Posts tagged ‘National Basketball Association’

March 2, 2011

Chris Paul Version 2.0

by Jeeves

In my mind, going into the 2009-2010 season, Chris Paul was with out a doubt the best point guard in the NBA. He was unbelievable to watch. He had a quick first step, he could shoot, he could dribble, he could command an offense, he could do everything. Unfortunately for NBA fans everywhere, he tore his meniscus part way through that year.

The injury didn’t mark the end of Chris Paul, phenomenal basketball player. It has, it seems, affected the way he plays and has damaged his stake to the claim of best PG in all the land. Before we jump into things, let me establish a baseline for Chris Paul. The following table is a listing of some key stats from the 2008-2009 season, which I consider the peak of his basketball powers:

Year FGA FG% FTA Reb Ast Pts USG% TOV%
08-09 16.1 50.4 6.7 5.5 11.0 22.8 27.5 13.5

We’ll consider that the baseline of awesomeness.

Sadly, CP3’s numbers have all taken a tumble. The big box score numbers (pts/reb/ast) have fallen to 16.0/3.9/9.6. If those were the only numbers that had slipped from the baseline of awesomeness, well, I’d just chalk it up to Paul finding his game again after surgery and assume that by next year he’d be back to normal. Digging deeper, though, it looks like Chris Paul has fundamentally changed his game. It looks like he’s lost a great deal of his assertiveness.  Compare these two tables:

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February 28, 2011

The Motives of Free Agents

by Jeeves

After the formation of, for lack of a better name, (I’ll oblige them), the Heatles and now that Carmelo officially has become a Knick, it appears that the free agency landscape has changed drastically in the NBA. Throw in the impending (2012) free agencies of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Dwight Howard and it would be perfectly reasonable to assume that the (star) players now have all the leverage in terms of where they end up. The teams that these stars are leaving are desperate to get at least pennies on the dollar so they kowtow to the wishes of their star even as he orchestrates his departure. Inevitably, that star will leave for greener pastures in a larger market. That is, at least, the perception.

It is that perception that I want to take a look at. Do stars really leave their teams to sign larger contracts in a city they deem better? Plus, what qualities do these cities have that make them “better”?

So these are the rules, if you will, of the way I treated the data. I scoured the Internet for reliable lists of the highest paid players in their respective leagues. For the NBA, I used a HoopsHype list of the highest salaries of players for this season. This means that I wasn’t looking at the largest total salaries, just single season salaries from this current season. The site listed the top 30 players. For the MLB, I used the invaluable Cot’s Contracts. He had the top 33 total contracts in history listed, meaning the total value over the life of the contract. That means for the MLB, it’s more of a snap shot of the last 15-20 years rather than a single season snap shot. Finally, for the NHL, I used a listing from USA Today which had the top 25 salaries from LAST (2009-2010) season. (I ignored the NFL because things get hairy after including signing and roster bonuses).

So after choosing my lists, I parsed the names to find out which players either A) Signed with a different team as a free agent or B) Forced a trade/was traded and immediately signed an extension. Those in group B weren’t technically free agents, but things worked, to the same effect. It does, however, exclude players such as Matt Holliday who was traded to the Cardinals, played through the remainder of the season, hit free agency, and then resigned with the Cardinals.

Let’s take a look at the lists starting with the NBA since this is what set me on this line of inquiry:

NBA – 10/30 – 33%

Rashard Lewis (Magic)

Carmelo Anthony (Knicks)

Gilbert Arenas (first salary) (Wizards)

Amare Stoudemire (Knicks)

Kenyon Martin (Nuggets)

Elton Brand (76ers)

Peja Stojakovic (Hornets)

Lebron James (Heat)

Chris Bosh (Heat)

Carlos Boozer (Bulls)

