence that the stat works in accurately determining the league's overall best players.
Durant is third in the league in scoring (28.2) and shoots 51.8 percent. Durant's 41.8 three-point percentage is his highest since his second season (42.2 percent).
There's proof that Durant continues to expand his game. While maintaining his rebounding numbers (7.8 per game), Durant is having a career year in assists (4.2), steals (1.5) and blocks (1.3).
Most Efficient No. 1: LeBron James
LeBron James is the game's most efficient player.
USA TODAY Sports
LeBron James: 31.1 EFF
He's still king; James is the best in the NBA in nearly every facet.
James might even be getting better. A season after winning his first ring, the 28-year-old is shooting a career high both from the field (54.5 percent) and from three-point range (41.1 percent).
He is grabbing a career-high 8.3 rebounds per game and averaging a career-best 2.8 turnovers. While Durant scores 1.7 more points per game, James tallies more rebounds and assists (6.9) per game.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have a slightly better record, but James and the Heat did win the Christmas Day battle and Miami is on top of its conference while Oklahoma City is not.
The efficiency stat is proof of James' more comprehensive, league-best season.
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