Month: February 2011

Now Do More

Wizards latest acquisition about to dunk on Lebron in a pickup game. Really.

My latest at the Washington Post, this one analyzing the Hinrich to the Hawks deal.  I also suggest that the Wizards should attempt to accomplish three objectives before the trade deadline — trade Blatche (addition by subtraction), get value for Young, and get value for the newly acquired Bibby.

The lede:

Yesterday’s deal sending Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong to Atlanta for Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford, Maurice Evans and a 2011 first-round pick was a smart trade for the Wizards. Now is no time to rest however — GM Ernie Grunfeld should push to make additional trades before today’s 3 p.m. deadline.

Read the rest.

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One True Building Block

My latest at the Washington Post.  This one looks at John Wall’s rookie season.

Lemme see — I’ve written that the Wizards should trade Andray Blatche and avoid a major investment in Nick Young. Let’s turn the focus to a positive — the development of the team’s one true franchise bedrock: John Wall.

Despite injury struggles, a balky jumper, and inconsistent defense, Wall has so far produced a solid rookie season that suggests he’s a player the team can build around. Wall’s blazing speed and aggressiveness with the ball make him a one-man fastbreak that consistently worries the opposition. His ability to get to the rim in the open court — despite multiple opponents getting back in an effort to cut him off — is in the upper echelon of the league’s point guards.

Only six players since 1979-80 posted rookie seasons comparable to Wall’s play so far this season (at least 1,500 total minutes with a minimum of 13 points, 8.0 assists, and 1.5 steals per 36 minutes).

Read the rest.

One addition to the story — APBRmetrics analyst Mike Goodman asked his Euclidian Similizer to generate players who had individual seasons similar to Wall.  Here’s the list:

  • Erick Murdock — blech
  • Rod Strickland — a flawed player, but Strickland could penetrate and dish with the best
  • Jamaal Tinsley — career imploded because of a bad attitude and a refusal to stay in shape
  • Andre Miller — steady and very solid PG with a long career
  • Sleepy Floyd — dynamic player at his peak, but his peak was brief
  • Brent Barry — seems strange at first, especially since Barry was a GREAT shooter.  But, Brent was also a high-flyer in his early days and he generated a goodly number of assists.
  • Brian Shaw — solid but unspectacular guard who had a good career
  • Kenny Anderson — a schoolboy legend and All-American at Georgia Tech, Anderson never quite lived up to that potential as a pro. Still, Anderson did play 14 seasons and appeared in one All-Star game.
  • Mike Bibby — a solidly above average PG now in his 13th season
  • Terry Porter — 17 seasons.  A career PER of 17.2; peak PER of 21.7. Career playoff PER of 17.0. Two All-Star games.
  • Tim Hardaway — already addressed in my article for the Post.
  • Darrell Armstrong — didn’t arrive in the NBA until age 26, but still played 14 seasons. Peak PER was 22.0. Won Most Improved and 6th Man of the Year award.
  • Robert Pack — Extremely talented player who kept getting hurt. His best season was in Washington (95-96) when he averaged 18.1 points and 7.8 assists. Unfortunately, he got hurt and played just 31 games that season.

A Further Look At Nick Young

A couple weeks ago, I took a look at Nick Young in my blog at the Post. Many disagreed with my conclusion that Young is fool’s gold and that the Wizards should move on.  Rook6980 at BulletsForever wrote this excellent piece countering mine, which is well worth reading. So, I looked deeper and came away even more convinced that the Wizards should not invest in him as a starter.

Young would be at his most efficient as a 3rd option. Here’s the problem, though — teams typically need their 3rd options to do more than score. However, Young doesn’t rebound, doesn’t pass, and he struggles to learn the playbook (he never learned the Princeton and it took him two offseasons, two training camps and a full season to learn Flip’s playbook).

But, Young supporters argue, he’s a good defender — just look at his on/off data and his counterpart defensive numbers. The guy has become a good defender.

Not so fast, though. College hoops godfather Ken Pomeroy ran an excellent experiment on +/-, which you can read here. To summarize, Pomeroy designed a player to have absolutely no impact on his team’s +/- then simulated 50 20-game segments. Those simulations yielded wildly divergent results — purely by chance.

That said, collect enough +/- data and get a big enough result, and eventually it means something.  Maybe.  Because by the time you get enough data to get results that are statistically reliable, you’re incorporating several seasons worth of data and you can’t be sure that what you’re getting is an accurate reflection of what the player is doing right now in his current context.

