Player Trajectories



Using the stats.nba.com API data and matplotlib, I recently developed a pretty cool visual to see how players’ points (adjusted by usage rate and minute) changed over time. This means that an excess of usage leading to extra points will not affect the quantified improvement over time. The graph above shows the average player who scored >15 pts at least once during his career. Let’s see some actual players on this graph.

The x-axis represents the players’ year in the league(ex. rookie season would be 1, sophomore season 2, etc.) and the Y-axis represents the players’ improvement relative to the base year. A negative value would mean that the player has gotten worse since the rookie season and a positive value means they have gotten better since their rookie year.

For the actual code used for this you can go here.

1. Pascal Siakam

For those doubting that Siakam has improved tremendously, the numbers don’t lie. This serious Most Improved Player candidate has shown that he is truly a force to be reckoned with. Now, does this graph mean he is a phenomenal player already? No.

This graph is relative on the player’s first year, which basically means it is measured based on the players’ improvement since he started in the league. Thus, it shows improvement since the base year, not how good the player actually is.

SeasonAge2P%eFG%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS
2016-1722.515.5050.40.6.6881.22.23.40.30.50.80.62.04.2
2017-1823.612.5370.71.1.6211.03.54.52.00.80.50.82.07.3
2018-1924.602.5913.03.8.7851.65.36.93.10.90.71.93.016.9
Career.592.5641.41.9.7431.23.85.12.00.70.61.22.410.1

Data courtesy Basketball-Reference.com.

2. LeBron James

At first glance, this may look a little suspicious. Does this graph say that LeBron is worse than Siakam? No!

Again, this graph acts comparatively to the player’s first season. This means that the player’s point production, adjusted for usage rate and minute changes, is measured against his own point production at the beginning of his career.

So, what does this graph mean for LeBron? Surprisingly, LeBron has been pretty average in maintaining his averages on the average player graph. This means, his improvement has basically been perfectly modeled by the average 15+ point scoring player in the NBA.

However, recently (after his 13th season), he began to break off of this trend as he has surged greatly in the last few years, making these last few years some of his best in his career. In fact, instead of following the trend at year 13, James completely defied this trend, going the exact opposite direction. Although he did not make the playoffs, this year was probably one of his most efficient shooting years.

We would expect that LeBron James would take a major hit in the next 1 or 2 years. It is very likely that LeBron’s value will drop by a great amount next year, as his success is clearly not sustainable. However, he is LeBron James, so we can never know what will happen 😅.

3. Stephen Curry

Steph is a strange case. His career started off extraordinarily but after his first season, he was clearly on a downward trend. However, after becoming considerably worse and worse, Curry began to take his skills back during his 5th season in the league (disclaimer: he didn’t actually lose his skill; it was probably because he shot less because of Monta Ellis). Compared with other players, Curry reached his prime late, and it doesn’t seem like he is on a downward trend either.

Some More Players
I won’t explain these in detail, but you should be able to see how players improved/deteriorated.

4. Michael Carter-Williams

SeasonAge2P%eFG%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS
2013-1422.440.4313.75.2.7031.44.86.26.31.90.63.53.016.7
2014-1523.428.4163.14.4.6941.04.45.36.71.70.53.82.514.6
2014-1523.412.4062.94.4.6431.05.16.27.41.50.44.22.515.0
2014-1523.457.4353.44.4.7800.83.14.05.62.00.53.22.614.1
2015-1624.472.4662.03.0.6540.94.25.15.21.50.82.83.011.5
2016-1725.401.3911.31.7.7530.52.93.42.50.80.51.52.36.6
2017-1826.365.3621.41.7.8200.71.92.72.20.80.41.01.94.6
2018-1927.424.4151.11.9.6040.71.82.52.50.70.50.71.74.8
2018-1927.429.4670.81.6.4620.20.60.81.30.60.40.61.74.3
2018-1927.419.3631.72.3.7411.33.44.84.10.90.80.81.85.4
Career.433.4232.33.3.7020.93.64.54.61.30.62.52.510.9
2 seasons.429.4223.44.9.6831.34.96.26.71.70.53.82.816.0
2 seasons.467.4552.43.4.7050.93.94.75.31.70.72.92.912.4
1 season.365.3621.41.7.8200.71.92.72.20.80.41.01.94.6
1 season.401.3911.31.7.7530.52.93.42.50.80.51.52.36.6
1 season.429.4670.81.6.4620.20.60.81.30.60.40.61.74.3
1 season.419.3631.72.3.7411.33.44.84.10.90.80.81.85.4

