On Wednesday, news hit that John Starks saw potential in Andrea Bargnani.
“I know he’s going to have a bounce-back year,” former Knicks great John Starks said on Anthony Donahue’s “The Knicks Blog Podcast” last week. “This is a tailor-made offense that’s good for guys who can shoot the ball, especially big guys, and he’s one of the best in the league that can stretch the defense. So I’m looking for him to have a very big year.”
I’ll save you, dear reader, from 10 minutes of eye-rolling if we both agree that Andrea Bargnani is in the discussion for “the worst NBA player who have played 14,000 or more minutes” and will never have positive impact to any NBA team over the course of a season. Agreed?
So then why bring up this tidbit if I’m not going to rag on the Roman Oh-No’s (as in when he comes in, everyone says “Oh-No!”) with some number kung-fu? Well today’s rant is on the omniscient front office of the NBA. And before we start, yes I know John is just a P.R. guy.
Follow me for a second. Usually us numerologists fall in love with the statistically stout player who receives as much playing time as the quick-change act. The logic to such desire is simple: the simplest way for a team to improve is give the most minutes to the best players. Any seemingly productive player who doesn’t receive ample minutes is perhaps among the worst crimes an NBA coach can commit. For fun let’s give a name to our imaginary player, and we’ll pick a ridiculous name that is completely un-NBA-like: Cole Aldrich. (Cole Aldrich sounds like a 17th century American explorer or Dutch Prime Minister.)
Unfortunately our bookish vision is, at times, met with resistance. The counter-rationale to why such a player doesn’t receive any minutes is simple: the criteria that we used to judge the player is inadequate. Or more specifically this “Cole Aldrich” has deficiencies that aren’t recorded on the stat-sheet. These flaws are witnessed by the coaching staff, who use their own non-arithmetical yardstick.
Now when this yardstick is challenged, there is usually an interrogation of authority. Coaches (and front office folk) are usually ex-professional players. And when that guy has played 23,514 minutes for the NBA, it’s hard to take the word some guy who spent a week reading Basketball On Paper.
However, my point is 23,514 minutes of NBA action doesn’t amount to anything when it comes to NBA analysis. Michael Jordan played 41,011 minutes. Isiah Thomas 35,516. These folks are terrible at deciding who should be on an NBA team.
And the fact that John Starks isn’t a front office person doesn’t matter. Even if John Stark’s job is to only say positive things about the team (which is probably true for a P.R. guy), can’t he come up with someone else concerning Bargnani that is anywhere in line with reality? “I think the triangle offense will get the most out of Bargnani and he may have his most productive season yet.” Instead John Starks said the equivalent of “Honey, not only don’t those jeans make you look fat, those are the hottest pants you own and you might as well get 10 pairs of them & chuck everything else in your closet.”
There’s no chance that John Starks would have said that Bargnani is going to have “a very big year” if he didn’t actually believe it was in the realm of possibility. And for that to be true, he must have the same narrow vision that crappy appraisers of talent have. It’s barely a notch up from someone who uses NBA Live as a evaluation tool. Even the commenters of ESPN’s article have a better understanding of NBA. And I’m pretty sure they’ve played the same amount of NBA minutes as yours truly.