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Monday, July 28, 2014

Bill Simmons, Wrong on T-Mac

If I had to guess, I would say that Bill Simmons’ article on Tracy McGrady is about a million words long. Seriously I stopped counting the paragraphs at 20, and I think I was about half way down the page.

Trusty notepad++ is telling me that it’s only 5180 words. It calculates that using a formula, and maybe there’s a flaw in the equation that estimates the count. Even though I felt like I was going line by line through the “Affordable Care Act“, I trust notepad++’s estimate over my own.

The piece makes some good points, notably McGrady’s poor supporting cast and his aversion to practice. In his Simmonsian way, he finds time among the 10^4/2 words he uses to take a pot shot at Patrick Ewing*. You know that guy that hasn’t suited up in 12 seasons, and was drafted before J.R. Smith was born. For sure the phrase “beating a dead horse” is derived from one of Bill’s ancestors.

Beyond that, Simmons makes the case that McGrady was one of the league’s better players because at one time he was Kobe Braynt’s equal.

We want to remember the eight-year stretch from 2001 through 2008, when McGrady’s production was barely different from Kobe Bryant’s production.

Player A (reg. season): 26.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.5 apg, 44-34-75%, 21.8 FGA, 7.4 FTA, 24.2 PER, 32.7 usage

Player B (reg. season): 29.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 5.3 apg, 45-34-84%, 21.9 FGA, 9.0 FTA, 25.0 PER, 32.6 usage

You probably figured out that Player B was Kobe. (True.) But you had to think about it. This goofy exercise gets harder when you compare T-Mac’s playoff averages from 2001 to 2008 (35 games) with Kobe’s playoff averages over that same stretch (102 games).

Player A: 28.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.3 apg, 43.4 mpg, 45-33-81%, 22.6 FGA, 8.3 FTA, 22.5 PER, 31.1 usage

Player B: 29.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 6.5 apg, 42.6 mpg, 43-30-75%, 24.5 FGA, 9.1 FTA, 25.4 PER, 35.3 usage

You probably figured out that Player B was Kobe. Wrong. It was T-Mac. Those 35 playoff games became part of his legacy, for better or worse — superduperstar numbers for someone who obviously couldn’t be a superduperstar because (hold on, I’m grabbing my sports radio voice) let’s be honest, folks, superduperstars should make the second round! We judge these guys by playoff wins first and everything else second. Most of the time, it’s totally fair. In T-Mac’s case, it’s not totally fair. Kobe had Shaq and Phil, and later Gasol and Odom, with a slew of Horrys and Fishers and Rices mixed in. T-Mac’s best teammates were Yao Ming, Grant Hill (played 46 games in four years with McGrady), Mike Miller, a washed-up Dikembe Mutombo, a really washed-up Patrick Ewing, and a really, really, really washed-up Shawn Kemp.

Bill Simmons, I watched Kobe Bryant on tv. I’ve seen Kobe Bryant live. I’ve looked at Kobe Bryant’s stats on basketball-reference. T-Mac is no Kobe Bryant.

Both players are 6-7-ish swingmen. At their peak, both players could do it all: pass, rebound, defend, and score. And Bill would have you believe that the only differences between the two was their supporting cast and their moxie. I won’t deny that both of those things, in it of themselves, are true. However that’s not what made Kobe Bryant a ring-bearer and Tracy McGrady an avid June vacationer.

Both players were pretty similar to the naked eye; they were turn of the century poor-man Jordan clones. They could score from anywhere on the court, with moves and counter moves to befuddle their opponent. Using an omnipresent eye, they could find an open teammate for an easy score. And when these gifts weren’t enough, they could rely on exceptional physical ability beyond the average N.B.A. athlete.

As you can see from above, Simmons attempts to statistically show these similarities. He uses a variety of stats, although I’m not really down with the per game ones. Unfortunately, he cherry picks his numbers and leaves a few vital stats out. Certainly this next stat would have been among the the first ones I would have looked at:

Name TS%
T-Mac 0.524
Kobe 0.560

One of those numbers is above average and the other is below. T-Mac and Kobe both were taking a lot of shots at their peak, but Kobe was doing so at an efficient manner, where T-Mac was unable to do it at a rate equal to the typical N.B.A. player. Now .026 (or 2.6% for those that like percents) may not seem like much, but let’s expand that chart a bit, and examine more closely.

Name TS% ft/36 ft missed/36 fg missed/36
T-Mac 0.524 5.2 1.7 11.5
Kobe 0.560 6.8 1.2 10.3

Equalizing their minutes (Kobe played about a season’s worth more minutes), McGrady averaged 92 more missed shots per year, and 1099 fewer free throws made. In other words, for every 36 minutes they played, Kobe made 1.6 more free throws and T-Mac missed one shot from the field.

One way to look at this data, would be to say that assuming both played about 40 minutes per game, subbing T-Mac for Kobe meant the Lakers would be three points worse every game they played. Three points doesn’t seem like much in a game where the scores end up in triple digits. However in 2001, the first year of Simmons comparison, the Lakers’ (56-36) point differential was +3.4 points per game, and the Magic’s (43-39) was +1.0. That’s less than three points per game.

It’s true that basketball mathemagics doesn’t work exactly that way. Unlike what Berri-ites would have you believe, it’s not as simple to sum individual stats across players and teams to come up with an exact win total. My example isn’t meant to say that Kobe and T-Mac were 10ish wins apart or even 3 points per game apart. Rather my goal is to show that efficiency matters, and shouldn’t be ignored as Mr. Simmons chose to do.

The Bryant-McGrady comparison is one that passes the eye test. Much like my estimation of words in Simmons’ article, the eye test fails over a large count over a long period of time. No one could possibly detect a 0.26 difference in true shooting percentage over 20,000 minutes played. Just as overvaluing Ronnie Brewer, Amir Johnson, or Reggie Evans because only their numbers say so, comparing T-Mac favorably to Kobe with just a squint is improper analysis.

Simmons tries to pull a fast one by using statistics to show how close they are. And I’m sure the anti-stat crowd that read his article threw their hands up in the air for a “Hallelujah” on how stats can’t detect the difference between a Hall of Famer and an overrated All Star. The irony is clear, because I don’t think anyone who puts a big value in true shooting percentage would send T-Mac to the Hall. Rather he’ll get selected, eventually, and people will overlook his playoff failures as happenstance, much like Simmons did. They’ll assure themselves that it’s the right decision because “7 straight All Star Games” and “he led the league in points per game twice!” They explain his failure to lead a team not on his inefficient shooting (he had a TS% over 53.5 precisely once in his career!), but his teammates and some inherent flaw in his character. Don’t believe me? Simmons already has begun beating that drum:

T-Mac’s brilliance was never infectious like that. He always looked half-asleep. He didn’t have a nasty streak. He wasn’t larger than life. He was just really, really, really great at playing basketball. That’s it. If you want to pick McGrady’s career apart historically, or even make the case that he’s not a Hall of Famer, this is the easiest argument to make against him.

When I mentioned Van Gundy’s desire to retroactively stick T-Mac on the ’99 Knicks, Rivers countered that T-Mac also would have killed it on Doc’s ’93 Knicks team, flanked by Riley, Oakley, Ewing, Anthony Mason and everyone else, saying, “He would have had protection. He would have had some idiots getting his back — we were REALLY nasty that year. Yeah, he would have fit in there.”

That should tell you all you need to know about McGrady’s Hall of Fame credentials. He just needed to be on a 60-win team to be successful. Makes perfect sense.


* Here’s my pro-New York anti-Bill Simmons fantasy: Patrick Ewing is named coach of the Celtics, and goes on to win championships with mediocre talent in 18 of 21 seasons. The three failures come during Ewing second term as Mayor of Boston, where he presides over the rebuilding of City Hall, Logan International Airport, and the public transportation extensions to Dorchester and Roslindale. Ewing’s success prompts Simmons to rethink his world philosophy, and he leaves the sports punditry world. Bill spends his latter years as New York City subway engineer, where he ekes out a happy existence.

See, a happy ending! I don’t hate the guy, just his constant pissing on New York.

84 comments on “Bill Simmons, Wrong on T-Mac

  1. flossy

    Just to be clear, are you saying that T-Mac doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, or just that he wasn’t as good as Kobe Bryant? I think one can fall short of Kobe and still be eminently qualified for the Hall of Fame. Hell, if Bernard King is in the HoF, I think T-Mac’s case is pretty open and shut. The fact that we’re even splitting hairs over TS% between T-Mac and Kobe should tell you all you need to know about how special a player T-Mac was in his prime.

    Not to rehash the entire comment thread from a couple of weeks ago about this very topic, but I believe that T-Mac should have been the MVP of the 2002-03 season for the superhuman feat of dragging one of the absolute worst rosters I’ve ever seen in professional basketball to a winning record and a playoff berth while leading the league in scoring, PER and WS/48. There’s no way to confirm this, but I also believe that T-Mac would easily be an NBA champion if he were on the early 2000s Lakers teams with Shaq et al. instead of Kobe, and Kobe’s legacy (and TS%) would look a lot different if he were saddled with those god-awful c. 2002 Orlando squads.

