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Gilberto

John Carrol writes:

Part of their dilemma as a team is their star, Gilbert Arenas, obviously a major talent. He's a point guard, but not really a point guard. He's putting up big numbers, but is he making others around him better, or just making himself better? I don't have the answer.

There's obviously something to these sorts of doubts about Arenas, but the thing to keep in mind is that offense isn't really the issue for the Wizards. They score 103.3 points per 100 possessions, good for 10th best in the league. That's not great, but insofar as this year's Wizards team is disappointing compared to last year's, last year's team was pretty firmly in the "somewhat above than average" category and 10th best is good enough for somewhat above average. On defense, they're terrible, allowing 104.7 points per 100 possessions, good for 23rd in the league. Defense, and defensive rebounding, not Arenas' shortcomings as a pure point guard, is the issue here. Give the Wizards an average level of defensive efficiency, and they're a playoff team.

January 12, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

Matthew's conclusion is right. Just look at the Nets. They are two spots better than Washington offensively, and an average team defensively. That's good enough for third place in the Eastern Conference now.

I suppose this is part of the reason that Eddie Jordan was playing Jefferies so much. I mean, Jefferies' thing is supposed to be defending, right? So, the thing is, if Jordan wants the team to get better defensively, who does he play? Does he continue to play Antawn at the 4? An interesting lineup started last night: Gilbert at the 1, Butler at the 2, Jefferies at the 3, Ruffin at the 4, and Booth at the 5. You would think that lineup would give them more defense and rebounding.

Posted by: Al | Jan 12, 2006 12:31:40 PM

I devour John Hollinger's work as quickly as anyone, but I think you have to be a little careful when extrapolating from those statistics to overall judgements about the team. Specifically, the price of improving defense (for a player or a team) can sometimes be reduced offensive effectiveness, if only because no one can play at absolute full intensity 40 minutes a game, 82 nights a year. Arenas and Jamison (whom I watched in Oakland) strike me as players whose energy and focus with the ball was complemented by their, um, "resting up" when they didn't have the ball.

Posted by: Sam Penrose | Jan 12, 2006 1:03:25 PM

The quote from Carrol is grounded in the myth of great players "making their teammates better." Hollinger examined this supposed phenomenon and found that it was pure fiction, even for players as dominant as Jordan and Duncan. What conventional wisdom perceives as "a great player making the players around him better" is simply the star's individual impact. The key fact to acknowledge in this situation is that Arenas is making himself better, as evidenced by a 2 point jump in PER from 21.5 to 23.4, and that is all you can ask from the guy.

Posted by: Alec Halaby | Jan 12, 2006 1:24:23 PM

"He's putting up big numbers, but is he making others around him better, or just making himself better? I don't have the answer."

Pure hogwash.

Alec Halaby has a nice deconstruction above. I'd add that this criticism is always leveled at a player taking lots of shots on a losing team. Kobe scoring 45 and the Lakers lose? Kobe isn't making those around him better. The Lakers start winning with Kobe taking the exact same shots? We love Kobe.

Likewise, Gilberto was taking lots of shots last year, but the presence of Larry Hughes made the 'Zards better on both ends of the court, so the 'Zards weren't a losing team, and no one had a problem with Gilbeto's number of shots.

Bottom line: you can't tell anything just by looking at number of shots taken and win-loss record. It all depends on the player. If Antoine Walker is taking 20 shots a night, you've got problems. If Gilberto is taking 20 shots a night and you're below .500, you need to surround him with better players.

-----

Didn't see the game, but the 'Zards-Hawks box score was weird. 103-72 and no one has more than 15 points?

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The Sixers-Jazz game was an excellent show, despite the lousy outcome. Iverson was brilliant, and got no support except for a good first half from Webber. Korver didn't show up, and the Sixers usually have problems without him.

Kirilenko is a scary, scary player. He dominated on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter. On offense, he embarrassed Webber three straight times down the court, and Webber never got his head back into the game.

Don't look now, but the Jazz have won 9 of 10 against quality opponents. If Carlos Boozer ever decides to show up, and if they pick up some help in the backcourt, they could be an elite team.

-----

Now that we're all on the same page on the spelling of Gilberto's name, I'd like to move on to pronunciation:

The 'G' is soft and the 'E' is long. In other words, "Jheeeel-behr-to".

Posted by: Petey | Jan 12, 2006 1:58:43 PM

Pure hogwash.

I don't think so. People might not have figured out how to model this statistically yet, but there are players who shoot too much, or think that they need to take every critical shot, who end up demoralizing their teammates, who then either don't play as hard, or just don't get much better in critical situations. "Make other players better" is a bit misleading, but "get other people involved, so that the team is more effective" isn't.

Posted by: ogged | Jan 12, 2006 2:21:26 PM

What ogged said. There is too much going on in basketball for the game to be broken down into pure statistics a la baseball.

And Matt, Gil can't guard anybody either. (just to stir it up a bit.)

Posted by: Pooh | Jan 12, 2006 2:37:31 PM

I agree with ogged too. A great player can get his stats within the context of the offense with everyone else involved, or he can get them by himself with the offense stagnating. The former is surely more likely lead to a win than the latter.

Posted by: Al | Jan 12, 2006 3:57:13 PM

It certainly stands to reason that a guy who is a great passer is going to make his teammates better. I mean, he might not literally make them more talented basketball players, but he'll make them look better, because he'll get them easy shots. Same goes for a good shot-blocker. You can get burned on D and not too many people notice if Bill Russell is behind you sending everything back or making the guy miss.

Posted by: Steve | Jan 12, 2006 4:33:57 PM

Disagree completely with ogged. If you can't win with Arenas, a 30 point scorer on most nights, you need to rebuild until you find a team that plays to his skills.

