Similarity Score Methodology


“Buddy Hield is the next Stephen Curry”
“Brandon Ingram is a poor man’s Kevin Durant”
“Andrew Wiggins’ upside is Carmelo Anthony, but his floor is James Posey”

So often when we talk about NBA players, we do it through comparisons to other players, and with good reason—comparisons are a good way to quickly convey lots of information about a player. For example, if I tell you that a player had a Box Plus/Minus of 7.8 last season, you might get a vague idea of how good he is. If I then tell you that player had 19.5 points per game, you might have a slightly better idea, but it’s still far from the full picture. But if I claim that this player is the next Chris Paul, it immediately brings to mind an idea of not only how good he is, but also his strengths, weaknesses, and overall playing style. Maybe your mind also queues up a mental highlight reel of Chris Paul-like plays, for good measure. Comparisons quickly give a complete picture of a player which would otherwise require taking the time to slowly digest each number in his stat line.

Also, they’re lots of fun!

We’ve created our own set of similarity scores to make comparisons using math for the purpose of prospecting players coming out of college. Our goal is to produce a useful complement to our PNSP model. Where our PNSP model answers the question, “How valuable will this player be?”, our similarity scores aim to answer the question, “Who will this player be like?”

For a glimpse of some player comparisons, you can check out Similarity Scores for 2016 NBA Draftees, here.


Our dataset consists of players who entered the league between 1997-2016. International players, high school players, and players with incomplete college statistics are excluded from the data. Since data record-keeping has become more reliable in recent years, our data contains more players from more recent draft classes. This is only an issue in that it limits the size of our training data; skewing more recent may help to better capture current trends in the NBA.


We started by dividing our players by position, in order to create similarity score calculations differently for different types of players. After all, the things you care about when deciding whether two big men are similar is very different than when you’re comparing two point guards. Rather than doing this grouping using our intuition, we used k-means clustering to form groups based on box-score statistics. This technique allowed the data to determine how the players should be grouped, potentially identifying players who fit best in a group other than their nominal position. Ultimately, though, the three clusters we created ended up corresponding intuitively to three player archetypes: primary ball handler, wing player, and big man. Below is a chart showing these clusters, visualized with Principal Component Analysis. PCA is a statistical procedure with many interesting uses. Here, it’s just used as a visualization tool, so the important thing to know is that combines our many original variables into two new ones, which allow us to get a two-dimensional picture of as much of our data as possible. To get a player’s coordinates to find him on this chart, use our table below.

