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Sunday, January 30, 2022

Fun With Field Goal Percentages

Many NBA commentators obsess about field goal percentages, and throw around numbers devoid of historical context, and without consideration of how matchups, rules, and other factors may have impacted those field goal percentages. We are told that high field goal percentages are good, low field goal percentages are bad, and there is nothing else that we need to know. The reality is that a player who can create a shot for himself and create shots for his teammates is more valuable than a player who lacks such skills, even if the player with shot creation skills has a lower field goal percentage than the shooting specialist.

Commentators who focus on field goal percentages are very selective about which players they choose to discuss and how they choose to discuss those players, as I noted in Fun With NBA Finals Field Goal Percentages

Here are the field goal percentages and three point field goal percentages for three NBA players since December 1, 2021:

Player 1: .386/.346 (26 games)

Player 2: .424/.307 (21 games)

Player 3: .442 /.301 (27 games)

Please identify the MVP candidate, the likely All-Star, and the player who does not have a chance of being named an All-Star this season.

We are told that shooting is the most important skill in today's game, and that three point shooting is the most important kind of shooting, in contrast to post play (which we are told is inefficient and obsolete). We are told that if you can't shoot then it is difficult to justify putting you on the court, let alone selecting you as an All-Star.

In case you have not figured it out (or looked it up), Player 1 is Stephen Curry, Player 2 is James Harden, and Player 3 is Russell Westbrook.

Curry is shooting worse than .400 from the field since December 1, a span that covers more than half of the season to date. At what point do commentators acknowledge that this is not a "slump," but rather this is who Curry is right now? Maybe Curry will figure out how to shoot well again, maybe he is a declining player, maybe he is struggling to score now that the NBA is allowing defensive players to play more physically (at least sometimes)--but whatever the cause of his current shooting, and regardless of what may happen in the future, right now Curry is a below average shooter, and shooting is Curry's main value. 

It is interesting to note that the Warriors are winning despite Curry's poor shooting. Some may argue that the Warriors are winning because of Curry's "gravity" creating openings for others--but has such an excuse ever been made for a player who shot worse than .400 from the field for such an extended period of games? A more realistic explanation is that the Warriors are overcoming Curry's poor shooting because they have a lot of talented players, and they are a very good defensive team.

Curry finished first in All-Star balloting among Western Conference guards. He will be an All-Star starter, and his name is regularly mentioned in MVP discussions. Curry was often described as the leading MVP candidate this season, but his "slump" has lasted so long that even his biggest fans are slowly realizing how foolish it sounds to rank him as the leading MVP candidate when Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antekounmpo, and Joel Embiid are not only shooting better than Curry but they are bigger players who are dominating games in multiple ways.

Harden finished fourth in All-Star balloting among Eastern Conference guards, so he will not be a starter, but it will be a surprise if he is not selected as a reserve.

Westbrook received little support in the All-Star balloting, and it will be very surprising if he is selected as an All-Star this season. Westbrook has never been a great shooter, and his field goal shooting/three point shooting this season is in line with his career averages, as are his per minute rebounding and turnover numbers. His assists per minute are down a little bit, but that is what happens to any playmaker who shares the court with LeBron James. Just to be clear, the point is not that Westbrook was or is overrated. The point is that Westbrook is the same player now that he has always been both in terms of shooting efficiency and his floor game; as Hubie Brown noted, Westbrook never cheats the game. Westbrook's problems are (1) his role has been reduced, (2) his team is not performing well for reasons that are largely beyond his control, and (3) many media members have decided to make him the scapegoat for the Lakers' failure to meet high preseason expectations.

The point is not that Westbrook should be an All-Star this season, or that Curry and Harden should not be All-Stars. The point is that media-driven narratives are often based on agendas, not objective reality. We are bombarded with the narrative that Westbrook is having a terrible season and that he is the main reason that the Lakers are performing below expectations, but little is said about Harden's struggles, and almost nothing is said about Curry's poor shooting--and the little that is said about Curry either minimizes his inefficient shooting and/or asserts (with no evidence) that Curry is having a positive impact on winning despite not shooting well.

A conversation rooted in the reality that Westbrook is, in many ways, the same player that he has been when he was properly recognized as an All-Star and an MVP candidate would flow much differently than a conversation rooted in the unfounded allegation that Westbrook has suddenly declined and is no longer an effective player. 

Similarly, a conversation rooted in the reality that Curry has been shooting poorly for most of this season would flow much differently than a conversation rooted in the unfounded notion that Curry is merely in a "slump" and that his "gravity" is more meaningful than his shooting percentages. Likewise, a conversation rooted in the reality that Harden struggles to score when defensive players are permitted to guard him without being called for cheap (i.e., non-existent) fouls would flow much differently than conversation that pretends that Harden is a an elite scorer under any rules set.

Curry shot 5-18 from the field (including 3-10 from three point range) as his Golden State Warriors barely won at home (110-106) versus a Brooklyn Nets team that is without the services of Kevin Durant and James Harden. A crucial late game play involved a phantom foul call in Curry's favor when he leaped into the defender, exactly the kind of shenanigans that the NBA vowed to eliminate this season--and that the NBA has, to a large extent, minimized thus far. ABC's Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson both immediately pointed out that this was a bad call, that the NBA is supposedly eliminating such calls from the game, and that the timing of this call had a big impact on the result of the game. 

I generally don't believe conspiracy theories, and I am not suggesting a conspiracy theory here, but I am concerned that the NBA has noted with chagrin the struggles of Curry, Harden, and other players who have often relied on such shenanigans, and that the NBA may in general be loosening the way such fouls are being called. Again, I am not saying that the NBA is deliberately and overtly favoring specific players or specific teams with specific calls to change the outcome of a given game. My point is that Harden had great difficulty drawing fouls during the first portion of the season, but recently his free throw attempts have increased (though his field goal percentage has been bad throughout the season). Maybe Harden is adjusting to how the game is being officiated, but from what I have seen the NBA is "adjusting" to how poorly some of its marquee players are shooting. This would not be the first time that the NBA announced an officiating "point of emphasis" at the start of the season, and then gradually began not emphasizing that point as the season progressed.

