Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Darkhorse MVP Candidate

With less than a 1/3 of the season left, it’s time to start thinking about who might end up with the MVP award. I think I’ve discovered a darkhorse candidate that might walk away with the award. He’s been toiling in obscurity in the mid-west, and many of you may not have even heard of him. His name is LeBron James.

Unlike the front runner for the award, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James doesn’t have that last second killer instinct, which is likely to cost him a few votes. This non-coastal newcomer has a different strategy that seems to be ruffling the feathers of the NBA establishment. Kobe has been following the tradition of allowing the opponent to stay close in games, only to make a shot in the final seconds to secure the victory. Instead James is attempting to win by scoring in the first 47.5 minutes of the game. The difference can be viewed by using the advanced stat called “points per game”. LeBron James leads the league with 29.8, while Kobe is a comfortable 4th with 27.9. James’ early game strategy shows up in even more obscure stats like rebounds per game (7.1 to 5.4), assist per game (8.5 to 4.6), blocked shots (1.0 to 0.3), and FG% (50.2 to 46.3).

I’m sure the mainstream media is barely aware of these new fangled stats (since they tend to vote solely by watching ESPN highlights), and James’ lack of dramatic shots will certainly hurt him in the polls. Another strike against him is his lack of having a superior surrounding cast. Bryant’s ability to whine about his teammates, threaten to leave to a rival team, ask for a trade, and force the team to break-up its dynasty has made the franchise build a team around him with the best talent available.

The best LeBron James can muster is to wear a Yankee hat. No wonder Kobe has an All Star center in Pau Gasol, former DPOY Ron Artest, and the most winningest coach of our generation Phil Jackson. Meanwhile James has a 37 year old Shaquille O’Neal and that guy on the Simpsons who is always trying to kill Bart. The Cavs would be a middling .500 team with Kobe in lieu of LeBron, a clear sign of James’ lack of team building skills.

I might be wide-eyed thinking the media might actually vote for the statistically superior player, but despite all the other evidence the numbers are clear on this one. It might be unpopular to say, but LeBron James should win the MVP award this year.

62 comments on “The Darkhorse MVP Candidate

  1. Thomas B.

    Boy this is the snarkiest article since the David Lee for All Star effort.
    I’m loving it.

    I feel like I’ve been spanked. I feel so foolish now, so worthless for calling Kobe my MVP. What could make me feel better about myself? Oh wait, here is a mirror…wow I feel much better. :-)

    Sarcasm detector about to explode over this line:
    “Kobe has been following the tradition of allowing the opponent to stay close in games, only to make a shot in the final seconds to secure the victory.”

    How in the world does a single player allow another team to stay in a game when 4 other folks are on the court? So did LBJ “allow” the Cavs to finish the season with less than an 82-0 record? Did LBJ “allow” the Cavs not to win a title in the last three years?

    That’s like saying David Lee allows other centers to score at will…oh wait he does.

    I do agree its a clear advantage to play with guys like Artest and Gasol. That’s almost as helpful as playing with Pippen (HOF) and Rodman (best defensive player and rebounder of his generation).

  2. Ted Nelson

    Great piece.

    The one thing I take exception to is “LeBron James doesn’t have that last second killer instinct.” I would point out that despite the reputation, LeBron is actually better in clutch situations than Kobe.

    With less than 5 minutes to go and neither team winning by more than 5 points:

    eFG%
    Kobe: .468
    LeBron: .563

    pts/48
    Kobe: 46.4
    LeBron: 64.9

    % of own FGs assisted by teammates (someone mentioned that end game shots are more important b/c they are often “created” by the scorer)
    Kobe: 19%
    LeBron: 15%

    ast/48
    Kobe: 3.2
    LeBron: 7.4

    LeBron smashes Kobe in rebounding and blocks. He does turn it over more.

  3. Ted Nelson

    “I do agree its a clear advantage to play with guys like Artest and Gasol. That’s almost as helpful as playing with Pippen (HOF) and Rodman (best defensive player and rebounder of his generation).”

    MJ put up consistently better stats than Kobe before playing with Pippen and before playing with Rodman (who may be the greatest rebounder of all time, but I don’t know that he was a better defender than Hakeem among others… MJ and Pippen themselves are in the conversation). His rookie season Jordan put up an individual season that Kobe can only make a claim to have matched once in his career (his best TS% is .580, while Jordan as a rookie was at .592).

  4. Frank

    holy schnikes are we still on this Lebron vs. Kobe thing? They’re both awesome. Can we just leave it there? There were about 37 posts between the same 3 people in the last thread already.

    Meanwhile, has anyone seen the difference Brendan Haywood as made in Dallas? Show me Lebron starting at 16.5M, Lee starting at 9M, and Haywood at 7M, with Douglas, Gallo, and Chandler and I’ll show you a real contender, no?

  5. Thomas B.

    “MJ put up consistently better stats than Kobe before playing with Pippen and before playing with Rodman”

    Kinda like how LBJ is putting up awesome stats playing next to nobody? He is the closest thing to Oscar Robertson this generation has seen. He is the best player in the NBA. I like Kobe better.

    Can’t we just ask the NBA to change the award to the MSDP “Most Stat Dominant Player” award? Then would would not have to listen to (or openly mock) anyone else’s subjective criteria for what they view as valuable. You can’t argue with numbers.

  6. Thomas B.

    I just noticed that Steve Nash did not lead the league in PER in either of his MVP seasons. He was waaaay behind the leaders those seasons. How is that possible? Surely there is no way that the player who is not the most statistically dominant player could win the award. Could it be something other than raw data? Nah thats just silly.

  7. iserp

    I am surprised you guys take all this MVP thing so personally. I mean, there was a discussion in the last thread and you poke fun at us because statistics are so right.