  2. KnickfaninNJ

    Hopefully another difference will be that Dolan doesn’t trade real assets in the future for an over the hill Kobe just so he can sell more tickets.

  3. Mike Kurylo Post author

    What I’m primarily saying is that Bill Simmons argument is a bowl of steaming rotten bananas.

    Secondarily I’ll say that true shooting percentage means a lot, especially with regards to guys with high usage rates. Since you mentioned the King, I’d like to point out that if you put Bernard in the discussion, his career TS% at that same age (28) is 57.4%, higher than Kobe’s. Look at the comparison here: http://bkref.com/tiny/OTbfm

    Mind you I can see that T-Mac could deserve major credit for 2003, but granted that was his best season with a TS% of 56.4 Here are his percentages for the years post 2003 (-2008):
    52.6%
    52.6%
    49.4%
    51.5%
    48.7%

    After age 25, he never put up a TS% above 51.5%!

    Regarding the Hall of Fame, by current standards/criteria he’s a Hall of Famer. Would I put him there? No. Would anyone that values true shooting percentage put him there? Probably not.

  4. flossy

    Mike Kurylo: Regarding the Hall of Fame, by current standards/criteria he’s a Hall of Famer. Would I put him there? No. Would anyone that values true shooting percentage put him there? Probably not.

    I take it you don’t consider Iverson a Hall of Famer, either?

    TS% is not the be-all, end-all of statistics, even for high usage players. McGrady is not quite the scorer that King was (or Kobe for that matter), but was pretty clearly a superior all-around player, and not just by a little. A better defender and a much, much more talented passer than King.

    FWIW, T-Mac’s post-Orlando years were a period of physical decline that I don’t think should be held up as indicative of his peak.

  5. Mike Kurylo Post author

    No I wouldn’t vote for Iverson either.

    T-Mac wasn’t inefficient just post-Orlando. he was inefficient pre-Orlando as well. And he only played 4 years with the Magic, so that’s not much of a Hall of Fame case for him. One of those years with the Magic his team went 21-61. T-Mac appeared in 67 of those games.

  6. canuteachmebball

    Um… not to defend Simmons, he gets on my nerves a lot, but aren’t you cherry picking what facts you’re presenting? Simmons does indirectly address efficiency. He talks about the types of TEAMMATES both players had (because that’s a meaningless fact when we’re talking about a team game right?). It’s pretty difficult to be efficient when you’re the focal point of defenses every night, ask kobe how much he enjoyed that during the Smush Parker days. Do we have any of kobe’s stats from THAT portion of his career? No more Shaq and no gasol/bynum. Was kobe the more efficient player then, when he had no one to pass to?

    Hell ask Carmelo Anthony last postseason vs indy how that feels, to have little to no help. A friend of mine is a huge Durant fan and after his performances vs houston post westbrook, thats all he could talk about (i dont know how i started talking about kevin durant, but my fingers keep typing, so i’ll let them). How his favorite player was still putting up huge numbers with good efficiency, while Melo based on the eye test looked like a bum. But context matters. Melo played against the #1 defensive team in the league, was draped by one of the better long armed rangy athletic defenders in the league, and because no one else could score west and hibbert were backing him up. meanwhile durant lit up a defensively mediocre houston team. HA HOLD THAT DAVE! (end rant)

    As far as him taking a shot at Ewing, i dont recall what he said exactly that would make you think he’s taking a shot at ewing (it’s been over a week since i read simmon’s article), but i’m pretty sure he used ewing in some kind of context like “another one of the great players that never got it done because he had minimal help”

  7. canuteachmebball

    oh and furthermore, how many wing players back then were super efficient anyway? jordan in the 80s aside, how many wing players could carry a team on his back, solo, without another great player helping them out?

    Iverson was inefficient, kobe without his bigmen was inefficient, mcgrady was inefficient, mitch richmond (an oft forgotten really good player) was by comparison inefficient.

    mcgrady was a ridiculous player before injuries started piling up, can’t hate on him for playing with scrubs. simmons lists some of his teammates, and few if any of those guys are even on the same level of a charles oakley, anthony mason, or john starks. YEA i said john starks. WHAT!?

  8. canuteachmebball

    i left ray allen off the above list. i forgot what his numbers looked like in his prime, when he was THE guy for his teams in milwaukee and seattle. i’m sure he was nowhere as efficient as he’s become now that hes pretty much transformed his game to look like reggie miller 2.0

  9. flossy

    Mike Kurylo:
    No I wouldn’t vote for Iverson either.

    T-Mac wasn’t inefficient just post-Orlando. he was inefficient pre-Orlando as well. And he only played 4 years with the Magic, so that’s not much of a Hall of Fame case for him. One of those years with the Magic his team went 21-61. T-Mac appeared in 67 of those games.

    Well, if you don’t consider Iverson a hall of famer, there’s not much of a conversation to be had here. As I said before, it’s not the Hall of True Shooting Percentge. TS% is an important, but narrow and ultimately highly contextual measure of a player’s worth. You may not agree with how Simmons presents his case for McGrady but he’s not wrong when he says that of all T-Mac’s skills, volume scoring was probably his least transcendent and he so happened to have the misfortune of spending his prime/healthy years on teams where he absolutely had to shoot the ball 25 times every night if his team was to have a prayer of winning. I don’t think McGrady is as good as Kobe, and obviously his career pales in comparison, but the fact that we’re even having this discussion means he’s a generational talent. Like King, it may take McGrady a while to get to the Hall, but he will get there eventually because he deserves it.

    Iverson, on the other hand, is a no-question surefire first ballot Hall of Famer. To harp on his TS% is to be blind to everything about his game that made him so special and to miss the entire point of how those early 2000s Philly teams were built around his superhuman volume scoring (this would be the time for one of the WP folks to pipe up to claim that Aaron McKie and Theo Ratliff are the real reason that team made the Finals, which, hahahaha).

  10. Caleb

    I’m with mike that BS is ridiculous to ignore T-Mac’s scoring inefficiency, which was brutal late in his career. But I’ve always thought McGrady was a special player – if he barely scored at all, he would have been terrific. He was a spectacular playmaker and great rebounder for his position; numbers bear it out. And he wasn’t Scottie Pippen on D, but he was really good. If T-Mac had shot the ball as much/little as Pippen did, what would his efficiency have been? Better than it was, I’m sure.

    Talking about the HOF reminds me of Bill James, who pointed out it’s always worth being specific: are we evaluating peak value, or the whole career? Who’s better, Mantle or Mays? The stat-geek answer depends on whether you’re looking at peak or career. Kobe is a giant, because he’s been at a consistently high level for so ridiculously long, even if he never had a single season that could sniff Jordan’s jock. T-Mac watered down his lifetime legacy with several years of mediocre or even terrible play. (maybe blame injuries, but still).

    The comparison of their peak years is a lot more interesting.

    Another Bill James point, re: the HOF… always worth asking, “Was the guy famous?”

    re: Allen Iverson, hell yes. That’s bonus points to consider, regardless of his play. I don’t know what’s the in/out dividing line, but Iverson’s last 5-6 years in the league shouldn’t make people forget what a good offensive player he was for his 2-3 peak years – 57 TS% on a ludicrously high usage rate.

    re: T-Mac — yes, he really was famous. Not enough reason to be in the HOF, but it helps.

    Of course, the basketball HOF doesn’t have the same cachet as baseball. Ralph Sampson is in, for crissakes, along with just about every college coach who stuck at a school for 10 years.

  11. Mike Kurylo Post author

    canuteachmebball:
    Um… not to defend Simmons, he gets on my nerves a lot, but aren’t you cherry picking what facts you’re presenting?Simmons does indirectly address efficiency.He talks about the types of TEAMMATES both players had (because that’s a meaningless fact when we’re talking about a team game right?).It’s pretty difficult to be efficient when you’re the focal point of defenses every night, ask kobe how much he enjoyed that during the Smush Parker days.Do we have any of kobe’s stats from THAT portion of his career?No more Shaq and no gasol/bynum.Was kobe the more efficient player then, when he had no one to pass to?

    Hell ask Carmelo Anthony last postseason vs indy how that feels, to have little to no help.A friend of mine is a huge Durant fan and after his performances vs houston post westbrook, thats all he could talk about (i dont know how i started talking about kevin durant, but my fingers keep typing, so i’ll let them).How his favorite player was still putting up huge numbers with good efficiency, while Melo based on the eye test looked like a bum.But context matters.Melo played against the #1 defensive team in the league, was draped by one of the better long armed rangy athletic defenders in the league, and because no one else could score west and hibbert were backing him up.meanwhile durant lit up a defensively mediocre houston team. HA HOLD THAT DAVE! (end rant)

    1. Yao Ming. Look at McGrady’s efficiency in Houston. That first year they missed a total of 6 games. McGrady’s TS% was 52.6%.

    In 2007 Yao played 48 games and T-Mac shot 51.5%.

