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Lee, Robinson Make Knicks a Playoff Contender in 09-10

Posted by Neil Paine on September 25, 2009

This week, the news Knicks fans have been hoping to hear finally came: David Lee and Nate Robinson re-signed with the club, each inking 1-year deals in the $5-7 million range that (most importantly) will not interfere with the Knicks' long-awaited free agent pursuit of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, or any of the other headliners in the star-studded FA class of 2010.

Both of these deals were essential to the quality of the team in 2009-10. As you can see from our projections over the past few weeks, the two sets that did not feature Lee and Robinson on the Knicks' roster called for the Knicks to be the NBA's worst team with a record in the neighborhood of 23-59, as a roster stocked with mediocre-to-bad players (the best of which were going to be Al Harrington, Wilson Chandler, Chris Duhon, and Larry Hughes) would have struggled mightily to break the 30-win barrier again. But the later set that assumed Lee and Robinson would eventually re-up with NY projected 37 wins for the team, just 1.7 behind Philly for the last playoff spot in the East, suggesting a postseason run might now be possible for the Knicks.

That kind of run might be important for the Knicks in their courtship of James, Wade, and/or Bosh next summer, to prove that a free agent signee would be stepping into a situation where winning isn't very far away. The system is already stacked against New York in the sense that the Larry Bird exception allows a player's current team to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players, meaning Cleveland, Miami, and Toronto can offer max contracts to their stars if they wish to retain them. The Knicks needed to have enough under the cap to be able to match that kind of money, while still maintaining a core that wouldn't put their newcomer in a horrible losing situation as soon as he arrived at MSG. With the global economic crisis reaching the NBA this year (the salary cap actually went down over the summer for the first time since 2003), New York's GM Donnie Walsh had an incredibly daunting task ahead of him if he was going to follow through on the not-so-unspoken goal of nabbing James.

That's why it was so important for the team to ink Lee and Robinson to 1-year contracts, meaning their salaries will come off the books next summer when the team will be making its grand free agent overtures. This was, in fact, the sticking point that prevented the duo from re-signing weeks ago, as Walsh absolutely wouldn't budge from a 1-year deal in his negotiating stance. It also helped the Knicks that no other team wanted to make Lee and Robinson the substantial offers they were looking for, as each player has a glaring flaw (Robinson's is obviously size, while Lee is a poor defender and is incapable of scoring unless he grabs an offensive rebound in point-blank range or is set up by someone else). At any rate, this worked out as well as it possibly could for the Knicks going forward.

That said, will it really matter in their pursuit of LeBron? By all accounts, we project Cleveland to be the best team in the East, while New York would likely have to lose either Lee or Robinson (and likely both) to sign The King next summer, leaving James alone in a wasteland of untalented vets and untested prospects. James is a singular talent that Walsh would love to build the post-Isiah Knicks around, but why would he leave a stacked Cleveland team that is likely the favorite to win the Eastern Conference for a rebuilding job in New York, especially in an era where a superstar doesn't have to operate near Madison Avenue to make huge advertising windfalls? Similarly, Bosh is on a Toronto team that -- according to our projections, at least --will have something of a renaissance season in 2010 (although they won't crack the Big 3 of Cleveland, Boston, & Orlando). The prospect of shedding Canada's exchange rate and cold climate could make NY more attractive to Bosh than to James, but the reality is that New York will have a difficult time persuading either star to sign with them if they are already in a winning situation.

Which brings us to Dwyane Wade. Despite Miami's success last season, our projections see Miami as a 36-39 win team that will have to scratch and claw their way into the playoffs (if they make them at all). That kind of disappointing campaign by the Heat in 09-10 could establish D-Wade as the most likely candidate to uproot himself for greener pastures in NYC next summer, as the Knicks' situation would be essentially equal cap-wise to Miami's. The difference would be young talent, though, which means Mario Chalmers has to build on his solid rookie season a year ago and Michael Beasley must show more of the ability that made him the 2nd overall pick in the 2008 Draft. If those two disappoint, it could set up a situation in which Wade leaves for the Knicks far more readily than either James or Bosh.

