NBA's all-time 'ball-hog' team

Emeka Okafor, Dominique Wilkins among league's least-productive scorers

Updated: November 27, 2012, 1:32 PM ET
By Neil Paine | Basketball-Reference.com

Dominique WilkinsAndrew D. Bernstein/Getty ImagesDespite Dominique Wilkins' career 24.8 scoring average, he did not distribute the ball well.

How do you quantify a player as a "ball hog"?

Of course, you can watch the guy play, and even casual observers can tell who won't give up the ball or demands it most of the time. Often these ball hogs are vastly overrated. They do one thing well, which is score.

But what about the other facets of the game? If they are deficient in passing or other team-oriented skills, shouldn't that be taken into account?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about current NBA players who are overrated and underrated based on their basic box score statistics. These are players whose true contributions can only really be ascertained by a metric known as regularized adjusted plus/minus, which measures the amount of on-court impact the player has on his team's point differential after accounting for the quality of his teammates and opponents.

Regularized plus/minus requires complete play-by-play data to be calculated, since it depends on knowing the identities of the 10 players on the court at any given time during a game -- and such data has only been compiled and made publicly available since the 2000-01 NBA season. For players who came along before then, we must estimate what their regularized plus/minus would have been had the statistic existed during their careers.

To do this, we need only to determine which box score statistics tend to be associated with strong (or weak) plus/minus scores over the years that we have play-by-play numbers, and apply those findings to the same set of statistics from previous seasons, a concept known as statistical plus/minus. Using a variant of this, advanced statistical plus/minus, we can extend the exercise of identifying overrated/underrated players to include historical names.

The point of comparison in this study will be John Hollinger's player efficiency rating (PER). Love it or hate it, PER almost always does a good job of measuring the conventional wisdom on a player's per-minute statistical production, so it's an ideal measuring stick to compare against our estimated plus/minus values.

This week, we present the All-Time Ball-Hog Team, comprising players from past and present.

Active players

Emeka Okafor | C | Washington Wizards

While nobody would mistake him for an offensive dynamo, Okafor averaged 14 points a game during his Charlotte heyday and still maintains a career PER of 17.1. In fact, Okafor has never put up a full-season PER below 14.9, and he had a three-year stretch (2006-07 to 2008-09) with an 18.4 PER. Based on this, you might think Okafor at least made an above-average offensive impact when on the floor.

Neil Paine writes for FiveThirtyEight, the data-supported sports, politics and culture site coming soon from ESPN.