Friday, July 20, 2007


I know this is a bit of an odd post to put up now (since I've just put up two other posts in the last couple of minutes), but I'm probably not going to be posting at all for the next week or so (possibly until the start of August). I'm taking the bar exam next Wednesday and Thursday, and my studying to date has been a little lackadaisical. Hopefully I still have time to correct the situation (if I took the exam today, I would very definitely not pass), but we'll see. At any rate, I've decided that until I've taken the exam I need to completely cut myself off from my other activities--no more reading websites, reading the newspaper, etc--until after the exam so that my head is "in the game." After the bar exam, I'm traveling for a couple days (camp reunion for the weekend, then a few days with my family to celebrate my mother's 65th birthday). I probably won't have internet access during that time, but if I do I'll try and put up a few posts. I'll be back August 1 with nothing else to do until I take off for Alaska at the end of the month, so I'll return to a daily posting schedule at that point. Hope you manage to find some way to fill the 1.5 minutes you spend reading my posts here each day!

Checkers = Tic-tac-toe

Not basketball-related, but I thought it was interesting.

Chalk up another victory for computers. According to this article in the New York Times, a computer programmer has now "proved" that his computer program can never lose at checkers--it can win or draw, but there is no possible way to beat it. In essence, checkers has now become a slightly more involved version of the big game of tic-tac-toe contained in the classic Matthew Broderick film "WarGames." You can only win at Checkers if the other person makes a mistake.

On a related note, I had no idea that in tournament checkers (actually, I didn't know there WAS tournament checkers) the match starts with three moves chosen at random. Who knew?

Another Sixers lottery pick: Jerry Stackhouse

In a fairly slow part of the NBA year, I must say that Wages of Wins has been putting up consistently interesting stuff. This post looks at the career of Jerry Stackhouse, chosen by the Sixers as the third pick in the 1995 draft, arguing that he has been overrated throughout his career because of the emphasis people give to scoring. Overall, I agree that Stackhouse has been overrated, but I will say that watching Maverick games this past season I thought he was very productive off the bench for Dallas (although his Win Score from last season indicates otherwise).

Hey, Ref, who's paying you to make calls like that?

Reffing NBA games is tough--a foul probably occurs on every play, so what ends up happening is referees let some fouls go without being called, and you hope that the referees are just consistent in the calls that they do make. As a fan, it can be unbelievably frustrating to see on a replay a foul that isn't called, especially since you don't really see all the other (similar) fouls that were also not called since replays of those plays were not necessarily shown.

With all that discretion, referees have a huge ability to impact a game. The possibility of a ref intentionally influencing a game is a major problem, an act that could fundamentally threaten the integrity of games. According to this report, NBA point-shaving no longer seems like a bad possibility, it appears that it has very likely already occurred over the past two seasons. Most likely, the point-shaving will have impacted the betting outcome and not the winner of a game, but that doesn't make the cheating any less serious. I'll post updates on this story as I see them.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A "fake" win, but I'll take it

I just got back from playing some pick-up basketball at the gym. Bit of a frustrating day (actually last couple of days)--neither my jump shot nor my finishing around the rim has been good recently. My passing, defense, and rebounding has tended to stay pretty consistent, but for the first couple of games today my legs just didn't want to move (I kept losing, but the team coming on always needed a few players so I was able to keep playing).

At the same time, the team that won the first game just kept on winning. A bunch of solid players, but mostly they were just shooting the lights out today--in the first game, I think they went 5-5 from 3-point range (we play 2's and 3's to 21 most days), and the shooting didn't really let up that much the rest of the day. In case you're wondering-- no, that's not the type of shooting normally seen at the Harvard Law School gym, especially not during the summer. After sitting out a game, I came back on a with a team that wasn't that different than the teams that I had already lost with four times, but finally things just clicked. I hit 3 of 4 3-pointers, and generally felt like I played solid defense. It was close, but we managed to get the victory in what turned out to be the last competitive game of the day (the level of play in the next game declined dramatically).

It felt good to finally beat the guys who had been beating up on me (and all of us) all day, but I know it's sort of a "fake" win. The winning team was (1) bound to have an off game at some point, and (2) tired after having played five straight games. But you know what? I'll take it anyway. When you've been in a bit of a slump, you'll take the wins anyway you can get them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mostly since I can't help myself....

