Bucks Diary

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Buck Droppings: Box Score Fallacies and other thoughts

I've been super busy lately, but I promise to at least write multi-topic posts like this one that I will publish every Sunday until the season starts. I really apologize. Anyway, here are my latest thoughts on all things NBA and BucksNation, starting with last night's game...

Box Score Fallacies

You get your coffee, you pick up your Sunday paper, and you look at the box score from last night's Bucks loss to the Utah Jazz up in Titletown. What do you see and what do you think?

Well, you see Andrew Bogut scored 10 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. You think, eh... typical, mediocre Bogut. Then you look at Yi Jianlian's line. 13 points and 4 rebounds. Hey... nice effort. Maybe Yi's gonna shut that Ty guy's stupid mouth.

Wrong, wrong, and not quite yet. If you reached the first two conclusions you made the mistake of judging an NBAers play according to the passe "How many did he score; how many did he grab?" method. That's so 1980s. We never use that method on Bucks Diary.

Why? Its a sizzle judgment, not a steak judgment. Looking exclusively at a player's point and rebound totals leads to an incomplete judgment based on too little information. For instance, a players point total doesn't tell you how many shots the player needed to hoist up to get those points -- shots that could have possibly been made if a teammate had taken them instead of the missee. And point and rebound totals don't tell you how many floor minutes the player ate up to get those points and rebounds -- minutes that a more efficiently productive player might have made better use of. And just looking at points and rebounds doesn't begin to tell you how many times the player gave the ball back to the opposition in the form of a turnover (Hello, Yi! 8 turnovers last night, big guy? In America we dribble the ball with our hands... not our feet!).

Here's a better way. According to NBA.com, when NBA coaches judge how well a player played, they go directly to the total of "efficiency points" that player accumulated (Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocked Shots - Turnovers - Missed FTs - Missed FGs).

"Efficiency Points" is just a somewhat mislabeled answer to the question, "What was the net total of good stats the player accumulated in the game?" (I write "mislabeled" because the term "Efficiency Points" doesn't capture the essence of the statistic. But until we find a better label, it'll do). I prefer to go one mini-step further by looking at the "Efficiency Points per 48 Minutes" statistic or "Eff48", which merely calculates "Efficiency Points/Min x 48". The question being answered with that statistic is "If each guy played the entire 48 minutes, how many net total good stats would that player have accumulated?" The reason I prefer Eff48 to straight Efficiency Points is Eff48 puts all players on an even court of evaluation by artificially equalizing playing time.

Both methods of analysis have the virtue of being simple to understand, yet quite comprehensive in their considerations. I'm positive there are more accurate methods of judging performances out there, such as John Hollinger's system on ESPN.com, but all the others I have found, including his, involve some headscratching use of calculus equations. And I am a firm believer that calculus and basketball do not mix. No square roots of anything and no weighting anything -- except Tractor Traylor -- will ever be allowed on Bucks Diary pages. If you can't calculate the stat using your fingers, toes, and an abacus, I say it ain't worth it for the average HoopHead to ponder. Leave the Basketball Theories of Relativity to the stat geeks... we will try to center our judgments on the hardwood and not the calculator.

(BTW, by Eff48 scoring, Bogut had about as good a game as you can have last night. He accumulated 19 efficiency points in a mere 21 minutes for a Kareem-like Eff48 score of 43.4. Meanwhile, Yi actually regressed badly from his last game in which he had an Eff48 score of 15.3... which was bad enough. Last night Yi collected 1 lousy efficiency point over 28 minutes of action for a not-even-worth-calculating Eff48 score of 0.03. That won't get it done.)

Likin' the K Man

Thus far there's something I really like about Coach K. I call it his "Recognize and then Minimize" style.

For instance, if there is an obvious problem, such as Yi's foul troubles on Opening Night of the Preseason, he will recognize it ("We can't have him fouling out in 13 minutes") and then seek to minimize it ("Okay, four of them were screen violations, no problem. We can correct that.").

Or take last night. The Bucks turned the ball over an ungodly amount of times. Instead of pissing and moaning, or ignoring the problem, or talking in weird new age metaphors ("We need to bring a level of energy to the floor so we can match their energy, blah, blah, blah..."), Coach K simply owned the problem and then identified a solution (he said it was somewhat on him because he had been spending 75% of the practice time on defense and he hasn't yet had a chance to develop continuity, but he said there wa still time and he promised he and the Bucks would get it done.)

Its refreshing to hear some straightforward leadership in BucksNation.

What's the NBA thinking with these franchise moves, anyway?

I am efforting a copy of the Seattle Supersonics Demand to Arbitrate their Key Arena lease agreeement, so I can give it an eyeball evaluation, but from what I understand at this point, things are about to burn down in the Emerald City.