Curry has been an MVP-level player in previous seasons. Harden has been an All-Star level player in previous seasons, and a case could be made that he is still an All-Star level player. However, there is no question that both players have benefited from the way that the game has been officiated in recent seasons, and the way that the strategic emphasis has switched from good shot selection to maximizing the number of three pointers attempted. If Curry and Harden struggle to shoot .400 in an NBA that is slightly more physical in 2022 than it was in 2021, let's put to rest the notion that they would have been 30+ ppg scorers in the 1980s and 1990s; take away the outlandish number of three point attempts, and take away not only the gift free throws but also the advantage of the space that is created because defensive players are wary of being called for fouls, and you take away the advantages that transform Curry and Harden from 20-22 ppg scorers to 30+ ppg scorers. That is not an agenda-based narrative; that is an assertion based on facts and observations.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:46 AM



At Tuesday, February 01, 2022 3:44:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Appreciate your insight as always David.

I agree with your overall point regarding the media. The media goes with clicks/views nowadays. People enjoy criticizing Westbrook. They don't like the way he looks or how he snarls or how he dresses or his snarky postgame sessions. Meanwhile, beyond being must-see TV when he's hot, Curry is the Christian boy next door, polite, charming, and always positive and uplifting.

I do think, however, the main reason Westbrook is being criticized and Curry and Harden aren't (as much), is because the Warriors and Nets are winning. Regardless of the reasons behind why they are winning, winning covers up whatever criticism may be there. That said, Westbrook has not been the best player on the Lakers and in no just world should a non-playoff team get multiple all-stars. I know your point isn't that he should or shouldn't, but in this specific instance -- Westbrook is not an all-star -- the media narrative is correct.

The Lakers were supposed to be a championship contending team and currently would miss the playoffs and the play-in. If they were winning, Westbrook would probably be an all-star (LA does come with benefits to those who win) and wouldn't get as much hate, at least not from Lakers nation.

Side note: regardless of what Westbrook does, he will still be Lescapegoat. Every Lebron team has had one -- Cavs entire supporting cast/Mike Brown, Bosh, Love, Westbrook...which is why, if I were another star, I would have to think loooooong and hard about joining on with Lebron. You have to have supreme mental fortitude and be able to deal with worldwide criticism and hate when things go poorly, especially when it's not your fault).

A couple of comments on a few of your other points. Not sure which media you are reading/following, but I don't see Curry's name mentioned in the MVP discussion anymore. He's sixth on NBA.com's rankings (from back on Jan. 21) and I believe 8th on ESPN's rankings. Jokic, Embiid, and Giannis are the top contenders. KD was there, but will probably drop due to his injury. Chris Paul has made a move into the top 5 (the Suns are 40-9, and have topped Phil Jackon’s 40 wins before all-star break threshold) and probably Morant (he’s been transcendent and the Grizz were playing like a top 10 team before their recent skid) will be there as well when the next rankings come out.

You are correct to point out the Warriors are a fantastic team. Beyond the talent and defense, I think it should be pointed out the entire organization is the best in the business at the moment. The owner spends money and gets out of the way. The GM drafts diamonds, mines the G-League, and has built a roster of parts that all make sense together. Kerr is a top 5 coach. The defense, even without Draymond, is a top unit.

All that said, no matter what the shooting % says, Curry still makes the offense hum. The on-off splits have been very consistent for the better part of the last decade. No cherry-picking here. The data is the data. So, while he’s not an MVP candidate anymore, he is still integral to the offensive identity and production of the rest of the team. They’re not blowing teams out because their offense has slipped due to Curry’s slump and the defense has slipped sans Draymond. But they are still winning because they are a winning organization.

At Tuesday, February 01, 2022 3:45:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Pt. 2/3

A different type of example, I've heard the chatter about how Paul is making Biyombo look like an all-star. Sure, CP is the driver of the offense, but the Suns are a well-built team with clearly defined offensive and defensive identities. Any athletic center that can set solid screens, roll and finish (McGee/Biyombo) can fill in because there is a clearly defined role. If Biyombo were to come to the Lakers, he'd look and play like the fringe NBA player he has shown himself to be over his career because…what the hell is the Lakers identity?

The Lakers have no offensive or defensive identity. Its ownership meddles and opted to not pay the luxury tax. Its GM is pointing fingers. Its franchise player is absolved of all responsibility despite being the deciding factor on how the roster is constructed. There has been zero continuity with the roster with more than half being their first year with the team. Outside of AD and Stanley Johnson (Dwight at least tries), the entire team is made up of lackluster to poor defenders.

Westbrook is simply an easy, convenient target. It’s sad too. Because as the alpha of his former teams – he went out of the way to defend his teammates at every stop – from OKC, to Houston, to Washington. Now, all of his Lakers teammates have left him blowing in the wind to defend himself, by himself. (Interesting to point out as you have about Washington, but Beal threw his second unit under the bus after giving up a 30-point lead, and players like Dinwiddie have been ostracized).

You state, “A conversation rooted in the reality that Westbrook is, in many ways, the same player that he has been when he was properly recognized as an All-Star and an MVP candidate...”

This is true. He is largely the same player.

But, then you go on to say:

“…would flow much differently than a conversation rooted in the unfounded allegation that Westbrook has suddenly declined and is no longer an effective player.”

This is where I disagree to an extent. He is mostly the same player, but that player is no longer as effective when given a tertiary/complementary role, especially as the game has evolved. I am a huge Westbrook fan, have been since he came out of UCLA. But he has major problems with his game. Problems that he has not fixed over the course of his career.

