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The Boxscore Geeks Show: Different Positions about Robins and the West


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Show Notes

Best "Robins" in the NBA?

Arturo wrote a piece on the thirty best "Robins" in NBA history. Have we mentioned Dennis Rodman is underrated? Also, he's a Batman more than a Robin.

Hakeem is an all-time center, but his amazing playoffs performance against David Robinson and Shaquille O'Neal may give him the irrational boost to greatest ever.

Correction: Rodman only won two Defensive Player of the Year awards. I think being great at defense should be a shoe-in for Hall of Fame first ballot voting. However, as I've discussed about Dikembe Mutombo, I don't think it is.

Also, Ben Wallace is likely to be snubbed, and as a reminder, he was the star of the "starless Pistons" that won it all. And that's using conventional methods too!

I argue that the term Robin to describe great second players is silly.

For some good "Robins": Arturo thinks Mo Cheeks is mad underrated. Also, Mario and Nash are a great duo that doesn't get enough love.

Reminder, Golden State gifted the Celtics three rings in the 80s. Seriously.

You probably need a star to win. The Sonics in 79 are the only team to really buck this trend.

On the Run and Gun Suns, it's worth noting they could have had Luol Deng, when he was still amazing, instead of Joe Johnson. Ouch.

The Lakers and the Western Landscape

The Lakers' GM Mitch Kupchack says the Lakers could make the playoffs next season. Arturo kindly reminds us the Lakers don't play in the East. And even that would be a stretch.

Nick Young said he'd be happy to be Kobe's Robin. I say Nick Young is the only person to use that term correctly! Reminder, Nick Young is terrible!

We talk bad Robins -- including Jason Todd. I argue the Red Hood storyline makes him a good character. Arturo counters the retcon there was terrible. No disagreement. However, check out Under the Redhood, it's a great DC animated film.

Arturo runs down his vision for the 2014-2015 Western Conference. Tune in!

The Thunder lost Thabo Sefolosha. Of course, if they'd finally just stop giving Perkins so many minutes, they'll be fine with Nick Collison and Steve Adams.

For the Rockets, we think Ariza is an upgrade. Of course, as Shawn Furyan points out - the worst stretch of Ariza's career was in Houston.

The Mavericks seem to have stolen Phoenix's medical staff.

Reminder, the Trail Blazers won 54 games but had a crazy strong stretch where Wes Matthews and Damian Lillard were being historically good from three.

Arturo gives hope to Denver fans.

When it comes to the Lakers and the Kings, the Kings win out because they have DeMarcus Cousins, and Jordan Hill isn't going to get playing time.

We think the Lakers have a legitimate shot of 24 missed shots in a quarter happening at some point this season.

We leave the East for later. A point though, the Cavaliers need to do a little more to be better than they were last time LeBron took them to a finals.

Arturo makes a bad joke, which we compare to Josh Smith's amazing ability to keep shooting airballs.

Position Adjustment

We talk a little more about position adjustment following Patrick's recent piece on "small ball". The position adjustment and WaR crowd have two basic points that seem contrary to me:

  • Positional adjustments in the NBA is a hugely complicated problem that can't be simply modeled (which I don't really agree with)
  • The economics of a market to pay for talent in major sports is a simple problem that can be modeled with a few trivial formulas. (Which I also don't agree with)

These two ideas are very much at odds. No economist would tell you microeconomics is a trivial and simple field. At the same time, few will act as if positions in the NBA are really that complex.

Some more fun notes - most players in the NBA are overpaid! This is simply because the salary cap restricts stars, and rookies are wildly underpaid. Arturo points out that this is good politics, as if most players are overpaid, they're less likely to be upset. 

Shout Outs

Daniel Leroux (@DannyLeroux) of RealGM was the inspiration behind the Robins piece. Also, Ian Levy(@HickoryHigh) at Nylon Calculus gets some love here.

Coach Nick (@bballbreakdown) gets a shout out for teaching a clinic on the Triangle Offense in New York.

