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Just The Sports: 2007-01-14

Just The Sports

Friday, January 19, 2007

Agent Zero Consistency

Thanks to a display of late-game heroics, Gilbert Arenas has ingratiated himself to the NBA media, making him the NBA news cycle's flavor of the month. Not only does he have people calling him by nicknames he devised for himself, but Arenas is now being lauded as the NBA's best pure scorer and clutch player. Since hyperbolic compliments are being handed out left and right regarding Arenas, it is only fair that we inaugurate the "Black President" with one more: Mr. Inconsistent.

Right now, Arenas's 29.9 points per game average has him ranked second in the NBA, behind Carmelo Anthony and ahead of Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, and Kobe Bryant. Second place in scoring would normally be nothing to be ashamed of, but the way in which Arenas has arrived at his scoring average should keep him from taking too much pride in his place among the NBA elite.

Of the top five NBA scorers, Arenas's efforts bring along with them the highest standard deviation in points per game (12.2) and true shooting percentage (.161). This means there is less predictive reliability when it comes to how Arenas will do on a given night. He may give you 42 points, but he is just as likely to only score 18 points. It is this unreliability that keeps Arenas and the Wizards from reaching their true potential.

Not surprisingly, Kobe Bryant has the highest standard deviation for field goal attempts per game (7.1). I say not surprisingly because Bryant seems to approach each game as if whether or not he shoots depends on the whims of a Magic 8 Ball. When the Magic 8 ball answers "yes-definitely," Bryant looks to jack up upwards of 27 field goal attempts. On the other hand, on the times the Magic 8 ball says "my reply is no," Bryant is afraid to attempt more than 13 shots.

When Arenas is ready to become more consistent, the two players he should look to emulate in basketball play only will both be wearing Nuggets uniforms: Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. Before Anthony decided it was a good idea to sucker punch a player and then immediately back up to halfcourt, he was the most consistent scorer out of this five players with a points per game standard deviation of only 6.4. Iverson is the main culprit when it comes to consistent shooting. Although his career percentages leave much to be desired from a shooting guard, he has a true shooting percentage standard deviation of .086, meaning you can almost set your watch by what Iverson will shoot in a random contest.

Despite being a supremely talented player, Arenas's play this season indicates he is not quite ready to become the best in the league at either scoring or shooting. Someone to make game-winning shots for my team is a bonus, but I'll take the most consistent player over the one with the most flair for the dramatic any day.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Tomlinson's Hobby (Satire)

Confirming what close friends and complete strangers have long suspected, San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson recently revealed the fact that beating dead horses has been a life-long hobby of his. Although Tomlinson acknowledges football is his first love because it pays his bills, if it were up to him, he would do nothing but beat dead horses all day long.

"There's nothing better than beating a dead horse," Tomlinson stated slowly and without a hint of emotion. "The first time I beat a dead horse I was eight years old and my childhood friend, Donald Chappel, had been trash-talking after scoring a touchdown on me. Well, that made me so mad I took my football and went right home.

"Then on the way home I saw a dead horse lying on the sidewalk and figured if I beat it long and hard enough that Chappel would learn his lesson and never talk trash to me again. He didn't, but beating that dead horse left me feeling superior to him anyway."

Tomlinson's wife LaTorsha, who has been the cause of many dead horses being beaten, took a while, but she says she has learned to live with her husband's idiosyncrasy. "When we first started dating, I was always asking LaDainian why he kept beating dead horses and why he couldn't just let them be dead in peace," LaTorsha said. "Now I don't even give it a second thought. It's just who he is."

In order to reach out to the San Diego community, Tomlinson has announced formal plans for the Beat A Dead Horse Center. Tomlinson pledges the center will be a place where anyone can come to beat dead horses, no matter how small and petty they might appear to the casual observer, without fear of recrimination.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

More Vindication

With this recent trade, one thing is obvious. Someone has been reading my blog.


Colt Brennan

When I first heard that Colt Brennan was thinking of leaving the University of Hawaii a year early for the NFL, I was immediately skeptical. Here, I thought, was another college quarterback whose passing numbers had been puffed up as a result of being in a pass-happy offense, numbers that would be unable to withstand a stiff gust of wind.

Yet, that does not seem to be the entire case at all. If Brennan were indeed only the product of being in June Jones's offense and had not real quarterbacking talent, then his career numbers would closely resemble those of Timmy Chang, who was the starting quarterback predecessor to Brennan, in the same way Brian Brohm had been no better than Stefan LeFors at the time I compared those two University of Louisville quarterbacks.