PlayerClustered GroupPC1PC2
A.J. BramlettBig-3.070.79
A.J. GuytonPrimary Ball Handler2.750.26
A.J. HammonsBig-4.19-1.29
A.J. PricePrimary Ball Handler2.450.78
Aaron BrooksPrimary Ball Handler3.570.03
Aaron GordonWing-0.943.16
Aaron GrayBig-4.480.54
Aaron HarrisonPrimary Ball Handler31.2
Aaron WhiteWing-0.14-1.84
Abdel NaderWing0.580.84
Acie LawPrimary Ball Handler2.13-0.98
Adam MorrisonWing0.33-2.61
Adonal FoyleBig-5.99-1.25
Adreian PayneWing-0.74-0.95
Al HorfordBig-3.130.23
Al ThorntonWing0.04-1.32
Al-Farouq AminuWing-1.720.08
Alan AndersonWing0.13-1.67
Alando TuckerWing0.17-0.94
Alec BrownWing-1.21-0.91
Alec BurksWing0.42-1.94
Alex AckerPrimary Ball Handler1.7-0.4
Alex LenBig-3.180.36
Alex OriakhiBig-3.91-0.84
Alexander JohnsonWing-1.67-1.25
Allen CrabbePrimary Ball Handler1.090.14
Alton FordWing-1.330.79
Alvin JonesBig-3.860.55
Alvin WilliamsPrimary Ball Handler1.950.3
Andre DrummondBig-4.484.36
Andre EmmettWing-0.12-0.85
Andre IguodalaPrimary Ball Handler0.890.52
Andre MillerPrimary Ball Handler1.41-0.23
Andre RobersonWing-0.712.13
Andrew BogutBig-2.94-0.89
Andrew GoudelockPrimary Ball Handler2.52-1.58
Andrew HarrisonPrimary Ball Handler2.780.89
Andrew NicholsonWing-2.31-2.19
Andrew WigginsWing0.530.48
Andy RautinsPrimary Ball Handler3.270.7
Anthony BennettWing-1.77-0.43
Anthony BrownPrimary Ball Handler1.840.01
Anthony DavisBig-4.060.72
Anthony JohnsonPrimary Ball Handler2.05-1.48
Anthony MorrowPrimary Ball Handler2.350.33
Anthony ParkerPrimary Ball Handler1.15-0.75
Anthony RandolphBig-20.97
Antoine WrightWing0.830.01
Antonio BurksPrimary Ball Handler2.731.32
Antonio DanielsPrimary Ball Handler2.14-1.92
Archie GoodwinWing0.581.08
Armon JohnsonPrimary Ball Handler1.040.74
Arnett MoultrieWing-1.02-0.84
Arron AfflaloPrimary Ball Handler1.760.54
Arsalan KazemiBig-1.830.36
Austin CroshereWing0.44-1.49
Austin DayeWing-1.30.26
Austin RiversPrimary Ball Handler1.821.5
Avery BradleyPrimary Ball Handler1.743.24
Baron DavisPrimary Ball Handler1.521.13
Ben BentilWing-0.93-1.05
Ben GordonPrimary Ball Handler3.140.15
Ben McLemorePrimary Ball Handler2.210.49
Ben SimmonsWing-0.65-0.27
Bernard JamesBig-3.622.16
Bernard RobinsonPrimary Ball Handler1.140.4
Blake GriffinBig-2.89-0.98
Bobby JacksonPrimary Ball Handler2.130.57
Bobby JonesWing0.710.01
Bobby PortisWing-2-0.66
Bobby SimmonsWing0.54-0.5
Bracey WrightPrimary Ball Handler1.560.07
Bradley BealPrimary Ball Handler1.390.98
Brandan WrightBig-3.441.77
Branden DawsonBig-2.442.48
Brandon ArmstrongPrimary Ball Handler2.06-1
Brandon BassWing-1.83-1.04
Brandon HunterWing-2.18-1.52
Brandon IngramWing0.51.76
Brandon KnightPrimary Ball Handler2.781.23
Brandon RoyPrimary Ball Handler1.4-1.72
Brandon RushPrimary Ball Handler1.591.09
Brendan HaywoodBig-5.11.28
Brevin KnightPrimary Ball Handler4.83-0.63
Brian CardinalWing1-0.31
Brian CookWing-1.39-2.49
Brian ScalabrineWing-0.16-0.09
Brice JohnsonBig-2.86-0.74
Brook LopezBig-3.13-1.19
Bubba WellsWing-0.12-4.04
Buddy HieldPrimary Ball Handler2.25-1.19
C.J. McCollumPrimary Ball Handler2.53-3.32
C.J. WilcoxPrimary Ball Handler2.19-0.39
Cady LalanneBig-3.430.03
Cal BowdlerBig-2.68-1.66
Calvin BoothBig-3.290.03
Cameron BairstowWing-1.97-2.48
Cameron PaynePrimary Ball Handler2.78-1.07
Caris LeVertPrimary Ball Handler1.9-0.59
Carl LandryWing-1.66-1.57
Carlos BoozerBig-3.85-1.94
Carmelo AnthonyWing-0.520.16
Caron ButlerWing0.11-0.6
Carrick FelixWing0.661.08
Casey JacobsenPrimary Ball Handler1.39-0.97
Cedric HendersonWing0.050.35
Cedric SimmonsBig-2.650.55
Chandler ParsonsWing0.161.76
Channing FryeBig-2.4-0.9
Charles JenkinsPrimary Ball Handler2.14-2.08
Charles SmithPrimary Ball Handler1.56-0.66
Charlie VillanuevaWing-2.09-0.34
Chase BudingerPrimary Ball Handler1.610.17
Chauncey BillupsPrimary Ball Handler3.45-1.05
Chinanu OnuakuBig-3.82.05
Chris BoshWing-1.78-0.12
Chris CrawfordWing0.12-0.81
Chris Douglas-RobertsWing0.41-0.93
Chris DuhonPrimary Ball Handler2.351.89
Chris HerrenPrimary Ball Handler3.990.91
Chris JefferiesWing0.540.3
Chris KamanBig-4.98-3.02
Chris McCulloughBig-1.892.71
Chris MihmBig-3.39-1.26
Chris OwensBig-2.19-0.62
Chris PaulPrimary Ball Handler4.10.32
Chris PorterWing-0.390.42
Chris RichardBig-3.030.89
Chris SingletonWing0.360.77
Chris TaftBig-3.980.82
Chris WilcoxBig-2.711.55
Christian WoodBig-3.03-0.64
Cleanthony EarlyWing0.96-1.42
Cody ZellerWing-1.67-0.62
Cole AldrichBig-4.610.46
Colton IversonBig-3.47-0.32
Corey BrewerPrimary Ball Handler1.60.39
Corey Brewer1Primary Ball Handler1.60.39
Corey MaggetteWing-0.28-0.23
Corsley EdwardsBig-2.42-2.74
Cory JeffersonWing-1.190.27
Cory JosephPrimary Ball Handler2.152.43
Courtney AlexanderPrimary Ball Handler1.28-1.24
Courtney LeePrimary Ball Handler1.52-2.09
Craig BrackinsWing-0.320.24
Craig SmithBig-2.43-0.52
Curtis BorchardtBig-3.33-0.99
D'Angelo RussellPrimary Ball Handler2.20.76
D.J. AugustinPrimary Ball Handler2.790.26
D.J. StrawberryPrimary Ball Handler1.710.51
D.J. WhiteBig-2.57-1.06
Da'Sean ButlerPrimary Ball Handler1.2-0.09
Daequan CookPrimary Ball Handler1.261.76
Dahntay JonesPrimary Ball Handler1.4-0.45
DaJuan SummersWing0.70.53
Dajuan WagnerPrimary Ball Handler2.15-0.19
Dakari JohnsonBig-3.790.36