Krishna Narsu(@knarsu3) gets a shout out for some amazing charts on how Kobe and LeBron act as the shot clock winds down.

Brian gives a shout out to the Warriors for helping out the 80s Celtics.

Brian also gives a shout out to Arturo! Not just for his great work, but for an amazing Tweet about Sharknado.

Hope you enjoyed the show, we'll see you next week!

I admit the Jason Todd retcon was lame, but Todd never lacked skill though. Nick Young just plainly sucks balls (I mean he's good @ doing absolutely nothing). I feel like the Jason Todd analogy should strictly be reserved for those players who display requisite skill sets, but make a lot of knuckle-headed decisions (on and off the court) which either impacts their performance, or monetary value.

Kobe Bryant, James Harden ( & yes, I've seen him take a lot of these types of shots for his career, he just has a tendency of being more KD than Kobe), Dwight Howard, Javale McGee, Lance Stephenson, Russell Westbrook, et al. Josh Smith also comes to mind, and while he's a terrible player, it's not for lack of skill (he's a good rebounder, passer, shot-blocker, and is good @ getting steals, and staying out of foul trouble). What makes him bad (poor shot selection & shitty handles) is his inability to be disciplined, and focus on his strengths.
Andres asserts that the difference in position adjustment between 'close positions' is 'small' but the difference in adjustment between small and power forwards is about 0.07 adjp48 seems quite large to me. (That's close to the difference between an average starter, and what you call a star in the playoff box scores.)

Starting around 33:38 in the podcast there's an exchange that illustrates the distinction between 'fair value' and 'market value'. Economists in general seem all to ready to conflate the two notions.

Arturo: ... When you actually go through the whole analysis, using the single one win model and one number model is good enough for what you're doing. ...

Andres: ... Roster allocation is a very complicated model ... dealing with an entire set of economics that is really difficult. So when people come in and say wins above replacement is good enough for that: No! That's an entire field of study that is really complicated...

Arturo: ... You expect six guys to be worth the max, and you expect 40% - 40% !- of the players in the league - to be overpaid at the minimum level. ... More than half the players in the league are making more than they should. ... min level players in general are overpaid.

Andres: Oh, absolutely. I don't disagree with that at all, but the market...

So if James wanted 60 million, would you say no?
I agree with Dre that Robin seems pejorative; what we mean here is more along the lines of Luke and Han (or Han and Chewie) than Batman and Robin, but you can't go around calling people Hans or Chewies; they won't like it. Here are some proposals:

Sherlock and Watson
Butch and Sundance
Tango and Cash
Mario and Yoshi/Luigi
and my favorite, Chell and Companion Cube.

All hail David Robinson, the greatest Companion Cube ever!
To clarify -> using the boxscore stats and basic positions to assess a player's productivity is fine. To attempt to make any baseline minimum wage value for a player is not as its associated with a very complicated restrictions. (I'm mostly referring to the CBA and trade/salary rules)

So one catch-all stat to explain if a player is good based on what position they primarily play? Fine. One catch-all stat to explain the market value of a player based on "replacement level" players? Nope.
> To attempt to make any baseline minimum wage value for a
> player is not as its associated with a very complicated
> restrictions. (I'm mostly referring to the CBA and trade/salary
> rules)

Totally -- the 'market' is small and full of back-room dealings so there's probably no way we can have good notions of what 'market value' for players is. However, we can talk about 'market value' and we can talk about 'production value' which, in a distorted market like the NBA - or even more obviously the NCAA - can be different.

In principle, it's sensible to bring the notion of a player's market price into contract analysis, but it's not typically what people here do. For example, consider this article:

Free agent contracts signings are - by their very nature - at market price. Yet Patrick has no issue at all talking about how bad the contracts are.
Sometimes the market over values a product. If you are a buyer in such a market, you aren't a shark, you're a whale.

Buying something at the market price doesn't guarantee that you get good value.

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