FiveThirtyEight’s New Statistical Model Projects Kobe Bryant To Be The 236th-Best Player In The NBA

Hey, so, remember how ESPN’s #NBARank had Kobe Bryant ranked as the 93rd best player in the NBA, and people, including Bryant himself, weren’t too happy about it? Well, that was just an appetizer. For the main course, FiveThirtyEight has served up a model that projects Kobe to be the 236th-best player in the NBA this year.

This projection comes from FiveThirtyEight’s new CARMELO model, which stands for Career-Arc Regression Model Estimator with Local Optimization. Here’s Nate Silver, who defines the metric in simple terms:

The basic premise of CARMELO is simple. For each current NBA player, CARMELO identifies similar players throughout modern NBA history and uses their careers to forecast the current player’s future.

CARMELO takes into account advanced statistical measures such as true shooting percentage, usage and defensive plus/minus, while also considering height, weight and age. The result:

As is the case with all metrics, this should not be viewed as scripture. It’s one model, just a piece of the puzzle, not the entire picture. This is not a biased projection, it’s merely the result of a calculation. There’s no bad guy here, no Kobe hater, just numbers. They may not look favorably upon Bryant, but it’s not out of any sort of malice.

Numbers never lie – they also don’t tell the whole truth sometimes, or the truth they tell is just their version. That could be what’s happening here. Kobe is in decline, perhaps even in the last year of his career, but it’s hard to imagine that there will be 235 other players better than him this season.