A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Archive for March 2011

If Lamar Odom doesn’t win 6th Man of the Year…

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Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Lakers

Image via Wikipedia

I swear to god voters, if Lamar Odom doesn’t win 6th Man of the Year, I don’t think we can be friends any more. Oh, we had some good times, but y’all just make everything so difficult.

Odom is now clearly eligible for the award, and people are talking about his candidacy…but they are talking about it as a tight race influenced partly by the idea that Odom’s not a “real 6th man” because of how much of the season he started (which was due to Andrew Bynum‘s injury).

Look folks, there’s a general tendency in both the 6th Man award, and the Most Improved Player award, to eliminate players because they are too good, and it’s silly. It’s silly in the MIP award where I now have to see Aaron Brooks name cemented for eternity for a year where he improved about 1/100th as much as Kevin Durant did, but at least there there’s an argument for giving an award to someone who will appreciate it. Give a kid at an arcade a quarter, this adds joy to his life. Give Bill Gates a quarter, and you’ve just made his pants a tiny bit heavier. Durant’s legacy is not going to be helped one bit by the MIP, so it’s no great loss.

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Written by Matt Johnson

March 31, 2011 at 1:31 pm

March Madness as a Playoff System

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Candy

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve previously analyzed the playoff systems of the 4 major professional sports leagues in the US, looking at fairness, which I’ve defined as follows:

Ideal fairness means that we get rid of the unevenness of the regular season schedule without adding too much randomness.  If you’ve got a variety of divisions or conferences that hardly play against each other, the idea that you can have a single champion without a playoff tournament of some sort is absurd – but of course playoffs in some sense always mean throwing out a larger sample size for a smaller one, which never entirely good.

We’re in March Madness season so it’s worth considering college basketball’s playoff system, arguably the most successful in terms of financial gains relative to regular season. This happens to be a particularly good season to consider this because all of the favorites are gone. Every team left has at least 8 losses, which either indicates a stunning amount of parity, or a ridiculous amount of luck.

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Fixing the Knicks and the 2012 myth

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Image via GearLive

A month after the Carmelo Anthony trade,  the Knicks are crumbling and have lost 8 of their last 10 – with 6 to under .500 teams (2 to Indiana, 2 to Milwaukee, 1 to Detroit, 1 to Charlotte). With the success of the post Carmelo Nuggets, the vultures are swirling and declaring the Knicks trade a failure. Advanced staticians are picking Anthony’s game apart.

What’s going wrong? Ball movement on the offensive end. D’Antoni teams rely on spacing and finding the open man and Carmelo’s ball reliant, isolation game is an awful fit for this. Billups and Amare have yet to find their efficiency legs in the new get it to the stars offense. The Knicks also have among the worst offensive depth I’ve ever seen. In their last loss to Charlotte they started Shawne Williams and Toney Douglas beside Melo, Amare and Billups and their bench was Anthony Carter, Roger Mason, Jared Jeffries, Shelden Williams, Landry Fields and Bill Walker. That’s not going to cut it.

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2011 NBA POY Watch 3/28

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My weekly MVP rankings

Player (last week’s rank)
1. Derrick Rose (1)
Rose’s Bulls continue to be on an absolute tear. Very clearly at this point, they’ve been the most impressive team of the regular season, and that’s before you even factor in the injuries to the 2nd & 3rd best players on the team. Many said we’d never again give an award to an Iverson type guy, but this is a perfect storm. Oh also, just because I’m a told-you-so kind a guy, with the recent articles talking about the similarities between Rose & Iversons’s MVP year, if you have read my Derrick Rose, the MVP race, and the Isiah-Iverson Team Model piece from February, well, there it is.

2. Dwight Howard (3)

Howard and his Magic now appear to be doing exactly what I said they needed to do for him to make a game of the MVP race. I want you to consider for a second: When the end of the month comes around in a few days, Howard probably wins Player of the Month again, right? That would make it two months in a row, and 3 months total for the year. If he and his team keep it up and he wins a 4th POM, could you really defend selecting Rose as MVP ahead of Howard? Howard’s got better stats by any metric I know of, no one I know thinks Rose is a better player, no one I know would draft Rose ahead of Howard. If he truly get 4 POMs to Rose’s zero, and Rose wins the MVP, doesn’t it seem like a certainty that a lot of the people who vote for Rose will deny it later?

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Written by Matt Johnson

March 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm

The Nash Disequilibrium, or Why I Use +/- Statistics

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Image by OakleyOriginals via Flickr

I felt the need to write this as a result of the article I wrote on Kobe Bryant and his adjusted +/- statistics this season. That article showed my perspective as someone who uses these stats – this one gets into why one should use them.

I’m a math kind a guy. I’ve been making statistical rankings of basketball players and other such trivia for forever. When the internet was first reaching prominence, many did see how they would use it, though they actually did end up using it obviously. I was dying for it though from the start. To have access to data like basketball-reference.com has is like a geek nirvana for me.

Now, I always knew that in basketball, the stats didn’t cover everything, but I always figured that what they missed was relatively small and not ridiculously biased. And then in ’04-05, I found myself utterly fascinated by the Phoenix Suns and Steve Nash. Every metric I’d ever come up with or ever seen said that Nash wasn’t the best player on that team, but my common sense just found this absurd. He was the one directing that offense, not the scorers. The team had launched forward far beyond what anyone expected because of an improvement in team offense that was completely unbelievable, and the team had made but one major change and one other major decision: Sign Nash, and put the ball & decision making in his hands.

And Now for Something Completely Different

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Written by Matt Johnson

March 26, 2011 at 12:04 am

John Wall: Don’t pencil him in as the next Derrick Rose

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John Wall

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

John Wall has a lot in common with Derrick Rose. Aside from getting picked #1 and being deemed a future superstar, both have a combination of size and incredible explosiveness from the PG position. Now, in his 3rd year Derrick Rose is the frontrunner for MVP averaging 24.9 points and 7.9 assists on the #1 team in the East. Wall is averaging 16 points, 9 assists and 1.7 steals on 40% shooting – a roughly expected rookie season with a few more bricks. The Wizards are on pace to fall below 20 wins.

On the surface it’s easy to think Wall is going to follow Rose’s footsteps and become a superstar. He has the talent to. I’m not convinced. Making the leap from all-star to MVP candidate is about what you have upstairs. For all of Rose’s physical gifts, it’s only half of what makes him a special player. Rose is the consumate leader and team player. He works as hard as anyone in the league as shown by rapid improvements in all areas of the game. He understands winning is the only goal and he should balance his scoring and passing by what will get his team there. When Rose plays, he controls the game. He slows the game down and has mastered pounding teams in the halfcourt pick and roll. Rose can be a champion because of what he has in mind as much as body.

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Written by jr.

March 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm

8 Thoughts from Indian Wells

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I’m lucky enough to be living in Southern California, and among the many perks of this, is that we have one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world in our backyard. So my dad and I made the road trip out to desert to be able to see the men’s and women’s finals of the Indian Wells on Sunday. Some reflections:

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