Sunday, December 6, 2015

Steph Curry was Less Remarkable before this Season

Stephen Curry and the Warriors are playing historically good basketball this year. Twenty games in is a bit early to know about best player or team of all time, but this has made me wonder how Curry's career up to this point compares to other recent greats.

The chart below uses data from basketball reference to compare the first seven years of Curry's career to the six MVP winners before him. The graph uses player efficiency rating (PER), an all-in-one metric of player performance. The first five years of his career were about average for an MVP winner, but last year he improved to the level similar to Kevin Durant's sixth year PER, and only noticeably below that of Lebron James. 

As has been widely noted, Curry's PER this year would be far higher than any other player (any player- not just those graphed). I expect his PER to come down a bit throughout the year, as small sample outliers tend to do. But it seems likely that his PER will remain higher than Lebron's seventh season PER.

The graph above is actually a screenshot from a Tableau dashboard. The interactive below has hover-over information, as well as the options to highlight a different player, switch to Win Score per 48, select different players (including Jordan), and change the seasons listed.

The interactive has several interesting stories. For example, Kevin Durant and Lebron James have had very similar careers according to Win Score per 48:

A few closing points: for those un-familiar with PER, it is limited for measuring contributions on defense, and various other off-ball aspects (like screens). But Curry is crushing pretty much every advanced metric this year. The PER and Win Score data in the graphs only include regular season performance.

Also, I haven't done a comprehensive search for similar visuals. If you've seen something similar to this, please let me know in the comments.