May 30, 2006

The Wages of Wins.: Also, the Tragedy of Kevin Garnett.

posted by lilnemo to basketball at 11:51 PM - 7 comments

See related. I'm a bit skeptical of the findings. Not that I don't believe KG is a top 5 player, but "efficiency ratings" are strange beasts, especially devoid of context. Part of what makes "Sabermetrics" useful is the fact that it provides you with statistics that indicate a players skillset (how likely they are to get on base, defensive accumen, etc). Whereas some basketball statistics generally are weighted "rating systems" that don't give much of an evaluation of a player other than Player A is arbitrarily better than Player B, or Player B "wins" more than Player A. There are a number of newer basketball statistics that are better at defining what a players given skillset is and leaves it up to the franchise to determine how valuable that skillset is (True Shooting, Rebound Rate, etc.). I don't know about using the algorithm for evaluating rosters, perhaps it could replace the IBM award. Here's an entry on Gladwell's blog that speaks to some of the criticism to the "Moneyball of the NBA". And for further digestion, here's a link to Berri's original paper from 1998 that rated Dennis Rodman as the MVP.

posted by lilnemo at 12:21 AM on May 31, 2006

First, Malcolm Gladwell is a pimp. If you haven't read Tipping Point, or Blink, you are really missing out on two of the best books in the last decade as far as the theory, I really like it... I as well think that there is WAY too much emphasis put on point per game. As far as KG not getting an MVP... He need to hook up with a new agent or something, cause Minnesota is a black hole!

posted by everett at 01:46 AM on May 31, 2006

All I know is, Danny Ferry better be on the phone and doing everything he can to get KG to the land of Cleve... Lebron is a worthy co-worker and would almost automatically = Cavs best regular season record and a trip to the conference finals!

posted by warstda at 07:00 AM on May 31, 2006

The dreams some of these guys have .Cleveland . uh huh .. KG does need to move but where ? There's a lot of teams that could use him and a lot who could afford him and a few that can't afford him willing to take a chance on the luxury tax if it gets them to the finals . KG IS a top 10 player (top five ,???) and would be an asset to any team ...Someones phone wil be ringing off the hook come JULY , but I am betting it wont be clevelands . whoever it is will be getting a great role player IF KG is willing to give up the limelight to HELP a team win . Teams rarely win with the Championship with a one man team ( Jordan and Chamberlain being the exceptions) and KG needs to be the one making the adjustment . And NO Clevelands not a bad team but rookies have three year contracts and there is NO way that they can sign KG and resign Lebron and stay out of the luxurty tax bracket . It's going to be hard enough keeping Lebron .

posted by alvinthefirst at 07:28 AM on May 31, 2006

I don't see any reason why that trade is not at least possible... Cleveland can afford to give up Z or Gooden plus eric snow, or Larry Hughes depending on what Minnesota wants, if KG is coming in. I think that it is disctinctly possible.

posted by everett at 08:06 AM on May 31, 2006

Come on down to sweet home Chicago, KG. We are tired of overpaying Tyson Chandler to foul people more than score. We'll give Minnesota Tyson, every draft pick that we have (including the knicks pick at #2), and you would become an Icon in Chicago. And by the way, Jordan never won a championship by himself.

posted by sublime4390116 at 10:30 AM on May 31, 2006

I agree with everett that Malcolm Gladwell is a pimp. "Two of the best books in the last decade" might be a bit strong, but The Tipping Point and Blink certainly have been two of the most influential books in the last decade for other popular science writers and readers. Just look at the similar iconography and design of recent popular science books like Stumbling on Happiness or The Wisdom of Crowds or Freakonomics, all of which Gladwell endorsed of course, when compared to the original The Tipping Point. But like Bill Simmons, Gladwell has, in general, become less and less sharp with his writing and ideas as popular acceptance has sapped his need to write well all the time. Gladwell's greatest strength has always been the clarity and simplicity of his prose style, which is another way of saying that he makes other people's (usually psychologists') complex ideas go down easy. But when he was younger, he would write longer articles and have the patience to find a clear, unifying, and most important, correct vision of his own that connected the other people's ideas. (BTW, this is why I think The Tipping Point is a much better book than Blink, which, while providing many interesting examples and anecdotes, never dovetailed into a strong material thesis like The Tipping Point did.) In the book review that lilnemo links to, like so many of Gladwell's recent book reviews, it's obvious that Gladwell hasn't fully thought through the book's ideas; he presents nothing more than what makes the ideas interesting when he should be exploring whether or not the ideas are actually worthwhile, relevant, material, correct ideas. Now I agree that statistics applied to figuring out what wins basketball games is not only an interesting but also a worthwhile idea, and I love what the guys at 82games have been doing. But whatever metric The Wages of Wins is using seems to me to be little more than fitting a wins formula to the data rather than actually figuring out what wins basketball games. The line that jumps out to me in the article is: "According to their analysis, Iversonís finest season was in 2004-05, when he was worth ten wins, which made him the thirty-sixth-best player in the league. In the season in which he won the Most Valuable Player award, he was the ninety-first-best player in the league. In his worst season (2003-04), he was the two-hundred-and-twenty-seventh-best player in the league." What the hell? So Iverson went from being one of the worst players (267) in the league to one of the best (36) in one year? If you know anything about statistics, then the metric obviously isn't measuring the intrinsic wins worth of the player and therefore can't be used to predict how a certain player will be worth next year, which defeats the purpose of having such a metric in the first place. What's happening to Kevin Garnett is tragic, but is he really worth that many wins by himself? The answer is unknowable because basketball is so much more complex than baseball. If KG was on a different team, he'd have different stats and a different win metric - is that really him, or is it the effect of his teammates or his coach or the particular division he's playing in? I think it's this thinking that you can so easily quantify an individual's effect on a basketball win that is the problem with The Wages of Wins idea. Anyway, this was my long-winded way of saying that yes, I think you're right in being a bit skeptical, lilnemo, and no, I don't think Junkyard Dog was "actually among the strongest players of his generation."

posted by platocave at 10:33 AM on May 31, 2006

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