If the Sonics are not allowed out of their lease, which seems likely, they have a backup plan that promises to get ugly. They are purposely using inflammatory rhetoric on the public record in a clear attempt to destroy as much of the common ground between themselves and the people of Seattle as they can. They want to make it impractical for the Sonics franchise to remain in the Seattle market any time longer.

The whole affair is pretty sad, really. I'm both torn and baffled by it.

Torn because I want Oklahoma City to get a team, yet I don't want them to get this team. I want them to get the Boston Braves, not the Milwaukee Braves, to use a local allusion. In other words, I want them to get a team that has basically suffered from clear-cut, long-term, abject, fan disinterest, not a team that has a proven base of rabid fans who are simply alienated by circumstance, especially when that circumstance was in no small measure created by those who wish to move the team.

And I am baffled because, if this move goes through, the NBA will have moved its second straight franchise from a larger market to a smaller market (the first move I am referring to is the Hornets return to the shell city of New Orleans after such a successful run in OK City). I find it even more baffling that the NBA would abandon a top 10 market like Seattle, a market that has shown its willingness in the past to support basketball.

My Seattle Domino Theory revisited

Remember the Seattle Doomsday Domino Theory I was floating last year? Namely, if OKC moved back to NO, and Seattle moved to OKC, then I theorized that the Milwaukee franchise would be put in jeopardy by the mere availability of such a plum market location.

Well, I guess I was right in the crux of my argument, but my worries should not have been predicated on the OKC or the Seattle move. Turns out there were and are 10 somewhat attractive destinations open to any future Bucks owner even if the Hornets had stayed and the Sonics do not move.

I say somewhat attractive destinations because, while they all represent bigger markets than the Milwaukee market (Kansas City, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Columbus, San Diego, Providence, Raliegh, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Tampa) each of the markets is one in which professional basketball has already failed miserably, or it is a market already being relied upon by an existing team as part of their fan base, or it is both. So none of those destinations are necessarily pristine locations for any rogue Bucks owner looking to relocate the franchise.

But let me tell you, the new location for the team will be the very last of any carpetbagger's worries if the winds of relocation start blowing through Milwaukee. I and others will not sit back in disbelief and wait for the haymaker to land as Milwaukeeans did in 1963-1965 with the Braves move to Atlanta.

There are plenty of legal, social, and political means available to take the fight to any meddling owner who starts thinking about moving the Bucks out of Milwaukee. If city leaders balk at carrying the shield, I can assure you the fans will not. And it can be won. There are plenty of new, waiting-to-be-tested strategies that can be used to stick any carpetbagger in a legal and political quagmire so deep that it will make him or her or them wish he or she or they never heard the name "Bango Buck." Call it a Viet Cong strategy carried out in the courts and political lobbies, if you will. The aim will be to make it so hard and costly for a carpetbagger to achieve a successful relocation they will simply choose not to stay and fight. But let's hope it never comes to that.

Talk at you next week. Until then, may the possession arrow always point your way, and may it always be "Bucks' ball"!

Correction: Saturday's game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Utah Jazz was played at the Bradley Center, not in Green Bay. The game on Tuesday, October 16th between the Denver Nuggets and the Bucks will in fact be played in Titletown.


At October 14, 2007 at 4:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love this. I have a feeling things would be a lot more negative around here about the Bucks if anyone was even coming close to mentioning the new arena they need.

So I'm a little uncomfortable in the back of my mind about the spot we're in with Herb and no other really rich Milwaukeeans who want to keep pro basketball going here. It makes every season feel a little more important in case success could help bring a solution.

But what do the diehards and diehard lawyers have here that they don't have in Seattle? I guess we can see how I-93 to prevent a buyout helps out there, but it sucks that the ownership and potential sites are bigger news than the group of fans fighting to keep the team there.

By the way any city begging for an existing team that already has a fan base ought to be ignored, and forced to get way too into their local women's college basketball, on general principle. How would they like it if they had their team and some dickholes in some other city started pulling this stuff?

At October 14, 2007 at 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you type "Cincinnati SuperSonics" in Google, the first result last night was the official website of their campaign to attract the team, I found it through the Sonics wikipedia page last night after reading your post.

There wasn't a lot there but they had some stuff about their mission including a picture of Rashard Lewis saying, "We want to bring Rashard Lewis and the Sonics to Cincinnati."

I was apparently the first person to sign their guestbook and post in their forum so I expressed my disapproval with their whole operation. Now the site's been taken down and says "Coming soon..." although the board's still up at http://cincysonics.proboards102.com/

I don't think they have a shot at all, especially if they're not going to draw on the history of the Royals like Horse and Maurice Stokes, but it's kind of interesting to me. Meanwhile, Great American Ballpark has sections of empty seats every night.

At October 23, 2007 at 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The site has been put back up.

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