February 15, 2005

The Times Pronounces, "The NBA Blows", Confirming My Suspicions

POST #    1569

It's something that I went into detail on long ago, but Jen brought my attention to an article in this past Sunday's NY Times Magazine. Michael Sokolove actually goes as far as to say that he believes the dunk should be banished from basketball. I won't go as far as to argue that, but as he points out, it could be a step in the right direction.

When I wrote my basketball manifesto, I wrote, "NBA game has declined because of the proliferation of the 3 pointer and the dunk as well as the deterioration of the mid-range jumper." While I analyzed that statement with a set of statistics, I was never able to solidly reach my conclusion, but I did uncover some interesting facts and statistical trends.

Examining stats from the 1988-89 season through the 2001-02 season, I found:

3 point percentage has actually increased about 2.3% in 10 years and 2 point percentage has decreased about 2%. The most difference between these two years is the number of 3 point shots attempted. The number attempted has more than doubled! When hearing this initially, officials at the NBA offices would surely be pleased because this would obviously mean an increase in scoring. The truth is that scoring has fallen drastically since the 91-92 season where each team averaged 105.4 points per game. In the 01-02 season, teams averaged 95.48 points per game. During this 10 year period, the percentage of total shots that were 3 point attempts has also ballooned. In the 91-92 season, only 8.73% of the shots were 3's while in 01-02 18.15% of the shots were 3 point attempts. (During this period, percentages of 18.78, 20.01, and 21.17 were recorded for the 94-95, 95-96, and 96-97 seasons when the 3 point line was closer to the basket).

Obviously, I need to update the data. Sokolove doesn't take much of a statistical approach to his article, but it's still an interesting read and in line with much of my thinking on the matter.

Side Note #1:
At one point, about midway through the article, Sokolove has to explain what an assist is. Sokolove writes, "A dazzling ball handler, utterly fearless about driving to the hoop against bigger defenders, he has compiled high scoring averages and high assist totals (an assist is a pass that leads directly to a basket) in the pros while at the same time often leaving the strong impression that he does not play well with others." I find this somewhat surprising, yet not entirely shocking. One would think that a reader of the Sunday Times Magazine would have a base level of knowledge of most things. Then again, are all members of that segment going to have basic knowledge of basketball? Probably not. Furthermore, are those people that have no knowledge going to read this article at all? Is it assumed that readers of the magazine will read every article despite not knowing/having any interest in the sport at all?

Side Note #2:
I think this is the longest entry that I've done in quite a while. It's almost like this blog has become a shell of itself. Lots more photos (they are easier to put up with little thought in my case), not much more random thought. And where did those photos of me eating go? I'll try to bring back at least one of those soon.

- NY Times: "Clang!"

Posted by tien mao in Sports at 8:07 AM



blah blah blah...

Posted by: shannan at February 15, 2005 8:43 AM

I wish you'd supplemented the nicely written post with a photo of you attempting a slam dunk. Now THAT would be a good entry.

Posted by: yp at February 15, 2005 11:29 AM

HA! tien get vertical!?!?! Don't overexert yourself too much tien.

Posted by: shannan at February 15, 2005 12:46 PM

Dude, I completely disagree. Well, not completely... the quality of play has deteriorated, but the reasoning doesn't seem right to me. To me, the quality of play has deteriorated because of the officiating and the overall youth movement.

Thanks to the '94 Knicks, the defensive play has gotten more and more physical, rewarding strength over agility. A player like Kevin Johnson, who excelled at mid-range jumpshots and quick cuts to the basket would be abused physically and reduced to a less effective player. Which is why there aren't many slight guys like Nash, Livingston and Ridnour anymore. The most effective offensive players have to be brutes rather than athletes...

Posted by: Maine at February 16, 2005 10:47 AM

If the refs would call the game as its written - no travelling, no pushing, no handchecks - the flow of play would be more fluid, higher scoring and visually appealing.

Plus! The youth movement is killing the game. Young players can only get 4 year contracts, which means there's more pressure to play them right away and force them into the lineup. If teams could sign a guy for six years like they used to and there was less immediate pressure to massage a potential free agents ego, a guy like Josh Childress would be deep on the bench learning how to play rather than on the floor playing badly. The best players in the game used to all be 30 years old. Now, those guys can't play because they lose minutes to high school guys who can't properly run a high screen and roll...

Posted by: Maine at February 16, 2005 10:52 AM

So if the refs tightened up on the whistles to let skill determine games rather than muscle, and if the rookies would be allowed to learn rather than get coaches fired for not playing them, we'd have the sexy league and the cool style of play that we had 15 years ago.

The players are just as good as they were then - the game just doesn't allow for the same style of play. Three pointers and dunks have been around for a while. Even in the 80's when the NBA started rocketing in popularity. You can't blame them for the demise.

Posted by: Maine at February 16, 2005 10:55 AM

And this is the last thing I'll say about it.

The officiating in the NBA is horrible. You'd think they were all managed by Don King. The game has rules - enforce them. With no consideration to anything else. You think an NFL ref would allow Peyton Manning to step over the line of scrimmage and make a pass just because he's Peyton? No! There has to be a better alternative. And I truly believe that any player that raises his voice to a ref should get a technical foul. Only coaches get to gripe.

Maybe tennis will develop a cyclops that can officiate an NBA game...

Posted by: Maine at February 16, 2005 11:00 AM

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