But, as is usually the case with the NBA, there will be a million twists and turns between now and next summer. New York inking Lee and Robinson to 1-year deals was the just the latest in a series of 2010-minded moves that are guaranteed to continue unabated throughout the season, reaching a fever pitch at the trade deadline & beyond. And that's a fact, my fellow NBA fans, which should only serve to make an already exciting 2009-10 campaign even more compelling.

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28 Responses to “Lee, Robinson Make Knicks a Playoff Contender in 09-10”

  1. iamse7en Says:

    Doubt it. But we'll see.

  2. Chris Says:

    Just a small (mostly irrelevant) point about Bosh.

    The Canadian exchange rate would actually make Toronto a more attractive city for free agents. Their incomes would be in American dollars, while their expenses would be in Canadian.

  3. khandor Says:

    Neil,

    I've got a small proposition for you to consider. Pick a team from amongst Atlanta, Washinton or Miami that you believe will finish below Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings this season. If the team you pick accomplishes this task then I will pledge to frefrain from leaving a comment on this blog for the next calendar year which calls into question the actual value of number-crunching "advanced stats", as a means to understanding better, "How the NBA game actually works".

    If, in turn, the team you pick fails to accomplish this task, you will pledge to sign up for my NBA Service, on a Free Trial basis, for the first half of the 2010-2011 season.

    Deal, or no deal? [and, all in good fun :-), of course]

  4. khandor Says:

    Btw, I think the Knicks Danilo Gallinari is going to have a break-out season, if he can stay healthy.

    In the aftermath of re-signing Lee and Robinson, with the other adds they've made this summer, New York is a definite contender for the No. 8 spot in the EC, along with about 10 other teams.

  5. Neil Paine Says:

    Um... OK, Miami. But I don't want you to refrain from commenting, I just want you to have an open mind. So go ahead, comment away, even if the Heat finish below the Raps.

  6. khandor Says:

    Neil,

    No problem, from this end. In this instance, you've got the Raptors and I've got the Heat. If your pick wins, I will continue to comment on this blog. If my team pick wins, you will allow me to subscribe you to my NBA Service, on a Free Trial basis, for the first half of the 2010-2011 NBA season.

    In my book, keeping an open mind is a good thing. Hopefully, stats-gurus can also keep an open-mind, regarding the possibility that "advanced stats" may not be a porthole to an enhanced understanding of "How the NBA game actually works".

    e.g. About a week ago I had a moderator on a fan web site for a NBA team tell me that Charlie Villanueva is a better rebounder than Jason Maxiell, primarily due to the advanced stats that suggest Charlie has an individual advantage over Jason in this specific phase of the game. Now, in your opinion, would that specific take be an accurate assessment of these two players actual ability to rebound the basketball in a real NBA game?

  7. Neil Paine Says:

    Maxiell is a better offensive rebounder, Villanueva is better on the defensive glass.

    By the way, more data is always better than less. You seem to be under the impression that less data can make you more knowledgeable, which just isn't true. And unless you have the brain capacity to view, retain, and assess with perfect accuracy every play by every player in the league last year (good luck with that), you're going to have to rely on some stats. Period. So we want to make sure you rely on the right ones.

  8. khandor Says:

    Neil,

    re: "Maxiell is a better offensive rebounder, Villanueva is better on the defensive glass."

    1. And if Rebounding, per se, is considered as a single category, then, which player would you, personally, say is the better of the two?

    2. Watch what happens this season with Maxiell's rebounding numbers, as his MP are increased with the Pistons, now that Rasheed and McDyess have been moved out of Detroit's line-up.

    re: "By the way, more data is always better than less. You seem to be under the impression that less data can make you more knowledgeable, which just isn't true."

    Just because I do not happen to believe that "more data", in and of itself, can "make you more knowledgeable" does not mean that I am someone who believes that "less" data, in and of itself, can serve to make you "more knowledgeable".

    Data, in and of itself, does not possess this specific ability.

