What Can Stats Do For You? (Part IV)

LINK: http://www.courtsidetimes.net/articles/119/

In Part III, I talked about how points per possession can tell you how good a team is on offense or defense. But let?s say you wanted to know why? In other words, what were the Suns so good at that made them an offensive juggernaut? Was Phoenix able to get second chances with rebounds, or were they very stingy with turning the ball over?

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

16 thoughts to “What Can Stats Do For You? (Part IV)”

  1. KB,

    Please write some sort of response to Simmons’ article today on Isiah and Larry. He completely tore us apart and I am really curious to know how much of it you think actually has merit. He isn’t a Steven A./Skip Bayless/Jay Marioti type who just yells louder than anyone else or makes outlandish comments just for shock value. So what are your thoughts?

  2. I was just about to post Taish’s request. I’d love to hear your take on SG’s article. I, personally agree with SG’s take and don’t think that the article “tore us apart.” He clearly loves LB. And he seems optimistic that LB will right the ship. My only problem is he is overly critical of Steph (who I have an irrational love for) but at the same time gives him props as a blue-chiper. Anyway, KB, hope you discuss the article.

  3. I don’t think Simmons tore us apart at all, to be honest. I read Bayless and Mariotti, and he’s nothing like them, rest assured, so you don’t have to worry. He just addressed that given the personalities involved and their respective past track records (Isaiah floundering with the Raptors and CBA; LB never being able to settle down, etc.) that the pairing is not exaclty a recipe for championship after championship. To be honest, I thought the same thing when LB was signed, and I’ve been a Knicks fan ever since I was 4. Sometimes you have to admit when things look like they might not work, and this, unfortunately, is one of those times.

    I agree that Brown is going to push hard for the kind of players he usually has running his systems, assuming he can find them. He’s already pretty much given up on Penny and James, he’s voiced his discomfort with Curry, and apparantly he and Starbury are ready to strangle each other (or so I’ve read). This can only lead to one of a few scenarios: LB quits (unlikely), the team isn’t changed one bit and Isaiah forces LB to like it (also unlikely, especially given that Isaiah is our GM), or that something is done by the front office to bend to one of the men’s wills. It’s more likely that the Hall of Fame coach is going to get his way over the underachieving GM, and if Isaiah fights too hard back, well, it won’t end well.

    However, I think that it will turn out alright. The team has shown that it can defense now (the #2 ranking on KB’s stat page is a testament to that) and Fthe young guys are being played, and they’re playing well. LB is the best coach for the job, and I think Isaiah’s smart enough to realize when to step back and let the right people for the job do what they do.

    If Simmons was too harsh on one front, it’s that he’s so convinced that the “marriage” will end badly and that it will be sooner rather than later. I’d like to think both men will give it time. I think we’ll see changes down the road, but I don’t think they’ll be as devastating as Bill imagines. Bill’s imagination and rhetoric make him very fun to read, but it can be a bit over the top sometimes.

  4. “He clearly loves LB. And he seems optimistic that LB will right the ship. My only problem is he is overly critical of Steph (who I have an irrational love for) but at the same time gives him props as a blue-chiper”

    I think you misread the article.

  5. “Flying High with Iron Mike”, “In defense of T.O.”, “Curious Guy” (trading e-mails with Mark Cuban), “O.J., 10 years later”, “The Sports Guy’s Official UCR Scale” (UCR=Unintentional Comedy Ratings), “The Genius in the ‘Shadow'” (on the film “White Shadow”), and a million and three articles on the Red Sox and their fans. This is a list from the ?Sports Guy??s archive. Make no mistake he is an entertaining writer and always leaves me laughing, but no one is mistaking the guy for a real sports analyst.

    The jist of the article was that Larry and Isiah are a highly combustible odd-couple. The only reason I was laughing this time is because the rest of the world figured this one out a few months ago.

    The evidence he uses is about half right, and most of that half is exaggerated.

    Some points on Simmons’ article:

    *First and foremost, it is just plain wrong to use Peter Vecsey as a credible source once, let alone twice, in an article. Although Simmons was careful not to use his name the second time: ?Reportedly, it’s already happened with Marbury, who suspiciously landed in a slew of trade rumors last weekend?.

