I hate what all these advanced statistics have done to the NBA fan/analyst. As my regular readers have probably noticed I essentially steer clear of them completely, and it drives me nuts when someone uses them as the sole reasoning behind their judgement of a player. This morning, I got in a brief, surprising Twitter argument with a writer from Sports Illustrated, who tweeted the following: “We really, really need to nip this whole ‘Kwame is one of the VERY BEST post defenders in the NBA’ thing in the bud. He’s decent. That’s it.”
Not at all expecting to be noticed, I sent a response stating that Kwame is in fact one of the league’s better man defenders in the post. Just seconds later he answered me, and you know what this dude said? “Opponents shot 49 percent against Kwame in post-up situations last season, ranking about 250th in the league.”
I’m going to be honest here: I lost this debate, and it felt bad, man. I guess that’s why this guy has a real job in this field and I don’t. I mean, what do I say to that? I don’t know where people find these crazy statistics because I don’t often feel the need to cite them, so it’s not like I could check to see where other guys who I consider Kwame’s defensive peers ranked. I knew I was right, I still know I’m right, but I lost this debate because a stat can be presented to “prove” absolutely anything… all you have to do is search hard enough or manipulate the numbers long enough. He had his stat, and all I had was my word. There was no feedback from the peanut gallery, but I’m going to assume the people of the internet trusted Mr. Sports Illustrated’s numerical pwnage over my simple “watch the man play.” …especially taking Kwame’s reputation into consideration. Some simply underrate Kwame’s defense because he’s been so bad on offense since being taken with that number one pick. He can’t catch the ball, so he’s bad at something that doesn’t even require him to catch the ball! Kwame’s underachievement has been known to inspire such faulty logic.
In summation… I know Kwame Brown is more than a “decent” post defender because I have two functional eyes and have used them to watch him play basketball on more than a few occasions. That’s the argument I made, but the professional writer, and probably any other tweeters who happened to be watching, dismissed it with the quickness, stating that “No respectable NBA exec goes only by what they see. The numbers matter, and they are telling.”
My first thought was man, there are a lot of bad executives in this league then, ’cause this dude Kwame keeps getting paid…, but I didn’t bother with that. I didn’t bother seeking out a statistical retort to his claim, either, which apparently is that Kwame Brown, who played the most important role in Golden State’s stifling defense of Andrew Bynum just days ago, is something like the 250th best post defender in the NBA. I’m not going to judge this writer based on his opinion of Kwame Brown, but I have a hard time believing he’s watched much of Kwame with an open mind and come to the conclusion that he’s a “decent” post defender. He’s got to be “good,” or even “solid” at worst.
It’s those damned advanced stats, my friends. They cause many people to believe they don’t need to see what happened. ESPN’s got a guy they pay (probably handsomely) to talk about basketball who has spent the majority of his life perfecting a mathematical formula that cranks out Manu Ginobili as the NBA’s best player. As interesting as they may be, all the numbers in the world can’t make up for time spent on the couch staring at the television. I’ve watched NBA basketball on a nightly basis for years now, and that’s helped me build up a confidence in my opinions on most of the league’s participants. This method obviously requires objectivity and some amount of intellect–it’s useless for people who lack those two qualities–but for the knowledgable basketball head it’s the way to go. It also requires you to take a step back when you simply don’t have the answer, which too many people can’t stand to do, but that’ll help keep you striving to watch games actively, looking to learn.
I took an L to dark side today, but I’ll continue to cite my observations and leave the algebra to the others. I created this blog in hopes that it would save me from having to do any further advanced mathematics in my life. F@ck, man, I don’t want to go back to school. I want to watch basketball and report my findings. Hopefully there are still enough people out there who view basketball as a sport rather than an equation to allow me to continue to do so.
There will be no starting lineup post this morning because I felt like writing this instead, and I was up all night choppin’ up that Bucks/Pistons game. Hopefully that’s cool with you. I will list a few simple observations I noted last night: It’s time to give up on Tyrus Thomas, Dominique Wilkins wasn’t built to talk on TV for a living, Iman Shumpert and Amare Stoudemire have the same parents, and Shaq deserved to have that bar of soap stuck in his mouth. Oh, and I almost forgot, check out the Hawks/Bobcats box score. My dudes Ivan Johnson and BJ Mullens did their respective things.