    I mean, i admitted that i am biased with Kobe. But then, nobody wanted to discuss about the points i raised. For example, i said that Lebron TS% is higher just because he scores so much inside; so much, that people were worried that Shaq, a real center, would occupy space that Lebron uses. WTF, i think the points are worth the same if Lebron scores them or if it is Shaq.

    And then, why do you want a real PG if Lebron does all the ballhandling? So the goal of the cavaliers has been to surround Lebron with shooters, because he won’t let them do anything else. Ah, and add Shaq because they needed defense against Howard.

    Probably, Lebron alone would win a match 1 on 5 against the knicks. That’s worth the MVP? probably yes, but…

    Let’s say i want to make the best team out of the NBA. And i say that Nash, Kobe, Melo, Bosh, Howard would be the best team in the NBA. Then you could argue that i forgot the MVP, Lebron. But if i swap any of this players with Lebron, the team would be worse. Why? Because each of this players is much better at their role than Lebron is, although Lebron could play good at every position. And so, for each of them, there is an argument that they are more MVP worthy than Lebron.

    So, now that you’ve read this you have 2 options:

    - Admit that you’ve lost 5 minutes of your life reading my post (because i’ve wrote something really stupid). But hey, that’s what happens with MVP talk, it is quite meaningless. It is a subjective award, and as such, the opinions are widely different, it is really difficult to get everybody to think the same. Besides, people fool themselves and are biased.

    - Or you can lose another 5 minutes of your life writing a reply to explain why the difference in %TS between Kobe and Lebron is so important (please don’t)

    I’ll admit that Lebron + 4 scrubs is better than Kobe + 4 scrubs, but i’d rather have Kobe + Bosh and 3 scrubs rather than Lebron + Wade and 3 scrubs.

    And to complete all this nonsense: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIyixC9NsLI

    PS: I apologize for all of the above, xD

  8. Ted Nelson

    Frank,

    I would say LeBron is about 50% better than Kobe (who is great in his own right), so it’s hard for me to leave it alone. I don’t really care about end of season awards, but to say that Kobe is more valuable than LeBron is a ridiculous statement in my opinion.

    Thomas,

    I don’t know what MVP should be based on exactly, but who you “like better” is one thing I definitely don’t think should enter into it.

    PER is one guys interpretation of player value. I never said MVP voters are objective, either. LeBron is better statistically across the board than Kobe.

    iserp,

    Someone did point out that LeBron has continued to score just as efficiently, more so in fact, with Shaq no his team as without. What people thought might happen is near irrelevant, especially next to what actually has happened.

    “So the goal of the cavaliers has been to surround Lebron with shooters, because he won’t let them do anything else. Ah, and add Shaq because they needed defense against Howard.”

    I’m quite sure that Danny Ferry would love to put Dwight Howard and Chris Paul around LeBron, but… you know… they weren’t available. He’s tried his best, and a lot of people would argue hasn’t done a very good job (I personally think he’s done alright with the hand he was dealt… Hughes being a huge exception.)

    “But if i swap any of this players with Lebron, the team would be worse. Why? Because each of this players is much better at their role than Lebron is,”

    Are you really serious? LeBron is the best player in the league. He is the best in his role.

    “And so, for each of them, there is an argument that they are more MVP worthy than Lebron.”

    Please make the argument.

    “- Or you can lose another 5 minutes of your life writing a reply to explain why the difference in %TS between Kobe and Lebron is so important (please don’t)”

    LeBron is better across the board. That’s not my opinion, that’s how it is. I don’t love LeBron of something. He is just a better player.

    “I’ll admit that Lebron + 4 scrubs is better than Kobe + 4 scrubs, but i’d rather have Kobe + Bosh and 3 scrubs rather than Lebron + Wade and 3 scrubs.”

    You put LeBron on the Lakers instead of Kobe and they win probably 70 games this season.

  9. Ted Nelson

    By the way, iserp, the argument that Kobe is less efficient because he’s a jump shooter is baseless anyways because of the 3-pt shot. TS% = pts/(2*(0.44*FTAs+FGAs))… It doesn’t count the number of shots you make, but the points you score.

    Pure jump shooters have been more efficient scorers than Bryant and put up seasons with TS%s above .600: Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash… so have specialists like Kerr and Gallo.

    Being a jump shooter does not doom you to being an inefficient scorer.

  10. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    Dave Berri’s 2009 piece on the Kobe vs. Lebron debate:

    http://dberri.wordpress.com/2009/02/15/

    Iserp, notice the passage in which Bill Simmons (rather accurately) describes each player’s team play during these games. I’m sure you remember Hell Week last year; what do you think?

  11. taggart4800

    @ 10

    That is hilarious. Imagine the inferiority complex of the other 12 guys??! I would be inclined to just not shoot the ball, no matter how close or open i was.
    You would literally become the most forgetable person in sports.

  12. taggart4800

    The sarcastic tone of the opening article befits the ridiculous nature of this arguement.
    Kobe makes winning look arduous at times, with a very solid supporting cast. Playing with LeBron has transformed what used to be a bunch of scrubs into good role players. I don’t think the Lakers are that much worse with Rudy Gay/Wilson Chandler/Kevin Martin. (Overstatement check) But i don’t think i am that far off.
    Aside from the recently aquired Jamison, name on player who could be a legitimate leader on another team. On the Lakers i think you arguably have 4. Bynum, Gasol, Odom and Artest. I know im scrapping the barrel but they are all in the same bracket as Jamison.

  13. Ted Nelson

    @ 10
    Definitely a great dream. I’m not trying to call him unrealistic, but Jon Abbey’s been suggesting that scenario for a while. Certainly possible, if unlikely.

  14. jaddddd1

    I didn’t know TS% became the sole evaluation criteria for who wins the MVP.

    Second, what does Kobe’s past behavior have to do with whether or not he should be MVP this season? Granted, he comes off like a prima donna in the examples you used, but it got him a title and a really really good team.