In Young’s case, going back three years teams him with Jamison, Butler, Haywood, etc. and has him being coached by Eddie Jordan and Ed Tapscott. Is that reflective of what he’s doing now?

So, what about those three straight years the team has been better defensively when he’s on the court? Surely that means something right? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. The only result that would even begin to approach statistical significance was the 08-09 season when the team was 6.9 points per 100 possessions better defensively when Nick was on the floor.  “Better” is used loosely here — they allowed 117.9 points per 100 possessions when he as off the floor; 111.0 when he was on.  More accurately, they were less putrid defensively when he was in the game. It’s worth pointing out the team went 19-63 that season.

Last season, the difference was 1.3 points per 100 possessions, which most definitely falls solidly into the fluke range.  This season, the difference is 3.6 per 100, which STILL would fall into the “possibly fluke” category.  Combine the two seasons, and it’s only 2.4 points, which remains an iffy result.  The difference might be because of Young, but it also might just be a fluke.

And, even if the difference is because of Young, the data actually isn’t telling us that Young’s a good defender.  It’s saying that Young is a better defender than his teammates.  Those teammates being guys mostly notable for being bad defenders.

It’s encouraging to see his counterpart defensive stats steadily improving throughout his career.  However, counterpart automated counterpart numbers like the ones generated at 82games miss a lot because they don’t account for things like help defense, switches, zones, cross-matching, or traps.

Stats are extremely useful in evaluating players, and I’m a proponent of using them. But I think it’s important to spend time thinking through what the numbers are actually saying.  It’s also important to compare one set of numbers with the eyeball test, and with other numbers.  In this case, I don’t think the combination of inputs (stats + eyeball test) are saying Young is a good defender.  They’re saying he’s better than his teammates, which is a vastly different statement.

So, looking at it from a team construction standpoint, if the Wizards invest in Young as the starting SG, they have some constraints. They must have good rebounders at every other position — Young won’t help there. He gets balls that bounce directly to him, and that’s it. The team can’t significantly change the offensive system because of the time it’ll take Young to learn it. The team defense has to be designed without counting on Young to be a help defender because his defensive awareness isn’t good.

I could find a spot for Young on my team, but it would be in an off-the-bench role. A 7th or 8th  man, who’d be the first scoring option for a defensive-minded 2nd unit. Put him out there with a couple physical screen-setter types and a safe and steady ball-distributing PG. Let him run off screens and shoot the ball — but fewer long twos.

But, here’s the problem. With Young’s per game scoring average (which explains most of NBA salaries — virtually ALL NBA salary can be explained by per game points, rebounds and assists), he’s almost certain to be too expensive to be a 7th or 8th man. Under a capped system (that’s likely to get even tighter in the new CBA), it’s critical that players be paid at a level commensurate with their contributions.

Young getting starter dollars — even 3rd option starter dollars — moves him out of being a valuable scorer off the bench. At that kind of money, he’ll be overpaid for what he can do to help the Wizards win. If he’s a starter and a 3rd option, he doesn’t do enough else to warrant the money, and if he’s coming off the bench then resources that could be used to pay a legitimate starter are being used on a reserve.

Which brings me back to what I published at the Post. The Wizards should not invest significant dollars in Young. If they do, they’ll regret it.

Everything Is A Remix

So, you sit down to write that killer story idea that’s been rattling around in your head for awhile.  It’s new, it’s exciting, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.  And then, after you’ve finished, you see a movie and there’s your stunningly creative idea — not identical, but close enough to make you wonder if someone’s been spying on your hard drive.

Preemptive plagiarism?  Bad luck?  Or something else?

Filmmaker Kirby Ferguson examines critical questions for writers, filmmakers, musicians — artists of any kind.  What’s original?  Is there such a thing?  Or, is the creative process by definition derivative?  Is even the most original story really a kind of mash-up of other stories already written?

What do you think?

And here’s part one.

The Rationale of Fan Irrationality

My latest at the Washington Post.

Used to be, I wondered why fans reacted so powerfully to Wizards wins and losses. After a loss, fans kvetch and rage — demanding coaching and front office changes, player trades, and lineup and strategy adjustments. After a win, those same fans see the player development, the coach’s wisdom, the intelligence and thought that went into the game plan.

So, why the wild swing from gloom and doom to sunshine and hope? The explanation is remarkably simple and boils down to this — teams look good when they win and look bad when they lose.

Read the rest.