Monday, January 02, 2012

A Comment on Basketball Stats

There is always a danger in the overuse of stats, or any other measurement tool used only on its own.

The best way to evaluate a basketball player, pro or college, is to watch him play every game, in person.

The second best way to watch a guy is to watch him play every game on TV.

Then comes reading his statistics, then comes watching game film, then comes working him out in practices/tryouts.

Since very few teams have the money to send a scout to watch every single live game, players are generally not evaluated very well. If you sat and physically watched a guy play 30 games in a year, you would know exactly what he could and could not do, what kind of players he played well against and what kind of players he struggled with. You would know how he reacts to pressure and to road crowds and to tough games and to easy games and to referees and to coaches.

Watching a guy play on TV gives you a good general feel of how a guy plays and what he likes to do, but you don't see him move and you don't see how physical he is or whether he has great or simply average athletic ability. You don't see what he can or will do away from the ball.

The only thing that watching a guy play in person won't do for you is evaluate how well a college kid plays against NBA superstars.

So why do we use stats? Someone watching Mike Miller might think he is a great shooter -- well, look at his attempts per game: he won't shoot the ball. Someone might think that a player like Kevin Garnett should be a great shot blocker ala Hakeem and David -- he isn't. He never has been. His game is steals and position and defensive rebounding. His defensive rebound rate in his prime was sick. Darryl Dawkins was a huge monster physically, not much of a rebounder.

Kevin Durant is a great scorer, but he really struggles trying to pass -- he has never averaged 3 assist a game before this year, and his 4.2 assists a game so far this year come with 3.8 turnovers a game.

What stat can we find to show that Kevin McHale was such an awesome low post scorer? (He was only in the top 10 in league scoring once and he only once made any all-NBA team).

He is #11 all-time in offensive rating.

If you cannot watch a guy a lot, you need to look at stats. Derrick Williams played 69 games at Arizona and blocked a total of 46 shots. So you know he is explosive........on one end of the court.....in his first 4 gqames with Minnesota he has.....0 blocks. I saw him play maybe 3 times in college, but I can tell you that a guy who is an undersized 4 who never blocked many shots in college is not going to become a big shot blocker in the NBA. Tim Duncan blocked 4 shots a game in college. Hakeem blocked 5. Theo Ratliff blocked 4 or 5.

I can tell you from watching JJ Barea in person that he is a shoot first guard who shoots a low percentage but who is very very active and rolls up big stats for a midget. Look at his college stats -- shot it 17-18 times a game in college and got 4 rebounds a game.

Anyway -- just an observation late at night.

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