Of the 30 highest paid players in the NBA, only 10 of them met my criteria. Bosh, Lebron, and Carmelo are all prominently on that list. They also, make up a sizable portion. The teams that the players signed with don’t seem to have any sort of correlation. For every Carmelo who wanted the big market you have a Peja who signed with the small market Hornets. For every Lebron James who headed for warm weather, there’s a Carlos Boozer who went to a cold weather city. I think what it comes down to is that the players went to the teams that could pay them the most. They also seem not to be (LBJ excluded) the premier talents of the league. Yes, Amare Stoudemire is a very good player but he wouldn’t be in your top 7 of players with whom to start a team with. Taking this all into account, it seems (recently) that star players usually sign extensions with teams that drafted them (2/3 of the listed 30). It means that the Heatles and Melo are breaking the mold, so to speak, with the way that they orchestrated their moves to their current teams. It’s impossible to say whether this is a trend or a blip, but if history says anything it is that you can expect some superstars to move about, but the vast majority will stay put.

After the jump we’ll take a look at the NHL and MLB.

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February 23, 2011

Williams Trade Brings up Lots of Questions

by Jeeves

As I’m sure you’ve all heard, Deron Williams was traded to the Nets (or Nyets, if you prefer). I’m not going to break this one down like I did the ‘Melo trade (check our Zach Lowe for that), but I do want to address some of the questions this trade brings up.

1) Would the Nets really trade for Williams without a stipulation that he sign an extension?

At best, I would put Williams resigning with the Nets at 50-50. He has no personal ties to the area being, from Texas and playing college ball at Illinois, the Nets are a terrible team, and, well, for now, they’re in New Jersey. It doesn’t seem like there’s much to keep Deron there instead of bolting come 2012. There are two reasons he may stay. First, with the new CBA, it may be unpalatable for him to leave. The new CBA may heavily stack things in favor of teams resigning their own free agents. The second reason is also tied to the CBA. The Nyets and Williams may be able to lure a second free agent, ahem…Dwight Howard. Suddenly you have a way better version of the Kidd-Martin pairing of the Nets recent glory years.

2) So it’s possible the Nets could get nothing out of this deal come 2012?

It’s quite possible. The way in which the media has painted owner Mikhail Prokhorov is that of a risk taker. So, as far as I can tell, he took a risk. He knows its easier to retain players than to woo them on the open market. He knows his Nets team sucks. He knows that star players shape NBA teams. He didn’t have to make this move, but it does, at least, seem like a reasonable gamble. If Williams leaves, and they don’t sign a different 2012 free agent, they’ll be back to where they are now.

3) What does this say about Williams that the Jazz dropped him so quickly?

Well, clearly something went down that hasn’t been reported. We just had Sloan up and quit after 20+ years on the sidelines, due, we’re told, mostly to Williams. So did Williams do something so atrocious during the game against the Bulls that it made Sloan want to leave and force management to seek a trade or has he done something in the intervening days? Something is rotten in the state of Utah.

4) Will whatever baggage Williams bring play in New Jersey?

Your guess is as good as mine.

5) When was the last time we saw a huge NBA trade with no media buildup?

I’m having trouble comping up with a comparable trade. The Gasol trade was surprising, I suppose, but in a different way. He was clearly on the block, but I don’t recall (I may be wrong here) much buildup about him going to the Lakers. 3 years ago, though, is a loooong time in terms of the 24 hour news cycle that we now have. This one is pretty shocking, the Jazz traded a franchise player, under contract and I didn’t hear a peep about the possibility.

6) Does Sloan come back now?

I doubt it. He rode his tractor into the sunset and I think he’ll remain retired for at least this season. I read that he also felt undermined by management, so perhaps Williams wasn’t the only issue.

February 14, 2011

A Boon to the Rose-for-MVP Crowd

by Jeeves

 

The Bulls finished up their 5-game West Coast swing. They may not have proved themselves to be road warriors, but they did at least confirm that they can beat good teams in their buildings. The 3-2 record was what I was expecting from the Bulls, but they didn’t quite arrive there in the manner that I would have guessed. They dropped a couple winnable games in the middle at Golden State and Portland. I suppose this served as a wake up call, as they won fairly impressively in what figured to be the two hardest games of the trip at Utah and at New Orleans.

