Archive for ‘Overrated/Underrated’

March 3, 2011

Underrated: Chauncey Billups’ (Future) Production for the Knicks

by Jeeves

It’s Thursday, so time for something overrated or underrated


The big news preceding the end of the trading deadline, of course, was that after an endless dance, the Nuggets finally traded Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks. There was much rejoicing and a surprising amount of hand wringing after the trade was consummated. Due to the deluge of media coverage leading up to the trade, much of the focus was placed on Carmelo Anthony. The fact that Chauncey Billups was included in the trade was a mere afterthought.

The funny thing is that Chauncey may end up making a larger impact on the Knicks  this season than Carmelo. I’m not trying to argue that Chauncey is better than Carmelo or that he’s even close to being the player Carmelo is. I just think that as Amare and Carmelo try to mesh their high usage games together, that Chauncey will prove to be exceedingly valuable to the Knicks.

I realize it has been an extremely small sample size but their performance has shown this to some degree so far. Chauncey’s production, so far, has been far, far more efficient than Carmelo’s. I realize that Carmelo has produced more in terms of sheer numbers, but there is something to be said about producing efficiently. I’ll pose this hypothetical: Would you rather have a player shoot 6/8 from the field (2/2 from 3pt and 5-5 FT) for a total of 20 points or 8/23 from the field (1/3 from 3pt and 6-6 FT) for a total of 23 points. Yeah, 23 points is more than 20, but I’d much rather have a player put up that first stat line.

In any case, whatever your views on efficiency, it’s undeniable that Chauncey has been a more efficient offensive player. In his 4 games so far (he missed one with a thigh bruise), he’s scored 93 points while taking 49 attempts from the field; that works out to 1.9 pts per field goal attempt. That’s a pretty good number. If you factor in turnovers and look at points per possession, that number falls a little to 1.6, still pretty good. Carmelo on the other hand has scored 130 points but has needed 111 field goal attempts to reach that total, which is 1.2 pts per field goal attempt. His points per possession works out to 1.07. Another way to look at it, is at that rate Chauncey would score 160 points using 100 possessions whereas Carmelo would only score 107 points, using 100 possessions. It’s a little abstract to think of it like that, but it is a fairly significant difference. Another way to look at it is that league average points per field goal attempt is 1.2, the same as Carmelo and league average points per possession is 1.06, almost the same as Carmelo. In that view, Carmelo is producing at a rate no better than league average.

Carmelo has the superior per game statistics and the higher bulk totals due to playing an extra game and also playing more minutes that Chauncey. Another way to view things on a more level field is to look at their per 36 minutes stats. Per 36 minutes, Chauncey has averaged 25.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, and 6.6 apg. Carmelo on the other hand has averaged 25.6/4.7/2.4. There’s no arguing here that Chauncey has provided more output per 36 minutes. He’s outscored Carmelo, while providing the same number of rebounds (from the point guard position!!) and nearly tripling Carmelo’s assists.

I think part of Chauncey’s efficiency dominance is attributable to 3 things. First, Carmelo is a great scorer, but not an efficient one. Second, Carmelo, who has gotten used to dominating the ball since Iverson was traded, has to learn to share the rock with Amare. Finally, I think the D’Antoni offense generally benefits point guard play.

So as I said, I’m not trying to convince anyone that Chauncey is better than Carmelo. I am trying to say that his production so far has been underrated and that his production moving forward will also likely be underrated. There’s extreme value in efficiency, which is something Chauncey has in spades when compared to Melo.

February 24, 2011

Overrated: Rajon Rondo Claim to Best PG in the NBA

by Jeeves

Flowchart courtesy of Shamsports

After a 1 week hiatus, overrated/underrated is back. This week we’re looking at Rajon Rondo

As always, let’s get my biases out front and center. I’m a big Bulls fan, thus I love Derrick Rose.

There’s a definite rift between Rose and Rondo both on the court and amongst their proponents in the media. Even with my adoration of Rose, I’ve never fully understood the fawning over Rondo. It’s quite possible that I’m missing something, but to me he is merely a very good point guard. He doesn’t strike me as “in the conversation” for best point guard in the league.

The flow chart above sums up one of my main complaints about Rondo. I realize a point guard needs to initiate the offense, but it’s detrimental if that’s all the point guard can do. I like my point guard to control the offense while also maintaining the ability to create something on his own. Simply racking up assists isn’t enough for me and racking up assists seems to be Rondo’s greatest claim to fame.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good passer and has great vision, but he has three teammates that are perfect for amassing large assist totals. Pierce, Allen and KG are all great jump shooters and their games conflate to inflate Rondo’s stats. Large parts of the Celtics’ offense is predicated on Allen running off of screens catching the ball and shooting immediately or KG catching the ball at the elbow and firing an 18 footer. They do all the work to get open, and all Rondo has to do is hit the open man for the assist. Much as the D’Antoni offense is known for inflating offensive statistics, I think the (Real) Big Three in Boston have that affect on assist totals.

