Weekly Wrap-Up

» March 28, 2009 9:58 AM | By xphoenix87

Welcome to the Weekly Wrap-Up, your source for all the happenings and tidbits from the previous week in the NBA, all in rambling bullet-point form.

- If you can’t enjoy the NBA right now, then you just can’t enjoy basketball. Take a step back and look at things, and realize that we are currently watching the greatest power forward of all time (Duncan) just exiting the prime of his career. We’re watching probably the second best shooting guard of all time (Kobe) in his prime. We’re watching a point guard who, when all is said and done, will most likely be considered the 2nd or 3rd best point guard of all time (Paul), if not the greatest ever. On top of all that, we’re watching a guy (LeBron) who already has a legitimate claim on being the greatest small forward ever to play the game, might just end up being the greatest player of all time, and is 24 and just entering his prime. Just think about that for a second, think about the opportunity we have to watch these guys. It’s great to be analytical, but sometimes it’s just nice to put on our fan hat again and be amazed by the fact that we’re watching a truly astounding group of players in the league right now.

- There was an interesting article written by John Hollinger yesterday in his daily “PER diem” column. He wrote about how a team’s three point attempts correlate very strongly to their offensive efficiency. In simple terms, the more three pointers a team takes, the better their offense is. What’s really interesting is that three-point attempts correlate much more strongly than actual three-point percentage. Essentially, how many threes a team shoots is more important than how well they shoot them. This was fascinating to me, so I did a little number crunching. It turns out, you have to be incredibly bad from behind the arc to make it a less efficient shot. There’s only one team in the league that scores more points per two-point field goal attempt than per three-point field goal attempt, and that’s the Sixers, who are the league’s worst three-point shooting team. On average, teams have scored .13 points per attempt more on three-pointers than on two-pointers, which is pretty substantial amount, given that the average NBA team scores .998 points per FGA (excluding points gained from free throws). “But,” you may say, “teams that take more two-point shots get to the free throw line more often, right?” Well, surprisingly, there’s no significant correlation between two-point field goal attempts and FTA/FGA in this year’s data. So, moral of the story? Shooting a lot of three-point shots is a  good thing for your offense, you want your team shooting more threes.

- I know that they’ve had a disappointing year overall, but check out Thaddeus Young’s stats this last month for the Sixers. He’s averaging 21.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals on 54.5% shooting and only 1.1 turnovers. He really seems to thrive as a mismatch at the power forward position. If I’m Philly, I’m playing Young and Brand as my frontcourt next year after Brand comes back. That would be a matchup hell for opposing coaches. I really think that team just needs one shooter, one Posey, Battier, or even just a Kyle Korver, who can keep defenses honest.

- Note to Western Conference playoff teams. In the last month, Portland has eviscerated San Antonio, LA and Phoenix while playing at home, and took Cleveland to overtime on the road. If they sneak into the top 4 to get home-court advantage, you had better pray to high heavens that you are not matched up with them in the first round. Other than Quicken Loans Arena, there may not be a harder place to steal a win right now than the Rose Garden.

- I understand that arguments are compelling discussion, but why do we always have to create a debate regardless of if it’s necessary? What I’m talking about right now is, of course, the MVP “race.” Lets be clear on something here. LeBron leads this so-called race by a freaking mile. If he does not win, it will be an absolute travesty, a mockery of the award. There is no LeBron-Kobe MVP debate (nor the less popular LeBron-Wade variation). Every time this comes up, here’s usually the form that the pro-Kobe arguments take.

1) Kobe is more clutch than LeBron. If you were down 3 points with 2 seconds left at the end of a triple-overtime game 7 in the NBA finals, who would you want taking the shot?

Now, first of all, people say this as though it is an absolute truth, whereas there is actually a great debate as to who is more “clutch.” Second, the answer to the above question is that I’d rather not be in that situation at all. As I’ve said many times in my blogging career, I’d much rather have the guy who is better for the first 46 minutes than the guy who is better for the last 2. If there is a discernible difference in “clutchness” and if you could prove to me the Kobe was better in the clutch, I still could not care less. Clutch is a tiny piece of a big picture, and it’s way down the list of important things to consider.

2) Kobe has more experience than LeBron. He knows how to win, he’s got those three rings on his fingers. LeBron just hasn’t proven himself yet.

