Excellent stuff here emailed in by a reader. I’m a bit of a stat guy myself, but I don’t think there’s anything that can judge “Can the guy ball?” And like I wrote about last week, Russell Westbrook can absolutely ball. Here’s a better way of saying it.
By John Mietus
One key element little discussed in this year’s NBA rookie of the year race is the importance of intuitive feel for the game, basketball genius for lack of better term. Some coaches and statisticians try to refer to this “feel” as Basketball IQ, but that attempts to quantify with numbers (high or low) a player’s innate feel for the game. The truth of the matter is that most great basketball players simply feel the game out, and no statistical measure accurately captures the beauty or volatility of such play. That’s why team’s can write PER measurements on Ricky Rubio or Larry Bird without ever fully realizing the “win potential” of either player.
I’m not always a fan of what Charley Rosen, the FoxSports.com NBA writer, says about basketball. Rosen tends to be negative to the point of absurdity when discussing the greatest basketball players in the world, but he makes valid points on the contributions of players in regards to a team concept. Rosen points out that 90 percent of the players on the court at any given time of a game do not hold onto the basketball. That implies that 90 percent of the game happens away from the ball. And even in the NBA, even in a league designed to be played one-on-one, plenty of opportunity for improvisation and contribution occurs when a player does not actually have the basketball in their hands. It goes well beyond, “Is this guy setting a screen where he should be?”, and has more to do with a feel for spacing, for angles, for opportunities to make plays. It happens on both ends of the floor and allows an intuitive player to separate himself from players of average ability. But can it be measured? Not concretely. It can only be felt.
I want to talk about Russell Westbrook and the critical measures of a player’s capability. Watching Russell play this year on television or live and you can see the joy of his game. He’s like a child who has yet to realize all the limitations and boxes life will attempt to put around him. People get concerned over his turnovers or his “low” shooting percentage but they may miss his bouncy athleticism, his intuitive ability to make plays, his general court sense. Russell’s been out trying things this year, experimenting, pushing the boundaries of statistical analysis. Keep Reading…