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Monday, February 20, 2017

The NBA All-Star Game Has Become a Farce

The Western Conference's 192-182 victory over the Eastern Conference is without question the worst NBA All-Star Game that I have ever watched. Other than the MLB All-Star Game that ended in a tie (and many NFL Pro Bowls of recent vintage) it may be the worst major professional league All-Star Game ever. When the reigning two-time regular season MVP literally lies down on the court instead of attempting to play defense, you know that the event has jumped the shark.

The outcome seemed scripted. The West led almost the entire way and it became obvious very early that Anthony Davis--who plays for the host city's New Orleans Pelicans--was going to be the MVP. Russell Westbrook, the only player on the court who ever seemed to even remotely take competition seriously (though his intensity was ratcheted down about 50%), had a shot at not only winning the MVP for an unprecedented third straight year but also breaking Wilt Chamberlain's All-Star record of 42 points. Instead, with the East still within striking distance, West Coach Steve Kerr benched Westbrook for the last several minutes. Wedtbrook finished with 41 points. Davis ended up with 52 points and the MVP trophy. I cannot recall a coach freezing out his best player with the outcome up for grabs. It looked like maybe everyone but Westbrook had agreed that Davis would be the MVP, so Westbrook had to be taken out before he took over the game.

Last year, I wrote that it would be a shame if Chamberlain's record fell to someone who made a bunch of uncontested shots. Sadly, that is exactly what Davis did. The NBA All Star Game has been heading downhill for years but yesterday's farce was a new low. It is difficult to take seriously any statistics or records from a game in which no one played hard. No one reasonably expects the All-Star Game to have the same intensity level of the playoffs but players used to at least take the outcome seriously.

In the 1980s, the games were fun and included fancy plays but no one literally lay down on the court; shots were contested and it was considered a badge of honor to try to block a dunk, as opposed to cowering in fear or treating competition like a joke.

I am not sure how to solve this problem but I wish that the best players loved to compete more than they worried about protecting their brand.

posted by David Friedman @ 12:12 PM



At Monday, February 20, 2017 3:44:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

The All-Star game has been a punchline for at least a decade now. I don't even watch anymore. It's a real shame, as the 80s AS games (and some of the 90s ones) were unbelievably fun/good/competitive.

But, hey, Kevin Durant through RWB an alley-oop, so now we get three dozen think pieces on that. Hooray.

At Monday, February 20, 2017 11:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


It's been going downhill for a while but the past couple years have been ridiculous.

At Tuesday, February 21, 2017 10:00:00 AM, Blogger beep said...

AS game is just disgusting now.

I'd rather watch Harlem Globetrotters, at least I know what it is.

At Tuesday, February 21, 2017 10:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Depends what you like. Webber/Miller sure sounded excited to see 200 points scored potentially. We've only seen a huge trend in the past 3-5 years with the last 2 years being extraordinarily high scoring. I thought last year's game was still quite good, but this year not really, though still fun to watch. Not quite sure why most players aren't playing that hard anymore.

Anthony Davis winning MVP was definitely scripted, which is unfortunate, but awesome RW had no intention to let that script take place. He should've thrown a fit after Kerr took him out. I was surprised James didn't play in the 4th. I guess Stevens was in on the act. Kerr should be fined for scripting the MVP to Davis.

At Saturday, February 25, 2017 3:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree it was totally unwatchable, and an utter embarrassment. (I couldn't take more than about 10 minutes.)

I'm not sure why anyone would care who got the MVP, though, and it seems weird to talk about Westbrook getting slighted. When no one is playing a single iota of D, that award has literally no meaning. It's a totally empty designation.

At Saturday, February 25, 2017 11:18:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


All-Star Game MVP is an honor that carries--or used to carry--some prestige. Obviously, it is not nearly as significant as regular season or Finals MVP but it used to mean something. As David Stern used to say every year when he handed out the trophy, the All-Star MVP is "the star among the stars." Davis' scoring record and All-Star MVP will be listed alongside the records and honors of players who earned those distinctions at a time when the All-Stars actually competed.

At Monday, February 27, 2017 6:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sure, Davis's record and MVP will be listed with the others, from a time when the award meant a little something, and it shouldn't be. But the same would have been true if Westbrook had broken the record or won the MVP: the fact that the game can't even be accurately described as a "game" anymore makes both things completely meaningless.

