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View Full Version : Why are the Pacers bad? An alternative theory



Eindar
03-27-2009, 11:47 AM
I think we can all agree that not only are the Pacers bad, but that we've now been bad for multiple years. I'm a big Bill Simmons fan, not because I think he's all that insightful, but because he's funny. However, he's been talking about the "statistical revolution" coming to basketball the same way it transformed baseball. He also mentioned that Daryl Morey (Rockets GM) is a big stats nut, and that some NBA franchises (Namely the Mavs and the Rockets) keep stats on players that aren't available to the public, that measure things like "number of times a certain player has made a defensive stop in the post".

I think Rick Carlisle is a guy who would be very keen on this type of stat-keeping, but for it to be really effective, your owner and/or GM have to be in on it, paying guys lots of money to crunch numbers. My question is, have we become bad simply because we have let this revolution pass us by? Larry Bird doesn't stike me as the type that wants to read a 10-page mathematical breakdown on why Chuck Hayes is a good player for his team, and I think this could hurt us going forward, and has possibly hurt us currently.

Notice also that when Rick was here, he talked a lot about the obscure metrics the team keeps, whereas JOB tends to talk about more vanilla stats like plus-minus and deflections. Is this because JOB doesn't want to give the fans too much information, or is this because he simply doesn't like or can't handle high-level stats?

Tom White
03-27-2009, 12:13 PM
I think we can all agree that not only are the Pacers bad, but that we've now been bad for multiple years. I'm a big Bill Simmons fan, not because I think he's all that insightful, but because he's funny. However, he's been talking about the "statistical revolution" coming to basketball the same way it transformed baseball. He also mentioned that Daryl Morey (Rockets GM) is a big stats nut, and that some NBA franchises (Namely the Mavs and the Rockets) keep stats on players that aren't available to the public, that measure things like "number of times a certain player has made a defensive stop in the post".

I think Rick Carlisle is a guy who would be very keen on this type of stat-keeping, but for it to be really effective, your owner and/or GM have to be in on it, paying guys lots of money to crunch numbers. My question is, have we become bad simply because we have let this revolution pass us by? Larry Bird doesn't stike me as the type that wants to read a 10-page mathematical breakdown on why Chuck Hayes is a good player for his team, and I think this could hurt us going forward, and has possibly hurt us currently.

Notice also that when Rick was here, he talked a lot about the obscure metrics the team keeps, whereas JOB tends to talk about more vanilla stats like plus-minus and deflections. Is this because JOB doesn't want to give the fans too much information, or is this because he simply doesn't like or can't handle high-level stats?

Or maybe some coaches just aren't smart enough (or paying enough attention) to know whether a player "gets stops in the paint". Seriously, I think sometimes people (coaches included) get too lost in a bunch of stats, and over-complicate what is actually a fairly simple game.

Peck
03-27-2009, 12:17 PM
Just a gut feeling here but my guess is that if there was a stat to be kept that O'Brien not only has it but has an opinion on it.

Stats. are useful and helpful but can not be the end all be all of what you do.

plutarch
03-27-2009, 12:18 PM
no i dont agree with the over stat-keeping that your are talking about, that is not a reason why we are not good, we just dont have the continuity and the right players to have a good team, those two things are far more important

BillS
03-27-2009, 01:09 PM
They are bad because they are inconsistent. Stats might show that, but I think it is pretty obvious.

If this bunch gained consistency, they could be good (over .500). They won't be great until they add a bit more talent. Neither of those have to do with which stats are being kept.

Eindar
03-27-2009, 01:29 PM
So you guys think the fact that Cuban and Morey are both stat junkies, and their arrival also coincided with the teams they represent going from mediocre to competitive has nothing to do with each other? I agree that you can get too caught up in stats, but I think to say that stats aren't an important part of constucting a team is naive, especially if you can get your GM, Owner, and Coach all on the same page.

Also, lets say JOB keeps obsessive stats on his players and who his players are playing against. That's great, but do you feel like Morway and Bird use these same stats and give them the weight they probably deserve when considering trades, or do you think a guy like Bird just looks at the contract, tries to think about how he fills a need, thinks about how good he is as a player vs. how good the players are that he's giving up, and then decides based on gut as opposed to performance indices?

Jonathan
03-27-2009, 01:38 PM
I have an alternative theory : The Current NBA Playoff System.
I believe 75% the Pacers would be a better team if the NBA changed the current playoff format to include the the top 16 teams regardless of record. Phoenix will finish this year ahead of .500 and fail to make the playoff while 3-5 teams in the East will land in the playoffs will sub .500 records.

Spirit
03-27-2009, 02:04 PM
Stats are overrated.