Damian LillardPrimary Ball Handler2.9-3.6
Damion JamesWing-1.43-1.22
Damion JonesBig-3.541.13
Damone BrownWing-0.29-0.3
Dan DickauPrimary Ball Handler4.31-1.64
Dan GadzuricBig-3.831.88
Dan LanghiWing1.02-1.9
Dan McClintockBig-3.86-1.55
Daniel EwingPrimary Ball Handler2.651.57
Daniel GibsonPrimary Ball Handler3.11.93
Daniel HamiltonPrimary Ball Handler1.320.55
Daniel OrtonBig-3.852.72
Danny FortsonBig-3.33-2.94
Danny GrangerWing-0.38-2.27
Danny GreenPrimary Ball Handler1.990.52
Dante CunninghamBig-1.630.41
Darington HobsonWing0.60.74
Darius Johnson-OdomPrimary Ball Handler2.490.15
Darius MillerPrimary Ball Handler1.770.78
Darius MorrisPrimary Ball Handler1.131.37
Darius SongailaWing-1.03-2.3
Darnell JacksonBig-2.23-0.76
Darrell ArthurBig-2.540.55
Darren CollisonPrimary Ball Handler2.97-0.71
Darrun HilliardPrimary Ball Handler2.540.26
David HarrisonBig-4.730.15
David LeeBig-2.06-0.4
David NoelWing0.331.29
David WestWing-1.66-2.38
DeAndre BembryWing0.240.62
DeAndre DanielsWing-0.110.8
DeAndre JordanBig-4.612.2
DeAndre LigginsPrimary Ball Handler1.282.23
Dee BrownPrimary Ball Handler4.241.28
Dejounte MurrayPrimary Ball Handler1.381.62
DeJuan BlairBig-4.070.31
DeJuan WheatPrimary Ball Handler3.640.49
Delon WrightPrimary Ball Handler1.39-0.31
Delonte WestPrimary Ball Handler2.41-1.11
DeMar DeRozanWing-0.881.75
DeMarcus CousinsBig-5.39-1.25
DeMarre CarrollWing-0.73-0.48
Demetris NicholsPrimary Ball Handler1.54-0.48
Demetrius JacksonPrimary Ball Handler2.860.89
Denzel ValentinePrimary Ball Handler2.61-0.45
Derek AndersonPrimary Ball Handler2.67-1.33
DerMarr JohnsonWing0.561.36
Deron WilliamsPrimary Ball Handler2.61.93
Derrick BrownWing-0.17-0.18
Derrick CaracterBig-2.79-1.18
Derrick FavorsBig-3.441.71
Derrick RosePrimary Ball Handler1.750.68
Derrick WilliamsWing-1.02-2.36
Derrick ZimmermanPrimary Ball Handler1.942.02
Deshaun ThomasWing0.35-0.49
Desmond MasonWing0.6-0.55
Devin BookerPrimary Ball Handler1.781.06
Devin EbanksWing-0.941.07
Devin HarrisPrimary Ball Handler2.71-0.41
Dexter PittmanBig-6.56-0.73
Deyonta DavisBig-4.082.3
Diamond StoneBig-3.86-0.18
Dijon ThompsonWing0.99-0.53
Dion WaitersPrimary Ball Handler1.860.65
Domantas SabonisWing-2.1-1.38
Dominic McGuireBig-1.310.49
Dominique JonesWing0.83-0.94
Donnell HarveyBig-2.851.22
Donte GreeneWing0.431.41
Doron LambPrimary Ball Handler2.20.38
Doug McDermottWing0.71-2.42
Draymond GreenWing-0.27-0.02
Drew GoodenWing-1.97-1.01
Dwayne CollinsBig-3.230.07
Dwight PowellWing-0.180.28
Dwyane WadeWing0.06-1.34
E'Twaun MoorePrimary Ball Handler1.370.4
Earl ClarkWing-0.61.41
Earl WatsonPrimary Ball Handler1.961.56
Ed DavisBig-3.730.58
Ed GrayWing0.82-1.74
Eddie GriffinBig-2.150.89
Eddie HousePrimary Ball Handler3.02-0.51
Eduardo NajeraWing-0.94-0.44
Ekpe UdohBig-2.360.96
Elfrid PaytonPrimary Ball Handler0.61-0.69
Elliot WilliamsPrimary Ball Handler2.27-0.71
Elton BrandBig-4.27-0.51
Emeka OkaforBig-5.140.93
Eric BledsoePrimary Ball Handler2.062.03
Eric GordonPrimary Ball Handler1.9-1.21
Eric MaynorPrimary Ball Handler2.73-2.42
Eric WashingtonPrimary Ball Handler1.880.21
Erick BarkleyPrimary Ball Handler3.051.87
Erick GreenPrimary Ball Handler2.21-2.04
Erik MurphyWing0.430.16
Etan ThomasBig-4.160.02
Evan EschmeyerBig-3.02-2.27
Evan TurnerWing0.21-0.71
Fab MeloBig-3.532.27
Festus EzeliBig-3.360.47
Francisco ElsonBig-3.233.66
Francisco GarciaPrimary Ball Handler1.88-0.51
Frank KaminskyWing-0.84-0.94
Frank WilliamsPrimary Ball Handler2.14-0.22
Gabe PruittPrimary Ball Handler3.311.18
Gani LawalBig-3.350.49
Gary HarrisPrimary Ball Handler2.780.78
George HillPrimary Ball Handler1.8-2.62
Georges NiangWing-0.29-0.77
Gerald HendersonWing0.9-0.07
Gerald WallaceWing-1.241.59
Gilbert ArenasPrimary Ball Handler1.861.2
Glen DavisWing-1.94-0.92
Glen RicePrimary Ball Handler0.581.25
Glenn Robinson IIIWing0.251.15
God ShammgodPrimary Ball Handler2.841.99
Gordon HaywardWing0.22-0.87
Gorgui DiengBig-2.362.01
Grant JerrettWing0.522.12
Greg MonroeBig-2.280.37
Greg OdenBig-4.630.74
Greivis VasquezPrimary Ball Handler2.68-0.8
Guillermo DiazPrimary Ball Handler2.750.45
Hakim WarrickWing-1.32-1.19
Hanno MottolaWing-0.66-2.56
Harrison BarnesWing0.47-0.05
Hasheem ThabeetBig-4.850.74
Hassan AdamsWing0.331.28
Hassan WhitesideBig-5.450.86
Henry EllensonWing-1.62-0.21
Hilton ArmstrongBig-3.340.59
Ike DioguWing-2.6-2.92
Iman ShumpertPrimary Ball Handler2.36-0.42
Isaiah CanaanPrimary Ball Handler3.54-1.76
Isaiah CousinsPrimary Ball Handler2.852.09
Isaiah ThomasPrimary Ball Handler3.240.16
Isaiah WhiteheadPrimary Ball Handler2.30.42
Ishmael SmithPrimary Ball Handler1.382.89
J.J. HicksonBig-3.410.28
J.J. RedickPrimary Ball Handler3.16-1.82
J.P. TokotoPrimary Ball Handler1.872.79
J.R. GiddensWing-0.610.06
Jabari ParkerWing-1.11-0.5
Jabari SmithWing-1.890.51
Jackson VromanBig-2.231.82
Jacque VaughnPrimary Ball Handler3.360.61
Jae CrowderWing0.230.13
Jahlil OkaforBig-5.121.3
JaJuan JohnsonWing-1.42-1.08
Jake LaymanPrimary Ball Handler1.260.36
Jake VoskuhlBig-3.120.5
Jakob PoeltlBig-3.43-0.29
Jamaal FranklinWing0.24-0.94
Jamaal MagloireBig-3.420.17
Jamaal TinsleyPrimary Ball Handler3.010.78
Jamal CrawfordPrimary Ball Handler2.141.79