Anyway, I agree on general point that the game is broken and shouldn't continue as is--but also believe there can be no "right" or "honest" choice (aside from no selection at all) when the game has been so thoroughly degraded.

At Sunday, March 05, 2017 2:06:00 PM, Blogger Awet M said...

I have been watching the all-star games since the 1992 game in Orlando. That was a classic, although there were elements of farce even back then. Recently I watched some of the older all-star games from the 70s - they were indistinguishable from the actual games back then.

For what it's worth. Adam Silver said they're thinking of changes for the next All-Star game. They are tossing around silly stuff like 10 point half court shots or 4 point shots.

Instead of bricks from 45 feet, I recommend the following:

Add monetary results to the winner. $500k to a million set aside from the collective bargaining agreement to the winner of the All Star game, and the winners split the $$$ evenly. Perhaps pick a charity for the winnings to be donated.

Right now there is no incentive for the all stars to compete.

At Monday, March 06, 2017 10:57:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The Commissioner's proposals are silly and would not solve the problem of players not competing.

Draymond Green recently said that the players are not paid enough to compete. If I am not mistaken, each player on the winning team this year received $50,000, which is more than many people make in an entire year.

If Draymond's sentiments reflect how most players feel, then they are spoiled and out of touch. The NBA should cancel the game, donate the money to charity and televise reruns of the All-Star Games from the 1970s and 1980s.

At Monday, March 06, 2017 12:27:00 PM, Blogger beep said...


I don't think money are the incentive here, nor that players would compete for more than 50k $, especially considering All Stars already have much better contracts than anything they could get from such game. Not to mention injury risk.

I agree most of them are just spoiled brats and don't take pride in the game. Nor NBA cares with their scripted AS games.

Frankly I can't think of any plausible solution, so I'd rather cancel the game altogether or call it NBA Globetrotters Show.

At Monday, March 06, 2017 1:28:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I think there are solutions, you just need to get creative. One kinda fun one might be giving whatever Conference wins the AS game home-court in the Finals. Most seasons the East/West winners aren't especially close in record anyway, so it wouldn't hurt the intrigue there 9/10 years.

Another option might be having winning AS performances factor into how big of an extension players can get, similar to All-NBA appearances. If you've been in 5 winning AS games, your max salary is 5% higher. If you've been in 10, it's 10% (or whatever). That'll come out to a helluva lot more than 50k, and it would come out of teams' pockets, not the NBA's.

You could also implement an AS freeze out rule; if your team loses, you don't get to be on the AS team the next year. These guys care about their legacies, and AS apps are one of the big things people like Anonymous look at for those. Lebron particularly would probably average 40/15/15/5/5 in AS games if his legacy were at stake. This would lead to more total players playing in AS games, which arguably dilutes the designation, but it also leads to more effort, and makes high numbers of AS appearances mean more.

You could throw in Ping Pong balls, too. For each player on the winning AS team, a team gets an extra, say, 10 (or whatever) ping pong balls in the draft. This helps single-star lottery teams, and gives super-teams that snowball's chance at a star. AS MVP's team gets, say, 50 extra balls.

More comically, you could incentivize them via their egos. Losing team has to participate in a skit chosen by winning team. You'd be amazed how hard some of those guys will play if the alternative is being dressed up in a tutu or whatever.

At Monday, March 06, 2017 4:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, there's a reason why almost everyone would value AS selections to some extent as these are the top 24 players more-or-less each year in the nba, and most likely value these selections very highly. This is certainly not the only criteria in evaluating players, but it's an important one. The NBA continues to change/improve how AS are selected; they take the selection process very seriously. I'm sorry if you don't like many of the selections, but the overwhelming consensus by fans, coaches, GMs, etc. disagree with you. It's truly mind boggling that you think AS selections are basically meaningless. You should take a look at the all-time AS selection list sometime. No player who is even considered among the elite players of all-time doesn't have a high # of AS selections.

As far as what to do with the AS game, I think it's good there's conversation about it now. I still think the game is highly entertaining, but something definitely needs to change.

