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Who Ruled the Top Defenses in 2010? (Part I)

Posted by Neil Paine on July 26, 2010

See also: Part II

Last March, I wrote a piece that compared LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade's 2008-09 advanced stats against four groups of defenses: all 30 NBA teams, the top 15 in Defensive Efficiency, the top 10 in D.E., and the top 5 in D.E., to see if certain players thrived vs. weak defenses and/or wilted against strong ones. The results? James was the league's overall best against all teams, but his efficiency took a hit as the D got tougher. At the same time, Bryant was more immune to tougher defenses than James, and Wade was actually better than either Kobe or LeBron vs. the cream of the defensive crop.

It was a popular post, if nothing else, so this week I want to update the study for 2009-10. Improvements this time around:

  • Instead of using just regular-season numbers, I'm using all games (RS + playoffs) from 2010.
  • Instead of using ordinary defensive efficiency, I'm using an SRS-style defensive rating that accounts for home-court effects and the strength of the opposing offense. Here were the team rankings:
    Rank Team DSRS Rank Team DSRS
    1 BOS -4.65 16 HOU -0.04
    2 ORL -4.49 17 ATL 0.17
    3 CHA -4.27 18 MEM 2.02
    4 MIL -4.17 19 SAC 2.04
    5 LAL -3.70 20 WAS 2.12
    6 SAS -3.37 21 LAC 2.12
    7 OKC -3.32 22 NOH 2.19
    8 MIA -3.08 23 PHO 2.65
    9 CLE -2.53 24 NJN 3.09
    10 CHI -2.05 25 PHI 3.12
    11 UTA -1.91 26 MIN 3.30
    12 DAL -1.50 27 GSW 3.56
    13 IND -0.73 28 DET 4.02
    14 POR -0.26 29 NYK 4.06
    15 DEN -0.13 30 TOR 5.75
  • I'll also track performance vs. the league's worst defenses, for comparison's sake.

Make sense? Good, then today let's start with performance vs. above- and below-average defenses...

Above-Average Defenses

Here were the players with the top offensive ratings vs. better-than-average defenses, broken down by possession%:

>=23% of Possessions 18-23% of Possessions <18% of Possessions
Player MP %Pos ORtg Player MP %Pos ORtg Player MP %Pos ORtg
Chris Paul 832.0 25.5 120.2 Pau Gasol 1898.9 22.2 119.8 Chris Andersen 1044.5 10.4 125.1
Deron Williams 1973.7 26.7 119.8 J.J. Redick 1091.9 18.1 118.0 Jon Brockman 352.6 11.4 124.0
Chris Bosh 1381.4 28.5 118.8 Ty Lawson 756.8 19.0 115.6 Amir Johnson 756.8 14.0 123.0
Brandon Roy 1138.3 27.4 118.7 Carl Landry 1398.9 21.7 114.6 Robin Lopez 587.2 15.4 122.1
Corey Maggette 1134.7 26.3 118.6 Paul Millsap 1490.9 19.0 114.4 Mikki Moore 261.4 12.7 121.5
Chauncey Billups 1525.2 25.1 118.5 Ray Allen 2338.7 18.7 114.1 Josh McRoberts 296.7 14.5 119.9
Dirk Nowitzki 1799.0 28.1 118.0 Andrew Bynum 1496.3 19.1 113.9 Bill Walker 350.0 14.6 118.7
Steve Nash 1995.8 26.5 117.8 Jason Richardson 1916.6 19.5 113.0 Joel Anthony 746.0 10.1 118.3
LeBron James 1950.1 35.1 117.3 Jarrett Jack 1252.0 20.3 112.9 Nick Collison 954.6 12.3 118.2
Amare Stoudemire 2147.1 27.0 114.4 Beno Udrih 1459.8 19.5 112.9 Marcin Gortat 770.0 12.6 117.6
Jonny Flynn 1327.4 23.8 98.1 Ronnie Price 449.4 18.1 91.7 Kyrylo Fesenko 331.3 15.2 84.6
Brandon Jennings 1459.1 25.2 97.8 Mike Dunleavy 780.7 20.2 90.9 Kwame Brown 441.8 14.7 84.0
Andray Blatche 1276.4 25.9 97.5 Jerry Stackhouse 379.9 21.9 90.9 Sasha Pavlovic 485.9 17.2 83.6
A.J. Price 422.9 25.3 97.1 Oleksiy Pecherov 258.8 22.7 90.7 Jason Smith 351.2 16.2 83.4
Josh Howard 511.0 23.5 96.9 James Johnson 423.2 18.5 88.8 Keith Bogans 808.3 10.6 80.5
Rodrigue Beaubois 291.9 24.4 96.6 Jeff Teague 451.1 20.4 88.8 Jamaal Tinsley 324.6 17.7 79.8
Gilbert Arenas 575.7 32.6 95.8 Terrence Williams 991.6 22.9 88.6 DeMarre Carroll 367.9 14.4 79.5
Michael Beasley 1318.1 23.9 95.6 Larry Hughes 623.8 21.2 86.8 DeShawn Stevenson 455.9 10.1 79.2
Chris Kaman 1413.5 25.7 94.3 Josh Powell 322.6 18.1 83.2 Mardy Collins 283.8 16.9 78.8
Jannero Pargo 434.6 23.1 85.3 Daequan Cook 348.7 19.5 81.9 Quinton Ross 318.3 9.7 71.1

You can see James' stats above, but Wade & Bryant's numbers were:

Player MP %Pos ORtg
Dwyane Wade 1689.0 36.3 108.5
Kobe Bryant 2161.4 32.2 103.1

Unlike the year before, Bryant's numbers completely fell off a cliff against better-than-average defenses in 2010 (more on that later), and Wade was not quite as strong against that group of opponents, either.

Meanwhile, here were the best producers vs. above-average Ds according to Offensive SPM:

Rank Player G MP OSPM Rank Player G MP OSPM
1 LeBron James 49 1950.1 9.91 11 Chauncey Billups 45 1525.2 4.88
2 Dwyane Wade 45 1689.0 7.16 12 Kevin Durant 50 1954.7 4.64
3 Deron Williams 52 1973.7 6.48 13 Marcus Thornton 39 1028.1 3.77
4 Brandon Roy 30 1138.3 6.35 14 Joe Johnson 55 2173.3 3.69
5 Chris Paul 22 832.0 6.23 15 Danny Granger 31 1144.2 3.66
6 Chris Bosh 39 1381.4 5.88 16 Kobe Bryant 55 2161.4 3.65
7 Carmelo Anthony 40 1541.6 5.66 17 Corey Maggette 37 1134.7 3.24
8 Manu Ginobili 45 1325.8 5.65 18 Zach Randolph 45 1723.5 3.23
9 Steve Nash 59 1995.8 5.38 19 Amare Stoudemire 60 2147.1 3.17
10 Dirk Nowitzki 47 1799.0 5.27 20 Derrick Rose 45 1642.8 3.00

If you put any stock in this metric, Miami just landed the top two (and 3 of the top 6) offensive players you want to have against better-than-average defenses. Tell me again how their offense isn't going to be one of the most productive in league history?