Jamal MurrayPrimary Ball Handler2.40.91
Jamal SampsonBig-2.623.23
Jameer NelsonPrimary Ball Handler3.03-0.96
James AndersonWing1.07-1.72
James AugustineBig-2.090.41
James CollinsPrimary Ball Handler1.791.18
James CottonWing1.3-2.92
James EnnisWing0.86-0.6
James HardenWing0.93-0.66
James JohnsonWing-1.730.52
James JonesWing0.4-0.94
James PoseyWing0.77-1.01
James WhitePrimary Ball Handler1.21-0.55
James YoungPrimary Ball Handler1.411.76
Jamison BrewerPrimary Ball Handler0.662.71
Jared CunninghamPrimary Ball Handler2.39-0.66
Jared DudleyWing0.49-0.73
Jared JeffriesWing-0.571.05
Jared SullingerWing-1.81-1.16
Jarell MartinWing-1.19-0.14
Jarnell StokesBig-2.260.11
Jarrett JackPrimary Ball Handler1.93-0.41
Jarron CollinsWing-2.03-0.56
Jarvis HayesWing0.890.44
Jarvis VarnadoBig-4.670.16
Jason CollierWing-1.55-0.92
Jason CollinsWing-2.35-1.98
Jason HartPrimary Ball Handler3.080.84
Jason KaponoPrimary Ball Handler1.2-0.61
Jason LawsonWing0.332.19
Jason MaxiellBig-2.5-1.15
Jason RichardsonWing0.561.24
Jason SmithBig-2.43-1.49
Jason TerryPrimary Ball Handler3.73-0.47
Jason ThompsonBig-3.23-1.56
JaVale McGeeBig-3.230.61
Javaris CrittentonPrimary Ball Handler3.141.26
Jay WilliamsPrimary Ball Handler3.180.34
Jaylen BrownWing0.030.61
Jeff FosterBig-3.13-2.34
Jeff GreenWing0.530.88
Jeff TaylorPrimary Ball Handler1.641.04
Jeff TeaguePrimary Ball Handler2.42-0.93
Jeff TrepagnierWing0.322.19
Jeff WitheyBig-3.9-0.16
Jerald HoneycuttPrimary Ball Handler0.8-0.89
Jerami GrantWing-1.21.24
Jeremy EvansBig-1.92-0.41
Jeremy LambPrimary Ball Handler1.130.77
Jeremy LinPrimary Ball Handler1.71-2.17
Jerian GrantPrimary Ball Handler2.23-0.18
Jermaine TaylorWing1.15-2.44
Jermareo DavidsonWing-1.66-0.42
Jerome JordanBig-3.59-1.28
Jerome MoisoBig-2.451.5
Jerryd BaylessPrimary Ball Handler3.14-0.18
Jeryl SasserWing0.32-0.35
Jimmer FredettePrimary Ball Handler2.76-2.88
Jimmy ButlerWing0.86-0.47
Joakim NoahBig-2.270.49
Jodie MeeksPrimary Ball Handler2.84-2.1
Joe AlexanderWing-0.21-0.6
Joe CrawfordPrimary Ball Handler1.5-0.32
Joe JohnsonPrimary Ball Handler1.210.6
Joel BolomboyWing-1.65-2.42
Joel EmbiidBig-3.820.36
Joel PrzybillaBig-4.592.08
Joey DorseyBig-4.172.42
Joey GrahamWing0.88-1.85
John CelestandPrimary Ball Handler2.990.35
John HensonBig-4.571.66
John JenkinsPrimary Ball Handler2.67-0.28
John SalmonsPrimary Ball Handler1.65-0.46
John ThomasBig-2.671.24
John WallPrimary Ball Handler2.090.66
Johnny O'Bryant IIIWing-2.14-0.17
Johnny TaylorWing-1.02-1.08
Jon BrockmanBig-2.29-0.16
Jon DieblerPrimary Ball Handler2.980.85
Jon LeuerWing0.38-0.42
Jonny FlynnPrimary Ball Handler2.870.61
Jordan AdamsWing0.78-1.15
Jordan ClarksonPrimary Ball Handler1.72-0.36
Jordan CrawfordPrimary Ball Handler1.9-0.06
Jordan FarmarPrimary Ball Handler3.641.87
Jordan HamiltonWing0.550.23
Jordan HillBig-2.770.78
Jordan McRaePrimary Ball Handler1.15-0.68
Jordan MickeyBig-2.811.25
Jordan WilliamsBig-4.060.17
Joseph FortePrimary Ball Handler1.820.04
Joseph YoungPrimary Ball Handler3.22-0.55
Josh BooneBig-3.361.57
Josh ChildressWing0.46-0.7
Josh HarrellsonBig-3.141.76
Josh HowardWing0.38-1.33
Josh HuestisWing-0.811.82
Josh McRobertsBig-2.051.4
Josh SelbyPrimary Ball Handler3.512.37
Jrue HolidayPrimary Ball Handler1.672.21
Juan DixonPrimary Ball Handler3.21-0.74
Julian WrightBig-1.811.4
Julius HodgeWing-0.43-0.23
Julius RandleWing-2.090.05
Jumaine JonesWing-0.270.06
Justin AndersonPrimary Ball Handler2.290.94
Justin HamiltonBig-2.46-0.85
Justin HarperWing0.17-0.91
Justin ReedWing-1.27-0.87
Justise WinslowWing0.541.86
K.J. McDanielsWing-0.03-0.52
Kaniel DickensWing0.070.03
Kareem RushPrimary Ball Handler1.720.04
Karl-Anthony TownsBig-2.7-0.04
Kawhi LeonardWing-0.730.32
Kay FelderPrimary Ball Handler4.26-2.15
Kebu StewartWing-1.56-0.94
Keith BensonBig-2.77-1.35
Keith BogansPrimary Ball Handler1.820.29
Keith BoothWing-0.92-1.08
Keith Van HornWing-0.77-2.59
Kelly OlynykWing-2.29-2.37
Kelly OubreWing0.551.66
Kelvin CatoBig-4.361.72
Kemba WalkerPrimary Ball Handler2.66-0.69
Ken JohnsonBig-3.610.53
Kendall MarshallPrimary Ball Handler3.142.39
Kenneth FariedBig-3.47-0.89
Kenny SatterfieldPrimary Ball Handler2.840.85
Kenny ThomasWing-1.44-1.64
Kent BazemorePrimary Ball Handler1.380
Kentavious Caldwell-PopePrimary Ball Handler1.85-0.21
Kenyon MartinBig-3.13-1.18
Kevin DurantWing-0.76-1.31
Kevin LoveWing-2.18-1.37
Kevin MartinWing1.05-4.08
Kevin MurphyPrimary Ball Handler1.93-1.3
Kevon LooneyWing-1.271.53
Keyon DoolingPrimary Ball Handler2.710.85
Khalid El-AminPrimary Ball Handler3.35-0.21
Khris MiddletonWing0.220.56
Kim EnglishPrimary Ball Handler2.170.36
Kirk HastonWing-1.4-0.02
Kirk HinrichPrimary Ball Handler2.370.96
Kirk SnyderWing0.96-0.82
Klay ThompsonPrimary Ball Handler1.9-0.9
Kosta KoufosBig-2.671.01
Kris DunnPrimary Ball Handler2.110.25
Kris HumphriesWing-1.36-1.08
Kris JosephPrimary Ball Handler10.36
Kyle AndersonWing0.71-0.62
Kyle KorverPrimary Ball Handler3.1-1.32
Kyle LowryPrimary Ball Handler2.730.65
Kyle SinglerWing0.14-0.5
Kyle WeaverPrimary Ball Handler1.560.35
Kyle WiltjerWing-0.03-1.79
Kyrie IrvingPrimary Ball Handler2.4-1.91
Lamar OdomWing-0.960.48
Lamar PattersonPrimary Ball Handler1.47-0.65
