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Friday, August 22, 2014

Coach of the Year Needs a Do Over

Coach of the Year is my least favorite NBA award. I tend not to get terribly upset by MVP balloting, as most of the time the choice is among numerous deserving candidates. Although I am firmly in the camp that believes MVP awards by definition should go to the “Most Outstanding Player”, I cannot begrudge sports fans their impulse to “award” it to the individual they deem most important to a team’s accomplishments. In fact, the back-and-forth about ‘what is value?’ and ‘who is more important to his team?’ is actually what makes the MVP race interesting.

By sharp contrast, Coach of the Year is about as interesting as an hour-long lecture on channels of distribution. This is unfortunate because the hard core NBA fan appreciates coaching (and if you’ve read this far in a blog entry that has “Coach of the Year” in the title you’re hard core). They even talk about coaching, just not in conjunction with the COY award. As Martin Johnson points out in today’s NY Sun, the range of likely winners is so narrow and so similar it’s hardly worth any discussing. The formula is easy enough to write out. COY = most dramatic one-season improvement, particularly if the team makes the playoffs. Although the winner is not easy to predict, the non-winners are. Coaches that win consistently virtually never win the award.

This should sound familiar. In season 1 Team A suffers key injuries and loses 10+ wins off the previous season’s total. In season 2 the team gets healthy, adds a lottery pick, and then sees a 10-12 game improvement to 50 wins. Voila! You have a strong COY candidate. Over the same two seasons Team B’s performance holds fairly steady through injuries and growing pains, improving from 45 to 48 wins. Now I don’t know which coach is better, but I do know that Team B’s coach is practically a lock to NOT get strong consideration for COY. So in effect, the process is biased against consistent high performance and in favor of factors that have little to do with coaching. The story is always the same, which seems silly to me. It ensures that no one will care about the award because the best coaches are often not even part of the conversation. It’s one thing for the good-but-never-great player to be shut out of an MVP race. Outstanding play really ought to be measured in short time intervals, but outstanding coaching can really only be seen over time because so many things that impact team performance are outside the coach’s control.

If I were in charge of NBA awards I would move COY from an annual award to a three-year award. (The trophy is already named for Red Auerbach, so the league wouldn’t need to do much other than award it tri-annually instead of annually.) One season simply is not enough time to say much about a coach’s performance. The effects of coaching are generally thought to be quite small and subject to lots of random noise (e.g., injuries, scheduling, strength of competition, etc.). One way of filtering out at least some of the noise is to look at a larger window of time.

Of course three years is an arbitrary window. (Why not five years? Or ten?) But three years is probably close to the typical coaching tenure, and is similar to the window in which coaches are hired and evaluated. I would also make the criteria for winning the Red Auerbach award explicit but open to interpretation. That’s what makes the MVP races so interesting. Different notions of what constitutes value produces candidates who bring different features to the table. Consider how Steve Nash completely changed the MVP profile.

Coaches under consideration for the award should be able to demonstrate:

1. An overall winning record as coach within the three season window; playoff performance may be considered but is not necessary to be eligible. (To the extent possible I want to avoid awarding simple regression to the mean. I want to see some consistency.)

2. Player development;apart from simply winning games players should generally improve under a coach.

3. Other considerations consistent with quality coaching; may include but are not limited to strategic or technical innovations, service to the league (e.g., on rules committees), and acting as an ambassador for the game of basketball.

99 comments on “Coach of the Year Needs a Do Over

  1. Z-man

    I’m a bit queasy about the thought of Mark Jackson coaching the knicks with absolutely zero experience. Always thought of him as a self-promoter and a hot dog who played out of shape half the time, which is why the Knicks let him go so early in his career. Besides, I couldn’t take the thought of his wife singing the national anthem again (any old-timers remember that?)

    Maybe Derek Harper would be interested…

  2. PeteRoc

    I disagree with including number 2. If this were high school or college ball, then yes. But at the pro level, $million contracts (egos) and having to “take care” of the family/friends diminishes the influence of the coach in player development. NBA Player development is a function of (1) how bad the player wants to improve, and (2) the work ethic of your best players, which is what ultimately trickles down to the rest of the team.

    I don’t see why there’s a COY and executive of the year award. They should consolidate both into a “most improved team” award and use a multi-year window as suggested. Doing it this way allows you to evaluate and give credit to the three key, distinct pieces of the puzzle: the front office has to get the right players and coach, the coach has to find the best use of the players, and the players ultimately have to perform on the court.

    Why should Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, Mike D’Antoni, etc. receive COY when they not only have the best players in the league, but arguably some of the best players of all time.

  3. Z

    “I’m a bit queasy about the thought of Mark Jackson coaching the knicks with absolutely zero experience.”

    I think it’s a perfect scenario for on-the-job training. The Knicks have low expectations next year. It will be a year of healing. Mark Jackson will have a year to make mistakes without the typical NY pressure attached. Then, by the time the team is legitimately competitive, he’ll be seasoned.

    If he proves to be hopelessly sucky, it’s not like it will set the franchise back much. I’m sure Phil Jackson [no relation] will happily leave LA in 2010 to coach the LeBron led Knicks (he has a thing about only wanting to coach the best players in the universe and borrow some of their glory…)

  4. Funky

    I’m just hoping Mark Jackson is a hard worker. It’s one thing to be a bad coach, but to have 15 minute practices, not go over tape, and not run plays as Isiah did is inexcusable. Let’s see someone who actually tries. Someone who will stand up and yell at players during the game instead of staying seated and chilling out all the time.

  5. mase

    not sure about coach MJ, loved the helicopter but he has no experience!

    scott skiles could whip these guys into shape, the fact curry and Crawful dont like him makes me like him more.

  6. Ben Bow

    i still dont see how the hell david lee is better then david west. i was watching the dallas vs. NO game tonight, and NO was down. thats not the point though. in the game, i saw multiple plays that david lee would have no way of doing. west made some big jumpers that dlee would have no chance on. some of his drives were things that david lee would have no chance. lee would have just passed the ball away. west is a much better player.

  7. Ray

    NO won because cp3 is a damn good point guard. Im so impressed everytime i see him play. Could you imagine if he were here……….wow. I really cant stand Scott Skiles. He would be a PR nightmare here. He doesnt instill hope in his players and puts them down in the media and we dont need anyone like that here.

  8. americanbear

    It is unfortunate there is no candidate that is exciting the knowledgeable fan base. There is no Joe Girardi out there for the Knicks. I think Z outlined our best hope above, we need to admit we’re rebuilding and then either Jax steps it up and proves he belongs, or we get someone else in 2010.

    I don’t want JVG back and don’t want Skiles making things all shitty. I don’t really understand why, but I’ve always like Herb, however lets face it, he’s been a constant part of 7 miserable losing seasons. It’s time he hit the road too. Let’s try to pry Thibby away from Boston as top assitant. As for Patrick… will he add much if anything except feel-good ovations at home games? Does Dwight Howard give Patrick credit for elevating his game?

    I’m disappointed Isiah stays on, even for the draft. He discriminates againts non-US players and therefore has tunnel vision when evaluating talent. NYC is perhaps the most cosmopolitan city in the world, and basketball is easily the 2nd most popular sport in the world. It would be nice if the Knicks got with the program, or at least didn’t shy away from non-US players.

  9. Frank

    I want no part of mark jackson as coach. As far as I know he doesn’t even have ASSISTANT coaching experience. And I am not a fan of his commentating so he has done nothing to show me he really understands what is going on out there. I’ll be on record again saying Thibodeau is my choice.

  10. W.C.

    >BTW we don’t even need to pry Thibodeau away – I think he is on a 1 year contract<

    That’s what I read also.

    The problem is that Boston figures to go deep into the playoffs and we are going to start interviewing candidates this week. I believe he has to ask for special permission to interview now.

    I know nothing about him, but he’s seems to have Boston playing “great” defense. So maybe he can take us from being terrible to being adequate. That plus simply removing Isiah and having a more fit and prepared team should be worth 10 games.

    He’s my top choice because he has some experience and a specialty in an area where we are weak. However, I would not be disappointed in Jackson. We aren’t going to win anything in the next 2 years anyway. So he’ll get some on the job training and Walsh will get to evaluate him before the tean becomes a serious contender. If he doesn’t work out, we can worry about that in 2010.

  11. mason

    “re: Thibodeau is responsible for Boston’s ‘great’ defense”

    …does anyone else think this is a joke?
    If you have Garnett in the middle your defense is going to be pretty good, isnt it?

  12. jon abbey

    “I want no part of mark jackson as coach. As far as I know he doesn’t even have ASSISTANT coaching experience. And I am not a fan of his commentating so he has done nothing to show me he really understands what is going on out there.”

    I felt somewhat like this until yesterday, but hearing Rick Carlisle do a game for the first time (who I think is a very good coach) made me feel better about this aspect, since he was an awful commentator.

  13. Ted Nelson

    “so he has done nothing to show me he really understands what is going on out there.”

    I’m not sure how I feel about Mark Jackson, like everyone else I certainly have some reservations about hiring a coach with zero experience. However, Mark Jackson is second on the all-time career assists learderboard: he knows a thing or two about what’s going on out there.

    “If you have Garnett in the middle your defense is going to be pretty good, isnt it?”

    Are you required to make average players good to be considered a good coach? Phil Jackson has had the best players, but he’s still considered a great coach.

  14. Z-man

    Doc Rivers is an excellent example of this, Ted, he bombed in Orlando but now that he has great players he’s a genius.

    Doc has a couple of qualities that I like in a NBA coach. He was a player that got the most out of limited talent by understanding his role and the role of coaching and chemistry, came in shape and ready to play every night and gave it his all. Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Scott Skiles, Nate McMillan, Avery Johnson, Rick Carlisle, Eddie Jordan, Byron Scott all fit in to that category to some degree. Not that these are all great coaches, but even the great Phil Jackson had to spend some time coaching in the CBA.