Those last two games, against Deron Williams and the Jazz and Chris Paul and the Hornets combined with the Bulls/Rose’s performance against Rajon Rondo and the Celtics on January 8th has boosted both Rose’s candidacy as best PG in the game and MVP of the season. The following table, while not encapsulating every facet of the game, sums things up nicely:

Pts Ast Reb ORtg DRtg NetRtg Team Score
Jan 8
Rose 36 2 5 125 99 +26 90
Rondo 13 8 5 106 95 +11 79
Feb 9
Rose 29 7 3 115 102 +13 91
Williams 11 12 4 83 109 -26 86
Feb 12
Rose 23 6 4 114 103 +11 97
Paul 15 6 2 103 110 -7 88

(ORtg is a stat that tries to estimate points produced per 100 possessions. DRtg does the same but for points allowed. If you subtract the DRtg from ORtg you get the Net figure.)

As the chart shows, Rose dominated his match-ups against the other top tier point guards. He, as expected, played excellently on offense (so you have an idea, the 10th best ORtg in the NBA is 122.0), even against Rondo where he had his best offensive night. He also played really well on defense (10th best ORtg is 99.6 and the stat skews towards bigs), which, if you believe Nicolas Batum, is an area that Rose is no good at.

I think it is evident that in these games Rose put forth just that much more concentration and effort. He is a very competitive person, and I’m sure he wants to be considered the best PG (if not best player) in the NBA, which led to such spectacular performances. The thing to keep in mind is that though these three games (all in a close time span) are impressive, they do not necessitate a significantly large sample size. To put it another way, where I, a Bulls fan, may use these numbers to support a case for Rose as the best PG or MVP worthy, a Celtics fan may use the first two match-ups where Rondo outperformed Rose (according to NetRtg). What I think we can take out of all of this, is that there’s no denying that Rose is one of the best PG’s in the league and there is no denying that he is a serious MVP candidate. Let’s see how the rest of the season plays out, before we crown him.

February 8, 2011

Have the Magic Fallen from the NBA’s Elite?

by Jeeves

Over the weekend the Orlando Magic lost at Boston which marked their 7th straight loss against a team with a winning record. The loss also brought their record down to 32-20 and has inspired fervent discussion whether it’s time to demote the Magic from the East’s top tier to its second tied. It’s certainly a frustrating time in Orlando; their recent stretch of play has them at 3-5 in their last 8 and 7-8 since their 9-game winning streak. Their poor form has dropped them below the Atlanta Hawks in the standings and has seemingly (operative word is seemingly) locked the Magic into either the 4th or 5th seed.

The question at hand is whether or not the Magic, in their current iteration, remain a legitimate title contender. Since the trades that brought over Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Earl Clark, and Gilbert Arenas, the Magic have compiled a 16-10 record which is good for a .615 winning percentage. The Magic, coincidentally began the season 16-10 as well. This clip clearly pales in comparison to the 59-23 (.720 WL%) record the Magic compiled in each of the last two seasons. Clearly, the Magic aren’t playing up to their past standard, you don’t need me to tell you that. Now that we have established that fact, lets take a deeper look into the numbers to see why they are struggling and what we can expect in the future.

