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Archive for the 'Rants & Ramblings' Category

How Would You Fill the “NBA Hall of Relevance”?

24th February 2011

I've been thinking about this concept for a while, but I want to throw it out there for the readers and see what they think...

Everyone knows we already have a Basketball Hall of Fame. But from an NBA perspective, a lot of people think it's broken -- as the argument goes, too many non-NBA people get inducted while great NBA players are left out in the cold. So there's a growing push to create an NBA-only Hall of Fame. How do you stock such a Hall, though? It seems like the other major sports have a pretty clear focus in their induction processes: baseball's hall is largely about longevity and statistical milestones, while football's hall is heavily focused on guys who won championships and/or changed the game.

So what should the NBA's angle be? I want to propose that this hypothetical Hall be about "relevance". As in, who were the relevant players in a given season or span of seasons? Who were the essential names? When you tell the Story Of The NBA, which players would it be inexcusable not to mention? If the Hall of Fame is about celebrating the history of the league, then including the guys that fundamentally shaped the narrative is a pretty good mandate. And if we can tell the NBA's story without mentioning a certain player, it's hard to argue that he belongs in the Hall.

The good news is that you can generate the majority of this list by setting up a basic checklist of requirements. But I want to know what you think those requirements are.

Off the top of my head, here's a basic list of requirements that capture the "relevant" players each season:

  • Top 3 in each season's MVP voting
  • Every Sporting News MVP
  • Every season's 1st-team All-NBAers
  • Every Finals MVP
  • Top 3 players on each NBA champion
  • Best player on Finals runner-up
  • Best player on team with NBA's best record
  • PER leader for seasons 2000-present
  • Win Shares leader for seasons 2004-present

This is the list of players generated by those criteria:

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Posted in Hall of Fame, History, Insane ideas, Just For Fun, Rants & Ramblings, Win Shares | 53 Comments »

“Too Much Kobe”? Try “Not Enough Defense”

31st January 2011

Just a brief rant about the media reaction to yesterday's Celtics win over LA...

After the game, especially on the SportsCenter coverage last night, I saw "Too Much Kobe" being held up as an explanation for the Lakers' struggles. Here's a sample:

"Bryant took 29 of the Lakers' 66 field goal attempts (43.9 percent) while he was on the floor. This was the 10th game this season that Bryant took more than 40 percent of the Lakers' shots while on the court. In those 10 games, the Lakers are 3-7. Los Angeles is much better when Bryant shoots a smaller percent of the team's shots while on the court. The Lakers are 23-5 when Bryant takes less than 35 percent of the team's shots when on the floor."

That's a familiar media theme when Kobe scores a ton of points but his team loses; we saw it a lot in 2006, for instance.

As far as I can tell, "Too Much Kobe" is exclusively an offensive criticism. Trouble is, L.A.'s offense was fine yesterday. Against the 3rd-best defense in the league, against whom an average team would expect to score about 104 pts/100 poss. at home, the Lakers scored 110.1. The offense is not why L.A. lost, and therefore "Too Much Kobe" can't be why they lost.

They lost because they allowed the 11th-best offense in the NBA to score a staggering 125.0 points per 100 possessions against them on the road. This may or may not be Kobe's fault -- aside from personal fouls, he wasn't overly active on D, and despite his scoring feats the Lakers were -9 when he was on the court.

But it can't possibly be because Kobe had zero assists.

Posted in Analysis, Boxscore Breakdown, Rants & Ramblings | 143 Comments »

The LeBron Rant

9th July 2010

Basketball is all about sharing, about unselfishness, about legends like Bill Russell doing whatever it takes to win. But apparently it's also about who has the bigger... um, contract.

You see, all we heard these past few days was whether LeBron and D-Wade could co-exist as "Alpha Males", or that LBJ joining Wade in Miami is supposedly something a true "Alpha Male" (ostensibly referring to Kobe or MJ) would never do... It's curious that this hyper-macho view of basketball first began to emerge less than two decades ago, though. Like a commenter said yesterday, the Michael Jordan era was so transformative that we may very well have have convinced ourselves that the MJ-Pippen formula (and the Alpha-Beta designations contained therein) is the only way to view the game. Heck, Bill Simmons even wrote a 700-page book that revises the entirety of NBA history to match that ultramasculine theory of basketball.

