The Most Valuable Players to the Spread in NBA History

  • With help from CG Technology, we've compiled a list of the most valuable players to the spread in NBA history.
  • See the spread values for historical players like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan and more.

Most of the offseason fireworks have come to an end (I think). The NBA has once again entertained us with a bevy of superstar transactions, and we’re all looking forward to a new-look league in a few months.

To tide you over until the start of the season, I present to you a list like no other. “Top-50” and “top-100 players of all time” lists are a dime a dozen. “Historical most valuable players to the spread” lists? There surely aren’t a dozen of them in existence. To my knowledge, this is the first of its kind.

What do these numbers mean? Well, for example, Giannis Antetokounmpo was worth 5 points to the spread this past season. If the Bucks were -7 and he was suddenly ruled out, the line would likely move to Bucks -2 — give or take a half point or so depending on the situation. The betting market could further move the line one way or another as well if it thought the line had moved too much or not enough.

Here are examples of player ATS values from last year:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo: 5 points
  • James Harden: 4 points
  • Victor Oladipo: 3 points
  • Rudy Gobert: 2 points
  • Kyle Lowry: 1 point

Though I am giving you this list, the numbers don’t come from me. What do I know about Pistol Pete Maravich’s spread value back in the late 70s? I was born in ’92.

Instead, William Bernanke, Risk Analyst, and Mike Young, formerly a Sports Wagering and Integrity Analyst, of Las Vegas’ CG Technology have helped me out.

This list does not include every star player of all time on each of their teams. Every year, there are a few dozen players who are worth at least a couple of points to the spread, so for a complete list we’d be talking about hundreds and hundreds of players.

You can probably use these players as a guideline for other players you may be wondering about, too. I’m sure we’d all love to know a definitive answer for what World B. Free and Swen Nater were worth on the San Diego Clippers in the late 70s. Unfortunately, that will likely remain a mystery until the end of time.

Some factors to keep in mind when looking at these numbers:

  • A player’s teammates at the time are highly important. For example, Steph Curry will be more valuable this season with Kevin Durant gone and Klay Thompson hurt. LeBron James will be worth less with the addition of another superstar in Anthony Davis.
  • A player’s position, coach and era they played in also make a big difference. Big men were more important back in the day than they are now. Several guys listed played before the creation of the 3-point line. A team with two elite guards won’t be hurt as much if one gets hurt, and so on.

All right, enough with the introduction. Here are historical ATS player values, starting with the most valuable…

Wilt Chamberlain (Pre-Lakers): 8 Points

Wilt. The. Stilt. A legend in every sense of the word.

At a whopping 8 points, Wilt is tied for the most valuable player in history during his early years. I mean… 50 points and 25 boards a game and over 48 minutes played per game in the 1961-62 season. Are you kidding me? You could probably argue that he was worth upwards of 10 points to the spread if we’re being honest.

The league was much smaller back in those days, in terms of both height and number of teams, and Wilt was a man among boys for the most part. In fact, Bernanke said he was “basically the big kid holding the ball over all the kids on the block as they just can’t reach it.”

The points and rebounds are absurd enough on their own, but his ability to block shots, which weren’t officially recorded until he retired, was known to be superb. I’m talking numerous games in the double digitsMaybe someone will eventually tie or top his 100 points in a game, but his season-long records can be etched in stone because they’ll never be touched.

Given the more even playing field these days, there will likely never be another player as valuable to his team as Wilt was back in his prime.

George Mikan (Pre-1952): 8 Points

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