The first thing to note (and which greatly simplifies our comparisons) is that Orlando has maintained the same pace (qualitatively, speaking) over the last three years. This year, they average 92.1 possessions a game which nearly matches the 92.0 and 92.3 mark they put up in 09-10 (referred to as 2010 from here on out) and 08-09 (referred to as 2009 from here on out) respectively.  The table below sums up their offensive and defensive outputs over the last three years:

PPG Lg Avg Diff Opp. PPG Lg Avg Diff Score Margin
2011 100.1 99.3 0.8 94.7 99.3 4.6 5.4
2010 102.8 100.4 2.4 95.3 100.4 5.1 7.5
2009 101.0 100 1.0 94.4 100 5.6 5.6
2011 Post Trades 103.54 99.3 4.24 96.55 99.3 2.75 6.99
2011 Pre Trades 96.57 99.3 -2.73 92.85 99.3 6.45 3.72

(Note: I did not recalculate the league average values for before and after Orlando’s trades. I assumed it to be the same, which should only have a marginal effect on the analysis; this isn’t baseball after all)

If you take 2011, 2010, and 2009 all at face value, you would be absolutely lost as to why Orlando is struggling  so mightily this year. In all three instances, Orlando appears to be an elite defensive team with a decent offense. Taking 2011 as a whole, however, masks the two halves that have made up the Magic’s season, so far. Before the trades, the Magic were a defensive juggernaut ranking near the top of the league coupled with a very poor offense. After the trades those two profiles reversed; the Magic would now rate as a top-7 offensive team but only a top 10 defense. That isn’t to say that the Magic aren’t still a good defensive team, they are, but they no longer are elite. That eliteness on defense is what carried them in the past to their gaudy regular season records.

Even with the stark split of the stats between the pre-trade Magic and the post-trade Magic, the results, as mentioned before, are the exact same: 26-10. Removing random chance as a legitimate factor, I believe relative strength of schedule can explain this anomaly. Before the trade, the Magic played 11 teams with (current) winning records and 15 teams with (current) losing records. After their trades, that split is 13 and 13. 2 games doesn’t mark a huge difference, but it does contribute. If you designate the Celtics, Bulls, Heat, Hawks, Thunder, Lakers, Spurs, Mavs, and Hornets (all teams with a winning percent greater than .600) as “elite teams” an analysis of the strength of schedule becomes slightly more significant. In the Magic’s first 26 games, they played one of the “elite teams” 6 times, constituting 23% of their games. In their most recent 26 game stretch, the Magic have played an elite team 10 times (39% of their games). If you do the reverse analysis and look at the number of games played against the bottom of the league (say the worst 10 teams: Nets, Raptors, Cavs, Wizards, T-Wolves, Kings, Pistons, Clippers, and Bucks), you find that the Magic played more poor teams (11) before the trade than after (8). I believe this imbalance in their schedule, when it comes to elite and abysmal teams, is the main factor in why the post-trade Magic have the same record as the pre-trade Magic.

From what we’ve seen, I feel confident in saying that the Magic, before their trade, were a mediocre team compared to their 2010 and 2009 versions. They defended well, and pumped up their record courtesy of an easier schedule. The post-trade Magic are much improved, yet, have been held back by a tougher schedule to date. All this leads me to believe that the Magic are, in fact, no longer an elite team. They are still a good team, and are better than they were earlier this year. It is possible that they improve over the home stretch, but if the playoffs were to start today, I wouldn’t put any money on them advancing to the Conference Finals. At this point, it would be questionable whether they are even able to beat an Atlanta team whom they absolutely massacred in last year’s playoffs. It isn’t time to abandon ship in Orlando, but unless their defense picks things up a bit, it certainly is time to start tempering expectations.

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.


February 2, 2011

Heat Excuses Flow Like Milk and Honey in the Holy Land

by npiller88

As the season wears on, the Miami Heat have given fans of mediocre NBA squads a reason to look forward to the playoffs, if only to root against the new evil empire (think David Stern is happy about that? Yep). But leave it to the Heat to temper the expectations of their, ahem, fans? (wouldn’t want to seem overconfident. After all its not like the organization ever put up a banner that said “Yes We Did” after acquiring the two most outstanding free agents in the 2010 class and parading the “Big Three” around a stage with smoke machines and a light show)

Lebron had this to say in comparing the playoff chops of the Heat to those of more seasoned teams like the Boston Celtics:

“We’re way behind those guys,” Lebron James said following the Heat’s practice on Wednesday. “Just look at the number of games played, the number of playoff series those guys have had. We’re only a few months in together — 40-something-plus games. I’ve seen the statistics. Boston has like 250-plus games played together. We’re way behind those teams.”