Looking at another SoCal grad in the NBA – DeMar Derozan has evolved his game and improved his game nearly every season throughout his career. He can hit the corner three at an excellent clip now, learned how to distribute the ball as a primary ball-handler, has become an average defender capable of actually fighting through screens and staying close to his man (and guards bigs at times). On top of all of that improvement to glaring weaknesses in his game, he can still destroy teams with his bread and butter – the midrange.

Meanwhile, Westbrook’s weaknesses have only gotten worse. His freethrow shooting has tanked (hard to have a closer that can’t hit freethrows – looking at you Lebron and AD). Westbrook’s defense has fallen off a cliff as well. He was never good, but now he’s objectively terrible. Kobe Bryant evolved from a first team all NBA defender, to a defensive safety later in his career who directed his teammates and was mostly good at help defense. Westbrook is a terrible help defender and an over-aggressive one-on-one defender and has never learned basic defensive fundamentals.

At Tuesday, February 01, 2022 3:47:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Pt 3/3

One positive sign and something I do want to give kudos to, is that Westbrook has adjusted his turnovers over the past couple of months. They’ve gone from nearly 5 a game in December, to 2.7 in January. And while he’s dishing less assists, he’s boosted his A/TO ratio to 2.17 from 1.76. A wonderful sign that he can, in fact, evolve when he tries.

I wish he would imitate Paul or Morant or SGA in terms of how they play point guard. He remains a freak athlete even as his athleticism has clearly declined. But, if he played with pace, and only turned on the jets when needed, he’d be a top 15 player at worst, even if his shooting remained haphazard and poor.

But, he only plays at one pace. GOOOOOOOO! And, that is not conducive as a secondary or tertiary option and does not provide a steady base for good decision making when things get tight.

Along those same lines, if he played solid, smart defense, most wouldn’t care about his shooting woes. Think slightly past-his-prime Jason Kidd.

If Westbrook became a good defender, even if the rest of the Lakers didn’t make any improvements, the team would be much better because that’s how impactful Westbrook’s presence is. When he’s firing on all cylinders, he remains a fringe-MVP talent. But, when he’s off or not paying attention, he torpedoes the entire team.

I am under no disillusionment that Westbrook can change these areas of his game this season, mid-season, but I hold out hope, that this experience shows him what he needs to do to become great once again, and he comes back next year (instead of tries to get away from the team) an improved defender and decision maker.

At Tuesday, February 01, 2022 10:22:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Although media voters did select Westbrook for a very-deserved MVP--after he averaged a triple double for an entire season--in general I would say that he has faced unfair criticism regardless of the success achieved by his team. Early in his career, I wrote that I expected him to succeed Kobe Bryant as both the best guard in the NBA and the most underrated superstar, and both of those predictions came true.

The media votes for All-Star starters. I agree that Westbrook is not one of the two best guards in the West this season. I could make a case that he has played at an All-Star level this season, but I also understand the argument that other guards who have played at an All-Star level for winning teams should be selected over All-Star caliber guards who play for .500 or sub-.500 teams.

At least one of the Sirius XM NBA Radio hosts touted Curry as a top five MVP candidate this past weekend. I don't think that he is the only media member who holds that position. Anyway, this is not just about Curry not being an MVP candidate--where is the criticism for him that Bryant and Westbrook would have received if they had shot that frequently and that horribly for such an extended period? In this context, I am not interested in On/Off splits for the past decade or whatever. Curry has shot horribly for over half of the season, and the media has given him a free pass. The fact that his team is winning at a high rate is more likely evidence that he has great talent around him than it is evidence of his much discussed "gravity."

I like Curry a lot. Go back through the archives, and you will see that I predicted a better NBA future for him than the "experts." I have nothing against him. My issue is with the double standards in media coverage, and right now he is a major beneficiary of this.

I will call out double standards whenever I see them being used, and I often see them being used in NBA coverage.

At Tuesday, February 01, 2022 10:22:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Regarding DeRozan and Westbrook, DeRozan's game changed in San Antonio when Popovich turned him into an undersized point power forward. I have no doubt that Westbrook is coachable and will do whatever he is asked to do. Not one coach of Westbrook has ever had an issue with him. The Lakers have yet to figure out how they want to use Westbrook, but he has done the best he can to do what they want from game to game.

Regarding defense, this is a more complex issue than most people realize. The great defenders and the terrible defenders are generally easy to spot, but--contrary to your opinion--Westbrook is somewhere in the middle, and with players like that you really need to look at the team's defensive scheme, the other players on the court, and what each player is expected to do.

I once talked to Bobby Jones about "gambling" for steals and if that helps or hurts a team. Jones was universally and correctly recognized as one of the game's best defensive players, and he played for a Philadelphia team that was great (but underrated) defensively. Jones told me that with Philadelphia players had the license to gamble for steals, with the understanding that the other four players knew what to do if someone went for a steal but did not get it.

So, when Westbrook gambles is he going against the scheme, or is he supposed to have protection behind him? Without doing candid interviews with the coaching staff, that is hard to say. That does not stop a lot of people from speaking, but most people who speak on such things have no idea what they are talking about.

Also, it is not sufficient to just look at the ratio of steals to gambles that don't produce steals, because a player who goes for deflections and steals can create disruption even without getting the ball.

Again, I am not touting Westbrook as a great defensive player--but I don't think that he is as bad as his critics say. I would say that he is probably not as good defensively as he was in the past, but how many 6-3 guards become better defensively in their 30s?

If I were a Lakers fan, I would be more worried about the team's lack of paint protection and LeBron's defensive indifference than I would be worried about Westbrook's defense. Westbrook's defense is not going to save the day, but it is not going to ruin the day, either.

