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Monday, June 10, 2013
Updated: June 11, 12:24 PM ET
Best playoff runs: Players 1-5

By Kevin Pelton
ESPN Insider

Editor's note: Read 1-5 for free. Join Insider to view the rest of the rankings.

Greatest Postseasons

When it comes to historic player performances, the conference playoffs get no love. You can name and debate the best regular seasons and the best NBA Finals efforts, but the best overall postseason run doesn't spark the imagination quite the same way.

The same is true in terms of awards. The best regular seasons are rewarded with the MVP and there's an MVP of the NBA Finals, but save for the award Bill Simmons invented in "The Book of Basketball," there's nothing to honor the best playoff runs.

Which is what brings us here. Using my wins above replacement player (WARP) metric, we've ranked the best overall postseason performances dating back to 1978, the first year the NBA tracked a full box score including player turnovers.

WARP is up to the task because it considers both quality and quantity of performance. For example, Tim Duncan was better on a per-minute basis in the 2007 playoffs (when he had a 27.4 PER) than in 1999 (25.1). But the 23-year-old Duncan was able to log 43.1 minutes per game in the 1999 postseason as opposed to a relatively cushy 36.8 minutes per game in 2007, when he was already 31. Those extra six minutes a game Duncan kept backup Will Perdue on the bench mattered to the San Antonio Spurs, and using WARP credits him for it.

I did make one adjustment to the overall WARP totals. It's unfair to give players credit for playing more games in each series simply because they needed more time to eliminate their opponents. For example, Duncan and the Spurs played 24 games en route to the 2003 title, while Shaquille O'Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers needed 16 to win in 2001. Both teams get the same trophy, so they should get equal credit. To do that -- and also adjust for best-of-five and best-of-three series in previous decades -- I prorated each series to an average of six games.

Since the goal of a postseason run is the title, I also added one WARP for champions. And, though it doesn't always go to the player who was best in the playoffs, I also awarded a 0.5 WARP bonus to each year's Finals MVP.

With that, we have a ranking of the greatest individual playoff runs in modern NBA history.

Top 50: 1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25 | 26-30 | 31-35 | 36-40 | 41-45 | 46-50






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Top 50: 1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25 | 26-30 | 31-35 | 36-40 | 41-45 | 46-50