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YouTube Finds: Bill Walton vs. Memphis State, 1973 NCAA Championship Game

Posted by Neil Paine on August 2, 2010

Before Bill Walton was leading the Blazers to a championship, bringing a spark off the bench for the Celtics, and saying hilariously weird things on television, he was one of the best players in college basketball history, helping UCLA survive the loss of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar without missing a beat. And Big Red was perhaps at his very finest in the 1973 National Championship Game against Larry Kenon and Memphis State, pouring in 44 points (on 21-22 shooting) and grabbing 13 boards en route to the Bruins' 87-66 victory. Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, here's Walton's performance, what some consider to be the best ever by a college player:

Posted in Just For Fun, Layups, NCAA, YouTube Finds | 10 Comments »

BBR Mailbag: Biggest Yearly Declines in 3-Point Attempts

Posted by Neil Paine on July 30, 2010

This is a question from Erik, who writes:

"I noticed the rather severe change in Josh Smith's 3-pt attempts from the last several seasons to the one that just wrapped up. After attempting 87 3's last year, 99 the year before and a cringe inducing 152 in '06-'07, Smith only attempted 7 3's in '09-'10. I was curious if you knew of any other players who had experienced such an attack in common sense? It seems like a huge drop off and a decision made for the betterment of the club. He played more games & minutes, had more shot attempts total, scored more points and did it all while basically eliminating the 3-pt shot from his game. Thoughts?"

From 2006 (his second NBA season) though 2009, Josh Smith attempted a 3-pointer on 12% of his field goal attempts -- despite the fact that he made just 27% of them, a rate 9 percentage points worse than the league average. And then, suddenly, he stopped shooting them: in 2010, threes didn't even make up 1% of his FGA (he went 0 for 7 on the year). In other words, apparently Smith finally got the message that he wasn't good at the 3-ball, and he abandoned it completely. How unprecedented is this? Here are the biggest single-year declines in 3-point tendency (3PA/FGA), relative to the league average, since 1981:

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Posted in Analysis, BBR Mailbag, History | 17 Comments »

BBR News: Photos on Player Pages

Posted by Justin Kubatko on July 29, 2010

We have reached an agreement with Steve Lipofsky of to display his player photos on our site. Right now we have photos for about 300 players, but we will be adding more as time goes by. Here's an example of what those pages will now look like:

Please note that these photos are copyrighted, and as such they may not be used in any way without the permission of Mr. Lipofsky. We hope you enjoy this addition to the site, and thanks for your continued support.

Posted in Announcements, Site Features | 23 Comments »

Layups: Kevin Pritchard Cameo in “Leverage”

Posted by Neil Paine on July 29, 2010

Kevin Pritchard may have been (undeservedly?) fired as the Blazers' general manager last month, but that's apparently not stopping him from appearing on my third-favorite summer show (Mad Men is always #1, btw, and Psych is clearly #2 for the 80s references alone):

"Kevin Pritchard will be on the show Leverage, Sunday (August 1st) at 9 P.M.. He plays a car salesman. They shot the episode back in April (IIRC) in Portland. [...] Kevin's seen in it around the 50 second mark."

Posted in Just For Fun, Layups | 6 Comments »

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

Posted by Neil Paine on July 28, 2010

If you missed Monday's post, I encourage you to go back and check it out -- I looked at player performance in 2009-10 (regular-season + playoffs) against above-average and below-average defenses to see if certain players thrived vs. weak defenses and/or wilted against strong ones. Today, I'm going to break it down even further by looking at performances against top-/bottom-10 and top-/bottom-5 defensive teams.

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Posted in Analysis, SRS, Statgeekery, Statistical +/- | 34 Comments »

Layups: Superstar Trades

Posted by Neil Paine on July 27, 2010

Even though the Chris Paul trade talk is cooling off after his meeting with Hornets brass yesterday, the possibility of the superstar PG changing teams remains a huge topic of conversation this summer -- especially after Paul's Redeem Team mates LeBron James & Chris Bosh relocated through free agency. The most interesting parts of CP3's possible move are the fact that he's still a megastar player, and that it would have to happen via trade, since Paul is still under contract for the next few seasons. Recently, Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus looked at other blockbuster trades featuring a superstar under the age of 30 being dealt. He found that the most similar situation may have been when Tracy McGrady was shipped to Houston in 2004. (Btw, remember when T-Mac was awesome?)

Posted in Layups, Offseason | 2 Comments »

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.

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Posted in Analysis, SRS, Statgeekery, Statistical +/- | 95 Comments »

Layups: SBNation GM Rankings

Posted by Neil Paine on July 23, 2010

For all of the front-office watchers out there: yesterday, Mike Prada of rolled out a huge post that ranked every NBA General Manager from 1-30... Check it out, it's a must read.

And yes, you saw that correctly -- poor David Kahn can't even win the "Worst GM" derby.

(H/T: BDL.)

Posted in Layups | 9 Comments »

Layups: Does Superstition Actually Improve Performance?

Posted by Neil Paine on July 23, 2010

Researchers in Germany seem to think so:

"Throughout [Michael Jordan's] professional career he wore two pairs of shorts -- the ones we all saw on television, but beneath the Chicago Bulls uniform he also wore the blue University of North Carolina shorts from his spectacular days at the college level.

No, the researchers aren't suggesting that Michael became 'air Jordan' because his shorts were too tight. But the fact that he believed his college shorts could bring him luck might have made his performance a tad better."

They go on to explain the results in more general terms:

"What it all boils down to, according to four experiments the scientists conducted in Germany, is sometimes superstitions actually work. Not because they bring luck (either good or bad.) It's because believing that a rabbit's foot brings good luck can increase self confidence (luck is on his or her side) and thus the true believer performs better and sets higher goals."

I'm pretty sure Jordan wouldn't have lacked for confidence (or performance) even without his "lucky" UNC shorts, but in general I don't see anything too controversial about the finding. Furthermore, couldn't it also apply to a phenomenon like the "hot hand"? That is, if superstition is beneficial because the player's belief in some quasi-magical power increases his confidence, maybe the similar belief that you were "hot" might also give your performance a boost, simply because of that extra confidence.

Maybe. However, previous studies have actually confirmed that feeling "hot" boosts confidence... in a bad way. Players who considered themselves hot forced bad shots more often and ended up hurting the team, offsetting any benefit derived from the performance boost the German study found. In other words, you certainly want your players to be confident, and if a little superstition gets them there, fine... just make sure they're not too confident.

Posted in Insane ideas, Layups | 9 Comments »

Best Offensive Games of 2009-10 (*according to statistical +/-)

Posted by Neil Paine on July 22, 2010

In preparation for the updated "Who Rules the Top Defenses?" post I'm planning to write next week, I had to run the advanced stats for every player-game of the 2010 season (all 26,488 of them, including the playoffs), in addition to SRS scores for defenses only. Since I now have that data completed, today I thought I might as well make a post out of it and list the best opponent-adjusted offensive games of the 2010 campaign (according to offensive SPM, at least).

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Analysis, Playoffs, SRS, Statgeekery, Statistical +/- | 30 Comments »