    Stats may say otherwise, but would you really rather have LeBron over Kobe at the end of the game? A lot of the reason many people would rather Kobe is because of the reputation he has as a crunch-time killer and I think that factors in when he’s got the ball at the end of a game. It seems like the other team and everyone in the building knows he’s going to take and make the last shot regardless of what the stats say.

    That said, LeBron is clearly the better all-around player as of today and barring a ridiculous run by Kevin Durant, he’s going to be the MVP.

  15. Ted Nelson

    THCJ,

    Good link. My favorite part: “Here is a column I agree with by Bill Simmons”

    taggart,

    I definitely agree with the spirit of your comment, and I would go a little further and say that Gasol and Bynum are considerably better than Jamison (like twice as good). Artest and Odom I would also put solidly above him, but some might disagree. I think Jamison could be a good fit who makes Cleveland better, but I think he’s overrated.

    Lakers as a team are considerably better than Cleveland, to me, especially w/out Kobe vs. Clev. w/out LeBron. I would say, though, that Cleveland is not a bunch of scrubs. Worse than the Lakers, I would say, but a playoff team in the East (not the West probably) if you replace LeBron with a less but still good (on both sides of the ball) player. Varajao is maybe their second best player, despite his shortcomings. Shaq was certainly not a scrub on his career, though he’s clearly not in his prime anymore. Same with Z, to a lesser extent (he’s having a really bad year scoring the basketball though). Mo Williams put up very strong numbers his last season in Milwaukee. Jamison also not a scrub (though he’s been one through 3 games with Cleveland and I expect him to be one by the end of his contract if he doesn’t retire first). Moon is a good defender, and was just as good in a similar role in Toronto. Gibson and Parker can shoot the lights out and West is alright, the rest are scrubs. I think that team outside of LeBron is better than it gets credit for. Sort of… I don’t know if this is the right word… ironic that I spend so much time both saying LeBron is the most valuable player and also that his supporting cast is underrated…

  16. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    17,

    I trust statistics more than instinct. Our perceptions are so polluted by ESPN and its ilk that it’s hard to pass judgment on a player without reverting to facts.

    You use the word “seems” quite often in your post. That is a word that suggests appearance, but does not denote knowledge. By examining the sum of totals of basketball events, we can determine which player is more efficient. And even at the end of games, as the statistics have shown (and been shown in this very thread), LeBron is the clear winner.

    Moneyball (the Michael Lewis book) changed my young life when I read it back in ’05 because of the self-doubt it inspired. When I watch Sportscenter, and Jalen Rose yells about how Kobe is the most cold-blooded, conscience-less, dead-eye, sharpshooter sniper in the game, I can choose to nod my head, or I can seek the facts. And the facts say: LeBron James is king.

  17. Ted Nelson

    jaddddd1,

    Don’t know if you’ve been following the discussion, but the argument is not that LeBron has a better TS%. It’s that he’s better across the board. Better scorer, playmaker, rebounder, shot blocker. Defense is harder to say, but both were 1st Team All-Defense last season.

    “Stats may say otherwise, but would you really rather have LeBron over Kobe at the end of the game? A lot of the reason many people would rather Kobe is because of the reputation he has as a crunch-time killer and I think that factors in when he’s got the ball at the end of a game.”

    If the stats say he makes less shots at the end of the game, who cares what his reputation is?

    “It seems like the other team and everyone in the building knows he’s going to take and make the last shot regardless of what the stats say.”

    I think this is the big problem with subjective analysis. Let’s look instead at Jamal Crawford. Isiah Thomas and a lot of fans were convinced he was “clutch” b/c he stepped up to take the last shot without fear. Yet he almost always missed those shots. Yet Isiah was convinced he would make the shot regardless of what the stats said. Every time he drew up a more creative play it seemed like the Knicks made the shot and won, yet he kept going back to his “clutch” guy. Rant over. Kobe is not Crawford. I would have to see data from more than 9 game winning attempts to really talk about it. The last shot tends to be overrated, anyway, which is where this debate started. If the Lakers had LeBron instead of Kobe in the 9 games where Kobe took last second shots, they might not have needed all those last second shots to win because they might have basically won the games a lot earlier on. I don’t have data of last second game winners, so I really don’t know how LeBron and Kobe fare. I do have data of last 5 minutes neither team ahead by more than 5, via 82games.com player profiles… listed in #3, and LeBron is WAY better.

    “That said, LeBron is clearly the better all-around player as of today and barring a ridiculous run by Kevin Durant, he’s going to be the MVP.”

    Agree.

  18. tastycakes

    LeBron will probably win 6+ MVPs when all is said and done. The only thing that might stop him is the writers falling in love with some narrative about another player or getting tired of voting for him.

    But he’s clearly the best player in the sport, you’re not going to get a ton of arguments from either the objective eyewitness crowd or the subjective stats-based crowd. He’s also remarkably resilient, so it’s hard to imagine him missing any time in the coming years. You never know, but his track record thus far has been amazing.

    None of this diminishes Kobe at all. He’s been one of the top 5-10 guys in the league for more than a decade and has 4 rings. He’s great. But if you were starting a team from scratch and had the #1 pick, you would take LeBron.

    I didn’t realize Kobe has an out this year. Obviously the Lakers will keep him, but it’s interesting — LeBron also has to exercise his out and it’s (rightly) assumed that he’s available, but why doesn’t anybody talk about Kobe being available?

    Finally, I can’t stand Woj’s articles normally, but I’ll admit to a little heart-warming when I think about the possibility of the Knicks scoring ALL THREE of the Bosh/James/Wade trifecta. (Whoever here was worrying about other players feeling inadequate playing with them .. you must be joking).

    The Knicks have *the most room* of any team with space this year. That is seriously exciting!

  19. jaddddd1

    Ted,

    I’ve been following, was just making a wise-crack on the fact that many people seemed to be using it as their main argument. I’m not disputing the premise that LeBron is the better player, as I said in the last line of my post.