Below-Average Defenses

At the other end of the spectrum, here are players who performed the best -- and worst -- against subpar defenses:

>=23% of Possessions 18-23% of Possessions <18% of Possessions
Player MP %Pos ORtg Player MP %Pos ORtg Player MP %Pos ORtg
Steve Nash 1202.9 26.5 127.2 Marc Gasol 1176.8 18.3 129.9 Nicolas Batum 588.2 14.8 137.9
LeBron James 1475.6 32.8 125.9 Jose Calderon 830.2 19.0 129.7 Nene Hilario 1374.6 16.3 133.1
Kevin Durant 1515.8 29.8 125.6 Reggie Williams 441.1 19.3 128.0 Jared Dudley 877.0 13.0 131.1
Chris Paul 880.4 24.9 123.7 Al Horford 1257.5 19.1 127.4 Anderson Varejao 1016.3 13.6 127.2
Manu Ginobili 1176.6 25.3 120.5 Robin Lopez 502.4 18.6 125.2 Shaun Livingston 271.9 16.5 127.1
Dwyane Wade 1313.3 34.2 120.3 Pau Gasol 1417.7 22.3 124.8 Dorell Wright 720.4 16.2 125.3
Chauncey Billups 1171.7 24.9 120.3 Jason Richardson 1101.6 19.4 124.3 Daniel Gibson 556.4 13.5 124.5
Amare Stoudemire 1274.5 24.8 120.0 Luke Ridnour 981.0 22.9 123.0 Devean George 321.5 12.2 123.5
Kobe Bryant 1596.7 31.6 119.8 Vince Carter 1183.5 22.3 121.5 Amir Johnson 695.8 16.4 123.1
Dwight Howard 1558.6 25.3 119.2 Louis Williams 983.7 20.9 121.2 J.J. Redick 985.2 17.7 123.0
Brandon Jennings 1461.0 27.9 102.2 T.J. Ford 512.3 20.6 96.0 Jason Kapono 390.9 15.6 94.7
Josh Howard 406.9 23.6 101.5 Eddie House 653.8 18.3 95.9 James Johnson 353.8 16.5 94.0
Monta Ellis 962.9 27.2 101.5 Ronald Murray 830.8 22.3 95.6 Brian Scalabrine 251.8 8.9 93.7
Tyler Hansbrough 282.2 27.1 99.8 Sebastian Telfair 313.8 20.2 94.3 Daequan Cook 342.5 17.5 93.7
Richard Hamilton 698.8 27.8 99.3 Joe Smith 262.1 19.5 94.1 Josh Powell 298.0 17.6 87.5
Stephen Jackson 1609.2 27.1 98.8 Yi Jianlian 757.7 20.3 94.0 James Singleton 336.4 15.8 87.4
Jonny Flynn 1012.1 25.7 95.7 Jamaal Tinsley 264.2 18.4 90.5 Ime Udoka 398.0 14.2 87.2
J.R. Smith 985.0 24.9 95.6 Devin Brown 600.9 18.9 90.4 Vladimir Radmanovic 266.0 14.2 84.3
Bobby Brown 280.2 25.6 94.1 Marcus Williams 385.0 19.0 90.3 DeShawn Stevenson 433.2 11.5 77.7
Jannero Pargo 401.4 23.7 88.2 Rafer Alston 570.5 18.1 81.5 Sasha Pavlovic 390.8 16.8 73.9

We tend to think of Bryant as a fiery competitior who raises his game to meet the level of the competition -- and that was true to a degree in 2009 -- but this year he only really feasted on the weak defenses, playing far better against below-average Ds than above-average ones. Perhaps it was the nagging finger, back, and knee injuries that began take their toll on Kobe like never before, or maybe it was simply aging (he's 31 with a million miles on his odometer), but Bryant was not himself against the best defenses in 2010. That said, he was still one of the best offensive players against them even in his lessened state (#16 in OPSM), and his performance vs. weaker foes was still flat-out dominant. To wit, here are the top offensive players vs. below-average Ds according to Offensive SPM:

Rank Player G MP OSPM Rank Player G MP OSPM
1 LeBron James 38 1475.6 11.74 11 Carmelo Anthony 35 1346.3 5.32
2 Dwyane Wade 37 1313.3 10.15 12 Jose Calderon 31 830.2 5.29
3 Kobe Bryant 41 1596.7 9.38 13 Deron Williams 34 1225.8 5.19
4 Kevin Durant 38 1515.8 8.61 14 Joe Johnson 32 1153.0 5.12
5 Steve Nash 38 1202.9 8.27 15 Danny Granger 31 1134.0 4.90
6 Chris Paul 23 880.4 6.81 16 Luke Ridnour 46 981.0 4.85
7 Gilbert Arenas 16 592.9 6.56 17 Ryan Anderson 34 527.9 4.77
8 Manu Ginobili 40 1176.6 6.11 18 Jason Richardson 36 1101.6 4.69
9 Chauncey Billups 34 1171.7 5.87 19 Tim Duncan 42 1263.7 4.60
10 Jamal Crawford 36 1102.6 5.74 20 Jameer Nelson 36 993.3 4.58

Stay tuned for next time, when I look at 2010 offensive performances vs. Top/Bottom-10 and Top/Bottom-5 defenses...

ShareThis

95 Responses to “Who Ruled the Top Defenses in 2010? (Part I)”

  1. Rolando Says:

    From a visualization perspective, might be interesting to see a scatterplot where an individual's score vs. bad defenses is on the X and their score vs. good defenses is on the Y.

  2. Neil Paine Says:

    Here's one graph for Kobe:

    KobeGraph

    (His OSPM is the Y axis, the defense is the X axis.)

  3. Anon Says:

    This blogpost is awesome.

    Where did Pau Gasol rank on the OSPM rating against above-average defenses? Surprised to see his name on top of the list according to the Oliver stats.

  4. Neil Paine Says:

    Biggest differences in OSPM against above-average vs. below-average defenses:

    Player vsAbove vsBelow Diff
    Elton Brand 0.16 -2.96 3.12
    James Singleton -2.41 -5.43 3.02
    Ime Udoka -2.28 -4.99 2.71
    Devin Brown -0.97 -3.42 2.44
    Goran Dragic 2.20 -0.24 2.43
    Sasha Pavlovic -4.07 -6.50 2.42
    Craig Smith 0.50 -1.91 2.41
    Marco Belinelli 0.05 -2.23 2.28
    T.J. Ford -0.29 -2.43 2.13
    Joey Graham -2.04 -4.09 2.05
    Shaun Livingston -2.91 1.58 -4.49
    Luke Ridnour -0.02 4.85 -4.88
    Michael Finley -4.71 0.20 -4.91
    Keith Bogans -5.77 -0.77 -5.00
    Rodrigue Beaubois -0.82 4.28 -5.11
    Ryan Anderson -0.38 4.77 -5.16
    Nicolas Batum -1.24 4.13 -5.37
    Kobe Bryant 3.65 9.38 -5.73
    Dorell Wright -3.80 2.22 -6.03
    Reggie Williams -2.37 4.04 -6.41
  5. Neil Paine Says:

    Re: #3 - Gasol's +2.98 vs. above-avg Ds ranked 21st; his +3.86 vs. below-avg Ds ranked 27th.

  6. Adarsh Says:

    Bryant's low ranking isn't surprising at all. He struggled throughout the latter part of the regular season this year, and showed up in the playoffs once his knee was drained. But it's odd to see there isn't even one Celtic in the Top 20 offensive SPM... this the same team that made the finals!

  7. Jason J Says:

    Is it possible to run this same test against other seasons? I know it's trite, but I'd like to see Jordan at the same age as LeBron and Bryant. We credit MJ with GOATness, but he gets a pass on all these tests. Also it would be cool to see Chuck and Magic and Hakeem, etc. for those seasons if possible.

  8. DSMok1 Says:

    Revised offensive advanced SPM here, Neil: http://sonicscentral.com/apbrmetrics/viewtopic.php?p=32015#32015 . I removed the unnecessary variables/variables that made no sense to include.

  9. Neil Paine Says:

    I agree with removing the variables that aren't statistically significant, but I'm not sure we should automatically remove the offensive variables from the defensive regression even if they are significant. They don't necessarily cause a player to be a better/worse defender, but they are correlated with a certain level of defensive performance, and in the absence of more complete information their suggestions can prove valuable.

  10. Anon x 2 Says:

    #4

    Neil, can you do that list with a MP requirement. Udoke played like 14mpg, so I'd be more interested in seeing players who are starter minutes in that list, not end of the bench guys on a bad team.

  11. DSMok1 Says:

    @ Neil

    Well, the previous regression is still up there also. I just don't like including the negative-if-good scorer connotation. It forces superstar scorers down, even if, like Lebron and D-Wade, they are actually excellent defenders.

  12. marparker Says:

    I counted 8 current or former wizards in the bottom 10 lists. Grunfeld's gotta go.

  13. RDubya Says:

    Very nice analysis.

    It will be interesting to follow up on this next summer to contrast how Bosh, Wade and LeBron fared separately and how they fared (will fare) as individuals collectively this coming season.

    Regardless, the Heat are certainly going to be fun to watch.

  14. Herm Says:

    Could Kobe's play against sub-par teams also be explained by his playing style against those teams, as opposed to having a difficult time against them? Kobe still seems to struggle with the idea of playing within a team concept at times. Is it possible that he plays more aggressively against weak teams knowing that even if he shoots 40 times LA likely wins, whereas he needs to be more disciplined, share the ball and stay within the triangle against better defensive teams, thus making his offensive numbers look less impressive against such teams?

