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Friday, January 01, 2010

Positional Designations Matter

Before Kevin Durant played his first NBA regular season game, I declared that then-Seattle Coach P.J. Carlesimo was making a mistake by shifting Durant from his natural forward position to shooting guard. Durant had never played the guard position before and I predicted that this change would make Durant's adjustment to the NBA more difficult--and that is exactly what happened. Durant did not look like a future All-Star in the making until Scott Brooks replaced Carlesimo; Brooks' first big decision was to put Durant back in his comfort zone at small forward. Durant's statistics immediately improved across the board and his numbers have continued to rise since that time.

It was amusing but not surprising to notice that many so-called NBA experts dismissed the effect of the position change, arguing that the small forward and shooting guard positions are not really that different. While there can be some similarities between those positions and there are some players whose physiques/skill sets enable them to be effective in both roles (Kobe Bryant and LeBron James leap to mind), the demands and responsibilities are indeed different. During Thursday night's Sixers-Clippers game, TNT's outstanding NBA commentator Doug Collins--a four-time All-Star shooting guard who also coached in the NBA for eight seasons--talked about how much better Andre Iguodala has played this season since being moved back to small forward from shooting guard. Collins declared, "A lot of people think that '2' (shooting guard) and '3' (small forward) spot is interchangeable. It is not." Five-time All-Star shooting guard Reggie Miller immediately agreed with Collins.

With all of the statistical analysis that has recently become so prevalent in NBA circles, wouldn't it be interesting to go through the posts at this site, compare them to the material that is published at ESPN, Yahoo!, Slam Online and other "big name" content providers and see who consistently produces the most correct analysis about such matters? It should surprise no one that the same so-called expert (Kevin Pelton) who praised the Lakers' supposedly revolutionary defensive scheme early last season--when in fact the Lakers' defense was hardly new or revolutionary, as my conversation with Lakers' assistant coach Jim Cleamons confirmed--also declared that it is an "overblown" assertion to say that the position switch significantly helped Durant's progress. So, compare, contrast and draw your own conclusions about who really knows the NBA game and who simply does a good job of promoting his name in the blogosphere but does not understand how the sport works; when a certain True Hoop Network member cited Pelton's work in a misguided attempt to refute my analysis of the New York Knicks it was a classic example of the blind leading the blind--one person who does not understand the NBA game relying on commentary by another person who also does not understand the NBA game.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:09 AM



At Friday, January 01, 2010 10:30:00 AM, Anonymous JakF said...

I think you are right on that note. Lately people have been using some type of formula that they invented to come up with a number and say that number represent how valuable or efficient a player is. There was this chat going on at ESPN about John Hollinger's prediction on what type of production a player will have for the upcoming season(09-10). I asked him how did he come with the prediction that kobe's production would start declining. He started by saying that decline in FTs is an onimous sign and he didnt think Kobe would match last season's numbers(08-09). I look at Kobe's stats this year, his numbers are up accross the board from last season. I asked Hollinger again, how does he explain that? He never answered back.
Last season, with his formula that predicts which team will win the NBA finals. He had the Cavaliers facing the Nuggets. Why? because for one he thought the Cavs were the best team in the league(based on his PER diem) and that it was time to crown the King(his exact words). And the nuggets were the best team in the playoffs(based on his per DIEM) again. On the other hand, NBA experts(people who played the game) thought the Lakers will beat the Nuggets because they had size, they were tougher mentally and they had kobe. And they thought that Orlando would seriously challenge cleveland because of mismatches at PF and Center. When those predictions came true, Hollinger came up with some boring excuse why the Lakers won and said that Lebron's teammates just weren't that good.
Flashforward to this year, with ESPN hyping up the Christmas game between Lakers-Cavs. David Thorpe wrote some article about how Lebron was a better perimeter shooter than Kobe. and he basically omitted that the perimeter is 5 places on the floor(at the rim, under 10 feet, 10 to 15 feeet, 16-23 feet, 3pointers). When i went to hoopdata.com which track this numbers, Kobe beats lebron handily in 3 out of the 5 categories. In fact, Kobe beats everybody who scores over 20ppg at these categories. He might have even beat him in 3s had he not had 2 fractured fingers on his shootin hand. He even had Lebron as a better on the ball defender than Kobe while GMs and coaches around the league ranks kobe as the best or second best on the ball defender in the league. His final numbers were something like 77-75 which had lebron winning. I dont really care about the final result, i just found the way he got to that number questionable.

At Friday, January 01, 2010 10:32:00 AM, Anonymous JakF said...

back to hollinger, He had another PER-Diem type post that ranked the best players of the decade. He had SHAQ ranked 4th. and had garnett ranked ahead of Shaq and Kobe. How comical is that? The same shaq who went to the finals 5 times, won 4. The same shaq who usually dominated garnett whenever they met in the playoffs or regular season(when he was shaq). Of course Duncan would be a safe choice, best PF ever. likeable dude, dont get into trouble things like that. teams won 50 games regularly. But how can he be player of the decade when his teams never went back-2-back and only won 3 finals(people seem to think 99 was part of the decade too). he had Kobe at #3, while kobe went to the finals 6 times, won four. and just won a title after his laker team had lost it the previous year. I heard Jeff Van Gundy saying the other day How hard it was for a team that had lost a finals, to go back there and win it all(which hadn't been done in 20 years) and that it spoke volumes about the leadership there. To drive that point home, Another analyst said that Orlando is struggling right now because they are expected to make it back to the finals and the pressure is getting to them.
On Durant: I like watching him play the game. The Thunder are one of the most exciting young teams to watch play. If they had a better Center(say Marc Gasol and to lesser extent Perkins) who can man the middle. They'd be a serious contender in the West. They are set at all other position in their starting Five. And Durant is only 21. He'll only get better.
On Statistical Analysis: Case in point darryl morrey of the Houston Rockets. Why is it people keep crediting statistical analysis as the reason for their success? Any coaches will tell you that if you defend, you play hard and play basketball the right way , you will reap positive results.
On your writing: Why don't you try to get a job at Foxsports or cbssports or something? I know ESPn wont hire since you dont see eye to eye with their experts. And that juggernaut named truehoop is only gettin bigger.


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