NBA Analysis: Who Are the Best Playoff Performers Since 1986?

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As a follow up to the last post that examined the best playoff series since 1986, we can use our Box-Only Expected Value (BEV) to determine who has had the best statistical playoff careers of the last 27 years by viewing their performance across individual series. Again, let’s adjust the values based on the opponent’s regular season averages to produce an Adjusted BEV.

This is a particularly interesting angle to look at playoff performance because terribly bad performances from stars are likely to lead to losses in a seven-game series while amazingly good performances are hard to beat. In theory, weaker teams do better with high variance players (those capable of huge heights to help spring upsets), while more consistent players (fewer lows) are going to help good teams avoid upsets.

Since 1986, Shaquille O’Neal has played the most series of any NBA player (45). Shaq’s worst series in the that time was a -0.19 Adjusted BEV, which came in his last series in 2011. Although in the 1996 and 2005 first rounds he posted Adjusted BEV’s under 1.00. His nadir is not unique; most players lay an egg at some point in their careers. Of the 62 players with at least 20 playoff series played, half have had at least one series with a negative Adjusted BEV. 87% with at least one series under a 2.0. All but three — Charles Barkley, Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Jordan — had at least one series under 4.0.

With a minimum of at least 10 series played, here are the top players by average Adjusted BEV in a series since 1986....

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