    Also, with my regardless of stats argument, I guess I didn’t explain clearly. At the end of the game, the other team thinks that Kobe is making that shot regardless of their effort, at least that’s the way it looks and feels in the building if you’ve seen him make a game-winner. LeBron (albeit with less chances) has made less game winner and has less of that reputation as a crunch time killer, so the opposing team and fans think they have a chance to stop him (if only on that possession) and I think that factors in a great deal to who I’d rather have on the floor for my team at the end of the game. I might not be right, statistically speaking, but if my team has the last shot, I want Kobe taking it, partially because of the fear factor when he raises up for the jumper.

    Getting back to the main point of this thread, I don’t see how there’s any way you can argue Kobe over LeBron for MVP this season, based on either subjective OR objective criteria. (And I guess I’m what you’d call a “Kobe guy,” too. I vehemently argued against anyone who told me LeBron was better until this year, when I’d have pretty much no case) LeBron has better stats in just about every area of the game, and his effect on individual games this year has been more than anyone we’ve seen since Jordan. He’s in complete control of the game on both ends of the floor.

    Agree with you that Jamison is overrated too. He’s put up 20-8 pretty consistently through his career, but I don’t think he’s ever been on a team that even made it to a conference finals. As one of your top 2 guys on the team, I don’t think he’s someone I’d want.

    THCJ,

    I used the word seems once. But I understand your point. It doesn’t really make sense to me that the media in general, once LeBron became clearly the superior player to Kobe, had to look for a way to state that Kobe was still great. That’s how we came up with this “LeBron’s the best player, but Kobe’s the best closer in the game” nonsense. Granted, I’m one who buys into it, but it’s stupid that we had to come up with a way to remind people how good Kobe Bryant is by putting a label on it.

  20. Brian Cronin

    I think TS% gets brought up so much because Kobe’s main skill is scoring, so it’s very important to note how much less efficient Kobe is at doing the thing he is best known for than Lebron is at that same skill.

    Forgetting that Lebron does so much else so much better than Kobe, spotlighting the advantage Lebron has over Kobe in Kobe’s main skill is very strong evidence against Kobe.

  21. Brian Cronin

    LeBron will probably win 6+ MVPs when all is said and done. The only thing that might stop him is the writers falling in love with some narrative about another player or getting tired of voting for him.

    Which absolutely will happen.

    Heck, he’s already gotten screwed by the narrative once – and he hadn’t even won an MVP yet (when the Nash narrative helped Nash win his second MVP).

    None of this diminishes Kobe at all.

    Agreed – that was the same issue that comes up when discussing Durant. “Not as good as Lebron” is not an insult at all, but it sort of feels that way when you hear it (heck, when I talk about how Durant or Kobe is not as good as Lebron, even I feel like I’m slighting them, when it really is not a slight at all).

  22. Thomas B.

    @8 isep

    “suprised at how you guys are taking this so personally”

    Not me. Its just my deadpan sense of humor on display.

  23. Owen

    Anybody know what percentage of games finish with a 5 point or less margin of victory. How many games are close in the NBA and require clutch scoring? Couldn’t find that data…

  24. iserp

    “By the way, iserp, the argument that Kobe is less efficient because he’s a jump shooter is baseless anyways because of the 3-pt shot. TS% = pts/(2*(0.44*FTAs+FGAs))… It doesn’t count the number of shots you make, but the points you score.”

    Sigh…

    I pointed to a 82games page with the scoring stats of Kobe and Lebron. Kobe has better percentage at 2 pt jump shooting, has better percentage at 3 pt shooting and for the sake of the discussion (and i know that is not true), let’s say that both have the same percentage in inside shooting (Lebron has more)

    they shoot about 35% in 3pt, 45% in 2pt, and 70% in the rim. So, how can have Lebron more TS% if he scores equal or worse in all the situations. It is easy, because Lebron scores much more inside.

    If scoring inside has much better percentage, why is not everybody doing it? Well, the number of attempts you can do inside is limited in the sense that defenses will clog the lane if you can’t do anything else. A good balance in a team is important to be efficient, that’s why there are no teams with 5 centers or 5 guards.

    So does Lebron take shots from their centers? Somewhat
    Does that inflate Lebrons TS% at the expense of their center? Somewhat

    In the end, the team was built with a center who had a jumper, Z, and one with little offensive repertoire, Varejao.

    Does that make Lebron bad? No, as long as the team is balanced, there’s no real problem that Lebron scores inside.

    Is Lebron valuable for his team? A lot, no other player could be as good as Lebron in the Cavaliers.

    Would the Lakers be better with Lebron? I don’t think so, the Lakers don’t have as many shooters as the Cavs, and Lebron would mess with their superb frontcourt. But everybody is entitled to an opinion.

    Have I lost another 5 minutes? Yes, but it is entertaining, :-)

  25. taggart4800

    @21

    I know its hard to convey humour in a blog post unless you are a better wordsmith than i profess to be be. I don’t think for a second that anybody signing a minimum contract with the knicks at that point would regret the decision.
    I was merely trying to imagine my feelings, had i played hard through high school and college to any great level, when first Bosh passes up the shot followed by Wade and LeBron with ball in my hands. I have the ball in my hands 5 ft from the basket unguarded, since all the coverage is focused on the 3 best players in the league, and i have to make the shot. Pressure moment. When you see their eyes roll with the thought of ‘ Who tought this kid to play JARED JEFFRIES??!!’
    In no way was i being serious but if it was me that ball would find its way into someone elses hands pretty quickly. Then i would haul my ass back down the floor and D up.

  26. Z

    Come on Thomas! You should have known better that to suggest Kobe was great on this site!

    What are you going to do for an encore? Say that David Lee is just a role player, or that you can build a franchise around Eddy Curry?

  27. Thomas B.

    @ 30
    “Come on Thomas! You should have known better that to suggest Kobe was great on this site!”

    I know how people get about that and I still bring it up. I’m so mean. You and TDM might be the only ones that realize I’m not serious about Kobe.