LaMarcus AldridgeBig-3.251.01
Lance StephensonWing-0.461.49
Landry FieldsWing-0.14-1.17
Langston GallowayPrimary Ball Handler2.9-0.12
Lari KetnerBig-3.221.85
Laron ProfitWing0.660.33
Larry Nance Jr.Wing-0.23-1.09
Larry SandersBig-3.67-0.71
Lavor PostellWing0.780.02
Lavoy AllenWing-1.140.65
Lawrence RobertsWing-1.36-1.32
Lazar HaywardWing0.93-0.47
Lee NailonWing-2.06-1.69
Leon PoweWing-1.78-1.43
Lester HudsonPrimary Ball Handler2.24-2.41
Linas KleizaWing-0.37-0.18
Lionel ChalmersPrimary Ball Handler2.960.58
Lonny BaxterBig-3.6-0.34
Loren WoodsWing-2.11-0.46
Lorenzo BrownPrimary Ball Handler2.491
Luis FloresPrimary Ball Handler1.72-3.19
Luke BabbittWing0.53-1.96
Luke HarangodyWing-1.73-2.2
Luke JacksonPrimary Ball Handler2.09-1.66
Luke RidnourPrimary Ball Handler3.84-0.84
Luke WaltonPrimary Ball Handler1.561.05
Luol DengWing-0.461.33
Luther HeadPrimary Ball Handler3.540.88
Magnum RolleBig-2.55-0.06
Malachi RichardsonPrimary Ball Handler2.12.15
Malcolm BrogdonPrimary Ball Handler2.06-0.38
Malcolm LeePrimary Ball Handler1.180.51
Malik BeasleyPrimary Ball Handler1.420.4
Malik HairstonWing0.88-0.16
Mamadou N'DiayeBig-5.850.02
Marc JacksonWing-1.48-0.34
Marcus BanksPrimary Ball Handler2.02-0.59
Marcus DenmonPrimary Ball Handler3.24-0.69
Marcus FizerWing-2.46-1.63
Marcus HaislipWing-1.180.57
Marcus MorrisWing-1.42-1
Marcus PaigePrimary Ball Handler3.551.61
Marcus SmartPrimary Ball Handler1.54-0.43
Marcus ThorntonWing0.20.2
Marcus Thornton1Primary Ball Handler1.58-0.85
Marcus WilliamsWing-1.150.58
Marcus Williams2Wing-1.150.58
Mardy CollinsPrimary Ball Handler1.240.98
Mario ChalmersPrimary Ball Handler3.280.93
Mark BlountBig-2.541.94
Mark MadsenBig-3.190.47
Markel BrownPrimary Ball Handler1.90.07
Markieff MorrisWing-2.07-0.66
Marquesse ChrissWing-1.270.68
Marquis TeaguePrimary Ball Handler2.482.48
Marreese SpeightsBig-4.21-0.36
MarShon BrooksWing0.38-1.27
Marvin WilliamsWing-0.44-0.71
Mason PlumleeBig-2.16-0.07
Mateen CleavesPrimary Ball Handler3.341.16
Matt BarnesPrimary Ball Handler1.431.45
Matt BonnerWing0.28-0.17
Matt FreijeWing0.21-1.64
Matthew DellavedovaPrimary Ball Handler3.6-0.45
Maurice AgerPrimary Ball Handler1.46-0.35
Maurice HarklessWing-0.681.6
Maurice TaylorWing-1.750.89
Melvin ElyBig-4.02-1.77
Metta World PeaceWing0.361.66
Meyers LeonardBig-2.680.75
Michael BeasleyWing-2.18-2.3
Michael BradleyBig-3.16-0.74
Michael Carter-WilliamsPrimary Ball Handler3.312.22
Michael GbinijePrimary Ball Handler2.481.34
Michael Kidd-GilchristWing-0.570.86
Michael ReddWing0.41-0.12
Michael RuffinBig-2.580.17
Mike ConleyPrimary Ball Handler2.612.21
Mike DunleavyWing0.530.64
Mike MillerWing0.280.36
Mike MuscalaBig-2.37-2.72
Mike ScottWing-1.75-2.55
Mike SmithWing0.4-1.83
Mike SweetneyBig-4.09-2.57
Mike TaylorPrimary Ball Handler3.272.03
Miles PlumleeBig-2.791.25
Mitch McGaryBig-2.071.46
Mo WilliamsPrimary Ball Handler2.280.68
Montrezl HarrellBig-2.80.67
Morris AlmondWing0.98-3.77
Morris PetersonWing1.26-0.67
Myles TurnerBig-2.470.18
Nate RobinsonPrimary Ball Handler3.560.08
Nate WoltersPrimary Ball Handler2.55-2.37
Nerlens NoelBig-3.212.82
Nick CalathesPrimary Ball Handler2.480.37
Nick CollisonBig-3.17-0.46
Nick FazekasWing-1.84-2.8
Nick JohnsonPrimary Ball Handler2.310.49
Nick YoungWing0.73-0.15
Nik StauskasPrimary Ball Handler2.04-0.08
Nikola VucevicWing-2.16-0.4
Noah VonlehWing-1.310.38
Norman PowellPrimary Ball Handler1.30.29
O.J. MayoPrimary Ball Handler2.930.91
Obinna EkezieBig-2.75-0.45
Olivier HanlanPrimary Ball Handler2.120.42
Omar CookPrimary Ball Handler3.882.07
Orien GreenePrimary Ball Handler2.720.36
Orlando JohnsonPrimary Ball Handler1.49-0.99
Otto PorterWing0.810.35
P.J. HairstonPrimary Ball Handler2.30.29
P.J. TuckerWing-0.980.11
Pape SowWing-1.54-1.96
Pascal SiakamBig-2.68-1.03
Pat ConnaughtonPrimary Ball Handler1.661.1
Patrick BeverleyPrimary Ball Handler1.971.96
Patrick McCawPrimary Ball Handler2.370.77
Patrick MillsPrimary Ball Handler3.53-0.41
Patrick PattersonWing-1.380.5
Paul DavisWing-1.95-2.32
Paul GeorgePrimary Ball Handler2.04-0.93
Paul GrantBig-2.510.19
Paul MillsapBig-3.13-0.96
Perry JonesWing-0.671.32
Peyton SivaPrimary Ball Handler4.221.19
Pierre JacksonPrimary Ball Handler4.42-0.11
Quentin RichardsonWing0.611.08
Quincy AcyBig-2.020
Quincy DoubyPrimary Ball Handler2.72-0.93
Quincy LewisWing0.46-1.17
Quincy MillerWing0.160.66
Quincy PondexterWing-0.37-1.91
R.J. HunterPrimary Ball Handler1.99-1.87
Rafael AraujoBig-3.14-1.29
Rajon RondoPrimary Ball Handler1.452.44
Rakeem ChristmasBig-3.42-0.4
Ramon SessionsPrimary Ball Handler2.05-0.77
Randy FoyePrimary Ball Handler2.04-0.38
Randy HolcombWing-1.730.12
Rashad McCantsPrimary Ball Handler1.660.39
Rashad VaughnPrimary Ball Handler1.350.6
Rasual ButlerWing0.74-1.2
Ray McCallumPrimary Ball Handler1.86-0.54
Raymond FeltonPrimary Ball Handler3.451.51
Reece GainesPrimary Ball Handler2.58-0.52
Reggie BullockPrimary Ball Handler2.031.07
Reggie JacksonPrimary Ball Handler1.85-0.09
Renaldo BalkmanWing-1.21.91
Richard HamiltonPrimary Ball Handler1.53-1.02
Richard JeffersonWing0.241.81
Richaun HolmesWing-2.05-1.39
Robbie HummelWing0.63-0.51
Robert ArchibaldBig-3.09-0.81