Since86
03-27-2009, 02:21 PM
Stats are overrated.

84% of statisticians believe that as well.

Hopefully someone gets the reference......

Knucklehead Warrior
03-27-2009, 02:43 PM
Some observations --
- - Most of the people talking about stats don't know what the hell they're talking about.
- - I've seen an awful lot of wrong conclusions drawn due to statistics.
- - Figures don't lie, but liars can figure.
- - TWO teams who might have done better due to stats is not statistically significant.
- - 57% of statistics are made up, the other half aren't.

stevo
03-27-2009, 03:30 PM
I have an alternative theory : The Current NBA Playoff System.
I believe 75% the Pacers would be a better team if the NBA changed the current playoff format to include the the top 16 teams regardless of record. Phoenix will finish this year ahead of .500 and fail to make the playoff while 3-5 teams in the East will land in the playoffs will sub .500 records.


lol that will never happen. But this does bring up a interesting point. I think eventually big time free agents will look for greener pastures in the eastern conference because the competition is so tough out west. I hope it all balances out in the end when these free agents start to realize the best way to get noticed and make it far in the playoffs is to come to the East.

BRushWithDeath
03-27-2009, 05:40 PM
Larry Bird doesn't stike me as the type that wants to read a 10-page mathematical breakdown on why Chuck Hayes is a good player for his team, and I think this could hurt us going forward, and has possibly hurt us currently.




Why do you think Bird keeps resigning Jeff Foster? It isn't for his career averages of 5.1 pts, 7.0 reb, 0.9 ast, 0.4 blks, and 0.7 stls.

Hayes and Foster are basically the same player.

d_c
03-27-2009, 05:53 PM
I think the Pacers played up to their abilities this year.

Jarrett Jack had a career year. Troy Murphy had a career year and played as well as you could expect. Marquis Daniels played about as well as you could expect. Danny Granger turned into an all-star.

If you look at the minutes/production for Rush and Hibbert, they are more or less on par with rookies of their respective positions and draft spots from previous years.

I know TJ Ford disappointed a lot of people, but really, he's more or less the same guy from Toronto from last year. Once the novelty of him being someone else not named Jamaal Tinsley wore off, that's when people started picking at the flaws in his game (which have been there his entire career).

The truth is a team like Chicago (which is in the driver's seat for the 8th seed right now) is a more talented team that has been stockpiling more assets from the past few years and has simply underachieved. I think the Pacers accomplished more with the talent they had, but Chicago just had more talent.

Kuq_e_Zi91
03-27-2009, 08:00 PM
I read an interesting story on the Rockets GM. He uses NBA Live 09 and the "DNA/Synergy Sports" feature. He runs sets for certain players, like Ron Artest for example and you can see how the team reacts. It's actually based on real-life stats -- percentage a team runs a certain set, most effective, and so on. It's pretty amazing that games these days have the ability to provide all of this information, and that GMs of professional sports teams use it as a tool.

I swear I don't work for EA.

BlueNGold
03-27-2009, 08:23 PM
I think stats should factor into decisions but not drive them. One stat may be less valuable than another. FG% is an important stat. Blocks also can be an important indicator. But some things never reach the stat sheet. They are simply not reliable enough...and as a result winning basketball games is less of a science and more of an art.

But some things are simple to explain when viewed in the context of league history. The Pacers are bad for several clear cut reasons. First, they lack talent. Specifically, they only have one above average starter (Granger). Dunleavy may be an average starting SG, but he's not available. TJ is a below average PG. I expected more from him...as I am sure many others did too. No comment on Troy Murphy. Finally, all of our centers are below average. Second, defense is not the focus of this team/franchise. Other than Foster, we have no one with size, quickness and a defensive demeanor in the paint. Maybe Hibbert would be good but he fouls too much. Rasho is too slow. Murphy? Come on.

Finally, our coach is average. Very nice, likeable, professional guy, but average. He would be above average if he put more emphasis on defense. It seems he may have turned the corner on that, but I'm not yet convinced since he has been forced to keep players like Dunleavy and Murphy off the floor. But there are some signs I must admit. Yet we see Jack and TJ on the floor at the same time? Which one guards the 6'7" SG? Come on. How can anyone believe that would be a good thing? Not saying JOb is a bad coach. He's just not getting high marks until I see more than talk about defense. I don't care if Stephen Graham needs to play SG. I don't want a midget guarding the other team's 2.

Eindar
03-27-2009, 08:41 PM
Why do you think Bird keeps resigning Jeff Foster? It isn't for his career averages of 5.1 pts, 7.0 reb, 0.9 ast, 0.4 blks, and 0.7 stls.

