Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm A Mindless Idiot

Not really a knock on David Friedman, but suffice to say I was just as disappointed in this as the request to remove embedding on a charming holiday classic. I also expect Pradamaster's head to explode this morning, and that's unfortunate for everyone.

Gilbert Arenas was #4 in adjusted +/- last season (note to eggheads: I'm running out of mileage on kinda-one-season of adjusted +/-), has 33+ win shares in the past 3 seasons, and is #49 on the all-time career PER list. For extra flavor, I'll even toss in a hated, very limited per game stat: Arenas is 22nd all-time in career points per game.

According to Friedman, Arenas is "the most overrated All-Star in the NBA." Nope. Not even close. Using a small sample size to invalidate a very successful, and Kobe-esque, career is ridiculous. And can we never use All-Star votes to describe a player's value again? Thanks.


Anonymous clark griswold said...

Is it just me or does David Friedman look like a pederass. Be careful cheif you used OBJECTIVE measures in your argument, becuase we all know that when it goes against what we think, the computer must be wrong and biased since its just a stupid computer, unlike all star votes which have no bias at all and are a pure measure of how much of a superstar you are, so the child molester must be right.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Hot Shit College Student said...

Don't be an ass. I generally like Friedman's stuff, and I don't see your real name and photo in the comment box.

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey hot shit, who is a more overrated all-star then? Arenas is a one-dimensional chucker. It's no coincidence that the Wizards are winning more without him.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Hot Shit College Student said...

Jon -
I don't care who is a more overrated All-Star. An easily corrupted fan voting system isn't a good way to determine who is, and who isn't good at basketball. Arenas has likely made an impact similar to Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade the past 3 seasons. Are they overrated All-Stars?

Arenas' ability to get to the line, and low TO-r are significant factors in his success. Describing him as a "one-dimensional chucker" simply isn't right.

The Wiz have Butler hitting his prime, Haywood finally playing well, and defend as a team better this season. Arenas is a clear upgrade, even hurt, over Daniels and Stevenson, who are both playing significant minutes with significantly negative +/- ratings.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Pradamaster said...

Let's just say it exploded, mostly from writing a paper until 5 in the morning, but also because of this.

I could write a book about this, but suffice to say, correlation does not equal causation.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Ziller said...

Yes, Arenas is a one-dimensional chucker who happens to draw a ton of fouls, boast a huge TS%, rarely turn over the ball, and averages 6 assists/game every single year.

Score a lot /= overrated. Damn people.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Doctor Dribbles said...

HSCS strikes again.

Friedman's a nice enough fellow, but there's not much to like about his argument. Take the assumption that because Butler and Jamison are putting up better scoring numbers, Arenas somehow had been holding them down. Well, when 20 FGA per game go out of the lineup, -someone- (or more accurately, someones) need to take those shots.

And "chucker"? Seriously?? What's with bloggers throwing that around lately? Antoine Walker's a chucker; Gilbert is all chuckles.

4:35 PM  
Blogger David Friedman said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:05 AM  
Blogger David Friedman said...

Commenter #1 has serious issues regarding self-esteem, spelling and reading comprehension. Regarding the latter, I never said that All-Star votes have no bias at all. I said that Arenas is the most overrated "All-Star" because that is more specific and direct than saying that Arenas is the most overrated player among those who are generally thought of as being among the league's elite. I suspect that most readers understood what I meant, whether or not they agree.

As for a computer being objective, all a computer knows is what has been programmed into it by, hello, human beings. So-called "objective" rating systems reflect the biases of their human creators. We could have an interesting discussion about whether human evaluators of basketball talent (whether NBA GMs or writers like myself) are more or less objective or more or less qualified to evaluate players than the various people who have come up with statistical rating systems but just because system X spits out some number for player Y that does not mean that meaningful discussion is now over. For one thing, what is the margin of error for these systems? Real scientists and statisticians always include margin of error in their calculations. So, if a player is said to have, say, a PER of 25 could that really mean that he is anywhere from a 24-26?

Regarding HSCS' point about the "easily corrupted fan voting system," one thing worth remembering is that 14 of the 24 All-Stars are selected by the coaches (not including injury replacements). I know that this opens another can of worms because coaches are considered incompetent in these circles but coach voting is part of the system. Also, I never disputed Arenas' status as an All-Star, which is simply my way of saying that he is one of the top 24 players in the NBA. My point is that I'd rank him toward the bottom part of that 24 and I find it rather astounding that so many media outlets thought of him as #1 (i.e., MVP) last season. My critique is directed more at that kind of thinking than at Arenas per se.

