John Hollinger is perhaps the leading authority on advanced statistics in the NBA. He's authored four basketball prospectuses and has served as sports editor at OregonLive.com and as the basketball editor for SI.com. Hollinger's most notable contribution is his invention of Player Efficiency Rating, a stat that combines all of a player's contributions into one number. Hollinger has been following the Thunder throughout its first-round series against Denver.
Q: What's been your impression of the Thunder this season?
A: They actually have continued improving more than I expected. I thought as big a step as they made last year, they were going to kind of need to consolidate a little bit those gains. I thought this year was actually going to be rougher than it actually ended up being. Because a lot of times when teams make a big one-year jump like the Thunder did, it's very hard to continue progressing forward. It's called the Plexiglas Principle. Most teams that make big one-year jumps actually come back to earth a little bit the next year. So for the Thunder to continue to improving their win total was very impressive.
Q: When you look at this team and compare it to how the Western Conference is shaping up, do you see the Thunder going far in the playoffs this year?
A: Yeah, I picked them to make the conference finals when these playoffs started. And now I'm wondering about that even. Honestly, of the top four seeds they've definitely looked the best in this first round.
Q: How would you explain Player Efficiency Rating to people who don't understand it?
A: The most concise explanation I have is it's a rating of a player's per minute statistical effectiveness. So basically, you give them points for all the good stuff, subtract points for all the bad stuff and out comes a rating. It's a bit more complicated than that, but in a nutshell that's what it is.
Q: How did you invent this statistical rating?
A: It was a lot of trial and error. I've always been kind of a stat head. I was really influenced by Bill James' books when I was a kid. I had started thinking about how I could apply it to basketball. I worked on PER for a long time just by myself just on Excel spreadsheets. And then when the Internet came along, I started putting my ratings online. This was in 1996. Even from there, I think it was probably three or four years before it got to the point where it is now.