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What is Basketball Efficiency Rating?

Basketball Efficiency Rating is a calculated score that expresses a player’s productivity per minute during active play-time. It includes stats like points scored, rebounds, and assists. Michael Jordan has the highest score in history.

After a game, we normally look at the stat sheet on various sports sites. We check out who the top scorer is, or who had a triple-double.

And here, we stumbled upon something called “basketball efficiency rating”.

But what is a “basketball efficiency rating?”

Basketball efficiency rating is measured by sports analysts. It is simply the rating of a player’s productivity per minute.

In other words, it gauges the efficiency of a player while inside the game (not the whole 48 minutes).

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Is Basketball Efficiency Rating the same as Player Efficiency Rating (PER)?

Yes. Basketball efficiency rating and player efficiency rating (PER) is the same.

John Hollinger, a former ESPN writer and currently the Memphis Grizzlies Vice President, developed the PER. It is an all-in-one rating to determine a player’s contribution to the team.

The league average is 15.00 PER, as data analytics use peer comparison to determine who’s making significant contributions.

How to Calculate the Efficiency Rating?

Unfortunately, the formula to calculate the basketball efficiency rating is extremely advanced. Only sports analytics experts can determine and understand the formula.

Basketball efficiency rating takes into account all statistics produced in the game. It includes basic stats, such as points, rebounds, and assists, among others.

Other stats reduce their rating. Fouls missed shots, and turnovers adversely affect the rating.

For example, a volume shooter who scores 40 points but misses 40 shots gets penalized. In other words, his playing style is inefficient, as it wastes opportunities to score, while the other team gets more chances.

On the other hand, another player spends less time on the court, but seldom misses when he’s in the game. His game-play is very efficient and valuable, despite scoring less than the others.

The calculation is too hard to do on paper. It is similar to the outrageous calculations you see on the blackboard of Math majors. There is no linear method to compute a basketball efficiency rating.

We can just leave that to the experts. But to give you an idea, here is a preview:

Basketball Efficiency Rating = 1/Mins x (3 Pts +[2/3 x Assts] + [(2 – Factor x Tm Assts/Tm FG) x FG] + [0.5 x FT x (2 – 1/3 x Tm Assts/Tm FG)] – [VOP x TO] – [VOP x DRBP x (FGA – FG)] – [VOP x 0.44 x (0.44 + (0.56 + DRBP)) x (FTA – FT)] + [VOP x (1 – DRBP) x (TRB – ORB) + [VOP x DRBP x ORB] + (VOP x STL) + [VOP x DRBP x Blk] – [PF x (lgFT/lgPF) – 0.44 x lgFTA/lgPF x VOP)]).

Why is Efficiency Rating significant?

Not all players enjoy the same playing time. Established superstars have the green light to chuck away bricks, regardless of the situation.

Meanwhile, newcomers have less playing time, so they end up with lower game stats.

For example, Russell Westbrook of the Washington Wizards plays 38 minutes per game and averages 19.3 ppg this season. However, his field goal percentage is 37 percent.

On the other hand, his teammate Thomas Bryant only averages 14.3 ppg for 2021 so far. But since he’s playing 12 minutes less, Westbrook is expected to score more.

Nevertheless, Bryant has a higher efficiency rating because his field goal percentage is almost twice as high, with fewer turnovers.

Basically, basketball efficiency rating tells you that Bryant adds more value to the team whenever he’s on the court than Westbrook.

And we’re saying this in spite of the fact that Westbrook is an established superstar. That’s how significant Player Efficiency Ratings can be.

List of PER Scores (from All-Star to Bench Warmer)

In the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA), it is almost certain that a player’s efficiency rating (PER) is a reflection of his talent. The higher the rating, the better a player is.

Some use it as a reference for comparing which player is greater in the history of the sport.

Others refer to it to determine which players have the potential to break out and become a star.

Here is the range of efficiency ratings for each type of player:

  • All-time Great = 35.0 and above
  • Runaway MVP candidate = 30.0 to 35.0
  • Strong MVP candidate = 27.5 to 29.9
  • Dark Horse MVP candidate = 25.0 to 27.4
  • Definite All-Star = 22.5 to 24.9
  • Borderline All-Star = 20.0 to 22.4
  • Second option = 18.0 to 19.9
  • Third option = 16.5 to 17.9
  • Above average player = 15.0 to 16.4
  • Rotation player = 13.0 to 14.9
  • Non-rotation bench player = 11.0 to 12.9
  • Fringe roster player = 9.0 to 10.9
  • Players who don’t belong in this league = 0 to 8.9

Players’ Basketball Efficiency Rating in NBA history

There have been well-documented basketball efficiency ratings among the greats throughout NBA history. Unfortunately, calculating the ratings before 1978 is hard, as advanced stats such as turnovers were not recorded.

