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This time, the topic is plus-minus.

People in the game often claim to know instinctively how to measure intangibles, but salaries suggest otherwise. Teams pay for little more than the glory statistics (points, rebounds and, to a lesser extent, assists).

Although steals, blocks, shooting percentage and an ability to avoid turnovers are crucial to a team's performance, players proficient in these aspects are rarely rewarded with bigger paychecks.

Consider our most underrated players, whose adjusted plus-minus statistics most exceed their glory statistics. (The most overrated players are those whose glory statistics most exceed their adjusted plus-minus statistics.)

The underrated list has many role players, as well as Utah's Andrei Kirilenko and San Antonio's Manu Ginóbili, stars who are strong defenders with well-rounded games. The overrated players include three Olympians and several maximum-salary players.

The overrated list is dominated by high-volume shooters who commit lots of turnovers, like Richard Jefferson and Carmelo Anthony. Many are also low-percentage shooters, like Allen Iverson and Antoine Walker.

Scorers like Jermaine O'Neal, Zach Randolph and Michael Redd who generate few assists are less valuable to their teams than is generally understood.

More can be learned by analyzing adjusted plus-minus statistics. With analysis, they can shed light on the age-old question of what kind of player helps a team win.
http://nytimes.com/2005/04/10/sports/basketball/10score.html
 

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Another Dan masterpiece. Well done, my friend. The only thing missing fro the article is a little bbb.net love! ;)
 

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I never liked the guys writing, I don't think he knows much about basketball. He puts way too much into stupid stats. I remember from after last season by his statistical analysis that Nene Hilario was the 3rd best player in the league by his adjusted plus/minus system, and Brian Cardinal was the 15th best overall player in the league when he combined all these useful statistics. Last I checked, Boston has been playing better since aquiring Antoine Walker. Jermaine O'neal overrated? A guy that plays above average defense with great offense and rebounding, right.....and Michael Redd, a guy that shoots a alright field goal percentage while playing good defense. I think people look too much into statistics, and then even use crazy statistics to justify their points. People need to just watch the game to determine who helps a team win.
 

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sloth said:
I never liked the guys writing, I don't think he knows much about basketball. He puts way too much into stupid stats. I remember from after last season by his statistical analysis that Nene Hilario was the 3rd best player in the league by his adjusted plus/minus system, and Brian Cardinal was the 15th best overall player in the league when he combined all these useful statistics. Last I checked, Boston has been playing better since aquiring Antoine Walker. Jermaine O'neal overrated? A guy that plays above average defense with great offense and rebounding, right.....and Michael Redd, a guy that shoots a alright field goal percentage while playing good defense. I think people look too much into statistics, and then even use crazy statistics to justify their points. People need to just watch the game to determine who helps a team win.

I definitely think you should e-mail the New York Times with your complaint. What the hell were they thinking, publishing one of his articles AGAIN?

And while you are at it, e-mail all the owners of the league. More than one (although we don't know exactly which ones) have paid him for consulting work. And e-mail all the sportswriters who use him as a source. Obviously, this must come to a stop as well.
 

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He knows the Collective Bargaining Agreement good, but when it comes to players and what effects they have on a team I think he is clueless.
 

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sloth said:
He knows the Collective Bargaining Agreement good, but when it comes to players and what effects they have on a team I think he is clueless.
Perhaps you have a point. That is why I suggested you inform the New York Times, NBA team management and the various sports writers around the country who rely on his opinions to stop barking up the wrong tree.

Its Sloth's tree. Three toes and all.
 

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While Sloth's comment that Dan "is clueless" is overdramatic, he does make an interesting (albeit unintentional) point.

I've been lurking for a while, as you all know, and have read many of Dan's posts in this forum. It is clear that he is a very intelligent and well respected man, who has a great understanding of statistics. However, he has such a good reputation, that I sense that we all agree to his analysis by default.

Essentially, Dan is a God among internet basketball discussing nerds. So, whatever he say's is automatically right. While he does have many, many interesting and logically sound things to say, there are others that people will disagree with, but not say anything as his statistical acumen is far greater then all of us armchair nerds.

