Ranking Most and Least Efficient NBA Playoff Performers
Every NBA playoff star strives to play efficient basketball, but only a few can actually manage to turn that dream into a reality.
It's easy to jack up shots left and right en route to a sparkling total in the points column. Far more difficult is doing so on just a handful of attempts from the field. And, of course, there's more to efficiency than just scoring.
To look at the efficiency of everyone playing in the postseason—both those still balling and those who have been eliminated—I've developed a rather basic metric called relative offensive efficiency (ROE).
This is by no means a perfect stat, but it provides a nice fundamental overview of how players are performing.
Calculating it involves just a few numbers: individual offensive rating, team offensive rating and usage rate. All you do is subtract the team offensive rating from the individual offensive rating, then multiply the difference by the player's usage rate.
By doing so, you're looking at how many more points per 100 possessions a player scores than the team average, then factoring in how often a player uses those possessions.
Again, it's basic, but it gives a nice glance at the overall efficiency landscape.
Note: For more information on offensive rating and usage rate, check out this primer. All stats used in this article, unless otherwise indicated, are current through Friday, May 17, and come from Basketball-Reference.com.
10th Least Efficient: Joe Johnson, Minus-1.82 ROE
Team: Brooklyn Nets
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 14.9 points, 2.7 assists, 1.7 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 41.7 FG%, 25.6 3P%, 88.9 FT%
Joe Johnson shot the ball quite well from the charity stripe, but he didn't make enough trips to the free-throw line for it to matter. All in all, his shooting was massively inefficient, especially as he strayed further and further from the hoop.
As a whole, the Brooklyn Nets offense played surprisingly well against the Chicago Bulls' maimed roster, posting a team offensive rating of 107.8.
Johnson failed to live up to those standards by quite a bit, even though his usage rate barely topped 20.
9th Least Efficient: Monta Ellis, Minus-1.89
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 14.3 points, 5.5 assists, 3.5 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 43.6 FG%, 15.8 3P%, 37.5 FT%
There's shooting the ball poorly, and then there's whatever Monta Ellis did as the Milwaukee Bucks were swept out of the postseason by the heavily favored Miami Heat.
The lightning-quick 2-guard typically fires away with reckless abandon from the outside, and that came back to bite him throughout the four contests against the defending champions. He connected on a putrid 15.8 percent of his attempts from long range, and the rest of his offensive output wasn't that much better.
How exactly does a shooter like Ellis make only six of his 16 tries from the charity stripe? Miami's defensive prowess is a valid excuse for many of his shortcomings here, but not that one.
8th Least Efficient: Manu Ginobili, Minus-2.10
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 12.1 points, 5.7 assists, 2.3 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 37.7 FG%, 33.3 3P%, 67.6 FT%
Manu Ginobili may have given the impression that he's back in business after a troublingly poor regular season—at least by his standards. Don't be fooled, though.
The Argentine shooting guard is still playing quality basketball, just not up to the same level as the rest of the San Antonio Spurs. His offensive rating of 101 is tied for the best among these 10 least efficient playoff performers, but it still pales in comparison to the Spurs' team mark of 109.
Thus far, Ginobili's game-winning three-pointer against the Golden State Warriors stands out, both because it was a lead-taking shot and because he'd just jacked up a brick. However, the 2-guard hasn't exactly followed up every miss with a make.
7th Least Efficient: Jeff Teague, Minus-2.15
Team: Atlanta Hawks
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 13.3 points, 5.0 assists, 2.3 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 33.3 FG%, 30.0 3P%, 82.1 FT%
Watching Jeff Teague run the point for the Atlanta Hawks in their first-round series against the Indiana Pacers was a frustrating endeavor. He couldn't make the plays he normally completes, and his shot certainly wasn't falling.
No matter what type of look Teague took, the bottom of the net seemed to be forbidden fruit. When the Hawks were mercifully eliminated, the Wake Forest product had only connected on a third of his attempts.
As a whole, Atlanta's offense was dreadful in the playoffs. And yet Teague still stood out in a negative manner, posting an individual offensive rating of just 89.
