Asikocolypse – The day of reckoning is upon us. Houston’s self-imposed deadline to trade Omer Asik has arrived. ESPN reports that Daryl Morey has options. I’m not going to link to every trade-rumor-related article out there, because by the time I do, all said links will be obsolete. Suffice to say that most rumors involve some combination of the following names: Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, Jeff Green, Anderson Varejao, and first round draft picks.
Look, I know that no kid really wants a couple of role players and a middling draft pick for Christmas, but it looks like that’s all Mom and Dad can afford this year, champ. Maybe if you’re really good, Santa will bring you a Paul Millsap, but it’s been a tough year for Santa too. Keep your chin up.
Passing Test – Andrew Lynch at Hardwood Paroxysm took an interesting look at the SportVU data for passes per touch. Guess which Rocket came in seventh in the league in percentage? Patrick Beverley may not have court vision like Jason Kidd, but he knows how to keep the ball moving. James Harden has the 17th stickiest fingers in the league, but he’s right there with scoring machines like Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. The Art of War – Yesterday, our own Justin Wehr, statistician extraordinaire, asked the question of whether Omer Asik will be more valuable than Dwight Howard over the next five years. I responded in the comments to say that I didn’t think so, primarily because Howard offers a dimension on offense that Asik doesn’t.
One of the ongoing issues surrounding Dwight, which has been a topic of discussion ever since the Rockets were courting Howard in free agency, centers on how his post game is far less efficient that Houston’s pick-and-roll. The argument goes that it would be better for the team to just run more pick-and-rolls and stop feeding Dwight in the post. Frankly, this argument is made about offensive options on just about ever team that columnists identify as statistically efficient. I argued that Dwight’s post game is essential to have as an offensive option in order to exploit matchups in the playoffs.
Enter The Art of War, the ancient Chinese military handbook by Sun Tzu. I was rereading my copy last night, when this passage caught my attention:
Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.
Military tactics are like unto water, for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards.
So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. . .
Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions.
In the NBA, there are now two competing realities. There is one reality of what the numbers say is the best course of action when averaged out over 100 possessions in 82 games against 29 teams. Then there is the reality of what you know from experience will happen when say, a 5’11” guard tries to defend a 6’10” center in the post. Or to use another example, there is the expected point value of a 20-foot jumpshot, and then there is the expected point value of a wide-open 20-foot jump shot.
SportVU stats are an extremely valuable tool for coaches and GM’s to assess the strengths of their teams and players. If you want to understand why no NBA team runs the same play every time down the court, just ask Sun Tzu. In warfare there are no constant conditions.