At Tuesday, March 07, 2017 12:30:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I don't want to get into an entire derailing thread about it, but my point has never been that the AS team is worthless, but that it strongly favors offense over defense, and isn't an objective measure of how good a given player is. Obviously the greatest players of all time make a ton of AS teams; they're all great offensive players, and most of them are at least good defensive players. That said, do you think, say, Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis, Stephon Marbury, Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague, Christian Laettner, and BJ Armstrong are all better than MIchael Cooper? Because while Michael Cooper won five titles, a DPOY award, and was consistently excellent for a decade (and even decent on offense, too), he never made an AS game.

Tony Parker, a great scorer with few other basketball skills and little defensive ability, has 6 All-Star selections, but played on great teams that covered for his defense and created great looks for him on offense. Mark Eaton, probably the fourth greatest shot-blocker in basketball history and multiple DPOY, as well as a pretty good rebounder to boot, played on good-not-great Jazz teams and made 1 (and in one of his weaker seasons, weirdly).

In fact, the best way to make a bunch of All-Star teams is to play with a bunch of other All-Stars. Here are the per 100 possession numbers (to normalize for pace/role) for a 1 time AS who had little help vs. a 7 time AS who had loads of help. Tell me if you think one is 7x better than the other:

Player A: 27.2 points ( 21.1 FGA) 8 boards, 3 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.3 blocks, 3 turnovers
Player B: 26.3 points (21.3 FGA) 7.6 boards, 4.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.0 blocks, 3 turnovers

Pretty close, right? Player A is Danny Granger, Player B is James Worthy. I'm not gonna get into who's actually better, because that isn't the point. The point is that they aren't *that* far apart. Worthy was really good and made 7 AS teams, but is he really that much better than Granger, who played with nobody else good and made 1? Heck, you switch their teams, I'm betting Granger's efficiency and assists go up and Worthy's go down (though for the record Granger was nowhere near the post/iso scorer Worthy was), because Worthy played with Kareem and Magic while Granger played mostly with Roy Hibbert and TJ Ford.

In 2009, Mo Williams made the AS team averaging 18 and 4 for a stacked & dominating Cleveland team led by apex Lebron. Was he better than Vince Carter (21 and 5 for a crappy Nets team), Derrick Rose (18 and 6 for a 500 Bulls team), or Andre Iguodala (19/5/6 for a 500 Philly team)? He's the worst defender out of that bunch too, incidentally. Would you honestly take him over any of those guys?

Now, do you think if he switched teams with any of those guys he'd be an AS? No, of course not.

AS teams aren't useless. But when talking about guys below that tippy top level (and they seem to come up most when talking about either Dragic, Lillard, Irving, or Harden who are all not at that GOAT level), there's a lot of context involved, and they aren't remotely an objective measure of how "good" a player is. They're an offensive-leaning metric that favors players from winning teams, even if that player is only the third or fourth most important component of that winning.

At Tuesday, March 07, 2017 3:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, what's objective then, Nick? Everything is voted on in some way, there's never complete objectivity in AS, MVP, all-nba teams, etc. It's what I've been telling you for awhile now and should be obvious in nba history-individual offense is much more important than defense. That's why guys like Lillard, Irving, and Thomas are often AS, and guys like Tony Allen, Bruce Bowen, Shane Battier, and Andre Roberson will never sniff a team, and rightfully so.

Maybe for a career Cooper might have the edge on a couple of those guys you mentioned, but not at each of their bests, except possibly Korver(who shouldn't have been an AS-replacement at that, and possibly Armstrong). Cooper was a career bench/role player who played just 27.5mpg in 1987. You also had Eaton/Olajuwon in their primes that season to name two other guys likely more deserving. I seriously doubt Cooper deserved DPOY. Derek Fisher had a nice long career, often a starter, while picking up 5 titles, too. Cooper probably would fill a role better on most title teams than Fisher could, but Fisher has a strong case for the better career. All of those guys were primarily starters except Armstrong, who also had a shorter career. Like I said before, AS selections is hardly the only criteria, there's certainly more to it, which I've never said otherwise. And comparing one selection to zero selections isn't much of a difference.

Parker was never an elite player, but was an elite PG for several seasons, including earning a Finals MVP and was the best player on another title team. 6 AS seems about right, maybe a little too low. Eaton was 7-4 and never averaged 10ppg. He also only had 2 seasons over 9rpg, which is terrible for his size. He was never the best player on his team, and usually 3rd best at best. His teams only reached 50 wins 4x from 1989-1992, which was mostly in the twilight of his career. If he was supposedly shafted on AS selections, then why didn't his teams do better with him only having to be a role player? It doesn't add up to me. It's possible he deserved 2-3 selections maybe, but even 1 seems too many.