Hayes and Foster are basically the same player.

Well, Larry has only re-signed Jeff once, and I think that was more of a "let him finish his career in Indiana" thing than a "he's still a very valuable member of a contender" thing.

All I'm saying is that some GMs are using stats a lot more than others, and eventually they're going to crack the code much like Moneyball did for baseball. I'm just not convinced that our staff are working that hard on using those tools like other teams. For instance, any coach that says "Troy Murphy has a guaranteed starting job" can't be keeping too many intricate defensive stats.

d_c
03-27-2009, 08:57 PM
Finally, our coach is average. Very nice, likeable, professional guy, but average. He would be above average if he put more emphasis on defense. It seems he may have turned the corner on that, but I'm not yet convinced since he has been forced to keep players like Dunleavy and Murphy off the floor. But there are some signs I must admit. Yet we see Jack and TJ on the floor at the same time? Which one guards the 6'7" SG? Come on. How can anyone believe that would be a good thing? Not saying JOb is a bad coach. He's just not getting high marks until I see more than talk about defense. I don't care if Stephen Graham needs to play SG. I don't want a midget guarding the other team's 2.

I would agree that the coach is roughly average, but to repeat again, to get a better coach, you need to make the roster more attractive for a better coach to want to come. Otherwise, you can hire an assistant with zero headcoaching experience for cheap and hope you find some diamond in the rough, but that's about the only other alternative.

The Pacers thought correctly that Stan Van Gundy was a better coach (SVG was their first choice), but good coaches like him have options, and they're going to look for the roster that they like, and that's what SVG did. You can't blame'em for doing that.

BlueNGold
03-27-2009, 09:09 PM
I would agree that the coach is roughly average, but to repeat again, to get a better coach, you need to make the roster more attractive for a better coach to want to come. Otherwise, you can hire an assistant with zero headcoaching experience for cheap and hope you find some diamond in the rough, but that's about the only other alternative.

The Pacers thought correctly that Stan Van Gundy was a better coach (SVG was their first choice), but good coaches like him have options, and they're going to look for the roster that they like, and that's what SVG did. You can't blame'em for doing that.

Agree completely. I do think I started with talent...and as you say that needs to come first.

The Pacers will eventually get better talent. I think they already have hit bottom in that department. The next few years are relatively promising. Bad contracts will be closer to dropping off the books. The most talented players will be getting more experienced and effective. We will continue to pick fairly high in the draft. We should also do ok on trades when there is no gun to our head. I think the JO trade was a win for us. Hibbert is a very good prospect and we will be getting some nice salary relief. My only concern is the approach the Pacers take on defense. I think things will take care of themselves in a few years, but I'd like to see more focus on it beginning now.

flox
03-27-2009, 09:16 PM
They are bad because they are inconsistent. Stats might show that, but I think it is pretty obvious.

If this bunch gained consistency, they could be good (over .500). They won't be great until they add a bit more talent. Neither of those have to do with which stats are being kept.

ironically the stats say that we are a team that is one of the most consistent, we are the team who has a margin of win/loss that is relatively consistent and we are one of the better teams to keep a game close.

one of the most interesting stats is that we are one of the few teams who shoot the three well and yet still lose. we are an anomaly in that for the stats, but that's more reflective of the poor health we've had this year more than anything else.

i have a very strange feeling our team keeps better stats than other teams do, like, lets say, the nuggets.

we just need better health and a real big man.

Naptown_Seth
03-27-2009, 09:57 PM
Stats are overrated.
Yeah. I mean the Pacers are clearly the best team in the NBA. I'm not a big believer in the number of wins stat, it's so convoluted. It's like you take these groups of 48 minutes and then calculate how many FGs a team made (times 2 for some reason) plus how many FTs they made, then you add in a bonus point for every three they made, and then if your total is more than another team's total for only that 48 minutes then you get a "win".

I mean what about rebounding, assists, steals....you don't count any of those things toward the "win" total. It's like the only thing that matters is who can shoot the ball the best.

Who makes up this crap? Real fans don't need numbers to tell us which teams are playing the best basketball. I don't know why we don't just have the NBA champion determined by an AP vote like NCAA football used to be.

You know, because those writers weren't subconsciously adding up stats in their head to help determine who was the best.

Bball
03-27-2009, 10:00 PM
I think we can all agree that not only are the Pacers bad

I suppose it's all in the definition, but I don't think I can agree that the Pacers are bad. Their record might be the equal of some 'bad' teams, but there is a lot 'good' about this year's Pacers... record or not.

