A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Searching for Bill Russell ~ Starring Anthony Davis (2012)

with 6 comments

That didn't really happen did it?

The more I learn about basketball’s history, the more impressed with Bill Russell I am. Like many, I at one point found it hard to believe that Russell could truly be a more valuable player than Wilt Chamberlain. Now, the primary reason for that was that I couldn’t imagine Russell’s more one way game matching the two way dominance of Chamberlain, and if you know me, you know that since then I’ve written fairly extensively on just how flawed Chamberlain’s offense was. There was also the matter though of me just having a false ceiling in my head for just how dominant a team can get on one side of the ball.

If you go by the estimates of offensive and defensive team efficiency given by basketball-reference.com, the curve of extremely good results seems very well behaved. Here are the best sides that side lists based on percentage edge over median:

 

You can see the teams here are all in the same ballpark. You might also notice that Steve Nash is on 3 of the top 5 offenses, which is quite remarkable. Most importantly though, you might notice how modern all these teams are. Nothing from earlier than 1993. Remarkable, no? Well, it is remarkable, but there is a catch: basketball-reference only provides estimates from 1974 on. What happened before that?

Bill Russell did 6 impossible things before breakfast

Read the rest of this entry »

The top 50 players of all time (by my standards)

with one comment

Bill Russell posing with other NBA Legends and...

Almost there, Bill (Image via Wikipedia)

If you’re a RealGM member, you probably know about this project, attempting to rank the top 100 players of the post shot clock era. (which among other reasons, allows us to avoid the impossible task of ranking George Mikan against everyone). We just completed the top 50, (note: Chris Paul made 50th, the thread hasn’t updated yet). I have some greivances about the overall list – let’s just say it’s 90% right and 10% wrong, but that 10% sticks out to a perfectionist. But shortly after it started I decided to update my own list one at a time in coordination with the main one, it is found halfway down the linked thread. This is my analysis in short at the halfway point, with 50 spots finished:

Tier 1 – The Greatest of All Time contenders

1. Michael Jordan

2. Bill Russell

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

These are the 3 players I primarily consider for greatest of all time candidcy. None need much introduction if you are a basketball history fan. Read the rest of this entry »

The best starting 5 of all time – my picks

with 10 comments

Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan 1997

Image via Wikipedia

Since it’s a long summer, I thought I’d use an entry on my current choice for the best starting lineup I can possibly come up with out of all players in history. If you like visiting basketball message boards, this type of exercise is typically our 2nd favorite thing to do after ranking the “All Time List” numerically.

Now, my choices might surprise you. You may have seen a lot of all time starting lineups with simply the best player of all time at each position – A common list has Magic Johnson at PG, Michael Jordan at SG, Larry Bird at SF, Tim Duncan at PF and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at C. Since there is no way to actually test this, I’m not one to definitively say they’re wrong. But I believe they are. Most players used to having the ball the most on their team offensively, will find themselves far less effective when they have it the 4th or 5th most, roles typically reserved for either spot up shooters or putback scores. The 2011 Heat and their surprisingly stoppable offense were a great example of star redundancy at work. Teams were able to help off whomever of Lebron and Wade didn’t have the ball, bringing those defenders into the paint to guard against the ballhander’s penetration. Ultimately what makes the most effective offenses isn’t just having the most talented on ball players. It’s creating the most efficient shots – Which is a synergy of on ball creation and off ball oppurtunism. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

September 22, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Pippen’s Blasphemy and Cowardice of Critics

with 13 comments

Chicago Bulls Scottie Pippen 1995

Image via Wikipedia

Scottie Pippen said:

Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to ever play in the game. But I may go as far as to say LeBron James may be the greatest player ever to play the game, because he’s so potent offensively that not only can he score at will, but he keeps everybody involved.

…and the locusts take the sky

The world exploded. Some talked about Jordan’s championships ignoring the matter that Pippen’s statement obviously wasn’t saying that the 26 year old LeBron had already accomplished more than anyone else ever, some tried to talk about Jordan being a more “complete player” without actually saying what LeBron was missing, some talked about Pippen as a bitter old fool. The only thing everyone agreed on was that you couldn’t possibly say LeBron might be better than Jordan.

(Well, except Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who once again made one of his patented “He’s right, but no wonder why no one likes him” statements bringing up Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.)

I find the whole thing amusing. I should say up front that I don’t give one whit about Pippen’s opinion in player comparisons general. Nothing personal, I’d say the same about pretty much any player. While I love hearing what these guys have to say about the game in general, such comparisons are complicated enough that no matter how fantastic your basketball knowledge, you can’t have a complete opinion without spending a ton of time analyzing the situation with every tool at your disposal. The number of star athletes, or even coaches, willing to do this is vanishingly small, and then you really do need to think about whether the speaker has an agenda.

Even a broken clock…

However Scottie’s being downright reasonable here in a world full of people too afraid to be reasonable.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

June 2, 2011 at 6:28 pm

The writing of Dirk’s third act

with 5 comments

Image by alancleaver_2000 via Flickr

As you know, I get a kick out of analyzing player narratives, and narrative shifts. At any point in time, a star has at least one major narrative and several minor ones. When a young star like LeBron James makes a Decision he creates a storm that settles into new narratives, that people tend to think will last forever, but really they simply for the basis for later narratives to build upon.