Robert CovingtonWing0.92-1.77
Robert SacreBig-2.61-1.9
Robert UpshawBig-6.311.85
Robert WhaleyBig-1.741.33
Robin LopezBig-3.591.12
Rodney BufordPrimary Ball Handler1.81-0.91
Rodney CarneyPrimary Ball Handler2.08-0.01
Rodney HoodPrimary Ball Handler1.820.48
Rodney StuckeyPrimary Ball Handler1.8-3.24
Rodney WhiteWing-0.68-0.14
Rodrick RhodesPrimary Ball Handler1.230.66
Roger MasonPrimary Ball Handler2.76-0.29
Romero OsbyWing-0.45-2.1
Ron MercerWing0.660.79
Rondae Hollis-JeffersonWing-0.590.68
Ronnie BrewerPrimary Ball Handler2.120.06
Ronny TuriafBig-2.32-1.67
Roy Devyn MarblePrimary Ball Handler2.16-0.27
Roy HibbertBig-4.09-0.01
Royal IveyPrimary Ball Handler1.781.52
Royce WhiteBig-1.511.67
Ruben Boumtje-BoumtjeBig-3.44-0.64
Rudy GayWing0.120.78
Russ SmithPrimary Ball Handler3.06-0.76
Russell WestbrookPrimary Ball Handler1.91.51
Ryan AndersonWing-0.59-1.56
Ryan GomesWing0.04-0.73
Ryan HollinsBig-2.951
Ryan HumphreyBig-2.570.48
Ryan KellyWing-0.22-0.49
Ryan ReidBig-1.51.7
Ryan RobertsonPrimary Ball Handler2.640.44
Salim StoudamirePrimary Ball Handler3.82-0.74
Sam DekkerWing-0.530.89
Sam YoungWing-0.11-0.41
Samuel DalembertBig-4.061.87
Scot PollardWing-1.54-1.51
Scott PadgettWing0.470.77
Sean KilpatrickPrimary Ball Handler2.22-1.72
Sean LampleyWing-0.07-0.93
Sean MayBig-3.36-1.64
Sean SingletaryPrimary Ball Handler3.69-1.34
Sean WilliamsBig-3.11.08
Semaj ChristonPrimary Ball Handler1.610.66
Seth TuttleWing-0.31-1.9
Shabazz MuhammadWing0.160.21
Shabazz NapierPrimary Ball Handler3.43-0.85
Shane BattierWing1.05-0.06
Shane LarkinPrimary Ball Handler4.251.62
Shannon BrownPrimary Ball Handler2.110.01
Shawn MarionWing-1.220.23
Shawne WilliamsWing-0.230.14
Shelden WilliamsBig-3.29-1.61
Shelvin MackPrimary Ball Handler2.530.29
Sir'Dominic PointerWing-0.670.87
Skal LabissiereBig-2.982.19
Solomon AlabiBig-3.28-0.4
Solomon HillPrimary Ball Handler1.650.45
Solomon JonesBig-2.380.76
Sonny WeemsPrimary Ball Handler1.740.99
Speedy ClaxtonPrimary Ball Handler3.73-2.13
Spencer DinwiddiePrimary Ball Handler2.89-1.04
Spencer HawesBig-2.550
Stanley JohnsonWing0.580.49
Stanley RobinsonWing-1.021.19
Stephane LasmeBig-4.36-0.14
Stephen CurryPrimary Ball Handler3.77-3.36
Stephen ZimmermanBig-3.040.73
Steve BlakePrimary Ball Handler4.461.21
Steve FrancisPrimary Ball Handler2.090.24
Steve NovakPrimary Ball Handler2.87-0.45
Steven AdamsBig-3.733.33
Steven HunterBig-3.482.13
Stromile SwiftBig-2.810.06
T.J. FordPrimary Ball Handler3.70.48
T.J. McConnellPrimary Ball Handler2.770.58
T.J. WarrenWing-1.15-0.56
Taj GibsonBig-3.490.86
Tamar SlayPrimary Ball Handler2.06-0.32
Tariq Abdul-WahadWing-0.66-2.18
Taurean GreenPrimary Ball Handler3.510.17
Taurean PrinceWing1.040.09
Taylor GriffinWing-0.270.46
Tayshaun PrinceWing-0.060.85
Terence MorrisWing-1.030.3
Terrence JonesWing-1.41.24
Terrence RossPrimary Ball Handler1.470.83
Terrence WilliamsPrimary Ball Handler1.842.17
Terrico WhitePrimary Ball Handler1.691.22
Terry RozierPrimary Ball Handler1.950.71
Thaddeus YoungPrimary Ball Handler1.131.7
Thomas RobinsonWing-1.75-0.09
Tim DuncanBig-3.75-0.75
Tim HardawayPrimary Ball Handler1.761.77
Tim JamesWing-1.47-0.3
Tim ThomasWing0.190.35
Tim YoungWing-1.39-0.08
Tiny GallonBig-3.070.58
Tito MaddoxPrimary Ball Handler2.360.99
Tobias HarrisWing-0.580.28
Toney DouglasPrimary Ball Handler2.37-1.01
Tony AllenWing0.330.47
Tony BattieBig-2.82-0.32
Tony MitchellWing-1.020.18
Tony SnellPrimary Ball Handler2.520.77
Tony WrotenWing0.250.87
Trajan LangdonPrimary Ball Handler3.07-0.25
Travis DienerPrimary Ball Handler4.4-1.32
Travis HansenPrimary Ball Handler1.29-1.05
Travis LeslieWing0.41-0.08
Trenton HassellPrimary Ball Handler1.27-1.71
Trevor ArizaWing-0.642.59
Trevor BookerWing-1.170.44
Trey BurkePrimary Ball Handler2.840.76
Trey LylesBig-1.821.05
Trey ThompkinsBig-2.27-0.32
Tristan ThompsonBig-2.962.19
Troy BellPrimary Ball Handler3.78-1.59
Troy MurphyWing-0.69-1.39
Ty LawsonPrimary Ball Handler3.78-0.78
Tyler EnnisPrimary Ball Handler2.741.5
Tyler HansbroughWing-0.87-3.43
Tyler HarveyPrimary Ball Handler2.32-2.37
Tyler HoneycuttPrimary Ball Handler1.221.84
Tyler JohnsonPrimary Ball Handler1.88-0.49
Tyler UlisPrimary Ball Handler3.670.26
Tyler ZellerBig-2.58-1.66
Tyreke EvansWing0.420.07
Tyrone WallacePrimary Ball Handler0.880.52
Tyrus ThomasBig-3.411.53
Tyshawn TaylorPrimary Ball Handler2.460.67
Tyus JonesPrimary Ball Handler3.210.93
Vernon MacklinBig-3.711.68
Victor OladipoWing0.940.22
Vincent YarbroughWing0.890.71
Von WaferPrimary Ball Handler2.271.65
Vonteego CummingsPrimary Ball Handler2.590.99
Wade BaldwinPrimary Ball Handler2.610.23
Wally SzczerbiakWing-0.63-2.67
Walter SharpeBig-3.320.23
Wayne EllingtonPrimary Ball Handler2.250.6
Wayne SimienWing-2.5-2.07
Wesley JohnsonWing0.360.31
Will BartonWing0.3-0.01
Will BlalockPrimary Ball Handler3.051.78
Will SolomonPrimary Ball Handler3.150.14
William AveryPrimary Ball Handler2.830.9
Willie Cauley-SteinBig-2.151.92
Willie GreenWing0.99-2.4
Willie WarrenPrimary Ball Handler1.63-0.43
Wilson ChandlerWing-0.541.61
Xavier HenryPrimary Ball Handler1.981.17
Xavier ThamesPrimary Ball Handler2.9-1.7
Zach LaVinePrimary Ball Handler2.42.48
Zach RandolphBig-3.460.66

