A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘Pau Gasol

My NBA All-Star Picks (given the fans’ voting)

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The fans’ final choices for the NBA all-star game are in. They are:

Western Conference

Guard: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul

Forward: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant

Center: Yao Ming

Eastern Conference:

Guard: Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade

Forward: LeBron James, Amare Stoudemire

Center: Dwight Howard

Immediate reaction: Yao, of course, is completely undeserving but at this point it’s just expected that this will happen, and since he’s injury, it’s hard to be bothered by it. The Anthony choice is more annoying because he will play, and he’s not worthy of even being a reserve. Here’s hoping he gets traded to the East, because competition is so weak there his inclusion won’t seem odd.

Other than that, choices seem fine.

My choices for the reserves:

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2011 NBA POY Watch 1/17

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My version of the NBA MVP list. Updated weekly.

Player (Last Week’s Rank)

1. Derrick Rose (2)

I wasn’t really comfortable with Rose as high as #2, so I’m definitely not comfortable with him at #1.  He remains though the clear star of a very successful teams that has seem major injuries.  Rose takes over games like an MVP, and I know mediocre efficiency in and of itself is not necessarily as damning as we tend to think, but still, I don’t expect Rose will be able to hold on to this spot without proving (even) more than he already has.

2. Deron Williams (4)

40 games in, and the Jazz sans Carlos Boozer and with a disappointing Al Jefferson are on pace for their best record in over a decade.  A shout out to Paul Millsap, but this has everything to do with Deron being able to take on more than he’d ever been asked to do before.  Significantly more for example, than John Stockton was ever asked to do.  He’s right there with Rose.

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Developing an NBA GMing strategy: Entrepreneur/Net Worth Theory

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One question defines the search of NBA GMs and backseat fans alike:

“What’s the best way to improve this team’s position going forward?”

Of course this appears a near answerless question. Or else we wouldn’t argue so much about it. But the easy answers are “be lucky” and “make good decisions.” Most concede the biggest common denominator on championship teams are superstar players. Superstars are usually acquired via draft which is luck heavy. Thus luck is the most inarguable dominant factor in making succesful teams.

But it’s not everything. Success is luck + good decisions. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ failure after drafting Lebron, among others, prove teams that draft superstars need to make good decisions to win. Furthermore even if you believe ‘tanking’ for superstars is the best way to go about succeeding, this fits under the strategic decisions umbrella and as a plausible answer for the ‘good way’. Though it’d only explain how to start a team, leaving the other half of our strategy empty.

Thus in search of our definitive NBA strategy, we turn back to the question ‘What’s the best way to improve this team’s position going forward’:

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Cavaliers’ Fall now Worst in History

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Well, after last night’s horrendous 55 point loss to the Lakers, it’s worth revisiting the poor Cleveland Cavaliers.  Their SRS for this year is now down to -10.19, the worst of any team in the past decade.   That also puts their SRS fall from last year at -16.36, which surpasses the ’98-99 Bulls -15.82 for worst fall in history.

Again we can talk about how the Cavs are down on themselves and have had some injuries, but so have plenty of other teams in history, and none have fallen like this.

Written by Matt Johnson

January 12, 2011 at 10:29 am

Post-December NBA Awards Watch

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My top picks for the various NBA Awards after two months of play.  Expect to see this updated each month with my picks for ROY, DPOY, MIP, 6MOY, COY, and All-NBA teams.

MVP:  See Monday’s post.  This gets updated weekly.

Rookie of the Year

1. Blake Griffin

2. Landry Fields

3. John Wall

Griffin’s way out of front.  Easily top two rookie of the past decade (with Chris Paul).  The long shot Fields is giving us the only other solid All-Rookie First team type season, and so despite missing a ton of time, Wall remains in the top 3.

Defensive Player of the Year

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Written by Matt Johnson

January 2, 2011 at 4:09 pm

2011 NBA POY Watch 12/18

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My version of the NBA MVP list. Updated weekly.