Let me say this loud and clear. THE MVP IS NOT A LIFETIME-ACHIEVEMENT AWARD!!! Got it? Good. This one is similar to and often accompanies the next argument.

3) Kobe definitely had the best stats in the 2005-06 season, and Steve Nash won because his team was better. So you can’t go just by stats. Whoever’s team ends up with the better record should win.

This line of logic continues to astound me (it’s not as bad this year as it was last year, when the Cavs were so much worse. It applies this year to Dwyane Wade primarily). So, you argued loudly and complained bitterly when you thought your guy was undeservedly passed over, yet you want to use that same criteria that you hated then to argue for your guy now? That’s ridiculous. The Nash thing in ‘06 was a mistake, I think pretty much everyone admits that (heck, even Nash might admit that). Lets not use one bad decision as the basis on which to base a whole bunch of other bad decisions.

4) I’m not sure who’s better, so I’m going to wait till the end of the season, and whoever finishes with the most wins gets my vote.

Seriously, I’m absolutely stunned by the number of times I’ve seen people say this. If it’s a ten game difference then yes, I can see where you’re coming from. Five game difference? Maybe even then. The likelihood, however, is that LA and Cleveland will probably finish within 1 or 2 wins of one another. Do you know what the difference is between 65 and 66 wins? Luck, that’s the difference. One shot in a close game that bounces left instead of right. One loose ball that ricochets funny off the rim. One impossible halfcourt shot going in. If you’re making your decision on the basis of one or two games, you are out of your freaking mind.

5) Kobe is prettier and I have a gigantic man-crush on him.

Ok, I made that last one up.

Look, I don’t want you to think that I’m coming down hard on Kobe. I think Kobe is an amazing player, I’ve got him on my fantasy team. I am not a Kobe hater because I don’t think he’s as good as Michael Jordan or LeBron. You have to realize, what LeBron is doing is otherworldly. All year he’s been in the top 3 in usage rate and the top ten in offensive efficiency. That’s craziness. LeBron is the 6th most efficient offensive player in the entire league, and he does it while taking on a larger load than anyone outside of Wade. There is no debate here. He’s the best player in the world, playing on the team with the best record, a team that continues to hold the top spot despite numerous starters going down with injury during the year. There are no more excuses, no reason not to give the LeBron his due.

Maestro Award

The Maestro Award is my recognition of the best performance from the previous week

And the award goes to…Dwight Howard, for dropping a 20-20 (or, more precisely, a 24-21 with 4 blocks and 2 steals) on the Celtics to help Orlando grab a win Wednesday in a game with serious playoff seeding implications. Orlando had trouble getting him touches down the stretch, but he sealed the game with a crucial block on Paul Pierce with 4 seconds left.

Honorable Mention: Manu Ginobili, for this amusing Kiss-Cam incident.

xphoenix87 is a contributing writer for BallerBlogger.com. x is a college student who dreams of one day writing about sports for a living. Since that’s not gonna happen, he’ll do this instead.


6 Responses to “Weekly Wrap-Up”

  1. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Have you changed your stance on clutch play? There was a time when you refused to acknowledge that players performed differently in the clutch.

    I think the MVP race was settled a long time ago. James is going to win the award. I just don’t get the idea that LeBron isn’t being recognized for having an amazing season. Where are you getting that from? I keep tabs on just about every NBA site, and for the most part (85-15%), I’ve seen the exact opposite.

    I can’t think of one blog or mainstream NBA columnist that’s arguing for Kobe to win the MVP award. D. Wade got some publicity during his 40-point spree, but his supporters have decreased in recent weeks.

  2. Tsunami Says:

    I haven’t heard anyone say that Lebron shouldn’t win the award. what they say is “man that’s a tough call.”
    “you can’t go wrong with any of these guys.” Chris sheridan says he’s going to ‘wait and see’.

    A few weeks ago i wrote you about this – why is there even a serious discussion? you got angry with me and said that there will always be a discussion and this and that – but what x is saying is exactly what I was trying to say then…what exactly does he have to do before we can just give him his due? Why does there always have to be qualifiers and a different way of looking at things, and some sort of drama.

