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Rickshaws and Stats

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Hello everybody, Trips, Scipio and I managed to break back into the BC cubicle using a rickshaw we stole from a homeless man as a battering ram. Consequently I can regale you with my thoughts on the NBA playoffs and whatever stupid preseason predictions I stir up on the interwebs. The other two got tied up with the giant spider genetically engineered from CTJ's remains that guards Sailor Ripley's liquor cabinet.

NBA Playoffs:

Dwight Howard was the best player on the court but Boston was far and away the superior team in game 6 in Boston. For a moment after game 5 it seemed like fate that the city of Boston should suffer 2 collapses up 3-0 in playoff series as punishment for the Red Sox triumph of 2004 (as if the history of the Sox up to that point wasn't punishment enough) but it was only a matter of time before the D'Artagnan and the 3 musketeers pulled through.

I've been clued in by my friend Ryan (or DrRyanPepper as he styles himself) to economic theory applied to basketball in the form of winscores (if you haven't investigated the wins produced stats produced by these economist/sports fans you are missing out) we see that the Orlando Magic are not quite as talented as I have claimed in this space or as you might have guessed by the names on the roster.

Their starting five produced the following win totals in the regular season this year:

Howard: 22.27

Barnes: 8.21

Vince Carter: 4.91

Jameer Nelson: 4.88

Rashard Lewis: .49

If game 6 didn't already convince you, Rashard Lewis is a horrendous power forward. In the words of Sir Charles Barkley, "what do you call a power forward that doesn't rebound?" Answer: "a small forward". The rest of the Magic didn't do much to help Howard who put up a 28-12 with 2 steals, 1 block and only 2 turnovers.

On the other side the Celtics starting five goes:

Rondo: 17.9 wins produced

Garnett: 10.51

Pierce: 7.43

Allen: 6.7

Perkins: 5.74

The value of this system is that its users can gather the stats a team assembles and accurately predict how many wins they achieved in that statistical season. The only catch is that you end up having to do things like acknowledge the value of the big man in basketball and repudiate the perceived greatness of Kobe Bryant (9.69 wins this year, 14.43 last year. A great player but not in the top 5). Actually that sounds wonderful, sign me up.

Actually there are all kinds of consequences of these stats that are hard to accept, like David Robinson scoring higher for his career than Shaq, Olajuwon, or any other center since 1980 or the strange dominance of Chuck Hayes (check his scores). However, the arguments against the stats often revolve around scoring totals or championship bias. Players that win championships in sports are often unfairly rewarded considerable praise while those that lose are punished by history for the failings of their teammates.

Dwight Howard had a magnificient season but one player can't overcome the production that comes from a squad like the Celtics where multiple players are contributing all over the court.

If you are curious, in the West I'll give you the win scores for the Lakers and Suns' starting five and 2 best bench players (the bench's have made huge differences either in total for the Suns or just Odom for the Lakers).

Lakers:

Gasol: 15.52

Kobe: 9.69

Bynum: 7.25

Artest: 3.47

Fisher: .46

Odom: 15.03

Shannon Brown: 2.08

Los Suns:

Nash: 16.18

Richardson: 9.11

Amar'e: 8.63 (he's had much higher seasons in the past)

Grant Hill: 6.83

Lopez: 1.58

Dudley: 4.98

Amundson: 3.8

There are other Suns like Dragic and Frye that score comparably well with Dudley and Amundson. So what do we see here? Basically what you might expect, the Lakers draw the most value from their tremendous size while the Suns thrive from having Nash and a load of players off the bench that as a sum have made tremendous contributions.

I don't really see the Suns managing a game 6 in Phoenix and then having enough to finish things in LA. It's simply very hard to win in the Staples Center where Odom and the supporting cast are going to defend and rebound fiercely and of course, Kobe is likely to do some serious damage in such a situation as well. For your Lakers-Celtics rematch I expect a more competitive series and not another steamrolling by Boston like we saw in the Eastern conference.

For dealing with the Laker frontcourt the Celtics have Garnett, Perkins, Davis and Rasheed for all their fouls and rebounds. While they aren't as strong as Odom, Gasol and healthy Bynum they are all tough defenders and have demonstrated their prowess in unassisted defense against low-post scorers.

On the perimeter Paul Pierce has already demonstrated the ability to guard Kobe quite well, Allen and Artest are about a wash and Rondo is laughably better than Fisher. I still like the Celtics in this potential matchup for their ability to withstand the Lakers frontcourt combined with their huge advantage on the perimeter.

Football:

ESPN Big 12 blogger David Ubben was asked whether Texas would give up their new jack'n'jill offense and revert back to the spread with Gilbert after that reveals itself as the best option and he responded curiously positing Fozzy and Tre as 2 of the more experienced offensive weapons and the focus of the Texas attack.

I think the idea that either of those two are the best offensive player for Texas is ridiculous but I think Ubben is right that the offense is being tailored to what talent is on campus.

Burntorangenation resident x's and o's man Burnt in NY had a great post on how Texas' current crop of receivers are a better fit for the downfield targeting of the jack'n'jill offense than the spread/west-coast routes that Shipley and Quan thrived in against safeties and linebackers.

Of course I'm sure we'll see plenty of the timing based West Coast stuff still featured in the offense but in the spring we saw Gilbert reading men downfield and hitting them on the run across the field such which will benefit guys like Malcolm X and Chiles. If Goodwin is anything more than a destroyer of worlds on WR screens than Texas will have several high-grade weapons materials for Gilbert to play with in play-action.

Meanwhile, I've been wondering recently whether Texas linemen have been underrated the last few seasons. Consider this, while calling 40-50 passing plays per game Texas pass protection has ranged from solid to very good. In the 20 or so running calls the inside-zone running scheme called for superhuman efforts to achieve any kind of success. You can't properly rate a lineman who is either reaching a Big 12 anti-spread linebacker in space or reach-blocking a defensive lineman at the point of attack on almost every play.

We have limited examples to make a case that Tanner or Ulatoski would have dominated in a realistic running game but it's certainly feasible that all these top talents weren't hitting the all-conference lists for the simple reason that their offensive systems really only called attention to their failures.

Let's just say that I think Texas can generate running game results at least as good as Oklahoma St. or OU with the talent that is available. Is the most likely reality that those schools have consistently had better players on the line or that Texas' have been made to look bad by the scheme?

Speaking of our neighbors up north, if you think I didn't see this you are gravely mistaken, I've just been waiting for the completion of Scipio Tex's rickshaw-battering ram blueprint in order to reach the BC workstation.

I'd like to examine the case Ubben makes for the Sooners before he points out that their offensive line makes a no. 1 projection ultimately preposterous:

1). OU has an experienced running back heading a stable of capable runners.

If there is a position where experience is least valuable this might be it. Also, experience and talent is of limited value in defying physics and moving the chains through the matter of your own linemen or defenders.

2). Landry Jones.

...

3). Ryan Broyles is the conference's best receiver.

That paired with Landry Jones isn't keeping Muschamp awake at nights anymore than Nebraska's terrifying "dual threat" quarterback.

4). The defensive line should be one of the best in the nation and backed by a combination of talent and experience in the back 7.

I hope even OU fans don't think that unit will be better than the next iteration of "the goon squad" that Muschamp is assembling in the Austin heat. The defensive lines and linebackers are a wash (when have we ever been able to say that before?) and the Texas secondary is at a level completely beyond what the Sooners are going to see this year.

And again, name the last National Champion that didn't have an offensive line that was good in some phase of the game.