    Why should Mark Jackson be handed a job as important as this one without any track record whatsoever? As I said, he was often out of shape which magnified the issues with him not being fast to begin with. He also hot-dogged on the offensive end it more than any of the above while being a major defensive liability throughout his career. Let him cut his teeth somewhere else.

    Not that it matters that much, anyway, so long as we have this gel-proof mix of players.

  15. tdm

    Getting a defensive minded coach, like Thibodeau, is not going to turn the knicks into a defensive team. The knicks roster is filled with players that have no interest in playing help D. Hiring Thibodeau with expectations that he’d do for the knicks what he did for Boston, would be a cruel joke.

    The knicks need to get control of their cap situation, purge the team of ‘me-first’ mentality players, and focus on drafting defensive players. That said, there’s no reason not to take a chance on a guy like jax

  16. caleb

    Re; lee vs. West, today is a bizarre time to make that comment. after all the discussion lately, I was watching west pretty closely, and had the exact opposite reaction. Now, one game is just one game – take it for what it’s worth – but west only had six boards, in a game where dallas’ offensive rebounding kept them in the game until the 4th. As far as defense, it’s hard to judge but it didn’t look like he did much to slow down brandon bass or nowitzki.

    On offense, west did have a couple of nice drives that are not in david lee’s repertoire, bu he followed up one of them with a couple of long (missed) jumpers that are a textbook example of why you don’t want your power forward generating his offense 18 or 20 feet from the basket.

    He also threw a stupid shot at nowitzki with about 2 minutes left that he’s lucky didn’t lead to a tech, to let dallas back in the game.

    All in all, NO won, not suprisingly, bc of paul and also chandler. Of all the role players on the court, I’d say brandon bass looked most imprewsive (though peja was feeling it, too).

    Let’s see what happens the next few games…. Fun series, watching those pgs go at it.

    Speaking of which… Kidd looked fine, but do you think dallas missed having devin harris to dog paul, or diop to clog up the middle when he was simply abusing them in the paint during the 3rd quarter? Even without throwing in 2 1st rounders that trade would have been a serious mistake.

  17. caleb

    Jax might be fine, but thibodeau is a lot more promising. Would you rather have garnett (or rondo) or thibodeau? Of course the player is more impt – but don’t forget, minny had garnett for 12 years and never had a d like this. TT has a long track record – like to see what he can do.

    From that chris sheridan article, I also like the (not happening) idea if dave blatt… Or iavaroni, if memphis fires him. If you’re taking a risk (and we should), go for someone who’s done some coaching.

    A lot of the names bounced around are proven mediocrities – what did scott skiles ever accomplish – and I don’t want the two exceptions -
    carlisle or van gundy. For one thing, tightly wound coaches have a short shelf life, and you don’t want to burn two years on a team like this. Can you imagine JVG’s response to a team losing 50 games?

    But also – the way the league is going, smaller and quicker, no hand-checking, favors less controlling coaches. The jacksons, adelmans and mcmillans of the world. You can tell the teams are extremely well-drilled, but the cach isn’t standing there calling every play. They’ve prepared the team well enough to handle things on their own.

  18. W.C.

    >>re: Thibodeau is responsible for Boston’s ‘great’ defense”

    …does anyone else think this is a joke?
    If you have Garnett in the middle your defense is going to be pretty good, isnt it?<<

    Obviously I don’t.

    Having players with the talent to play good defense will automatically translate into a better defense than having players that don’t. So having Garnett is a huge part of Boston’s success. But Boston is playing great team defense and just having one great or several good defensive players does not translate into great team defense. Part of it is coaching.

  19. cwod

    “what did scott skiles ever accomplish”

    The Bulls were ranked second, sixth, and first in defensive efficiency with him in 04-05, 05-06, and 06-07. I’d take that. Who knows what they would have accomplished if Paxson had pulled the trigger on one of the numerous rumored deals.

  20. W.C.

    The idea that a good defensive coach wouldn’t help the Knicks is preposterous. We aren’t talking about turning Curry, Randolph, and Crawford into a 1st team defensive group. We are talking about taking perhaps the worst defensive team in the league and making them reasonably competent with proper motivation, better fitness and by teaching them things they obviously weren’t taught by Isiah.

    Of course we need to get better players. But defense wins championships. So why not start with a coach that is slowly getting recognized as an excellent defensive coach regardless of some of the players we have now.

  21. W.C.

    Defense is partly talent, partly motivation, and partly knowledge.

    A coach can’t transform a player’s talent, but he can get him more fit, get him more motivated, get him thinking about defense (or bench him), and teach how to work with others inside a system. We aren’t going to transform these Knicks into the Celtics or Pistons, but there’s no reason we can’t become competent instead of a laughing stock while we rebuild. In addition, as we get better defensive players in the rebuilding process, we might as well have a coach that is geared towards defense because that’s what wins championships. All great shooters and offense oriented teams have bad nights. Defense is much more consistent and can win games for you when you are little off.

  22. Frank

    So I don’t remember who was saying that David Lee is as good or better than Pau Gasol (I’m assuming it was probably Owen), but I believe Gasol put that to rest today. What, 36 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assts, 3 blocks, 14-20 from the field, 8-8 from the line. I don’t believe David Lee will ever have that kind of impact on a game, unfortunately.

  23. Ken "The Animal" Bannister

    David Lee this year v. Sacramento:

    25 pts 16 rbs 8-12 from the field, 8-10 from the line, 2 steals

    Give Lee another 8 shots in the game and he could easily approach Gasol’s line from today’s game. Yes, Gasol (right now) is the better player, but he’s also playing w/Bryant, Odom, etc. both of whom are far superior to anyone on teh Knicks’ roster

  24. T-MArt

    “Supreme intelligence and creativity… Very strong physically and mentally… Soft hands.. Leadership qualities..”

    LOL

  25. Owen

    Gasol has a Win Score of 28 today. that’s a pretty extraordinary game, and better in fact than anything Lee has had in his career.

    Gasol is a great player, there isn’t much question about it. His numbers over his career are slightly better than what Lee offered this year. My point would just be that who you play with matters a great deal to how you are perceived. Play on a great team that has a lot of success and you are going to look a hell of a lot better than you would on a cellar dweller.

  26. W.C.

    There are some players in the NBA that score a lot because they are very good at creating for themselves. Unfortunately many of them are not very good shooters. They just create boatloads of shots for themselves, miss a lot, but score a lot of points anyway because of the sheer number of opportunities.

    There are also many players in the NBA that hit a high percentage of their shots, but can’t create for themselves. They mostly make easy shots when they get an offensive rebound, get loose on a breakaway, or have a set play designed for them etc….

    Lee in the latter category.

    You can’t just say “If Lee took more shots he would score more”. The problem is that if you gave Lee the ball more often he wouldn’t be open or wouldn’t get open by himself and he’d have to pass it anyway. Sure he could take some extra bad shots and up his PPG, but it would take away from his overall effectiveness.

    There are multiple factors you have to look at when evaluating players offensively.

    How well does he shoot and how well does he create are two of them. They inter-relate.

    Great players can do both to a high degree or are so darn great at one (and adequate at the other) that they are always a threat.

    That’s one difference between Randolph and Lee.

    I concede that Randolph takes a lot of bad shots, but he also creates for himself better than Lee. If you gave Lee the ball as often as Zach and told him to try to score 20 PPG, he’d wind up with a worse FG% than Zach. That’s partly because Zach shoots better from the outside, but it’s also partly because Zach is better at creating shots for himself. He has a level of talent that Lee does not have yet.

    Now before you all start bashing me for complimenting Zach and pointing out Lee’s limitations, I realize there are many aspects to a players game. Lee does some things better than Zach and Zach has some pretty bad flaws. I am pointing out one specific attribute of both in which Zach is better but gets no credit for.

    People tend to just look at FG% or adjusted types of FG% and not the player’s creative ability.

  27. W.C.

    There is no comparison between Lee and Gasol.

    Anyone that thinks they are in the same league is blinded by incomplete or misleading stats. Gasol is an all-star caliber player and Lee is barely a starter (but with some promise of getting better). When the lakers signed Gasol, Kobe Bryant must have gone wild. If you told him the Lakers signed David Lee he would have rolled over and went back to bed.

    I love David Lee. But lets be real here. We love him because he’s just about the only Knick that works hard on his game, plays hard every night, is not a disruptive personality etc…. We love his attitude and he has some game.

  28. Frank

    You Lee guys are just amazing. This guy almost puts up a triple double in the playoffs, leads his team in scoring, rebounding, assists, and blocks, and you are still clinging on to the idea that Lee could ever have this kind of impact.

    Where Lee pales in comparison to Gasol is that Gasol can do so many things well – he can score in the post, he can obviously find open spaces near the rim like he did today, he can shoot jumpers (45.3% on jumpers according to 82games), he plays good man defense, he blocks shots, he is an excellent passer. Lee is an extremely limited player, and despite the fact that he is smart and plays to his strengths (rebounding, putbacks), he still has many weaknesses — ie. not a strong defender, not a good shot blocker, not a good passer, and not a good shot creator.

    There is value to having players that can do EVERYTHING well – I love Lamar Odom in that he can handle, create, score, defend, rebound, etc. etc. If you watch him game in and game out, he does so many valuable things that do not show up in any stat sheet, and even though his PER is only 16, he is definitely one of the most valuable Lakers.

  29. Owen

    W.C. – I don’t really care what Kobe thinks. Kobe thought it would be a great idea to trade Andrew Bynum for Jason Kidd, which shows what kind of player evaluator he is.