    Hoff, Hollinger wrote something in his chat wrap that i thought was amazing. Basically he summed up in a few sentences was I’ve been trying to say for years. After he came out with his new stat that shows value over a season instead of per minute averages, he explained that all stats do is alter the burden of proof. He basically said, you can argue that Kobe should be MVP, but if Lebron’s normalized win shares or whatever his new stat is called is TWICE Kobe’s – then the Kobe fan has a lot more of a burden proving his point. The greater the disparity, the greater the burden.

    i guess this is where I always start with people when I write blogs or whatever comparing the players. I lay down the burden of proof. the problem is, other than you (sometimes) and 1 or 2 other people in my entire life, people just disregard the facts. They don’t work harder to prove their point – they just find a way to disregard the burden of proof. Oh, lebron’s PER is 32 and Kobe’s in 25? well PER sucks! Oh, lebron has more game winning shots than kobe over the last 2 years? Well, I’m going to ignore that and start talking about rings. Oh, lebron shoots a higher percentage in ‘clutch’ time than Kobe from the field and from 3 – I’m going to just ignore that too and say that I would obviously rather have Kobe taking the last shot.

    Debate can be so much more fun and meaningful if people used ‘the burden of proof’.

    You could point to stats that say LeBron is a bad three point shooter. Because of his percentage, i would have a greater burden trying to prove that he’s actually not bad. I could say things like “well, most of Lebron’s 3s he has to create for himself, the ones that he gets off passes he’s very accurate with. In addition, LeBron is the player that is often asked to bail out the cavs when the shot clock is winding down – so many of those 3s are ill-advised but necessary.” I mean, sure it’s a questionable argument but with some actual numbers to back that up it makes for an interesting debate. to sit here and say “LEBRON MADE 5/5 FROM THREE LAST NIGHT! HE NEVER MISSES! REMEMBER OT IN GAME 5 AGAINST THE PISTONS!!!” is just ridiculous – and it pretty much kills reasonable discussion.

    It’s nice to read this, X, I thought I was alone on an island.

    You didn’t even mention Lebron’s defense this year which hoff and I both agree has been outstanding.

  3. Three point shots and winning percentage. | Daily Thunder.com - Where Thunder Happens Says:

    [...] some of my favorite basketball blogs  this morning I came across this little snippet in Ballerblogger where the author references John Hollingers per diem piece from Friday. It’s a great read, I [...]

  4. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Tsunami:

    A lot has happened since we had our MVP discussion.

    At the time, Wade was absolutely dominating the NBA. He was scoring 40 points on a nightly basis. He deserved MVP consideration. I’m fairly certain that the Lakers were a game or two ahead of the Cavs in the standings as well, and I wrote that Kobe would be a worthy candidate if LA finished with more wins than the Cavaliers.

    Wade has come back to earth over the past 5 games or so and the Lakers aren’t going to separate themselves from the Cavaliers in the standings.

    With that being said, I don’t think you should throw your arms in the air in disgust if the vote isn’t unanimous. Wade and Bryant have had fabulous seasons. The MVP vote has never been unanimous and it never will be.

    More on Hollinger’s “burden of proof comment” tomorrow…

  5. xphoenix87 Says:

    “Have you changed your stance on clutch play? There was a time when you refused to acknowledge that players performed differently in the clutch.”

    The question is whether or not some players are markedly better in the clutch, and I haven’t seen any conclusive evidence either way. Do certain players score a lot more at the end of close games? I would guess that across the board, star players usage rates go up near the end of games. Now, whether or not certain stars thrive in that situation is something I haven’t seen convincing proof of. That’s really less important to the big picture though. My point has always been that the importance of “clutch” is vastly overrated, and I think our assessment of who is “clutch” or not has a lot more to do with perception than reality.

    “I think the MVP race was settled a long time ago. James is going to win the award. I just don’t get the idea that LeBron isn’t being recognized for having an amazing season. Where are you getting that from? I keep tabs on just about every NBA site, and for the most part (85-15%), I’ve seen the exact opposite.”

    Basically, my response to that is what Tsunami said. I realize that LeBron is going to win the award. However, I saw a few articles over the last week that were talking about the LeBron v. Kobe “debate”, including the Sheridan one Tsunami mentioned, and I think it’s ridiculous. Nobody in the media these days wants to make a strong claim, everybody is wishy-washy. So, we have the Kobe-LeBron “debate” and the Chris Paul-Deron Williams “debate”, and no one wants to just come out and say that one of these guys has obviously played better than the other.

  6. john amaechi Says:

    KOBE!! is gay.

    there i said it.

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