    David Lee is MVP: Most Ventilated Post-Defender.

  28. taggart4800

    Another thing i have come to realise, is how much i dislike anything Fran Blinebury has written about the Knicks. He has such a gargantuan prejudice against them that, even though the heart of the article supports why the Knicks are more likely to sign the big 3, he still concludes by saying Miami are the favourites. He supports his statement by using Beasley and the unlikely possibility of Riley himself offering his services as a coach! Surely if thats what Wade wanted that would have happened by now. How does a guy like this get a job writing? Does he even follow sports? How is a supporting cast of Gallo, Chandler, Douglas and Curry (Ok, yeah i know) less attractive than Beasley, Cook and Jones!
    This apparently trumps the fact the Knicks have more cap room, the assistant coach from their days in Beijing and bigger market potential.
    Bone headed and pig ignorant drivel.
    The fact is, it is highly unlikely this comes close to happening. Sure, they may have talked about it in china, but when it comes to logistics it is a whle different matter.
    Here is the link read it at your peril.
    http://www.nba.com/2010/news/features/fran_blinebury/02/25/knicks/index.html?ls=iref:nbahpt1

  29. Ted Nelson

    lol @ 30. I don’t dispute that Kobe is great, it’s just a matter of how great. I really think there’s a pretty strong analogy with Jeter, where it’s about longevity, playing on great teams in a major market, and bigtime clutch performances. Details are a lot different, of course, them both playing different sports.

    jaddddd1,

    P1: Fair enough.

    P2: I still don’t buy it. If you don’t believe you can stop player 1 but you still stop him 55% of the time and you do believe (however crazy you may be for believing it) that you can stop him and you can only stop him 45% of the time… it doesn’t matter what you believed. Player 1 only beat you 45% of the time, and player 2 beat you 55%.
    Anyway, I don’t think teams are excited to see LeBron with the ball in his hands in crunch time. Maybe great competitors are excited, but I’m sure they’d prefer the ball in Delonte West’s hands. Finally, when you factor in the LeBron’s a much better passer both overall and in crunch times, it’s probably better to have the ball in player 2′s hands.

    Brian re: 24,

    Good point.

  30. jon abbey

    depressing headline of the day, from a Ric Bucher piece on ESPN Insider:

    “Ty Lawson is so fast that he’s the Nuggets’ best shot at dethroning the Lakers”

  31. Ted Nelson

    iserp,

    You could also argue that Shaq is better than Nate Robinson because he’s a foot and a half taller, 200 lbs heavier, and plays more inside… that’s not going to change, though.

    “If scoring inside has much better percentage, why is not everybody doing it?”

    This is what I tried to address in #11. This is not true. Reggie Miller spent his career floating around on the perimeter, but his career TS% is higher than Hakeem, Ewing, or Shaq… it’s higher than Malone, it’s higher than Duncan… it’s higher than LeBron’s to date.

    “So does Lebron take shots from their centers? Somewhat
    Does that inflate Lebrons TS% at the expense of their center? Somewhat”

    1. Taking shots from centers: LeBron and Kobe both have very similar usage rates (Kobe takes more shots per minute, but scores less per possession and plays on a faster paced team). They both use almost the same number of offensive possessions when on the floor, and leave the same number for the other 4 guys.
    LeBron is primarily a perimeter player. He can post guys up, but so can Kobe. His inside points come largely on drives, because he’s bigger, stronger, quicker, and better than Kobe Bryant. Driving to the basket so effectively opens up the offense for a great passer like LeBron and if anything should benefit his bigmen.
    Furthermore, the Cavs are actually a better (more efficient) offense than the Lakers this season. They do play in the easier conference, but they are #4 and the Lakers are #9 offensively. So, this terrible impact LeBron has on his teammates doesn’t seem to show up statistically.

    2. Inflating TS%. Please re-read #11. (Good) Jump shooters do not necessarily have a lower TS% than inside players. Look at the TS% formula and the examples I gave. Kobe is not LeBron or Jordan scoring the ball, and he’s also not Reggie shooting the ball. He’s a great player, but not the greatest.

    “In the end, the team was built with a center who had a jumper, Z, and one with little offensive repertoire, Varejao.”

    There’s also that one guy… what’s his name again? He used to win titles all the time back in the day? Oh, yeah, SHAQ. Z isn’t even on the Cavaliers at the moment. As I’ve said, I’m sure Danny Ferry would trade Z and Varajao for Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol. He didn’t have that chance, though. Z was already on the Cavs and Varajao was a good 2nd round pick. Shaq hasn’t exactly suffered much playing with LeBron.

    “Is Lebron valuable for his team? A lot, no other player could be as good as Lebron in the Cavaliers.”

    Yes, he is the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER IN THE NBA. That’s my point. Kobe is not, LeBron is. If anyone besides LeBron is, it’s not Kobe. Maybe Dwight Howard. Last season maybe Chris Paul. Heck, maybe Steve Nash (he assists on 50% of the Suns’ baskets when he’s on the court and they are the #1 offense and a terrible defense… so I really think they’d fall apart completely if you replaced him with an average PG).

    “Would the Lakers be better with Lebron? I don’t think so, the Lakers don’t have as many shooters as the Cavs, and Lebron would mess with their superb frontcourt. But everybody is entitled to an opinion.”

    My opinion is that they would be. Kobe is a slightly better jump shooter, but LeBron is a much better scorer overall and a much better passer.

    Kobe takes 77% jumpers and shoots eFG% .469 on them.
    LeBron takes 65% and shoots eFG% .450 on them.
    Overall Kobe’s TS% is .547 and his ast% 22.3
    Overall LeBron’s TS% is .608 and his ast% 42

    I understand your point that sometimes a guy who fits a certain role is better for a team (Ariza going from slasher in LA to jump shooter in Houston is a perfect example), I just don’t think it applies here. LeBron is SO MUCH better than Kobe overall and only a bit worse as a jump shooter. If the Lakers needed another shooter around LeBron this season, they could have used Adam Morrison’s expiring contract to get one.
    As other’s have said, that doesn’t take anything away from Kobe. He’s still a HOFer with 4 rings who I believe will have a 5th ring after this season. LeBron is just better. I’d love to have $500,000,000 but I’d rather have $1,000,000,000.