    Take a look at the numbers yourself,

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/fc/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=leeda02&y1=2008&p2=gasolpa01&y2=2008

    I think you will see that Gasol scores more, but much less efficiently than Lee (although still quite efficiently.) Lee is a much better rebounder, especially on the offensive boards. Gasol blocks more shots and averages 1.5 more assists per 48, and commits fewer fouls. He also has a much higher usage rate. Lee commits fewer turnovers, and has an edge in steals.

    Lee only has a sample of three years also, so his rookie numbers are dragging his averages down. Gasol is in his absolute prime. And their numbers are very comparable.

    Put Lee next to a player like Kobe and I think people’s perceptions of him would change dramatically. Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later….

  30. caleb

    I guess I’m obliged to jump in – I would comfortably rank Gasol ahead of Lee right now, but this:

    “he [Gasol] plays good man defense, he blocks shots, he is an excellent passer. Lee is an extremely limited player…”

    … is ridiculous. I don’t see how anyone could consider Gasol a good defender (or any better than Lee, at least) and Lee is a vastly better rebounder. Gasol’s advantage, albeit a big one, is strictly in the scoring department.

    And even then — as I pointed out in an earlier post — I’m very confident that Lee could comfortably score 20 ppg, given the opportunities of a David West or Zach Randolph. I’ll recap:

    As we know, Lee hardly ever has a play run for him. Despite that, he has an average usage rate — handling and shooting as much as the average NBA player. So, in the alternate universe where David Lee is the go-to guy, he still gets all those opportunities, and covnerts at his usual high rate. If he increased his usage by 70 percent — but converted those additional “go-to” plays only at the abysmal rate of Jared Jeffries — he would STILL be a more efficient overall scorer than West or Randolph. And, he’d have a 20+ scoring average.

    Now, I don’t think this would be the best use of his talents. But I don’t think he’d be anywhere near as bad as Jeffries on those extra shots… so I consider this a conservative estimate.

    It’s not that strange a thought. Lee gets to the line a higher percentage of his posessions than Gasol does, and converts 80 percent of his FTs. Gasol hits 45% of his jumpers; Lee hits 40%. DL doesn’t have the same post game, of course… or ballhandling ability… but factor in the rest of their games, and it’s not like they come from different planets.

    “Lee is barely a starter.”

    Who’s fault is this?

    (When I compared all 23 players with usage rates in his range (13.9 – 14.9), Lee was the 2nd most efficient).

  31. caleb

    “gasol can create his own shot.”

    Not when Kobe’s not around… his previous playoff W-L was 0-12.

  32. Owen

    Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson are pretty great at creating their own shot and were first team Western Conference All-stars. And they play next to one of the best rebounders and defenders in the game. And they barely made it into the playoffs, and probably will be out of them in relatively short order.

    Meanwhile Andre Miller just led the Sixers to a win against the Pistons.

    I hope Gasol blows off the doors this playoff season. He has been a wonderful player, both for his teams and his country. He has had the great good fortune to land on one of the best teams in the NBA in his absolute prime, escaping one of the worst situations in the NBA. I hope he takes advantage. And I also hope David Lee gets a similar chance to play on a team full of talented players.

  33. Z

    “You Lee guys are just amazing. This guy almost puts up a triple double in the playoffs, leads his team in scoring, rebounding, assists, and blocks, and you are still clinging on to the idea that Lee could ever have this kind of impact.”

    Frank– I’m not quite sure it’s fair to criticize these guys when you solicited the response. If you thought Owen et al would respond any other way, I don’t think you would have brought up the comparison at all. Owen’s on record saying he wouldn’t trade Lee for Kobe. One game by Gasol is going to change his world view?

    Some far off day David Lee will get to play a playoff game, and when he does he’ll probably have an impact. If his team loses, it probably won’t be his fault. At that time, Gasol will probably have at least one NBA ring, some gold medals, and maybe a nobel prize to boot.

    All in all, though, Lee is a better asset for the current Knicks. His best days are in front of him, just as the organization’s are. If the Knicks had Gasol, they’d be no better than Memphis.

  34. Ted Nelson

    “I am pointing out one specific attribute of both in which Zach is better but gets no credit for.”

    Does he deserve credit for taking bad shots???? Should I clap everytime Jamal Crawford “creates” a pull up 3 with two hands in his face???

    Basketball is a team game, you don’t have to run isolation plays for your PF from the 3 pt line. A 6-9 270 pound Zach Randolph being able to take the ball at the 3 pt line and blow by his man or hit a jumper is a rare skill, no doubt. He might actually be able to use his skills to help his team win if he began, at least, to recognize that there are 4 other guys out there in the same uniform. Or maybe if he cut down on his smoking to the point where he could open his eyes…

    Pau Gasol is more offensively talented than David Lee (Lee’s a better rebounder and defensively it’s not like either is Hakeem, on the one hand, or Lee Nailon, on the other). Gasol is one of the most offensively talented bigmen in the world. Still, as Owen, Z, and others point out, Memphis was miserable even with such a talented offensive player: being able to “create” your own shot doesn’t mean anything if you’re on a lousy team. Even KG couldn’t rescue the T-Wolves last season.

    Anyway, I’m not really sure what Pau Gasol having a monster game has to do with how good David Lee is. Kobe had a good game once in 2004, so clearly LeBron sucks!!! Not particularly logical.

    Frank,

    I don’t think anyone’s arguing that Lee is a complete player, an All-NBA performer. I also don’t think he’s as limited as you paint him to be. It’s not like Knickerblogger posters are the only ones who like Lee: he’s on the Olympic practice squad (put together by Jerry Colangelo), he won MVP in the sophmore/rookie game, and everyone and their mother acknowledges that he’s the most valuable asset on the Knicks’ roster.
    The guy can do some things, and if you put him in a coherent offense he’d look a lot better.

    He’s not LeBron, but he can be an above average starter. This is all that the “Lee guys” have been arguing: top 10-15 PF would mean above average starter it wouldn’t even mean All-Star. In terms of per game output, I think 15 and 10 is completely reasonable.

  35. Frank

    “Frank– I’m not quite sure it’s fair to criticize these guys when you solicited the response. If you thought Owen et al would respond any other way, I don’t think you would have brought up the comparison at all. Owen’s on record saying he wouldn’t trade Lee for Kobe. One game by Gasol is going to change his world view?”

    fair enough — sorry all, I was just terribly impressed with Gasol yesterday and that Lee comparison from several months ago just stuck in my head. Suffice to say, I do like Lee a whole lot but I just don’t think he is a game-changer like Gasol is. One could argue (meekly) that Gasol deserves some MVP votes considering the Lakers went 22-5 with him on the team despite losing Bynum during essentially that whole stretch.

    And Ted – I can’t believe you invoked Lee Nailon… I had purged that memory from my brain and now it stuck there in my craw.

    Last thought — I was singularly unimpressed (and have been) with Carmelo Anthony — he is a great scorer but every single possession for him as a one-on-one move even with Linas “all Knick fans wish Denver had made that ridiculous trade with me going to NY and Z-Bo going to Denver” Kleiza wide open for 3 multiple times. Boy was he impressive also.

  36. W.C.

    >>>“I am pointing out one specific attribute of both in which Zach is better but gets no credit for.”

    Does he deserve credit for taking bad shots???? Should I clap everytime Jamal Crawford “creates” a pull up 3 with two hands in his face??? <<<<

    Ted,

    I think you are being silly here. ;-)

    I went out of my way to avoid this kind of rebuttal by saying that some creative players take bad shots and specifically pointing to the fact that Zach is one of them.

    However, not all creative offensive players take a lot of bad shots and not every shot that a guy like Randolph creates for himself is a bad shot.

    Again, I am talking about a single skill that Lee does not possess to the same degree as Randolph (and certainly not Gasol). That creative skill (plus Lee’s inferior outside shot and the fact that some bad shots actually go in) are all part of the reason for the difference in their scoring.

    This idea that if you made Lee the “Go To” guy he would score 20 PPG is laughable. Sure he would score 20PPG, but his FG% would fall through the floor. Some of these other players that have slightly lower FG%s are WAAAAY better offensive players than Lee.

    There’s an interrelationhip between FG%, the quality of the shots you take, and the quality of shots you can actually create for yourself.

    Anyone can achieve a high FG% by only taking easy shots. That’s why many horrible offensive centers have high FG%s but a low PPG average. The only shots they can get is put back dunks and they hit a lot of those.

    Anyone can score 20 PPG by chucking up anything.

    However it takes a very high quality player to score 20 PPG and keep his FG% very attractive. Gasol is a player like that.

    Lee’s high FG% is a result of his shot selection, but he couldn’t score much more without hurting his FG% badly because he can’t create more solid shots for himself than he is already creating. It’s a limitation.

    But please don’t take this as a trashing of Lee.

    I am praising guys like Gasol and pointing out that Randolph does have some abilities that Lee does not despite all the negatives.

  37. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger)

    “I concede that Randolph takes a lot of bad shots, but he also creates for himself better than Lee. If you gave Lee the ball as often as Zach and told him to try to score 20 PPG, he’d wind up with a worse FG% than Zach. That’s partly because Zach shoots better from the outside, but it’s also partly because Zach is better at creating shots for himself. He has a level of talent that Lee does not have yet.

    People tend to just look at FG% or adjusted types of FG% and not the player’s creative ability.”

    There’s definitely two schools of thoughts with basketball statisticians. One that thinks there’s value in creating a shot, the other that thinks every shot is sacred. I think I fall in between the two. I believe it’s impossible to have a reasonable offense with 5 David Lees or Renaldo Balkmans (Balkmen?). But then again I also believe no NBA coach in their right mind would put a team on the floor like that. You need to have one or more players on the floor that can consistently create a shot before the 24 second clock expires.

    However I’m not sure how low you’re allowed to go when grabbing a high volume – low efficiency scorer. Allen Iverson (45.3% career eFG) has never played a full season on a team that has been in the top 10 in offensive efficiency. And eFG% is the most important factor in regards to a team’s offense.