Wade won a Finals MVP in 2006. Kobe led a Lakers team that is much weaker than the Wizards to the playoffs, won two scoring titles and is among the top defenders in the NBA. Both of those players had more impact than Arenas. I know the answer to this will be that scoring titles are meaningless and the coaches who vote for the All-Defensive Team are idiots; OK, fine--whoever has that opinion is more than entitled to it, even if people who actually understand the sport (players, coaches, informed observers) put credence in what Wade and Kobe accomplished.

Arenas is a more talented player than Daniels and Stevenson. Is he an upgrade in terms of wins and losses? We shall see.

Butler hitting his prime, Haywood playing well and the improved defense are all things that beg the question of why they suddenly happened as soon as Arenas got hurt this season.

I realize that correlation does not equal causation and I have a phrase for you as well: Occam's Razor. Allegedly, Arenas is the best player on the Wizards and a bona fide MVP candidate. He gets hurt and the team starts doing much better. One explanation is that Arenas is not as good as a lot of people think. Another explanation is that a multitude of other factors magically coalesced all at once literally the second that he got hurt. Butler suddenly hit his prime and Haywood woke up and everyone started playing defense and Jordan learned how to coach. By the way, many people said that Jordan was the brains behind the operation when the Nets made it to back to back Finals--but some people apparently find it plausible to believe that he was a good coach, then he was a bad coach, then as soon as Arenas got hurt he became a good coach again. Man, that's a mouthful. I'll stick with my theory--Arenas is overrated; he's a All-Star, but not an MVP-level player.

By the way, don't forget about Arenas' misadventures with Team USA. Please name one legit MVP-level American player who wanted to be on the team and got cut. Arenas' response to being cut was not that he would work harder on what he did not do well and improve his attitude but that he would drop 50 on D'Antoni's Suns and on McMillan's Blazers. I seem to recall Coach Jordan being less than thrilled with that.

1:08 AM  
Blogger Hot Shit College Student said...

DF -

Time is short, so I can't address everything.

My point about All-Stars is about NBA coverage in general. Yes, the coaches have their say, and Stern chooses injury replacements (I think, never been worried about it). I know what you mean by "legitimate All-Star," but that's still an incredibly vague statement about how good a player is. When we get into overrated All-Star territory it's easy to come up with a list of EC centers chosen over the last decade. No matter what your opinion of Gil is, there are oodles of truly undeserving All-Stars that rank far below him in terms of impact. Allan Houston was in two All-Star games for buying out loud! When I hear or read "legitimate All-Star," I think about Houston's slightly above league average production.

"Is he an upgrade in terms of wins and losses? "

That's the beauty of +/- rating. Dominic McGuire is the only Wizard with a worse on court/off court +/- rating than AD and Stevenson. In terms of wins and losses, they're helping their team lose... consistently.

9:27 AM  
Blogger David Friedman said...

I think that I get your point about All-Stars but I'm sure that you are missing mine. I'm not talking about guys who should be All-Stars but haven't been voted in or vice versa; I just used "All-Star" as shorthand to mean "top 24 (or so) players in the NBA." We probably could agree for the most part on who those 24 players are, even if we would rank them differently. My contention is that Arenas is overrated within that group. I'd have him 15th or 20th while a lot of people would put him in the top ten, maybe even top five. I can't think of another guy in that 15-20 range who gets so much mention as an MVP-level player. That's all I'm saying (and saying it this way is much more wordy than saying that Arenas is the most overrated All-Star, particularly since I really think that most people understand what I meant, even if they disagree).

5:01 AM  
Blogger BenGo07 said...

I don't think Gilbert is "over-rated" compared to the NBA elite. You admit he's a Top 20 player, and surely no one would say he's better than LeBron, or Duncan, or Nash, or Wade, or Dwight Howard, or Garnett, etc. If he gets more media play than some of those guys, that more likely stems from the fact that he's engaging, friendly and quirky. So yeah, you might see more stories about Arenas than Duncan, but those stories aren't about how Arenas is the bestest player in the league; they're about how he says "HIbachi" or collects an insane amount of jerseys or wrote something batty on his blog. I think your complaint here should be with how the NBA media loves carrying quirky players, not with anything Gilbert does on the court.

12:00 PM  
Blogger BenGo07 said...

"carrying" should be "covering"

12:01 PM  
Blogger Doctor Dribbles said...

Dave, I'd love some specifics over generalities. Who exactly are these Arenas-backers who keep trotting him out for MVP? Not ESPN, not the Washington Post, not even the diehards on Bullets Forever. As we've discussed on many other forums the past two days, there was reason to include Gil in last year's MVP midseason, when he and the team were flying high; he received no real consideration end-of-year, after the team faded. As Ben Go points out, Arenas still gets considerable attention for being quirky and media-friendly. Attention /= awards...otherwise, Isiah Thomas would be Coach/GM of the year.

