What We’re Reading: Questioning the Numbers

From Flickr via NSNewsflash

From Flickr via NSNewsflash

We at Bulls by the Horns realize that you’re busy and don’t have the time to go searching through website after website for some interesting, NBA related reads. So, every Saturday, we’ll gather the articles we’ve found interesting and put them together for you in one place.

As the NBA season comes to end, there are many important questions to ask when it comes to the contending teams in each conference.  The most important question might come from Oklahoma City as the Thunder attempt to figure out if their supporting cast is going to be ready for this postseason.  James Herbert of SB Nation wrote that for the Thunder to make a run this postseason the trio of Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones III, and Jeremy Lamb will have to step up their games.  Lamb and Jones III have seen diminished playing time since the All-Star Break and their ability to produce with sporadic playing time when called upon in the postseason will be a major factor in the Thunder’s postseason success.

Last season, the Thunder’s postseason changed dramatically when Russell Westbrook tore his meniscus in the first round of the playoffs when he collided with Patrick Beverley.  Beverley was immediately made out to be a villain because of the supposedly “dirty” play and when news came out this week that Beverley might miss the remainder of the season with a torn meniscus, Twitter started to explode with ALL CAPS claims of karma and poetic justice.  Hardwood Paroxysm’s Jordan White wrote that anyone that tweeted something about Beverley’s injury representing some sort of karmic justice should seriously question their actions because cheering a player’s injury is seriously messed up.

Another thing many people thought was pretty messed up was FiveThirtyEight’s Benjamin Morris’ piece claiming that a NBA steal is worth around nine points.  That is correct.  Through a series of calculations, Morris found that NBA steals are extremely overlooked and are actually worth nine points.  Morris argued that the reason steals are so valuable is because they are not events that would necessarily occur in every game, but rather events that need to be created.  He explained that points, rebounds, and assists will all occur in a basketball game no matter what because of the nature of the game, but steals only occur when a player makes them happen.

Apparently, stories like Morris’ scare many people around the league because an unnamed “former NBA star” spoke to Chris Broussard about his concerns that the popularity of basketball statistics has led to more “stat-based personnel hires” rather than ex-players becoming general managers.  Broussard wrote that this unnamed former player believes that a greater emphasis is being placed on statistical acumen than “basketball knowledge” and decades of observation in film and field work.  The former player’s main concern was the downgrading of something he called basketball PhDs.

Upon hearing the news, Tom Ziller wrote a most impressive takedown of the ex-player’s concerns.  Ziller took a look at the statement and attempted to figure out what this ex-player was referring to.  He admitted that recently some teams have hired people who favor analytics and use them in their decision-making process, but also looked at each of those people’s basketball history.  In digging deeper, he found that almost all of them have either been basketball lifers or have only worked in basketball since graduating college, but he reasoned that this is apparently not enough for the ex-player and his expectations.

The most enjoyable reads from this past week might have come from SBNation’s Retro Week as multiple members of their staff took a look back to the 1990s and wrote some really cool pieces.  One of the most enjoyable reads came from Paul Flannery as he broke down the Seattle Supersonics of the early to mid 90s led by Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton.  Though they never won an NBA championship, Flannery wrote about wy they are one of the decade’s most memorable teams.  Another great piece from the Retro Week series was Mike Prada’s breakdown of the differences in rules between the current NBA and the NBA of the 1990s.  To illustrate the difference, Prada asked if Michael Jordan would have been as successful in this era and if LeBron James would have been effective in MJ’s era.  The piece poses some great questions and breaks down why it is just so hard to break down players from different eras.

We’ll end this edition of What We’re Reading with a debate between Rasheed Wallace and Rick Mahorn.  As the Pistons prepared to recognize the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Bad Boy Pistons, the two got together to debate which team would have won had the two teams squared off.

That’s all for this week.  Remember…reading is FUNdamental.

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