Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Finally, Some Real Insight

I'm going to pause here quickly to discuss some NBA basketball. Usually Stankeye is a baseball term, and refers mostly to what players receive from me when they do silly stuff or play like crap. If your name is Mike Benjamin you're surely so familiar with it by now that it haunts you in your sleep, except for that mulligan you got during that inexplicable stretch of hitting in 1995. But Stankeye also applies to basketball, specifically the overpaid, overhyped pricks who care more about the bling-bling and making crappy shoe commercials than winning. It also applies to the myriad writers all over the web who give us poor analysis based on pre-conceived rules of thumb and inane speculation instead of what is going on in front of their eyes. I won't name names here, suffice it to say that there are a lot of them out there.

So imagine the joy I felt when reported that basketball stathound and underappreciated genius John Hollinger was slated to begin writing for soon. Pure ecstasy. After years of senseless schmaltz from Chris Ford and incomprehensible mind-vomiting from Bill Walton, we get an analyst who actually brings some insight to a basketball game.

For those who don't know, Hollinger is the author of Pro Basketball Forecast (formerly Prospectus), a book that changed my perspective on basketball in ways that are too numerous to explain without sending your head crashing through your LCD screen in boredom. Basically, the book shows how silly performance evaluation based on per-game averages is, and uses several different (sensible) formulas to show that just because a guy averages 20 points a game doesn't mean he is actually a star, or any good in the first place (I'm looking at you, Carmelo). Hollinger argues that traditional basketball statistics fail to account for several factors during gameplay, most notably pace and number of possessions, and thus are inherently deceiving. If you buy the book (well worth the $21.95 cover price), it'll go a long way toward changing how you look at players. You'll realize that Mehmet Okur is actually great and Antoine Walker is truly as crappy as he looks.

Of course, Hollinger will write on ESPN Insider, which is a bummer for cheap bastards like me who don't want to dish out the $4.95 a month to find out what hyper-nerdy new statistic Rob Neyer came up with. But Hollinger is certainly worth it, just for the humor he brings to his articles and his all-too understandable deep-seeded hatred of Michael Olowakandi. It's about time he received a wider audience. Now if only ESPN would contact me...(cough).

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