At Wednesday, February 02, 2022 3:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jordan makes a lot of good points. LAL was supposed to be the team to beat to start this season with 2 top 10 players and another AS/borderline AS(former MVP) along with a bunch of quality role players. Instead, they're currently not even a playoff team when 60 wins should've been an underachievement.

You get more respect when you're the best player on a top team, this is nothing new, and it usually makes a lot of sense. RW is the 3rd best player on a non-playoff team. Curry is by far the best player on the 2nd best team in the league. RW won an MVP on a low-level playoff team that flamed out poorly in the 1st round. Harder to imagine any other player who's gotten more respect than that for any particular season.

CP3 is a bit overrated in most circles though you overrate RW quite a bit in here, but CP3's teams improve everywhere he goes, which isn't the case with RW. RW wins the skillset comparison between the 2 everyday, but when it doesn't add up in more team success for RW, it makes you think. And I know RW has been to several more CF's than CP3, but it's not like Paul couldn't have done that either with a prime KD. Look at what an old CP3 did last season with nobody near KD status. RW has had played on multiple teams these last few years with an AS teammate at each stop and not doing much team-wise.

I don't quite agree with Jordan about RW's defense though. It's not as bad as most claim. It's not great and he doesn't seem to understand how to play proper defense, but his energy makes up for a lot of his mistakes, but nowhere near all-league status obviously. If nothing else, his rebounding and steals are elite which are part of defense.

Back to the article a little: Curry and Harden both have higher eFG% and TS% than RW. I think it's important to look at all areas: FG% in general, but 3-pt% and FT%. But, eFG% and TS% incorporate multiple factors and should be more important to look at. RW is the only player of these 3 with a major liability in any area, in fact he has it in 2 areas: 3-pt% and FT%. He used to be a great FT% shooter, but now it's a weakness for him, and he should never shoot another 3-pointer in his career unless there's 1 second on the shot clock or it's a desperation heave at the end of a quarter.

At Wednesday, February 02, 2022 4:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard to argue for a player like RW as an AS for a current non-playoff team who is only the 3rd best player on his team, especially when his play has clearly dropped off considerably this season. And even last season, he didn't do much for the first 3/5 of the season and then had another poor playoffs. But with lots of injuries, etc this season, RW might get in or should get in.

For locks in the west you have: Booker, Paul, Curry, Morant, Mitchell, Gobert, Doncic, Jokic, James, Towns. Crazy to think for a 24-27 team that is greatly underachieving, but RW might be next guy at #11, and LAL might get 2 guys.

Why is it so unbelievable for Curry to be a top 5 MVP candidate this season? Best player on the 2nd best team averaging 26,6,6. Jokic, Giannis, and Embiid are probably top 3 players so far this year. I'm not greatly impressed with Jokic individually, but he is elevating his depleted team and obviously in MVP conversation. Giannis is phenomenal individually, but his team is underachieving. Embiid is doing great, but he's missed too many games so far, and only on pace for 62 games-not enough for MVP in my mind usually.

Other guys worth mentioning: Paul, Booker, Morant, James, Durant, Gobert, Mitchell, DeRozan. Paul elevates his teams and probably playing better than Nash when Nash won, but neither should be serious MVP candidates. Booker is improving but isn't there yet, and I'm not sure who is the best player on PHO either currently. Morant maybe deserves some consideration, but I doubt any GM is taking Morant over Curry for this current season. James is putting up big numbers though stat-padding some but is greatly underachieving team-wise. Gobert/Mitchell are neither elite players. KD has been hurt too much. DeRozan probably deserves some consideration, but better than Curry? Even with Curry's subpar shooting, which really isn't that poor when looking at eFG% and TS%, being in the top 5 for MVP isn't only a stretch, but makes a lot of sense. I'd probably leave Jokic, Giannis, and Embiid(though he can't miss many more games) over Curry, but hard for me to put anyone else for him currently. I could care less if he's not getting criticized much. He's still playing great and having great team success. He's in his 13th season and 33yo, that's really old for the NBA. I know there's several other 'older' guys doing well like RW/CP3, but that's extremely impressive what Curry's doing playing at an elite level.

At Wednesday, February 02, 2022 11:02:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The Lakers were far from a consensus pick to be the best team. Some commentators thought that the parts do not fit, while others felt that the older players would not be able to stay healthy. I predicted that if the Lakers stayed healthy then they would be the best team in the West. They have not stayed healthy, so it is difficult to know what to make of them. I would have expected them to do better than they are now even with the injuries that they have experienced, but the season is not over and the playoffs have not even begun.

The point with Westbrook is not just the "respect" he is receiving or not receiving this season, but the media's consistent tendency to heap blame on him while only begrudgingly acknowledging his accomplishments. Yes, the media voted him MVP once, but he had to have an unprecedented triple double season to win the award. Since that time, he continued to post triple double seasons, and media members pretended that it is somehow normal and not exceptional for a 6-3 guard to average 10 rpg, never mind that he also was a big-time scorer and playmaker while doing so.

I've discussed Westbrook's regular season career and his playoff career in depth, so I am not going to rehash all of that material here.

Regarding CP3, he has won exactly the same number of championships as Westbrook and made exactly the same number of Finals appearances. You and others focus a lot on Paul's supporting casts--which have consistently been better than they are portrayed to be--but do not say much about the opposition that he faced, nor do you mention how consistently Paul either gets injured or just wears down during the playoffs.

We agree about Westbrook's defense. I have mentioned before that defensive rebounds are a key part of defense, but I should have mentioned that in my reply to Jordan so thank you for bringing that up.