Are you really comparing James Worthy to Danny Granger?

I wasn't sure Mo Williams deserved to make the AS team, but he was 14th man after 2 players needed to be replaced, not part of the original 12, worth noting. It's not about offense/defense, it's about him being the 2nd best player on the best team in the league which should count for something, and he initially didn't even make the team. 14th man seems about right.

There's always gripes about the last few guys to make the teams every year, never will be full agreement. That's not what I'm talking about. I can bring up 1-2 guys that probably shouldn't have made it every year, too. Gobert in for Jordan this year, for example. What I'm talking about is that the top guys are there every year. The process isn't rigged. There's a reason why most of the top offensive players are there even if they're bad defenders, and not vice versa. You can't accept this nor agree with it, so you just basically dismiss it. It is a good system. We see the top 24 players more-or-less. I've never disagreed with more than 3-4 selections. Then, the all-nba teams narrow it down to top 15 more-or-less, and MVP voting narrows it down even more. Obviously, none of these are error-proof, but are important. Nash never deserved even one MVP, heck wasn't even a top 2 guard in the West either year(behind Kobe/T-Mac), but we must accept it, and he was at least in the conversation regardless.

At Tuesday, March 07, 2017 5:20:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

As usual, Anonymous is trying to get me to argue something completely different than what I actually believe, so I am again reminded why it's not usually worth the trouble. My stance has never been anything remotely close to "All Star games should be disregarded."

My griping with using AS teams to evaluate players does not apply- or at least applies a lot less- when looking at the tippy top guys; Kobe/Duncan/Doc/etc. probably all made an extra 2 or 3 on legacy at the ass-end of their careers, but are also all pretty unimpeachably great.

It applies a lot more when looking the Thomas/Lillard/Arenas type guys. A guy who averages 25 ppg and plays no D will almost always make it over a guy who averages 20 ppg and plays good-great D. Mike Conley has never made an AS team. No coach in league would take him over somebody like Marbury or Arenas, but they each made 3 AS teams.

In the case of Cooper, as usual you are ignoring a great deal of context. Cooper scored relatively little because he played on a team full of great scorers; but he scored efficiently and could put up 20+ when needed (just wasn't ever needed on teams with Magic/Kareem/Wilkes/Worthy/Scott/Nixon/McAdoo). Whether or not he deserved DPOY is beside the point; Olajuwon probably *was* more deserving that season (but it was voted on! It must be valid!) but he was good enough to win DPOY, even if mayve he should have finished 4th. He also averaged about 5 assists during his prime, which is pretty crazy good for a guy playing 27 minutes off the bench at the 2 guard. (Current leading bench SG for assists? Tyler Johnson, who plays most of his minutes at point and averages 3.3 APG).

In fact, the only 2 guard averaging over 5 APG at all this season is Harden, who's basically a PG on offense.

Cooper was an A++ defender, an A- passer, and a good shooter. He was absolutely more valuable than any of those guys I mentioned. Of course, you've made it pretty clear that you don't actually know or care about players from Cooper's era (who's Dan Roundfield?!), so you can be forgiven for undervaluing him. But comparing him to Derek Fisher is lunacy; Cooper's one of the best ten perimeter defenders to ever play the game, Fisher's a slightly above average starting PG.


At Tuesday, March 07, 2017 5:20:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

As for Worthy/Granger, I would probably take Worthy with a gun to my head. But not by a 7-1 margin, and Peak Granger put up way better numbers than Peak Worthy (26/5/3 on 19 shots vs. 21/5/3.5 on 19 shots with more help),albeit with a shorter (thanks, injuries!) peak. Heck, statistically, I'd probably take Granger's best 5 years over Worthy's. I'm also pretty sure if you switched their teams, they'd also swap titles (though Granger might lose the '87 one where Big Game James went super saiyan(sp?), I wouldn't be surprised if Granger's floor-spacing gave made up one in a different year). I am absolutely positive James' efficiency would plummet going from third option to first (note that he immediately dropped 5% off his FG% when Magic retired), and suspect Granger's would similarly improve.

