It has been suggested that I look at players’ statistics from only the primes of their careers. This is a good idea, given that both very inexperienced and very old players will “regress to the mean” in terms of their performance and possibly, playing style. As such, I generated a sum of each player’s boxscore statistics during the modern area across only their best seasons. My definition of “best” was simple: not their worst. For each player, I found their mean seasonal winshr, as well as their winshr standard deviations. Any seasons for which a player’s winshr was greater than the mean less one standard deviation was included in this analysis. This way, I excluded seasons in which a player was injured or relatively underused because of age or because of a minor role on their team. Chris Webber’s current and previous seasons, for example, would not be included. In this way, I hope to get at the “pure” essence of each player for an even better comparison. You will probably not be surprised to see that the diagram looks very similar to the non-peak-performance versions:
NBA players at peak performance [pdf]
A few interesting things to note, however: at their peak, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird are now among each others’ closest matches. Also, taking a macro view of the whole network, it is now easy to identify several different nodes: In bluish purple at top left, we can see defensive-minded, “dirty work” bigs, while at the bottom in blue are more scoring bigs. To their right is a reddish group of primarily scorers, while going north from there in green we see “pure point guards” and then more scoring point guards. Etc, etc. Let me know if you notice any other interesting connections or clusters in the comments.