Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Solid As a Rock

     One of the most key aspects to becoming a star in the NBA is the ability to produce for your team consistently over the 82-game regular season.  It’s the most common aspect that coaches bring up when their young up-and-comer has a break-through game: “He was really impressive tonight, but we need him to start stringing games like this together.”  You may also hear snipers like Charley Rosen pick on fringe-stars by commenting that they only show up once a week.  As important as 82-game production is, there isn’t a readily-available stat to compare players with.  That’s where I come in.

     As a creative tag, I’ll go with consistency weighting.  Here’s how it works.  Take a player’s average, calculate what 2/3rds of that average is and consider that number to be a threshold for “off nights.”  Then, you take the percentage of games that the player did not have off nights.  In essence, how consistent is that scoring average?  
     Here are some notoriously flaky producers as contrast:
Stromile Swift: 9.6 PPG, games with 6 points or less counted as off nights, 62.5% consistency [12 off nights and 32 total ( (32-12)/32 = .625]
Drew Gooden: 11.2 PPG, 74.2%
Chris Webber: 19.4 PPG, 78.1%

     So many people get sucked into thinking that Webber is still a borderline all-star the morning after Sportscenter chimed in to tell them that he put up a 27-21 in a win over Minny.  That’s impressive, but temper that knowing one night a week he won’t manage to get you 13 points, such as his 12-6 game against the Raptors Dec 18 or the 12 he put up against the Lakers this past week.  Or didn’t you hear about that on Sportscenter too?  

     Now let’s look at the league’s top ten scoring leaders:
Kobe: 34.1 PPG, 90.6% (3 off nights out of 32 total)
Iverson: 33.3 PPG, 88.2%
LeBron: 30.6 PPG, 83.9%
Gilbert Arenas: 29.0, 73.3% (8 off nights out of 30 total)
Wade: 26.5, 91.1%
Pierce: 26.4, 97.1% (only a single off game out of 34)
Dirk: 26.0, 91.4%
Vince Carter: 25.5, 78.3%
T-Mac: 25.3, 79.2%
Michael Redd: 25.1, 93.3%  

     Casts a new light on the top scorers.  It’s crucial for a team to know that their star is good for X number of points each night; otherwise, gameplans quickly go to hell.  Kobe’s season isn’t a fluke: he’s nailing just about anyone that comes across his path.  He’s good at that, I’m told.  The Celtics have an absolute rock in Paul Pierce, despite the endless grumblings that both parties would welcome a split.  Gilbert Arenas, the shining star for the Wiz, seems to have a bad habit of leaving his team hanging: WAS lost all 8 games where he couldn’t get at least 20.  McGrady may or may not deserve a pass; his back troubles were the direct cause of at least 3 or 4 of his 5 off nights, but at the same time, isn’t being healthy part of being consistent?  Would you consider a co-worker constantly out with colds to be reliable?

     Cautions for the legions of you salivating at the prospect of trying out this marker: try to only use it on major players.  Backups that get yanked around in the lineup aren’t going to be consistent by nature.  It’s best use is to expose phony stars like Webber.


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