After we have bucketed players into the aforementioned player archetypes, we created a matrix of every possible player combination within each player archetype. Because we only paired players in our dataset within the same position group, wing players will only be compared to other wing players, big men will only be compared to other bigs, and primary ball handlers compared to primary ball handlers. Once we have created a matrix of every player combination, we calculated the similarity scores by taking the absolute differences between the players in each statistic and physical measurement, weighted, summed, and adjusted by Strength of Schedule. We made use of player-level basic box-score statistics (e.g. points, rebounds, assists , etc.) adjusted per 40 minutes, age / experience and physical measurements (e.g. Body Fat, wingspan, and vertical). Player-level box-score statistics were adjusted by strength of schedule to properly account for the level of competition in order to more granularly capture the differences in statistics produced by college basketball players. For example, Stephen Curry at Davidson faced a much different slate of opponents than Devin Booker at Kentucky. Even though Stephen Curry and Devin Booker both shot roughly 40 percent from three, these players accomplished that by facing differing levels of competition and circumstances. By adjusting for Strength of Schedule, we are making players like Stephen Curry and Devin Booker “less similar” since their respective paths to shooting 40 percent from 3 were different.

Below is the mathematical formula for calculating the college similarity score and NBA Similarity Score for a given set of players. w_{1}, w_{2},...,w_{n} represent the weights corresponding to each statistic p_{1}, p_{2},...,p_{n}; so, the college similarity score is the sum of the weighted w_{i} difference for each box score statistic p_{i} between player x and player y adjusted by e to the absolute value of the difference in player x and player y strength of schedule divided fifty. Note that we divide by 50 to reduce the impact of the strength of schedule adjustment. Age / Experience and physical measurements are not adjusted for strength of schedule. NBA similarity scores do not take into account age / experience and physical measurements or adjust for strength of schedule; therefore, they are simply the sum of the weighted w_{i} difference of each statistic p_{i} for each player x and player y.