  15. RealTalk Says:

    Lmao @ KOBE HATERS.....they do anything to down KOBE. F a stat!!!!!!

  16. Anon x 2 Says:

    What Kobe does is attack the hole and short range less. he settles for more 3s and more long jumpers against subpar teams. he "saves" his body.

    At least, that's what it appears to be. in 2009 he shot .5 more 3s against poor teams and at a much worse %.

    Sometimes when the Laker get up big he will take more shots, but usually Kobe stays within the team ball concept against poor teams...he just changes how hard he goes at the hole.

    Defensively, he is so different against mediocre teams. He basically tries to play free safety, gambling for steals. I'll be the first to tell you this season he didn't deserve a all team defensive pick. He took half the season off on defense, only playing it when the other team or player was remotely good.

  17. Mark Says:

    I imagine you would have to also take into account that top defensive teams adjust their defensive schemes in order to contain superstar players like Lebron, Wade, and Kobe. This would adversely affect Lebron and Wade given their weak supporting casts which allows defenses to load on them forcing the other offensive teammates to score or make plays. For example, Corey Maggette has a higher ORtg (118.6) than Lebron James (117.3) against above-average defenses; however, I doubt teams like the Celtics are devoting most of their focus on stopping Maggette as they might against a superstar player. Remember "The Jordan Rules?"

  18. TheBulge Says:

    "F a stat!!!!!!"

    Well, when none of them support you anymore, what else can you say?

    Great post.

  19. Bryan Says:

    As a kobe fan i have no problem admitting that he isnt as good as he used to be. The injuries might have hurt his numbers but age catches up to us all. For having a career that has covered 14 seasons, deep playoff runs, 2 summers of international games, and a ton of minutes, he's still productive. Thats an achievement in its own right but guys like Lebron, wade, durant etc are just better players right now. Its not a knock on kobe just part of the aging process.

  20. Gil Meriken Says:

    Gasol Brothers Dominate!

  21. sealionii Says:

    It looks like Deron Williams actually does better against above-average defenses (ORat 119.8, OSPM 6.48) than he does against below-average defenses (ORat less than 119.2, OSPM 5.19).

    A very cursory look over the list suggests that's quite unusual--any idea what the explanation for it might be?

  22. Shaqi Says:

    How did the Celtics win the East in 2010 without a single player in the top 20 of any of the above categories? hmm...

  23. necklebox Says:

    sealionii

    I've got 2 guesses on that. 1. He probably typically plays less minutes against teams with poor defenses. More than likely because the Jazz are ahead. 2. He seems like kind've a competitor, and consequently, plays to the level of the opposing team. Just theories....

  24. Mark Says:

    Here's one stat for you. Kobe has 5 rings (and counting)and D Wade and LeBron have 1 ring altogether. That's the only stat that is important because this is a TEAM game. Oh and Kobe is obviously better than anyone in the nba and it's not even close.

  25. necklebox Says:

    uh oh! The Lakers bandwagoners are comin outta the woodwork!

  26. dduck Says:

    remember that when Wade has 6 and LBJ has 5 rings 6 yrs from now. The Heat are winning 5 out of the next 6 championships. LAL may beat them this year but I doubt it. This Heat team is going to be impossible to defend. They have 3 star scorers that do everything well for their position and guys around them that can hit shots and play D.

    In my opinion the only way LAL beat the Heat this year will be a Healthy bynum along with great play from Gasol cobined because Wade LBJ vs Kobe Artest is not as close as it seems on paper anymore.

  27. Anon x 2 Says:

    How much did your crystal ball cost?

    5 of the next 6 titles! I'd take that bet in a heartbeat.

  28. Neil Paine Says:

    I'll answer the question about the Celtics (comment #22): 1st - Ray Allen was in the top 10 in efficiency vs. above-average defenses (among players who used 18-23% of team possessions when in the game), so it isn't as though they had no players ranking highly against the best defenses. 2nd - Offensively, Boston actually was almost perfectly league-average last season, even taking the playoffs into account:

    Team Offense Rank Defense Rank
    ATL 3.9 5 0.2 17
    BOS 0.2 15 -4.6 1
    CHA -3.2 25 -4.3 3
    CHI -3.9 27 -2.1 10
    CLE 3.9 6 -2.5 9
    DAL 1.4 11 -1.5 12
    DEN 4.1 2 -0.1 15
    DET -1.7 21 4.0 28
    GSW 0.3 14 3.6 27
    HOU -0.1 16 0.0 16
    IND -3.9 26 -0.7 13
    LAC -4.4 28 2.1 21
    LAL 2.2 9 -3.7 5
    MEM 0.5 12 2.0 18
    MIA -1.2 19 -3.1 8
    MIL -2.7 23 -4.2 4
    MIN -6.1 29 3.3 26
    NJN -6.7 30 3.1 24
    NOH -0.3 18 2.2 22
    NYK -0.1 17 4.1 29
    OKC 0.5 13 -3.3 7
    ORL 4.1 3 -4.5 2
    PHI -1.3 20 3.1 25
    PHO 8.4 1 2.7 23
    POR 2.8 8 -0.3 14
    SAC -2.4 22 2.0 19
    SAS 1.6 10 -3.4 6
    TOR 4.0 4 5.7 30
    UTA 3.5 7 -1.9 11
    WAS -3.1 24 2.1 20
    LgAvg 108.5 HCA 3.0

    The Celtics had the best defense in the league, which was the main reason they went to the Finals and almost won a title, but these lists only deal with offense. Rondo, Allen, Pierce, & Garnett all put up good but not great numbers against top defenses, which supplied just enough offense to allow their D to win games.

  29. Adarsh Says:

    Neil,

    Will you be calculating individual defensive SPM's as well?

  30. Matt B Says:

    Check out Wade's statistics against Boston. All Eight Games. Monster Numbers. MJ Numbers. How many wins? Uh. 1. One Win in Eight Games!!! Yeah. He certainly "ruled" against Boston. Put up big numbers and was almost swept out of the playoffs. OVER-RATED. Lebron QUIT, and he's rated No. 1? You've got to be joking. The best player in that Cleveland/Boston series was RONDO. He even controlled tempo in the LA series. Kobe's "intangable" defense (obviously not taken into account), locked down on Rondo. There was a reason Kobe was named Finals MVP, while only shooting a POS 40%. Defense (Locked down RONDO, ie. SportsIllustrated called him the best player in the playoffs). Leadership (Didn't QUIT, ie. Kobe's Game 5). Winner (Down 13 after 3 Qtrs, 10 points in the 4th, 15 rebounds, Champion). Another misuse of statistics by "stat gurus" on B-R.

  31. Jayson Says:

    I think Bryant's performance could legitimately be attributed to his various injuries more than his age or him simply not being as good as he used to be.

    I believe he did start off shooting 49% before the injury (or something close to that) and he was having his best shooting season of his career up to that point before his performance hit a snag by way of worse percentages and more turnovers. I also think he had fewer steals, but this is of course only a small sample size and not accounting for quality of opponents.

    Truly did not seem like a "Kobe-type" year. Maybe his performance in the 10-11 season will indicate whether he's really in his decline or a "victim" of his body giving out on him.

  32. GoldenStateBull Says:

    @ #30

    Dwyane Wade had absolutely no one on that team last year...that he was even in the playoffs, and a high seed at that is proof positive that he's a transcendant talent. I never got the idea behind bashing a player to elevate another player. It's not enough to say that Kobe is one of the greats to play the game, people have to say Kobe is great and LeBron/Wade/{insert player here} sucks. It's been the same way with the MJ legacy as well, mostly those who believe that Kobe will never live up to the legacy (it's true, no one really can, that's the honest truth of it), or that Kobe has already surpassed MJ. Not true, but people say it, and I'm starting to believe that it's people who never saw MJ play live.

    Either way, it's not necessary to bash a player to make another one better...in fact, saying Wade sucks a million times won't change a bit about Kobe. It's time people realized that.