Granger would never be the post weapon James was, obviously.

You can insist until you're blue in the face that individual offense matters more than individual defense, and for perimeter players I may even mildly agree (though I vehemently disagree w/r/t post players), but there's little evidence for it in the historic Finals/Playoffs performances for top scorers vs. top defenders, and guys who do both tend to win more than guys who do either one, which is my main and constant point, no matter how many times you insist that I'm claiming defense is more important (I'm not; I'm claiming guys who do both are better than guys who only do 1).

AS teams are fine. But selections have more to do with who you play with, in which conference, and how showy your box score is than whether or not you're one of the best 24 players in the league.

A rising tide lifts all boats, and playing beside a Lebron James, Larry Bird, or Magic Johnson is more likely to make you an All-Star than averaging 20 & 6 for a six seed or whatever.

At Tuesday, March 07, 2017 10:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, we've talked about AS selections quite a bit. I don't know exactly what you believe as I don't remember you ever saying so, so if I misinterpreted your opinions, then my fault. But, from the whole gist of how you talk about them and how you much disagree with them, one would easily imply you think very little of them.

"No coach in league would take Conley over Marbury or Arenas?" Not sure about that. Probably a few would. Arenas at his best was a top 10-15 player for 2-3 seasons. Conley has never been this good for any season. I can't speak for anyone else, but I've considered Conley an AS-caliber or near AS-caliber player for a few seasons now when healthy regardless if he made the AS team or not. And he would've made a few teams if he played in the East. The West only had 2 bench guards this year, sorry, but Conley isn't making it over RW or Thompson. Conley has a case over Marbury, who only made 2 AS teams, not 3.

Not sure about the 25ppg guy vs the 20ppg + D guy. Green is making AS games. Leonard would be there if he was only averaging 20ppg easily. Jordan is there. Thomas is clearly the best player on BOS. He's going to finish top 10 in MVP, of course he's going to make the AS team. James has a much better cast and his team is barely doing better than BOS.

I'm not ignoring context. I know about the 80s Lakers. But, if Cooper could score 20ppg, then he would've averaged more than 9ppg for his career. He played in a high-efficiency era and then with several HOFers. His efficiency actually isn't that good other than FTs.

It's interesting you blame me for arguing something different when you do the same thing even moreso. I've never said award selections are the end-all of arguments. On the contrary, I've said numerous times there's much more to it, including on this thread.

Must be hard to get an assist passing to Kareem, Magic, Worthy, and Scott. 4apg for Cooper's career, so special, please. And you might want to compare Fisher/Cooper's career a little bit closer, talk about not knowing players. I'm not saying Fisher was better, but he was a starter, played much longer than career bench player Cooper, and was clutch so often in the playoffs. Basketball reference has Fisher ahead of Cooper for HOF probability at 1.9% 1.2%. There's absolutely a case to be made for Fisher.

At Tuesday, March 07, 2017 10:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Individual offense just is more important than individual defense. We see it every year-good offensive/bad defensive guys leading teams and often to the playoffs. Can't think of one team where a bad offensive/good defensive guy is the best player. The coaches voting for AS and all-nba teams, etc. all seem to think the same way. It's a not new concept-been around since the start of basketball. And there's plenty of evidence-you just fail to accept it. Rarely is the best player in the Finals not doing awesome offensively. When there's special cases like Iggy winning it, his team is so great around him, they're allowing him to succeed; plus, him having to guard James and slow him down as much as he did contributed to this. Obviously, the best player will do well on both sides of the ball usually.

And where I have said you think defense is more important than offense? I don't think I've ever said or thought that. Obviously, guys who play both ends are more desirable to have. But, when one guy is much better offensively or even just a little better offensively(depending on how much), they're often the better player even if the gap between them defensively is larger.

You're arguing something completely different than what I've been. You claim individual defense is more-or-less as important as individual offense. And sometimes more important with bigs(which I'd probably agree with in some cases). However, what I've been saying all along and what we actually see year-in year-out is that individual offense remains much more important, that's why we see guys like Lillard/Thomas being the best player on playoff teams. We don't see guys like Tony Allen or Roberson even approaching this. Obviously, I'd rather have Leonard over Lillard/Thomas even if Lillard/Thomas are better offensively, which might not be true. Overall, I think offense and defense are fairly equally important, that is, from a team aspect, and that's what we often see in the playoffs.

