'Arbitrary' stat usage and Dame

In a recent post by Ben Golliver 'Blazers G Damian Lillard Named Western Conference Rookie Of The Month For March' the following quote was included in an announcement by the NBA that Lillard had won the Rookie Of The Month award for the month of March:

In March, he became one of only four rookies in league history to record 1,390 points and 475 assists.

This put him in a category with Michael Jordan (2313 pts 481 ast) Oscar Robinson (2165 pts 690 ast) and Allen Iverson (1787 pts 567 ast). That certainly finds him in good company. The numbers used seem arbitrary but are in fact the number of points and the number of assists that Lillard had by March 31st. What this basically means is that anyone that had less than either 1,390 points or 475 assists did not make the list.

So is this a great accomplishment that should distinguish Lillard as being one of the great rookies of all time or is it a deceptive use of statistics? There was some discussion of the use of stats on that blog and it has been discussed previously by many posters. Blazeredge's own Dave wrote a lengthy piece on the subject 'Blazer's Edge Mailbag: Stats and their Proper Uses'

In this piece Dave demonstrated how using stats can create an illusion about a subject:

Every year we fight the single-game plus-minus battle on this site as people want to use one game's number to show one player had a better night than another or, worse, that one player is better than another overall. Or we get tidbits from Blazers Broadcasting that "Only two small forwards in the league have X points and Y rebounds per game: LeBron James and Nicolas Batum!" The implication is clear: that Batum and James are in a class by themselves and that Batum is creeping ever closer to elite status. It's a classic shady use of stats to create an effect or an argument. Why cite those two stats and not an across-the-board comparison? If they're that indicative, how come they're not linked on a regular basis and players quantified thereby? How far is the distance between #1 and #2 and how many other non-small-forward NBA players fit in that gap? At what point in the season are you taking these measurements and which way are the numbers trending? The impression based on the numbers presented is that Batum is having a great season. In reality there's a debate whether he's having an upwardly-trending year even compared to his own statistics, let alone closing the LeBron Gap. It's the equivalent of Spock saying, "Captain, there are three Klingon cruisers off the bow and we should kick their butts! Whoo!" The data may be accurate as far as it goes but the conclusion may not be warranted or helpful. The agenda is driving the stats instead of vice-versa.

So the question is whether or not the use of these stats is a valid way to portray our beloved rookie? Even mentioning someone in the same breath with Michael Jordan is surely exalted praise. Well, guess what?, he has now surpassed even his airness with more than 481 assists. This has got to be a great all time feat!

How do these statistics play together and what is their significance? Do they really make Lillard a great one? To answer these questions lets look at the reasoning. One could argue that the three most important stats in BB are points, assists and rebounds. Generally speaking wings will have a greater number of assists and bigs will have a greater number of rebounds. So if you use points/assists as a watermark it will most likely be placing one in statistical levels with guards and small forwards. So the high scoring big rookies probably wont make the list but would on a points/rebounds list. So that diminishes the greatness to some extent. To be an effective guard you need to primarily score and provide assists. If you have a lot of steals, rebounds and blocks and not very many turnovers and fouls that's good too but arguably not quite as important as points/assists. That basically sums up what putting these numbers together means.

That begs the question where does he stand on separate lists? For that I complied a couple of rookie of the year (ROY) lists with points leaders and assists leaders. A complete list can be found here. There are 63 ROY award winners in the history of the NBA. Last year was the 59th year of the award but there were two ties bringing the total to 63 winners. As of this post Lillard has 1436 points and 493 assists with six games to play. His projected total based on his per game performance would be 1549 points and 532 assists. We shall see. He ends up currently placing at 33rd for points among ROY winners if he wins. He would project to 29th if he averages out the season. He places a lot higher in the assists category where he currently places 11th and would project to 9th. If he does make ROY that puts him in quite a category alone with only 63 other individuals although it is an award not a statistical accomplishment. His points total would place him somewhere very close to the middle of the 64 and his assists total would place him in the top 10. Not too shabby but a little less august than the list of four.

It is interesting to look at the names on the two lists and their accomplishments in total numbers.


  1. Wilt Chamberlain 2707
  2. Walt Bellamy 2495
  3. Kareem Abdul Jabbar 2361
  4. Michael Jordan 2313
  5. Oscar Robinson 2165
  6. Rick Barry 2059
  7. Geoff Petrie 2031
  8. Sidney Wicks 2009
  9. David Robinson 1993
  10. Earl Monroe 1991
  11. Walter Davis 1959
  12. Shaquille O'Neil 1893
  13. Blake Griffin 1845
  14. Allen Iverson 1787
  15. Larry Bird 1745
  16. Elgin Baylor 1742
  17. Mitch Richmond 1741
  18. Tim Duncan 1731
  19. Darrell Griffith 1671
  20. Terry Cummings 1660
  21. LeBron James 1654
  22. Elton Brand 1627
  23. Kevin Durant 1624
  24. Dave Bing 1601
  25. Larry Johnson 1576
  26. Adrian Dantley 1564
  27. Willis Reed 1560
  28. Chuck Pearson 1541
  29. Alvin Adams 1519
  30. Bob Pettit 1466
  31. Tyreke Evans 1450
  32. Pau Gasol 1441


  1. Mark Jackson 868
  2. Oscar Robinson 690
  3. Phil Ford 681
  4. Ernie DiGregorio 663
  5. Damon Stoudamire 653
  6. Chris Paul 611
  7. Jason Kidd 607
  8. Allen Iverson 567
  9. Derrick Rose 512
  10. Steve Francis 507

This shows you where he lands with the ROY winners whereas the list may be longer if it included all rookies. So does this establish Damian Lillard as one of the great rookies? Does putting the two stats together constitute a proper use of statistics? What do you think?

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Blazer's Edge

You must be a member of Blazer's Edge to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Blazer's Edge. You should read them.

Join Blazer's Edge

You must be a member of Blazer's Edge to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Blazer's Edge. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.