Player (Last Week’s Rank)

1. Dirk Nowitzki (1)

Way, way out in front.

2. Deron Williams (2)

That loss to New Orleans was bizarre, but it’s still just one game.  Day in and day out, among the inarguably good teams, no one is carrying their team more.

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Written by Matt Johnson

December 20, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Looking at Nash’s Crazy +/- Numbers

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With Phoenix Suns making a huge trade I wanted to take a moment to talk a bit about Steve Nash in terms of +/- statistics.  The Suns made the trade because of dissatisfaction with the way the team is playing, and with a sub-.500 record that’s understandable.  While I’ve yet to hear many people talking about the Suns’ struggles as a reflection on Nash, neither am I hearing Nash getting much attention in the MVP-sense.  I understand that to some degree as I currently don’t have him in my POY top 10, but it should be a hard decision for people.

According to basketballvalue.com, Nash is currently #1 in the league in Adjusted +/- for the year (and for the last two years combined actually).  His rating is +29.14, there are only 5 guys total in the league with a rating north of +20, and the other guys (Chris Paul, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol) are all on much more successful teams.  Most people reading this blog probably have the general understanding that adjusted +/- means roughly how much better the team does with you compared to without you after making some statistical adjustments to reduce noise.  But what does it mean when a guy on a mediocre team does well by this metric?  How do you compare him to guys on great teams?

There’s no clear cut answer to this, but I think it’s helpful to look at some raw +/- to get a more concrete feel for things.  nba.com has raw +/- numbers, i.e. how much in total your team has outscored opponents with you on the court over the season, and here’s how the Phoenix Suns look right now:

1. So Nash is at over 100, and 8 of the 9 other rotation players have a negative.  Stunning these are the guys Nash is out there with, and when he’s with them the team is still doing great, but virtually to a man, things are going terribly when Nash is out.

2. The only other positive rotation player is Frye, and he’s just barely above zero.  Nash’s lead over his nearest teammate is 95 points, which is the biggest gap between a team leader and his teammates of anyone in the league (Dirk is 2nd with an 81 point lead).

3. In case you’re wonder how a +109 net stands up, well to some degree it’s modest.  Dirk’s at +255 for example.  But check out some elite point guards on more successful teams:

Deron Williams, +51

Derrick Rose, +106

Russell Westbrook, +21

Chris Paul, +117

It becomes pretty easy to make the case that Nash is only ranked below these other point guards in MVP races because of how bad his teammates are.

Now, with all this said, I don’t have Nash in my top 10 right now.  The truth is I’m not entirely convinced by the metrics I’m showing here myself, with one major reason being that Nash has missed some time, and that doesn’t come into the above line of reasoning at all (and clearly it needs to fit in somewhere).  What I am adamant about is simply that when you look at these results, it should make your jaw drop.  You should be dang impressed with Nash, and you should consider that truly, the only thing keeping Nash from leading a contender is a decent supporting cast.  I don’t know whether the Carter & Gortat trade will do the trick, but I think it’s worth a shot.

Written by Matt Johnson

December 19, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Gasol, Bosh, and +/- Statistics

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I’m getting a lot of Heat for continuing to have Pau Gasol ahead of Kobe Bryant in my POY/MVP rankings now that Gasol is clearly in an extended slump.  There are multiple factors involved in my decision making process, but something I haven’t heard any one deal with regarding this debate are the +/- statistics.

For those unfamiliar, +/- statistics rate players based on how well their team does when they are on the court compared to when they are off the court.  It was invented in raw form in hockey, but it’s basketball that has really gotten sophisticated with it.  The great thing about +/- stats is that they literally catch everything relevant that happens on the court.  That great screen a guy set that let to the open shot?  Counts.  That great pass before the pass that got the assist (aka the hockey assist, so named because they actually give that guy an assist in hockey)?  Counts.  Box score based stats are forever at the mercy of what scorekeepers do and don’t track.  The gambling thief who keeps trying and failing to get and assist, leading to the opponent getting an easy buck is doing nothing wrong according to traditional box score stats, but +/- stats catch what he’s doing.