Re: Team USA, Colangelo and co. weren't looking for a superstar-laden team, remember?...unless you think Shane Battier, Kirk Hinrich, and Mike Miller are better players than Gilbert. And while Coach Jordan wasn't thrilled with all the 50-pt game talk, especially after the Portland loss, Arenas is well-known for using perceived slights and insults as motivation...seems to have paid off, as he went from underrated prospect to U. of Arizona starter as freshman, 2nd round draft pick to All-Star, and Team USA omission to Phoenix win-streak killer last year.

1:11 PM  
Blogger David Friedman said...


That is in fact exactly my complaint and I can't help it that some people have chosen to read more or less into my post than that.

Doctor Dribbles:

In response to your request for specifics, here are some (by no means all) of the Arenas for MVP articles:

Yes, Arenas had some good games and the Wizards made it all the way to 24-16 but those articles--and others in that vein, plus similar comments by various TV analysts--struck me as a bit much even before the Wizards settled back in to being a 39-34 team. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, as of March 21, 2007, Arenas had 15 games of at least 10 FGA in which he shot worse than .300 from the field (only Bibby, with 19, had more). Arenas is a volume shooter who had a very good hot streak at one point last season and I still cannot figure out why seemingly everyone made him an MVP candidate. At that same time, Dirk was playing just as well or better for a team that was on pace to win 70 games, Steve Nash was still Steve Nash, Tim Duncan was still in the league as far as I know and LeBron wasn't playing too shabbily. I could run down more names but you get the point: a few high scoring games and some game-winning shots did not suddenly convince me that Arenas had moved from 15th to 1st and, sure enough, he and the team predictably did not sustain that level of play.

As for Team USA, what the coaching staff was not looking for was shoot first players who are not coachable. Do you think that they would have turned down KG or Duncan to take Hinrich or Battier? Look at the difference between Kobe and Arenas. Kobe showed up, made it clear that he did not care about scoring and said give me a DVD of the best player on each team so that I can shut him down--and then he did it. Arenas showed up and could not understand why the whole offense was not built around him.

9:26 PM  
Blogger David Friedman said...

Doctor Dribbles:

As for using perceived slights as motivation, that certainly has worked for Arenas in terms of helping him to become an All-Star level player. Unfortunately, he believes that he is an MVP level player and in the process of trying to prove that he gets himself and his team out of whack (the 50 point guarantees, calling out Boston, etc.). He does not get taken to task for these things because he is popular. Just imagine if Iverson or Kobe said or did a fraction of the things that Arenas says and does.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Hot Shit College Student said...

I'm never leaving town again. Suddenly a super subjective popularity contest has meaning, and it's a damn shame Gil gets a pass because he is popular?

10:52 AM  
Blogger Ty said...

I don't get why DF doesn't make the point he's really supporting. I'd ask this question: "How can Gilbert be one of the 20 best players in the league if his team is actually worse with him playing?" After all, that's what all the quotes, win % increase, scoring avgs. suggest, right?

3:27 PM  
Blogger Hot Shit College Student said...

ty -

I dunno. I don't expect DF to keep hitting refresh, and I wasn't around to let him clarify, nor did I defend my post.

As far as his Occam slicing goes, it's not very logical to blame everything on Arenas. He's a high usage player sure, but Butler and Haywood didn't become a year older because of Gil's bum knee.

4:31 PM  
Blogger David Friedman said...

I answered Ty's point at 20 Second Timeout and I'll just quote from part of that response here (Ty asked a slightly different question there):

I am not willing to go so far yet as to say that Arenas makes his team worse, precisely because this is a small sample of games. All I am saying at the moment is that if he were truly an MVP-level player then his team's performance would not spike without him even for just a month. A team with two other All-Star level players can overcome the loss of one All-Star if the other two All-Stars play well and everyone else who moves up one notch in the rotation is productive. However, if a team loses an MVP-level player then that means that one All-Star has to become an MVP-level player and so on down the line through the rest of the roster.

It is interesting that some people think that I went too far with my conclusions and other people say that I did not go far enough. All I did was report on and analyze what has actually happened to this point: an allegedly MVP-level player has been out for a month with an injury and his team is doing very well without him; that confirms the impression I already had formed that Arenas was never an MVP-level player in the first place. Arenas is productive enough individually to demonstrate that he has All-Star level talent, which is why I specifically did not question that.

6:08 AM  
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10:34 AM  

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