    What increases someone's knowledge is:

    - having proper access to the right data, in the first place [as opposed to having access to the right data + having access to the wrong data while being unable to distinguish properly between the two; or, not having access to the right data, in the first place]

    and,

    - having the ability to interpret this correct data with acuity, as it relates to the situation/circumstances at-hand

    IMO, most elite level coaches would prefer to have Jasom Maxiell on the floor for their team, over Charlie V, if there was but one rebound to be grabbed with the outcome of an important playoff game hanging in the balance.

  9. khandor Says:

    Neil,

    FYI ...

    http://myespn.go.com/blogs/truehoop/0-44-110/Wayne-Winston--Mark-Cuban-s-Stats-Expert-Isn-t-Bashful.html

    Just in case you might have missed it.

  10. Mike G Says:

    " ...prefer to have Jasom Maxiell on the floor for their team, over Charlie V, if there was but one rebound to be grabbed ..."

    But Maxiell is only 85% as likely to get the rebound.

  11. Anon Says:

    I don't know about anyone else here but Khandor's act on these boards is getting reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally tired.

    "IMO, most elite level coaches would prefer to have Jasom Maxiell on the floor for their team, over Charlie V, if there was but one rebound to be grabbed with the outcome of an important playoff game hanging in the balance."

    Like whom? Can you name these elite level coaches? Do you even TALK to these coaches? And most importantly, does this all even matter when the numbers that track rebounding for ENTIRE GAMES and not just a single play in the game of your selective choosing tell a VASTLY different story?

  12. khandor Says:

    Anon,

    If you think "seasonal" or "career" or "entire game" averages in different stat categories are what actually determine an individual player's "effectiveness" in a highly specific environment like the NBA then that's "the act" these particular eyes are growing tired from having to read about incessantly on a number of message boards like this one.

    Try re-reading what Wayne Winston had to say about the reason the Mavs choose not to play Marquis Daniels at all in an important playoff game several years ago, to see if you can finally figure out what a real live NBA calibre head coach actually uses to base his strategic & tactical decisions on when deploying his personnel.

    It's right there in black & white ... if you got the ability to see and understand it.

  13. khandor Says:

    PS. Somehow, I highly doubt that you do.

  14. Anon Says:

    @ Khandor

    "If you think "seasonal" or "career" or "entire game" averages in different stat categories are what actually determine an individual player's "effectiveness" in a highly specific environment like the NBA then that's "the act" these particular eyes are growing tired from having to read about incessantly on a number of message boards like this one."

    Sorry to burst your "anti-stat" bubble, but that's kinda the things that we human beings with reason (and who don't have the power to see and observe everything at once) do on a daily basis. You know, use numbers to help us track things and make important and informed decisions. When you're finally ready to join us let us know, we'll be happy to have you.

    By the way, that article about Marquis Daniels doesn't exactly help your argument. As a matter of fact it shows how people DO rely on stats in the decision-making process, not the other way around. I don't even think you read the article properly in the first place.

  15. khandor Says:

    Anon,

    You never ever read from me that stats are a waste of time, or that they should not be used to analyze how the NBA game actually works.

    I told you, in advance, that it was unlikely you would be able to figure out the ramifications of what Wayne Winston actually had to say in that article ... and, as it turns out, it seems as though I was 100% on the $$$ with that specific call.

    When someone uses the wrong stats in the right way, or the right stats in the wrong way, or the wrong stats in the wrong way ... what they end up with doesn't qualify as being sound NBA analysis, in my book.

    As I said before ... it's right there in black & white ... hiding in plain sight, sort of ... provided that you know how to see and understand it, in the first place.

    [Hint: What's the reason Wayne Winston "loves" Del Harris? Others really should give it a try, from time to time, before blindly falling in-line with the other sheep in the herd. PS. No disrespect intended to anyone else as, in my book, we're all subject to becoming sheep at different times in our lives, depending on the circumstances we happen to find ourselves in and with whom we happen to be inter-acting.]

  16. Anon Says:

    @ Khandor

    "You never ever read from me that stats are a waste of time, or that they should not be used to analyze how the NBA game actually works."

    Oh, you don't need to write things out explicitly for others to understand the kind of anti-stat agenda you've been trying to push here on the boards. Not at all.