Irving missed the AS team last year, and Love has only made 1 AS team in 3 years with James. They're also in the weaker conference. Armstrong/Grant never made the AS team with Jordan. Odom never made it playing with Kobe. Pau certainly benefited with awards when he joined LAL, no doubt, but he probably deserved some of them. Not so sure about your AS game theory. Can't remember an AS game without the top 20 players or so in it, unless there were injuries, etc. It remains a very accurate assessment of who the top players in the game are, but it doesn't follow your weird player assessments, so naturally you don't think much of them.

At Wednesday, March 08, 2017 1:16:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I... you think Fisher and Cooper are comparable. We watch different sports. I give up.

At Wednesday, March 08, 2017 4:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's quite interesting you don't even think Fisher/Cooper are in the same realm to even be compared, but not only Granger/Worthy are, but you think Granger was better when each were in their primes. Different sports indeed.

At Wednesday, March 08, 2017 7:18:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

As usual, Anonymous returns to his signature move of "pretend the person he's arguing with said something else." I never said Granger was better, only that his peak numbers were better (which they are). I also explicitly said I'd take Worthy over him.

Here's exactly what I said about Granger vs. Worthy

"As for Worthy/Granger, I would probably take Worthy with a gun to my head. But not by a 7-1 margin, and Peak Granger put up way better numbers than Peak Worthy (26/5/3 on 19 shots vs. 21/5/3.5 on 19 shots with more help),albeit with a shorter (thanks, injuries!) peak. Heck, statistically, I'd probably take Granger's best 5 years over Worthy's. I'm also pretty sure if you switched their teams, they'd also swap titles (though Granger might lose the '87 one where Big Game James went super saiyan(sp?), I wouldn't be surprised if Granger's floor-spacing gave made up one in a different year). I am absolutely positive James' efficiency would plummet going from third option to first (note that he immediately dropped 5% off his FG% when Magic retired), and suspect Granger's would similarly improve.

Granger would never be the post weapon James was, obviously. "

I said that I preferred Worthy (true), that Granger's peak seasons were numerically stronger than Worthy's (also true), that Worthy's peak was longer (also true) and that I suspect Worthy's efficiency numbers would decline on the Pacers and Granger's would improve on the Lakers (unprovable, but likely). I also suggested that Granger would probably have gotten 2-3 rings on the Lakers, though perhaps not the 1987 ring that hinged on Worthy's apex performance, and pointed out that Worthy would always be a superior post threat, regardless of numbers.

I did not comment on either player's defense because it has been a long time since I've watched much of either with eye towards their off-ball defense, but to my foggy recollection Worthy was a somewhat but not super significantly stronger defensive player, owing largely to his superior physical strength, which of course does not show up in the box score.

What I do not think is that Worthy is seven times the player Granger is, though I could probably be convinced that Cooper is seven times the player Fisher is.

At Thursday, March 09, 2017 11:39:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh stop Nick, you're being ridiculous as usual. You said you'd take Granger's prime over Worthy's prime, statistically. (Re-read what I said in my last post. This is a concept you fail to understand). I said you think Granger was better than Worthy comparing primes. I never said you thought Granger was better overall.

And who said Worthy is 7x better than Granger? I certainly didn't nor think that, though he's a lot closer to that than Cooper is 7x better than Fisher or vice versa.

At Thursday, March 09, 2017 1:02:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"Statistically" as in, by the raw stats. Words mean things. I said explicitly I'd take Worthy over Granger.

Anyone who's read anything I've written on this site over the last three years should be pretty well aware by now that i do not think statistics tell the entire story, but they can be a useful starting point. Given that many/most of the arguments about who's better than who seem to revolve around them, they seemed a fair point to make vis-a-vis "Worthy's not THAT much better than Granger," and my larger point that AS teams tend to cater to guys who play on great teams more than similarly skilled players who aren't as fortunate.

Worthy made 7 times as many AS games as Granger. Given the argument that All-Star teams are a reliable metric of how good someone is, I used that as the basis for my comment.

I at no point said Granger was at any point a better player, only that his peak numbers were higher. The belief that numbers are everything is the number one problem with modern basketball analysis.