    2. Vince Carter. T-Mac played 2400+ minutes his last year in Toronto along Air Canada. His TS%? 50.9%.

    Even in the seasons when he had Hall of Fame scoring talent next to him, T-Mac was sub-par.

    2003 wasn’t the norm for T-Mac it was the outlier.

  12. Mike Kurylo Post author

    canuteachmebball: kobe without his bigmen was inefficient

    Ummm no he wasn’t.
    Kobe
    2005 – TS% 56.3%
    2006 – TS% 55.9%
    2007 – TS% 58.0%

    You know you can actually look up these numbers before you say things, so that it doesn’t seem like you’re just making stuff up.

  13. Mike Kurylo Post author

    flossy: FWIW, T-Mac’s post-Orlando years were a period of physical decline that I don’t think should be held up as indicative of his peak.

    From what i can tell, T-Mac’s peak was one season.

    If we’re discounting his post-Orlando years, and let’s say his first two in Toronto, then there isn’t much a of career to go on. Even by normal standards, that’s a hard case to make for the HOF, especially when one of those seasons was a 21-win season.

  14. Mike Kurylo Post author

    flossy: Well, if you don’t consider Iverson a hall of famer, there’s not much of a conversation to be had here. As I said before, it’s not the Hall of True Shooting Percentge. TS% is an important, but narrow and ultimately highly contextual measure of a player’s worth. You may not agree with how Simmons presents his case for McGrady but he’s not wrong when he says that of all T-Mac’s skills, volume scoring was probably his least transcendent and he so happened to have the misfortune of spending his prime/healthy years on teams where he absolutely had to shoot the ball 25 times every night if his team was to have a prayer of winning. I don’t think McGrady is as good as Kobe, and obviously his career pales in comparison, but the fact that we’re even having this discussion means he’s a generational talent. Like King, it may take McGrady a while to get to the Hall, but he will get there eventually because he deserves it.

    1. If you agree that’s he not as good as Kobe, espcially in those years that Bill chose, then you already agree with the crux of my article.

    2. I think the “he was forced to shoot” is a bit of a stretch. Again he’s been on teams with Yao & Vince & his usage was still through the roof. I’m pretty sure he thought he was a good scorer (and the coaches of those teams as well) and went out there shooting as he pleased. It’s not like he was Trevor Ariza next to them, and then Trevor Ariza 2010 when he was without them. The guy has a 30+ usg from 2001-2008.

    This reminds me of the Tyson Chandler discussion we recently had. Sure Tyson might be able to crank out a bunch more shots, but it would just mean he’s taking crappy shots. T-Mac probably should have cut his usage, but instead he took a lot of bad shots & hurt his teams. And I’m sure THJC will be here soon enough to tell us all why (hint: it rhymes with honey.)

  15. flossy

    I’m not wholly defending Simmons argument, but being a bit less efficient (if otherwise virtually indistinguishable) than Kobe Bryant during one’s peak years does not disqualify a player from the HoF. McGrady had a stretch of five seasons where he had a WS48 above .180 in 4/5 years (peaking at .180) and a PER above 25 in 4/5 years (peaking at 30+!!). That’s a pretty damn good peak, one that vanishingly few players can match.

    So his TS% wasn’t the best. So what? He was, as Caleb pointed out, a good rebounder, phenomenal passer and very talented defender on top of shouldering as much or more of his team’s scoring burden as he could handle, often out of necessity, until his body broke down. TS is but a small part of the picture, though I guess that’s not something that anyone who’d exclude Iverson from the HoF would be willing to admit. You know what high usage player has a great career TS, better than Kobe and tMac? Corey Maggette. All together now: WHO CARES.

  16. canuteachmebball

    Mike Kurylo: 1. Yao Ming. Look at McGrady’s efficiency in Houston. That first year they missed a total of 6 games. McGrady’s TS% was 52.6%.

    In 2007 Yao played 48 games and T-Mac shot 51.5%.

    2. Vince Carter. T-Mac played 2400+ minutes his last year in Toronto along Air Canada. His TS%? 50.9%.

    Even in the seasons when he had Hall of Fame scoring talent next to him, T-Mac was sub-par.

    2003 wasn’t the norm for T-Mac it was the outlier.

    So because you cited 1 season where he had a healthy Yao, who might end up in the HOF for his international contributions more than his overall on court production, and the fact that his TS% was still only around league average in that 1 season, he wasn’t a great player?

    Vince Carter… lol.
    Not to mention the fact that when tmac played next to half man-used to be amazing, he was still a kid.

  17. canuteachmebball

    flossy:
    You know what high usage player has a great career TS, better than Kobe and tMac?Corey Maggette.All together now: WHO CARES.

    teehee

  18. ruruland

    flossy: I take it you don’t consider Iverson a Hall of Famer, either?

    TS% is not the be-all, end-all of statistics, even for high usage players.McGrady is not quite the scorer that King was (or Kobe for that matter), but was pretty clearly a superior all-around player, and not just by a little.A better defender and a much, much more talented passer than King.

    FWIW, T-Mac’s post-Orlando years were a period of physical decline that I don’t think should be held up as indicative of his peak.

    T-Mac is a HOFer to me because his prime was incredible, but he was never much of a defender.

  19. thenamestsam

    Yeah I think you’re characterizing Simmon’s argument here a little bit Mike. The piece certainly didn’t read to me like he was saying “T-Mac was as good as Kobe” more like he was saying “It was a lot closer than you probably remember” which I think he’s basically right about. The efficiency is a big point in Kobe’s favor which is why T-Mac wasn’t as good as Kobe, but overall the comparison is a lot closer than I think a lot of people remember. And coming up short of Kobe isn’t exactly a major failure. He’s going down as a consensus top-10 player of all time. And Simmons was using that point to make the larger point that people harping on T-Mac’s lack of playoff success (and overall team success) are really ignoring what god awful teammates he had. Which, again, he’s basically right about.

    TMAC only had 1 real MVP level season but from 2001-2008 his numbers were: 26.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.5 apg, 44-34-75%, 21.8 FGA, 7.4 FTA, 24.2 PER, 32.7 usage. Yes his efficiency was not always elite. But those numbers are insane. Seriously, they’re Hall of Fame numbers. If you want to be a “small Hall” guy and say that only truly the best of the best guys should be in there, and we shouldn’t double down on the past inclusion of borderline guys by including new players just for being better than those borderline guys, I’m okay with that. Don’t agree, but it’s a reasonable stance. But using the standard of the guys who are already in there, T-Mac should be in. No doubt about it in my mind.

  20. thenamestsam

    thenamestsam:
    Yeah I think you’re characterizing Simmon’s argument here a little bit Mike.

    Should say mischaracterizing clearly. I’ll become the honorary 1000th person to petition for an edit feature.

  21. flossy

    ruruland: T-Mac is a HOFer to me because his prime was incredible, but he was never much of a defender.

    I mean, like so many things with him, it came and went.

  22. Mike Kurylo Post author

    thenamestsam: Yes his efficiency was not always elite.

    Not elite? Kobe’s weren’t elite. T-Mac’s weren’t even average.

    thenamestsam: Yeah I think you’re characterizing Simmon’s argument here a little bit Mike. The piece certainly didn’t read to me like he was saying “T-Mac was as good as Kobe” more like he was saying “It was a lot closer than you probably remember” which I think he’s basically right about.

    Let me take some key lines from Simmons’ article:

    He was on the road to becoming Pippen:

    We would have regarded him as the Evolutionary Pippen, the 6-foot-8 freak athlete who could do everything that Scottie did … only the dude could get buckets, too. We would have discussed T-Mac and Vince like we discuss Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant now. We would have argued about “Shaq and Kobe or Vince and T-Mac?”

    Yao Ming was the reason that T-mac was not a great player:

    T-Mac spent the rest of his prime awkwardly meshing with 7-foot-6 lane-clogger Yao Ming, a wonderful teammate and insanely hard worker who was probably the most overrated good player of that era.

    Even Kobe said T-Mac is awesome

    And yet, just two weeks ago, Kobe Bryant told Jimmy Kimmel in front of 5,000 people that McGrady was his toughest opponent ever. Not LeBron, not Wade, not Pierce, not Durant. T-Mac. Was that a passive-aggressive dig at LeBron? Did Kobe really mean it? After McGrady retired this week, I couldn’t resist texting Kobe to ask him. Was it true? Was T-Mac really the most talented player Kobe ever played against?

    His response: “No question.”

  23. Mike Kurylo Post author

    He compares T-Mac’s one great season to Jordan, Bird, Magic, LeBron, etc.

    That last season (for the 2002-03 Magic) doubles as one of the single greatest statistical seasons ever submitted by a modern perimeter player. If you’re only allowing one “best” season for every player, here’s the short list of monster seasons we’ve seen since the ABA/NBA merger in 1976.

    I mean, Simmons time and time compares McGrady favorably to great NBA players. In fact he specifically said this:

    “We want to remember the eight-year stretch from 2001 through 2008, when McGrady’s production was barely different from Kobe Bryant’s production. Here, look.”

