From Distance: Think Outside the Algorithm

four point play….

1. Poor Victor Oladipo and his torn quad tendon just inadvertently made it even tougher for a team from the Western Conference to win the championship.

Though we all know the Warriors are the heavy favorites, there is a high likelihood that every round in the Western Conference Playoffs will be a bloodbath.

Depending on seeding match-ups, the Warriors trip to win the Finals could feature obstacles named LeBron James, James Harden, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard or Giannis Antetokounmpo. (I don’t think the Dubs are the least bit worried about the Celtics or Sixers. The Raptors or the Bucks though?)

Meanwhile, the East, already top heavy, lost one of its best players, further easing the overall road to the Finals. No one wanted to play the Pacers in the playoffs. The Cavs saw last season how effective their bruising style can be come playoff time.

With Oladipo injured, the Pacers will still be a tough out, but they are no longer a legitimate threat to advance in the East. Now, they will be an annoying pest for the Bucks, Raptors, and/or Celtics to avoid.

One of my three remaining contenders in the East has a chance to face only one difficult opponent before the Finals.

Am I forgetting about the Sixers? Not really. Before the Sixers made the Butler trade, I would have given them a legit chance to make the Finals. I still would have taken the Raptors in a series, but the Bucks would have been a real discussion.

I don’t eliminate the possibility that the Sixers could get their house in order and be a dominant force come playoff time, but I don’t like what they have become since Jimmy Butler arrived. He is a great player, but he is the opposite of a guy like Nikola Jokic. Players don’t love being his teammate even if they respect his game.

Ben Simmons is a great player and should be running that team, feeding Joel Embiid and everyone around him. This Butler noise has soured the air between Simmons and Embiid. I don’t trust their locker room. Not against the Bucks or Raptors.

2. The 2019 NBA All-Star Game will not feature a Cleveland Cavalier this season. That is good. No one on the Cavs roster has even the rough outline of an All-Star argument. Save me the “if Tristan Thompson hadn’t have been injured, he would…” nonsense. Tristan, even when completely healthy, isn’t even the best center on his own team, let alone an All-Star.

Obviously, had Kevin Love been playing all season, we would be having another conversation. But as it stands, the Cavs are rightfully and justifiably out of the mid-season spectacle.

3. There are a million articles about about who and who shouldn’t be in the game. How do we value team success, advanced stats, impact in the locker room, historical significance, general entertainment value…? The list goes on.

I’m not here to talk about that. What interests me is the huge disconnect between the fan voting, the player voting, and the media voting. Three different perspectives can radically disagree.

For a multitude of reasons, the fan vote, though good for the league overall, gives us the most eye-rolling results. Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, and good old Vince Carter shouldn’t have received a single vote for the starting lineup, and yet millions of basketball fans thought otherwise.

Derrick Rose was second in overall guard voting. It’s nice that the young man is staying healthy, but c’mon China. Get it together. They probably could get Stephon Marbury into the game if he ever played another minute in the NBA. I appreciate the worldwide interest and involvement in the NBA, but some things are just silly.

It isn’t too strange for huge names like Rose, Wade, and Carter to get more traction than they deserve. That is to be expected. What is somewhat surprising is how well Luka Doncic did.

One’s knee-jerk reaction might be to look to the huge International voting pool and conclude that Doncic is succeeding like Rose. That wouldn’t be quite accurate.

Many Americans have voted for Luka to be in the contest. Unlike Rose, Wade, and Carter, Luka actually has a solid 2019-2020 argument to make the squad as a rookie.

I have been a true and consistent supporter of Luka’s NBA potential throughout. I think he is a true superstar in the making. Even I don’t think he should be a starter this year. He is a borderline All-Star in year one. He is still only 19.

Luke is legit. His European fans are not the only ones propping up his voting numbers. The kid can play.

On the other end of the fan confusion lies

Player A:

20.5 PPG, 12 RPG 3.8 APG, 1.2 BLKPG, 1 STPG

.517 FG% .381 3% 25.78 PER

We go on and on about one having to look hard to find enough players in the East to warrant All-Star consideration. This player was voted by the fans as the 13th among front-court players in the East!!

Player A also has solid advanced stats, plays for a competent, if flawed team, and has missed only one game. Remember for every ridiculous fan vote “pro” a player, there is the opposite disregard for a deserving player.

The Media ranked Player A as the fourth best among frontcourt player in the East. Ok, that sounds about right for a guy with those overall numbers. The players had him down at 9th.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Player A is the second best Nikola in the league, Nikola Vucevic.

4. Listen, I get it. It takes awhile for fan voting to catch up to current reality. The players, who really should know better, seem to care more about which guys are the best one-on-one players when they give their evaluations.

It’s just an All-Star Game. Who cares, Ben? Are you so worried about these players’ legacies?