Michael Cooper was a perennial All-D player who was insanely athletic, could shoot the three, could create a little off the dribble, and could finish in traffic. Derek Fisher was a below average starting point guard who could shoot spot up jumpers and flop on defense.

For their careers, they scored at the exact same per-minute rate (though Cooper scored more efficiently), while Cooper logged more rebounds, steals, blocks, and assists. The assists thing is interesting, given that Cooper was not the primary, secondary, or tertiary ball handler for his team (while Fisher was usually the secondary perimeter ball handler behind Kobe), but clearly made the most of his opportunities when they arose. While it is true that he benefitted from passing to Kareem and Magic, Fisher got to pass to Shaq and Kobe, so it's not like he didn't have finishers of his own. Despite that, he has only two season in his entire career where his APG (on higher minutes, natch) top even Cooper's career average, and his best passing season would not be one of Cooper's top five. Per-minute, Coop is one of the greatest passing swing men to ever play the game, on top of being one of the best ten perimeter defenders of all time. He netted more assists-per-minute than Kobe, Jordan, or T-Mac (he is currently .2 behind Wade, but will likely pass him if Wade plays another season). The same is true per possession, though he is less likely to catch Wade there.

Wade was the only 2 guard I could find with superior per-minute or per-possession passing numbers, though I suspect a few others exist.

These numbers especially per-minute, are even more impressive given how relatively little Cooper had the ball relative to those other players. His usage was less than half theirs.

And, again, Cooper is a DPOY, whereas Fisher was famously destroyed time and again by every PG the Lakers encountered in the playoffs, and was often hidden on less threatening perimeter threats in the fourth quarter while Kobe/Harper/Artest/whomever took the real assignment.

At a basic skillset level, Cooper was a better passer, scorer, rebounder, and defender than Fisher. Fisher was a marginally better spot-up shooter and a better flopper. Suggesting that Cooper, an all-time great, is inferior or even comparable to Derek Fisher, a below average PG, is symptomatic of either a complete lack of understanding of one or both players, or of willful straw-manning. Either way, there's little to be gained from engaging further with it.

And with that, I think I'm done feeding the troll for a few months.

At Thursday, March 09, 2017 1:35:00 PM, Blogger beep said...

I do think AS has good value. And I do not like comparing guys with 0,1,2 selections, because fringe AS players may/may not get one in their careers, but overall we're seeing 24 best players in the league at the time. Even if you could swap 8 of them for another 8 and wouldn't lose on quality some years.

I also think defense is more a matter of coaching, effort, physical toughness and mental acumen than anything else, while offense is driven by talent. Imho no amount of training will replace that, while the former can be trained, even if not easily in some cases.

And people usually prefer flashy action over gritty SA vs DET style slog of a game. I very much appreciate the latter too, but I'm pretty sure I'm minority.

At Thursday, March 09, 2017 10:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, the only time you talked about primes with Worthy/Granger, you said you'd take Granger statistically. Re-read what you said. When you said you'd take Worthy over Granger, you weren't referring to just their primes.

Worthy's 7 AS selections actually seem a little low, but fairly accurate. Granger might have a case for 2-3 at most.

Yes, I fully understand Cooper/Fisher's careers. Cooper was better when each were at their best. I'd rather Cooper for my team, but all I said was that Fisher has a case as having the better overall career. He had a much longer career and was a starter which both should count for something, unlike Cooper. BKREF's HOF probability is certainly not perfect, but it seems pretty accurate to me, and they'd take Fisher's career. Fisher was atrocious defensively when he was an old man in basketball years no doubt, though Cooper would've been long retired for most of those old-man Fisher seasons. Fisher could actually play defense when he was younger, though. It's too bad you want to spout off at me when you disagree, we could have much better conversations. You think comparing a HOFer to someone not even close to making the HOF is a much better comparison than comparing 2 career role players, which you can certainly have that opinion if you want. But, can you see the irony in that because sure I do?

At Friday, March 10, 2017 6:28:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Given that you're still insisting on telling me what *I* meant, I'm gonna go ahead and stick to my belief that you have no interest in having an actual-good faith discussion. Sorry. I'm sure David will still humor you. He's more patient than I am (although probably a bit less OCD).