Nonetheless, people use their all-time basketball efficiency rating as an argument for who’s better.

For example, fans would argue that Hakeem Olajuwon was better than Shaquille O’Neal. However, O’Neal’s rating is 3 points higher than Olajuwon’s.

Therefore, while Hakeem got the best of Shaq in the 1995 NBA Finals, Shaq had a better overall career.

Another heated debate is who the greatest of all time, or GOAT, is in the NBA. The top two names right now are Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

And guess what? They have the two highest basketball efficiency ratings in NBA history (27.91 and 27.49)!

To learn more about who has the better rating, check out the list of the Top 25 player efficiency ratings of all time:

  1. Michael Jordan = 27.91
  2. LeBron James* = 27.49
  3. Anthony Davis* = 27.42
  4. Shaquille O’Neal = 26.44
  5. David Robinson = 26.18
  6. Wilt Chamberlain = 26.14
  7. Bob Pettit = 25.34
  8. Kevin Durant* = 25.20
  9. Chris Paul* = 25.08
  10. James Harden* = 24.83
  11. Neil Johnston = 24.69
  12. Charles Barkley = 24.63
  13. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar = 24.58
  14. Tim Duncan = 24.22
  15. Magic Johnson = 24.11
  16. Karl Malone = 23.90
  17. Stephen Curry* = 23.83
  18. Hakeem Olajuwon = 23.59
  19. Julius Erving = 23.58
  20. Larry Bird = 23.50
  21. Russell Westbrook* = 23.49
  22. Dwyane Wade = 23.48
  23. Oscar Robertson = 23.17
  24. Kawhi Leonard* = 23.08
  25. Yao Ming = 23.03

* = denotes active players

Note that, with the exception of Dwyane Wade, all non-active players are Hall of Famers. And Wade will be a shoo-in in the Hall of Fame in a few years.

Among active players, all have been NBA all-stars. In addition, five of them have won the MVP trophy at least once in their careers.


Who has a better efficiency rating, Michael Jordan or LeBron James?

During his time with the Miami Heat, LeBron James was at his peak. In fact, he was so dominant, that it started all the GOAT debate between him and Jordan.

LeBron even overtook MJ in the all-time career basketball efficiency ratings, with 27.93.

Although since LeBron was in the middle of his career, there was a huge chance his career efficiency rating will eventually go down. This happened during the 2012-13 NBA season.


Players with 30+ PER in a Season

In the history of the NBA, there have only been 21 times that a player exceeded 30 in their basketball efficiency ratings.

For instance, Giannis Antetokounmpo has the highest basketball efficiency rating in a season with 31.91 in 2020. Eventually, he won the MVP award.

Jordan and LeBron have the most seasons above 30 with four seasons. In second place, Shaquille O’Neal and Wilt Chamberlain both accomplished the feat in three seasons. Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis finished the season with a 30+ efficiency rating twice.

Finally, seven players had at least a single season finishing with a 30 or more basketball efficiency rating. They are David Robinson, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Chris Paul, Tracy McGrady, and Dwyane Wade.

On the list, McGrady and Wade were the two non-active players who didn’t win the MVP. Although Wade did win the Finals MVP, while McGrady won the scoring title multiple times.

A high PER requires a high skill level combined with a great physical condition—to sustain such high productivity per minute. That’s why few have accomplished the feat of pushing it past 30.


Are Efficiency Ratings Important in GOAT Debates?

The top 25 highest career basketball efficiency ratings have active players on the list. Except for Neil Johnston, a lot of these players have been in the Greatest Of All Time discussions at one point or another.

If you check out the rest of the list, and if we exclude the active players, all the names on the list are Hall of Famers who was considered the best at their position.

To answer the question, PER is significant, but not the main measurement for success. There are intangible qualities that cannot be seen in the stat sheet, such as hustle and clutch.

The efficiency rating is a nice-to-know stat, but not necessarily a need-to-know. Basketball efficiency ratings are considered a secondary reference for opinions, not your primary basis.

So, the next time people compare which player is better than the other, you can use their career’s basketball efficiency rating if you’re having a hard time choosing the better man.

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