Yet in those same pages Simmons also extolled the virtues of "The Secret", which is allegedly about sacrificing numbers, money, and individual glory for team success... Well, isn't what LeBron did last night the living embodiment of The Secret, leaving millions on the table and turning himself into a hometown villain, all for the sake of winning? If Vince Lombardi was right and "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing", then LeBron made the only rational decision last night. But the dirty secret of commentators like Simmons is that winning by itself is not good enough -- you apparently also have to win while simultaneously vanquishing the idea of another male rival sharing your spotlight, because god forbid that another Alpha could possibly question your hoops authority when you're doing all that winning.

Oh, but I forgot, basketball is the ultimate team game, and it's all about sacrificing stats and glory for championships, right?

I guess this LeBron situation provides the ultimate opportunity for people to put their money where their cliches have been all these years.

Posted in No Math Required, Offseason, Rants & Ramblings | 281 Comments »

Layups: The Game Theory of Foul Subs

6th July 2010

I didn't see this back in April, but an econ blog called The Leisure of the Theory Class had several posts about the underlying philosophy behind benching players who are in "foul trouble":

Foul Trouble

Foul Follow-Up

ESPN's Eamonn Brennan also had a reaction here. The basic premise (one which I happen to strongly agree with) is that by benching a player on pace to foul out before the end of the game, a coach has voluntarily exacted the very same penalty -- not being able to use the player -- that he's afraid of having happen if the player fouls out. In other words, the coach is so afraid of something that might happen at the end of the game (Player X getting his 6th foul), he's willing to guarantee that the player doesn't play a certain amount of time in the middle of the game -- often more time than the player would have missed if he had not been subbed out!

Obviously, there are more complexities to the argument than that, so you should read both posts (and the comments). But the core idea remains that coaches: 1) overestimate the "risk" of leaving a star in, 2) overvalue the final minutes of the game at the expense of minutes in quarters 1-3, and consequently 3) give themselves a harsher penalty in the middle of the game than the one they're afraid of the referees giving them in the 4th quarter.

Posted in Insane ideas, Layups, Rants & Ramblings | 26 Comments »

Chris Paul — Still the NBA’s Best PG — On the Trading Block?

24th June 2010

According to ESPN, the Hornets could be open to trade offers for Chris Paul.


Contrary to what you may have heard from various talking heads during the playoffs, Chris Paul is still the best PG in the NBA. He was the best PG in the NBA in 2008, when he led the league in Win Shares, was 2nd in PER (behind LeBron James), and finished 2nd in MVP shares. He was the best PG in the NBA in 2009, when he was 2nd in the league in WS, 3rd in PER (behind James & Dwyane Wade), and 5th in MVP shares. And yes, even in an injury-plagued 2010 season, Paul was still the NBA's top PG when healthy -- he still led all PGs with a minimum of 1700 MP in WS/48 and PER.

What's the matter? You're one of those luddites who still doesn't believe the metrics? Fine, Chris Paul is still the NBA's best PG even if you use MVP voting, the most conventional of wisdoms:

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Posted in Analysis, Offseason, Rants & Ramblings | 34 Comments »

What’s The Matter With Kansas?

11th June 2010

In the midst of the current conference expansion insanity, we have a school that's soon to not be aligned with any major conference. They are the 3rd-winningest program in their sport's history. They've won 5 National Championships. Their first coach was the inventor of the sport itself.

So why doesn't anyone want Kansas?

Yeah, yeah, I know, football is king. Football makes the most money, has the most support, and consequently dictates every decision made by the major conferences. But how insane is it that Kansas, arguably the most storied program in college basketball history, will be left out in the cold while Nebraska, an irrelevant basketball school for its entire history and barely an above-average football one over the past decade, gets to decide the fate of an entire conference? How does that make any sense?

Over at ESPN, Eamonn Brennan tackled the issue of Kansas' inexplicable irrelevance in the conference shuffle:

"The Pac-10 doesn't want Kansas. The Big Ten doesn't seem wholly interested. The Jayhawks are, for the moment, on the outside of conference expansion looking in. Which says a lot more about conference expansion than it does the Kansas Jayhawks.

What it says is that college basketball doesn't at all factor into what conference expansion will produce."

What if the tables were turned? What if, say, Michigan was without an affiliation? Would other major conferences possibly be interested in adding them to their ranks?

Of course they would -- they'd kill for Michigan. Because Michigan is the football equivalent of Kansas basketball. Another KU analogue, Notre Dame, has been fending off would-be conference suitors (in football, at least) for decades. That's the reality of being a college football powerhouse. But when an elite basketball program becomes available, the only question is, "How's their football team?"