    It’s hard to quantify exactly how much value is in a created shot. Look at a player like Ben Wallace. He increased his FGA/36 by 3 in 2004, and his FG% plummeted from 50% to the low 40%s.

    The way I look at it is that you want your team to have a high shooting percentage first. But this depends on the rest of your team. On the Knicks, Randolph is superfluous, we have plenty of players that can create their own shot (Crawford, Marbury, Curry, etc.), so you want to have players that can score efficiently. On a team where there aren’t enough players to create shots (Chicago?) Zach Randolph might be a better fit.

  38. caleb

    I don’t take any of your posts as a trashing of Lee, but I still don’t understand the argument, as summed up here:

    “This idea that if you made Lee the “Go To” guy he would score 20 PPG is laughable. Sure he would score 20PPG, but his FG% would fall through the floor… Lee’s high FG% is a result of his shot selection, but he couldn’t score much more without hurting his FG% badly.”

    I laid out a pretty thorough explanation why I don’t think this is true. If you think I’m making bad assumptions — what are they?

    His FG% isn’t just a hair better than Randolph, for example, it’s in another league altogether.
    And it’s not like DL is Ben Wallace or Reggie Evans, totally uninvolved in the offense… per minute, he scores as much Lamar Odom or Jason Maxiell, is above average in FTAs and FTMs… I mean, whatever his existing limitations, even in his limited role he’s not a non-scorer.

  39. caleb

    As context, Lee’s lifetime TS% is *10* points higher than Zach Randolph… obviously it would go down if he took more shots, but it could fall a loooong ways and still be better than Randolph.

  40. TDM

    I just read that Skiles has verbally agreed to coach the Bucks. Also, JVG endorsed Jax as a coaching candidate. Its looking more and more like he’s the guy like it or not.

  41. caleb

    I dunno Jon, in a minute they’ll be pretty well capped out, with big money tied up in Deng, Hinrich, Nocioni, Larry Hughes and Gordon (or whatever they get for him)… doesn’t look like the core of a winner to me!

    They get some cap relief in a year, but those Hinrich and Nocioni deals run through infinity.

    Their big advantage in the optimism department is Noah and Thomas — but then you hear they want to trade Tyrus Thomas, lol. And we have the better draft pick…. and probably a better GM, too.

    So I don’t know that Chicago is really in much better shape… not that that’s saying much!

  42. T-Mart

    “Lee is an extremely limited player… not a good passer”

    Im surprised no one keyed in on this bit already, but Frank, I’d have to respond with an emphatic marv disagreement with this one, David Lee is a good passer.

  43. jon abbey

    I don’t know what’s really wrong in Chicago, but I do know that that same team could easily have been in the Finals last year if they’d gotten Cleveland’s cakewalk draw (which they had until losing to NJ in game 82).

  44. Ted Nelson

    “Anyone can achieve a high FG% by only taking easy shots.”

    This is not true. If it were true than every back-up bigman in the NBA would shoot 60% (especially those on good offensive teams). They don’t. Lee had the 17th best TS% in the league and 20th best eFG% in the league this season.

    eFG%
    http://www.knickerblogger.net/stats/2008/jh_ALL_eFG.htm
    TS%
    http://www.knickerblogger.net/stats/2008/jh_ALL_TSP.htm

    After looking at these stats, there is little basis for your claim of a tradeoff between scoring volume and scoring efficiency. Some players (Mikki Moore, Kendrick Perkins, Erick Dampier) with higher TS% than Lee do so while scoring under 12 pts/40, while others (Amare, Kevin Martin, Manu, Dwight Howard, Chauncey Billups, Pau) are scoring over 20 pts/40. Furthermore, only one of the top 13 in the NBA in pts/40 had a TS% below 55 (Wade)… Lee and Curry were the only Knicks to eclipse that mark this season.

    “Anyone can score 20 PPG by chucking up anything.”

    Good point. I give you Jamal Crawford.

    “Lee’s high FG% is a result of his shot selection, but he couldn’t score much more without hurting his FG% badly because he can’t create more solid shots for himself than he is already creating. It’s a limitation.”

    His high FG% is certainly a result of his shot selection: every players FG% is a result of his shot selection. However, it’s hard to say how he’d do with more shots.
    Right now he scores 15 pts/40 with no plays run for him on a weak offensive team. If his overall game can warrant 40 mpg, there’s no reason to think he won’t score 15 ppg without “creating” any more shots. If he develops some confidence as a scorer, plays on a better offensive team, and/or plays with a playmaker 17 pts/40 (1 more made basket) or so seems completely reasonable.

    As Caleb says, there’s no reason to talk about David Lee as if he’s Ben Wallace or something. He has a jumper that I don’t think is much worse than Randolph’s he just doesn’t force bad shots. He doesn’t turn the ball over much, and he gets to the line. This is why I brought up the rookie/sophmore game. Obvoiusly little to no defense is played, but alongside the best young players in the league David Lee has the offensive skills to stand out.
    DAVID LEE IS NOT AN OFFENSIVE LIABILITY. I don’t understand where this notion comes from.

    “I am praising guys like Gasol and pointing out that Randolph does have some abilities that Lee does not despite all the negatives.”

    Praise Gasol all you want. I agree that he’s a better offensive player than Lee.
    Randolph has tons of abilities, he just doesn’t use them for the Knicks because he’s fat and/or lazy and/or dumb and/or an asshole and/or too stoned to open his eyes. (I would choose “and” on all of the above.) The ability to create your own shot is completely worthless if all you create is bad shots.

    Still, I maintain that the offense should create more shots than the individual players. If you’re constantly being forced to “create” shots with 2 seconds on the clock you’re probably getting manhandled by the opponent’s D. The teams that win are the ones who run cohesive offenses that gets guys the ball in a position where they can score.

  45. Sly Williams

    I agree with David Crockett that the COY awarding has been poor, but I feel the same way about the MVP awards. The COY awards seem much worse than MVP awarding because there are more than 5 times as many candidates. Three years is a bigger sample size, but leaves ineligible coaches like Larrys Bird (retires) and Brown (quits often).
    The 3 year limit would reveal the underrated coaches like Byron Scott and maybe even Mike Woodson.

  46. Sly Williams

    “Sly, why do you think Mike Woodson is underrated?”
    I used ‘maybe’ because I am unsure, but I have vastly underrated him before, considering him the worst coach in the history of the game. He has improved the team’s performance every season. Wins by year: 13; 26; 30; 37. So now I am pretty sure I underrated him. More to the point, he looks better when evaluating many years rather than 1 single season.

  47. Z

    I believe it’s impossible to have a reasonable offense with 5 David Lees or Renaldo Balkmans (Balkmen?). But then again I also believe no NBA coach in their right mind would put a team on the floor like that.

    Whether Isiah has a “right mind” is debatable, but I’m sure I saw this lineup at some point:

    C: Jeffries
    PF: Lee
    SF: Balkman
    SG: Jones
    PG: Collins

  48. Frank

    Ted – I’ll agree with you that Lee is not a liability but he is not a strength in the same way that Gasol and other guys are, who can at times be the centerpiece of an offense, either by creating their own offense within the team dynamic or by creating offense for others (ie. Gasol’s good passing ability from the high post within the triangle). Lee may be an adequate passer but no opposing coach ever worries when David Lee has the ball in his hands 10 feet from the basket. And that is the main “problem” if you will with Lee — he is great when he is within 3 feet, but as soon as he gets the ball farther than from the rim, he represents no respectable threat for either jumper, drive, or post-up, which allows the other team’s defense either time to recover or to hedge their coverage to account for the Bricks other “threats”. In my view, offense is critically reliant on proper spacing and making the defense respect the perimeters enough that it opens up some space in the middle for post players to play more 1-on-1 (either making a high percentage short range post move or making a pass for a high percentage shot) rather than 1-on-2 or 3. So the fewer players you have that can force the spacing you want, the worse the offense will be. If you can force the opposing 4 to respect you 16 feet out, then that is one less person that can defend Curry in the post. And for all Curry’s weaknesses, I think we can all agree he can score 1-on-1 in the post with high efficiency. Zach was supposed to provide that threat from 16 feet but obviously that didn’t work out.

    So…

    All I want from Lee is a respectable 16-18 foot jumper that he can hit with high regularity when essentially uncovered– he showed a lot of improvement in both execution and confidence in this shot as the season went on and I have high hopes that he’ll continue to improve. I DON’T need Lee to become Gasol or Chris Webber (Sacramento-vintage) in the high post (although that would be nice). I’ve said before that I think a reasonable ceiling to expect for Lee is for him to become a poor-middle class man’s Carlos Boozer (monster on boards, great finisher around the basket, adequate defender, and a threat out to 18-20 feet) and I think that remains a reachable goal for him.

  49. caleb

    It’s worth pointing out that both Curry and Randolph have been better, not worse, with Lee on the floor – whatever that does to the spacing.

    You can find all the 2-man data at 82games.

    It’s pretty interesting – virtually impossible to find any 2-man combo in the whole league, where one player makes more than a miniscule impact on another player’s efficiency. In other words, despite what we hear all the time – so much we’ve taken it for granted our whole lives as basketball fans — there’s very little evidence of anyone making their teammates better, or worse.

  50. Frank

    “It’s pretty interesting – virtually impossible to find any 2-man combo in the whole league, where one player makes more than a miniscule impact on another player’s efficiency. In other words, despite what we hear all the time – so much we’ve taken it for granted our whole lives as basketball fans — there’s very little evidence of anyone making their teammates better, or worse.”

    If we apply common sense, all this tells us is that we don’t know what evidence to look for or how to look for it, not that no evidence exists. And as always, in a 5 player/team sport, a two player interaction is probably meaningless.