Perhaps he was trying to do the Hawks a favor and lessen the chance that he gets a big deal in restricted free agency.
6th Least Efficient: Wilson Chandler, Minus-2.37
Team: Denver Nuggets
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 13.0 points, 1.3 assists, 1.4 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 46.2 FG%, 41.3 3P%, 79.3 FT%
Wilson Chandler needed to step up and help replace Danilo Gallinari's point total, but he couldn't get the job done.
On the surface level, Chandler's scoring stats look fine. He averaged a solid number of baskets per game and didn't shoot terribly inefficient percentages from any of the three major areas on the court.
But then you look at his facilitating numbers.
It's never good for a wing player to post an assist-to-turnover ratio that's below one.
Chandler is also hurt rather dramatically by the overall effectiveness of the Denver Nuggets offense. In a vacuum, his 93 offensive rating doesn't look completely terrible, but it proves far worse when put in proper perspective.
5th Least Efficient: Paul Pierce, Minus-2.38
Team: Boston Celtics
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 19.2 points, 5.3 assists, 5.3 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 36.8 FG%, 26.8 3P%, 89.7 FT%
Paul Pierce kept his confidence from the charity stripe, but that was just about the only place from which he could get the ball to drop.
At some point, you've got to stop hoisting up shots, and contributing 19.2 points per game while shooting below 40 percent isn't a good thing. You can't just look at the scoring totals, but rather the manner in which those points were achieved.
4th Least Efficient: Dwyane Wade, Minus-2.57
Team: Miami Heat
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 13.0 points, 5.4 assists, 2.9 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 45.3 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 75.0 FT%
Dwyane Wade's injuries certainly played a part in his unfortunate rating here, but I can't subjectively change his placement. At the end of the day, the shooting guard took the court, and he's going to be judged on the output he gave the Miami Heat.
That output wasn't of high quality until the final quarter of the second-round series against the Chicago Bulls.
Wade has struggled tremendously with his shooting, and he doesn't make enough three-pointers—literally not even one—to make up for the difference.
The veteran 2-guard is too talented to keep playing at this level, though. Expect him to drop down in the least-efficient portion of the rankings as the playoffs continue to progress.
3rd Least Efficient: Metta World Peace, Minus-3.10
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 6.0 points, 1.7 assists, 1.0 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 25.0 FG%, 14.3 3P%, 100 FT%
Remember back at the beginning of the 2012-13 regular season when Metta World Peace's shot was clicking and allowing him to post some gaudy and efficient point totals?
Yeah, it's hard to now.
MWP only made a quarter of his looks during the Los Angeles Lakers' first-round series with the San Antonio Spurs, and he was even worse when operating from behind the arc.
At least he didn't miss a free throw!
2nd Least Efficient: Brandon Jennings, Minus-3.23
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 13.3 points, 4.0 assists, 2.8 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 29.8 FG%, 21.4 3P%, 72.2 FT%
The playoffs were supposed to showcase both Jeff Teague and Brandon Jennings' talent, allowing them to push past each other in the upcoming free-agency battle. Well, they didn't do a good job, but Jennings came out looking even worse.
Gone were the fantastic passing abilities he'd displayed at times during the regular season. Gone was any semblance of a consistent shooting stroke.
The Miami Heat frustrated Jennings immensely, and the results were Ugly with a capital "U."
Least Efficient: J.R. Smith, Minus-4.20
Team: New York Knicks
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 14.2 points, 1.2 assists, 1.9 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 33.8 FG%, 28.1 3P%, 68.4 FT%
If only J.R. Smith's season had ended after the 82nd game.
At that point, Smith was the Sixth Man of the Year, and his stock was absolutely soaring. It seemed almost guaranteed that he'd opt out of his contract and re-up for significantly more money, because his superb play was making him the biggest bargain in the league.
Now Smith is still the Sixth Man of the Year, but his stock has crashed like it's 1929.
That stock is the only thing falling, because his shot most certainly isn't. Of course, he's not letting that deter him from shooting the ball over and over. If you want a pass from Smith, you should position yourself near the rim and hope he air-balls it.