If inflated assist totals were my only issue with Rondo’s game, I’d put him up there with the best PG’s and I wouldn’t be writing this post, but that’s just my opening salvo. His lack of a reliable jump shot is another huge flaw in his game. Rondo is a great finisher at the rim. He makes 2/3 of his 4.2 shots a game at the rim; that’s really good. If you move him away from there, though, he becomes a sieve on offense. He shoots 34% from less than ten feet (excluding at the rim shots) and 28% from 10-15 feet. His 16-23 foot shooting is a bit better (41%), I assume, because defenses sag off of him. Rondo just has no mid range game at all. The large knock on Rose’s game, coming into the league, was that he didn’t have a jump shot; to this day announcers are still surprised at his ability to knock down a 12 footer. Despite this widely acknowledged flaw, he has never shot worse from <10 to 15 feet as Rondo is currently shooting in his 5th year in the league. Why isn’t Rondo’s lack of a jumper a bigger talking point?

Rondo’s lack of shooting ability means defenses can sag off of him. It means that he doesn’t get rushed with double teams to get the ball out of his hands. Even with this amount of space his usage is a low, 17.96, yet his turnover rate is a sky high 26.63 (Rose for comparison is at 31.75 and 13.3). Rondo has the 6th highest turnover rate in the league. He doesn’t face much defensive pressure, yet he still racks up 4 TO’s a game.

We haven’t even touched upon his free throw shooting yet. It’s kind of incredible; for as reluctant as he is to shoot, he is even more reluctant to step to the free throw line. His FTA per game have cratered 2.0 this season, and of those two, he usually splits the pair (55% from the line). He is in the bottom 20 (of players who get 15+ mpg) in terms of FT% behind such luminaries as Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. Point guards need to be able to draw fouls. They need to be able to draw big men over while driving in order to free up passing lanes. Rondo, as his game is constructed, is completely missing this facet to his game. I’ll compare him, yet again, to Rose. Derrick saw some heat in the press for avoiding contact and selling out for the layup rather than accepting contact. Seeing all the articles chiding him for this, one would think he struggled to get to the line as well, yet he averages 6.2 free throws a game. He isn’t quite Lebron James in that department, but his 6.2 a game is good for 15th in the league and 2nd overall at the point guard position (behind Deron Williams).

Please don’t read this and think that I don’t see any value in Rondo. I think Rajon Rondo is a very good player. I think he’s a very good point guard and a pretty damn good match for the Boston Celtics. I also just happen to think that he is rather overrated for the amount of production he brings to the table. I think the one facet of his offensive game that is elite is his assists totals, and even those are inflated. And, hell, just for the sake of comparison,

Rondo’s 3rd season: 8.2 assists per game.

Rose’s 3rd season (to date): 8.2 assists per game.

I realize some of you would still choose Rondo as the PG to start your team, but for me, give me a point guard that can shoot. Give me a point guard that shoots free throws, hell, until Chris Paul proves his knee his healthy, just give me Derrick Rose.

February 3, 2011

Overrated: Amare Stoudemire’s MVP Chances

by Jeeves

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look at something that’s underrated or overrated

Bottom line, Amare Stoudemire is not going to be the MVP.

Before I get into things, I want to say that I think Amare is a pretty darn good player. He has surpassed my expectations and proven false the idea that 50% (exaggeration alert) of his production was due to Steve Nash. With that out of the way, I think it is farcical that he is being touted as an MVP candidate. Let me lay it out in different words; the idea that Amare is the MVP of the National Basketball Association is ABSURD!

There are a number of ways to attack his MVP case, and well, I guess I’ll start with his production. The case for Amare as MVP, I suppose, begins with his scoring average; it is, after all, his flashiest stat. As of today, he is averaging 26.2 points per game, which is good for 2nd in the league behind Kevin Durant. I’ll admit, 2nd on the leaderboard is fairly high, but is it necessarily indicative of MVP play?If you look at Amare’s number throughout his career, this is by no means his best statistical season. I will point you to 2004-2005 when Amare averaged 26.0 ppg on 16.7 shots per game with a 56% shooting percentage and 8.9 rebound per game; compare that to this year, where Amare is averaging 26.2 points per game on 19.5 shots per game with a 50% shooting percentage and 8.8 rebounds per game. Is this year really that much more impressive that 04-05? I would argue that it is significantly less impressive. Amare is taking nearly 2 extra shots a game (with an extra turnover per game thrown in) to average a whopping .2 ppg more. If everyone is so enamored with Amare as MVP this year why wasn’t there more momentum behind him then? He finished a distant 9th in the voting that year; he was a mere after thought. Yes, Steve Nash won the MVP that year, but it seems that Stoudemire didn’t even dent the national consciousness.