    "I told you, in advance, that it was unlikely you would be able to figure out the ramifications of what Wayne Winston actually had to say in that article ... and, as it turns out, it seems as though I was 100% on the $$$ with that specific call."

    Sorry Miss Cleo, but you make me laugh. I read and understood the main point of the article in its entirety. As a matter of fact (FWIW to you, I suppose), I read this article BEFORE you even posted the link. And it voices pretty much everything Neil has had to say about stats in basketball and in sports in general, not only in his responses to you but also in his previous blog postings.

    I think you might want to try taking your OWN advice sometime ("In my book, keeping an open mind is a good thing") and follow it before you continue your personal quest to somehow invalidate the APBRmetrics community, as weird as that sounds.

  17. khandor Says:

    Anon,

    FWIW, I don't happen to believe that what Wayne Winston has to say in that article about the use of certain stats, in certain instances, by a coach in the NBA, like Del Harris, in the way that the Mavs chose to use them ... reflects what Neil has had to say here about the role of stats.

    If it had ... IMO ... Neil would already have come back and said just that.

    Personally, I think Neil is taking his time ... keeping an open mind ... and trying to figure out exactly what I might be getting at when I say that what Wayne Winston has said in this article actually puts the use of "average"
    stats, in general, into a context which is very different from what Neil [and others] has [have] had to say about them to this point in time.

    If he's actually doing that then I would give a great deal of credit to Neil.

    [i.e. the lessons on learning that shine through from Del Harris are already beginning to sink in]

  18. Neil Paine Says:

    Actually, I had moved on to newer posts; I only saw that the conversation had continued when I went back to check for spam comments...

    Winston & Harris were talking about matchups -- that is, the fact that players who have good numbers vs. the league shouldn't necessarily be expected to put up even average numbers vs. very specific opponents because they match up badly: Daniels vs. Ginobili, Daniels vs. the entire Spurs, whatever. They basically said, "even though maybe we play well against Houston (to pick a random team) with Daniels, we play terribly vs. San Antonio when he's on the floor." All because the two teams supposedly match up differently.

    I'm reminded of when people say "Statistics mean nothing to the individual", meaning that across a large sample of many people -- say, people diagnosed with a type of cancer -- some will live, some will die, and you can put a percentage on both groups. But for one person, it's not like that, you can't be 55% dead and 45% alive; you either survive or you don't. So in many ways, probability is right everywhere but wrong in any single place, because while anything can conceivably happen, only one thing actually happens.

    That's also why we talk about randomness. For example, we said Orlando matched up so well with Cleveland, I said it, everybody said it. And they did, but suppose Orlando really did have just a 27% chance of beating Cleveland in a 7-game series. In other words, envision the distribution of their possible levels of play vs. the Cavs -- some were bad, some were average, some were really good, and across the entire distribution, 27% of the time it was good enough to beat Cleveland. Anyway, who says the "trial" we saw last May didn't just happen to be one in which they played at a level required to beat Cleveland? As humans, we want to find patterns, especially after the fact, to explain events we didn't see coming. So we search for reasons and we trick ourselves into thinking the signs were obvious beforehand, had we just looked hard enough. But if the opposite outcome happens, we do the same thing, we look for reasons after the fact to support what happened. In both cases, we're fooled by randomness.

    Ryan Parker said uncertainty isn't talked about enough by APBRmetricians, and I agree, many times we don't even know the error bars on our measurements. What are the chances that someone with a PER of 22 was actually a 24-PER-caliber player, or 18-PER, etc.? What does that uncertainty even mean with a stat like PER? Maybe we're scared to admit how much uncertainty there is. Then again, it's bizarre that the uncertainty of metrics is roundly acknowledged by critics, while we ignore the uncertainty inherent in observations made by the human eye...

    Either way, like I've said all along, give me stats and scouts. And statistical scouts. And scouts who know stats. Because of the uncertainty in each type of measurement, you've got to have multiple opinions to minimize your chances of missing something important. Just because I think the burden of proof should weigh more heavily on the scouts when it comes to old axioms debunked by the numbers, it doesn't mean I think we should throw out all scouts altogether. That would be stupid, because you need to have somebody constantly contradicting you to force you to think critically. If all you had was one set of information, it'd be like surrounding yourself with yes-men who agree with everything you say: eventually you'd make a mistake, and nobody would be there to catch it.