    Barely different?!

    I mean I get that the two seemed similar, except one was much more efficient. But that’s like saying the G train and the A train are pretty much the same because they both ride on electricity, take passengers, cost a metrocard, and have seats. But one goes to Rockaway Beach, the World Trade Center, Times Square, Penn Station, and express up the West Side, while the other goes to Hunter’s Point.

  24. flossy

    Just because Bill Simmons is prone to rhetorical excess does not mean that McGrady was not one of the elite players of the 2000s, whose peak production was comparable (if not EXACTLY on par) with that of some of the consensus best players of all time. Instead of nit picking over TS% or objecting to some counter factual about what kind of next-level Pippen T-Mac would have been if he and Carter has stayed on the Raptors, I think we can concede the points that a) T-Mac was awesome, b) he is HoF-bound and c) his widely-discussed playoff failures have more to so with a combination of bad luck and horrible teammates during his prime years than with any grave failing on the part of McGrady himself, who was, by and large, pretty amazing for the first 2/3 of his career.

  25. BigBlueAL

    All I remember about the 1 good Vince/TMac Raptors team is they got swept by the Knicks in 2000. Houston and Spree werent too impressed :-)

  26. thenamestsam

    Hey I grew up on the G Train. Watch it buddy.

    Anyway I don’t want to defend Simmons too much because some of the points you cite are obviously silly by him. The Pippen thing is clearly an exaggeration of T-Mac’s defensive prowess, and what Kobe thinks could hardly be more irrelevant. Saying that he said that “Yao Ming was the reason that T-mac was not a great player” is clearly a straw-man but I do think it’s fair to criticize how much Simmons glosses over the fact that TMac did have one borderline elite teammate for a time and it never really worked out.

    But the bottomline is that your argument as I understand it: “T-Mac wasn’t as good as Kobe therefore he’s not a Hall of Famer” is fundamentally flawed. Kobe isn’t a test case for the Hall. There’s miles of room to be worse than him and still clear the cut-off for the Hall. I think it really comes down to how much you view the efficiency as a black mark against him.

    For me I’d say that comparing his usage to the league average isn’t very informative. His usage puts him in an extremely unique bracket where it’s difficult to compare him to guys other than the Kobes of the world if (like me) you think it’s a little silly to compare players with vastly different usages. Was his efficiency the best of that group? No. But look at those numbers again: 26.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.5 apg, 44-34-75%, 21.8 FGA, 7.4 FTA, 24.2 PER, 32.7 usage. For me, there aren’t a lot of guys who you can say had an 8 year stretch that was clearly better than that and most of those guys are true all-time greats. Lots of guys had higher efficiencies and lots of guys won more with better teammates but not many did as much or more when forced into a role of that size on teams with truly horrendous teammates.

    Instead of comparing him to Kobe why not look at how he stacks up with Dumars, or with Bernard, guys who are actually on the borderline?

  27. flossy

    thenamestsam: Was his efficiency the best of that group? No. But look at those numbers again: 26.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.5 apg, 44-34-75%, 21.8 FGA, 7.4 FTA, 24.2 PER, 32.7 usage.

    The only players to average more than 26 ppg, 6 rpg and 5 apg for their careers are Jordan and LeBron. JUST TO BE CLEAR, I am not equating T-Mac to those two, but the fact that he managed 26.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.5 apg over a seven year span makes him preeeeetty flippin’ awesome in my book, even if his TS% left a little something to be desired.

  28. JK47

    T-Mac was pretty much done as an elite player by the time he was age 26, and was completely shot by age 28. I do think the Hall Of Fame should really reward extended excellence over a long period of time, so to me McGrady’s case for HOF is pretty weak.

  29. Kevin Udwary


    For me I’d say that comparing his usage to the league average isn’t very informative. His usage puts him in an extremely unique bracket where it’s difficult to compare him to guys other than the Kobes of the world if (like me) you think it’s a little silly to compare players with vastly different usages….

    Careful with that. There is no correlation between usage and shooting efficiency. If McGrady lowered his usage, there is no reason to believe his TS% would have been higher. It’s possible he would have reduced his usage by taking less bad shots, but it’s just as possible he would have taken the same percentage of bad shots, or a higher percentage. In fact, he had 6 years of USG% under 25, and the highest TS% he had those years was .510
    Just because a player is high usage doesn’t mean he’d be more efficient at a lower usage.

  30. xduckshoex

    I think McGrady is a hall of famer just based on precedent. If guys like Reggie Miller and Gus Johnson and Jamaal Wilkes are in I don’t really see how you can keep McGrady out of the mix. The same goes for Vince Carter and Allen Iverson. The interesting one for me will be Manu Ginobili, who is clearly better than McGrady, Iverson and Carter but may miss it because he’s been undervalued for his entire career.

  31. Brian Cronin

    You’re forgetting how stupid the Basketball Hall of Fame is. it isn’t an NBA Hall of Fame, so if you have had success outside the NBA, you’re a lock. Manu is a lock because of his international success.

    But yeah, based on precedence, McGrady is a Hall of Famer.

  32. cgreene

    I think relative to the HoF argument that 2 subjective issues that matter keep him out.

    1) Longevity. In an age where medical care keeps players around a lot longer it seems that career length and this case length of high level play are relevant criteria.

    2) impact. Because of his lack of playoff success he simply did not have a social impact on the game. Iverson somewhere managed to get a bunch of scrubs to the NBA finals. And of course impacted the game in a bunch of other ways.

    We may not think these things should matter but they do. I think he’s on the bubble.

  33. xduckshoex

    Another thing that should be pointed out regarding his hall of fame candidacy(or hall of fame candidacy in general) is that there is no limit to a players eligibility period as long as he receives one affirmative vote by the screening committee every three years. All it takes is one weak class 15 years down the road for McGrady to get voted in.

    But I don’t really have a problem with it. I think McGrady is a hall of famer, I also think that he’s been pretty overrated and that his scoring efficiency issues are a bigger deal than most people want to admit and I think Mike is correct that Kobe has clearly been a cut above McGrady. McGrady is barely in my top 10 wing players for the years he was active, behind Kobe, Allen, Pierce, Wade, Lebron, Manu, Carter and Marion, but I’m fully expecting all of those players to end up in the hall one day.

  34. JK47

    xduckshoex:
    I think McGrady is a hall of famer just based on precedent.If guys like Reggie Miller and Gus Johnson and Jamaal Wilkes are in I don’t really see how you can keep McGrady out of the mix. The same goes for Vince Carter and Allen Iverson.The interesting one for me will be Manu Ginobili, who is clearly better than McGrady, Iverson and Carter but may miss it because he’s been undervalued for his entire career.

    See, this is what I disagree with. You shouldn’t take the worst players in the HOF, and say, “Well, if they’re in, then Player X should be in too.” George Kelly is in the baseball HOF. You ever hear of George Kelly? He was kind of like the Wally Joyner or Bill White of the 1920′s. Good glove man with a career OPS+ of 109. Since he’s in there, should we put Wally Joyner in? Nah. You don’t fix mistakes by just making more mistakes.

  35. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    Money. He shot a lot because of money. Because shooting a lot gets you all-star berths and MVP votes and All-NBA team spots and, most importantly, max contracts.

  36. Z-man

    I agree that Simmons is a pompous homer windbag twerp and that T-Mac was not close to the player that Kobe is, except for that one year.

    My feeling about the hall of fame is this: If you were widely regarded as one of the game’s very best players for a reasonable period of time, you should be in the HOF. This is the case with T-Mac.

    T-Mac had the following accolades/accomplishments:

    2-time all-NBA 1st team
    3-time all-NBA 2nd team
    2-time all-NBA 3rd team
    7-time all-star
    2-time scoring champion
    6-time top 8 in MVP votes

    There’s also the numerous years that he averaged between 5-8 rebounds per 36 and 4-6 assists per 36.

    Tracy McGrady was a great basketball player. Not close to being an all-time great, and not without flaws, but a guy that peers, coaches and fans generally considered one of the greats of the game for the better part of a decade. Who cares whether he met some theoretical efficiency threshold? McGrady was a HOFer to watch, to root for or against, and that’s good enough for me.

    I love stats, advanced and otherwise, but if I had a choice of never seeing another NBA stat sheet or another NBA game, please, just let me watch the games. When arguing about HOFers, I believe that advanced stats are misused when arguing about keeping guys out; it removes the passion and entertainment value from the game. I appreciate it much more when when these stats are used to champion the cause of the underappreciated and overlooked.

  37. flossy

    Great post, Z-Man. Couldn’t agree more. Tracy McGrady may not have won any championships, his career may have been dimishined by injuries, he may not have been the kind of hyper-efficient scorer that gets the stat-heads tails wagging, but goddamn he was good for a good long while. At his peak, one of the most graceful and pleasurable-to-watch players in the post-Jordan era. I don’t hold his less-than-Kobe status against him. He reached some incredible heights amidst some truly barren rosters and ended up betrayed by his own body and pure bad luck. His will always be one of those “what-if” careers, but I hope he is remembered more for his incredible ability and less for his failure to advance deep into the playoffs, and I think Simmons is right to be charitable and attribute that failure to factors that were mostly beyond his control. Had he been drafted by the Lakers, maybe things would be different. But that shouldn’t diminish how truly exceptional he was as a player, in my humble opinion, TS% be damned.