-Bball

Naptown_Seth
03-27-2009, 10:04 PM
I read an interesting story on the Rockets GM. He uses NBA Live 09 and the "DNA/Synergy Sports" feature. He runs sets for certain players, like Ron Artest for example and you can see how the team reacts. It's actually based on real-life stats -- percentage a team runs a certain set, most effective, and so on. It's pretty amazing that games these days have the ability to provide all of this information, and that GMs of professional sports teams use it as a tool.

I swear I don't work for EA.
And the reason people do this is because it works for running planes, the internet, MPG video and a billion other useful things every day. You tell me an invention and I bet you could track down the simulation or testing or theoretical review done to it before it became an everyday item.

Insurance - based on stats. Warranty costs - based on stats. Effectiveness of a material - stats. How often you must check your product as it comes off the line to ensure a certain level of quality - stat.

People continue to throw stats, the concept, under the bus when that's not the problem at all. The problem with stats and formulas is when they are just bad or not qualified or not applicable.

Plax80
03-27-2009, 10:16 PM
no i dont agree with the over stat-keeping that your are talking about, that is not a reason why we are not good, we just dont have the continuity and the right players to have a good team, those two things are far more important

Houston is good because they have a go to superstar in McGrady........a go to post player in Yao...........and multiple players who are unselfish (on the court at least) in Battier, Artest, Scola, Landry and Hayes. They have a professional organization, an excited fan base, solid ownership, and a solid coach in Adelman (and Van Gundy prior to).

The Pacers aren't totally lacking in those areas but we simply do not have enough big time talent and the fan base has turned back to college basketball for the most part.............myself included. The Pro game has far superior players but the game has changed far too much to one on one play.......and the regular season is way too long to stay interested. Weve known Boston, Cleveland , the Lakers and Spurs would settle the championship among themselves since Thanksgiving.

Putnam
03-28-2009, 08:36 AM
Thank you, Naptown Seth.


As to the eindar's OP premise:

We don't know what data tools O'Brien uses. We do know he is a better communicator than Rick Carlisle. If he talks about the plus-minus during interviews it may be that he chooses to mention things that are accessible to the fans who are listening to the interview. We can't conclude that he doesn't use the same data tools as Morey from the fact that he doesn't discuss them in interviews.

It is absurd to suggest O'Brien "can't handle high level stats."

Doug
03-28-2009, 09:00 AM
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." - Mark Twain

plutarch
03-28-2009, 09:17 AM
if you look at the lineup changes and all the new face we have this year its easy to see why there is not a lot of winning. starting 2 rookies, jack which came via trade and only 2 starters from last year. if that doenst tell you enough i dont know what does. i do agree that jim o is not the best coach but with the injuries and all the new players i think he did a nice job of getting them together and playing hard, this year that is all you can ask for. next year with better talent coming via trades and the draft and the gelling that these guys make over the offseason, i do expect us to finish in either 7 or 8 spot in the playoffs, i dont thinks we are better than the 8 spot even with better players.

Bball
03-28-2009, 09:41 AM
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." - Mark Twain
Benjamin Disraeli

Putnam
03-28-2009, 09:50 AM
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." - Mark Twain


Yes, Doug, Twain said that. But he was a comedian and a cynic. His saying it doesn't make it true.

If I were to say, "Roy Hibbert leads the NBA in rebounding and in scoring per 48 minutes," it would be a lie. I just made that up without even looking at the numbers, so you can't blame statistics for that.


If I were to say, "Steven Graham has a +3.8 scoring rating per 48 minutes" so by playing Graham every minute of every game the Pacers would have won all their close games this year, it would be a bogus conclusion. I'd be assuming that Graham can play for 48 minutes and against all opponents as well as he has played in limited minutes. That's wrong. But you can't blame the statistics for that.

It I were to say, "Dunleavy has the third highest points-per-game of any Pacers, but O'Brien isn't playing him. That proves O'Brien is a bad coach," it would be a conclusion based on ignorance of factors lying outside the data. Dunleavy is hurt and can't play. O'Brien knows that, even if I don't, and he's making the right decision. The strength on my argument in that case would actually be my ignorance. You can't blame the statistics for that, either.


A message for Doug:
"I wish they'd just be quiet.
Anti-stat Luddites."

BlueNGold
03-28-2009, 11:38 AM
Wow. I didn't know Mark Twain even knew Troy Murphy.

The truth is, like guns, stats are not the problem. It's how people use stats that causes the problem. When people assume they capture all factors needed to make a decision, they are making a mistake in most cases.