Arenas is the last person to blame for this year's team. He shows effort almost every night, even showing effort when his team trails by 20. Granted, he isn't a avg. defensive player unless he gambles and gets his two-three steals. Which means he needs either a consistent shot-blocking center to play with or a team that knows how to rotate, which he just doesn't have right now.

Jamison can't guard anyone and he is playing out of position -- and for a #2 option he has been just awful this year (really: he's why they collapsed in December). Heywood is incredibly inconsistent and -- despite some incredibly flashy blocks -- gets beat or out of position on numerous pick and rolls and fails to rotate. Offensively, he goes from "surprisingly good" to "MIA", depending on apparently how his biortyhm tells him. The two players who do play defense -- Jeffries and Ruffin -- are non-factors on offense. Atkins and Daniels have been maddeningly inconsistent shooters and Daniels in particular has only recently had the confidence to break down a defense.

Absent a trade, the four players on this team I really like next year are Arenas and Butler (indifferent defensive players, but they are terrific offensive players you build around -- and if Butler can ever consistently hit the 3, he would be a *force* with Arenas), Daniels (because he would be very useful when his jumpshot comes back -- in fact, I think he should be the team's #1 and Arenas moved to shooting guard) and, believe it or not, Blatche (he's 19, 6-11 and actually can rebound and has a great mid-range jumper -- hope he learns a low-post game when he's guarded by 2s in the future).

Posted by: Chris R | Jan 12, 2006 6:41:19 PM

Judging players by PPG in isolation is silly. Yes Gil scores a ton, but he shoots a ton because (as you've noted) the rest of the team sucks. Remember Tony Campbell (TONY CAMPBELL) scored 23 per during the T-wolves first year. Because otherwise Pooh Richardson (who I of course have to love) or Randy Breuer would have to carry the load.

Until proven otherwise, I'll consider him the heir to the Shareef Abdur-Rahim memorial "Good Player+Bad Team = Sweet Fantasy Numbers" guy.

Would anyone here honestly take Arenas over Chauncey if you had to win a game tonite? Over Iverson? Over Pierce?

Posted by: Pooh | Jan 12, 2006 7:11:28 PM

Pooh, I wouldn't take him right now to win a game right now, in part because he's so incredibly young.

But... would a GM trade any of the three you listed for Arenas if they wanted to build a team for the next decade? Without question.

When Chauncey was Gilbert's age, I believe he was playing on the bench for his third NBA team. Pierce was Walker's complement and not the focal point of that Celtic team. And the same concerns (is he a 1 or a 2, can his style mesh with a winning team?) were raised about Iverson at the same age, if memory serves.

Posted by: Chris R | Jan 12, 2006 7:41:32 PM

Chris R-

Ogged merely asserts that a certain type of player exists, not that Arenas is that type of player.

Posted by: washerdreyer | Jan 12, 2006 11:23:31 PM

w/d:

Chris may be simply saying he disagrees with ogged in toto, or on all questions relating to basketball. Not a particularly controversial position, I would think.

Here, everyone seems to be speaking past one another. Certainly Petey is nosing around something - nostroms about "killer instincts" and "making his teammates better" are generally cover for "I don't understand what's going on, but I like my job." But I don't think we're anywhere near the point where we have good statistical maps for player value. I'd bet there are players with similar statistical lines whom we could distinguish, one as beneficial, one as a team cancer, for example. More to the point, the same player may be valued very differently by different systems. Nash was very good in Dallas, but he's much more valuable in Phoenix. Billups looks great in Detroit (and perhaps, therefore, is great) because of the team he plays on. Same with Hamilton. I'm not sure how great either would be elsewhere.

Which leads into Chris's point, maybe. You've got to pick a player to build around, and Arenas is it on the Wizards.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Jan 12, 2006 11:42:39 PM

A great player can make his teammates better the way Magic Johnson did. Or a "great player" can hog the ball, score 30+ points almost every night, and be on a losing team.

Back to the Wizards, Matt is right. The Wizards' problem isn't offense. It's that they have no defense. Until the Wiz address defense, they'll continue to have more losses than wins. A team just can't be successful in this league by simply outscoring their opponents. Everyone knows this. Unfortunately, somehow the Wizards can't seem to apply the knowledge and play some D.

Posted by: Angela | Jan 12, 2006 11:44:54 PM

Well, the statistical maps of players we have are more sophisticated than most people are aware of. The most similar thing to the "make your teammates better" phenomenon that statsheads have seen is Dean Oliver's "skill curve". That is, the more possesions you use, the lower your efficiency. So a guy who takes a lot of shots makes his teammates better by allowing them to take only easy shots. Now, adjusted +/- ratings (aka DanVal) show guys with great numbers but who have a detrimental effect on their team (Michael Redd used to be an example of this). There is not a good explanation for this (except maybe lack of defense) but it happens rarely. And of course, some players "fit" with each other and the team style more and others less. A complicating factor is that assists (a supposed indicator of a "makes his teammates better" player) is a relatively flawed stat because it's impossible to separate the quality of the pass from the skill of the shooter. Finally, Matthew, I like Hollinger too (have been a fan for years) but please link to the FREE Knickerblogger.net stats page. It's free AND more complete.

Posted by: Carlos | Jan 13, 2006 9:35:50 AM

Would anyone here honestly take Arenas over Chauncey if you had to win a game tonite? Over Iverson? Over Pierce?

I've always thought the lack of defense and ball hogging was Allen Iverson's problem too. Iverson is a great scorer but he's only gone deep into the playoffs with Mutombo in 2001. He really is not the answer. He certainly wasn't for Team USA in 2004.

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