    Re: the spacing, all you have to do is imagine 10 players within 5 feet of the hoop and trying to score from within that 5 foot radius. It would obviously be harder. While that is an extreme example, it is illustrative of spacing. (This is not rocket science, sorry for even spelling it out on this board).

  51. caleb

    p.s. It sounds like I’m contradicting myself — and it’s true, there’s not a HUGE difference in Curry or Randolph’s #s, paired with Lee. But there’s no sign that his supposed inability to shoot hurts the spacing, or anyone’s game. Actually, the biggest example I’ve ever run across of one player helping another, was the boost that Lee gave to Curry’s stats last year…

    http://82games.com/0708/0708NYKP.HTM

    2007-2008:
    Curry totals (per 40 min):
    20.4 points, .546 shooting, 0.8 assists, 3.3 TO

    Curry w/Lee on court:
    20.6 points, .570 shooting, 0.5 assists, 3.7 TO

    Curry w/Randolph on court:
    20.0 points, .532 shooting, 1.1 assists, 3.1 TO

    ==

    Randolph totals:
    21.7 points, .459 shooting, 2.5 assists, 3.3 TO

    Randolph w/Lee on court:
    22.6 points, .443 shooting, 2.1 assists, 2.9 TO

    Randolph w/Curry on court;
    19.0 pooints, .464 shooting, 3.1 assists, 4.1 TO

    ==

    2006-2007:
    Curry total:
    22.1 points, .576 shooting, 1.0 assists, 4.1 TO

    Curry w/Lee on court:
    25.1 points, .627 shooting, 0.9 assists, 4.1 TO

  52. caleb

    “If we apply common sense, all this tells us is that we don’t know what evidence to look for or how to look for it, not that no evidence exists…

    Re: the spacing, all you have to do is imagine 10 players within 5 feet of the hoop and trying to score from within that 5 foot radius. It would obviously be harder. While that is an extreme example, it is illustrative of spacing. (This is not rocket science, sorry for even spelling it out on this board).”

    If you apply common sense, you’ll understand that if there’s a major effect, it will show up in the game results, i.e. statistics. This isn’t rocket science — if you want to argue that Curry (or whoever) would play better with a certain type of players around him, you need some evidence that he’s scoring more, or more efficiently, when he’s on the court with certain people. It’s not there.

    I know this goes against conventional wisdom. But why? One obvious hypothesis: at an NBA level, relatively small differences in shooting ability (e.g. David Lee’s 40% on jumpers vs. Pau Gasol’s 45%) don’t much impact the way that defense’s react. Too much is just ingrained reflex — you can’t really adjust your defensive style, on the fly, depending on who has the ball (not much, at least). Sure, they might sag off Lee a bit more, but adjustments are constantly being made… DL (or whoever) waits an extra second before making the pass, or swings it to another player, who throws it into Curry, etc…

    As you point out, there are a million things going on at once, in a basketball game. I’m suggesting that instead of a butterfly effect — where one small thing is magnified by the chain of events — it’s more likely a muddle, where the small differences are erased by everything going else around them.

  53. T-Mart

    Best thing about Knickerblogger, theres no IT department in the world Nazi enough to somehow figure out there was too much http://www.knickerblogger.net abuse going on and that it needed to be added to the block list. Under the radar it is.

  54. Frank

    Caleb, I just don’t see much value to these stats. I just looked over the link you provided and here are some that stand out to me:

    CURRY average – 55% FG, 20ppg, 3.3 TO
    Curry+Balkman – 46% FG, 15.8ppg, 2.9 TO
    Curry+Rose – 58%FG, 24.4pts, 2.2 TO
    Curry+Collins- 54%FG, 24.6ppg, 4.5 TO

    I’ll pay you money if you can, with a straight face, tell me that Rose or Collins made Curry a better player.

  55. Frank

    “Too much is just ingrained reflex — you can’t really adjust your defensive style, on the fly, depending on who has the ball (not much, at least). Sure, they might sag off Lee a bit more, but adjustments are constantly being made… DL (or whoever) waits an extra second before making the pass, or swings it to another player, who throws it into Curry, etc…”

    Hmm. the next time you see someone close out on David Lee the same way they close out on Ray Allen will be the first. I would say in a split second a defensive player can process who they are closing out on. You can’t possibly say that someone would guard Rasheed Wallace the same way you would guard David Lee. Rasheed has range out to the 3pt line and you have to respect that as a defense, which leads to better spacing on the floor. Entire defensive schemes are based around the fact that you don’t have to guard Tyson Chandler or Ben Wallace and other players who are similarly offensively challenged when they venture more than 4 feet from the rim.

  56. caleb

    “I’ll pay you money if you can, with a straight face, tell me that Rose or Collins made Curry a better player.”

    Of course not.

    #1, the sample size for all those guys is miniscule — Curry played 54 minutes with Rose all season, 134 with Collins and 238 with Balkman. Even so, his #s are almost identical to his overall #s (except with Balkman – that’s sort of interesting)

    He played 525 minutes with lee, and 878 minutes with Randolph… (of his total 1,529 minutes)

    #2, my point is the opposite of what you’re suggesting — I’m saying it’s very hard (impossible) to find an example of ANY player making a significant impact on another player’s game.

  57. jbug187

    aren’t you knicks fans tired of handing over the franchise to un-proven coaches / presidents GMs yet? after a couple of years they’ll just hand back the same team, in worse shape. i think it’s crazy to go out and get one of the most experienced team presidents in walsh, hear him shop the idea of bringing in an experienced GM (which he still prob will do) and then go out and hire a coach with no coaching experience on any level. makes no sense. mark jackson might have been a good knick, but he’s a broadcaster who won’t be ready to crack down on these bums. we need someone who isn’t looking to make friends with the players. i like JVG the best out of our bunch because he is defensive oriented. you don’t need to be michael jordan to play defense. YOU JUST HAVE TO WANT TO PLAY DEFENSE. (it would help to be MJ though) JVG will get these fatties playing defense and will help them to understand that they are working toward a common goal, and not an individual statline. making small sacrifices through un-selfish play will ultimately benefit everyone. if you see eddy curry in the street, slap that ice cream cone out of his hand!

  58. caleb

    “You can’t possibly say that someone would guard Rasheed Wallace the same way you would guard David Lee…”

    No, but this whole discussion is about whether a player’s versatility, or shooting ability, or whatever, has a larger positive role on the offense – helping other players.

    And, you stumbled across a really interesting example. Almost every single Pistons player shot a higher percentage with Wallace on the floor (except Tayshaun Prince, who went from .448 to .444). I’ve never seen that kind of difference (on 7 or 8 big-name players I’ve checked).

    Still, to put it in context, the improvements in FG% were small, almost all in the range of .007 -.020. The one exception was Aron Afflalo, who for some reason went from a sub-.400 shooter away from Rasheed, to .525 in the 374 minutes they spent together.

    I think you’ll find that this impact is the exception, rather than the rule… if I had even more time to kill, I’d go back and look at Rasheed’s past seasons to see if this is a fluke.

  59. Ted Nelson

    “he is not a strength in the same way that Gasol and other guys are, who can at times be the centerpiece of an offense,”

    I wouldn’t argue that Lee should be made the centerpiece of an NBA offense. His role is never going to be as a team’s primary scoring option. With the right guys (or at least a functional team) around him, however, he’d be a great piece.

    I would also like to see him develop some confidence in his jumper and post moves, but he’s not a non-factor offensively outside of 3 feet. 40% on jumpers isn’t good, but it’s what the Knicks guards are shooting.

    Also, getting open for a teammate to pass you the ball in a position where you can score is “creating a shot.”

    “Re: the spacing, all you have to do is imagine 10 players within 5 feet of the hoop and trying to score from within that 5 foot radius. It would obviously be harder. While that is an extreme example, it is illustrative of spacing. (This is not rocket science, sorry for even spelling it out on this board).”

    While a lot of PFs have outside jumpers these days, (without doing any research) I’d assume that most of those guys hurt their team by jacking up too many 3s (or worse, long 2s) and not playing inside as much as they help their teams by stretching the defense.
    Hitting a jumper in the flow of the offense or making your defender account for you is one thing, missing long-range jumpers instead of taking higher % shots so that next time they’ll take that shot away from you doesn’t seem like a good strategy. Opposing Ds are going to let Zach Randolph shoot long Js all day, if/when he starts getting good position down-low (or learns the word “pass”) is when they actually care.

    A POWER forward is meant to play down low, having a perimter game is icing on the cake. There are these guys called guards and swingmen to play on the perimeter. This is not rocket science, it’s basketball.

    “Hmm. the next time you see someone close out on David Lee the same way they close out on Ray Allen will be the first.”

    Ray Allen is a shooting guard… The next time you see someone box out Ray Allen the same way they box out David Lee will be the first.

    “Entire defensive schemes are based around the fact that you don’t have to guard Tyson Chandler or Ben Wallace and other players who are similarly offensively challenged when they venture more than 4 feet from the rim.”

    Ben Wallace has averaged 7.4 pts/36 minutes over his career. David Lee scored 13.4 pts/36 this season (Chandler scored 12 per 36 this season,10.6 on his career). You’re talking about apples and oranges… It’s about the same as comparing Lee to Ray Allen.

  60. Frank

    sorry, and last comment for now:

    “If you apply common sense, you’ll understand that if there’s a major effect, it will show up in the game results, i.e. statistics.”

