All the King's Records: Projecting LeBron's All-Time Rank in Advanced Stats

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterAugust 11, 2019

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 30:  LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Dallas Mavericks on November 30, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

As LeBron James enters his 17th NBA season, Bleacher Report is taking a look at where the four-time MVP sits in the history books in several statistical categories now, after his projected 2019-20 season and following the remainder of his Hall of Fame career.

Already near the top of the all-time leaderboards in numerous categories, James has passed some of the game's greatest players, and even more legends are about to be bumped down the rankings. Here's where the series stands:

Part I: James' total regular-season and postseason minutes

Part II: James' total blocks, steals and rebounds

Part III: James' total assists and turnovers

In Part IV of All the King's Records, we look at where James could finish his career in four different advanced stats, including player efficiency rating, win shares, value over replacement player and box plus/minus.

               

Player Efficiency Rating: 2019-20 and Future Projections

When predicting James' stats both for this season and beyond, I've based his numbers on 71 games played per season, as that's the average amount of time he's spent on the court over the past five years. That allows him to miss 11 contests per year for injury or rest.

His final career projections for all stats came under the assumption he'll play five more years, meaning a retirement at age 39 following 21 total seasons.

From scoring to passing, rebounding to blocking shots, James has long been one of the most efficient players every time he steps on the court.

His player efficiency rating, or PER, has certainly reflected that.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 31: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball during the game against the LA Clippers on January 31, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
Adam Pantozzi/Getty Images

James' career PER of 27.59 is second all-time, trailing only Michael Jordan. James led the NBA in PER every season from 2007-08 to 2012-13 and has ranked in the top eight every year outside of his rookie season.

The purpose of PER, as stated by its creator, John Hollinger, is to rate a player's per-minute productivity. It measures positive accomplishments (field goals, free throws, three-pointers, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals) and subtracts negative ones (missed shots, turnovers, personal fouls).

PER typically favors high-usage players that contribute in a number of different statistical categories, like James. Other positive contributions, such as overall defense, shot deterrence and screen setting are not factored in.

Unlike previous stat categories in this series, James can actually move down the list with a lower PER season since this is an average instead of a cumulative stat.

For James to pass Jordan's career record, the 34-year-old would have to register a PER well above Jordan's record of 27.91, a mark James has reached just one time in the past five years. James' PER of 25.6 last year was his lowest since the 2006-07 season.

James' PER over the past five years (27.1) shows a slight decline from his career mark (27.59), meaning he likely won't pass Jordan for first overall.

Instead, James' biggest threat comes from teammate Anthony Davis, who's third all-time with a PER of 27.42. Given Davis' recent surge (28.5 PER over the last five seasons) it appears he'll eventually surpass James at some point during his career, bumping James down to third.

James' Current Rank: No. 2 all-time

Projected 2019-20 Rank: No. 2 all-time

Projected Career Rank: No. 3 all-time

           

Win Shares: 2019-20 and Future Projections

James ranks fourth all-time in career win shares, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Karl Malone.

Nell Redmond/Associated Press

Win shares takes the number of wins a team records and tries to appropriately spread the credit around to the players. Win shares are a combination of offensive and defensive win shares, a formula that takes into account points produced by a player and defensive rating. A complete explanation and formulas can be found on Basketball Reference.

To climb this leaderboard, a player not only has to contribute on both sides of the ball at a high level, but they also have to play on successful teams that do both well, too. Like with the players mentioned above, longevity certainly helps.

James has averaged 14.2 win shares per season over his 16 years, leading the NBA in five straight seasons from 2008-09 to 2012-13.

To calculate James' future win share projections, we'll take his 71-game average and multiply it by the number of win shares per game he's averaged over his last five seasons (.163).

This would give James an estimated 11.6 win shares per season moving forward. An impressive amount, but a far cry from his career record of 20.3 during the 2008-09 season.

LeBron James Career Win Shares Projection
Year:2019-202020-212021-222022-232023-24
Age:3536373839
Win Shares:238.2249.8261.4273284.6
All-Time Rank:32221
Basketball-Reference

Given this projection, James would pass Malone for third all-time next season and Chamberlain for second in 2020-21. Catching Abdul-Jabbar will be tougher, as it would take James five more seasons of 71 games per year at this rate.

With good health and some fairly successful Lakers teams, James should eventually hold the all-time record for career win shares.

James' Current Rank: No. 4 all-time

Projected 2019-20 Rank: No. 3 all-time

Projected Career Rank: No. 1 all-time

              

Value Over Replacement Player: 2019-20 and Future Projections

Value over replacement player, or VORP, is a stat used to measure how much more value a particular player provides a team over a player who is on a minimum deal or not in a team's normal rotation.

Basketball Reference defines VORP as "a box score estimate of the points per 100 TEAM possessions that a player contributed above a replacement-level (-2.0) player, translated to an average team and prorated to an 82-game season."

Not only does James already lead all NBA players in career VORP (129.8), but he's also held the record since January 2016, passing Michael Jordan's 104.4.

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 3: JR Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates with LeBron James #23 during the second half of Game Two of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals against the Toronto Raptors at Quicken Loans Arena on May 3, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio
Jason Miller/Getty Images

VORP can only be calculated dating back to the 1973-74 season, meaning the first four seasons of Abdul-Jabbar's career don't count toward VORP totals, nor does Wilt Chamberlain's entire career. Chris Paul (78.3) is the only other active NBA player in the career leaders top 20.

Assuming James doesn't regress into a replacement player himself over the next five years (spoiler alert: he won't), the all-time record is comfortably his.

James' Current Rank: No. 1 all-time

Projected 2019-20 Rank: No. 1 all-time

Projected Career Rank: No. 1 all-time

               

Box Plus/Minus: 2019-20 and Future Projections

Like VORP, James is already the king of box plus/minus, or BPM.

BPM relies on a player's box score statistics and his team's overall performance to estimate that player's performance relative to the league average, per Basketball Reference. It's based on a per-100-possessions model.

James' lifetime BPM is 9.1, and he's led the league in BPM eight times, or half of the total seasons he's been in the NBA. Michael Jordan (8.09), Charles Barkley (7.44), David Robinson (7.35) and Chris Paul (7.29) round out the top five.

Unlike VORP, BPM is an average and not a cumulative stat, meaning an extremely poor BPM over the remainder of James' career could potentially drop him down the all-time leaderboard.

Still, given that James hasn't registered a BPM lower than 7.4 since his rookie season, his spot at the top appears safe.

James' Current Rank: No. 1 all-time

Projected 2019-20 Rank: No. 1 all-time

Projected Career Rank: No. 1 all-time

         

Greg Swartz covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. All stats via Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

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