  19. khandor Says:

    Neil,

    1. Hopefully Anon takes the time to read your answer carefully.

    2. According to elite level basketball coaches, it's a game based upon individual match-ups ... i.e. between players, 5-man units, main rotations, coaches, and teams.

    3. It's a very good thing that you do not want to be surrounded by yes-men; neither do I. :-)

  20. Anon Says:

    @ Khandor

    "Hopefully Anon takes the time to read your answer carefully."

    It was a fantastic answer. It was also something I've known and read all along about the importance of stats AND scouts.

  21. khandor Says:

    Anon,

    Please try to not be insulted by what I'm going to say next but ... IMO ... you still do not understand the ramifications of what Winston actually had to say regarding the role of average stats and individual player match-ups ... which, btw, I have yet to read articulated properly anywhere on-line.

    e.g. The word "scouts" wasn't mentioned by Winston or Del Harris, yet you chose to include it in your reply for some reason, as a factor in the relationship that exists between "stats" and the accurate evaluation of basketball players.

  22. Neil Paine Says:

    Um, "scouts" were mentioned by me, so lay off of Anon. We all get it, Khandor, you think matchups are the deciding factor in any basketball game. Well, obviously that's true to a certain degree, no one's debating that. But I think sometimes we blame them in any situation where the pre-game numbers predicted a different result: "oh, they just matched up badly, that why x happened..." Mostly, we do it after the fact because we need to explain things, we need order (strange how nobody ever touts matchup-based pregame predictions that turn out completely wrong). Incidentally, we're terrified of the prospect of randomness, because somehow acknowledging sporting outcomes as anything but the product of skill would diminish their value... But sometimes results happen due to random variance. We all need to remember that "probability" does not mean "certainty".

  23. khandor Says:

    Neil,

    1. I'm not nitpicking with [or picking on] Anon.

    2. Yes, you mentioned "scouts"; but, Winston and Harris did not. That is a simple fact which I stated. While Anon might well understand what you said, my point was that he did not seem to understand what was said by Winston and Harris.

    3. What's being talked about, in this instance, is what Winston and Harris think, re: stats and the importance of individual match-ups in a NBA game; not what I happen to
    think about them.

    4. Winston and Harris were not talking about stats and the importance of individual match-ups in a situation where "the pre-game numbers predicted a different result" ... i.e. after-the-fact, due to a need for increased "order".

    5. While some in the basketball community [you and perhaps others who are like-minded] may well be terrified of randomness, it's simply not accurate to suggest that "everyone" fits into this one category.

    -------------------

    From my perspective ...

    I. Understanding how individual match-ups actually work in the NBA game is fundamental to sound basketball analysis.

    II. Unfortunately, much of the pseudo basketball analysis which takes place today is mis-directed, due to an over-reliance on different forms of statistical calculation and averaging.

  24. Neil Paine Says:

    Bottom line, Khandor: if you think what I'm doing is "misdirected pseudo-analysis", then by all means, go read another blog. But don't clog up these threads by bullying other users -- I allowed you to continue along your line of questioning because I thought we'd get somewhere enlightening (I thought I'd try to raise the caliber of the discourse with posts like #18, but you apparently wanted no part of that), and all you've managed to do is continue to harp on the same tired points and insult my readers...

  25. khandor Says:

    Neil,

    1. I'm not trying to bully anyone. 2. I'm just trying to ensure that my points are not being misconstrued by others. 3. I think your blog is terrific. 4. I didn't say that what you're doing is pseudo-basketball analysis. 5. From my perspective ... it can be impossible/very difficult to engage others in discussions about specific subjects when "the core" of their analysis might be considered to be wrong/invalid and they become "defensive" [annoyed?] to the point of not wanting to talk about it any further.
    6. Insight always involves a two [or more] way street. 7. A "yes-man" I am not. 8. You did raise the calibre of the discourse with #18. What I'd like is that the calibre now stays at that level and not be lowered by talking about something which isn't really connected to what we've been discussing here, i.e. what Winston & Harris had to say about the role of stats and individual match-ups when seeking further understanding about the game. 9. This is the part of what you wrote in #18 that I think has the most relevance:

    I'm reminded of when people say "Statistics mean nothing to the individual", meaning that across a large sample of many people -- say, people diagnosed with a type of cancer -- some will live, some will die, and you can put a percentage on both groups. But for one person, it's not like that, you can't be 55% dead and 45% alive; you either survive or you don't. So in many ways, probability is right everywhere but wrong in any single place, because while anything can conceivably happen, only one thing actually happens.

    and which needs further discussion/clarification before moving on, since I do not believe that "randomness" is the only factor which accounts for the difference that sometimes exists between the separate notions of "probability", "certainty", and "what actually happens" in specific instances.

    10. In my travails on-line ... what I find is this:

    Despite what many may profess to be the case, there are very few individuals in this world who really truly madly deeply want to discuss how something actually works with another person who might disagree with their perspective, yet, still be polite, fact-based, and interested in hearing what others have to say about the subject. I thought you might be such a person.

  26. Anon Says:

    @ Khandor

    I've read your responses and I've refrained from participating further in this discussion because it seems that the only thing you want to do is (falsely) accuse others for lacking reading comprehension skills and look your nose down upon this blog for the work that it does. It doesn't exactly endear anyone to your point-of-view, whether there is truth in it or not.

    Unless you truly want to engage in a meaningful conversation about the use of statistics in basketball (and not just engage in the activities that I mentioned above), I kindly suggest that you take your agenda elsewhere.

  27. Neil Paine Says:

    I admit, I was getting a little annoyed with the back and forth between you and Anon, because I felt it was beginning to take the tone of a cross-examination. But fine, you want to talk, let's talk a little about matchups...

    Winston found that "for whatever reason", Daniels was killing them against the Spurs. But isn't it strange that Harris, a veteran coach, wasn't even able to identify what exactly it was about Daniels that was killing them? According to Winston, he just said something to the effect of, "I don't know why, but it's in the data, so we'll act on your advice". That strikes me as strange -- if it was a specific matchup, what didn't the guys whose job it is to study film and see matchups know what it was? Also, oddly for a statistician, Winston seems to jump to wild conclusions based on small samples; he considers Sebastian Telfair to be an "outstanding point guard" based on 1 year's worth of adjusted plus/minus data, when A) that data is notoriously noisy for single year samples, and B) nothing about Telfair's past performance in Winston's own stat (much less every other metric out there) suggests he's even an average PG, much less an outstanding one. So my second thought about the Daniels thing was, exactly how much of a sample could there have been for Daniels vs. the Spurs when he was a 3rd-year player? He had only played 197 career minutes vs. SA going into those playoffs, which is nowhere near enough of a sample upon which to judge a player, especially in a volatile stat like APM. And that's if they were using his career numbers; something about Winston's words actually made me think they were using just numbers from that series, which would about as informative as flipping a coin to decide whether he should play or not.

    The point is, whenever you get into these very specific matchups, you're going to run into serious sample-size issues. It's like in baseball -- maybe career backup catcher Mike Redmond really does "own" future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine:

    http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/wPHjW

    But in 51-PA sample, his "true skill" vs, Glavine could literally be anything, and we wouldn't know because they haven't faced each other enough to rule out chance as the driving force behind his 1.075 OPS. The same goes for matchups in basketball... Maybe you could glean some predictive power out of general matchups (how a player does vs. good, average, and bad defenses, for instance), but very specific head-to-head matchups simply don't give you enough sample size for confident predictions. Just like you'd be better off using Redmond's career average to predict his next PA vs. Glavine, you're just better off using a player's season-long NBA stats to predict a playoff performance than some matchup data derived from a miniscule sample.