With Dirk Nowitzki‘s career though, coming into this year it seemed like his story had already been written.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

May 20, 2011 at 6:19 pm

The Perennial Snubbing of Artis Gilmore

with 3 comments

Artis Gilmore 1970

Image by Vedia via Flickr

The basketball Hall of Fame announced their 2011 finalists for induction yesterday, and the big snub everyone’s talking about is Reggie Miller. I think people are overreacting there. You’ve got people who seem to think this means Miller will never get in the Hall, and even extrapolating about what the snubbing means for Ray Allen. It’s as if people have no experience with players not getting in to Halls of Fame on their first year of eligibility. I personally won’t be alarmed unless we go a few years without him getting into the Hall.

With everyone in a mood for snub-based outrage though, let me take the opportunity to shed some light on the elephant in the room: Artis Gilmore. Gilmore retired over 20 years ago, and he’s not on the HOF voters’ radar. Short of something major changing, he’s not getting in the Hall, and this folks, is completely and utterly indefensible.

Artis Gilmore in the ABA

Any discussion of Gilmore’s accomplishments has to start out with the ABA. Gilmore hit the league and took it by storm. His combination of 7’2″ size with tremendous leaping ability made him a devastatingly effective shotblocker. In the words of Rick Barry:

Artis Gilmore was incredibly agile and was just an amazing shot blocker. In fact, I’ve had him on my radio show a couple times, and I think that he stopped blocking some of the shots because they were calling goaltending on him. I don’t think that anybody had ever seen anything like that and they figured that he had to be goaltending, that you can’t possibly block somebody’s jump shot.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hollering @Hollinger about LeBron James and MVP Philosophy

with 7 comments

LeBron James

Image via Wikipedia from LAST YEAR, when he was MVPing in Cleveland, which is not his current team

This season in the NBA, we’re really seeing a watershed year in the MVP race.  People who are paying attention are reflecting on their personal philosophy on the subject. John Hollinger recently wrote a piece that gives us a great place to leap off from by giving a compelling argument from a very simple, straight forward perspective. Essentially: “You know LeBron James is the best player, why isn’t he your MVP?”.

I’m going to respond point by point to him here, before waxing philosophical for a bit. Let me preface all this by saying that while I may have a bit of fun with John, by no means would I say his opinion is an invalid one. It’s just that his opinion is not the only one that is valid. Here we go:

A Conversation with Mr. Hollinger

And that’s because the 2010-11 MVP race has a really, really, abundantly obvious solution … but very few actually want to hear it.

Let’s be honest for a minute. The best player in the league is LeBron James. It’s not even close.

Agreed, honestly.

Moreover, his case for the MVP award is only gaining steam. James in October and November muddled through 18 games in which he was dramatically less effective than usual, a major reason for the Heat‘s uninspired crawl out of the gate. Since then, however, he’s been monstrously good, climbing to his usual perch atop the PER charts and widening his lead considerably with a spectacular 51-point outing against Orlando on Thursday.

True.

With James cruising, the Heat are arguably the league’s best team — despite injuries to James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, they’re 28-6 since their scuffling start. Yes, James has star support with Wade and Bosh in tow, but he’s also saddled with inferior help. At roster spots 4 through 12, there isn’t a weaker cast in basketball outside Ohio.

Er, agreed, I suppose…but not really. Read the rest of this entry »

The Retro Player of the Year Project

with 4 comments

I’ve just finished running a project on the RealGM called the Retro Player of the Year (RPOY).  I think it was one hell of a project, so I want to give y’all a summary of it.

–          The idea behind the RPOY was that the NBA MVP award isn’t good enough. It only factors in the regular season, and really, the award that everyone wants when they do comparisons of players is an all-season Player of the Year award.

–          Now, this isn’t strictly an MVP for all seasons, because that wouldn’t work.  If the guy who has the best regular season is on a mediocre team, he’s not going to contribute as much value to his team in the playoffs as the star of the champion, so you’ve got to be a bit less literal than that.  The need for some fuzziness opens the door to people voting with different philosophies, but really that happens with the MVP any way. And still, we kept a focus where voting had to be based on what a player actually did that year, not what he could conceivably have done in the right circumstances. If a guy has a down year in the middle of his prime, even he was dealing with a moron of a coach and a tyrant of an owner – he suffers in this project.

–          RealGM is a website that has a variety of things on it, but the flagship of the public facing end of it is the basketball message boards.  I strongly believe they have the best basketball message boards on the internet, which is why I’ve been a moderator for them for several years.

–          The voting panel was semi-open.   By that I mean, at the beginning of the project, I let in all established posters from the site who wanted to be included, but afterward I only let in posters who impressed me.  I won’t claim that the members of the panel were necessarily the most prestigious of folks compared to actual MVP voters.  However, there were some powerhouses in this project I feel privileged to have been able to work with, and if you look at the votes, I think you’ll find that there are less “crazy votes” than what you see in a typical MVP vote.

–          The project took about 6 months to complete, starting from the ’08-09 season, and going back to the beginning of the shot clock era, with one digression to evaluate ’09-10 after the Lakers won their second title in a row.

Without further ado:  Here is a site made for the project which displays and tabulates the results, and here is the main message board page for the project.

Now, some results, and some thoughts on all this:

Read the rest of this entry »