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Under/Over

There's really nothing to be said about John Hollinger's all-underrated team, but I thought this paragraph was interesting:

Before I introduce the rest of the squad, I should point out that underrated can be kind of a hazy definition, and it can vary throughout a player's career. Shawn Marion, for instance, was wildly underrated for most of the past few years, but that appears to have evened out this season. And sometimes a player can be world-famous and still be underrated. Yao Ming, for instance, is a household name ... and yet most people routinely underestimate how good he actually is.
The whole concept really is murky. Take, for example, Stephon Marbury. He's a player whose main reputation seems to be a reputation for being overrated. But if that's the case, then he actually can't be overrated. So is he underrated? Maybe not. But that seems like a weird thing to say. Conversely, all I ever hear about Andrei Kirlenko (until the wife thing) and Elton Brand is that they're underrated. But if everyone thinks they're underrated, how underrated can they be? What they seem to be, perhaps, is less famous than they ought to be. Yao is yet another case.

I think the most conclusively underrated stuff tends to actually be bad. Take Fantastic Four which is not a good movie. The critics made this out to be a movie that was bad on a world-historical scale. It just isn't. It was a run of the mill bad summer movie. Underrated. Yet who wants to spend their time championing a bad movie as underrated just because it wasn't as horrible as people say? Not me, at least not really.

March 21, 2006 | Permalink

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Tracked on Mar 22, 2006 7:23:32 PM

Comments

I think it takes a little while for the meta-analysis of under/over-rated to catch up with people's actual opinions. I think Marbury was over-rated for a while earlier in his career. Then people started saying he was over-rated, and that eventually becamse the CW. Which means, as you point out, that he's no longer over-rated. And I doubt, after this year in NY, that many people will still call him over-rated.

Posted by: Doug T | Mar 21, 2006 3:46:57 PM

Anyone want to give list Hollinger's roster for those of us not sending money to ABC?

Posted by: Petey | Mar 21, 2006 4:10:27 PM

I think the question is overrated by whom? If we all think Marbury is overrated, we might well mean that Isiah, in agreeing to pay him (I think) $60 mil over the next three years, vastly overrated his abilities.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Mar 21, 2006 5:32:15 PM

Gerald Wallace
Jason Terry
Mo Williams
Jameer Nelson
Jason Richardson
Luol Deng
Josh Childress
AK 47
Elton Brand
Nazr Mohammed
Yao Ming
Jackie Butler

Posted by: DJ Ninja | Mar 21, 2006 5:35:45 PM

Firewall-haters of the world, unite!

Posted by: DJ Ninja | Mar 21, 2006 5:36:48 PM

Thx, DJ Ninja.

-----

OK. Of all of the players on that list, the only ones who don't have a real buzz around the league are Jackie Butler, Mo Williams, and Luol Deng.

As to the rest of the guys...

As Matthew notes, everyone who follows bball knows that Kirilenko and Brand are superstars. Everyone knows about J-Rich and Terry. Everyone knows Nazr is having a breakout season. Why not throw Mike James onto the list too? What about Nenad Kristic?

Posted by: Petey | Mar 21, 2006 6:02:06 PM

I think this is a good example of how Hollinger's attachment to his PER statistic limits his analysis. It's pretty clear that the most underrated players, league-wide, are the good man-on-man defenders. Since they don't amass numbers that go into the PER, Hollinger doesn't see the Shane Battiers and the Andre Iguodalas etc.

Posted by: quietstorm | Mar 21, 2006 6:06:21 PM

"Hollinger doesn't see the Andre Iguodalas"

It was debatable about whether or not Iguodala was underrated prior to the all-star break, but since then, he's been getting plenty of rep. And even prior to the break, everyone was noting both his hops and defense.

And as far as your general notion about defense not being rewarded by rep, I'd basically disagree. Guys like Bowen, Artest, Bobby Jackson, and Ben Wallace have always gotten plenty of rep just on defense.

Ruben Patterson might have been underrated prior to his trade to Denver, but I bet that had more to do with the criminal incident in his personal life than anything else.

Battier is, if anything, slightly overrated.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 21, 2006 6:18:19 PM

Quietstorm - that's largely correct. PER in no small part commits the anti-Wooden sin of "confusing activity with achievement". While 'rate' statistics are probably better than 'counting' stats, they still ignore the fact that there is a certain degree of zero-sum nature to basketball stats within a team. Unlike baseball where the number of HR's your 3 hitter hits is largely independant of the 4 hitter's production, in basketball, my shots take away from your shots, my rebounds take away from yours.

I'd posit that many Lakers' offensive stats for this year will look artificially bad because Kobe uses such a high percentage of possessions. Likewise, I think Garnett would get a few fewer rebounds if he was playing with non-terrible front-line teammates.

And that leads to things like Wallace (who may well turn out to be a good player, he's got talent, no question), at this point a classic 'good stats on a bad team guy' being labelled 'underrated'.

Plus any article that includes this (about Jason Richardson) is suspect: "and even as Golden State has faded from contention he's been carrying the team on his back." I'm not sure how one's one's involvement increases as the teams performance declines is a positive for that player...

Posted by: Pooh | Mar 21, 2006 6:42:05 PM

Battier is overrated ... and hideous. Gerald Wallace - I haven't seen him play, but, given his prior hype, and present disappearance, you have to wonder if he's just a late bloomer.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Mar 21, 2006 6:43:13 PM

What's wrong with Battier? I don't see him play that much, but I like what I see, and I think he's a good choice for Team USA. He's a very good defender and does a little bit of everything else. I hate Duke and all that it represents, but I can still appreciate Battier's game.