  38. MJG1789

    Z-man:
    When arguing about HOFers, I believe that advanced stats are misused when arguing about keeping guys out; it removes the passion and entertainment value from the game.I appreciate it much more when when these stats are used to champion the cause of the underappreciated and overlooked.

    Right on. And actually, I don’t think most folks have a true aversion to advanced stats – they have an aversion when absurd statements are clinged to as prized insights. Even Bill James makes mistakes, too; he once wrote a long, interesting essay about why Johnny Evers was a great player. Evers wasn’t (and Bill later acknowledged the fact) but he was trying to make a point about his new methodology. I feel like eventually all of this will calm down and the Wow guys will be able to relax and not try to convince us that Melo sucks (which he manifestly doesn’t) and that Reggie Evans is a basketball god (which he isn’t). It’s as though in order to make a rhetorical point, McGrady is written about like he was Harold Miner or something. He wasn’t. He could light it up.

    This kind of leads to another issue I have with advanced statistics. What do you with players like Vernon Maxwell? By the numbers he was godawful. He wasn’t, though; besides being a defensive maniac, the threat of his shooting spaced the floor – and when he did go off, it could be the difference of winning and losing. Statistically, Kenny Smith was much better – but as well know, Derek Harper destroyed him in the Finals (if the Knicks win, he’s probably the MVP) and Maxwell got hot in Game 7. I would think a true Wow guy would say that the Maxwell/Rex Chapman/Tim Hardaway type shooters basically suck – but at the end of the game, you have to double-cover them because they can hit from halfcourt. OK, somewhat of a tangent here – but does the ability to score from any spot on the court have…

  39. flossy

    I associate that property with Gilbert Arenas. Never a truly elite 3 pt shooter by percentage, but good enough that you had to respect it, and he would just cold stick one in your eye from 30 feet out without blinking. Now there’s a guy who was pretty damn good for a minute there but definitely flamed out way too early and ignobly to have any prayer of a HoF career. T-Mac looks great, by comparison.

  40. Aharon

    Good points, Mike! Glad to be reading from you again :)

    Also, I’m pretty sure the gap in TS% is .36 not .26

  41. Brian Cronin

    I associate that property with Gilbert Arenas. Never a truly elite 3 pt shooter by percentage, but good enough that you had to respect it, and he would just cold stick one in your eye from 30 feet out without blinking. Now there’s a guy who was pretty damn good for a minute there but definitely flamed out way too early and ignobly to have any prayer of a HoF career. T-Mac looks great, by comparison.

    Baron Davis would hit threes like that all of the time. I remember this one three he hit late in a game a few years back against the Knicks at a game I was attending with my wife. I said to her before the play, “Watch Davis. I don’t care what happens, he’s taking a three here.” And he did and he made it. It sucked but I still marveled at it. Of course, the fact that the Knicks responded to his three by a go-ahead basket and then held on for the win made it easier to appreciate Davis’ shot. ;)

  42. Z-man

    The Honorable Cock Jowles:
    Money. He shot a lot because of money. Because shooting a lot gets you all-star berths and MVP votes and All-NBA team spots and, most importantly, max contracts.

    And you have proof of this, right?

    This is an incredibly cynical statement. Sure, players want to make money and their agents want them to make money. But you are implying that winning is a secondary concern to any player that shoots a lot.

    Let’s keep in mind that advanced metrics are still a relatively new thing, so McGrady probably had no idea what his TS% was for most of his career. My guess is that players at that time thought that their best chance of winning was for them to shoot a lot, and that their coaches encouraged them to do so. And coaches do not generally get paid on how many points an individual player scores, they get paid relative to the wins they generate, at least in most cases, right? And the team that scores the most points (regardless of efficiency) always wins, right? And T-Mac and Iverson had some pretty good coaches along the way, right?

    So unless you have proof (beyond anecdotal evidence, you know, the kind you hate) that this is true, that players like T-Mac consciously and deliberately put money first and winning each game they played second, they why can’t we just say this: Players like T-Mac and Iverson have been taught that the best way to win is for them to shoot a lot because the team that scores the most points wins and they are capable of scoring a lot of points. Their teammates and coaches have likely deferred to them from the time they were little kids because the team that scores the most points wins and they score a lot of points.

    There are plenty of examples of guys who got paid max money despite having a lower usage/higher efficiency than T-Mac and Iverson. Was that just dumb luck?

  43. flossy

    I think it’s probably fair to assume that at least for much of his career, McGrady’s shooting volume was both out of necessity (particularly in Orlando, because who the hell else on that team was going to score the ball!?) and by instruction, particularly in Houston where he was coached by one of the least imaginative offensive coaches in the league (sorry JVG, I love you but it’s true). I’m also sure that most players who believe (correctly, in T-Mac’s case) that they are stars don’t see shooting a lot and winning as mutually exclusive, or at least are not consciously prioritizing shooting/money over winning. Indeed, on most teams, there is at least one player who would simply not be doing his job if he didn’t put the ball up with some frequency. There is a reason that having a high usage is often described as shouldering the scoring burden, not basking in the scoring luxury or whatever.

  44. Nick C.

    It appears we have come full circle and are back to the Isiah mentality of genuflecting at the altar of the volume shooter. That was fast.

  45. flossy

    Nick C.:
    It appears we have come full circle and are back to the Isiah mentality of genuflecting at the altar of the volume shooter. That was fast.

    What? How could anyone who watched Tracy McGrady think he was just a volume shooter? We’re not talking about Nick Young or Steve Francis here. If anything, some on this board could use a corrective to what has become the alternative conventional wisdom that if you have anything below a .580 TS% you might as well just be punting the ball into the stands, for all your efforts help the team.

    I have to laugh at the “Isiah mentality” comments. If Isiah had landed Tracy McGrady back in 2001, the past decade might have been a LOT different.

  46. xduckshoex

    Yeah, the Knicks might have SIX first round exits instead of only having three. WOW.

    And McGrady was not *just* a volume shooter but he was primarily a volume shooter and deserves to be penalized for his poor efficiency as a result. If you shoot more than most players in the league, why wouldn’t your efficiency on those shots be an important part of evaluating the quality of your play?

  47. flossy

    You’re right. It would have been just awful to have someone averaging 26, 6, and 5 on the Knicks back in the early/mid 2000s. All those all-NBA selections and all star teams… How would we have coped? Who could sleep at night with a player out their wearing orange and blue, putting up LeBron-esque stat lines night after night, knowing all the while that his TS was a shade under leave average!? The horror.

  48. Nick C.

    We did have Marbury putting up per game #s (20-8 or thereabouts) that only Oscar had ever put up. :)
    As for the thread question I see TMac as the NBA version of Mattingly. For baseball the five year or so run is too short but I don’t know about NBA. Bernard had two Godly years and 1-2 good to very good with NJ, GS and Wash each.

  49. xduckshoex

    flossy:
    You’re right.It would have been just awful to have someone averaging 26, 6, and 5 on the Knicks back in the early/mid 2000s.All those all-NBA selections and all star teams… How would we have coped?Who could sleep at night with a player out their wearing orange and blue, putting up LeBron-esque stat lines night after night, knowing all the while that his TS was a shade under leave average!?The horror.

    A first round exit with an All-NBA player is only marginally better than being in the lottery without an All-NBA player.

    Also, there was nothing “Lebron-esque” about McGrady.

    Finally, the question still remains: if what you do more than anything is shoot the ball, shouldn’t you be good at doing that? Isn’t that kind of important? I don’t understand why people are acting like it’s no big deal to have a guy taking 30-40% of the teams shots with below average efficiency while he’s on the floor. It seems like that’s something that would really handicap an offense.

  50. flossy

    xduckshoex: A first round exit with an All-NBA player is only marginally better than being in the lottery without an All-NBA player.

    Also, there was nothing “Lebron-esque” about McGrady.

    Finally, the question still remains:if what you do more than anything is shoot the ball, shouldn’t you be good at doing that?Isn’t that kind of important?I don’t understand why people are acting like it’s no big deal to have a guy taking 30-40% of the teams shots with below average efficiency while he’s on the floor.It seems like that’s something that would really handicap an offense.

    1) Can’t assume a first round exit

    2) Scroll up–MJ and LeBron are the only 2 players to average better than 26, 6, and 5 for their careers. Doing so on a nightly basis for 7 seasons is elite no matter how you slice it.

    3) Wouldn’t T-Mac’s inefficiency handicap an offense? Uh… no? The Magic were never in the bottom half of the NBA in terms of team ORtg at any point during McGrady’s tenure, and in fact peaked at 7th overall. To whom should we attribute, if not McGrady? Pat Garrity? Andrew DeClerq? The bloated corpse of Sean Kemp? I mean, give me a break.