The Wages of Wins continues to look at previous drafts, and today DJ took at a look at the 1994 draft. The whole article is excellent (and you should go read it), but in keeping with the theme of my posts this week (the unreasonable expectations placed on high draft picks), I would just point your attention to this paragraph:
The top pick in the draft, Glenn Robinson, was only the 9th most productive player in terms of career wins. If we look at career WP48, though, Robinson falls to 13th best. So he didn’t quite work out as the Bucks thought.
And, of course, since we're gluttons for punishment at this website for all really depressing Sixers' news, make sure to check out this chart of how all the the first round picks from 1994 did over the course of their careers. Sharone Wright, selected by the Sixers with the 6th pick in the draft, was the 24th best player chosen in the first round on a per minute basis. Sort of makes you nostalgic for Shawn Bradley...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Top picks and unrealistic expectations

In the comments to my last post, commenter Louis concedes a willingness to acknowledge that Shawn Bradley is unfairly maligned, but only if I am willing to concede that a player drafted that highly is expected to be a major impact player.

As I responded in the comments, I agree that the expectation is for a top three pick to be a major impact player, but I also think that history proves this expectation to be too optimistic. Going back over the last 15 years (to Shawn Bradley's draft), the top three picks in the NBA draft have been as follows:
  • 1993- Chris Webber, Shawn Bradley (the cause of all this ruckus), Anfernee Hardaway
  • 1994- Glenn Robinson, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill
  • 1995- Joe Smith, Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse
  • 1996- Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim
  • 1997- Tim Duncan, Keith Van Horn, Chauncey Billups
  • 1998- Michael Olowokandi, Mike Bibby, Raef Lafrentz
  • 1999- Elton Brand, Steve Francis, Baron Davis
  • 2000- Kenyon Martin, Stromile Swift, Darius Miles
  • 2001- Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol
  • 2002- Yao Ming, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy
  • 2003- Lebron James, Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony
  • 2004- Dwight Howard, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon
  • 2005- Andrew Bogut, Marvin Williams, Deron Williams
  • 2006- Andrea Bargnani, LaMarcus Aldridge, Adam Morrison
  • 2007- Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Al Horford
Looking at these drafts, we really have 10 years of useful information (since, in my opinion, it is too early to make a final judgment on any of the players taken in the last five drafts--2003 to the present). In those ten years, there have been at least 8 years in which one of the top three picks did not become a major impact player (I am excluding 1994, although it is a close call depending on your opinion of Glenn Robinson, and 1999). A vast majority of these players did go on to have successful NBA careers, but that's a very different thing than becoming a major impact player.

The odds of getting a major impact player at the top of the NBA draft are better than at any other spot in the draft, but history shows that even at those draft spots getting a major impact player is no sure thing.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Because I like it when people agree with me

Over at the Wages of Wins, the authors evaluate the 1993 draft and end up agreeing with me-- Shawn Bradley was not as big a bust as you think!

Using their "Win" metrics, DJ writes that:

The player chosen in between Webber and Hardaway was Bradley. Bradley has generally been though of as a bust. But in 12 seasons he managed to produce 50.9 wins, which is the 5th best mark in this draft class. His WP48 of 0.125 ranks 6th, which tells us that had decision-makers had a crystal ball in 1993 (and used Wins Produced to evaluate talent), Bradley would have still been a lottery pick.

Based on this evaluation, the best per minute players from the 1993 draft were Chris Webber, Anfernee Hardaway, Ervin Johnson, Sam Cassell, George Lynch, Shawn Bradley, and Scott Burrell. This draft was an admittedly weak one: the average WP48 for NBA players is 1.00--basically meaning that if you played a team of people with WP48 of 1.00, then your team would end up with a 41-41 record--and these six players are the only six players from the 1993 draft that qualify as average or better. However, you can only draft the people that are available, and by this measure Shawn Bradley really doesn't look like that bad a pick.

Also, in case you managed to miss his name in that list of players, I just want to give a big shout out to one of my favorite players of all time-- George Lynch. Nice to see him getting some recognition from someone other than me!