For anybody else still reading (bless your masochistic souls), on the off-chance it isn't clear, I think Worthy is better than Granger. But I think Worthy benefitted a lot from playing on those Lakers teams, and I think if Granger had been given the same chance (and if it lined up with his admittedly shorter prime properly), he'd probably have a lot more AS nods, and he'd probably be in the HoF too. Circumstances and context matter a lot, and not everybody gets to spend their prime alongside Magic/Kareem/Cooper/Scott/Green (or for Riley), but it certainly helps when they do.

At Friday, March 10, 2017 6:28:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Last coda on Cooper/Fisher, in case anyone thinks the "starter" distinction matters at all, because it's still bugging me and as mentioned, I can get a little OCD.

Cooper started 94 games and averaged 11/7.1/3.7 on 44% shooting (34% from 3).
Fisher started a little over half his games, and averaged 9.7/3.5/2.4 on 40% shooting (38% from 3).

Additionally, Derek Fisher never received an All-Defensive vote as far as I could find. Cooper made the team in 8 consecutive years, the third most among 2 guard all time (behind MJ/Bryant), and the longest streak ever among 2 guards.

As for Fisher, as far as I could find, he never received a single All-D vote. I don't love advanced D stats in a vacuum (particularly across positions/eras/roles), but for reference his best DBPM was +0.4, which would have been the 9th best of Cooper's career.

As for the claim that he was a good defender in his prime, the only team he started at least half their games for before age 33 (which I would consider the "Old Man Fisher" period) was the 18th ranked defensive team in the league, despite starting two different All Defensive players from that season (Kobe (1st) and Shaq (2nd)) as well as plus defenders Robert Horry and Rick Fox, mostly because teams relentlessly targeted the inept Fisher in pick-and-rolls (with an admittedly less-engaged-than-peak Shaq, but he still made All-D). The year before, when they primarily started Lindsey Hunter, they ranked 7th. The year after, starting the corpse of Gary Payton, they were 8th.

Opponents scored at a higher rate for the season with Fisher on the court off of it during every title-winning season he started.

Fisher was never a good defender, and in fact was bad enough to single-handedly torpedo otherwise strong defensive teams. He had exactly one defensive skill (flopping) which only worked 1-3 times per game on a good night. I will concede that he generally knew where he was supposed to be, but lacked the skill or physicality to accomplish anything once there. The best defensive outfits he played for were the latter-day Lakers, which had even better defensive forwards in Artest/Ariza and three 7 footers to protect the rim when Fisher got destroyed, and played better defense with him on the bench despite his backup being Jordan freaking Farmar.

Fisher managed to have a negative Net RTG for 10/18 years of his career, despite playing alongside at least 2 Hall of Famers most of it. Cooper, for his part, recorded a negative net rating only twice, in his first & final seasons. For their careers, Fisher recorded a net 0 per 100 while Cooper's teams were (on average) 5 points per 100 better than their opponents with him on the court.

Other advanced stats are similarly one-sided:

Cooper recorded a positive BPM in 9 of his 12 seasons. Fisher recorded one in 4 of his 18. Fisher never had a BPM of higher than +0.4. Cooper had nine seasons at that mark, 7 of at least double that, 6 of at least triple, and 2 of quintuple.

VORP is a stat that strongly favors longer careers, but Cooper's 18.2 is almost double Fisher's 9.3 despite Fisher's six year edge.

TL;DR: The two aren't close. Cooper was a great defender and a good offensive player, one of the best 20-30 2 guards to ever play the game. Fisher was a below average player on both ends, and isn't even one of the best 30 PGs of the last ten years.

At Saturday, March 11, 2017 2:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, I'm not insisting on anything, not sure what you're getting out. I told you what you wrote since you seem to forget easily.

I'm unimpressed by a few advanced stats. I also said I'd take Cooper.

Fisher played much longer and is #1 all-time in nba history in playoff games. These should count for something. Obviously, you're getting entrenched in your opinion again and not seeing everything.

Cooper isn't one of the best SGs ever, come on. He never made one AS team, and not even close at that. And you insist players make more AS teams playing with other great players, so why couldn't Cooper make even 1?

BKREF incorporates pretty much everything into their HOF probability. Not saying it's error-proof by any means, but Fisher's ahead of Cooper. And your beloved Granger is at 0.1%. Worthy's at 90.8%.


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