  51. xduckshoex

    Actually, you CAN assume a first round exit for a team led by McGrady, and it goes beyond the fact that McGrady saw nothing but first round exits in the years he was actually a contributing member of an NBA team. In the last 25 years, teams led by high volume low efficiency scorers are far more likely to miss the playoffs entirely or be bounced in the first round than not, and to be an exception to that rule you generally have to be playing for a team that was in the top 5 defensively or playing against historically weak competition like the early 2000′s Eastern Conference(preferably both).

    Also, 26, 6 and 5 tells you very little about how good a player is. If that player took 30 shots per game and turned the ball over 6 times per game is he still good? There is nothing “Lebron-esque” about McGrady’s stats because he needed to shoot a lot more to get those points. It’s like comparing Oscar Robertson and Tyreke Evans because they both got 20-5-5; if all you look at is the bare minimum of information they seem similar, but as soon as you delve a little deeper it’s obvious the two are in completely different classes.

    And, once again, if scoring is what you supposedly do best why shouldn’t your scoring efficiency be one of the main determinants of your value? I really don’t understand why the effectiveness of a player at what is supposed to be his primary purpose on the basketball court is not a big deal when assessing his worth. I’d really like someone to explain it since there seem to be quite a few people here who don’t think scoring efficiency is important.

  52. flossy

    xduckshoex: Actually, you CAN assume a first round exit for a team led by McGrady, and it goes beyond the fact that McGrady saw nothing but first round exits in the years he was actually a contributing member of an NBA team. In the last 25 years, teams led by high volume low efficiency scorers are far more likely to miss the playoffs entirely or be bounced in the first round than not, and to be an exception to that rule you generally have to be playing for a team that was in the top 5 defensively or playing against historically weak competition like the early 2000?s Eastern Conference(preferably both).

    Setting aside the fact that most mid-2000s Knicks fans would have loved to make the playoffs instead of miss them every year, do you have any actual facts to back up this assertion?

    xduckshoex: Also, 26, 6 and 5 tells you very little about how good a player is. If that player took 30 shots per game and turned the ball over 6 times per game is he still good?

    Why even ask this question? Did T-Mac average 30 FGA/game? Did he average 6 TOs? No. If you want to call him a poor-man’s LeBron or a poor-man’s Kobe, fine. That’s still an elite player. The level he played at for almost a decade still qualifies him for the HoF.

    I guess you didn’t bother to read any of the Simmons article (or watch much of T-Mac in his prime?) but one of the main points was that T-Mac was miscast as the a high-usage offensive centerpiece and forced mostly by circumstance to carry vastly inferior rosters by virtue of shooting a lot. You’re arguing against a whole pack of straw men here by obsessing over TS to the exclusion of, let’s see, all context and every other facet of his game.

  53. xduckshoex

    There have been 32 player seasons in the last 25 years with a usage over 30 and a TS% lower than .53, only 9 of their teams advanced past the first round. Of those 9 teams who advanced, 6 of them played in the Eastern Conference between 1999-2005. Of the three who didn’t play in one of the least competitive conferences in league history, two were top 5 defenses. The only team that wasn’t playing in an incredibly weak conference or with a top 5 defense was the 2001 Kings, and they were still 7th in the league in defensive efficiency so they weren’t far off.

    I read the Simmons article and I watched plenty of McGrady. I don’t particularly care if McGrady was “miscast”, he took and missed all of those shots. We don’t evaluate players based on what they may have been if they were used differently(which requires assuming that it’s possible for players to be anything but what they actually are, which I don’t really believe), we evaluate based on what they actually did and what McGrady actually did was take and miss a ton of shots.

    And I’m not obsessing over scoring efficiency, I’m trying to figure out why we’re supposed to just ignore the fact that McGrady’s was awful and instead focus on mostly meaningless per game statistics but nobody seems to be able to explain why this is the case. Again, why is scoring efficiency not incredibly important when rating scorers? I can see why it wouldn’t be all that important when evaluating somebody like Ben Wallace because that wasn’t really what Ben did, but in McGrady’s case it IS what he did and I think scoring efficiency is a pretty important part of evaluating a players scoring ability and it’s hard to say that a guy was actually an effective scorer when he was below the league average in efficiency.

  54. flossy

    Of the 35 player seasons during the 3pt era with USG of 30+ and TS < .530 (1500 MP cutoff to weed out the 100 minute wonders), T-Mac has 4 of the top 10 ever by WS (1,2,8,9) and by WS48 (2,4,6,10).

    http://bkref.com/tiny/uane9

    That group is littered with Hall of Famers, future Hall of Famers, and guys who definitely had HoF-caliber games but got too injured to be more than on the bubble (Jermaine O'Neal, Webber, etc.). Even our own Patrick Ewing makes an appearance. Kind of suggests that T-Mac was more than just a chucker? Certainly a player like that would have been a VAST improvement over who was on the Knicks during the Isiah era.

    As far as playoff success, by your own calculations we'd have had about a 30% chance of making the 2nd round of the playoffs or better with a player who sported that usage/TS combo*, which is a lot better than he Isiah era status quo of, you know, not winning a playoff game ever. Not that you can attribute a team's playoff success to one player, which is another point made in the Simmons piece which seems to have sailed right over your head.

  55. DRed

    12 of those 35 player seasons were turned in by AI and T-Mac, two guys who never won a thing. That’s not a coincidence. Having the guy who shoots the most on your team be bad at shooting does not help you win.

    And would having a USG of 30 and TS < 530 really be better than having a USG of 25 and a TS of 575? (Starbury's best season for us) Why? Because you missed more?

  56. flossy

    Never won a thing? Can you scroll up, please? Iverson’s HoF credentials are really not in question, we’ve already discussed this. McGrady’s probably shouldn’t be, either, despite being one of the most unlucky stars in recent NBA history.

  57. xduckshoex

    I never said that playoff success is only attributed to one player, I said that having a high volume, low efficiency scorer puts a pretty low ceiling on what a team is able to accomplish because historically that’s correct. It doesn’t matter if you have the best high volume, low efficiency scorer in NBA history(which McGrady very well may be), it’s still not a very good thing to have because it doesn’t lead to successful basketball.

    You seem very intent on saying whatever you can to defend McGrady, but you never get to the philosophical core of the matter: why does scoring efficiency not matter when evaluating a scorer? Why is the scoring efficiency of a player who takes a quarter of the teams total shots over the course of a season not a big deal? Scoring efficiency isn’t the only thing we look at when evaluating a player, but when your primary purpose on the court is to score points and you’re below average it, isn’t that bad?

  58. flossy

    Moreover Marbury’s one actually very statistically good season, his first full season with the Knicks, would have been McGrady’s fifth best by WS48. actually it was the only season Marbury ever bested McGrady’s career average WS48. there is really no question McGrady was a substantially better player than marbury, really by any metric, ts% be damned.

  59. DRed

    flossy:
    Never won a thing?Can you scroll up, please?Iverson’s HoF credentials are really not in question, we’ve already discussed this.McGrady’s probably shouldn’t be, either, despite being one of the most unlucky stars in recent NBA history.

    Of course Allen Iverson is a hall of famer. He scored all those points. In comparison to other hall of famers, though, what he really excelled at was missing shots-I mean, that guy could really miss shots. Almost nobody in NBA history has missed shots like Iverson. Certainly not in the modern era. If I ever have kids, I’m going to tell them stories about all the shots he was able to create that didn’t go in. It was really something to see.

  60. flossy

    xduckshoex:
    I never said that playoff success is only attributed to one player, I said that having a high volume, low efficiency scorer puts a pretty low ceiling on what a team is able to accomplish because historically that’s correct.It doesn’t matter if you have the best high volume, low efficiency scorer in NBA history(which McGrady very well may be), it’s still not a very good thing to have because it doesn’t lead to successful basketball.

    You seem very intent on saying whatever you can to defend McGrady, but you never get to the philosophical core of the matter:why does scoring efficiency not matter when evaluating a scorer?Why is the scoring efficiency of a player who takes a quarter of the teams total shots over the course of a season not a big deal?Scoring efficiency isn’t the only thing we look at when evaluating a player, but when your primary purpose on the court is to score points and you’re below average it, isn’t that bad?

    Who said it doesn’t matter? How could you possibly have read this whole thread and come away with that understanding of my argument? I am not saying it doesn’t matter. I am saying T-Mac’s TS% does not disqualify him from the HoF because he was an all around phenomenal player for the better part of the decade who also happened to be very unlucky. Kobe Bryant is by most people’s estimation a top 10 or top 20 all time player. Someone who was able to play like a (slightly) lesser Kobe for seven years running is fucking awesome, end of story, maybe not literally among the handful of very best all time, but easily good enough for the HoF and vastly better than anyone who played for the Knicks under Layden or Isiah. TS% isn’t irrelevant, but you can be a low TS% player who is just plain better at basketball than other high TS players, like Starbury that one year or Corey Maggette etc.

