Tuesday, August 28, 2007

All hail the team's top scorer

Over at the Wages of Wins, they've made a bit of a career out of pointing out how fans and the media (and even NBA talent evaluators) generally just evaluate players based on their ability to score, even if those people claim that isn't what they are doing. (For an example, check out this article or this one.)

Today's column by Chris Mannix provides an excellent example of this dynamic:

2. Carmelo Anthony is the USA's best player

I got a curiously large amount of email last week when I proclaimed Anthony the U.S.' top threat. But there really is no argument. Anthony is the team's leading scorer (22.6 points per game) and seems to have realized that even the physically superior opponents are no match for his strength inside. After a Dwight Howard free throw attempt in the first quarter against Mexico on Monday, Anthony muscled 300-pound former Washington Wizards center Horacio (don't call me Lorenzo) Llamas underneath the rim and collected the rebound. His three-point shooting has been excellent as well (61.1 percent), making him virtually unstoppable in this tournament.

Carmelo is scoring well, and therefore he's Team USA's best player. Really? We can't do better than this sort of evaluation? Oh well.


Louis said...

It’s just an issue of getting his language correct. Right now, by the numbers, Anthony is the team’s best scorer. He’s not the best player because that kind of statement would have to take into account how many points he gave to the other team through bad defense or not boxing out. It would also need to quantify how many assists he had or missed out on because he was too busy only looking for his own shot. While we’re building a way to judge who (whom?) the best player is we should also consider how well (or more likely how poorly) he covered for his teammates defensive mistakes, forced the opponent to take fouls, and forced turnovers too.

Sam Cohen said...

I don't think it's just a question of terminology. If you ask any of the announcers/commentators what goes into determining the best basketball player, they'll mention all of those things (assists, rebounds, etc). But when they are asked to name the best players after watching a bunch of people play, they name the scorers. There's a mental disconnect between how they claim to be evaluating players and how they actually are doing so.