It’s as if Lebron wants spectators to hear, “yes we know we are awesome, but we can’t guarantee a championship.” In fact, the heat seem to be displaying pretty solid chemistry so far this year, at least as its reflected in scoring differential (+7.8 points per game, highest in the NBA). And now that it appears Lebron’s bad tweet karma has worn off (the team is 4-1 in the last four games), there doesn’t seem to be a real cause for concern in Miami. Of course, knowing Lebron’s Hindu Guru reputation (thanks, Jeeves), we’ll have to keep our eye on his next few tweets to see if there’s any indication of a sudden dip in performance.

But this strategy of “managing expectations” really gets at the heart of the struggle the Heat will always face. Right at the moment that the franchise decided to go all out with a carnival of arrogance (“Yes We Did,” “Karma’s a Bitch,” etc.), or even earlier, at the moment the team signed James and Bosh, expectations were sky high, and for good reason. I remember saying at the time that anything less than a championship would be seen as a failure by most fans (many of whom will be rooting for MUCH less than a championship for this team). It’s too late to prepare the fans and haters for potential failure, because the Heat invited those high expectations from the beginning. I’m not one of these guys who claims Lebron jeopardized his legacy by joining the super team, but it is true that such high expectations (something he faced to a far lesser extent in Cleveland), are likely to lead to an emotional letdown of some sort.

There is simply no way the heat can justify the hype (and silence the haters) without a championship. But Lebron seems to be trying to find a way to do just that. His quote reads sort of like: “Just so you know, if we lose to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, it won’t be because we’re not as good as they are, just because they’ve played together more.” Maybe he should have saved this for the Eastern Conference Finals. Let the letdown (or uplift, for most fans) commence.

February 2, 2011

The Chicago Bulls: Not Quite Road-Warriors, as of Yet

by Jeeves


The Chicago Bulls have been playing great basketball so far this season. They have compiled the 4th best record in the NBA and are within spitting distance of the top two teams in the East (.5 games back of Miami and 3.0 behind Boston). All this has been done while integrating a handful of new players into a completely new system and juggling the rotation around the absences of Carlos Boozer (18 games missed due to injury) and Joakim Noah (23 games missed due to injury). To say they’ve out done expectations would be an understatement. The pundits, generally speaking had the Bulls pegged as a solid playoff contender, but nowhere near title worthy. Marc Stein, of ESPN, had the Bulls 9th in his Preseason power rankings and Britt Robson, of SI, had the Bulls 12th in his poll. They were viewed as a fringey contender, one that, perhaps, could make a deep run in a year or two.

As the Bulls stand now, they have to be viewed as one of the favorites to come out of the East. They may rank a bit behind Boston and Miami, but they have to be taken at least as seriously as Orlando. I would be zero percent surprised to see the Bulls in the ECF. I would, however, be surprised if they make it that far while maintaining their pedestrian road record. The Bulls home record (3rd best, behind only Boston and San Antonio) buoys their 10-10 road record. It should also be noted that only the Clippers have played fewer road games than the Bulls which can be used to further discount the Bulls’ overall record. This isn’t a horrendous mark, especially considering they didn’t have Boozer during the annual rodeo trip, but it’s not befitting of a title contender. The average NBA Finals team since the year after the lock-out has had a record of 24-17  on the road, with a numerical mode of 27-14.

