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Do Stats Back Kobe On European Superiority?

Kobe Bryant made waves by stating that European players are taught better fundamentals than Americans (see Breitbart Sports post here). Our statistical analysis shows the average international player in the NBA is a better shooter, rebounder and overall player than his American counterpart, but…

First, here are the average stats that feed into Value Added ratings (see ESPN’s work by John Hollinger here with explanation here). While the average international NBA player is better than the average American player, the Americans are actually better at assist ratio and turnover ratio.

 

Stat Explanation 70 int’l 273 USA
GP Games (roughly apples-to-apples games/minutes) 28.97 28.00
MPG Average Minutes 23.18 23.94
TS% Shooting Percentage weighted 3-pt, 2-pt, FT (Int’l 2% better shooters) 54.8% 53.1%
AST % of the time he ends up dishing out an assist (USA players better passers, and protecting the ball) 15.37 16.01
TO % of times he ends up turning the ball over 11.66 10.79
USG % of the time he has the ball (Int’l players more unselfish) 17.60 18.32
ORR Percent of the time he grabs the rebound when his team misses (Int’l better rebounders on offense and defense) 6.51 4.87
DRR Percent of time he grabs rebound when other team misses 16.70 14.40
PER Overall efficiency 15.06 14.14
VA Value Added points added above replacement player (team with an average Int’l player likely 4-5 points better than average USA player so far) 48.26 43.62
EWA How many wins he added above replacement player 1.61 1.45

This does indicate that the training in Europe and the rest of the world may better prepare players in certain aspects of the game. However, this comparison is of 70 of the best players from the rest of the world–while the USA ratings are held down by the borderline reserves brought in to fill the roster.

If we compare the top 70 players from the US to these 70 international players, there is no comparison. Only three international players make the top 25 (Marc Gasol 12th, Tim Duncan 16th, and Dirk Nowitzki 24th). If European players are simply taught better fundamentals, it may be playing out in the fact that the 70 international players with enough minutes played are better rebounders than even the best 70 US players. However, in other aspects of the game the top American players are still well ahead of the international stars.


Stat Explanation 70 int’l top 70 US
GP Games 28.97 28.79
MPG Average Minutes 23.18 29.67
TS% Shooting Percentage weighted 3-pt, 2-pt, FT (best 70 US players better than 70 Int’l) 54.8% 56.4%
AST % of the time he ends up dishing out an assist (star American NBA players assist less) 15.37 15.22
TO % of times he ends up turning the ball over (top USA players much better at protecting the ball) 11.66 9.85
USG % of the time he has the ball (Int’l players more unselfish) 17.60 23.40
ORR Percent of the time he grabs the rebound when his team misses (Int’l players better rebounders than even the best USA NBA players) 6.51 6.13
DRR Percent of time he grabs rebound when other team misses (very slight edge for USA starts on defensive glass doesn’t offset much better offensive rebounding for Int’l) 16.70 16.81
PER Overall efficiency 15.06 20.56
VA Value Added points added above replacement player 48.26 124.34
EWA How many wins he added above replacement player (NBA team would have 2-3 more wins with a top 70 USA player over an Int’l player) 1.61 4.14

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