  61. flossy

    DRed: Of course Allen Iverson is a hall of famer.He scored all those points.In comparison to other hall of famers, though, what he really excelled at was missing shots-I mean, that guy could really miss shots.Almost nobody in NBA history has missed shots like Iverson.Certainly not in the modern era.If I ever have kids, I’m going to tell them stories about all the shots he was able to create that didn’t go in.It was really something to see.

    wow sure I hope you breed. try not to get a visible erection when you tell your kids about the times Tyson Chandler went 4 of 4 from the field, it might creep them out

  62. xduckshoex

    You downplay the importance of scoring efficiency when it’s pointed out that McGrady’s was pretty bad relative to the names he is typically compared to, but when asked why it’s not important you say that it is. There seems to be something of a disconnect there.

    So if scoring efficiency matters, why is it passable for a player who takes a lot of shots to be pretty bad in that department? I just don’t understand how you can think TS% matters while still thinking McGrady was this truly great player for all but the one outlier season of his career. It seems like being pretty bad at something that is important should be considered a pretty big negative, especially when evidence suggests that being bad in that department has a fairly strong correlation with being mediocre at best on the basketball court.

    I also don’t think you’ll get much argument about McGrady being better than Starbury and Maggette, but I also think that’s kind of changing the subject. The question isn’t whether McGrady was any good at all or better than one dimensional players with attitude problems, it’s about whether he’s good enough to be honoured as one of the all-time greats Guys like Starbury and Maggette aren’t even part of this conversation.

  63. flossy

    DRed:
    http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/CHI/1987.html

    This is what a basketball team with one great player taking on a massive scoring load for his crappy team looks like.That great player is still great.T-Mac wasn’t a great all around player, because he was bad at making shots.

    Oh okay so anyone less than Jordan isn’t great. Got it. Well this has been a fun chat; I’ll go ahead and let the HoF know that they can just turn out the lights now.

  64. flossy

    xduckshoex:
    You downplay the importance of scoring efficiency when it’s pointed out that McGrady’s was pretty bad relative to the names he is typically compared to, but when asked why it’s not important you say that it is.There seems to be something of a disconnect there.

    So if scoring efficiency matters, why is it passable for a player who takes a lot of shots to be pretty bad in that department?I just don’t understand how you can think TS% matters while still thinking McGrady was this truly great player for all but the one outlier season of his career.It seems like being pretty bad at something that is important should be considered a pretty big negative, especially when evidence suggests that being bad in that department has a fairly strong correlation with being mediocre at best on the basketball court.

    I also don’t think you’ll get much argument about McGrady being better than Starbury and Maggette, but I also think that’s kind of changing the subject.The question isn’t whether McGrady was any good at all or better than one dimensional players with attitude problems, it’s about whether he’s good enough to be honoured as one of the all-time greats Guys like Starbury and Maggette aren’t even part of this conversation.

    I don’t know how many times I can repeat this, but I’ll give it one more shot. TS% isn’t totally irrelevant. it’s just not the ONLY stat that matters, particular for someone like McGrady who impacted the game in so many ways (as his elite WS seasons will attest). His TS may be what keeps him one notch below a player like Kobe (a consensus all time great), but that is still easily good enough to qualify him for a HoF career, and regardless of his TS he was still obviously much better than many of the other “good” players of his era (high TS scorers like Maggette, all stars like Starbury, etc).

  65. johnno

    flossy: TS% isn’t totally irrelevant. it’s just not the ONLY stat that matters

    Since you are an avid reader/contributor to this site, I am shocked that you have not realized by now that a guy who shoots 2 for 3 on wide open layups in the first two minutes, but doesn’t shoot again for the rest of the game, is much more valuable than the guy who shoots 9 for 20 and hits 3 of those shots with defenders draped all over him in the last 30 seconds of the game because the first guy is so much more efficient. It’s a shame that you actually watch games because you apparently are horribly misled by what you see. Unfortunately, I watched T-Mac play a lot and I too was duped into thinking that he was a great player.

  66. thenamestsam

    Just want to point out that

    xduckshoex:
    There have been 32 player seasons in the last 25 years with a usage over 30 and a TS% lower than .53, only 9 of their teams advanced past the first round.Of those 9 teams who advanced, 6 of them played in the Eastern Conference between 1999-2005.Of the three who didn’t play in one of the least competitive conferences in league history, two were top 5 defenses.The only team that wasn’t playing in an incredibly weak conference or with a top 5 defense was the 2001 Kings, and they were still 7th in the league in defensive efficiency so they weren’t far off.

    Just want to point out that citing this as evidence that having a high usage, low efficiency scorer isn’t good for team success shows a huge lack of understanding about issues of correlation vs. causation. It should be pretty easy to figure out that teams where a player is encouraged to continue shooting despite a fairly low efficiency might share some common attributes. Namely, there’s a pretty good chance that those teams had a pretty serious lack of other scoring talent. So were they bad teams because they had one inefficient guy who shot way too much or were they bad and had an inefficient guy who shot too much because they didn’t have much other talent? Look at T-Mac’s teammates again carefully before you answer.

    The question isn’t whether shooting efficiency is important. It obviously is. The question is how much of a players TS% to credit to him and how much to surrounding factors. To me it appears that T-Mac’s poor shooting efficiency was due a lot more to circumstances that conspired against him (poor teammates, poor offensive coaches, injury issues, etc.) than it was to his own merits as a player, and consequently I don’t see that poor efficiency as more than a minor mark against what is otherwise a sterling career.

  67. xduckshoex

    flossy: I don’t know how many times I can repeat this, but I’ll give it one more shot.TS% isn’t totally irrelevant.it’s just not the ONLY stat that matters, particular for someone like McGrady who impacted the game in so many ways (as his elite WS seasons will attest).His TS may be what keeps him one notch below a player like Kobe (a consensus all time great), but that is still easily good enough to qualify him for a HoF career, and regardless of his TS he was still obviously much better than many of the other “good” players of his era (high TS scorers like Maggette, all stars like Starbury, etc).

    Nobody has said that TS% is the ONLY stat that matters, so I don’t know why you feel the need to keep repeating that. The question is: why is the scoring efficiency of a player who is on the floor primarily to score not a huge part of determining their worth as a player? And if it is a huge part of determining their worth as a player, how can someone who is below average at something of critical importance be rated so highly?

  68. xduckshoex

    thenamestsam:
    Just want to point out that

    Just want to point out that citing this as evidence that having a high usage, low efficiency scorer isn’t good for team success shows a huge lack of understanding about issues of correlation vs. causation. It should be pretty easy to figure out that teams where a player is encouraged to continue shooting despite a fairly low efficiency might share some common attributes. Namely, there’s a pretty good chance that those teams had a pretty serious lack of other scoring talent. So were they bad teams because they had one inefficient guy who shot way too much or were they bad and had an inefficient guy who shot too much because they didn’t have much other talent? Look at T-Mac’s teammates again carefully before you answer.

    The question isn’t whether shooting efficiency is important. It obviously is. The question is how much of a players TS% to credit to him and how much to surrounding factors. To me it appears that T-Mac’s poor shooting efficiency was due a lot more to circumstances that conspired against him (poor teammates, poor offensive coaches, injury issues, etc.) than it was to his own merits as a player, and consequently I don’t see that poor efficiency as more than a minor mark against what is otherwise a sterling career.

    Here’s the thing: if you have to make excuses for a player at every stage of his career, maybe he just wasn’t as good as you thought he was. His teammates get blamed for his poor scoring efficiency in Toronto and Orlando(even though poor teammates didn’t really hinder Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, etc.) and then when he had good teammates and still had poor scoring efficiency the blame shifts to his coach. Maybe he just couldn’t score efficiently because he couldn’t score efficiently.

  69. xduckshoex

    As for my poor understanding of correlation vs. causation, there is no way to prove a causal relationship either way so all you’re doing is saying that your assumption is better than mine, but your assumption(poor scoring efficiency is caused by poor teammates, coaching, etc., which in turn leads to losses) is actually contradicted by available evidence. NBA history suggests that while there may be fluctuations in performance from year to year for the most part players are what they are. Inefficient scorers are going to score inefficiently whether they play with Andrew Declercq or Yao Ming or whether they play in Minnesota for a lottery team or in Utah for a playoff team like Al Jefferson. Even enigmatic players like Josh Smith and Earl III show little signs of their ups and downs being influenced by teammates, they’re just enigmatic because that’s what they are.

  70. DRed

    flossy: I don’t know how many times I can repeat this, but I’ll give it one more shot.TS% isn’t totally irrelevant.it’s just not the ONLY stat that matters, particular for someone like McGrady who impacted the game in so many ways (as his elite WS seasons will attest).His TS may be what keeps him one notch below a player like Kobe (a consensus all time great), but that is still easily good enough to qualify him for a HoF career, and regardless of his TS he was still obviously much better than many of the other “good” players of his era (high TS scorers like Maggette, all stars like Starbury, etc).