Take this for example. Free throw percentage is a pretty controlled stat. Definitely more controlled than FG% since the opposition cannot impact it as much. ...so you would think you could rely on your best free throw shooter. However, in a clutch situation in a particular arena on a particular day against a particular opponent after a certain number of minutes on the floor after a certain amount of sleep after even a minor injury...it's just not that simple...and that's just scratching the surface of other factors that come into play. That's why "stats lie".

Now, I don't really think stats actually lie or are inaccurate. I do think there is some value to basketball stats. I just think people (myself included) attach the wrong meaning to what they represent and attempt to place too much weight on them.

Doug
03-28-2009, 12:37 PM
Benjamin Disraeli

I know, but I was too lazy to look up the real citation and just pulled it from a Twain page.


As people have said, the point of the quote is not that stats are bad, but that they can be used to justify about any point, true or untrue.


It's very hard to relate cold, hard facts to basketball. To many unpredictable actions and outside dependencies.


In the end, the team with the most talent *generally* wins, particularly in the playoffs. And I think that the Pacers main problem right now is talent. I think we are playing pretty close to, and probably over, what we should be based on our talent level.

Stats, however, can help you. Sometimes they make you look at things you wouldn't normally. Sometimes they help you measure something you think is important - contested shots or something like that.

And despite what I said two paragraphs above, sometimes the difference between two teams is so close, that any little advantage can provide the difference. Could some 'magic stat' provide that? Sure. But it could be something obscure as 'whether Danny had eggs for breakfast or not'.

I generally believe that how you prepare, how you practice, and the things you work on there have far more value than stats.

There's also the question of 'team chemistry' which is very hard to measure. It's very hard to create, and very easy to destroy. Yet seems to allow teams to play either above their perceived talent level or way below it. Not sure how you could possibly measure that.

Eindar
03-29-2009, 10:32 AM
Well, chemistry is the one bugaboo for stats that they'll never be able to quantify, I don't think. But let's step beyond O'Brien and the players when talking about stats. I want to focus on the front office and if you feel that they are up to the task of using some of these obscure, complicated stats to evaluate what they have on the team, what they don't, and who will fill the holes that the team has.

For instance, it's a no brainer that you want LeBron on your team, and you don't need stats to back that up. It's also a no brainer that our team lacks a consistent post presence on both ends, and could use a guy who can get more "tough" rebounds. You could use stats to maybe verify this, looking at Hibbert, Foster and Murphy as defensive post players, how well they do on isolation plays, stuff like that. More importantly, however, I think stats would allow our front office to look at guys on other teams in a way that doesn't require them to watch hours and hours of tape on a guy to try to decide if he fills the holes the team has. You'd still certainly want to look at some tape, but the stats would verify what you already think you know.

If you want a baseball example, lots of people think Derek Jeter is one of the best shortstops of all time. However, when you look at his defensive stats (which are much easier to depend upon simply because baseball is much more of an individual sport with events that can be isolate), he's really not all that great of a defensive infielder. I think basketball will eventually find ways of eliminating most of these "team" variables, and I hope we're ready for that change, and are working to be part of the progress, and not be the team that wonders what happened when we're consitently getting fleeced on trades and don't know why.


For myself, I'll consider the revolution to be complete when there is a statistical yardstick by which Shane Battier is properly measured.

idioteque
03-29-2009, 11:11 AM
Eindar, I for one think that there is some merit to your argument but I also think things are a little bit more simple that you suggest. For one thing in regards to Mark Cuban you cannot pinpoint his statistical prowess as the reason that the Mavericks improved, Mark Cuban totally revolutionized the way that the Mavericks were run in just about every facet, that is why they improved. With the Rockets though, you may have more of a point.

Looking at the Rockets specifically someone else pointed out they are good because they have a lot of incredibly unselfish players, which has always been an important recipe for success in my mind. If you look at those Portland teams from the late 1990's right before the Jail Blazers era for example, they had tons of stockpiled talent but they weren't unselfish enough and never gelled properly in a manner that would have allowed them to win the NBA title. Sure you can say Kobe and Shaq were primed for a dynasty at the time but remember Portland had them on the ropes in Game 7 of the 2000 WCF.

Anyway, back to the point at hand, yes these "secret stats" may be very helpful but they probably just reflect a player who is a consumate teammate, which can be found without tracking a bunch of minute states. I think that the Pacers have already found a player like that in Brandon Rush, who I would guess would meaure up to these Houston statistics in an oustanding matter. These stats may be a more scientific, "sure thing" methodology to find these kinds of players, but I think they can be found just as well by a well-trained scout.

And really, who is to say the Pacers don't keep some of their own exclusive stats. Yes, Bird is not the sharpest knife if the drawer but there are brains in this operation working under him and they could be the ones analyzing the stats and making reccomendations based off of them.