TS% does not mean much. It is a made up number based on preconceived notions that may or may not be correct. There is some merit to looking at eFG% in terms of assigning proper weight to three point shooting, but you are missing the larger point here: Curry's main skill set advantage is shooting, but he has been shooting poorly for months and media members either pretend this is not happening or else speak solemnly about his "gravity." Look, Westbrook's ability to attack the paint creates a "gravity" just as significant as Curry's three point shooting; Curry compels defense to extend, while Westbrook compels defenses to contract to protect the paint. "Gravity" does not matter if the players who you pass to cannot make open shots. Westbrook would easily be leading the NBA in assists this season if the Lakers could make open shots more consistently.

I agree that Westbrook shoots too many three pointers. However, I disagree that he should never shoot them. Look at Giannis. He is not a great shooter, but sometimes you have to take (and, of course, at least occasionally make) three point shots to keep the defense honest. Giannis is essentially a bigger version of Westbrook surrounded by a better team (and helped by better coaching).

At Thursday, February 03, 2022 12:56:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I am not campaigning for Westbrook to be a 2022 All-Star. My point is that he is talked about as if he is a below average player now, and that is ridiculous. A case could be made to put him on the All-Star team, but you correctly stated the case against this: a team that is not winning at a high level typically does not have multiple All-Stars.

If Curry is a top five MVP candidate this season (and I don't think that he is right now) then he is fifth and he is way behind the top three. The top two are Giannis and Jokic in whatever order you prefer. Embiid is third, but if he misses a few more games then he goes off of my list entirely. Morant is absolutely playing better than Curry.

DeRozan is playing better than Curry. Booker is playing at least as well as Curry. Gobert has been more valuable this season than Curry, but Gobert has already missed nine games so he is on the fringe of not qualifying for MVP consideration. Durant is having a better season than Curry, but Durant is disqualified because he has missed too many games.

Do you really think that Curry is "playing great"? He is a great player and he is definitely playing at an All-Star level overall, but I would not saying that he is playing great by the standards that he has set, and by the standards usually set for MVP players.

At Thursday, February 03, 2022 12:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Players have unprecedented seasons every year, and sometimes they're not even AS-caliber players. Just because RW reached the magic numbers to average a triple-double shouldn't automatically make him the MVP. And now that we've seen RW as the #1 guy sans KD and sometimes even the #2 guy and usually fail to make it past the 1st round, why would people keep voting him MVP? And it's not like he hasn't had some good teammates. He's had at least one other AS teammate almost every season. Until recently where his rebounding/assist totals have dropped significantly, he was averaging around 9 rebounds and 9 assists despite just being a borderline AS.

I don't think CP3 has had better casts than RW. CP3(with less) did better in OKC than RW did the previous year. CP3 did much better in HOU than RW. CP3 basically replaced Rubio in PHO and led the charge taking PHO from a non-playoff team to the Finals. It's really hard to see how RW making his teams better than CP3 does. LAL should be the team to beat, and right now they're not even in the playoff picture. It makes sense to question the new guy coming in, which happens to be RW. It's not just the media either, it's his own organization, too.

TS% incorporates all aspects of shooting to see how efficient players are. It's not this is some weird formula like PER or win shares. It is a very useful stat. eFG% combines 2's and 3's only. If you can make more 3's with the same eFG% as someone else, obviously that player is more valuable, solely based on looking at this stat without considering in any other variables.

LAL is averaging 111ppg, while the top team in the league is averaging 114ppg. RW's team is scoring perfectly fine. It's not like they're near the bottom of the league offensively.

If your 3pt% is 30% or less and when you're basically wide open most of the time for 3's, this is a detriment to your team. Stepping 2 feet inside the arc is a low-percentage shot overall, but a better option for RW. You don't need to take 3's to keep the defense honest. Shaq never had to do this. Giannis doesn't need to either. Giannis is at .277 for 3's this season. Even if he's making a few, the defense still isn't going to guard him very closely behind the arc.

At Thursday, February 03, 2022 12:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see anyone saying RW is a below-average player, though he's worse this season from last season. It's primarily because his team is greatly underachieving and he's the new face-makes sense he's getting some criticism along his diminishing play some. He's still very good, but his decision making continues to be terrible. If only he could harness some of this to go along with superb talent level. It's hard for me to see any middling starting PG replace RW this season so far, and LAL being worse than 25-27 either, can you?

Sounds like you have Curry around 7th or 8th at worst, and barely behind a few guys ahead of him. I'm still confused why you think someone saying he's 5th is that bizarre?

Embiid likely won't play enough games, so I'm dropping him now. KD won't. Booker is still a gunner, and still not sure he's the best player on his team. CP3 is the leader and much better defensively, too. Gobert has missed 10 games already, too. Morant has recently overtaken Curry probably. I'm good with Morant, DeRozan, and Gobert maybe over Curry currently. But I could see cases for anyone of them over the others. Curry's in the 4-9 range.

I don't really care about the standards players set for themselves. I compare based on current players in current season. Curry isn't playing the best he's ever played obviously, but he's still playing great overall. He looks like a top 10-15 player at worst. He isn't playing at an MVP level, which I never said he was.

At Thursday, February 03, 2022 3:30:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Westbrook is 98th in the NBA with 2.0 deflections per game. He’s 76th in steals at 1.1 per game.

For comparison’s sake, James Harden is 40th in deflections at 2.3 per game and 42nd in steals with 1.2.

I’m not going to make sweeping statements about their defensive ability on these numbers alone. But it is an interesting data point.

You are 100% correct that Westbrook, when he has a defensive deterrent behind him (AD, Adams, Gafford), creates a lot of transition opportunities with his steals. But, he’s not generating a lot of those this year due to personnel (injuries), scheme, and/or diminished speed.

As a Lakers fan, I AM absolutely worried about a lack of paint protection, especially when we rely on a paint protector made of papier-mache.

Anyway, I believe the main point of your article is the bias that the media clearly shows. Of this, we are in full agreement.