Like Brennan wrote, basketball fans may understand this summer's conference free-for-all on an intellectual level, but that doesn't make it any easier to stomach when one of the prestige programs in the entire country, the place where Dr. James Naismith himself coached, finds itself on the outside looking in while historically lame basketball programs like Colorado and Nebraska dictate its future.

Posted in NCAA, No Math Required, Rants & Ramblings | 6 Comments »

Championship Usage Patterns and “The Secret”

18th May 2010

In basketball perhaps more than any other sport, the concept of team-building -- creating a cohesive group that fits together and may be greater than the sum of its parts -- is phenomenally important. In baseball, a sport dominated by one-on-one matchups, not a whole lot of consideration has to be made for how teammates work together; to make a great team, you basically grab the 25 best players you can, throw them together, and watch them produce. But in basketball, teammates have to work together while simultaneously "competing" for touches & shots. Throw together a baseball lineup of 9 guys who each create 100 runs, you'll probably score 900 runs; throw together a basketball lineup of 5 20 PPG scorers, you probably won't score 100 PPG. There's no upper limit on the number of runs the baseball lineup can produce, but there is an upper limit to the points the basketball lineup scores, because teams are limited by a finite number of minutes in a game, and as a result, lineups are limited by a finite number of touches & shots to be allocated to the individual players.

That's why a stat like Possession% (the % of team possessions a player uses while on the floor) is important in looking at how the pieces of a team fit together. A lineup of All-Stars would be interesting, but perhaps a less-talented lineup with one 26% usage guy, two 20% guys, an 18% guy, and a 16% guy would be even better if the All-Stars are not happy with the way they fit together or are unable to operate at peak efficiency in lesser roles, while the less talented lineup features players who are all at their optimal usage levels. The whole of the latter would be greater than the sum of the former's parts.

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Posted in Analysis, Playoffs, Rants & Ramblings, Statgeekery | 9 Comments »

Four Games Against the Boston Celtics

12th May 2010

Here are 4 miserable games by 2 great players vs. the Boston Celtics in the Big Three era:

41:40 3 14 0 4 9 12 1 5 6 7 1 0 3 3 15
38:49 2 18 0 6 8 10 2 7 9 9 1 1 10 4 12
43:21 6 19 0 2 5 6 0 4 4 10 4 0 2 4 17
42:46 7 22 3 9 5 5 1 2 3 1 1 0 4 1 22

The first is LeBron James' game last night. Who are the other 3?

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Posted in Playoffs, Rants & Ramblings | 159 Comments »

Random Thoughts On the Talent Pool

26th February 2010

This essay is a rather extreme case of late-night rambling -- just warning you ahead of time.

In case you stumbled upon this website and have no understanding of basketball, sports, or American culture in general, let me just say that the players in the NBA are really good at hoops. I mean, ridiculously good: so good that they have been dominant players their entire lives, at virtually every level. I always laugh when some fans are watching a game and say "I could do that!"... Well, no, you couldn't. The average fan seems to have a shaky grasp at times on the vast, gaping, astronomical chasm that exists between their own abilities (or even the abilities of the best basketball player they've ever known/played with) and those of the worst NBA player who ever played. There's simply no comparison there, as I learned the hard way when future D-Leaguer Patrick Ewing Jr. dunked over me, Freddy Weis style, in a high school AAU game in 2003. I was on a mediocre lower-tier HS team, we were playing the best crop of prospects in the state of Georgia (which at the time included Ewing, Stanford/Washington G Tim Morris, Evansville C Bradley Strickland, & Georgia Tech PG Matt Causey), and they beat us by nearly 100 points. And Ewing is the only player on that team with even a remote shot at the NBA! Talk about a harsh dose of reality.

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Posted in Insane ideas, No Math Required, Rants & Ramblings | 13 Comments »

Layups: LeBron’s Autobiography

3rd September 2009

Over at TrueHoop, Henry Abbott raises some interesting points about LeBron James' new autobiography -- co-written with Buzz Bissinger -- and talks about how James essentially blew an opportunity to tell his own story in a way we hadn't heard before (no small feat, considering a good deal of LeBron's formative years were played out before a national media audience). Instead, Henry argues, James' tale is stale, an "unnecessary" book that offers nothing we didn't already know already from the scores of LeBron bios already on the shelves. No chances are taken; everything is strictly by the numbers. Worse yet, it's apparently not all that difficult to know whose voice is telling the story -- James sometimes, but in other cases obviously Bissinger.

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Posted in Layups, Rants & Ramblings | 3 Comments »