  32. Ted Nelson

    @ 32 taggart

    If someone has no understanding of statistics beyond PPG, they’ll assume that former #2 pick Beasley is actually good. He’s still young, but he’s been pretty bad in the NBA. Whether Wade, LeBron, etc. realize this, I don’t know.
    Also, in support of your point, if all three of those guys want to play together and take less money to do it do they really care whether Beasley or Gallo/Chandler is the 4th scorer on the team? I wouldn’t. I’d rather have an interior defender. Heat could try to move Beasley for one, but the Knicks could use Curry and Gallo and/or Chandler and/or Douglas to get a higher paid one.

    @ 35 ess-dog

    (Not sure if you were being sarcastic about Lee instead of McGrady.) I would say T-Mac is more likely because he’s in a different situation than Lee. He’s made 9 figures (gross) in his career already and he’s going to be lucky to get the full MLE as a FA. Lee has made millions of dollars at a young age, but if he gets injured next season and never plays again he’s not money-pouring-out-of-his-butt loaded. If someone throws a guaranteed $50 mill at him it would be a lot harder to turn down than if someone throws 2 years 15 mill at T-Mac. If he doesn’t play well for the Knicks McGrady might not get more than the veteran’s minimum anyway.

  33. Ted Nelson

    Also, re 32, I would take Gallo, Chandler, and Douglas over the Heats guys, since all are good jump shooters with upside who can complement the (theoretical) Big 3. As I said, I’d look into trading one or two of them with Curry’s contract for a defensive presence.

  34. iserp

    “Shaq hasn’t exactly suffered much playing with LeBron.”

    Well, his TS% has dropped 5.5%, from the best in his career in Phoenix to the 2nd worst (basketball-reference), even though he takes less shots now and defenses are more concerned with Lebron than with him.

    Gasol TS% has been a little better in LA than in Memphis, although you can explain it by saying he is not the primary option now and can select more his shots (his points per 36 minutes are a little less in LA)

    Well, i know they already had Z and that they drafted Varejao, but i guess if they weren’t a good fit, Ferry would have tried to trade them.

    I didn’t mention Shaq, because it wasn’t an acquisition while the team was rebuilding, but a need because of last year conference finals.

    So, OK, i give up, i told you i am biased towards Kobe, and you still try to convince me. Even though i am not defending Kobe for MVP, i am just saying that is far from settled, and that MVP is more than raw numbers.

  35. Loathing

    Ted, check out my post on the thread about taking two…what I put should hopefully cover your suggestion.

  36. Caleb

    “The only thing that might stop him is the writers falling in love with some narrative about another player or getting tired of voting for him.”

    This seems guaranteed to happen, a la the MVP awards for Barkley and Malone back in the ’90s when I would bet not a single voting writer actually thought one of those guys was more valuable than whathisname.

    Or the fact that Shaq has only won, what, a single MVP?

  37. bselig

    #1 lebron isn’t a dark horse, he’s ahead of kobe, and won the award last year. absolutely no clue why this article labels him a ‘dark horse.’

    #2 the cavs would not be a ‘middling five hundred team with kobe.’ yes, they wouldn’t be a contender, but they’d still be top four in the east and probably better than the hawks.

    could kobe win it? i guess, he’s been lubing game winners. but if he does, it’ll be a close vote.

  38. DS

    theinfamousjb – I agree Thabeet is 23 and still raw, it’s hard to see a scenario in which he becomes a very good center. HOWEVER, I like that the Grizz are using the minor league system… I’d like to see the NBADL turn into a viable way to develop young guys who are a year or two away. NBA teams still seem to think it’s better for a rook to travel and practice with the team rather than giving them major minutes in the NBADL.

  39. theinfamousjb

    DS,
    Maybe through the next collective bargaining agreement they’ll develop the D-League into more traditional minor league system, where teams have more control over their own players or teams.

  40. Ted Nelson

    Thabeet is unlikely to go down as a good value at #2 overall, but I’m still pretty high on him. Way higher than the media, and maybe the Grizzlies (depends if this is more a demotion or genuine attempt to help him develop… I’m sure it’s at least partially the latter, but no idea if it’s also the former).
    10 reb/36, 4 blk/36, TS% of .606 (on a usage of olny 11). It’s not like he’s not doing what he was advertised to do. I’m actually impressed with him statistically. Of course his flaws are every bit as pronounced as advertised… TO% is through the roof (though he touches it so little actual TOs are not), he fouls way too much, he’s got 4 asts in 500 minutes, and a usage rate of 11 means he’s only scoring 9 pts/36.
    His +/- is really not all that bad if you consider he backs up Marc Gasol. Age is not everything, and even European vets in their mid-20s tend to struggle a little as NBA rooks and then improve in year 2 on.

    If the Knicks do pull off a miraculous summer where they’ve got 2 (or better 3) All-NBA scorers, Thabeet could develop into a low-usage, high efficiency rebounder/defender they need.

    If you compare him to other similar players he’s really not that bad. http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=chandty01&y1=2010&p2=dalemsa01&y2=2010&p3=mutomdi01&y3=1992&p4=thabeha01&y4=2010
    There’s Thabeet with Tyson Chandler and Dalembert on their careers to date and Mutombo as a 25 year old rookie coming off a 3 year Georgetown career. You can argue that Thabeet isn’t that much worse than Chandler and Dalembert are after almost a decade as pros. They’re overpaid, but two of the more respected defensive 5s in the NBA. Dike had a much bigger role, was a much better passer, and scored at a much higher volume (much less efficiently), but overall for a 25 year old rookie he would get a lot better and had his best seasons from 30-35.
    I appreciate that these guys make/made their livings defensively, and stats don’t tell that story very well. He’s got the tools, though, and the mediocre Grizz defense is a point better per 100 possessions with him on the court for what that’s worth.
    I suppose you can say that Thabeet’s career depends on whether he follows the Dike route and keeps getting better or the Chandler/Dalembert route and never improves that much (I suppose you can say that about anyone, just trying to “read” the comparables).

