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Thursday, June 7, 2001
By these books, Iverson not much help

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Allen Iverson seems to have done it all. He led the NBA scoring, was voted the league's most valuable player and has carried the Philadelphia 76ers into the playoff finals.

Professor's top 10
  Player Team
1. Shawn Marion Suns
2. Ben Wallace Pistons
3. Dikembe Mutombo 76ers
4. Shaquille O'Neal Lakers
5. Tracy McGrady Magic
6. Marcus Camby Knicks
7. Steve Francis Rockets
8. Tim Duncan Spurs
9. Donyell Marshall Jazz
10. Ray Allen Bucks

"I can't imagine a player having a better year or more of an impact on a team or a city," 76ers coach Larry Brown said.

David Berri disagrees.

Berri, a professor of economics at Coe College in Cedar Rapids and a lifelong NBA fan, has developed a formula for rating players to determine their productivity and how many victories they are worth.

According to his figures, Iverson is just your average player. He was worth 6.9 wins for the 76ers, which is about average for NBA shooting guards and only about half what teammate Dikembe Mutombo was worth.

"When people watch a game, what they tend to be attracted to is scoring," Berri said. "Everyone knows Allen Iverson leads the league in scoring so when fans watch the 76ers, it's Iverson they're watching and the impression is he's making a big impact.

"But it's not how many points you score, it's do you score efficiently. If he scores 30 points and takes 36 shots to do it, he's not helping you."

In Berri's formula, the key stats are rebounds, turnovers, steals and shooting efficiency -- numbers that involve giving up the ball and getting it back. He notes that while Iverson averaged 31 points a game during the regular season, he also averaged 26 shots and made only 42 percent of them. Iverson led the league in steals (2.5) but averaged 3.3 turnovers.

Berri contends that if you take away Mutombo, George Lynch and Tyrone Hill, players who get the ball for Iverson, "that team is very bad."

"They were before they had those guys," he said. "When they had Iverson and Jerry Stackhouse, they were very bad. They were good scorers, but they didn't win."

Berri said his system also explains why the Los Angeles Lakers fell off in the regular season this year, and it had nothing to do with Shaquille O'Neal feuding with Kobe Bryant.

Instead, he noted that when Ron Harper injured his left knee the Lakers had to play Isiah Rider. Rider never has been as productive as Harper, Berri said, and that cost the Lakers four or five wins. Plus, he said, Robert Horry was not as productive this season and cost the team another four or five victories.

"Sometimes it's a backup player who's gotten worse that makes a difference," Berri said. "If a guy averages four rebounds a game and then two rebounds a game, that's two possessions a game. Over an entire year, that can make a difference."

In Berri's system, the NBA's most productive player is Shawn Marion, a 6-foot-7 forward for the Phoenix Suns. Marion averaged 17.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and shot 48 percent. He was worth 25.4 wins, according to Berri's figures -- 19.5 above the average for small forwards.

Ben Wallace, a 6-9 power forward with the Detroit Pistons, came out as the second most productive player, even though he averaged only 6.4 points. Mutombo ranks third, followed by O'Neal, Tracy McGrady, Marcus Camby, Steve Francis, Tim Duncan, Donyell Marshall and Ray Allen.

So now that the 76ers will meet the Lakers in the NBA finals, what does Berri's formula tell him about that matchup?"

"Clearly the Lakers are favored," he said. "I don't think you need a model to figure that out."

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