A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘Dwight Howard

2011 POY Watch – End Conference Finals

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The Player of the Year Watch continues past the regular season factoring in all of the playoffs and coming up with the player that truly had the best overall season. After each round, I will update the rankings.

Player (last rank)

1A. Dirk Nowitzki (4)

It’s been a joy to watch Dirk this year. He would without question be my Offensive Player of the Year. He plays so damn smart, with such an unreal touch. The Mavs are in the finals, with not a ton of talent around Dirk. I know that fit matters, and the Mavs have fantastic fit, but Dirk deserves some credit for helping to build that fit to.

1B. LeBron James (3)

And then there’s LeBron. I talked once before about how much I hate ties in rankings…when I last ranked a tie. Again though it seems appropriate right now as an in flux ranking to have a tie on top.

What LeBron did to Chicago was unreal. Tier 1 level offense, with world class defense. He is the best player in the game, and at this point I’m expecting him to take the crown over Dirk when all is said and done. But as they say, that’s why they play the game.

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2011 POY Watch – End Conference Semis

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The Player of the Year Watch continues past the regular season factoring in all of the playoffs and coming up with the player that truly had the best overall season. After each round, I will update the rankings.

Player (last rank)

1. Dwight Howard (1)

Odd position to be in. Howard’s sitting at home while the next 5 guys are all on the last 4 teams playing for the championship and playing fantastic. As much as I don’t want to be swayed by who has the better supporting casts, at this point I think it’s unlikely that Howard will keep the top spot when all is said and done.

2. Derrick Rose (2)

Started off the playoffs slow with some nagging injuries. He’s looking quite solid now. It’s also interesting that there was so much stat community negativity toward the guy during the season, meanwhile he keeps showing more as the season goes along. Doesn’t mean they were wrong by any means, but if Rose truly does emerge as a guy challenging for the top spot in advanced statistical metrics in the near future, I can just hear the frustration among the statistically minded.

Bucher: “So you admit you were wrong now?”

Stat guy: “No, YOU were wrong, but now you’re right. It’s a complete coincidence.”,

Bucher: “Whatever you want to tell yourself, I could have told you he’d do this because I watch the games.”

Stat guy: “Gah! That statement doesn’t even mean anything!” <Head explodes>

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8 thoughts on the Lakers’ demise

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1. I feel the Lakers’ loss quite a bit more than the Spurs’. Maybe it’s just me being an Angeleno, but then again, I never felt that sold on the Spurs. The team played so different from their Tim Duncan-peak game, it was hard to look at them as a scrappy champion. The Lakers, after last year’s emergences from late season mediocrity felt like they’d be tough to kill.

2. With that said, the funny thing about a dynasty-type team that has been shown to perform better in the biggest game is that eventually, it’s inexactly one of those situations where the team will sputter.

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Written by Matt Johnson

May 8, 2011 at 6:49 pm

2011 POY Watch – End 1st Round

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The Player of the Year Watch continues past the regular season factoring in all of the playoffs and coming up with the player that truly had the best overall season. After each round, I will update the rankings.

Player (last rank)

1. Dwight Howard (1)

What’s that you say? The Magic lost in the first round to the lightly regarded Hawks, shouldn’t he drop? Well, dude played great though. I’m not going to drop him just because his team disappoints. I’ll admit though that this does leave him out of sight and out of mind while others have a chance to up their rep. Excellent chance he ends up slipping a bit by the end of June.

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Written by Matt Johnson

May 3, 2011 at 11:10 am

Dwight Howard in Tragic Kingdom

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Image by Carmela Nava via Flickr

And so here we are. Again. Another star at the crossroads.

Odd that a year ago at this time, the idea of superstars changing teams seemed such a longshot, and now it feels so inevitable in the case of Dwight Howard. A lot’s happened in a year, true, but there is more to it than that.

Here today, gone tomorrow

With the apparent trend toward superteams in Miami and New York, there is a fear that every superstar will seek join or form a superteam. This trend though is quite a bit more fragile than most realize. What makes joining such a team sexy to players, is the idea that by simply joining with talent, great team success is sure to follow immediately. This idea is strongly influenced by what happened in the ’07-08 season where the Boston Celtics essentially jettisoned the vast majority of their team to acquire two stars (Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett), and went from being a 24 win team, to having the single best season of the past decade. Then there was also the Lakers acquisition of Pau Gasol and their subsequent move from a solid team to a potential dynasty. These ideas seem to prove that stars who don’t win are simply suffering from a lack of supporting talent around them.

Suppose though that these nouveau superteams fell on their face? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

May 1, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Howard is the DPOY, but he’s no Garnett

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Kevin Garnett led the league in defensive rebo...

Image via Wikipedia

Dwight Howard just won his 3rd straight Defensive Player of the Year, and I don’t disagree with the choice. In fact, I don’t disagree with any of the three votings that gave Howard the award. However, with Howard becoming the first player to win the award three times in a row comes discussion of how Howard stands compared to the best defenders of other eras, and there is a problem with this: Howard isn’t even the most impactful defender of this era, that would be Kevin Garnett.

Let’s start out by acknowledging that Howard and Garnett don’t play defense the same way. When we think of the great defensive big men, we tend to think of blocked shots. Howard fits that bill significantly more than Garnett. Although lets pause and consider that Howard’s 2.3 BPG this year, is only just ahead of Garnett’s 2.2 BPG peak – and that Howard’s never actually averaged 3 blocks per game in his career. If Howard were putting up these blocking numbers in other eras, we wouldn’t look at him as anything like the shotblocking ideal he often gets talked about today.