    -“If Brown has a weakness… it has been his inability to connect with younger players. Just ask Jalen Rose and Travis Best in Indiana, Larry Hughes and Tim Thomas in Philly, the Darko All-Stars in Detroit”
    -?David Lee, whom Brown refuses to play because, well, he’s a rookie, and Larry Brown doesn’t play rookies.?

    *LB definitely does play young guys, just not raw ones: Darko, Best, and TT have yet to play well for anyone, and Hughes didn’t do much for 4.5 years after leaving Philly. Odd that Richard Hamilton, Prince, Snow, Aaron McKie, Theo Ratliff, Okur,… and now Frye, Ariza, and Lee were not on his list.
    *Last night, against the Lakers, only one player above the age of 25 (?blue-chipper? Marbury) got more than 20 minutes. In fact only 3 guys over 25 played at all.

    -?Isiah failed with Toronto?

    *Camby, T-Mac, Doug Christie, and Damon Stoudamire is failing with an expansion team? There are some people in Vancouver who might disagree with that, well that is if anyone actually knew they had an NBA team in Vancouver. Who knows what would have happened, but if Isiah and the Raps had stuck together the Raps might be winning championships with VC (who was drafted after Isiah resigned) and T-Mac on the wings, Camby providing defense down low, and Billups (who the Raps dealt Stoudamire for) running the point. I would call Isiah?s time in Toronto a huge success, it was after he left that the team failed to convert on the numerous opportunities with which he left them.

    -?Now he faces the remarkable situation of overhauling a team that he just spent the last two years overhauling. Even stranger, nobody seems that surprised. Or horrified. Or confused.?

    *Maybe this is because in a year and a half (not two years) Isiah turned Allan Houston into Stephon Marbury, McDyss into Curry, Kurt Thomas into Channing Frye, KVH into Q, Shandon Anderson into Ariza, Howard Eisley into Crawford, Mike Sweetney into David Lee, Frank Williams into Nate Robinson, Othella Harrington into Mo Taylor, Doleac into Butler, Nailon into Barnes, Weatherspoon into Rose, Dike into Antonio Davis, and unfortunetely he also signed Jerome James. Isiah?s group is raw and at the moment lacks cohesion, but this is a big talent upgrade and infusion of youth and athleticism (exactly what Isiah promised). If some more changes are needed I see no reason to be surprised, or horrified, or even confused.

    -Isiah is impatient.

    *It?s a year and a half into a rebuilding process. The best case estimate for rebuilding is usually three years. So, it seems Simmons may be the impatient one.

    -?Stephon Marbury (who legitimately doesn’t enjoy making his teammates better).?

    *What? The media exaggerate? NO! Not about Stephon Marbury. Sure, Isiah and Marbury both have their share of flaws and they are by no means Joe Dumars and Jason Kidd, but Isiah has proven to be one the sharpest talent evaluators in the league and Marbury has proven to be one of the its most talented PGs.

    -?other than Trevor Ariza, he [LB] doesn’t have a single player on his roster at the one, two and three positions who can guard anyone?

    *It?s not much, but Matt Barnes is widely considered a better man defender than Ariza. The Knicks, however, do currently rank 2nd in the league in defense (unfortunetely they also rank dead last in offense, which I don?t see changing until Stephon Marbury is able to attack the basket without breaking the offense).

    -?He [Isiah] gave away his only center last February (Nazr Mohammed)?

    *It?s hard to claim that David Lee is the Knicks? best rebounder and that Nazr was given away in the same article.

    -?Curry has a mysterious heart problem that scared the Bulls enough that they practically gave him away.?

    *Knicks? fans, and now Bulls? fans, know that Sweetney is a good player. If getting a quality rotation player like Sweetney is giving Curry away, isn’t 22 year old Curry a “blue-chipper”.

  6. I think Ted’s right in that Simmons can overexaggerate certain trends (or even be factually wrong), but on this one I think the gist of what he did is pretty on point.

    While Isaiah might have improved the ‘talent pool’ or aethleticism and youth of the Knicks, you don’t win games with athleticism and youth, and you don’t win games based on a total level of combined talent. Isaiah the GM doesn’t seem to understand the game like Isaiah the player did. Just to think about the change from the Riley years — picking up gems in the rough like Starks and Mason — to the present Knicks, where we trade away crappy players for ‘younger’ and ‘more athletic’ ones that are, at this point in their careers, born losers (i.e. Marbury and Crawford), and at the same time shoot ourselves in the foot monetarily.