Of course there are weaknesses to the stat as well.  First, the very fact that it catches everything when we don’t have box score stats for everything means that it’s advantage in coverage is a disadvantage in explanation.  This opens the door for skeptics to say that any number of factors could be involved in stat’s results, and they’ve got a point.  If a stat says I did something good just by being on the court when my team’s star gets into a zone, that stat is certainly not perfect.  Second, +/- stats tend to be noisier than traditional box score stats.  The guy who scored 30 points efficiently in a game can be said with almost complete confidence to have had a great game.  You can’t say a guy had a great game simply because +/- said he did well, and when we get into the most sophisticated +/- stats, statisticians strongly prefer to use 2 or more years as the sample size.

Also, related to the “black box” aspect of these stats, is the fact that if you point to them without giving an explanation for the cause of the results, you’re admitting that you don’t really know what’s going on.  This is something that bothers everyone.  It’s hard to stick your neck out there just based on a possibly unexplainable number.  It’s easy to chafe against something that essentially calls your understanding of the game into question.

So, this year, Pau Gasol’s raw +/- (how much the Lakers have outscored opponent’s while he’s on the floor) is +265, while Kobe Bryant is only +148.  Every more advanced metric we have along these lines says the same thing – the Lakers are more dependent on Gasol this year than Kobe, and this is not something we’ve seen in previous year.

Also of note, Gasol’s raw +/- is 2nd in the league.  Who is first?  The often mocked Chris Bosh who is well ahead of his more respected teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

People who aren’t sold on these stats use this as ammunition against the stats, “See, it’s meaningless I tell you!”.  I can’t help but marvel though and how those numbers actually fit with other things people are saying.

The Lakers, everyone agrees, lack depth at big man.  Bynum’s been injured.  They signed an old Theo Ratliff out of desperation.  They’ve just yesterday traded for an old Joe Smith out of desperation.  Do we really think it’s a coincidence that when the Lakers are desperate for big man, the team appears to be extremely dependent on their star big man (Gasol), who just happens to be playing by far the most minutes of any of their players?

The Heat, everyone agrees, have 2 superstar perimeter players capable of being elite scoring option and offensive decision makers who have had some trouble blending their talents together.  We also know that the Heat are struggling to find quality big men.  Do we really think it’s a coincidence that the guy who the team falls off when he’s not on the court, is the quality big man they do have?

Now if you want to make the argument that there should be more to accolades than a statistic that can be so shaped by the depth of the team the player plays on, I think that’s a perfectly reasonable point to make.  I do think though, that it’s unreasonable to dismiss what +/- stats have to say here.

Written by Matt Johnson

December 15, 2010 at 11:23 am

2011 NBA POY Watch 12/11

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My version of the NBA MVP list. Updated weekly.

Player (Last Week’s Rank)

1. Dirk Nowitzki (1)

Another week and the streak continues.  We now have 3 teams with records far better than the rest of the league, and only 1 of those teams is let by a superstar.  Easy choice.

2. Deron Williams (2)

The Jazz haven’t pulled away from the 2nd tier of teams record-wise, but there’s little to dislike about the club.  Their losses are coming against great teams that they fight hard, and it’s pretty much a given that in each of those games Deron will play like a champion.

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2011 NBA POY Watch 12/6

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My version of the NBA MVP list. Updated weekly.

Player (Last Week’s Rank)

1. Dirk Nowitzki (1)

To me Dirk’s lead right now is pretty glaring.  It’s strange to me that he isn’t being talked about like the favorite.  He didn’t even win Player of the Month.  Dirk’s Mavs have almost the best record in the league, and they are totally dependent upon him bringing it every night.

2. Deron Williams (7)

There are a couple big shifts in my ranking this week.  I don’t like it because it forces me to face up to how much an inexact science this is.  However, the other guys who were in front of him have really been slipping.  Deron is the front and center superstar for a very strong Jazz team, he earns this place largely by having less caveats than the other candidates.

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