10th Most Efficient: Ray Allen, 1.93
Team: Miami Heat
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 12.2 points, 1.4 assists, 1.2 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 44.6 FG%, 37.8 3P%, 93.1 FT%
Ray Allen has done more than just shoot three-pointers during the 2013 postseason, and the results have been rather positive for the Miami Heat. The sharpshooter has put the ball on the floor surprisingly often.
Of course, it still all boils down to shots from behind the arc for Allen. He hasn't completely been clicking there yet, but he's still knocked down 1.9 of his 5.0 attempts per game thus far.
Standing out on the ultra-efficient Heat is hard to do, but Allen's 121 offensive rating has allowed him to do exactly that.
9th Most Efficient: Deron Williams, 1.94
Team: Brooklyn Nets
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 20.6 points, 8.4 assists, 3.0 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 42.5 FG%, 39.5 3P%, 82.2 FT%
If you're looking to pass out some slices of scapegoat pie for the Brooklyn Nets' first-round loss to the Chicago Bulls, don't give any to Deron Williams' offense.
D-Will didn't shoot a high percentage from the field, but he lofted up quite a few shots from the outside and made them at a 39.5 percent clip. He also worked his way to the free-throw line and converted those opportunities efficiently.
Moreover, Williams dished out 8.4 dimes per contest, which tops all other players participating in the 2013 postseason. Couple that with his 3.0 turnovers per game, and you can quickly see why he belongs in this section of the rankings.
8th Most Efficient: LeBron James, 2.00
Team: Miami Heat
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 24.0 points, 7.3 assists, 3.6 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 51.8 FG%, 32.1 3P%, 76.8 FT%
LeBron James hasn't played up to his normal standards during the postseason, but he also hasn't needed to yet. He'll become the human juggernaut once more when that's what's called for.
Even a less involved LeBron is a dominant one, as his ROE proves.
The league MVP has scored 24 points per game, dished out nearly as many assists as anyone else and shot over 50 percent from the floor. That's good enough for a stellar 119 offensive rating, which surpasses the Miami Heat's overall mark of 111.9 by a wide margin.
Only the top three members of this section posted higher individual marks, but remember, we're looking at relative offensive efficiency, so LeBron is held back by the overall success of his team.
7th Most Efficient: Jimmy Butler, 2.18
Team: Chicago Bulls
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 13.3 points, 2.7 assists, 1.3 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 43.5 FG%, 40.5 3P%, 81.8 FT%
What Jimmy Butler has done during his first go-around as a featured player in the postseason is nothing short of sensational. Talk about a guy who has asserted himself as a future stud.
And it only gets more impressive when you consider all the energy Butler has expended while guarding LeBron James.
The breakout player from Marquette hasn't shot an inordinately high percentage from the field, but he's been deadly from behind the three-point arc. That's an exciting development in his game, as Butler has gone from a non-factor on the perimeter to a potent spot-up threat in just a matter of months.
Speaking of exciting developments, how about this new step-back fadeaway jumper that looks like it's snatched directly from Kobe Bryant's book of tricks?
Between his deep shooting and his lack of turnovers, Butler has posted an individual offensive rating of 117, nearly 15 points better than the Chicago Bulls' team mark of 102.5.
6th Most Efficient: Kevin Durant, 2.20
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 30.8 points, 6.3 assists, 3.9 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 45.5 FG%, 31.4 3P%, 83.0 FT%
There's typically a tradeoff between usage and efficiency. It's easier to be remarkably efficient in small doses, and it's tougher to keep that level of efficiency when heavily involved.
Take Kevin Durant, for example.
If we were looking at his regular-season numbers, he'd have an ROE of 2.86, but it's tougher to keep that number up when Russell Westbrook goes down.
Even Durant occasionally has to sacrifice his efficiency, and that's exactly what happened when he became the de facto first, second and third option for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite this new role, Durant still played fantastic basketball, as you can probably tell by his rank here.