Still, thinking about defense in these terms, it’s not at all hard to see why people think Howard’s the superior defender when comparing peak to peak, and especially now as Garnett ages. Add in Howard’s current rebounding edge, and the fact that Orlando always ranks well on defense despite Howard’s supporting cast not having a stellar defensive reputation, and the debate is over before it begins in a lot of people’s minds.

Garnett, Russell & the Horizontal Game  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

April 23, 2011 at 12:07 am

2011 POY Watch – End Regular Season

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The playoffs have begun, and now we will start to get into why I so stubbornly called this the “POY Watch” instead of the “MVP Watch”. By far the most meaningful award we could have for a player is one that factors in regular and post-season. That award doesn’t exist, so I say we make one up.

For those interested, during last off-season I ran a project over on RealGM I called the Retro POY project where we determined the player having the best season for all seasons back to ’54-55, the first year of the shot clock era. My post on this blog introducing the project and summarizing key findings is here.

During the playoffs, I’m going to jettison the weekly format of the regular season and instead do a round-by-round format. At the conclusion of all series for a given round, I will make an updated POY Watch. So that means there will be four more POY Watches after this one.

Without further ado, here are my rankings based on the whole regular season and nothing but the regular season.

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Written by Matt Johnson

April 20, 2011 at 1:21 am

My choice for MVP: Howard over Rose just barely

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Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, 2008–09

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After having Derrick Rose at #1 on my MVP list for the last month heading into the last stretch of the regular season, I have to give Dwight Howard the final nod. I don’t make this switch lightly – I’ve actually been changing my mind regularly for the past two weeks – but in the end Howard’s got the argument I cannot refute.

On Rose

Let’s start in defense of Rose, whose candidacy has been repeatedly assaulted by the stat-oriented minds of the internet. The root of the argument against Rose is that his stats are weak compared to other stars in the league. Of course, Rose averaged 25 points per game and nearly 8 assists per game – a quite rare combination, that’s exactly doesn’t scream “unworthy”. So what’s the issue? Well the advanced all-in-one stats like PER and Win Shares simply prefer other players. If you put enough stock in these stats and their precision, then this is a strong argument for others above Rose. Do we truly have a sense the advantages in play here are significant relative to the precision of these stats though?

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Written by Matt Johnson

April 19, 2011 at 1:00 am

NBA Playoff Preview – The Biggest Questions

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Twas the night before the playoffs and all through the house, not a soul was stirring, not even Eddie House…

Rajon Rondo, the 21st pick of the Boston Celtics

Is Rajon Rondo the playoffs biggest X-factor?

Matt won’t be back till next week, so you’re stuck with me for A Substitute for War’s lack of playoff preview wisdom:

First, here are my opening round predictions:

East: Chicago over Indiana in 5, Miami over Philadelphia in 6, Boston over New York in 6, Orlando over Atlanta in 5.

West: San Antonio over Memphis in 5, LA over New Orleans in 5, Portland over Dallas in 6, Oklahoma City over Denver in 5.

Since that’s over, instead of spending a couple thousand words telling you why Chicago is better than Indiana or LA is better than New Orleans, I’ll spend some time dissecting the favorites and what they need to prove to win the title:

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We never have proof, but we do have evidence: On Howard vs James

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The talented Ethan Sherwood Strauss over at Hoopspeak just wrote a piece on the “dirty little secret” about Dwight Howard‘s MVP candidacy relative to LeBron James:

My suspicion is that story plays a role here, too. While many metrics-oriented writers have no issue with the Decision, they’re realists about what that does to LeBron’s MVP chances. Also, the Heat did not help his case by ducking preseason expectations. So it makes sense to back the politician, er, player who can win.

But, some stat-steeped writers just plain prefer Dwight Howard as an MVP. The oft-cited reason is “defense,” and Howard is great at it. Orlando is a top defensive unit, despite carrying some doughy sieves (I call them “funnel cakes”) on the roster.

Dwight’s defense is laudable, though I ask: Is there really a way for us to know if he’s defensively better than LeBron? While center is probably a more important position on that end, James can play multiple positions. LeBron’s defensive plus-minus exceeds Dwight’s which could mean a whole lot and could mean absolutely nothing. And, how much of Orlando’s stingy success is attributable to Stan Van Gundy’s team principles? Scott Skiles seems to always turn lackluster rosters into rabid rim shrinkers. Coaching could trump talent when it comes to cohesive basket prevention. Choosing Howard on the basis of his defensive superiority is fraught with subjective judgments, even if the goal is to better appreciate winning basketball.

I think he hit upon something key with his general thesis. There is absolutely a tendency for people to use defense as a black box trump card. Of course I can’t just leave it at that: The reality is that that we can’t really even prove Dwight over Derrick Rose or anyone else either. We have no method of measuring a player’s impact with absolute certainty. That may seem like I’m be ridiculously cautious, but the truth is that every single person involved in this analysis is supplying a layer of causal narrative on top of observations and stats, which is something I elaborated on last week here. We do however, have evidence that we can use supporting the “Dwight’s better on defense” argument:

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Written by Matt Johnson

April 13, 2011 at 1:19 pm