Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Mainstream Analysis

Since the steady decline of ESPN, I really don’t go their web page much for analysis. It’s just too annoying to go to espn.com, and be forced to wait until some multimedia presentation loads up that I’m not interesting in watching or buying. As if being owned by the Disney/ABC family, their tv station, and the bombardment of ads on their website didn’t make them enough money, they ask their customers to pay for anything that would be worthwhile to read with the ESPN Insider. If I felt a majority of that money went to the writers and web designers then I might consider paying for it. But something tells me that my hard earned dough would be going to some guy in marketing who came up with these “brilliant” (& annoying) ideas.

These days if I want to get sports analysis I tend to go to pages that end with the word “Blog” or has at least one SAT-sounding word in the title like “Prospectus“. Mainstream pages are competing to get the widest audience, and in turn the quality suffers. As proof I offer up Steve Kerr’s small write up for Yahoo!’s NBA page. He did a piece that caught my eye: NBA Preview: Atlantic. The part that caught my eye was the description that proclaimed the Knicks would finish in first.

The article is short, just two small paragraphs on each team. In the Knicks’ section, Kerr mentions that the PGs have to find a way to keep “Tim Thomas, Vin Baker, Allan Houston and Kurt Thomas happy.” What a minute did he just say Vin Baker? Baker is third on the center depth chart, behind Nazr Mohammed & Kurt Thomas. I expect Sweetney, Nazr and Hardaway to be more involved in the offense than Baker, so why mention him at all? I don’t think Baker’s demeanor really figures into the Knicks’ chances this year.

In addition, Kerr mentioned three weaknesses the Knicks will have to face this year: defense, rebounding and team chemistry. He’s, at best, half right with the first two. The Knicks defense was average last year, ranked 14th by John Hollinger’s Pro Basketball Forecast. Consider last year the Knicks were 8th in defensive shooting efficiency, 23rd in creating turnovers, and 27th in letting their opponents score from the line. The Knicks don’t need to get better at contesting shots, they just need to force turnovers & stop giving away free points from the charity stripe. With respect to rebounding, the New York was strong on the defensive boards, but bad on the offensive end. This year should be different, as Sweetney, Mohammed and Williams are good offensive rebounders and will get enough minutes to make a difference.

As for that last weakness, I’m convinced that terms like “team chemistry” and “veteran leadership” is jock language for “I don’t know why.” Even if you take Kerr’s statement literally, it’s hard to see any basis for this. Crawford & Williams are the only significant additions over the summer, and the Knicks didn’t have a chemistry problem last year. Why would they have one this year?

The Knicks aren’t among the NBA elite, but Kerr’s ignorance of the statistics can’t help him to describe why, so he describes the problem as “team chemistry” (pronounced “I don’t know why”). Last year I was able to identify the Knicks’ five main weaknesses in a two part series:

  • Committing Turnovers (23rd, -7.0%)
  • Creating Turnovers (23rd, -7.2%)
  • Scoring From the Free Throw Line (22nd, -7.2%)
  • Sending Their Opponents to the Free Throw Line (27th, -11.7%)
  • Offensive Rebounding (19th, -2.4%)

The Knicks were near the bottom in both ends of turnovers & free throw scoring, and nary a mention from Mr. Kerr? It’s just what I’d expect from most mainstream writers, either Mr. Kerr hasn’t watched the Knicks enough last year or doesn’t know enough about statistics to understand their real weaknesses.