Revisiting Shaq v Darko

Posted on 12/01/2010 by

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This is a re-run that I thought would be timely. This was originally posted 08/06/2010 back when this blog was much more of a solitary exercise.

On Wednesday, Henry Abbott of Truehoop and ESPN offered the following bet/prediction: (Darko) Milicic will help his team more than (Shaquille) O’Neal will this upcoming season.

Mr. Abbott based his argument mostly on relative age and minute allocation and he challenged someone to take the opposing viewpoint for a friendly public wager. When I first saw this, my first impression was to throw down but a statistical examination and taking situation into account, revealed that the has a chance at being right. I wasn’t the only who reached a similar conclusion . Prof. Berri’s noted this on his blog as well (see here).

My logic on this breaks down as follows:

Darko has been atrocious but there’s a good chance that Shaq performance will fall of a cliff . If their performace is equal at .050 WP48, Darko will win based on age. I would lay odds 3-2 in Shaq’s favor if I were laying a line but I wouldn’t take the action if offered (too risky).

The point of this post however is to answer reader requests. In the comments on Prof. Berri’s blog, some lively discussion took place and the following question was asked by reader Chicago Tim:

“I’ll note that Michael Jordan produced 10 wins with Washington at age 39, and Derrick Mutumbo produced 8 wins in Houston at age 40 (and in far fewer minutes than Jordan). Any other productive oldsters in NBA history?”

Since we are all about the fan service, here’s a table with every performance of greater than 5 wins produced on or after the age of 35:

There are in fact 99 of these seasons produced by 52 players. There are 521 individual seasons by players 35 or older since the merger so this feat happens about 19% of the time. The kings of this list?:

Stockton & Malone share the honor with the Chief nipping their heels. Another fact of note:

Where an older player having a season of >5 Wins produced used to be a rarity, it is now becoming increasingly common. I argued (here , here and here) that the quality of basketball in the NBA has gone up to it highest levels ever partly because medical advances have allowed older player to prolong their careers and the data here seems to reflect that hypothesis.

I’m just leaving this here:


So yeah.

Image courtesy of xkcd.com

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