There are many ways to evaluate a player's offensive prowess. Some people look at scoring average, some like to look at shooting percentages. Those methods are very basic, and don't come close to telling the entire story.
Among advanced statistics, there are also several choices. True Shooting Percentage (TS%) is a formula that takes 2-point shots, 3-point shots and free throws into account, and comes up with a number that represents a player's offensive efficiency. Another option is Offensive Rating (ORtg), which is an estimate of the number of points a player produces per 100 team possessions.
However, for the purposes of this analysis, we're going to go with an even better choice than those previously proposed: Offensive Win Shares (OWS). This metric is a complex formula that estimates the number of team victories a player produces due to his offensive output. When it comes down to it, the point of NBA basketball is winning games. Using this statistic as our criteria will not only tell us which guys are the best offensive players, but also which of them does the best job of helping their team win games with their offensive talents.
Due to the nature of the OWS metric, we can look at every NBA player from 2011-12 without setting up a qualifying criteria, such as "players must have played 1500 or more minutes." Only players who were on the floor a lot are going to have a shot at being ranked here, because you can't produce wins in bulk for your team by playing 10 minutes per game, for example.
So, without further ado, here are the players who earned a spot on our list:
- Offensive Win Shares: 7.5
- Other Key Stats: 16.8 ppg, 49.1 FG%, 39.0 3P%, 84.6 FT%
Harden isn't the biggest name on this list, but a look at his raw stats gives you an idea of why he helps the Thunder win games. He plays with two very gifted and explosive offensive players (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook). Despite that fact, he finds a way to score quite a bit himself - and does so very efficiently. It's no wonder Oklahoma City is as good as they are this season. Many teams would love to have Harden as their go-to guy; he's the third option for the Thunder.
- Offensive Win Shares: 7.6
- Other Key Stats: 26.0 ppg, 44.8 FG%, 37.2 3P%, 82.4 FT%
Kevin Love has improved significantly from year-to-year, and he did it again in 2011-12 to blossom into a true superstar. His 3-point shooting is impressive for a 6-10 player, and he has become one of the deadliest scorers in the NBA. He has multiple post moves he can use, a good mid-range game, and as stated, can hit the '3' on a consistent basis. Minnesota only went 26-40 this year, but they can attribute about 29 percent of those victories to Love's offense alone.
- Offensive Win Shares: 8.5
- Other Key Stats: 28.0 ppg, 49.6 FG%, 38.7 3P%, 86.0 FT%
What can you say about Kevin Durant? Only 23 years old, this phenom has been lighting up scoreboards since the moment he put on an NBA uniform. The 6-9, 215 lb. forward seems to have every possible move, and every type of shot in his arsenal. Okay, so let's review. Portland could've drafted Michael Jordan in 1984, but took an injury-prone center instead. In the 2007 NBA Draft, Portland could have had Kevin Durant, but took an injury-prone center instead. Interesting.
- Offensive Win Shares: 10.0
- Other Key Stats: 27.1 ppg, 53.1 FG%, 36.2 3P%, 77.1 FT%
After starting our list with a not-so-obvious choice, we now present another seeming no-brainer in James. "King James" is a player with unbelievable talent...he can handle the ball, and he's an exceptional passer. He's quick, and very powerful. He scores from all over the floor, and frankly, pretty much does what he wants to, when he wants to do it on the court. There are certainly fans out there who don't like LeBron James, but even if you don't, you have to admire his God-given gifts, and through-the-roof skill level.
- Offensive Win Shares: 10.4
- Other Key Stats: 19.8 ppg, 47.8 FG%, 37.1 3P%, 86.1 FT%
Okay, not who you expected? Sure, Chris Paul is one of the best point guards in the NBA, but he just doesn't have a reputation as a spectacular scorer/offensive player. Efficiency is much more important than being able to make the ESPN SportsCenter highlights regularly, and Paul is a fine example of that. It's unusual to say that an All-Star player is underrated, but Chris Paul may just be. As an aside, Paul also made our list of top NBA defenders. MVP votes, anyone?
Determining the best offensive players in basketball is a topic that is surely ripe for debate. Everyone has his or her favorite players, and there are many different opinions on what it means to be a great offensive basketball player. When all is said and done, however, posting monster individual statistics means little if said player is not also producing wins for his team.