The guys in the NBA who are overrated are the ones who do nothing but score, especially on bad teams. Probably half the players in the league could score 20 a game if they were the #1 option.

Posted by: Steve | Mar 21, 2006 6:55:50 PM

Petey, I think you probably pay much more attention to Iguodala and the NBA in general than most. He's still not that well-known.

As for Artest, Wallace etc, I did not mean to suggest that every good defensive player was underrated or underpublicized, only that those who fit those labels are more likely to be strong defenders than offensive guys.

Posted by: quietstorm | Mar 21, 2006 6:59:01 PM

The guys in the NBA who are overrated are the ones who do nothing but score, especially on bad teams. Probably half the players in the league could score 20 a game if they were the #1 option.

Yup. It doesn't take that much to score 20 per game. 2 buckets and a FT per quarter

Posted by: Pooh | Mar 21, 2006 7:12:01 PM

What's wrong with Battier?

I don't follow comics enough to be sure, but I think he's one of Superman's mortal enemies.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Mar 21, 2006 7:20:22 PM

Pooh, I like the way you make that point. Lamar Odom is a case in point.

Posted by: quietstorm | Mar 21, 2006 7:21:09 PM

"Petey, I think you probably pay much more attention to Iguodala and the NBA in general than most. He's still not that well-known."

Sure. But it goes back to Matthew's original point: are players like Kirilenko and Brand underrated? If you're judging by the fact that non-bball aficionados don't really know who they are, then sure. But if you're judging by their reps among folks who follow the league, then they're not underrated. Everyone knows they're superstars.

If you follow the league, you've been hearing the buzz around 'Dre all season - especially after all-star weekend. If you don't follow the league, you barely know who Iguodala is, and you certainly don't know his teammates call him 'Dre.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 21, 2006 8:00:44 PM

"Plus any article that includes this (about Jason Richardson) is suspect: "and even as Golden State has faded from contention he's been carrying the team on his back."

If you've been watching the Warriors, you know Hollinger's statement is undeniably true, much in the same way Paul Pierce has been carrying a below .500 team on his back.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 21, 2006 8:11:44 PM

"The guys in the NBA who are overrated are the ones who do nothing but score, especially on bad teams."

Actually, the most overrated guys in the league, at least to the general public, tend to be the role players on elite teams.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 21, 2006 8:13:43 PM

If you've been watching the Warriors, you know Hollinger's statement is undeniably true, much in the same way Paul Pierce has been carrying a below .500 team on his back.

That may be, Petey (no league pass this year sucks big time). I think "his team sucks but their record is better than it should be because if his play" would be a better way of expressing the idea. Even reversing the statement and saying "Richardson has been playing great all-year, even if GS is fading from contention".

I'm nitpicking again, I know.

Actually, the most overrated guys in the league, at least to the general public, tend to be the role players on elite teams.

Are we talking in terms of the cognescenti or the general public? You seem to be arguing from either standpoint at times. Not that I disagree with your point, BTW.

Posted by: Pooh | Mar 21, 2006 8:19:46 PM

"Are we talking in terms of the cognescenti or the general public? You seem to be arguing from either standpoint at times."

Sure. It's the exact reason why the whole topic of 'underrated/overrated' is bit fuzzy and schizophrenic.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 21, 2006 8:35:08 PM

Maybe "surprisingly non-mediocre" would be a better term, though in the case of say Mike James, it might move up to "surprisingly good".

Posted by: Pooh | Mar 21, 2006 8:49:01 PM

Reponding to Pooh on PER: That's a great point which suggests the need in basketball stats for an equivalent to Bill James's "Win Shares" concept. Start with a team's number of wins, then use individual players' stats to determine which portion of those wins they deserve. Converting Hollinger's innovative stats to Win Shares would be a very revealing exercise.

Reponding to Matt on Fantastic Four: Actually, I really liked the movie! I think it's one of the very best translations of a comic's sensibility to film. A lot of middlebrow movie critics are dismissive of comics, and so overpraised Batman Begins for not being comic-booky, while ignoring the Kirbyesque charms of FF. Roger Ebert, who as an SF fan really ought to know better, complained that the Fantastic Four seemed derivative of the X-Men! (For the record, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four years before they developed the X-Men.)

Posted by: Ted Friedman | Mar 21, 2006 9:23:18 PM

Ted,

http://www.basketball-reference.com/about/ws.html

Posted by: quietstorm | Mar 21, 2006 10:10:56 PM

I agree with Ted on F4 - I quite liked it, and thought it was better than X-Men.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Mar 21, 2006 10:23:46 PM

Ted,

That would be interesting for what it's worth, but I think its more useful for comparing players within a team than across teams for the reason I mentioned above. Lamar Odom 2006 almost assuredly looks worse than Lamar Odom 2004 by the numbers, but I'm not willing to say that Odom was a better/more valuable/whatever player 2 years ago. He just has the ball in his hands a lot less (which, even if the Lakers weren't mediocre, would hurt his WS because it is based in large part on possessions used).

As I mentioned above, the formula is much more useful in baseball when there is a greater independance between individual player performance than there is in basketball. In his book, (which I can't recomend highly enough) Dean Oliver is always talking about the difficulty in accurately assigning 'credit' or 'blame' on each play.

Posted by: Pooh | Mar 21, 2006 10:31:37 PM

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