    This is what bothers me the most. Out of all the teams in the NBA, the Knicks have the least chance of winning a championship in the near future, just because of our AWFUL salary cap situation, and the fact that we keep on making it worse by taking on bad contracts. Youth and athleticism might keep the asses in the Garden, but anyone who’s actually watching the games knows that we’re not even close. I love watching Frye, Lee and Robinson play right now, but part of me is scared that they’re just trade bait until a hack like Szerbiak comes along.

  7. I think that article was insightful and not mean-spirited. In fact i never particularly valued that guys opinion but after reading that article I changed my mind; he seems like a Knicks fan to me.
    All that stuff about Isiah ‘going all-in’ 2 months into the job is right on the money IMO, ‘big contracts and they all play the same position’, etc..

  8. I thought Simmons’ article was pretty good.

    Even thought he is always trying to make fun out of the NY sports scene, this time around he made his (good) jokes, but also made a solid point.

    I think the main reason for optimism here is the fact that the coach apparently holds the edge in a struggle against the GM.

    I mean, if the team doesn’t live up to the expectations (and the huge monetary commitment), who’s gonna take the blame?

    If we can get rid of Isiah that way, so be it. I would rather have LB running the team.

    What surprises me the most (and Simmons somehow didn’t brought it up) is the fact that Isiah’s former backcourt partner is one of the best, if not the best, GM in the NBA. How could it be explained? Isiah could have learned something from Dumars…

  9. The word I had to enter in to post this was “booty,” and I couldn’t resist taking advantage of it.

    Ted makes some good points, but his views on Toronto I think need some tweaking. True, he assembled great young talent through the draft, but that’s all he did. In a way, Isaiah failed in Toronto the same way he’s falling short now: The 1998 Raptors, with Camby, Mighty Mouse, Mac, and Billups, also played a total of 24 players during the year. That’s almost double the amount of players the Utah Jazz/Chicago Bulls played, who had the best record in the league. It’s not a crazy statistic, and it might not even prove much, but it suggests to me a general instability in the roster, as well as an inability for Isaiah to be happy with what he had for an extended period. It wasn’t until Isaiah left that the team had more stability of roster/less interchangeable players loggin minutes every year and began succeeding (check B-R).

    Now, what’s the problem Isaiah’s been criticized for since he’s stepped into office in New York? Roster fluxuation. He’s made the team young and athletic, yes, but when the roster changes every year, it’s impossible for a team to gel. That was the problem in Toronto, and it’s his problem now.

    Also, looking at recent history, and addressing the failure part of Isaiah’s career Ted didn’t, when Isaiah took over coaching the Indiana Pacers, they were previously coached by Larry Bird, had Jermaine O’Neal, Jalen Rose, Reggie, and Rick Smits and had won the Central Division two years in a row. The next year, with the same roster, Isaiah’s Pacers went 41-41 and finished 4th in the Central. They were the same exact team. How did that happen? The next year they went 42-20. The next year they went 48-34. Each year they lost in the first round of the playoffs with Isaiah. The next year Rick Carlisle took over and the team won over 60 games and had the top seed in the East, making it to the Eastern Finals before losing to Detroit. I don’t know what that tells you. It might not even say much, but it gives me all the proof I need to know that Isaiah just lacks the basketball mind that others have, which is strange, considering he was such a fantastic player. Now, all that’s Isaiah as a coach, not a GM, and it has little to do with his GMing, but when you lack the X’s and O’s to coach, putting together a team that will play together well on the court instead of on paper will only be harder, and I think it shows. Isaiah in New York hasn’t put together a team that has set roles or a stable roster playing a certain style, yet somehow has changed every single payer from 3 years ago and has put us horrifically over the cap. He’s put great young talent together, certainly (and I love Frye and Lee so far), but that’s not enough to win.

    I wasn’t sold on Isaiah’s signing when it happened, and while the team is certainly more fun to follow, that’s all that’s changed. Maybe he needs more time, but if his recent history is any indication, I doubt it’s going to get better before it gets worse, especially now that LB is in the picture, since he’s soon to be calling a fair amount of the shots.

    Like Campa, I’m also surprised Simmons didn’t bring up that Joe D is such a good GM while Isaiah just seems to have such a hard time doing it. He is usually somebody who makes those points, as far my experience goes. How come Joe Dis so much better? Is there a reason?