Data courtesy Basketball-Reference.com.5. Derrick Rose

SeasonAge2P%eFG%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS
2008-0920.491.4822.43.1.7881.22.73.96.30.80.22.51.516.8
2009-1021.500.4953.34.3.7660.82.93.86.00.70.32.81.220.8
2010-1122.481.4855.96.9.8581.03.14.17.71.00.63.41.725.0
2011-1223.475.4735.06.1.8120.72.73.47.90.90.73.11.321.8
2012-1324
2013-1425.359.4022.73.2.8440.92.33.24.30.50.13.41.515.9
2014-1526.465.4503.03.7.8130.72.53.24.90.70.33.21.217.7
2015-1627.449.4482.22.7.7930.72.73.44.70.70.22.71.316.4
2016-1728.487.4773.54.0.8741.02.83.84.40.70.32.31.318.0
2017-1829.474.4541.61.8.8700.50.91.41.50.30.21.40.68.4
2017-1829.481.4622.22.6.8540.61.21.81.60.20.31.80.99.8
2017-1829.458.4350.60.61.0000.30.30.71.20.40.00.80.25.8
2018-1930.509.5182.73.1.8560.62.12.74.30.60.21.61.118.0
Career.481.4773.44.1.8240.92.63.55.60.80.32.71.318.8
7 seasons.478.4743.64.4.8130.92.83.76.20.80.42.91.419.7
1 season.487.4773.54.0.8741.02.83.84.40.70.32.31.318.0
2 seasons.505.5122.42.8.8610.61.82.43.90.60.21.51.016.2
1 season.481.4622.22.6.8540.61.21.81.60.20.31.80.99.8

Data courtesy Basketball-Reference.com.6. Kevin Durant

SeasonAge2P%eFG%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS
2007-0819.455.4514.95.6.8730.93.54.42.41.00.92.91.520.3
2008-0920.486.5106.17.1.8631.05.56.52.81.30.73.01.825.3
2009-1021.506.5149.210.2.9001.36.37.62.81.41.03.32.130.1
2010-1122.504.5097.68.7.8800.76.16.82.71.11.02.82.027.7
2011-1223.535.5476.57.6.8600.67.48.03.51.31.23.82.028.0
2012-1324.539.5598.49.3.9050.67.37.94.61.41.33.51.828.1
2013-1425.549.5608.79.9.8730.76.77.45.51.30.73.52.132.0
2014-1526.565.5785.46.3.8540.66.06.64.10.90.92.71.525.4
2015-1627.569.5736.26.9.8980.67.68.25.01.01.23.51.928.2
2016-1728.608.5945.46.2.8750.67.68.34.81.11.62.21.925.1
2017-1829.565.5865.35.9.8890.56.46.85.40.71.83.02.026.4
2018-1930.587.5715.76.5.8850.45.96.45.90.71.12.92.026.0
Career.532.5426.87.7.8830.76.37.14.11.11.13.11.927.0
9 seasons.517.5307.28.1.8820.86.27.03.71.21.03.21.927.4
3 seasons.586.5835.56.2.8830.56.67.15.40.81.52.71.925.8

