Obligatory “gay for Steve Nash” post

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Phoenix Suns – Box Score – January 11, 2010 – ESPN

30 points, 7 rebounds, and 11 assists on 12-18 shooting, including 2-4 from 3. But his +/- is still inexplicably lower than Channing Frye's, who was 0-5 from the field and had 5 rebounds.

Ok, granted, it was against the Bucks, but still. Here's a 35-year old dude who is leading the league in assists per game (11.3) despite playing almost 4 minutes fewer than the second place guy (Chris Paul) and several minutes fewer than most of the other top 10 assist leaders. He's averaging 18.9 PPG, which makes him the 3rd highest scoring point guard in the league, behind Arenas at 22 and Deron Williams at 19.5; again, this while playing several fewer minutes per game than either. In terms of offensive efficiency, he has the highest field-goal percentage of any guard in the league (everyone above him is either a forward or a center). He is second only to Randy Foye in free throw percentage and is one of 3(!) Phoenix players in the top 10 in 3-point shooting (he isn't even the best 3-point shooter on his own team; that honor belongs to Jared Dudley (!!)).

As much as it pains me to admit it, the odds are excellent that Nash will never win an NBA title. The Suns of this year are not a team built for playoff domination; when the threes are falling, they're unstoppable, but they also can't stop anyone and have no inside game beyond the Nash-Stoudemire pick'n'roll. But there's no way you can look at those numbers and make the case that this is an overrated player. These are MVP numbers by almost any standard, and had he not already won the award twice, there's no question that he'd be in contention. And this isn't even a contract year, since he's already accepted a two-year extension on his contract this summer. If Nash hadn't, would he not have had his pick of places to go after this season?

I don't know what the point of all this is except to say that obviously Nash is a terrific player. He's going to be remembered as one of the greatest players of the decade, title or no.

Addendum: Nash is actually the 4th-highest scoring point guard. Chris Paul is averaging 19.5, but for some weird reason he doesn't show up on the leader board of either basketball-reference or the NBA stats section on ESPN. I have no idea why this is, but that's why I missed it the first time. I knew something had to be wrong so I looked up Paul's individual stats.

Addendum 2: The only people Nash trails in adjusted field-goal percentage are Kendrick Perkins and Dwight Howard.

6 thoughts on “Obligatory “gay for Steve Nash” post”

  1. I get the idea of calculating adjusted field-goal percentage by giving three-halves credit to threes because they’re worth, well, three-halves as many points. Wouldn’t a better picture of accuracy be made by giving more credit to threes based on how much harder they are to hit? Like, if the average three is twice as hard to hit, then adjusted field goal percentage also underrates anyone who shoots threes ever, let alone a lot. Vice-versa: also possible.

    Unless I am doing a terrible job of data mining, across the NBA the percentage for threes is 35%, and for twos is 49%. Instead of three-halves weight, I’d like to see adjusted FG percentage give threes about 1.4 weight. What do you think?

  2. You’re essentially suggesting weighting each shot by how difficult it is to make, right? The thing, though, is that ADJFG% is a per-player statistic, so it doesn’t matter how well anyone else shoots; all it tells you is the probability distribution for the shots that that player takes. I’m not sure what the statistic you are proposing would say. Wouldn’t it be something like how much is a particular shooter worth relative to the rest of the league? I’m not sure, it’s an interesting question, but it doesn’t seem to yield fundamentally different answers. Reading the number you’re throwing out, it seems that we can conclude that the ability to shoot threes is just slightly overrated relative to the general 3-point shooting of the league but not by a whole lot.

  3. Chris Paul might not be listed because he’s missed quite a few games. You usually need to have played a certain percentage of the games to that point in order to qualify for the leaderboards.

  4. What’s odd is that he’s on the assist leaderboard but not on points. You’d think he wouldn’t be eligible for either.

  5. Also, it doesn’t really make sense to change adjusted shooting percentage based on how hard it is to make a shot. Shots are worth a point value depending on where you take them, not how hard they are to hit, though those two things are certainly related. Such a stat might tell you how accurate a given player is relative to average, but it makes much more sense to relate shot percentages to their actual point value, since that’s how games are decided. There is data on how well players shoot in the immediate basket area, the lane, the wings, from areas of the line, etc., though I don’t know if anyone has ever put together a stat that measures how well relative to average a certain player performs in those areas, and combines it all together somehow (maybe by weighting the percentages based on how often the player shoots in those areas?). You also run into the question of whether to compare players to all other players, or only to players at similar positions (i.e. is Tony Parker’s insane ability to make shots in the immediate basket area being given the correct value if compared with, say, Andrew Bynum’s ability in that area, or would we be best off comparing Parker to other guards?).

    Also, I believe TS% takes into account free throw makes/misses, which makes sense, since it has a lot to do with how a player uses possessions. Someone like Russell Westbrook, who only shoots 40% but makes four of five FT attempts a game, is actually a pretty efficient scorer.

    Basketball stats are really cool, since they can tell you a lot in the broad sense, and a lot of players actually attempt to use them in the narrow sense (like is Kobe better driving left or right) to impact how they play the game.

  6. There’s no question that given the appropriate resources one could track player performances on different parts of the court. ESPN already tells you where the shots are coming from, and I imagine any NBA analysis team worth its salt would be able to track its own players (piece of cake using RFID) and probably opposing players too (though not as well).

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