  33. JTaylor21 Says:

    @Jayson, no kobe's shooting percentage was on par with what he's done his entire career. Dude has never shot higher than 46% in his career. So don't give me that injury crap. He's nothing but a high volume scorer. Don't believe me, then explain to me why he has the top 2 games in leauge history of total number of shots missed in a game. It amazes me when people claim he's the greatest scorer in league history based of 81 points and 62 in 3. Being a great scorer means your score efficently for a extended period of time ala Wilt and MJ. They both won the scoring titles 7 yrs in a row while shooting great percentages while kobe has won it only twice with average shooting percentages.

  34. JTaylor21 Says:

    @ #30. Of course you claim that the great staff at BR are misusing stats but you stated nothing but stats in your love fest of kobe. You can't have your cake and eat it too, sucker. Also the only reason why he won the finals MVP with those hurrendous shooting numbers is because the voters were lacking cojones because anyone who has watched the lakers the past three years knows that pau not kobe is the lakers true mvp. Without him kobe would still stuck on 3 rings, jacking even more shots, and talk even more sh*t about his teammates behind their backs.

  35. JKnight Says:

    @JTaylor21. You fail at facts. Kobe WAS shooting almost 50% before his injuries this year. He was going to the post ALOT more after working with Hakeem over the off-season. It was AFTER the shooting hand (and later the knee, ankle injuries) that his shooting percentage dipped. The first third of last season, Kobe was playing GREAT ball.

  36. DSMok1 Says:

    @ Neil/28

    Wow, that's nice! SRS for the whole season, with offense and defense split up. That should DEFINITELY be on this site.

  37. Neil Paine Says:

    #35 - Unfortunately, that's not exactly true. Kobe missed his first game of the season after February 5, so if you just look at games before that, here are Bryant's splits vs. above-avg and below-avg Ds:

    Split ORtg %Pos OSPM
    Above-Avg 101.1 31.5 2.98
    Below-Avg 117.4 32.6 9.41

    However, there were nagging injuries before that, like the finger. You mentioned the first 1/3 of the season, so here's the same split through December 22:

    Split ORtg %Pos OSPM
    Above-Avg 104.9 33.4 4.45
    Below-Avg 118.2 31.6 9.17

    The difference is less dramatic, but still bigger than you see out of almost any other player. Even in the first 1/3 of the season, his production sharply declined against better-than-average defensive teams.

  38. Karma Says:

    I get that this site doesn't like him, but the man has been playing professional basketball for 14 years. He's been in the league since when Biggie was still alive. That's a long time. To play at the level he has for the time he has, is something you should appreciate and admire. However, sites like yours choose to (statistically) belittle and demean him, as if he's nothing, as if we're just fools for thinking he's an amazing player.

    This is why I dont trust stats: you say that Kobe is NOT the most clutch player in the league based on metrics. Okay. But ask most GMs, coaches, and players, and they will disagree. I'm sorry, but I will take my own eyes and the opinions of those who've actually PLAYED at a professional level before I take stats as the be-all, end-all of how to judge basketball players.

  39. Karma Says:

    pau not kobe is the lakers true mvp

    - You sir, have failed at life.

    Do you know how much easier Kobe makes the game for Pau? And it works vice versa, but there's no sane person who agrees with your sentiment.

  40. Anon Says:

    "However, sites like yours choose to (statistically) belittle and demean him, as if he's nothing, as if we're just fools for thinking he's an amazing player."

    Dude, this blog actually praised Kobe in this line: "That said, he was still one of the best offensive players against them even in his lessened state (#16 in OPSM), and his performance vs. weaker foes was still flat-out dominant." Not to mention the million other times Neil has written about Kobe in a complimentary manner in other posts.

    You can't win, can you Neil?

  41. jimmy freanely Says:

    The Lake show won not because Kobe locked down Rondo. Derek Fisher was the true MVP simply because after Ray Allen's great game, 8 threes, Fisher got into Ray's jock and his head. The supposedly two nicest guys in the NBA waged a war, won by Fisher because he controlled Ray's emotions. Without Fisher's D on Allen the Lakes lose the series.

  42. Anon Says:

    "Do you know how much easier Kobe makes the game for Pau? And it works vice versa, but there's no sane person who agrees with your sentiment."

    When the player you're being compared to (Gasol) is 6 points better than you offensively in the Oliver stats (taking the 1%/1 pt tradeoff between usage and efficiency) and is pretty much your equal in OSPM, methinks you were not as good in 09-10 as your loyal fanbase makes you out to be.

  43. Neil Paine Says:

    I neither "like" nor "dislike" Kobe in an analysis like this... The numbers simply are what they are. I found it interesting that Kobe's numbers declined so much against better-than-average defenses this year. That was not the case last season, as was noted. If, for example, Chris Paul's numbers had such a marked split, I would have made a big deal of that as well. It's surprising any time a star player has a stat like this that doesn't back up his reputation.

    Also, while I can understand a mistrust of advanced stats from an uninitiated individual, I'm not sure why you "don't trust" numbers like clutch production and game-winning shots. They're facts, not opinions. GM rankings, fan polls, etc., those are subjective opinions. But the data are objective facts about what actually happened on the floor. What's not to trust?

  44. RICK Says:

    THE PROBLEM WITH ALL YOUR STATS IS THAT WHEN A GREAT PLAYER FACES A GREAT D......HE DOESN'T FIGHT IT TO SCORE......HE SMARTLY PASSES TO ANOTHER TEAM MATE TO SCORE.
    SINCE WINNING THE GAMES AND THE CHAMPIONSHIP IS THE GOAL, YOU NEED TO GO BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD MY FRIEND! LOL

  45. Jayson Says:

    Those "clutch" stats have mighty subjective measurements for such an "objective" statistic.

  46. DSMok1 Says:

    Rick:

    These stats measure just about every possible facet of a player's offensive performance, not just shooting and scoring.

  47. Karma Says:

    "When the player you're being compared to (Gasol) is 6 points better than you offensively in the Oliver stats (taking the 1%/1 pt tradeoff between usage and efficiency) and is pretty much your equal in OSPM, methinks you were not as good in 09-10 as your loyal fanbase makes you out to be."

    First of all, stop talking so pretentiously with "methinks". What are you, David Khan? Also, if you think the Lakers would have gotten to the NBA Finals, or even till Game 7 of that Boston series without Kobe producing the way he did, you're kidding yourself. In Game 5, everyone was complaining that Kobe had no help and was doing it all alone, and now people want to tell me that Gasol was the true MVP? He carried them for one game in the entire Finals.

    I love Gasol, he's one of my favs to watch, but its funny the lengths people will go to drag down Kobe.

    First of all, you're comparing a post player to a perimeter player. Of course stats will make Gasol look better, he's extremely efficient from the post. Meanwhile, Kobe has to work harder for his points, but he still gets them, despite the fact that he was hobbled for most of the season.

  48. Anon Says:

    "First of all, stop talking so pretentiously with "methinks". What are you, David Khan? Also, if you think the Lakers would have gotten to the NBA Finals, or even till Game 7 of that Boston series without Kobe producing the way he did, you're kidding yourself."

    Um, can't I say the same thing for Gasol as well?

    "In Game 5, everyone was complaining that Kobe had no help and was doing it all alone, and now people want to tell me that Gasol was the true MVP?"

    Your straw man argument, not mine.

    "First of all, you're comparing a post player to a perimeter player. Of course stats will make Gasol look better, he's extremely efficient from the post. Meanwhile, Kobe has to work harder for his points, but he still gets them, despite the fact that he was hobbled for most of the season."

    Flawed argument, mainly because you're pretty much explaining why great bigs are potentially more valuable than perimeter players in the first place.

    The name of the game is production, not "style points".

  49. Charrua Says:

    Neil, why not some analysis of performances against great (not just above average) defenses? If the idea is to test robustness as opposed to productivity, then focusing on the truly top defenses seems to make most sense, right? There is some small sample problems, I know, but Lebron's good ORTG against good defenses didn't really told you much about how would he do against Boston.

  50. Kareem Says:

    Neil,

    In response to your opinion on advanced statistics:

    "Also, while I can understand a mistrust of advanced stats from an uninitiated individual, I'm not sure why you "don't trust" numbers like clutch production and game-winning shots. They're facts, not opinions. GM rankings, fan polls, etc., those are subjective opinions. But the data are objective facts about what actually happened on the floor. What's not to trust?"