I think the biggest, most underreported story, is how the players are screwing themselves ahead of what will most definitely be a one-sided collective bargaining negotiation. The sacrifices – the lock outs, lost paychecks, lost equity – that previous generations of NBA players made to get to where we are at, is being spit on and laughed at by a group of self-absorbed, self-important, ridiculously paid athletes who aren’t even…playing!

Kyrie has missed all but 9 games this season due to…his own research. He is a part time player making fulltime money. Ben Simmons has sat out the entire season because…his feelings were hurt by his meanie teammates. James Harden, after sitting out the beginning of last year to force a trade (a year after he signed a mega extension), is talking about moving on from the Nets, mid-season. The Nets are still in the middle of a title run, and he’s talking to the media about free agency five months from now!

Julius Randle played great one season, got a big pile of money, and came back and sucked. And, he’s talking smack about the New York fans. Bradley Beal, who has proven only one thing, that without Westbrook or Wall, he is merely an empty stats guy who can’t even carry a pretty good team to the playoffs, let alone lead a franchise. He and his wife are talking about signing a mega extension – in the middle of the season while his team is losing and he’s out injured.

These are the stories that the media should be hammering home. These selfish players are ruining it for the rest of the league. And it is blatant and horrible for the game.

I have always sided with the players against ownership. And I am not “siding” with ownership here either. That said, the NBA is a business. And players do sign contracts. And a contract is a legally binding agreement that they will perform, you know, basketball.
Access or no, the media should be responsible for pointing out how bad this is for the game. And while some mention these things, the Westbrook SUCKS! crowd is bigger and louder.

At Thursday, February 03, 2022 3:33:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Pt 2/2

I will add – trying to be as objective as possible – the media is in a tough spot themselves. Journalism has declined to such a degree, that even the most “newsy” of the news outlets, still resorts to “journalism” covering Tweets. Whereas back in the 70s, a journalist was well respected and made good money and could chase actual news stories, nowadays, no one subscribes to news. They just expect to get if for free. You get what you pay for. And media has resorted to covering whatever gets ad $$. Clicks, views get ad $$.

As a former newspaper man (small local LA paper), I did my best to ask smart questions (not always an easy thing). And, there were times I received no response or rude responses. As a journalist, it was my obligation and duty to still report on that person as objectively as possible. However, bias does creep in. We are human. Today’s media doesn’t care about journalistic integrity. Just sound bites and clicks. C.R.E.A.M.

That said, Westbrook has done himself no favors. He is often prickly and even dismissive of the media. I’ve seen him flat out embarrass people on live TV. Regardless if they were deserving of ridicule or not (most of them absolutely were), it does paint a picture. And, if we know anything about anything nowadays, all it takes is a sliver of truth to explode into a bunch of biased BS.

Curry, Harden, and CP, don’t have these reputations with the media. Curry is a media darling. CP is Lebron’s Jedi master in terms of how carefully he has crafted his image within the media. Harden carries on like he does with everything. He just does him.

I love Westbrook for never apologizing to anyone for who he is and what he does and how he does it.

At the same time, if he was open to critique (he listened to Shaq...and it worked! He's cut his turnovers), he could still be one of the best guards in the league, on a winning team, and be a part of a championship run.

At that point…if that happens, Westbrook won’t have to worry about all of the unfair criticism he’s getting.

The media will be too busy singing Lebron’s praises. :P

At Thursday, February 03, 2022 7:50:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Players do not have unprecedented seasons every year, and what Westbrook accomplished has only been accomplished once--by a player who is without question one of the 10 greatest players of all-time. For a long time, no one thought that anyone could match Oscar Robertson's feat of averaging a triple double for an entire season. I never said that Westbrook should have won multiple MVPs; I have said that he is criticized in a way that other players are not criticized, and I have provided specific examples as evidence to support my assertion.

I have discussed Westbrook's career and Paul's career at length, so I am not going to relitigate all of that here.

TS% artificially multiplies FTA by .44. It is a made up stat, and it does not correlate particularly well with offensive efficiency in an overall sense. I am not sure if you are the same Anonymous who asked about TS% in a different thread, but I explained in that thread why I don't put much weight on TS%: "L.A. Lakers Drama"

You are correct the eFG% combines twos and threes, but so what? A player's shooting efficiency does not tell me much about his overall value. Also, players and teams who rely heavily on three pointers may look efficient on paper or on a spreadsheet, but that is a high variance way to play, and it consistently fails to produce championships (as James Harden and Houston proved every year).

I hope that you can see that Shaq is a much different player than Westbrook or even Giannis. Shaq was a pure post player. Of course it would make no sense for Shaq to shoot threes. Giannis is a point forward. He attacks the paint a lot, but on the drive more so than on the post. If he is unable or unwilling to shoot from the perimeter then teams can just sag off of him, as teams did for years versus LeBron in the playoffs. We agree that Giannis and Westbrook should not shoot a ton of threes, but we disagree that they should not shoot any at all.

At Thursday, February 03, 2022 8:10:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


If you don't see/hear Westbrook being described as worse than average then I don't know what to say. Media members have been calling for him to be benched, and they practically declared a national holiday after Westbrook was taken out for the final three minutes of one game (which the Lakers lost without Westbrook on the court).

LeBron has been indifferent on defense, Davis has missed a ton of games and been inconsistent when he plays, and the Lakers got rid of most of their depth to acquire Westbrook; this is only going to work if LeBron, Davis, and Westbrook play at a high level. On a per minute basis, Westbrook is playing at approximately his usual level, so how is the Lakers' mediocrity mostly his fault? Of course, he shares part of the blame because he is a member of the team, but the focus on him is out of proportion.