I'm not suggesting he's coasting on rep, but despite his sound statistical framework, there is always room for criticism. I disagree with several player's positions on that list (Redd, Walker, Ginobili, Kirilenko, Iverson), but really, I don't have the background in statistics nor the reputation to undoubtedly prove it.
 

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Stats are often a good analytical tool when it comes to determining how well a player has been playing. This is especially true when you take into account minutes, other players on the team, and etc. I don't know much about Mr. Rosenblum's statistical analyst but I imagine he's taken these things into account when doing his calculations.

You used Walker has an example and said that Boston has been playing since he was traded back to the Celtics. That is simply not true, he played very well for several games but lately has fallen into the same habits that he demonstrated while playing for the Hawks. This has been made apparent by the fact the Celtic's have lost 6 of the last 7 games Walker has played in but won the two games he hasn't.
 

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Shabadoo said:
It is clear that he is a very intelligent and well respected man, who has a great understanding of statistics. However, he has such a good reputation, that I sense that we all agree to his analysis by default.

Essentially, Dan is a God among internet basketball discussing nerds. So, whatever he say's is automatically right. While he does have many, many interesting and logically sound things to say, there are others that people will disagree with, but not say anything as his statistical acumen is far greater then all of us armchair nerds.

I'm not suggesting he's coasting on rep, but despite his sound statistical framework, there is always room for criticism. I disagree with several player's positions on that list (Redd, Walker, Ginobili, Kirilenko, Iverson), but really, I don't have the background in statistics nor the reputation to undoubtedly prove it.

Outstanding post and a topic worthy of discussion.
 

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Dan has repeatedly said that his work is just another analytical tool, not the be-all, end-all of rating basketball players.

And you also have to remember that his work focuses on the dollar value of contracts. His main contention is that GMs fixate on points and rebounds and hand out huge contracts on the basis of those numbers rather than things that might help their teams more.

Seattle's a great example of this school of thinking applied to real life. They are a slightly revenue-handicapped team because of their outdated (but lovely) arena. So rather than get involved in the arms race that is the Western Conference power forward position, they figured that a combo of Danny Fortson, Nick Collison, and Reggie Evans would be just as effective, basketball-wise, and a hell of a lot cheaper, financially. Now compare what those guys have done, cumulatively, with what Portland or Golden State got out of their fours, and you can see the worth in the types of things that Dan researches.
 

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I haven't ever really looked too much into the stats for a few reasons. One there's so many of these + - ratings that it just seems like a mess sometimes. Secondly, I don't know what's all taken into account. I mean I single players + - is useless IMO b/c it doesn't take into account who's on the floor with him and it doesn't show me who he's playing against.

There's so many factors, especially who the other team is and who they themselves are playing on the floor at that particular time that I think to myself it's not fair to use this one statistic to show what they're worth. And when looking at a team's +- "best 5 to put on the floor", many of those groups don't play together often meaning that stat might tell me they are the best even though they only played against a winning team 14 of the 50 times they were on the floor together. Was their time together for 4 minutes, 25? Teams in the East only have to play the West teams twice a year and that must factor into it. I could really go on and on, but I'm starting to confuse myself already.

Looking at Dan's article, I would use his system over anyone else's based on what he's come up with. Randolph, Redd, Anthony, Walker etc are guys I also believe are overrated. I would much rather have a Ginobli or AK47 on my team.

I'm willing to bet he puts more into his system than anyone else does. On the other hand, in my opinion, it just seems like there's way too many variables to take any one of these ratings at face value and be done with it. I'm sure Mr. Rosenbaum realizes that as well.
 

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I just want to say that, while I agree with sloth and shabadoo that the venerable Mr. Rosenbaum might put a bit too much into statistics when using terms like "overrated" and "underrated" I still am very happy for him and his success and have always enjoyed any argument I've gotten into with him. I think the term "overrated", for example, makes some kind of implicit claim that the stats say it all...that a guy with low +/- but high "glory" stats MUST be overrated. Tell me Allen Iverson is overrated and try to convince me that your stats have "proven" it and I'll never believe you. Of course that's my perogative...but the term "overrated" is a subjective one and the statistics claim not to be. I don't think "overrated" and "underrated" should be used with +/- at ALL.

