Advanced Statistics and Player Evaluation


This is a post to highlight a paragraph extracted from the APER article over at Hoopdata. 

Consider this, all ye armchair statisticians:

Another important thing to note in regards to advanced statistics is that statistics do not measure ability, at least not exactly. Statistics measure performance, and in a sport as context heavy as basketball, performance is not always going to be 100% reflective of ability. When you're in a team-oriented offense like Phil Jackson's with a ridiculously good sidekick like Pau Gasol, you're probably not going to be giving everything you possibly can every night (I'm talking effort level, not contribution), simply because the offense doesn't require you to. From an ability standpoint, I don't think you'll find many people who think that Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, or Chris Paul are noticeably better than Kobe Bryant (even when you don't include defense in the conversation). But from a performance standpoint, in terms of what those players provide to their teams in their roles? I think if you look closely, it's more than reasonable that over the course of an entire regular season, the other three are required to do more for their teams than Kobe does. It's not quite fair that he is penalized for that, but that's why you always have to remember that statistics are about performance, not ability. And on that note, while PER and APER have their flaws, they do a pretty good job of measuring that.

and elsewhere in the article:

People may still be unsatisfied that Kobe ranks so far behind the likes of Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and Lebron James, but the fact of the matter is they create a lot more of their own shots than Kobe does. And even Brandon Roy, who some consider to be far beneath Kobe as an offensive player, last season created more of his own shots, scored with a higher efficiency, had a higher assist rate, and a lower turnover rate.

It is safe to say that Brandon's ability transcends his bulk production - but I also think it is safe to say that he has a fair amount of league-wide respect for his ability, hence his All Star appearences.

Ultimately, however, this post is a self-reminder that any statistic we use to support our arguments must be considered within context - and context can be extremely complex to understand.  The complexity comes from the almost infinite variables that shape each player uniquely.  We do have enough similarities to compare apples to apples, but those apples are Fujis and Granny Smiths - similar fruits of completely unique species.

We will never be able to compare Golden Delicious to Golden Delicious, no matter how hard we try to simplify our definitions.

Therefore, we are much better off using statistics to understand winning trends and then finding players that contribute directly to that winning trend.  Instead of arguing this point guard is better than that point guard, we should be focusing on "that player produces x, y and z -  and x, y and z win games".  When you focus your analysis on production, rather than player roles, you are much more likely to field winning combinations because your player evaluation isn't based on indirect measurables such as wingspan - but more on assists, TS%, etc.

So layoff Bayless and put him in the starting lineup, already.  His arms are long enough.

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