Not really. I appreciate that All-Star game appearances do affect a player’s Hall of Fame resume, etc, but honestly that isn’t really my issue.

What bothers me is the actively ignorant and often joyful disregard for reality, facts, and current events. This kind of thing is indicative of our overall culture. We have fans, players and to a lesser degree, media members who decide what they want to believe ahead of time, and close their eyes to any other information.

I doubt many of the fans who voted for Derrick Rose even know who Nikola Vucevic is. That could be fine unless those fans then claim that their guy is the best! That automatically necessitates a comparison (Yes, I realize those guys are actually in direct competition for the ASG). If you don’t know the other players in the game, you can’t compare seasons.

If you don’t know some of the other teams’ facts, your take doesn’t mean anything. Sure, you are entitled to your lazy, ignorant, irrelevant opinion. Have at it. Maybe that is okay when we are talking about entertainment. And ultimately, that is what the NBA sells.

BUT, those lazy opinions have real consequences in other arenas of life. Do some research. Check different sites, watch the players of the game. Don’t just blindly accept the conventional knowledge of your particular echo chamber.

The phrase used to be “think outside the box”. We might have to start saying “think outside the algorithm”.

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Nate Smith
Admin
23 days 15 hours ago

Also, outside chance Cedi makes the rising stars on the international team given his recent play.

Nate Smith
Admin
24 days 2 hours ago

Fun article Ben. The all star game is ridiculous, especially because it and all-nba voting is an actual barometer of max contract eligibility. There are real consequences for these guys.

As for the ams that could challenge the Dubs? The only team that can stop the Dubs is the Dubs. They have six all stars and two in their prime mvps. Barring major injury doubt they lose four real games (not rest games) between now and July.

EvilGenius
Admin
24 days 10 hours ago

Ben, I get what you’re saying, but Derrick Rose is probably not the best example to use, since he’s having one of his best seasons since his MVP one. When you do the research… Rose is averaging 18.6 ppg in just 29 mpg (mostly off the bench), while shooting a near career best 48% from the field, and a career best (by a wide margin) 41.7% from beyond the arc. He’s also averaging nearly 5 apg and 3 rpg, while turning the ball over at a career low 1.7 per game. His PER is nearly 20, and until KAT’s recent surge, he was often the best player on the Wolves. About the only real negative is his defense, which has always been poor. There’s a legit reason why he was voted by fans… certainly more legit than the Wade or Carter cases which were both sentimental choices based on age and likelihood of retirement…

JMay
Editor
24 days 10 hours ago

The real question is what West guards warrant a spot above him. Ya, Rose is having a season but is it better than the one DeRozan is having? Westbrook? Klay? What about Lillard, Mitchell, and Murray?

EvilGenius
Admin
24 days 10 hours ago

Westbrook and Klay are having bad shooting seasons by their standards… DeRozan and Murray are having comparable seasons, and Mitchell has surged lately but was awful for the first month or two of the season. Lillard is probably the only one on this list (aside from Russ who’s still averaging a triple double despite the shooting woes) who I’d put in front of what Rose has done this year. Again, he’s the only guy coming off the bench and doing it on this list.

Anyway, my point wasn’t even whether or not Rose should be an All Star… but just that he was not the best example for Ben to use in this particular instance…

JOHN B
Guest
JOHN B
24 days 7 hours ago

Rose is having a good season relative to his last few years, but Wade and Carter are great examples of sentimental fan BS. They had their time. Vote for the most deserving every year.

EvilGenius
Admin
24 days 10 hours ago

Also, Rose was 4th in Player Rank and tied for 6th in Media Rank… his weighted score was 3.5… tied with Russ…

Raoul
Guest
Raoul
24 days 12 hours ago

Go Cavs!

John B
Guest
John B
24 days 12 hours ago

Think the west is weak this year as far as teams that could actually push a locked on, healthy, and focused warriors team. They won’t take Houston so lightly again won’t ply like idiots in if they face them aga

JOHN B
Guest
JOHN B
24 days 10 hours ago

Toronto might win a couple though.

John B
Guest
John B
24 days 12 hours ago

again.

Jason
Guest
Jason
24 days 13 hours ago

The right to an opinion and that opinion carrying any weight are two different things.

The fan vote is a joke. Today’s players are not much better. Sadly, the media is probably the group that takes the vote most seriously and tries to make an informed decision.

All that said, the starters are close to right. The 2nd G in the East and no big for the West are the only thing that is close to a gripe. And PG13/LBJ/KD are all better players than Jokic/AD in my view, though I would have selected a big.

EvilGenius
Admin
24 days 10 hours ago

I think I read that the PG over AD decision was essentially a coin flip. I probably would have gone the other way, but my guess was the team record disparity was the factor here. Agree that the starters are close to right.

JMay
Editor
24 days 15 hours ago

Tell em’, Ben.

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