    Here’s another comparison for the fun of it: http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=thabeha01&y1=2010&p2=anderch01&y2=2002&p3=dareyi01&y3=1998&p4=cambyma01&y4=1997
    Andersen rookie, Camby rookie, Dare career.

    I’m 100% with you guys in wanting a real minor league. Bearish on it happening in the upcoming CBA (money is “tight” and a lot of teams never use the d-league), but hope it does.

  41. Ted Nelson

    Here’s a comparison of Thabeet vs. bigman project busts:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=dareyi01&y1=1996&p2=bradlsh01&y2=1994&p3=olowomi01&y3=1999&p4=thabeha01&y4=2010

    All rooks only, besides Dare who only played 1 game as a rook.

    Thabeet’s passing is just slightly above Dare level and his fouls are the highest in the group, but overall I’d say he’s clearly the best player. Just saying that he doesn’t look like a total bust. Those are just the busts who came to my mind, though.

    Here are some who salvaged their careers to some extent:
    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=foylead01&y1=1998&p2=clarkke01&y2=1999&p3=diopde01&y3=2005&p4=przybjo01&y4=2003
    Przybilla and Diop through 23 year old seasons.
    Again, I think Thabeet is right there or better.

    Biedrins might be a better example than Camby above:
    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=biedran01&y1=2010&p2=thabeha01&y2=2010

    That’s Biedrins on his career to date. Improvement to that level doesn’t seem like a real reach for Thabeet.

  42. Brian Cronin

    From the Bill Simmons chat that’s going on right not at ESPN:

    joe (chicago) Look into your crystal ball and sort out where the big free agents are going this summer!

    Bill Simmons (12:08 PM) If I had to guess at gunpoint: LeBron and Bosh (Chicago); Wade and Amare (Miami); David Lee, Joe Johnson (New York); Rudy Gay (Clippers).

    So his guess, at gunpoint, is that the Bulls will make another trade at draft time to make room to sign Bosh and Lebron? How do you guess Chicago now when they don’t currently have room for two guys?!

  43. DS

    Brian – in theory, a sign and trade involving Hinrich would work, but the answer to your rhetorical question is that Simmons makes his predictions based on what he “can envision” not on facts and hard reasoning.

  44. DS

    Simmons also says:

    “The only scenario in which the Knicks (or anyone) could get 3 guys is if it were 3 Nike guys. For instance, Bosh-LeBron-Joe Johnson could work – they’d take less money but Nike could agree to build a $100 million compaign around ‘The New Big Three’ and make up the difference that way. Yes, that would be legal.”

    I don’t see that “compaign” happening.

  45. Frank O.

    Honestly, Lebron is an easy selection. Fun column, Mike.

    Carmelo Anthony is having a better year than Kobe. And Durant is having a better offensive year (TS and eFG) than Kobe also.
    And in both cases, Denver and Oklahoma city, would be lost without their guys…

    I suspect the Lakers would still be winning without Kobe…

    But I’d give it to Walsh simply for putting the Knicks in a position to do something next year…:)

  46. theinfamousjb

    Ted,

    Great work on the all comparisons. And I don’t disagree with your contentions at all about Thabeet. In fact, I’d agree that I think teams should use the D-League more often. The fact that they expanded the NBA rosters to include players that aren’t on the active roster and aren’t hurt, doesn’t bode well for the NBDL being used properly.

    And didn’t mean to implicitly suggested that he would be a complete bust, but I doubt he will be worth it, especially in comparison to the other players in the draft. It just seems for a #2 pick, Thabeet, and that salary guarantee early on, his value is quite low.

    It is just extremely dangerous to reach on drafting a player like that, unless you have luxury of waiting, which in some ways the Grizzlies do with Marc Gasol holding down the fort. But you are so much better off drafting a player for what they are, especially when they are defense-only centers, than hoping they will develop an offensive game. For a mid-to-late 1st round pick he would make more sense, especially on a team with a good chance to contend for the playoffs for the time being (for the fans and press to stay off their backs).

    Plus, waiting for a 23 year old to fill out, often doesn’t happen as much as one would like. I imagine his true defensive prowess will be seen as a help defender. Brawny players of Dejuar Blair’s ilk would still seem to be a big problem down the line.

    DS, great link on David Lee and his gramps.

  47. theinfamousjb

    Correction, the Grizz are in the running for the playoffs (and would be in it in the East), but for their fan base getting into the playoffs is necessary (with being the 28th worst in home attendance percentage).

  48. Ted Nelson

    theinfamousjb,

    “And didn’t mean to implicitly suggested that he would be a complete bust”

    I was more just commenting on the general media reaction to Thabeet getting “demoted” as if it were some white flag being raised by Memphis that Thabeet is a bust.

    “but I doubt he will be worth it, especially in comparison to the other players in the draft.”

    Hard to say. If there were a redraft: Tyreke Evans I would easily take ahead of him (again, kudos to Walsh for calling him the 2nd best player in the draft). Griffin and Rubio I would take ahead of him despite not having played yet in the NBA. Lawson and Blair have good cases, but you could honestly maybe say the upside is not there (more on that in a second). Also, Chris Wallace would have been laughed out of existence if he took either player #2 (which probably means he should have traded down and gotten both… but tough to criticize for not taking them there… I mean not that tough since people on this very site might have advocated it).