    Statistical representations are not factual in the absolute sense. Statistical analysis is a way of perceiving the world, utilizing certain types of information (not all information, mind you) and (subjectively) interpreting their relationships/patterns onto reality. In many situations, observational data and analysis (what you call subjective) is just as meaningful, if not more meaningful than statistical interpretation. We live in a subjective reality and valuations, in particular, are subjectively determined. Determining the value of a basketball player adheres to this principle. Basketball related examples:

    Lebron James arguably had one of the greatest statistical seasons ever last year. But his personality, his imprint and his demands on the team served as a major handicap to the development of team ball. The majority of basketball plays on the Cavaliers relied on him as initiator, integral cog, or sole proprietor. Meanwhile, LeBron existed as an uncoachable entity on the team. Because of his status as ego apparent, Mike Brown (or the rest of the staff) could not be overly critical of him or his style of play. In other words, 'team' regressed to 'me'. So despite Lebron's other worldly stats, he may have weakened the team, leading to their failure during the recent playoffs.

    This is a subjective interpretation of observational data. It might be correct and it might be incorrect. You may challenge it based on other (contradictory) observational data or by using a different interpretation. But its connection to reality may be as concrete as the statistics that you hold so dearly. As a Laker fan, I understand the importance of qualitative analysis. Players like Lamar Odom and Ron Artest are just not quantified well. Their impact on the game is an intense energy, a force that we have yet to calculate and may never be able to. On the flip side, a player like Jordan Farmar benefits from statistical representations of his game. The metrics all report that he was the best point for the Lakers, yet anyone who watches the game understands the fallacy of Farmar's numbers: his statistics came at the expense of running the offensive sets, trading order for chaos, often at the expense of the team. Alternately, the Lakers primary point-guard, Derek Fisher, is the whipping post of advanced statistics. Fortunately, many season long watchers understood the limitations of numbers, understood how the sense of calm he brought to a game benefited the team, how his professionalism and elder presence affected his teammates in a positive way, how his confidence in himself was not always helpful, but it made him a player to rely on in the most important moments of the season. You can't quantify the tears in game two of the finals.

    You are using statistics to gauge the value of basketball players, to assess players' impacts on the game. The problem you run into, in relying on statistics, is basic: best statistics is not necessarily best play. Maybe more importantly, the scope of basketball related information we can quantify may be too limited to really authoritatively determine who the best players are and why they are the best players.

  51. Neil Paine Says:

    You know, that reminds me, I really miss Fire Joe Morgan.

  52. AYC Says:

    Look, I despise Kobe; I think he's a terrible human being, and an overrated player. I think LA still would have won it all with Lebron or Wade in his place; they are better players IMO; but Gasol is not better than KB. I think it's a mistake to assume he should shoot more because his efficiency is higher. All we really know is that Gasol is very efficient taking the amount of shots that he takes; we can't assume he would be as effective taking as many shots as Kobe does. The fact is, Gasol benefits tremendously from all the defensive attention Kobe demands. It would be one thing if Gasol had been a big-time scorer before coming to LA, but his scoring with the grizzlies wasn't significantly higher than with LA.

  53. Anon Says:

    "Lebron James arguably had one of the greatest statistical seasons ever last year. But his personality, his imprint and his demands on the team served as a major handicap to the development of team ball. The majority of basketball plays on the Cavaliers relied on him as initiator, integral cog, or sole proprietor. Meanwhile, LeBron existed as an uncoachable entity on the team. Because of his status as ego apparent, Mike Brown (or the rest of the staff) could not be overly critical of him or his style of play. In other words, 'team' regressed to 'me'. So despite Lebron's other worldly stats, he may have weakened the team, leading to their failure during the recent playoffs."

    BS in long, paragraph form.

    To people such as Kareem, LeBron must win a championship as the so-called "sole proprietor" of his team before he can be considered "great". That's too bad, because he would be disappointed with every other player that has won a title.

  54. Anon Says:

    "I think it's a mistake to assume he should shoot more because his efficiency is higher. All we really know is that Gasol is very efficient taking the amount of shots that he takes; we can't assume he would be as effective taking as many shots as Kobe does."

    That not what the Oliver stats are saying anyway -- at least, "with complete certainty, Gasol would X efficient if he took his usage up to Y level". It's an estimate based on probability theory (and it's a valid model based on what you see in the game).

    The other stat, OSPM, doesn't even use that model. It gives you another point of view where it regresses one's production simply on his team's differential with him on or off the court, so it avoids some of the assumptions you see with Oliver's skill curves.

    And yet, Pau still matches up to Kobe there. So what's the problem then?

    "The fact is, Gasol benefits tremendously from all the defensive attention Kobe demands. It would be one thing if Gasol had been a big-time scorer before coming to LA, but his scoring with the grizzlies wasn't significantly higher than with LA."

    For one, he wasn't even in his prime as a player yet.

    For another, I'm pretty sure Kobe wouldn't be putting up the production without Gasol in the post either.

  55. Jason J Says:

    The question of Pau's & Kobe's interdependence is a tough one. There are some obvious benefits both ways.

    Kobe can be more aggressive defensively with the shotblocker(s) behind him, and Pau is a terrific high post passer, so the triangle guard around rub cut play gets him some very easy buckets (in Chicago Jordan would actually be the passer in that scenario with Pippen, Harper, or Kukoc curling off him). And of course misses don't hurt your team as badly when your 7 foot power forward is working the offensive boards.

    On the other hand Kobe gets Gasol a lot of easy attempts and superior position in their pick and roll game. When he draws a double on the strong side of the court and the ball is reversed, Pau has a chance to establish great position on the blocks. Kobe also wants to take the bail out shot when the clock winds down. Not that Gasol would necessarily have a hand in many of those situations (that is a guard / perimeter forward responsibility), but overall Pau does not have to force many shots specifically because when the defense is tough, Kobe is more willing and more able to get attempts at the basket.

    All that being said, for the most part a great player's production seems to be fairly independent of teammates. Jordan was more efficient and more productive before having great teammates. Magic peaked as Kareem diminished. It's mostly age, health, and team requirements as far as I can tell.

  56. Anon Says:

    "On the other hand Kobe gets Gasol a lot of easy attempts and superior position in their pick and roll game. When he draws a double on the strong side of the court and the ball is reversed, Pau has a chance to establish great position on the blocks. Kobe also wants to take the bail out shot when the clock winds down. Not that Gasol would necessarily have a hand in many of those situations (that is a guard / perimeter forward responsibility), but overall Pau does not have to force many shots specifically because when the defense is tough, Kobe is more willing and more able to get attempts at the basket."

    Without argument, Kobe remains the Lakers premier shot-creator. It isn't the only part of the game though. It's easy for us fans to watch a player do more in his offense compared to another player and say he's a better player offensively by virtue of "appearing" to do more for his team. Depending on other factors, he could be helping or hurting his team, and that's what these numbers seek to capture here.

  57. AYC Says:

    Anon, as usual, you aren't being honest about the implications of these metrics. If they rate Gasol as the better offensive player because he is more efficient, the implication is pretty clear that PG should take more shots, and KB should take less. And Kobe has a history of producing at a high level without Gasol (or Shaq). Anyway, the act of defending KB is making me feel a little ill; say whatever you want, I give up....

  58. Karma Says:

    "For another, I'm pretty sure Kobe wouldn't be putting up the production without Gasol in the post either."

    What?? Kobe had great statistics in the 3 years he was alone in LA. His averages only curtailed a bit after Gasol got there. Ditto for Gasol in Memphis.

  59. Karma Says:

    And Gasol was 26-27 when he left Memphis. I call bull on "he wasn't in his prime."

  60. huevonkiller Says:

    Excellent research, that's why I love this site.

  61. Adarsh Says:

    From a C's fan's perspective,

    Kobe was just as good as Lebron against our stiffling D. The SPM proves that as well, so IMO saying that Kobe is far below Wade and LeBron is silly. As far as regular season goes, neither the Lakers, nor the C's care about it very much. They're both tested, veteran teams, and they pick it up when it's post season time. Neither the Lakers nor the Celtics are young, so it's perfectly fine for them to do that. Detroit did that, the Spurs did that, this is typically what veteran filled championship contenders do.

