FanPost

When advanced metrics lie


The following is from Bill SImmons' latest column. Those of you who feel he is just a humorist who knows nothing about the NBA can feel free to ignore. But for those who might think that the author of a highly regarded 700-page book about the sport might know a little something, it is food for thought as to why judging players by stats and stats alone is not any more rational than judging them by the eye test and the eye test alone.

For the record, Simmons is actually an advocate of advanced metrics. But believe it or not, it is possible to believe both that statistical analysis is an invaluable tool in evaluating players and that no model currently in existence is robust/accurate enough to rely on in a vacuum to the exclusion of all other factors, including traditional scouting (i.e., the eye test).

Without further ado, SImmons' Power Poll capsule of the 2010-2011 Milwaukee Bucks:

Remember those old Fox shows, "When Animals Attack?" The 2010-11 Bucks are "When Advanced Metrics Go Wrong!!!!" They traded for an already overpaid Corey Maggette (an efficient scorer on paper, which apparently made him underrated as long as you never, ever watched him); overpaid Drew Gooden (an efficient rebounder and high-percentage shooter who holds the unofficial record for "most times a player made his coach roll his eyes and look at the scoreboard" since 2000); and took care of John Salmons (who had his inevitable post-contract year swoon). Everything made sense on paper.

Which would be fine if this were baseball. But it's basketball: a sport in which five guys have to mesh the right way (a process that often defies statistics), and also, they have to collectively give a crap about the sport and each other. The season started and everyone quickly remembered that (A) there's a reason everybody hates playing with Maggette (actually, two: he's a ball stopper and a ball hog); (B) there's a reason Drew Gooden has been on 47 teams in nine years; and (C) you never want to give a non-All-Star in his 30s his last big contract (by no coincidence, Salmons' Bucks numbers dropped from 20 ppg and 47% FG to 13 ppg and 39% FG).

What's really confusing: Over the past few years, didn't the Thunder's Sam Presti show everyone how to run a small-market team? Build through the lottery; keep your cap space (so you can swing cap-related deals during the season that net you extra draft picks); avoid paying market price for veteran starters who aren't All-Stars; don't overpay your own guys if they aren't building blocks. And the thing is, John Hammond KNEW the blueprint. He was using it these past two years! So what made him go Maggette/Gooden/Salmons on us? Do NBA GMs just slowly lose their minds? Is it like when you go on Amazon to buy one book and end up with two Blu-rays as well, and even as you're paying for it, you're saying, "What's happening right now; why am I buying these?"

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