Data courtesy Basketball-Reference.com.7. Russell Westbrook

SeasonAge2P%eFG%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS
2008-0920.415.4144.35.2.8152.22.74.95.31.30.23.32.315.3
2009-1021.438.4284.05.1.7801.73.14.98.01.30.43.32.516.1
2010-1122.451.4546.57.7.8421.53.14.68.21.90.43.92.521.9
2011-1223.482.4815.26.3.8231.53.14.65.51.70.33.62.223.6
2012-1324.466.4705.67.0.8001.43.95.27.41.80.33.32.323.2
2013-1425.482.4805.36.4.8261.24.55.76.91.90.23.82.321.8
2014-1526.457.4558.19.8.8351.95.47.38.62.10.24.42.728.1
2015-1627.503.4895.87.2.8121.86.07.810.42.00.34.32.523.5
2016-1728.459.4768.810.4.8451.79.010.710.41.60.45.42.331.6
2017-1829.485.4775.27.1.7371.98.210.110.31.80.34.82.525.4
2018-1930.481.4684.16.2.6561.59.611.110.71.90.54.53.422.9
Career.465.4655.77.1.8011.75.37.08.41.80.34.12.523.0

Data courtesy Basketball-Reference.com.8. James Harden

SeasonAge2P%eFG%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS
2009-1020.424.4842.63.2.8080.62.63.21.81.10.31.42.69.9
2010-1121.514.5183.54.2.8430.52.63.12.11.10.31.32.512.2
2011-1222.579.5825.06.0.8460.53.64.13.71.00.22.22.416.8
2012-1323.477.5048.610.2.8510.84.14.95.81.80.53.82.325.9
2013-1424.515.5297.99.1.8660.83.94.76.11.60.43.62.425.4
2014-1525.480.5118.810.2.8680.94.75.77.01.90.74.02.627.4
2015-1626.494.5128.810.2.8600.85.36.17.51.70.64.62.829.0
2016-1727.530.5259.210.9.8471.27.08.111.21.50.55.72.729.1
2017-1828.531.5418.710.1.8580.64.85.48.81.80.74.42.330.4
2018-1929.528.5419.711.0.8790.85.86.67.52.00.75.03.136.1
Career.506.5257.38.5.8570.84.55.26.21.60.53.62.624.3
7 seasons.506.5248.810.2.8610.85.16.07.71.80.64.42.629.0
3 seasons.506.5293.64.3.8350.52.93.42.51.10.31.62.512.7

Data courtesy Basketball-Reference.com.9. Giannis Antetokounmpo

SeasonAge2P%eFG%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS
2013-1419.440.4631.82.6.6831.03.44.41.90.80.81.62.26.8
2014-1520.511.4963.24.3.7411.25.56.72.60.91.02.13.112.7
2015-1621.537.5203.75.1.7241.46.27.74.31.21.42.63.216.9
2016-1722.563.5415.97.7.7701.87.08.85.41.61.92.93.122.9
2017-1823.554.5456.58.5.7602.18.010.04.81.51.43.03.126.9
2018-1924.641.5996.99.5.7292.210.312.55.91.31.53.73.227.7
Career.557.5394.66.2.7421.66.78.34.11.21.32.63.018.8

Data courtesy Basketball-Reference.com.10. Klay Thompson

SeasonAge2P%eFG%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS
2011-1221.460.5201.21.4.8680.42.12.42.00.70.31.62.312.5
2012-1322.437.5091.61.9.8410.43.33.72.21.00.51.92.916.6
2013-1423.464.5331.82.3.7950.52.63.12.20.90.51.72.918.4
2014-1524.481.5552.93.3.8790.42.93.22.91.10.81.91.621.7
2015-1625.510.5692.42.8.8730.43.43.82.10.80.61.71.922.1
2016-1726.516.5652.42.8.8530.63.03.72.10.80.51.61.822.3
2017-1827.526.5851.11.3.8370.43.43.82.50.80.51.81.620.0
2018-1928.516.5531.72.0.8160.53.43.82.41.10.61.52.021.5
Career.491.5511.92.3.8480.43.03.52.30.90.51.72.119.5

Data courtesy Basketball-Reference.com.

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