5th Most Efficient: Marc Gasol, 2.21
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 18.3 points, 2.9 assists, 1.0 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 47.6 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 79.2 FT%
Marc Gasol has been much more focused on his scoring during the postseason, averaging 4.2 more points and 1.1 fewer assists per game than he did in the regular season. Obviously, it's been working for the Memphis Grizzlies.
That said, the most impressive numbers don't deal with either scoring or assists.
Despite playing over 40 minutes per contest—an insane number for a true 7-footer who's always heavily involved on both ends of the court—Gasol has coughed the ball up only once per game through the first two rounds of the Western Conference playoffs.
That's not just amazing. That's flat-out phenomenal.
4th Most Efficient: Jeff Green, 2.47
Team: Boston Celtics
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 20.3 points, 2.3 assists, 3.2 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 43.5 FG%, 45.5 3P%, 84.4 FT%
Jeff Green was absolutely deadly from behind the three-point arc during the Boston Celtics' first-round exit at the hands of the New York Knicks.
The surging forward attempted 3.7 triples per contest and knocked down 45.5 percent of them. For a team in desperate need of some offense, Green's perimeter shooting was invaluable, even if he struggled in a number of other areas around the court.
Out of all the players represented in the top 10, Green's 103 offensive rating is easily the worst. In fact, you have to plunge all the way down to Kevin Garnett at No. 25 to find someone with a worse individual mark. The first non-Celtic with a worse ORtg is Ersan Ilyasova at No. 29.
Green is here because Boston was just terrible at offense. As a whole, the C's produced a 92.9 offensive rating, and Green's mark blows that out of the water.
3rd Most Efficient: Kenneth Faried, 2.57
Team: Denver Nuggets
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 10.2 points, 0.2 assists, 1.0 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 62.5 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 73.3 FT%
Kenneth Faried might not be much of a scorer, but at least he sticks to his strengths. That's what earns him such an impressive spot, just as it almost gave Tyson Chandler a spot in the top 10.
Throughout the Denver Nuggets' series with the Golden State Warriors, the Morehead State product thrived on dunks and putbacks, finishing with a field-goal percentage of 62.5.
He also rarely turned the ball over, which obviously helps out as well.
With a usage rate of 12.8, Faried is easily the least involved player in the top 10. Jimmy Butler is second at 15.
But with those touches he did get to use, the long-haired big man almost always did something positive.
2nd Most Efficient: Matt Barnes, 4.04
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 11.8 points, 0.5 assists, 0.8 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 54.5 FG%, 41.2 3P%, 84.2 FT%
Matt Barnes was the most surprising entrant in the top 10, but he beats out the rest of the field by a rather significant margin, save one player.
The 2012-13 season has been an incredible one for the mercurial forward, and that's carried over into the postseason. Barnes wasn't terribly involved for the Los Angeles Clippers on offense. He just always made the most of every opportunity he received.
While minimizing his turnovers, Barnes averaged 11.8 points per game on 54.5 percent shooting. And it's not like he was just taking easy looks.
The small forward shot 41.2 percent from downtown while averaging 2.8 deep looks per game. That's a terrific way to up the efficiency, and it allowed Barnes to finish up with an offensive rating of 131.
Only one player beat that mark: the No. 1 guy in these rankings.
Most Efficient: Chris Paul, 6.22
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 22.8 points, 6.3 assists, 1.5 turnovers
Postseason Shooting Percentages: 53.3 FG%, 31.6 3P%, 89.2 FT%
Even while navigating the treacherous defense of Mike Conley and the Memphis Grizzlies, Chris Paul played absolutely fantastic offensive basketball. His 132 offensive rating is just mind-boggling.
CP3 did it all for the Los Angeles Clippers, even if his teammates often failed to pick up the slack. He shot over 50 percent from the field, knocked down nearly 90 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe and mixed in some three-pointers for good measure.
He racked up 6.3 dimes per game while averaging 22.8 points per contest. And he still only turned the ball over 1.5 times on average.
Paul's postseason might be over, but that doesn't prevent us from recognizing him as the most efficient playoff star.