I can go along with dropping Embiid from the MVP conversation based on games missed. That still leaves us with Giannis and Jokic way ahead of everyone else. This is a two horse race unless one of them gets hurt or just falls off of the map (or unless a third player who is already playing well lifts his game to some incredible level such that his overall impact matches what Giannis and Jokic have been consistently doing all season). I said that if Curry is fifth then he is way behind the top four; I did not say that Curry is fifth in my book, and I don't think that it matters who is fifth because the fifth best player is not a legit MVP candidate this season. In some years there really are four or five legit candidates, but that is not the case this season. So, call Curry fifth or eighth or 10th--he should not be in the conversation this season, period, but media members touted him as the leading candidate for months until he piled up so many bricks that even the media members could not believe their own propaganda.

If Westbrook dropped off in his best skill set areas (rebounding and assists) the way that Curry has dropped off as a shooter then the media would talk about it every day; they are doing that anyway with Westbrook, who is still an elite rebounder and passer, but with Curry the focus is shifted away from his horrible shooting to his "gravity." Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant both had more "gravity" than Curry ever did or ever will, but media members apply different narratives to Jordan and Bryant than they do to Curry. Jordan is the great hero who won despite his supporting cast, while Bryant is the selfish gunner who did not pass the ball. These stick figure portraits are nonsense, but those are the simple minded narratives preferred by simple minded people. The Curry narrative is that he magically creates "gravity" that makes every single teammate infinitely better. The CP3 narrative is that he is the best leader ever, which is hilarious considering that he has been playing on talented teams forever and has one Finals appearance on his resume. At least he has one more Finals appearance than Nash, the last great leader who never won anything. I would take Bryant as my basketball leader any day over Paul and Nash, because Bryant actually led teams to championships.

The infamous False Bucket blog once published a story about how often Steve Nash high fived his teammates, and argued--with a straight face--that this proved how great of a teammate and leader he was. I think that Bryant pushing Pau Gasol to play at the highest level Gasol ever reached is a much better and more relevant example of leadership than how often Nash high fived his teammates.

At Thursday, February 03, 2022 8:19:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I am not sure how accurate the official steals numbers are, and I definitely am skeptical of how accurate the deflection numbers are. Anyway, even if the numbers are accurate, that does not change my point regarding the information that is needed to assess a player's defensive impact vis a vis the team's game plan and defensive assignments.

With Harden, anyone who watches him play knows that he is a solid post defender, and that he has quick hands; he gets a few deflections and steals, but he also is a turnstile on the perimeter, and he has become legendary for how often he completely quits on defensive possessions. Even if he has 10 deflections per game, he is still a losing player on defense, and don't think for a second that his lower paid teammates are not keenly aware of his priorities and effort level.

You make some valid points about how the players are potentially harming their bargaining position with their conduct, particularly in terms of missing games and not giving great effort after receiving max deals. It is a bit of a stretch to connect that to the main points of this article, though; I guess your point is that the media should focus on other issues as opposed to bashing Westbrook, but the reality is that if they stopped bashing Westbrook it would only be because they have found another, more appealing target. It's not like they are going to suddenly stop bashing Westbrook and then focus on real issues.

At Thursday, February 03, 2022 8:58:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Popovich is much more dismissive of the media and yet he basks in the glory of their praise. By the way, how much has he won without Duncan and Leonard? Interesting that media members never even mention that, but they are quick to criticize other coaches.

So, you may be right that to an extent how a player or coach deals with the media impacts coverage, but media members pick and choose their favorites for reasons that are sometimes not so obvious.

Anyway, I could not care less why media members are not fair to Westbrook; that is their shortcoming and their problem. My role is to expose them, not figure out why they do their job so poorly.

I don't agree with the notion that Westbrook is not coachable or that he refuse to evolve. He entered the NBA as a big-time scorer whose ability to be a playmaker was regularly questioned by the same media members who now refuse to acknowledge that he became a great playmaker. Westbrook was a loyal second option to Durant, he was an MVP after Durant left, he did whatever was asked of him in Houston, he did whatever was asked of him in Washington, and he is trying to figure out what the Lakers want him to do. Just because he does not play the way that fans or media members think he should does not prove that Westbrook is not coachable or that he has not adapted his game.

Westbrook is also loyal. He never throws his teammates or coaches under the bus. I would go to war with him any day. LeBron is a more talented player, but I'd only go to war with LeBron if I was 100% sure that he felt like battling that day; LeBron's "chill mode" would be of great concern to me--and Anthony Davis has spent much of his career in "chill mode." It is fascinating that media members ignore these obvious truths and just nitpick Westbrook's game to death.

I am waiting to see in depth coverage of the Nets falling apart at the seams (they currently are the proud owners of the worst active losing streak in the league, and anyone with sense can see how awful Harden is as the first or even second option when he does not have big brother KD to save him). I guess if I want to see in depth coverage of Harden's poor play I will have to provide it myself, because no one else is going to do it.

At Friday, February 04, 2022 6:46:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


Westbrook been bad this year as laker fan

He hasnt played well overall

He still rebounded well

But that it

Bad desicion making
Bad shooting
Bad defense

He on downside and he never fit the lakers

I mean he was good in prime with kd and after as a solo act but now on this team he doesnt fit

He lost the lakers too many games fown stretch with

Bad plays
Missed layups
Bad jump shots
Bad defense

Last night the latest example

He just isnt very good if a team not tailor made for him

I dont think its a media narrative its the truth

With kobe people disliked him as a person

That was never the case with westbrook

And the media was extremely bias and unfair to kobe

Westbrook i dont think that it

Media sees what we all see

A ageing pg not playing well

At Friday, February 04, 2022 7:52:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I have never believed in evaluating a player based on one game or on small sample sizes in general, but if you want to talk about last night's action then I have to ask what game did you watch last night? It certainly was not Clippers-Lakers, during which Westbrook led a second half comeback that would have resulted in victory had Anthony Davis' shot at the buzzer not rimmed out. Westbrook had a plus/minus number of +5 in that game. No Laker starter other than Westbrook had a positive plus/minus number. Marcus Morris led the Clippers with 29 points on 10-16 field goal shooting. Last time I checked, it is not Westbrook's job to guard small forwards. The Clippers shot .517 from the field, and six of the 10 Clippers who played shot .500 or better from the field; last time I checked, it is not Westbrook's job to guard every player on the other team.