  62. Kareem Says:

    Anon,

    I did not say that LeBron had to be the sole-proprietor of his team to be considered great. I merely pointed out that aspects of his personality and his relationship with management and coaching in Cleveland may have made him a lesser player in relation to team success than his statistics would indicate. On the contrary, I think that LeBron is a brilliant player with the tools to lead and be one of the greatest to ever play. But I also measure his statistical success against his teams success and notice a contradiction. While the statistics may quantify his ability to put the ball in the net or pass to a score or rebound the ball, they say nothing about the impact of his skills on his team, their style of play, and their potential success in the playoffs (which I believe is a concrete measure of greatness). Interpretations from statistical analysis are not facts, they are subjective evaluations.

  63. Anon Says:

    "Anon, as usual, you aren't being honest about the implications of these metrics. If they rate Gasol as the better offensive player because he is more efficient, the implication is pretty clear that PG should take more shots, and KB should take less."

    Which is not exactly a revelation even if you don't use the numbers and just watch the games. What's the Lakers' record in the Kobe-Gasol era when Kobe doesn't shoot 27+ shots per game again? Even accounting for Kobe shooting more bc of his team struggling offensively, it gets right to the very matter I've been talking about -- players and teams play better and are more efficient when one player doesn't have to go 1 vs. 5 (for whatever reason).

    It's not a problem for THIS particular season bc they still won the title, but if Kobe becomes more inefficient at the offense % he's using in future seasons (due to age and injury), the team is naturally going to funnel away some of his shots to other players such as Gasol.

    "What?? Kobe had great statistics in the 3 years he was alone in LA."

    I'm talking about 2010 only.

    "And Gasol was 26-27 when he left Memphis. I call bull on "he wasn't in his prime.""

    I was talking about all those years before he came to LA. Wasn't in his prime then, was he?

    "Interpretations from statistical analysis are not facts, they are subjective evaluations."

    So what would you call your evaluations then?

  64. Sodyba Says:

    For me, last season Boston haD best defense in league!

  65. Matt Says:

    Why did the Heat only win 1 game? All year! With Wade putting up bigger numbers? He didn't have help? His team almost won 50 games, same as the C's, and it was a first round matchup, not the Finals.

  66. Gil Meriken Says:

    50.

    "Statistical representations are not factual in the absolute sense. Statistical analysis is a way of perceiving the world, utilizing certain types of information (not all information, mind you) and (subjectively) interpreting their relationships/patterns onto reality."

    Correct! Except I don't necessarily agree with the rest of the analysis, I fall more into the camp that these thing CAN be quantified, but you need better building blocks.

    If I were to create a statistical model of the value of individual soccer players, I don't think I would base it upon mere goals, assists, and steals.

    Statistics may be facts in of themselves, but people like Huevonkiller are assigning their meanings (rightly or wrongly) to them, which makes basketball statistical analysis an opinion.

    There's a difference between saying that an object traveling 60 mph is faster than one traveling at 50 mph, and saying that a 50% shooter is a better shooter than a 45% shooter. "Better" is qualitative, and requires context and judgment, no matter how you slice it.

  67. huevonkiller Says:

    "saying that Kobe is far below Wade and LeBron is silly. As far as regular season goes, neither the Lakers, nor the C's care about it very much. They're both tested, veteran teams, and they pick it up when it's post season time. Neither the Lakers nor the Celtics are young, so it's perfectly fine for them to do that. Detroit did that, the Spurs did that, this is typically what veteran filled championship contenders do."

    The trend holds up for the most part, all you have to do is look at his production in the Finals throughout his career. You have to make a ridiculously small sample size to even make it comparable. LeBron and wade are just better, that's what happens when you're a less efficient volume scorer.

  68. huevonkiller Says:

    Just wanted to add I respect the Kobe from a few years ago.

    Obviously Kobe was better in 2006, but that's not the Kobe the media talks about now. Relative to his contributions in the past couple of seasons, this is a very objective perspective by Neil.

  69. AYC Says:

    I just wanted to second Gil's post, #66. Stats are the best objective measure we have of a player or team's ability. But how we interpret stats is inherently subjective. That's why catch-all metrics like SPM, WS and PER shouldn't be used to the exclusion of "real" stats that havn't been sliced, diced and manipulated according to formulas based on debatable assumptions.

  70. Neil Paine Says:

    Well, when you have "real" stats like PPG, APG, RPG, FG%, etc., aren't you just looking at them and mentally "slicing and dicing" them according to your own subjective feelings about the game? I'm not saying SPM, WS, and PER are necessarily better, but I am saying that they at least list the assumptions being made in equation form:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/about/per.html

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/about/ws.html

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/blog/?page_id=4122

  71. Blackmamba24 Says:

    Are people here seriously trying to use just numbers to quantify Kobe Bean Bryant???? U can't describe Kobe with numbers he must be watched to appreciate what he does. NO PLAYER makes me shake my head more in amazement at the BBall IQ Skill and Just WOW factor and thats without all the dunks and acrobatic layups of young Kobe. How do stats tell the effect Kobe has just by being on the court??? Does anyone here play basketball and i mean really play not i hit the court once a month status?? I play and get doubled on the regualr in the post and i'm 6'0 175 lbs. I'm a pg/sg and i know what it like to deal with what he goes thru only he gets way worse. See the Lakers actually have a team offense unlike the Cavs which was a lebron centric offense. Has anyone watched a Laker game?? If pau Gasol was that good he should be way more dominant. I LOVE me some Gasol but there are times WHEN KOBE FORCE FEEDS HIM THE BALL TO SCORE. He doesn't have the mentality to do what he's capable of doing which is dominate his opposing big. People act like these players exist in a vacuum. U have to remember they have different personality sets. Thats why no matter how good Vince Carter is he is considered soft and weak cuz he fades when u need him. Kobe has to take over games cuz his teammates don't want to shoot and keep givin him the ball. I wonder why they keep givin him the ball???? Oh cuz he's the greatest. why does every NBA PLAYER AND GM AND COACH say Kobe is the best??? You say style points don't matter well i beg to differ. If a guy just hit open shots curlin off screens i still feel like i can stop him if i just figure out the curls and screens. that player is not that great to me. Don't get me wrong Rip Ray and such are nice and would still probaly torch me with no screens lol. but when your guarding a guy to the best of ur ability straight up and he hits stupid shots in your face time after time it hurts you it really does it sucks everything out of you. It's even worse when you and a teammate or two are doubling the guy. Stats can't quantify that unless you wanna make a kobe hits so many outrageous shots charts to team win ratio lol. Kobe gets doubled EVERYWHERE on the court. who doubles lebron outside of the paint???? thats just dumb he can't shoot well enought to be doubled out there. ditto dwanye wade tho i will say his jumper is comin along very well.Pretty soon he might be able to ride kobe's coattails lol(I love wade don't get it twisted)No offense to anyone but i feel like yall a bunch of white guys with no athleticism who are amazed at Lebrons cuz u can't teach what he has. Kobe's game can be learned and done by anyone with the dedication focus and heart to do it which is obviously not many.(not that Kobe in his prime wasn't freakishly athletic himself.)

  72. Neil Paine Says:

    Proving Poe's Law alive and well, I see...

  73. AYC Says:

    Neil, believe it or not, I entirely agree with your post,#70, as far as it goes. My hope is that we can improve the metrics we have (or develop more accurate ones); I don't reject advanced stats at all, I just think they could be better/more accurate. But we can't improve on them if we already accept them as infallible, despite evidence to the contrary.

    Also, I'd like to point out that "subjective" isn't a synonym for "completely uninformed". While I can't speak for others, my own subjective opinions are informed by a fairly substantial knowledge of those "real" stats and NBA history... and when I don't know something for sure, I can look it up on this terrific site!

  74. Gil Meriken Says:

    70.

    "Well, when you have "real" stats like PPG, APG, RPG, FG%, etc., aren't you just looking at them and mentally "slicing and dicing" them according to your own subjective feelings about the game?"

    Not sure if this directed at me, but I believe that all of these stats are manufactured as a team, that the ultimate goal of the team is to score more points that the other team (as a combination of your own team's scoring and limiting the other team's scoring). So, of course, I place a great deal on team point differential adjusted for pace.