Derrick Rose and company embark on a 5 game road swing through the Western Conference. Though the team is still not at full strength, it provides an opportunity for the Bulls to at least show that they are legitimate Finals contenders and not just Conference Finals contenders. The Bulls play, in order, at the Clippers, at Golden State, at Portland, at Utah, and at New Orleans. There is not a single back-to-back in that stretch which will aide the Bulls as they try to improve their road mark.

While maximizing their wins on this West Coast swing would obviously be best, I’m most interested to see how they perform against the Jazz and the Hornets. They are two of the better home teams in the league and either game would count in my books as the Bulls second impressive road win of the season. I don’t mean second most impressive; I mean their second impressive, period. The Bulls beat a full strength Mavs team way back on November 11th. Other than that game, their best road win is either their win in Memphis or their win in Phoenix, two teams that are around .500.

These 5-games won’t make or break the Bulls in the public’s eyes; their sparkly 33-14 record takes care of that. This stretch, though, represents their best chance to legitimize their championship aspirations that is, at least, until Noah returns.

February 2, 2011

Kobe Bryant and the Dominique Wilkins Game

by Jeeves

The other night against the Celtics, Kobe put up a fairly interesting stat line, one which I didn’t notice until now. For the game, (in the money stats) he had 41 pts, 0 ast, and 3 reb. The 41 points, while a high number, is clearly nothing out of the ordinary for Mamba. The lack of assists and rebounds, though, is what caught my eye. This line brought me over to the play index at basketball-reference, as I am apt to do, to see just how uncommon that game was.

I initially punched in (a minimum of) 40 points and zero assists as that was what caught my eye off the bat. Unfortunately, that search yielded far more results than I expected; 60 to be specific (since the beginning of the 1986 season, as the play index does not go farther back in time). Sunday’s game was actually Kobe’s third of at least 40 points with 0 assists; it pulled him into a first place tie with Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Dirk Nowitzki, and Glen Rice. So while 40 points with 0 assists is pretty rare, it isn’t as rare as I thought.

So I added in the rebounding component just to see what came out. With a set maximum of 5 rebounds, that list was pruned down to 14, which I think is something worth writing about. Kobe joined 13 others (nobody has been able to repeat the feat), the most recent of which was Michael Redd when he went off for a stunning 57-2-0 against the Jazz in 2006. Redd’s game is also of note, due to the fact that no one has scored more than his 57 without recording an assist (since 1986, which, again, is as far as the play index covers).

I’m unsure what to make of Kobe’s stat line in the grander scheme of things. Clearly, it’s a fairly rare achievement; one the NBA hasn’t seen in 5 years, yet I feel it would be foolish to say that his stat line is emblematic of the reason why the Lakers lost on Sunday. Yes, it makes for a nice rip job on Kobe, he hogs the ball and ices out his teammates which allows the Lakers to keep things fairly close, but it is disingenuous. In Kobe’s other two 40+ point, 0 assist games, his team was victorious, so perhaps there is no greater narrative and the meaning (but what does it mean???) to take out of it all is Kobe had himself an interesting game.

————————————————————

My ruminations over at the play index also helped me uncover what I will refer to from now on as the Dominique Wilkins Game. The Dominique Wilkins game is one where a player scores at least 35 points and fails to record an assist. ‘Nique is the all-time leader with 14(!) such games. I think it’s safe to say that he had at least another one of those games in his first 4 seasons which, unfortunately, aren’t covered in the Play Index. The Dominique Wilkins game has happened far more often (207 times since ’86) so here’s hoping I get to one day soon write a post about someone posting a Dominique Wilkins game.

January 29, 2011

Could Jimmer Fredette Be the Next JJ Redick, or some other white player?

by npiller88

After (formerly #6) San Diego State got Jimmer’d this past Wednesday to the tune of 43 points, the game has begun in the minds of pundits to project college Player of the Year candidate Jimmer Fredette as an NBA prospect.