However, Dan has always been a gracious poster and is always willing to respond to complaints or questions. He's also willing to admit that stats don't tell the WHOLE story...I'm all for his going as far as his very bright mind will take him. But I will never stop questioning his findings or those of anyone else...especially when the disparity exists within his terminology.

You cannot prove the value of a player.
 

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Thanks to all for the kind words.

I always find the critiques of my work interesting. In particular when lists of players are put together, I think often it is that those who read what folks like me write ignore the nuance of what we say about statistics. There are many places in this NY Times piece where I talk about limitations of various statistical analyses.

Statistics are not "right" or "wrong," they just shed light on things in a different way than our personal observations might. I think that whenever we watch games, we are collecting statistics in our head which we use to make judgments about the players. The only difference between stats folks and everyone else is that the stats folks are a little more organized about the stats they are collecting in their heads.

I really don't have points that I am trying to make with the statistics. I don't like the guys on my underrated list any better than the guys on the overrated list. The point of those lists are that salaries seem to suggest that front offices value little more than points, rebounds, and assists per game. They seem to pay very little for anything else. But those "anything elses" are very important in determining which teams win.

Some of the players on the overrated list are better than the players on the underrated list. It is just that those on the overrated list tend to get lots of points, rebounds, and assists and those "glory statistics" imply that they are more valuable than they really seem to be with the plus/minus statistics. A guy like Antoine Walker has bad plus/minus stats and guys with similar box score stats to Antoine Walker also tend to have bad plus/minus stats. In other words, teams don't seem to play well when Walker is in the game or when players like Walker are in the game.

That is all that I am saying with the lists. Nothing more.
 

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How are points, assist, and rebounds the glory statistics. The more points you score adds more points to your teams total score for the game, assists means someone else scored adding more points to the total score, and rebounds give you another chance to score. Outscoring the other team is the object of the game, correct?
 

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Dan Rosenbaum said:
Statistics are not "right" or "wrong," they just shed light on things in a different way than our personal observations might. I think that whenever we watch games, we are collecting statistics in our head which we use to make judgments about the players. The only difference between stats folks and everyone else is that the stats folks are a little more organized about the stats they are collecting in their heads.
I agree with this. I would add that while statistics might not tell you everything about basketball players, the same reasons that it's hard to evaluate players using statistics also make it hard to evaluate players by watching games. Basketball is a complex game and it's impossible for a fan watching a game to play close attention to all ten players at once. That's why I place more weight on your statistics than on the opinion of fans who say "I know Eddy Curry is awesome because I watch him play and he has a bunch of sick dunks."

sloth said:
I think people look too much into statistics, and then even use crazy statistics to justify their points. People need to just watch the game to determine who helps a team win.
Not really, all they need to do is look at box scores. After all, points, rebounds, and assists are all that matter, and they're all in the box score.
 

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I think Dan's work is outstanding.

What niether he nor ScottMay addressed is that some teams hire statisticians to keep these "new school" (for lack of a better term) kind of statistics and they use them not only for scouting and contract valuations, but also to determine playing time, or even styles of play.

On the other hand, I've been watching the 1st season of West Wing on DVD this weekend, and one of the guys had a great line. Went something like this: "The reason there are economists is to make astrologers look good" :biggrin:

Basically, I'm in Dan's camp - that the stats are useful tools. But there are similar stats in baseball, that have been kept a long time. The "book" is to have a lefty batter pinch hit against a righty pitcher. Though there are some guys who are righties that hit righties extremely well - so it all comes down to the manager's "hunch" about what to do in various situations.

I'm also in sloth's camp on this one - that Antoine Walker has proven to be one heck of a pickup for the Celtics (they're 12-7 in games he's played since they got him, considerably better than their previous record).
 
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