  10. I love Bill Simmons and read everything he writes, and I’m surprised and disappointed that he jumped on the Knicks-bashing bandwagon. Theres no questioning that this article took direct stabs at Isiah, Brown, Marbury, Curry, and others- essentially the entire Knicks team. Simmons has always struck me as a bandwagon-opposed kind of guy, but he’s clearly hopped in with all the other Knicks-hating sportswriters. Is there a single sportswriter out there who believes in the Knicks? Is there even a sportswriter who likes the Knicks?

  11. “The next year, with the same roster, Isaiah?s Pacers went 41-41 and finished 4th in the Central. They were the same exact team.”

    Um … no.

    The Pacers had one of the best starting lineups in the league: Mark Jackson, Reggie Miller, Jalen Rose, Dale Davis, and Rik Smits.

    Jackson signed with Toronto, Smits retired and Davis was traded for Jermaine O’Neal.

    The Pacers intentionally tried to get much younger without totally rebuilding. That Thomas coached those years should not be held against him.

    I think Thomas has done very poorly as Knicks GM, but doesn’t the record speak for itself? I don’t see why Simmons felt the need to say obviously untrue things like “He has two overpaid centers who can’t rebound or block shots: Eddy Curry and Jerome James.”

    Well, besides being in the top ten in per-minute blocks last year, James is a terrible shot-blocker, yes.

    “In fact, other than Trevor Ariza, he doesn’t have a single player on his roster at the one, two and three positions who can guard anyone.”

    Clearly, he can’t be troubled to know who Matt Barnes is.

    And seriously, the tired “ruined the CBA” claim? Does anyone still believe that?

  12. Damn you Pelton! You beat me to it. Simmons’ article is filled with inconsistensies. I hate it when it’s overly obvious that someone wrote an article with an opinion, and is just cherry picking stats to support his position. I so wanted to nail him on the no defender/Barnes point, but since you took it, I’ll have to stick with:

    “Just ask Jalen Rose and Travis Best in Indiana, Larry Hughes and Tim Thomas in Philly, the Darko All-Stars in Detroit or even Carmelo, LeBron, Amare and Wade in Athens. Brown gets frustrated easily and tends to stick with older, more reliable (and less talented) players who know their roles and play hard.”

    Really, can you fault Larry Brown for not playing Tim Thomas, Jalen Rose, or Travis Best? And is Simmons criticising Larry Brown for being a bad coach in the same article he wrote: “in every case — repeat: every case — Brown’s teams always improved dramatically”?

  13. No question, Phil Jax was right when he said he didn’t want to coach in NY because of the media. Whilst he was referring to the NY media, I think you can expand that to cover the entire media. As has been pointed out, Simmons’ point about LB not playing youth is a bad generalization, I mean does anyone think Darko is going to turn into Dirk anymore? How many teams have their third pick playing right now?

    Not to mention his point about centres, Curry is rebounding pretty well this season too, 7.5 in 26 mpg is not bad at all. James needs to go though. 5 years man, I’m still shaking my head…

    Simmons is pretty entertaining, and I think whilst he does usually make some good points he also tries to write colorfully and make a few outlandish points. I think he’s employed to be entertaining and occassionally insightful, not the other way around. No point worrying about it too much anyway, I mean if we start winning thats all that matters. I do wonder about his point that the Knicks should be a run-and-gun team though, maybe he has a point there…

  14. On the topic of the word you need to write to post mine is VULVA!!!!

    KB – you have a pornagraphic spam blocker!!!

  15. since most of the good points have been taken i’ll stick to the somewhat obscure…

    1. isiah the GM – his record, it seems to me, is more mixed than bad. his isiah’s strength is finding young talent. that much is hard to deny. on the other hand he’s certainly a “one deal too many” GM (e.g., TT for KVH, acquiring mo taylor when we already had like 18 PFs)

    but let’s not get carried away hoping for LB to win that power struggle outright lest we end up with aaron mckie and george lynch. while this marriage may be tumultuous it is certainly possible that each guy’s strengths could compliment.

    2. the knicks should run and gun – just wait. by february they may be doing just that, but the team must earn the right to run by cutting down the turnovers and getting the spacing right. the knicks won’t be able to run until (1) frye eventually replaces davis as a starter (when he can handle starter’s minutes), and (2) they understand spacing better.

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