Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The KG/Chris Paul Puzzle

Back in the day, Kevin Garnett regularly led the Minnesota Timberwolves to the playoffs.  From 1997 through 2004, Garnett was the star player on the only good teams the Wolves ever had.  The Wolves regularly lost playoff series.  As a result, Garnett was pilloried by the media as "not that good."  He went to Boston and won a title, and suddenly he gained a great deal of respect, even though by the time he got to Boston he was 75% of the palyer he had been in, say, 2002.  I have him as the #22 player of all-time.

Chris Paul, as I have previously reported is ranked by me as the 26th best player of all-time.  But he has never played in a conference final.  Even I have deducted points from Chris Paul's resume because he has failed to win playoff games. 

Is it fair to just destroy NBA players for not winning titles or reaching the finals?  I mean, as I have said on Twitter - do we really believe that Matt Dellavadova (I am not looking up the spelling) is a better player than Derrick Rose?  Would we say that after the Clips/Rockets series result we know that Josh Smith is a better player than Blake Griffin?  Prigioni (sp?) better than Chris Paul?  All of that sounds just ridiculous.  Would any idiot take that position?

Well, we have seen people say Dirk is better than LeBron and Kawhi Leonard is better than LeBron - right?  Remember that?  A lot of people going through and saying, "Well, Kawhi really shut him down and he scored easy baskets on the other end...."  If you think Kawhi Leonard will be ranked as having a better basketball career than LeBron James, you are a moron.

Similarly, there are those who cannot accept that Wilt was a better player than Russell.  Now, the voters who voted first-team all-NBA back when they both played preferred Wilt.  And Wilt once had 55 rebounds in a game against Russell, and Wilt was far better statistically.....but Russell won titles.  So, ergo, people assume that Wilt was worse.  If Wilt couldn't will Tom Meschery to a title over Havlicek and Jones and Jones and Saunders and Heinsohn, Wilt just wasn't that good.

Have we lost our minds?  Is Luc Longley (3 titles) better than Moses Malone (one title)?  Is Will Perdue (5 titles) better than Karl Malone (0 titles)? 

We have 82 games a year to evaluate players, and players who deserve to be evaluated have played at least 8 seasons.  You can take those 600+ games and evaluate whether the player plays well and helps his team, or whether he is someone who isn't really that good.   After 600+ games, Chris Paul is obviously very, very, very good.

Chris Paul (except for one very bad games against OKC) does not play poorly in the playoffs.  His stats are good to great every year.  Kevin Garnett always played his ass off in the playoffs.  He had a couple rough years, but overall, he has very good playoff stats.  But people for years blew him up for losing.  The same thing is happening now with Chris Paul.  (Today's "hot take" - Paul is no better than Carmelo Anthony.  Really, wow, go review playoff stats for both guys.)    It doesn't matter whether Paul plays well, it just matters that he hasn't won it all or come very close.  http://www.aol.com/article/2015/05/17/chris-paul-quotes-ricky-bobby-after-game-7-loss/21184319/?cps=gravity_4518_-2213031448139548500  If you are not first, you are last.

So what, really, is the perception here based upon?  Well, there are two factors at stake - one obvious and the other not so obvious.

First -- even people who do not follow "Win Shares" can understand that early playoff exits means very few Win Shares.  Paul and Garnett both suffer badly when you compare their 10 WS regular seasons and their lack of 2+ WS post-seasons.

Of active players, guys with the most 10+ WS seasons:

Duncan and Dirk 12 seasons
Kobe and LeBron 11
KG - 9
Paul and Pierce 8

Of the active players with the most 2+ WS seasons in the playoffs:

LeBron 8 seasons
Kobe and Duncan 7
Durant, KG, Ginobili, Wade 4

Tied for 16th -- Chris Paul, 2

So Factor #1 is that being so consistently good in the regular season sets the bar very high. 

Factor #2 is kind of a tricky one -- does your team win even though you don't play well?  Tony Parker has won 4 titles.  Do you know how many 2 WS playoffs he has had???  1.  In his entire playoff career, he has accounted for less than 9 Wins Above a Replacement Player.  He has played 203 games.  Kobe's WS/48 during the Lakers' first title with him?  0.115.  Not good. 

When your team wins, you get the reputation as a "winner" even if you had little to do with it, or were just OK.  So there is a little luck involved.

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