  28. khandor Says:

    Neil,

    1. Thanks for taking this approach. It helps a great deal vs other alternatives.

    2. IMO, it isn't strange at all that Del Harris, as an accomplished veteran coach, wasn't able to ascertain correctly the reasons for Daniels' having this effect in those games. The fact is ... relatively few coaches - let alone "average fans" - have the ability to gauge individual player match-ups with a high degree of accuracy, and it makes little difference what level of basketball we're talking about, e.g. little tykes, elementary school-age, high school-age, college, FIBA or the NBA. The vast majority of coaches at all levels of the game DO NOT have the ability to "coach-to-specific match-ups" when the red light gets turned on [so-to-speak]. In sharp contrast, the majority of coaches would be accurately categorized as being "system-oriented" individuals with the ability to create and see effectively the "bigger picture" for their teams but without the required eye to see the type of detail it takes to hone in with acuity on the proper match-ups in a particular contest.

    3. I agree ... Winston seems to have a habit of making very broad statements which are not necessarily supported by a closer examination of the specific circumstances in question.

    4. re: sample size validity

    This is really the crux of the matter, when you get right down to it.

    e.g. whether speaking about Telfair [in general], Glavine-vs-Redmond [specifically], or going back to your prior example of the cancer patient.

    IMO, the more significant questions then become these:

    i. Which is more relevant and therefore more important to analyze in further detail:

    A. The results which would seem to conform with the statistical norms;

    or,

    B. The results which would seem NOT to conform with the statistical norms?

    ii. Why is sample size considered to be a relevant factor, in this equation, in the first?

    i.e. By definition, this is a numerically limited environment where authentically representative sample sizes are not to be found.

    5. re: Glavine vs Redmond

    ---------------------------------------------------
    But in 51-PA sample, his "true skill" vs, Glavine could literally be anything, and we wouldn't know because they haven't faced each other enough to rule out chance as the driving force behind his 1.075 OPS. The same goes for matchups in basketball... Maybe you could glean some predictive power out of general matchups (how a player does vs. good, average, and bad defenses, for instance), but very specific head-to-head matchups simply don't give you enough sample size for confident predictions. Just like you'd be better off using Redmond's career average to predict his next PA vs. Glavine, you're just better off using a player's season-long NBA stats to predict a playoff performance than some matchup data derived from a miniscule sample.
    ---------------------------------------------------

    IMO, the best predictor of future performance involves neither:

    I. Glavine vs Redmond specific stats, exclusively

    or,

    II. Redmond's career stats, exclusively

    ... but, quite possibly:

    III. An unique blend of the following three:

    - Glavine vs Redmond stats +
    - Redmond's career stats +
    - Highly specific anecdotal observations pertainig to the Glavine vs Redmond match-up, including but not limited to the following, for example:

    a. How Redmond reacted [i.e. physically, mentally and emotionally] to the pitches being thrown by Glavine that he was able to contact and put into play?
    b. How Redmond reacted to the pitches being thrown by Glavine that he was able to contact but was unable to put into play?
    c. How Redmond reacted to the pitches being thrown by Glavine that he was unable to contact because they were deemed to be "balls" [as opposed to being "strikes"]?
    d. How Redmond reacted to the pitches being thrown by Glavine that he was unable to contact because they were deemed to be "strikes" [as opposed to being "balls"]?
    e. How the ball actually came off Redmond's bat in "a" and "b"?
    f. How the fielders were positioned?
    g. How the bases were occupied?
    h. How the specific game circumstances/strategy may have influenced/effected the resulting outcome[s]?

    6. Are you familiar with each of the following:

    Principle of Inertia?

    The Monty Hall Paradox?

    Hot and Heavy: About NBA Shooting and the merits of Bill James Fog article">?

    There's a tonne of terrific material being produced today concerning the game of basketball and the proper way in which the role of statistical probability needs to be viewed, relative to the "real-life" strategy, tactics and abilities of the participants involved with the game itself.

    When it comes to actually understanding what "the numbers have to say", place me in the group that says, "Those 4 students from Cornell who knew correctly when they were, in fact, 'hot' had the kind of 'accurate awareness' it takes to win a championship," which is where the real magic is to be found in understanding how individual match-ups work in the NBA game.

    i.e. How did those four [4] students manage to do what they did? ... as opposed to focusing on, "How everybody else did [and came out with randomness]?"

    I apologize, in advance, if none of this is interesting to others and for wasting their time.