    Individually, I'm not sure how much they mean, because again, because when you score two points, it's a function of the team, sometimes more attributable to the team, sometimes less, sometimes attributable to one other player, sometimes two, maybe three, maybe three including one on the other team because of bad defense ... you see the problem with assigning two points to one player, right? And the same goes with any of the other box score statistics. It doesn't all wash out or correct itself, this is a real dilemma when allocating individual impacts.

    So, I love the team stats, because they capture the real essence of winning basketball. A team moves as one to create those stats. I love the seeing the team stats compiled on this site.

    Claims of isolating individual contributions are much more difficult to believe.

    And Neil, don't be such a Individual Stats Nazi (Godwin's Law) :)

  75. Kareem Says:

    Gil,

    I think that you misunderstand my point. I am not trying to discard the importance of statistics as a representation of on the court performance. These variables are valuable, even with the clumsy instrumentation for measurement at our disposal. As you rightly point out, each individual data point is not created equal; each may encompass a variety of (two) team factors that no amount of measurement can adeptly accommodate. But more importantly, how can you quantify relationships: between coach and player, and player and player(s), and player and system. There are no control groups for comparison, no randomization, and no do-overs.

    The example of Lebron and coach Brown is a valuable lesson in how relationships can really affect the outcome of a team, despite other quantifiable factors, such as individual (statistical) talents accumulated on a roster. Maybe LeBron's personality was too strong for a coach like Brown, maybe his sense of entitlement (that inspired slavishness from the Cavalier management) weakened the team concept and suppressed the possibility of a system or a plan or anything that did not center around LeBron. This may not even be (singularly) LeBron's fault. It seemed as though the Cavaliers' management was complicit, in many ways, in encouraging such an arrangement. These issues may not coalesce during the regular season, they may not be important when cogs are loose and wins come easily. But during the post-season, when the competition stiffens, and heart and perseverance are as important as a flawless jumper, it may take strong personalities to corral other strong personalities, to impose the type of mind frame necessary for overcoming adversity.

    I think that Dwayne Wade and Pat Riley will be instrumental for LeBron in this sense. I'm not someone in the know, so who knows how strong my analysis is. But I've read a couple articles, watched a lot of basketball, taken a couple statistics classes in college, graduated. Maybe that makes me an expert.

  76. Neil Paine Says:

    Seriously, where is Junior when you need him?

  77. Gil Meriken Says:

    75. and then some for 76.

    Um, I'm not quite on the same path, Kareem. I just think team stats hold much more meaning than all the individual "stats" that I've seen. I'm not talking about heart, or intangibles, relationships, or any of that.

    The unit of winning (a win) is created as a team. To break it down any further makes things very messy.

  78. Kareem Says:

    I don't know whether that is directed at me, if you are condescending or compassionate. I make a living analyzing quantitative and qualitative data in the health field. The metrics are great in an actuarial sense, but at the end of the day they can only explain so much, and usually so much is so little. This is manifold within the dynamic, rich (informational) environment that is a basketball play, game, season, post-season, epoch. I understand that as a stats-guy you are beholden to the pinto you ride, but your analysis falls flat. I'll make a final point, which may be (ir)relevant to this discussion. Andrew Bynum: he appeared as wilting as a summer lily until this last post season. What inspired him to sacrifice, to play through pain? I believe example and emulation. When you play with Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Artest as they play through difficult injuries, with pain, you may witness true dedication and heart. That is a type of leadership that has a substantial impact on the players and rebuffs their commitment to team. Playing with an IV hooked to you during halftime. That is leadership. That is an example of a great player, stats be damned. Why? Because they can't ever measure that.

    From Jerry Maguire

    Dicky Fox: If this
    [points to heart]
    Dicky Fox: is empty, this
    [points to head]
    Dicky Fox: doesn't matter.

  79. Kareem Says:

    Gil,

    I will agree with that. Team statistics are a lot more important and meaningful. But they still don't explain why or how, which are very relevant questions to ask when you bring it up to the team level. An individual is very easy to explain: "because he is great/crap". At the team level, you have to actually do the type of investigation I'm talking about.

  80. Neil Paine Says:

    My point is this: if you're one of those dudes who seriously writes things like "You can't quantify Derek Fisher's tears in game two of the finals," then I can't help you. This blog is about looking at the available evidence and objectively trying to learn more about basketball using statistics. Maybe there's also room for touchy-feely analysis, maybe not, but either way, this ain't the place for it. We're a stats site, this is a stats blog, and that's basically the way it is.

  81. Kareem Says:

    I'm sorry you feel that way. I think that there is a medium where statistics and what you call "touchy feely" can be integrated, but you are not there, nor is this site, obviously. But you should also be willing to receive criticism when you speak authoritatively about "good" and "bad" players, and "better" and "worse" players, when you are using very subjective evaluative criteria. Statistics are a subjectively chosen criteria for evaluating players. This is a fundamental problem with the methodology and the analysis. This is a problem, more so when you dress it up as "objective" analysis.

    Do you think that Fisher's theatrics had no effect on his teammates? Maybe there is a reason that they listen to his corny speeches and take them to heart, seriously. Perhaps those tears are "chemistry" manifest. How can you "evaluate" this effect? Interview players about what were the emotionally important moments during the finals series that strengthened the teams' resolve. The fact that you quickly right of such an event as "touchy-feely", to me, shows how little you understand about sports in the operational sense. Emotional leaders are very important to success, especially when the pressure is one (like during the finals). When a player (like LeBron) mopes around, with a sense of detachment during an important string of games, don't dare call him great or the best or anything other than a poor leader.

  82. Anon Says:

    "But you should also be willing to receive criticism when you speak authoritatively about "good" and "bad" players, and "better" and "worse" players, when you are using very subjective evaluative criteria."

    And like I had asked before, if all of this is subjective, then what do you call YOUR analysis then?

    You want to tell others they shouldn't be "authoritative" when it comes to these things, yet here you are trying to do the same thing with your posts, by using - wait for it - subjective analysis. Doesn't exactly make your argument any more valid does it?

    "When a player (like LeBron) mopes around, with a sense of detachment during an important string of games, don't dare call him great or the best or anything other than a poor leader."

    So the Cavs didn't win because LeBron didn't bring his marionette strings with him and hook them up to Mo Williams shooting hand during the playoffs. And the arrangement of the planets and stars during May threw off LeBron's mind-controlling ability to force Jamison to play all-world defense on Kevin Garnett.

    Gotcha.

  83. huevonkiller Says:

    Nicely worded. :)

  84. Anon Says:

    ^^^Yes FORGET Kobe Bryant for once since morons wanna go with the intangibles route...wouldn't this EASILY make Brian Scalabrine the game's best player? Name another player that has truly done the most with the least. I dare you.

    Kobe Bryant's scowl has nothing on this - THIS was what made the Celtics play better defense in the first place in 2008, NOT Kevin Garnett: http://northstationsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/scal.jpg

    Kobe Bryant????? LOL S-Cal = the best player in the game

  85. Gil Meriken Says:

    82.

    You are correct, when you start comparing individual players, it becomes pretty subjective whether you use statistical analysis or not, mainly because of the nature of basketball statistics and how they are compiled.

    I don't believe anyone is "authoritative" when it comes to comparing individual player impact in basketball.

  86. Gil Meriken Says:

    85.

    Talking to myself: Using statistical analysis on basketball with the current stats out there is objective, but only in the sense that it is methodical and consistent given the model.

    But if the model and its interpretation are flawed, being objective and consistent does not mean it is right.

  87. Anon Says:

    That's exactly what I'm saying Gil.

    I just love it how people want to slap the "subjective" label on any analysis using stats such as this site, then turn around and scream at people for not putting Kobe (or any player of your choosing) on top of a best player list, all while using their own, um, subjective criteria to justify the argument.

    No one has to agree with any particular opinion here, but would using some consistency hurt?

  88. Gil Meriken Says:

    87.

    Consistency won't help if we can't agree on the beginning premises.

    If I begin a mathematical proof with 2=1, even if my math from them on is flawless and consistent and logical, I can get to some crazy places.

    In this case, the beginning premise is that something like "if player A scores 21 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists and player B scores 18 points, 4 rebounds and 10 assists, I can make a correct comparison of Player A's impact versus player B's impact with no further information". You can refine it to be PER or Win Share, I haven't found a model that incorporates the elements of individual impact. I would start believing it if the modeller told me his model was incorporated some kind of geo-positioning and differentiated contested rebounds from uncontested rebounds, assists for dunks from assists for threes, and assist for mid-range. It doesn't have to be unbelievably complicated, just based on more sophisticated inputs that it uses as its bottom units, since that is how the individual impacts the game. A "point" is just a result that a team generates, not an individual, which is why I stress that I'm all for the team stats.