    Yes, but you have to be confident that you know what statistic you are looking for and how to filter that statistic from the flood of numbers, confounding factors, etc. that come out of every game situation. Some statistical measures are very clean, like FT% — one could never argue that Steve Nash is a better FT shooter than Shaq. But even TS% is fraught with confounders, like, for instance, how someone like Crawford’s FG% will inevitably get driven down by the fact that in Isiah’s wonderful offensive system, he was often asked to go 1-on-4 with 5 seconds on the clock — so he looks less efficient but at least partially that is so because it was his job to try even when chances were against him. So what I’m saying is that in a team sport, individual stats may never be an accurate measure of performance. If you had a PERFECT statistical marker of how spacing helps both outside and inside play, I’m sure it would show, but we don’t, so we need to use common sense.

  61. Frank

    actually let me take “last comment” part back, I hadn’t seen Ted’s comment yet:

    “While a lot of PFs have outside jumpers these days, (without doing any research) I’d assume that most of those guys hurt their team by jacking up too many 3s (or worse, long 2s) and not playing inside as much as they help their teams by stretching the defense.
    Hitting a jumper in the flow of the offense or making your defender account for you is one thing, missing long-range jumpers instead of taking higher % shots so that next time they’ll take that shot away from you doesn’t seem like a good strategy. Opposing Ds are going to let Zach Randolph shoot long Js all day, if/when he starts getting good position down-low (or learns the word “pass”) is when they actually care.”

    I agree completely. I just want David Lee to be able to hit a 15-18 foot shot when he is wide open with the ball, which happens a fair amount of the time. Wouldn’t it be BETTER for the team if he could hit an open jump shot?

    “A POWER forward is meant to play down low, having a perimter game is icing on the cake. There are these guys called guards and swingmen to play on the perimeter. This is not rocket science, it’s basketball.”

    That would be true if the power forward spent no time at all the perimeter setting screens, handing off, etc. There are countless times in any possession where for spacing purposes the power forward is farther from the basket than one might like him to be for rebounding purposes. If he is left wide open from 15 feet, I’d say it would be an advantage for him to be able to shoot that shot. If not, if I’m a defender and the offensive player can’t hit that shot, I stand just outside the paint, hedging on the offensive post player, thereby mucking up any inside offense, guarding against any cutters, etc.

    “Ray Allen is a shooting guard… The next time you see someone box out Ray Allen the same way they box out David Lee will be the first.”

    The point I was making in that statement was that Caleb was trying to say that defenders can’t make a choice about who they play close and who they off of. And so I think my statement is still correct — no one would ever close out on David Lee on a rotation because there is no reason to. And by the way, rebounders should box out everyone, including Ray Allen and Nate Robinson, the same way the box out David Lee.

    “Ben Wallace has averaged 7.4 pts/36 minutes over his career. David Lee scored 13.4 pts/36 this season (Chandler scored 12 per 36 this season,10.6 on his career). You’re talking about apples and oranges… It’s about the same as comparing Lee to Ray Allen.”

    I’m talking about players with little to no offensive game outside of 5 feet. While Lee is improving (and I really do have high hopes for his expanding his jumper range), in this kind of a comparison it is apples to apples. Lee scores 13.4 per game because he’s really so good near the basket (no argument there). But outside of 5 feet, he’s just slightly better than Chandler (although admittedly way better than Wallace).

    “I would also like to see him develop some confidence in his jumper and post moves, but he’s not a non-factor offensively outside of 3 feet. 40% on jumpers isn’t good, but it’s what the Knicks guards are shooting.”

    We should qualify that statement like this: 40% on (WIDE OPEN <18 FOOT JUMPERS) isn’t good, (AND IT’S UNCLEAR WHAT THE KNICKS GUARDS WOULD BE SHOOTING IF THEY TOOK SIMILARLY CLOSE RANGE UNGUARDED JUMPERS).

  62. Owen

    “It’s pretty interesting – virtually impossible to find any 2-man combo in the whole league, where one player makes more than a miniscule impact on another player’s efficiency. In other words, despite what we hear all the time – so much we’ve taken it for granted our whole lives as basketball fans — there’s very little evidence of anyone making their teammates better, or worse.”

    That is bold. Very bold. Perhaps a bit strong but I admire the boldness. Interesting to think about how you could show that. And it falls right in there with a lot of other basketball heresies, like it doesn’t matter what “system” you use.

    I think you definitely see diminishing returns. For instance, you can see in the 82games numbers that Randolph has cut into Lee’s rebound totals. However the effects are generally quite small I think. For the most part you are probably right.

    “this whole discussion is about whether a player’s versatility, or shooting ability, or whatever, has a larger positive role on the offense.”

    Yep, and is there s a “greater than the sum of his parts” bonus for a player who can do a lot of different things. Almost like a five-tool baseball prospect. Shoot for volume, shoot for average, handle the ball, rebound, and defend. Does a player affect a game through his versatility beyond the stats he accumulates.

    I don’t think so. It’s nice if you can do a lot of different things on a basketball court, but you can be a perfectly good basketball player just by doing 2-3 thing extremely well.

    Good thread….

  63. Frank

    “Yep, and is there s a “greater than the sum of his parts” bonus for a player who can do a lot of different things. Almost like a five-tool baseball prospect. Shoot for volume, shoot for average, handle the ball, rebound, and defend. Does a player affect a game through his versatility beyond the stats he accumulates.

    I don’t think so. It’s nice if you can do a lot of different things on a basketball court, but you can be a perfectly good basketball player just by doing 2-3 thing extremely well. ”

    Agree with you on this Owen — I think the only problem with having so-called “limited” players is when you have too many of them on the court at the same time, or when the players’ weaknesses overlap, ie. having Balkman, Lee, Collins, and Jefferies on the floor at the same time.

    The other advantage of having, say, a Lamar Odom on the floor, or someone like LeBron — guys who can handle the ball far better than their size might indicate — is the mismatches you can create on the offensive end. I mean, the Lakers can go with Kobe playing “point”, Odom at the 2, Walton at the 3, Gasol at the 4, and Bynum at the 5, and the shortest guy out there is Kobe at 6’6″. And the lineup is totally reasonable from a defensive standpoint too. You still have two guys that can handle the ball extremely well and beat any sort of trap, and while Odom may struggle a bit guarding the best 2s in the league, he is a pretty stout defender overall. And Lebron, well, he is a mismatch in every way– I guess that is not a good example.

    I just think– and I have no stats to back this up — that if everyone must be guarded no matter where they are on the court, then the defense has many fewer options as to how to double, hedge, etc. Look at Detroit – shooters everywhere, difficult to guard. Phoenix — shooters at every position when Shaq’s not in there, extremely difficult to guard. The more guys you throw in there that just can’t do one thing or the other, the easier the team becomes to defend.

  64. caleb

    I’ll preface by agreeing that we don’t have perfect statistics to measure all this…

    …and I don’t think that players truly have no impact on each other — just that I suspect it’s much less than we think.

    Anyway… comments like this:

    “If you had a PERFECT statistical marker of how spacing helps both outside and inside play, I’m sure it would show, but we don’t, so we need to use common sense.”

    …miss the forest for the trees. (I don’t mean to single out Frank – I know most people here feel the same way as he does).

    But we’re not really trying to examine some theoretical idea about perfect spacing – what we really want to know is: does Player A, with whatever skills he has, make the offense better or worse? With Lee the answer is obvious.

    A more interesting, and extreme example, would be Renaldo Balkman. We all know he can’t shoot a lick, has no post moves and can’t even make half his free throws. Obviously, a terrible offensive player. Forget how this might impact other individual players — common sense tells us that Renaldo must hurt the overall offense.

    And yet… both this year and last, the Knicks score more points (and points per posession) when he’s on the floor, than when he’s off. Do we:

    a) Look for reasons why this is not actually happening (yes, the sample size is relatively small, but if he were truly hurting the offense it’s very unlikely he would actually show up as a positive)

    b) Try to understand how the conventional wisdom, about what makes a good offensive player, is wrong?

  65. Frank

    I look at Balkman’s stats on 82games from this year and I see almost the same offensive #s per 100 possessions with him or without him on the court (105.7 vs. 105.2). And from last year they were 1.7 points worse with him on court than off in terms of offense.

    His +/- is very impressive from last year but that was almost all on the defensive end, not surprising. This year is a bit less impressive (4.1 points better on defense with him) but still not surprising.

    And re: why he MIGHT make the offense better, it almost would certainly have to do with his defense, which would theoretically give more transition baskets, and then you can add his offensive rebounding/putbacks. In my mind that doesn’t necessarily make him a good offensive player though.

    “A more interesting, and extreme example, would be Renaldo Balkman. We all know he can’t shoot a lick, has no post moves and can’t even make half his free throws. Obviously, a terrible offensive player. Forget how this might impact other individual players — common sense tells us that Renaldo must hurt the overall offense.

    And yet… both this year and last, the Knicks score more points (and points per posession) when he’s on the floor, than when he’s off. Do we:

    a) Look for reasons why this is not actually happening (yes, the sample size is relatively small, but if he were truly hurting the offense it’s very unlikely he would actually show up as a positive)

    b) Try to understand how the conventional wisdom, about what makes a good offensive player, is wrong?”

    Just to address these two options. Let’s take the unbelievably true statistic that WITH Jefferies on the court this year the Knicks were actually 5 points/100possesion BETTER than with him off the court. This is comparable to the benefit that the Jazz get from Deron Williams (+6.1 pts/100poss) and Carlos Boozer (+5.7 pts/100poss). Just reading that should send off many alarm bells that something is wrong with the statistic. Unless you want to really argue that Jared Jefferies is a good offensive player. Because that would REALLY be unconventional wisdom.

  66. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger)

    “Entire defensive schemes are based around the fact that you don’t have to guard Tyson Chandler or Ben Wallace and other players who are similarly offensively challenged when they venture more than 4 feet from the rim.”

    “Look at Detroit – shooters everywhere, difficult to guard. Phoenix — shooters at every position when Shaq’s not in there, extremely difficult to guard. The more guys you throw in there that just can’t do one thing or the other, the easier the team becomes to defend.”