\displaystyle SS_{college} = e^{\frac{1}{50}\ |SOS_{x}-SOS_{y}|} \sum_{i = 1}^{10} |w_{i}p_{i,x}-w_{i}p_{i,y}| + \sum_{i = 11}^{14} |w_{i}p_{i,x}-w_{i}p_{i,y}|

\displaystyle SS_{nba} = \sum_{i = 1}^{10} |w_{i}p_{i,x}-w_{i}p_{i,y}|

In order to get the weights for each statistic, we used a stochastic optimization algorithm known as simulated annealing. For each position archetype, we tried to find the set of college and NBA weights such that college similarity scores matched up most closely with NBA similarity scores. We measured this by the adjusted R-squared, or percent of variance explained, of the two sets of scores. Note that each position archetype will have a different set of weights. For further details on simulated annealing see

Once we calculated the similarity score value for each player combination, we then took the percentile the player combination fell within their position grouping. This gives us a relative and more interpretable value between 0 and 100.

Results / Interpretation

The similarity score algorithm gives us some interesting takeaways. First off, as one might expect, superstars often do not have many comparable players. For example, Kevin Durant’s highest ranked comparable players were Anthony Bennett (81.5), Jabari Parker (81.0), and Keith Van Horn (79.7); contrast that with  a role player like Otto Porter Jr who’s top comparable players—Derrick Brown, Kelly Oubre, Stanley Johnson and Mike Miller—all received scores around 99. This makes sense, as obviously there are more role players in the NBA than superstars. But there are some superstars that have high comparison scores (e.g. Russell Westbrook who’s most similar players included Marquis Teague (99.8), Tyler Ennis (98.5), and D.J. Strawberry (98.3)) Conversely, there are role players without very many comparable players, such as, Kelly Olynyk, who only had 4 players score 80 or higher in similarity.

It is important to remember (for interpretation) that these 0 to 100 similarity values are being presented as a percentile and therefore are uniformly distributed between 0 and 100. The interpretation of the similarity score is simple: as an example, Kevin Durant and Anthony Bennett’s similarity score can be read as, “Kevin Durant and Anthony Bennett rank in the 81st percentile for player similarities at the wing.”

In addition to observing the similarity scores, the optimized weights by player archetype can also tell us important differences between position groupings and which college statistics translate to the NBA. Bigs saw 3-point percentage as the most heavily weighted statistic, while wings had a more even spread of weights among variables; this makes sense since wings often contribute more uniformly to box score statistics. Primary ball handlers saw free throw percentage, assists and steals as the highest weighted variables. The differences in which variables are mostly heavily weighted by position grouping shows some of the differences within each group. For instance, there are defensive Point Guards (i.e. Ricky Rubio, Patrick Beverly, etc.) that are a top the league in steals, playmaking point guards (i.e. Ricky Rubio (again), John Wall, etc.) who lead in assists and (efficient) scoring Point Guards like Stephen Curry and Damien Lillard who shot the ball well meaning they likely have a high Free Throw Percentage.

In order to help you better understand how we would use Similarity Scores in prospect evaluation, let’s take a look at the Minnesota Timberwolves 5th overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Kris Dunn. Prior to the 2016 NBA Draft, Kris Dunn profiled as an older player with good size, a good motor, playmaking ability, and defensive prowess, but questionable shooting ability and decision making. Maybe the biggest question surrounding Kris Dunn’s NBA potential was his ability to be an efficient scorer in the NBA. While Kris Dunn shot 37.2 percent from 3 his Junior year at Providence College, the questions around Kris Dunn’s shot-making ability were drawn from his inconsistent shooting form and poor free throw shooting (69.5% his junior year). If we take a look at Kris Dunn’s top ten most similar college players (in the table below), we might be able to garner a better idea of Kris Dunn’s likelihood of becoming a good NBA shooter. The first thing we notice is that, while this is certainly an impressive group of comparable players for Kris Dunn, a majority of these players have been unsuccessful in becoming good NBA shooters. But, although poor shooters, most of these players have still been able to carve out productive (even extremely productive, e.g. John Wall) NBA careers, which bodes well for Kris Dunn. Based solely on this list of comparable players, we would not expect Kris Dunn to become a good NBA shooter, but rather (most likely) an effective distributor and defender in the NBA (eerily similar to a point guard already in Minnesota).

RankPlayerPositionSimilarity Score
1Jamaal TinsleyPG99.9
2Antonio DanielsPG/SG98.2
3John WallPG98.1
4Michael Carter-WilliamsPG97.7
5John SalmonsSG/SF94.9
6Andre MillerPG94.5
7Jerian GrantPG94.2
8Nick CalathesPG/SG91.6
9Lorenzo BrownPG89.0
10Marcus SmartPG/SG88.9


The similarity score algorithm is another tool that could be used to evaluate college basketball prospects. Coupled with the PNSP model and scouting, we can start to paint a broader picture of how a given player’s game will translate to the NBA level.

Check out Similarity Scores for 2016 NBA Draftees, here.

Written by Marc Richards and Jack Werner