Westbrook's per minute numbers this season are comparable with his career numbers. His per game numbers are down because the Lakers have diminished his role. Here is a crazy thought: maybe the Lakers should increase his role! Of course, the Lakers are not going to do that, because General Manager LeBron James has to make sure that Player LeBron James passes Kareem on the all-time scoring list. Westbrook can't be the dominant scorer when LeBron plays, and the Lakers have to be careful about Westbrook scoring too much when LeBron does not play, because that could raise uncomfortable questions.

Westbrook is ninth in the league in assists, and he is averaging nearly 8 rpg, which places him among the top rebounding pgs (depending on how you classify Doncic and Harden). His field goal percentage is slightly above his career average. Westbrook's much-discussed turnovers are right at his career average. Westbrook is actually playing at an All-Star level (18.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 7.7 apg, .441 FG%). Can you name the other players this season who are averaging at least 18.7 ppg, at least 7.8 rpg, and at least 7.7 apg? The answer: Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, James Harden, and DeJounte Murray. Jokic is the reigning MVP and might win the MVP this season. Doncic is regularly mentioned as an MVP candidate, and he was a lock for the All-Star team. No one can imagine not putting Harden on the All-Star team. Murray is playing for a team with a much worse record than Westbrook's team, but Murray is considered a rising star based on the same kind of numbers that cause you to call Westbrook washed up!

Stop being brainwashed, and look at the evidence without listening to the nonsense!

I understand that a sub-.500 team is not going to have two All-Stars, and that LeBron is going to get the only All-Star nod for the Lakers, but the notion that Westbrook is washed up is a media-driven narrative with no basis in reality--and the media has been driving false narratives about Westbrook for quite some time.

There is so much focus on Westbrook and on blaming everyone but LeBron--who has already missed 17 out of 53 games--for the Lakers' performance that no one seems to notice that Harden just scored four points as the Nets' losing streak went to six, the longest current losing streak in the league. We are all supposed to pretend to not notice that Harden cannot consistently score at a productive and efficient level now that defenders are permitted to guard him.

At Saturday, February 05, 2022 5:39:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


I watched every game

He consistently miss his defensive assignment or plays no defense

Has a bad timely turnover that leads to a bucket on the other end

He takes alot of bad shots and miss alot of layups

He pretty much cant make a shot pass 10 ft

He not top 10 ppg right now

Lakers made a huge mistake trading for him

Idk if they gonna trade him on the deadline

But if not he will be gone next year

He was good in prime

He done now tho

At Saturday, February 05, 2022 6:57:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


As I have stated many times before, there is a difference between watching and understanding what one has seen; also, an inaccurate assertion does not become accurate the more that it is repeated.

I have presented evidence to support my views, and I see no need to repeat what I have said, particularly in the absence of even a hint of evidence refuting what I have said.

At Sunday, February 06, 2022 9:23:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...


He went 1-10

He literally got booed at home and fans dont want him to shoot he playing so bad

And he was benched in ot

And ur saying he playing well is comical

Now i feel bad for him he a prideful guy was a hof player and to go back to hometown abd hear that got to hurt

Russ never worked on his game and its caught up with him

Malik monk and melo been much better this year and are making minimum

Its sad to watch cause russ does play hard he simply done as a player

At Sunday, February 06, 2022 11:09:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


So, your previous comments predicted the future?

We were talking about how he had played up to that point. I presented my evidence, and you did nothing to refute it.

Did Westbrook have a bad game last night? Absolutely--it was probably his worst game of the season. That does not change the fact that his per minute averages this season are in line with his career per minute averages, nor does it change the fact that only a handful of players are averaging 18 ppg, 7 rpg, and 7 apg--and none of those players receive the criticism that Westbrook receives.

Fans booing is not an objective evaluation of performance. It is also stupid to boo your own player just for missing shots. Fans should boo when a player is not playing hard. Anyone can miss shots. For good reason it is often said that if you listen to the fans you will end up sitting next to them.

"Russ never worked on his game." Really? He entered the league as a scorer and he became the all-time triple double champion who has led the league in assists three times.

Please stop repeating other people's talking points that make no sense, and try to evaluate what is actually happening.

One thing that we did see last night is that when LeBron, Davis, and Westbrook play together Westbrook becomes the third option on offense, relegated to standing behind the three point line. That is coaching--which goes back to Vogel and/or LeBron. Every star player who plays with LeBron has to accept declining per game numbers, from Wade to Bosh to Love to Irving to Davis and now to Westbrook. Westbrook should either have the ball in his hands running the offense, or he should be cutting to the hoop. When LeBron and Davis play a two man game with Westbrook behind the three point line, it is not surprising that Westbrook only has 10 FGA--and when you take a player who is used to having more FGA to get into a rhythm and place him in a situation where he has fewer FGA (and those FGA are often not from his sweet spots), that is an adjustment. How many times have we seen Westbrook have a bad shooting stretch and then got hot? We just saw it last week--but with LeBron out of the lineup, the FGA were there for Westbrook to shoot his way into rhythm.

The great Hubie Brown did a Lakers game last week. Brown is justifiably renowned not only for his in game analysis but for his research before each game. His take on Westbrook is nothing like yours. You should have watched that game (or read my recap) to better understand what is happening.

Recycled "Screamin'" A. Smith hot takes do you no credit.


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