    Okay, let’s try to judge T-Mac by WS, since that’s obviously better than just going by TS% (and let me pause to mention that WS clearly has flaws of it’s own, because it is so obviously flawed that it seems to think a non-scoring bum like Tyson Chandler is a better player than Carmelo Anthony-I mean, have you people ever seen a basketball game?!) T-Mac has what, 5 or 6 elite WS seasons? And that’s defining elite very very generously. T-Mac was not a bum. And he sadly had a bunch of injuries. But he’s certainly no all time great, because he wasn’t actually very good at scoring.

  71. flossy

    DRed: But he’s certainly no all time great, because he wasn’t actually very good at scoring.

    Well, your opinion of what constitutes an “all-time great” or “good at scoring” isn’t all that relevant when we’re talking about whether or not Tracy McGrady’s career qualifies him for the basketball HoF, which was the entire topic of this thread. If Bernard King, Joe Dumars and Dominique Wilkins are in the Hall of Fame, there is clearly a spot for T-Mac.

    If you’re arguing that Tracy McGrady is not on the level of Kobe, MJ, LeBron, etc., there’s nobody here who disagrees with you. The point of the Grantland piece originally critiqued is that McGrady should be considered a lot closer in stature to someone like Kobe than he is by many casual fans, for whom the last injury ravaged 1/3 of his career and his teams’ general failure to advance deep into the playoffs (which is not a personal failing of T-Mac’s) tend to obscure a truly phenomenal near-decade of play.

    And I wouldn’t go bragging about Tyson Chandler’s win shares since his best-ever WS seasons would be McGrady’s 5th best. Can you imagine? An inefficient volume scorer who might nevertheless have been better than even Tyson Chandler at his very best?? The horror!!

  72. DRed

    flossy: Well, your opinion of what constitutes an “all-time great” or “good at scoring” isn’t all that relevant when we’re talking about whether or not Tracy McGrady’s career qualifies him for the basketball HoF, which was the entire topic of this thread.If Bernard King, Joe Dumars and Dominique Wilkins are in the Hall of Fame, there is clearly a spot for T-Mac.

    If you’re arguing that Tracy McGrady is not on the level of Kobe, MJ, LeBron, etc., there’s nobody here who disagrees with you.The point of the Grantland piece originally critiqued is that McGrady should be considered a lot closerin stature to someone like Kobe than he is by many casual fans, for whom the last injury ravaged 1/3 of his career and his teams’ general failure to advance deep into the playoffs (which is not a personal failing of T-Mac’s) tend to obscure a truly phenomenal near-decade of play.

    And I wouldn’t go bragging about Tyson Chandler’s win shares since his best-ever WS seasons would be McGrady’s 5th best.Can you imagine?An inefficient volume scorer who might nevertheless have been better than even Tyson Chandler at his very best??The horror!!

    I’m not bragging. I’m showing you that WS is flawed. Everyone knows that Carmelo Anthony is a better player than Tyson Chandler, like everyone knows that AI is a hall of famer. Therefore, WS is a dumb stat. Duh.

    Anyhow, you once again have dodged the substantive non-snarky part of the argument. Even going by WS, T-Mac wasn’t great for a near decade. Last season there were 46 guys who played over 1000 minutes and put up a WS/48 higher than .150. I don’t think that’s great (to make an argument you would understand, that list includes all time great luminaries like JaVale McGee and Nick Collinson), but even by that standard T-Mac had 6 great years.

  73. flossy

    DRed: Last season there were 46 guys who played over 1000 minutes and put up a WS/48 higher than .150. I don’t think that’s great (to make an argument you would understand, that list includes all time great luminaries like JaVale McGee and Nick Collinson), but even by that standard T-Mac had 6 great years.

    Oh, Jesus Christ. Are you seriously this dense? How many of them actually cracked 10 total Win Shares, as T-Mac did four times during the peak of his career? I’ll save you the trouble and just tell you, it’s ten. LeBron, Durant, Chris Paul, Harden, Westbrook, Gasol, Steph Curry, Kobe and Deron Williams.

    What a bunch of scrubs, right? Where’s JaVale McGee? What about Nick Collison? Oh wait, I forgot the 2nd golden rule of Knickerblogger after “mo’ efficiency is mo’ better no matter what,” which is that the number of minutes a player actually plays doesn’t matter. I can’t wait to see what luminaries get inducted into the per-minute HoF!

    Too bad cracking the league’s top 11 in WS four times (2, 7, 8, 11) at the peak of an extremely unlucky and injury-shortened career means nothing because, let’s see here, something something true shooting percentage. Did I get that right?

  74. DRed

    flossy: Oh, Jesus Christ.Are you seriously this dense?How many of them actually cracked 10 total Win Shares, as T-Mac did four times during the peak of his career?I’ll save you the trouble and just tell you, it’s ten.LeBron, Durant, Chris Paul, Harden, Westbrook, Gasol, Steph Curry, Kobe and Deron Williams.

    What a bunch of scrubs, right?Where’s JaVale McGee?What about Nick Collison?Oh wait, I forgot the 2nd golden rule of Knickerblogger after “mo’ efficiency is mo’ better no matter what,” which is that the number of minutes a player actually plays doesn’t matter.I can’t wait to see what luminaries get inducted into the per-minute HoF!

    Too bad cracking the league’s top 11 in WS four times (2, 7, 8, 11) at the peak of an extremely unlucky and injury-shortened career means nothing because, let’s see here, something something true shooting percentage.Did I get that right?

    I guess I am dense.Win shares (reminder: this is a very stupid made up box score stat that, LOL, thinks Tyson Chandler is better than Carmelo Anthony) is telling us that T-Mac was great for four seasons-or as you put it-a near decade of phenomenal play. I don’t think 4 great seasons makes you a hall of famer.

  75. flossy

    DRed: I guess I am dense.Win shares (reminder: this is a very stupid made up box score stat that, LOL, thinks Tyson Chandler is better than Carmelo Anthony) is telling us that T-Mac was great for four seasons-or as you put it-a near decade of phenomenal play.I don’t think 4 great seasons makes you a hall of famer.

    I don’t know who you think you’re amusing by bringing up Carmelo constantly with respect to Win Shares? We weren’t talking about Carmelo at all?

    The fact that we’re using Win Shares, a metric that puts more of an emphasis on scoring efficiency than either PER or PPG, and Win Shares still shows Tracy McGrady had a handful of no-doubt-about-it, can’t miss top-10 elite seasons in the NBA (in addition to several other seasons where he was top 25-30), should be enough to silence you and the rest of the “b-b-b-but his TS% was bad” crowd.

    There is absolutely no question that Tracy McGrady was an elite player in his prime, regardless of his scoring efficiency. That’s the whole point of the WS demonstration. Do you get it now? Here’s the list of players who have had at least 1 season of 11 or more Win Shares during the 3 point era.

    http://bkref.com/tiny/K4QuE

    Only 32 players total have ever done that 4 times or more, as McGrady has. Where’s JaVale McGee? Where’s Nick Collison? Eh? How could someone with a poor TS% possibly be any good? Certainly T-Mac wouldn’t have been an improvement over Marbury, Steve Francis, Eddy Curry et al, right? Oh but he wasn’t as good as Jordan…

    You guys crack me up. Please get a clue.

  76. DRed

    McGrady definitely gets my vote for the Hall of guys who have 4 or more seasons with 11+ win shares after the introduction of the 3 point line.

  77. flossy

    DRed:
    McGrady definitely gets my vote for the Hall of guys who have 4 or more seasons with 11+ win shares after the introduction of the 3 point line.

    Yeah that club is more or less synonymous with “current or future members of the Hall of Fame,” champ. That’s kind of the whole point, but hey, at least you’re catching on! I knew we’d get somewhere eventually!

    To be sure, more of those seasons would bolster his case, but I don’t know if you’ve heard–he had a few injury problems in his mid-20s that kind of derailed his career. Of course, “longevity” is not the case-against that you and the rest of the efficiency fetishists on this board have been flogging all throughout this comment thread, it’s that he was never elite in the first place on account of his TS%. Which, as I think we’ve pretty exhaustively demonstrated by now, is complete BS.

  78. flossy

    xduckshoex: Nobody has said that TS% is the ONLY stat that matters, so I don’t know why you feel the need to keep repeating that. The question is: why is the scoring efficiency of a player who is on the floor primarily to score not a huge part of determining their worth as a player? And if it is a huge part of determining their worth as a player, how can someone who is below average at something of critical importance be rated so highly?

    Even if you take it as a given that TS% is the only measure of a scorers worth (which I don’t), maybe he was still an elite player because he was really good at everything else? Why would a stat like Win Shares that values scoring efficiency love prime Tracy McGrady, if his scoring inefficiency rendered him basically terrible at what you claim to be the only area in which he contributed?

    How is it that he managed to make his teams more than 4 pts/100 better when he was on the court over his entire career (including all the crap seasons at the end–at his peak he was a +13 pts/100!!!), if all he did was miss shots?

    The reason I say that TS% is not the ONLY stat that matters is that you and DRed et all relentlessly harp on it while ignoring the mountains of other evidence that T-Mac was unquestionably an elite player in his prime.

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