This begs the question, if Amare’s season to date is no better than a number of his previous seasons, what has changed to make 2 out of 6 SI writers choose him as their half season MVP’s and 5 of 6 put him amongst their top 5? It seems the only difference is that Steve and Farouq, taxi drivers in NYC, are talking up his game this year. In a handful of pieces defending Amare as an MVP candidate, I’ve read people list, “He’s revitalized basketball in the city of New York!” as a reason. The absurdity of that notion is off the charts. I agree that the whole of New York is talking about Amare, but tell me, pleeease, tell me, when the hell did name recognition in New York City become a legitimate MVP attribute? I think it’s cool and neat that the Knicks are semi-relevant again after being run into the ground by Isaiah and James Dolan, but have we really sunk to level that general word of mouth in NYC is a legitimate barometer of MVP relevancy? Is that what we’re at? I apologize for all the rhetorical questions, but I just can’t wrap my head around it. I don’t know why Amare doing what he’s done for a formerly moribund Knicks team is any different than if he did it for say, the Pistons or better yet what he did do for Phoenix.

Stats aside, the historical precedent is working strongly against Amare. If you want the voters to vote for you, you need your team to win at least 50 games. 50+ wins and an MVP go nearly hand in hand. Only 7 people have won an MVP with less than 50 wins for their team (excluding Karl Malone in the lock-out year). Those players are Moses Malone (twice), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob McAdoo, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Petit, Bill Russell, and Bob Cousy. That’s it. To put it another way, unless your last name is Malone, no one in 35 years has won an MVP without their team winning 50 games. As I type this, the Knicks are 25-23 which puts them on pace for a much improved 42 wins. Even if, in your heart of hearts, you think Amare deserves the MVP because the guy who drove you home from LaGuardia talked about him non-stop, the Knicks’ record and Amare’s inability to elevate them to a better winning percentage basically precludes him from consideration. I recommend focusing your attention instead upon the likes of  Dwight, Dirk, Derrick, or LeBron.


January 28, 2011

Underrated: NHL All-Star Game

by Jeeves

I am a hockey fan; I admit it. Unfortunately, I’m not as big of a hockey fan as I was in the mid-90’s, back in the days with the likes of Chelios, Amonte, Roenick, and Belfour. Part of the reason for that is due to Bill Wirtz trying to kill hockey in Chicago, part of it is due to less leisure time than I had as an elementary school kid, and a large part of that is due to general mismanagement by Gary Bettman. I think one of the few things the NHL and Bettman have gotten right in the intervening years is the NHL All-Star Game. I’m going on the record and saying it’s fairly underrated.

Before we get into it, here’s a brief history of the NHL All-Star Game:

1947-1967: The Stanley Cup champion from the previous season played against All-Stars from the other teams preceding the start of the season, except for the 5th and 6th All-Star games where it was a team of all-stars from the Canadian based teams vs a team of all-stars from the American based teams.

1967: The All-Star Game moved to mid-season

1968: The All-Star Game became an East vs West affair, with the teams not chosen after the end of the preceding system, but at the mid-way point.

1975: Due to realignment into 4 divisions, the All-Star Game now pitted the Wales Conference against the Campbell conference.

1985: Fan balloting was started to determine the starters.

1990: The NHL skills competition was introduced.

1998: North American stars vs World Stars

2003: The game reverted back to East vs West

2011: Two players serving as captains will choose their teams from a pool of all-stars

That brings us to the present and the point of my article. I find this new wrinkle absolutely fascinating. There are so many storylines that will play into and come out of the “draft.” Bunches of questions will be answered, like which Sedin brother will be chosen first? Will the latter chosen brother rise up and play better to prove the captains wrong? Do players think as highly of Jonathan Toews, as I do? Will the captains skew towards players from their own countries? The questions go on and on and on. To be honest I may be actually more interested in the picking than the actual game. There’s also the fact that the picking will allow the public to see the actual pecking order within the NHL. Yes, there are ways to judge players and rank them, but this serves as a, sort of, straight from the horse’s mouth ranking scheme.

While this whole concept is, to be honest, a little weird, it has definitely achieved its purpose; it has increased interest in the game. Perhaps it is just me, but as I grow older, I have become less and less interested in All-Star Games. The appeal and shine have slowly come off of the games and they seem like empty exhibitions. The NHL had the stones to mix things up and inject some life into the proceedings. They have created a novel twist into something that had become increasingly rote, and for this I commend them. Brendan Shanahan deserves major credit for working on the idea and standing behind it.

I’ll also add that the NHL has the best non-ASG event. I completely and thoroughly enjoy the skills competition. The different competitions are so basic that there’s actual bragging rights that come with it. Who wouldn’t enjoy finding out who the faster player in the NBA or NFL is? Well, the NHL tells us this each year (save for Olympic years). Want to know who can hit the hardest shot? Well, the NHL sets up speed guns for that very purpose. It’s pure awesomeness; it would be akin to having MLB pitchers try and throw the fastest pitch. These are the types of questions that fans argue about over beers and think about while writing blog posts. The NHL provides a forum to answer these questions and put the arguments to rest for a year. No other sport offers that same forum (now that the NFL stopped). Yes there are events like the home run derby and the dunk contest, but it doesn’t break things down to their fundamentals the way the NHL SuperSkills competition does.

The actual game itself may end up being just as exciting as past iterations, but that’s not the point. The point is the NHL is providing novel entertainment. They are throwing in tweaks that are far more exciting than in other sports, yet how many of you honestly knew that the ASG is this weekend? Bottom line: the NHL All-Star game is totally unheralded and completely underrated.