NBA players reacted to Fredette’s nationally televised smackdown of SDSU by revving the engine of the hype machine for the nation’s next great white hope. Last year’s NBA leading scorer, the freakishly long and athletic Kevin Durant (who possesses athletic advantages Fredette will never sniff), called him “the best scorer in the world!!” on twitter (his exclamation points, not mine). I’m not sure if Fredette, who is older than John Wall, was really in search of “respect” from his junior, another freakishly athletic NBA rookie talent, but that’s what he got when Wall proclaimed on twitter: “Jimmer Fredette is cold! Respect.”

Fredette leads the NCAA in scoring, at 27.4 points per game. His .421 three point shooting percentage isn’t at the top of Division I, but given the staggering number of threes he’s taken, that percentage is pretty damned impressive. His 4.2 assists per game are respectable, especially for an off guard. And with such high usage, the 1.44 assist to turnover ratio ain’t too shabby either. It’s also the worst of his college career, which speaks again to role Fredette has played as ball-controlling leader on this Mountain West leading BYU squad.

Many of his stat lines have been astonishing this year. In four of the last six games, he’s had at least 39 points, and 47 in one of them against Utah while playing only 35 minutes, the fewest of the six game stretch. Fredette has made the third most threes in the NCAA. It’s worth noting that there are better three-point shooters out there. For instance, Ashton Gibbs of Pitt, nearly the same height and weight as Fredette, is hitting on 45% of his threes, while having made only four less than Jimmer. But Gibbs lacks the versatility of Fredette as a scorer. Fredette, who doesn’t have elite leaping ability or quickness, finds a way to score inside, absorb contact and finish around the rim. The college game is filled with players who take advantage of the NCAA’s short three point shot, and linger on the perimeter, playing the role of sharpshooter. There are players who have lived out there and had very successful careers, even landing NBA gigs as a result (see Anthony Morrow of the Nets). But Fredette is not that guy. Among the top 35 leaders in three pointers made in Division I college basketball, Fredette is the leader in two point field goals. Only one other player, Andrew Goudelock of mid major College of Charleston is close. Make no mistake about it, Fredette knows how to score, and in a variety of ways.

So, the question is, will he score at anywhere near that rate at the NBA level?

History says no. But is there a little racial bias here? The early NBA comparisons Fredette has garnered have been to other good white shooters like JJ Redick. No doubt, there are clear similarities between Redick and Fredette–strong fundamentals and knock-down shooting ability. But the knock on Fredette, and guys like Redick before him, is that he is “not athletic enough.” And maybe that’s true. But what is athleticism? If it is solely defined by leaping ability and raw speed, then Fredette is probably in the bottom third of NBA guards. But if you want to include body control, concentration, and strength, Fredette is at least competitive with most young point guards in the NBA. His skill level is elite, and we can thank that father of his, as seen in many a youtube video, passing the ball to Fredette for a few of his twenty thousand shots during the day’s workout.

The projections for Fredette also seem to forget the long list of black players whose athleticism has disappointed at the NBA level thus far (OJ Mayo or Evan Turner, anyone?), and the white players who have exceeded expectations athletically (Chris Andersen, Kevin Love). A search in google for the “worst athletes in the NBA” brings up multiple lists of the “worst white players of the last 15 years” and other such tantalizing nuggets. There’s nothing wrong with the tacit understanding that there exist far more elite black athletes in the NBA than white ones. But whenever a strong white player like Fredette comes along, there are only comparisons to other white players, and often white shooting specialists at that, rather than complete offensive players (which is what Fredette is). Fredette’s game doesn’t actually resemble Redick’s as much as people think. He’s more creative finishing around the basket than Redick ever was, and has far superior body control, at least at the college level.

The only fair comparison I’ve seen thus far has been to Warriors’ guard Steph Curry (a player exceeding the expectations of many, despite athletic limitations), who has a similar inside and out game. So let’s hold it on the projections at this stage. See how the season finishes. See what the Scouts say as the draft nears. But don’t assume that Fredette’s NBA ceiling is Redick.