    The Detroit Pistons were 4th on offense in 2006 with Ben Wallace averaging 35.2 minutes per game. The 2008 Hornets were 5th on offense this year with Tyson Chandler playing 35.2 minutes per game. I think this speaks to what can be done on offense with low volume/high efficiency scorers.

  67. jon abbey

    “Let’s take the unbelievably true statistic that WITH Jefferies on the court this year the Knicks were actually 5 points/100possesion BETTER than with him off the court. This is comparable to the benefit that the Jazz get from Deron Williams (+6.1 pts/100poss) and Carlos Boozer (+5.7 pts/100poss). Just reading that should send off many alarm bells that something is wrong with the statistic.”

    SECONDED!

  68. Ted Nelson

    “But outside of 5 feet, he’s just slightly better than Chandler (although admittedly way better than Wallace).”

    This is also not true. Tyson Chandler took 16% of his shots as jumpers and shot an eFG% of .263 on them. David Lee took 26% of his shots as jumpers for an eFG% of .405 on them…

    Lee is not as good a jump shooter as someone like Carlos Boozer (among others), but he’s as good or better than the guys you’re comparing him to. (Zach Randolph took 59% jumpers and shot a whopping .389 eFG%.)

    “But even TS% is fraught with confounders, like, for instance, how someone like Crawford’s FG% will inevitably get driven down by the fact that in Isiah’s wonderful offensive system, he was often asked to go 1-on-4 with 5 seconds on the clock — so he looks less efficient but at least partially that is so because it was his job to try even when chances were against him.”

    First, This is one where the stats are pretty hard to refute: Jamal Crawford does not take a significantly higher % of his shots late in the shot clock then most guards!!! There are no confounding factors in measuring this stat, you just count how many shots the guy took and divide them up based on how many seconds were left on the shot clock. Check out the player stats on 82 games. (He does miss a high % of his shots late in the clock, and is one of the worse clutch shooters who’s asked to do a lot of clutch shooting in the game.)

    Second, if a guy puts up very similar (rate and per minute) numbers over, say, a 10 year career with 3 different organizations and dozens of teammates a trend starts to develop. Once the sample size gets large enough it’s harder to say that a guy’s teammates are responsible for his stats.
    If a guy shots 60% playing with Steve Nash in the Suns’ offense and then 40% in the Knicks’ offense, on the other hand, it was probably Nash and the offense.

    Last, there are tons of statistics out there. They can’t tell you everything, but if you start actually looking at them and analyzing them you might be suprised by how much they do tell you. I definitely was.

    “Let’s take the unbelievably true statistic that WITH Jefferies on the court this year the Knicks were actually 5 points/100possesion BETTER than with him off the court. This is comparable to the benefit that the Jazz get from Deron Williams (+6.1 pts/100poss) and Carlos Boozer (+5.7 pts/100poss). Just reading that should send off many alarm bells that something is wrong with the statistic.”

    First, the Jazz were the best offense in the NBA. (Let’s assume for a second there are not questions about +/-)The fact that they make the best offense in the NBA that much better has little to do with how much better one player makes the Knicks’ offense.

    The limitations of/questions about +/- are well documented. This is, however, a more extreme case than some other stats.

    Still, Jeffries played the majority of his minutes with Lee and Crawford both on the court (each of his top 5 5-man units in minutes played features both).

    I doubt the same would be true if Jeffries played for a good offense (anyone know his +/- toward the end of his Wizards’ days?), but I don’t find it that hard to believe on a team like the Knicks. Jeffries played a huge role on an NCAA runner-up at Indiana, while most of the other Knicks were AAU stars who’ve never won much above that level: without knowing any of them personally, I’ve got to give him a huge advantage over most Knicks in terms of attitude, dedication, and basketball IQ.
    Why do guys with limited offensive skills seem to make the Knicks offense better? Because they have a bad offense.

    5 guys each being able to beat their man in isolation doesn’t make a good NBA offense. If there’s one thing I’ve had ingrained in my head from Isiah’s tenure with the Knicks that’s it.
    The combo of Marbury, Crawford, Richardson, Randolph, and Curry on the court together had one of the lowest off eff of any Knicks’ 5-man unit (and a 20% Win%), despite the fact that all of these guys have jumpers: none is what Frank would consider a David Lee… On the other hand, some of the Knicks’ most offensively efficient line-ups featured 2 or 3 of Fred Jones, David Lee, and Jared Jeffries. (Of course, the Knicks are an extreme example of selfish, lazy players.)

    Is something really wrong with these stats, or is something wrong with the notion that you can just put 5 “scorers” out there and have a good offense in the NBA?

    “And re: why he MIGHT make the offense better, it almost would certainly have to do with his defense, which would theoretically give more transition baskets, and then you can add his offensive rebounding/putbacks. In my mind that doesn’t necessarily make him a good offensive player though.”

    I understand what you’re saying, but if you made the offense better weren’t you a good offensive player? (at least relative to your teammates.) I mean what are the means and the ends here?

    Frank,

    Overall I agree with you that Lee would be a better offensive player if he was a better jump shooter.

    I disagree, strongly, that he’s a liability or one of the worse players in the NBA outside of 5 feet, as you keep insisting. It’s just not bourne out anywhere in the stats.

    I disagree that he’s worse than Crawford and Randolph just because they score more pts/minute or have prettier jumpers. Both, in my opinion, aren’t very good players, although both have tons of skills. I would say that basketball intelligence, attitude, and work ethic have as much to do with a player’s NBA success as talent. (Again, Marbury, Crawford, Curry, and Randolph are extreme examples.)

    “Does a player affect a game through his versatility beyond the stats he accumulates.”

    I think it’s a matter of degree. How great is one guy at 2-3 things and how bad/average/ok is he at other things? Similarly, how good is the guy who’s versatile at different things? It’s just so hard to generalize with so many variables in play.
    I wouldn’t go as far as Frank and say that stats mean nothing because there are so many confounding factors. I mean I wouldn’t go down that road at all.

    As far as one guy making his teammates better, I think there must be some guys who fit together well. Maybe even LeBron doesn’t make everyone better, but I would assume he does make players with certain qualities better…

    “Phoenix — shooters at every position when Shaq’s not in there, extremely difficult to guard. The more guys you throw in there that just can’t do one thing or the other, the easier the team becomes to defend.”

    It’s definitely nice to have good shooters at every position, and good defenders and good passers… and good players.
    He has more range (he’s also a conventional wing-player), but I’m not sure Boris Diaw is any better a shooter than Lee.

  69. Frank

    I have to say that in general I agree with everything that Ted Nelson said above. I have not actually looked at the “seconds left on the shot clock” stat at 82games (how amazing is that site by the way? I can’t believe they have time to do all that stuff) about Crawford’s shooting, but as you say, he misses a large portion of his late shots partially because he’s just not that great a shooter but also because he is often forced to take a bad shot.

    And my point was not to say that stats don’t mean anything — it’s just to say that if you believe a statistic without knowing everything about how that stat was derived, what the limitations of those derivations are, and what confounders can be present, then you can’t say much of anything about the stat. A dedicated statistician could prove the sky was green if given the chance, enough numbers, and inadequate oversight.

    Some stats really are interesting, provoke thought, and uncover gems of players that you might not otherwise see. But I worry that too often, stats only give part of the picture, leaving one to guess wrong more often than desired. (Whether you’d guess wrong more often using stats or with conventional player ratings is another story — stats really might be better). That Lee is good player is a given — all I’m saying is that he could be a great player if he varied his offensive repertoire by 1 mid-range jumper.

    And maybe it was overkill to compare him to Chandler and Wallace outside of 5 feet.

    And just to be clear, I think his ability to get open around the rim, be in the right place in the right time, NOT make stupid plays, rebounding prowess, and dedication to improving his game– those traits are all top-notch.

  70. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger)

    “all I’m saying is that he could be a great player if he varied his offensive repertoire by 1 mid-range jumper.”

    Where are you getting that Lee doesn’t have a mid-range jumper? Watching Knick games this year, especially in the second half, Lee would take the ball from the mid-post and either drive baseline or attempt a jumpshot. 82games.com confirms this, showing that Lee was more accurate with his jumper than Zach Randolph. Granted he took it less often, but nonetheless he took a quarter of his total shots from outside. How can you say a player that attempts every 4th shot from outside needs a midrange jumper?

  71. Frank

    hi Mike –
    again I will make this point. When Lee shoots jumpers there is generally no one within 5 feet of him. When Zach shoots his ridiculous shots from the outside he is generally covered relatively tightly. We all see it and groan — Zach shoots another contested jumper that goes off the rim. Zach shoots ~40% of his shots from “close” and is ~58% FG from there, and shoots 60% of his shots as jump shots and shoots 39% from there. There is no question he should have 60% or more of his shots from “close” and 40% or less from “jumpers”. So clearly Zach is not taking good shots when he shoots jumpers — that point is NOT contested. But I would argue that if there was such a statistic (maybe there is, I just don’t know how to find it) measuring shooting percentages when left wide open, Lee would suffer in comparison to most players who are known to be able to shoot. Comparing Lee’s jumper% to someone who regularly takes bad contested shots is not instructive — because Lee doesn’t shoot contested jumpers. He only shoots open jumpers. And he needs to convert more than 40.5% of those.

    He IS much better this year than last (29% on jumpers in 06-07, yick), and I was happy to see him try to do a bit more offensively the second half of the year. But teams still regularly left him wide open this year from 15 feet and he needs to make them pay for that. If they need to close out on him, it can only make his drives to the hoop better. His shot spread is 74% from inside and 26% from outside — I’d like to see that more like 65-35 with him shooting 45%FG% on jumpers at least – I think that’d make him much more potent. And given his improvement year over year, I think he has a good shot at doing that.