    Who else? Harden has been solid for OKC, but hardly amazing. Curry? Based on their play so far he might be every bit as much a specialist as Thabeet, and at a far less valuable position. He’s not even a high volume or very efficient scorer, and his defense is a joke. Jennings has a lot of potential, but that .469 TS% is atrocious. Casspi looks like a steal, but in my opinion his upside is limited. Flynn has toughed it out in Minnesota, but hardly wows me.
    Big men outside of Blair and Griffin? Taj Gibson and Tyler Hansbrough probably lead the pack. Jordan Hill? Mullens?
    Of course, that’s all based on their rookie numbers. Some of those guys will make huge strides, and some will never improve at all.

    Back to the upside thing. It’s just not that easy to get a good defensive center. Not one who can score efficiently, redound, and play both help and man defense very well. Those guys constantly seem to be overpaid, but that’s because lots of teams are willing to pay a premium for that. A 6-0 PG is just not as rare. So, Thabeet’s still got that going for him.
    Plus in a league that stacks the deck so that teams can retain their own players, I would rather draft the guy who will have the better career than the better first couple of seasons. I’m not saying Thabeet’s career will turn out better than anyone above’s, just that I wouldn’t mind taking a project if I thought it was the best move. In hindsight I would much rather Isiah have drafted Bynum than Frye, for example.

    “But you are so much better off drafting a player for what they are, especially when they are defense-only centers, than hoping they will develop an offensive game.”

    That was sort of my point before: what he is isn’t bad. Defense is fully 1/2 the game and center is the most valuable defensive position. He’s already getting 10 reb/36, 4 blk/36, and putting up a TS% of .600. You don’t have to wait for that, it’s already there. His TOs and fouls are the huge problem… and maybe general rawness (being out of position, doing the wrong thing, etc. He may never improve, but all 3 of those are things that tend to improve with NBA experience.

    “Brawny players of Dejuar Blair’s ilk would still seem to be a big problem down the line.”

    Blair is scoring 15.4 pts/36 on a contender with a HOFer, an All-NBA type, and an All-Star at a TS% of .566 and putting up a reb% over 20… he’s a problem for a lot of teams/players. Carl Landry and David Lee might also be a problem for him, but they’re generally problems.
    I haven’t seen nearly enough of Thabeet in the NBA to say whether he’s getting man handled by more physical players or not.

    “For a mid-to-late 1st round pick he would make more sense, especially on a team with a good chance to contend for the playoffs for the time being”

    I’m just not sure how many guys you would have drafted that would have been a ton better. He was a bad pick at #2, maybe, and Memphis has more pressing needs than a back-up C (where both Gasol and Randolph can play), but I don’t think top 5 is unreasonable. We’ll see in a few years (I certainly agree that he might not end up being a top 20 player in this draft if he doesn’t lock-it-up). I think his rebounding, shot blocking, and efficient scoring could be the start of something… a sign of things to come… but who knows. It’s not like I’ve seen him play much–maybe at all?… maybe once or twice–since leaving UConn. Not like he even has played much.
    I should mention that I don’t believe in drafting for need, and I believe that the whole career is more important than the immediate impact (in most cases).

    “especially when they are defense-only centers”

    If the guy is really good at what he does, I feel like that can be the most important skill in basketball. So, that also influences my opinion.

  49. Ted Nelson

    “Correction, the Grizz are in the running for the playoffs (and would be in it in the East), but for their fan base getting into the playoffs is necessary (with being the 28th worst in home attendance percentage).”

    I can see that argument. But I think it’s short sighted. I mean I think the Grizz should have taken Evans (but also Rubio), but I also think that in 3 years if the Grizz have a nice Tyson Chandler level defensive center and Steph Curry is a scrawny combo-guard… none of their fans will care that they got swept in the 1st round a few years back. Not saying that’s how it will be, just saying I would look long-term.

  50. Dave

    I think Kobe Bryant has a superior midrange shot + long two point jump shot + has a better low post and midpost game due to his excellent footwork and willingness to go there regularly + I trust his three point shot more than LeBron James.

    I think LeBron is better at everything else and by a large margin. Better rebounder + defender + passer/playmaker + general team offensive play + penetrator + pick and roll play + finisher on the drive + better at getting into the paint + gets to the line more often + is more efficient with his scoring + is the more reliable player in clutch situations + is a better leader.

    All of those superior abilities for LeBron are far more meaningful than Kobe Bryant’s advantages.

    About the difference between Michael Jordan (LeBron and Clyde Drexler (Kobe).

  51. Dave

    I still consider Kobe Bryant an MVP caliber player but I don’t think he deserves MVP consideration this season. I feel like an awful lot of his offensive contributions have been coming at the expense of his teammates.

    His desire to score a high number of points + need to play on the inside more than the perimeter due to his declining quickness/athleticism like Michael Jordan needed to during the second three-peat + the Lakers other top scoring threats are interior players (Gasol, Bynum … to a lesser degree Odom, Artest).

    The combination of those three factors has led Kobe Bryant scoring a good chunk of his points at the expense of his teammates. Their interior players need Bryant to play more on the perimeter and be more of a facilitator. To allow them to blossom offensively. To run the offense inside-out. To have Kobe at 24ppg, Gasol at 20/21ppg, and Bynum at 20ppg instead of Kobe at 30ppg, Gasol at 17/18ppg and Bynum at 14/15ppg.

    That giving up those touches, those possessions, those shot attempts would help facilitate ball + player movement. To aid the Lakers spacing offensively and provide a more well-rounded offense instead of this post-heavy unit that is vulnerable to anyone with strong post defense (why Cleveland beat them twice).

    Anyway, I think a good chunk of Kobe’s offensive play has come at the expense of his teammates. That is why I do not consider him an MVP candidate this season.

    My top five would be:

    (1) LeBron James — way ahead of the pack
    (2) Dwyane Wade
    (3) Dwight Howard
    (4) Kevin Durant
    (5) Chris Bosh

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