  89. Neil Paine Says:

    Gil, I'll repeat what I was saying in another thread: we can explain more than 3/4 of offensive impact (plus/minus) from the box score alone. Almost everything that matters offensively is being tracked right now. The problem is, was, and always has been with defense, because almost nothing is tracked. Even with a team adjustment, we can explain less than half of defensive impact. So if you're complaining about the premises, you need to focus the majority of your criticism on the fact that we can't really differentiate performances on defense with a great deal of certainty, not offense (and remember, this post deals with offense only).

  90. Gil Meriken Says:

    89.

    "Gil, I'll repeat what I was saying in another thread: we can explain more than 3/4 of offensive impact (plus/minus) from the box score alone."

    Neil, I think I am not understanding how it is you believe you can separate each individuals' impact, even with (especially with) the noise in plus/minus, and the reality that combinations of players may be better than others, so that the whole of any combination may be more or less than the sum of its parts.

  91. Neil Paine Says:

    Any one player is going to have a large amount of noise in their APM, but over the course of a bigger sample -- say thousands of players -- the errors are going to be reduced and we can achieve a general, unbiased sense of what the impact of each box score metric is on team performance. It's never going to be perfect, and there are always going to be cases where the prediction breaks down, but that's the part of efficiency we admittedly can't explain. Either way, explaining 3/4 statistically and missing on the other 1/4 is better than trying to explain the 1/4 via subjective means and missing on the other 3/4 as a result.

  92. Ralph Chantry Says:

    Look at Roy's numbers and the fall off against lower defenses. He is saved and lower players carry the load then. Roy is called upon to carry the team against the better defense.

  93. Abed Fede Says:

    Kobe is often critique by his volume shooting or average field goal percentage as some of these haters would imply over and over again. But what is overlooked is Kobe's ability to get the job done when his play is most scrutinized or questioned by these same haters. Kobe always finds a way to shut haters up for their bickering of him not equating to Jordan or whatever the case maybe. What people who hate on Kobe needs to realize is that he has bailed out these Lakers on various accounts when they either didn't give him the ball in key moments by thinking they could get it done themselves. Or when they don't run the offense through him because they feel that he scoring all the points. This is where all this Kobe isn't playing within the team system comes from. And when he has a bad game which is common people are so quick to say he is done or past his prime. When he put that noise to sleep when his knee was drained. This is a man who hit seven game winning shots last year. Who is also very proven in the clutch when the game is on the line? Kobe has proven himself over and over again. To me those who hate on him are just speaking banter! Like Kobe said to Magic and Kenny Smith when asked about these haters, "they are stupid to doubt my abilities, I just what they say as motivation." What happened when Jerry West said LeBron is better than Kobe? Kobe put that noise to sleep real fast by hoisting his fourth ring. What happened when Kobe was quote on quote not as good as Kevin Durant? He quieted that noise in games 5 and 6 when shut down Russell Westbrook! Swept Utah! Beat Phoenix in six! And Won the Finals after beating Boston in seven! No matter how much you hate on Kobe he is proving people wrong time and time again. So my suggestion is for the haters to hating this is the only way Kobe will not have an edge. Why do I say that? Because when Kobe is dissed by the haters he uses it as fuel to the fire just to see people run and hide when proves them wrong. I personally knew he was going to pass Shaq on titles. Obviously these guys have tension from one another. But what a lot of people fail to realize or don't know about Kobe is that he has the ultimate respect for Jordan. He doesn't want to pass up Jordan like he wanted to do so with Shaq. He wants to be better than Jordan when it’s all said in done because of his competitive drive which rivals M.J. You've heard it from Tim Grover (both MJ and Kobe's trainer) that it is a tie between them and their work ethic. Keep in mind Tim Grover has trained D. Wade and LeBron ad hasn't said those same things about them in relation to MJ. Once Kobe gets his sixth ring he will be the greatest Laker of all time. Because he will have 6 rings 3 finals mvps to Magic and Kareem's 5 rings and 3 finals mvps respectively. Then he will be in the conversation with MJ. Once he wins seven rings he will eclipse Michael Jordan at that point. That will have put Kobe in 7 wins out nine tries versus Magic's 5 out of nine tries. Kobe would have beaten three worthy opponents (Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat), to Michael's two (LA Lakers, Utah Jazz). Kobe would been in the finals nine times in seventeen years with seven wins versus Michael's six finals appearance in fourteen years with six wins. Michael will have the massive edge on not losing ever in the Finals. But Kobe will have an edge to that boasts he's been there more than Michael and won it more. Some may argue well it took him nine times to get seven but MJ got six out of six. That fine but Shaq wasn't in top shape for the one he lost against Detroit. And if he would have stayed (315lbs) the years they won as oppose to a whopping (360lbs) when they missed it one year and were eliminated by San Antonio in the second round another then we wouldn't even be having this discussion because Kobe would be at seven right now as we speak. Kobe has dominated two eras (2000-2010), (2010- ). Jordan has dominated one (1990-2000). SO let’s be real people I'm one of the biggest MJ fans out there and I could tell you that Kobe is right there!

  94. Anon Says:

    "What people who hate on Kobe needs to realize is that he has bailed out these Lakers on various accounts when they either didn't give him the ball in key moments by thinking they could get it done themselves. Or when they don't run the offense through him because they feel that he scoring all the points."

    See efficiency/offensive % possession rate model...not that is hasn't been explained a billion times around here already.

    "This is a man who hit seven game winning shots last year. Who is also very proven in the clutch when the game is on the line? Kobe has proven himself over and over again."

    Game winning shots are among the most overrated events in sports. They're great, help your team win and get you on Sportscenter, but people who get caught up in them will obviously overlook players that perform well enough at the end of games where a game winning shot isn't even needed to win.

    If basketball games were played over the span of 10 seconds, Kobe would easily be one of the best players in the game. But they play a full 48 minutes.

    "What happened when Jerry West said LeBron is better than Kobe? Kobe put that noise to sleep real fast by hoisting his fourth ring."

    Only in the minds of (most)Lakers fans of course. Objectively LeBron is STILL the best player in the game, and Kobe isn't even the best player at his position.

    "What happened when Kobe was quote on quote not as good as Kevin Durant? He quieted that noise in games 5 and 6 when shut down Russell Westbrook! Swept Utah! Beat Phoenix in six! And Won the Finals after beating Boston in seven! No matter how much you hate on Kobe he is proving people wrong time and time again."

    Geez, because he sure did all those things by himself didn't he? It helps to play alongside a player in the middle who outperforms you in the Finals in WS/48 mins and is your virtual equal in SPM. Gasol was the best player for the Lakers in the playoffs.

    Also, I love how people claimed he "shut down Russell Westbrook" when he simply did something that Fisher didn't do -- play off of him, rely on team defense to defend drives and force him to make the outside jumper. Kobe is a better defender than Fisher, but he didn't exactly do anything revolutionary here.

    "Once Kobe gets his sixth ring he will be the greatest Laker of all time."

    Ugh, more flawed "rank players by team accomplishments" logic. Skipping this one...

    "That fine but Shaq wasn't in top shape for the one he lost against Detroit. And if he would have stayed (315lbs) the years they won as oppose to a whopping (360lbs) when they missed it one year and were eliminated by San Antonio in the second round another then we wouldn't even be having this discussion because Kobe would be at seven right now as we speak."

    So wait, how did Shaq come into the conversation now? I thought Kobe won all those titles for LA by himself and was "DA MAN"...? You know, the guy that uses his awesome SUBJECTIVE skilllllllllz to MAKE teams win????

    So by that ridiculous argument, how is it not his fault when his team's DOESN'T win?

    "SO let’s be real people I'm one of the biggest MJ fans out there and I could tell you that Kobe is right there!"

    Oh, but I'm an objective basketball fan. And Kobe is NOT right there. Or even in his zip code.

    That was fun.

  95. Hyman Doonan Says:

    Greetings. This post was brilliantly helpful, and kind of gave me a kick in the pants. Thanks.