  72. caleb

    This has been a fun thread.

    Plus/minus, even adjusted +/-, is a very blunt tool… no way anyone should use it to make fine distinctions between playesr.

    Jeffries does have a very interesting number — extremely positive, and he was in positive territory last year, too. One reason not to discount completely is that maybe he does have a beneficial effect on the offense, that we don’t really understand. It could easily be pure random chance, but several players (especially Balkman, Curry and Chandler) shot dramatically higher percentages with Jeffries on the court. Maybe when he comes in the game, the Knicks play a more wide-open style that’s better suited to them…

    Another idea is that the marginal utility of additional scorers shrinks fast once you have 2 or 3 on the floor. THere’s only one ball. So maybe it scarcely matters who the 5th (or even 4th) best offensive player is, on the floor.

    But this discussion started because people were arguing that high-efficiency, low-usage players (like Chandler, or Wallace, or even Lee) can’t be good offensive players because they have a subtle negative impact on the rest of the team — that (in announcer-speak), the offense bogs down, the defense sags off them, other players are asked to do too much, etc.

    In my mind, the burden of proof, to show a significant ripple effect, is on the people making this argument — not on people like me, who think that David Lee’s offensive numbers (and actual play) are just fine, thanks.

    p.s. An aside — it’s true that part of the Knicks problem is having too many similar offensive players, who all need the ball and don’t contribute much else. But another problem is that our big “scorers” — especially Crawford, Randolph and Marbury — are bad at what they do — they aren’t actually good (efficient) scorers in the first place. From a draft perspective, it means we could really use help at every single spot, for every single role. Some people might complain that we don’t need another scoring combo guard (like Bayless) — but we could use a good one, instead of the mediocre schlubs we have now.

  73. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger)

    “When Lee shoots jumpers there is generally no one within 5 feet of him. When Zach shoots his ridiculous shots from the outside he is generally covered relatively tightly.”

    I’m just curious where you’re getting this from. If it’s from observation then I disagree. I don’t think that Lee generally shoots jumpers when he’s only wide open.

  74. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger)

    “But this discussion started because people were arguing that high-efficiency, low-usage players (like Chandler, or Wallace, or even Lee) can’t be good offensive players because they have a subtle negative impact on the rest of the team — that (in announcer-speak), the offense bogs down, the defense sags off them, other players are asked to do too much, etc.”

    Yeah – I think especially in light of the examples I used with ’04 Detroit and ’08 Hornets, the idea that a Chandler or Ben Wallace severely limits a team’s offense can be tossed in the “conventional wisdom was wrong” pile. You don’t need 5 guys that can all create shots and hit jumpers.

  75. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger)

    “Let’s take the unbelievably true statistic that WITH Jefferies on the court this year the Knicks were actually 5 points/100possesion BETTER than with him off the court. This is comparable to the benefit that the Jazz get from Deron Williams (+6.1 pts/100poss) and Carlos Boozer (+5.7 pts/100poss). Just reading that should send off many alarm bells that something is wrong with the statistic.”

    Just as a rule, +/- isn’t supposed to be compared across teams. It just doesn’t work that way.

    I can take an extreme example like this and use it for anything. For instance last year the Dallas Mavericks won 82% of their games, but didn’t even win their first round matchup. The year before the Pistons and Spurs had the highest winning percentages and neither won their conference. Hence team winning percentage is a useless stat.

    I can make the same example for just about any stat. It doesn’t mean that all stats are useless. Stats, just like any other piece of information, need to be used in the right context. It’s undeniable that the Knicks were better on offense the last 2 years with Jared Jeffries on the floor.

    But the conclusion to that doesn’t have to be that Jeffries is a strong offensive player. +/- captures a lot of other data, including the strength of your teammates. If a defensive player is usually teamed with offensive teammates, then +/- will capture his teammate’s success on offense.

    And vice versa.

  76. Frank

    “I can make the same example for just about any stat. It doesn’t mean that all stats are useless. Stats, just like any other piece of information, need to be used in the right context. It’s undeniable that the Knicks were better on offense the last 2 years with Jared Jeffries on the floor.

    But the conclusion to that doesn’t have to be that Jeffries is a strong offensive player. +/- captures a lot of other data, including the strength of your teammates. If a defensive player is usually teamed with offensive teammates, then +/- will capture his teammate’s success on offense. ”

    Completely, 100% agree. Just was trying to make the point that stats need to be taken in context.

    Re: the statement I made that Lee takes open jumpers — that is entirely based on observation, no stats to back that up. I still think it’s true.

    Re: the statement that Wallace and Chandler don’t bog down an offense — that is probably true also — clearly their teams scored well even with them on the court. I think having one player on the court who can’t shoot a lick probably does not hurt because someone needs to be near the basket anyway. But if you look at the other members of those good DET and NO offenses, every single other member can shoot very well — DET with Billups, Rip, Prince, and Rasheed; NO with Paul, MoPete, Peja, and West. But when you have 2 or 3 players who represent no threat away from the basket, then it becomes more difficult from a spacing standpoint. I realize I have no data to back this up or at least don’t have the knowhow in terms of finding the stats, but I still strongly believe that the more you can space the floor, the better your set offense will be. Other parts of scoring, such as offensive rebounding putbacks are more difficult to assess in conjunction… I guess it is possible that the more spread out you are the fewer offensive rebounds you will get.

  77. jon abbey

    “It doesn’t mean that all stats are useless. Stats, just like any other piece of information, need to be used in the right context.”

    no, but most basketball ones at this point in time are pretty flawed IMO, much like defensive stats in baseball.

  78. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger)

    “no, but most basketball ones at this point in time are pretty flawed IMO, much like defensive stats in baseball.”

    Offensive/Defensive team efficiency, the four factors, eFG, TS%, per minute stats aren’t very flawed at all.

    Stuff like +/-, oPER, PER, WinShares are flawed in that they attempt to give a player’s overall worth, and none of them can fully capture that value. But they are good as a starting point for a discussion, not an end point. For instance if a player has a good +/-, lots of minutes and a high PER & Winshares, you can assume he’s pretty good, unless there was overwhelming consensus on observational data saying the opposite. Conversely the opposite is true as well. If a player is poor in many of these metrics, then unless he does something spectacular to the eye, he’s highly unlikely to be a productive player.

  79. Ted Nelson

    “From a draft perspective, it means we could really use help at every single spot, for every single role. Some people might complain that we don’t need another scoring combo guard (like Bayless) — but we could use a good one, instead of the mediocre schlubs we have now.”

    Good point. I’m not a huge Bayless fan, but he can score and probably score relatively efficiently.

  80. caleb

    Where do you find nice college stats like that, Owen?

    62.2% is pretty impressive, especially for a freshman. Though I’m on record as a fan of Anthony Randolph or trading down from #5, IMO Bayless would be a solid pick. Even if it turns out he can’t play the point, I think he’ll end up a much better version of Ben Gordon.

    56.7 is a good mark, too, especially since Rose’s real strengths may be elsewhere (defense, hopefully playmaking).

  81. dave crockett

    Totally off-topic.

    I just saw that in the NFL the Redskins offered Cincy their 2008 first round pick, which is like #21 or so, and a 2009 third round pick which could become a first if certain conditions are met.

    Cincinnati turned that deal down. Now, I actually like Chad Johnson quite a bit. Even though he’s been a jerk recently, I think his position is basically correct. (Of all the things wrong with the Bengals he’s pretty close to the bottom of the list.) I know he’s been taking a lot of heat, some of it justifiable, but this says to me that maybe the people who run that franchise really are as dumb as he thinks they are.

    If you’re Cincinnati, how do you turn that deal down? If you’re Washington, how do you even offer that much?

  82. caleb

    It’s amazing just how much more valuable draft picks are in the NFL, than NBA (though no one has told Cincy or DC)… I guess it’s a combo of the much shorter shelf life of players, and the much tighter salary cap.

  83. jon abbey

    “It’s amazing just how much more valuable draft picks are in the NFL”

    that’s a pretty silly overarching statement. most of the franchise players in the league are #1 overall picks who almost never change teams, LeBron, Howard, Duncan, Oden, or top 10 picks like Paul, Deron Williams, Brandon Roy, Amare Stoudemire. you have to be pretty lucky to get a franchise player any other way these days.

    that NFL draft trade chart showing the relative worth of picks is way off, based on some study Jimmy Johnson did a while back that didn’t focus on a long enough time period (I read a good piece about this recently, but forget where, maybe Sports Illustrated?)

  84. caleb

    It’s true that most NBA teams get their franchise players through the draft, but it’s even more true in the NFL.

    Meanwhile… no one’s surprised when an NFL team trades an All-Pro (like, league sacks leader Jared Allen) for 3 draft picks. WHen that happens in the NBA (e.g. the Pau Gasol trade, people call it an outrage).

    But it’s a rational difference – in the NBA, players perform pretty consistently over a relatively long period of time. In the NFL, except maybe for quarterbacks, production varies a huge amount (probably due to injuries) and careers are short — so piling up draft picks is extremely important.

    On the far other end of the spectrum is baseball. Careers are even longer, so current players have vastly more value than college (or h.s. prospects), which is why you’ll never see anyone trade Johann Santana for 3 1st round draft picks.

  85. caleb

    p.s. the article you’re talking about was in ESPN the Mag… debunking the Jimmy Johnson table, and showing off their own study. It was a good piece — also pointed out that some teams, like the Packers and Patriots, have been ignoring the “standard” value table, thereby fleecing their rivals…

  86. caleb

    p.p.s. You could say my sweeping statement was incomplete — and that the top 2 or 3 NBA draft picks in a given year, have more value than the top NFL picks… because there’s such a bigger talent spread (because of the smaller pool of viable NBA players, i.e. tall people). But beyond that, I think my sweeping statement holds true.

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