Instead, Brennan's numbers have blown Chang's away. In his two years as Hawaii's starting quarterback, Brennan completed 70.5% of his pass attempts and netted 9.2 yards per pass attempt, much better than what Chang did during his time as a Warrior when he only had a completion percentage of 57.2% to go along with his 7.1 yards per pass attempt.

Since there is such a wide disparity between the two quarterbacks' statistics, the logical question to ask would be whether Jones changed the offense after Chang graduated, allowing Chang's successors to achieve a higher degree of success. The answer to this logical question is that while Brennan averaged 6.2 less pass attempts per game than Chang did, when the yards per reception are compared between the two quarterbacks, the numbers prove themselves to be incredibly similar (Chang's 12.4 to Brennan's 13.0) so any change June Jones made to the offense was insignificant at best meaning it could not be the prevailing reason for Brennan's superior quarterback play. Therefore, without a shadow of a doubt, the reason why Brennan put up better numbers than Chang is because he is a significantly better quarterback.

Even though Brennan has completed such a high number of pass attempts does not automatically mean that he will have great success on the NFL level. He did, after all, still come from an offense that inflates a quarterback's passing numbers, which is a fact not to be quickly forgotten even with what my research proved. Being a better quarterback than Timmy Chang only makes Brennan a better NFL prospect than what Chang was, but it does not mean he is automatically one of the best draft-eligible quarterbacks in the nation.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

The Exception To The Rule

When I wrote about the way in which college completion percentages translate to completion percentages on the NFL level, I alluded to the fact there was a small chance that there was an NFL quarterback walking around who had bucked the trend and had an NFL completion percentage that was significantly superior to his college one. By happenstance, I stumbled on such a quarterback and his name is Brian Griese.

During his time at the University of Michigan, Griese posted a 58.5% completion percentage in games where he either attempted the most pass attempts or amassed the most passing yards. Yet, after taking over the starting quarterback job for the Denver Broncos and later the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Griese did not allow his mediocre college completion percentage keep him from completing 62.9% of his passes in games that saw him attempt at least fifteen throws.

Yet, although I have labeled Griese as the exception to the rule, I really feel the rule does not apply to him at all and not just because his quarterbacking career disagrees with my precious theory. There is a reasonable, plausible explanation behind my thinking. While at Michigan, Griese only played an extended number of games in two seasons, those being his sophomore (9 games) and senior (12 games) ones, according to the critera I have already laid out. There were only two such games his junior year as a result of his having been relegated to the sidelines in favor of Scott Dreisbach. Because of this gap in his collegiate playing career, I have grave doubts about how representative his numbers really are. In other words, Griese was unable to use his junior year to build upon his sophomore season and then use his senior year to build upon his junior season. Therefore, no one can say with great certainty that his college numbers represent the true ability of Brian Griese. His senior year ended up being his best, but how much better could it have been had he been allowed to play an entire junior season? Would it then have put his career completion percentage in college on par with his NFL one? These are legitimate questions.

Furthermore, since I doubt there will be many other careers that mirror Griese's, I still have great faith in saying NFL quarterbacks will most likely never out-perform their college completion percentages.

NOTE: College completion percentage total does not include 1997 game against Michigan State.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Player Of The Year Candidates

Although the college basketball regular season is only about half over for most teams, it is not too early to take at look at three players who should be among the top vote getters for player of the year: senior University of Wisconsin forward Alando Tucker, senior University of Nevada forward Nick Fazekas, and freshman University of Texas guard/forward Kevin Durant. Each of the players excels in at least one aspect of the game of basketball, but even player of the year candidates have flaws.

When it comes to taking care of the ball, Alando Tucker has done the best job out of this trio in terms of assist and turnover rates. Still, this distinction does not mean Tucker handles the ball spectacularly well because he does not, only possessing an assist rate of 9.3 and a turnover rate of 7.7. Additionally, although, his 6.5 free throw attempts per game matches Durant's and betters Fazekas', the fact Tucker shoots only 64.1% from the free throw line renders that advantage moot, especially when Durant's 85.6% free throw percentage enters the conversaton. Tucker may play on the best team out of this bunch and his team may depend on him the most, but he is no better than the other two aforementioned candidates.

Tucker is certainly not the best shooter since that honor goes to Nick Fazekas, who has a 66.2% true shooting percentage through fifteen games, better than Tucker's 55.5% and Durant's 62.0%. Fazekas also happens to be the best rebounder by quite a large margin as evidenced by his 26.6 rebound rate. However, this does not make Fazekas the perfect offensive player. In spite of shooting an impressive 86.8% from the charity stripe, Fazekas only gets there 3.5 times a game, which makes his deft shooting touch from the free throw line almost a waste.

What has not been a waste was the scholarship Rick Barnes gave to Kevin Durant. Despite being only a freshman, he has had a large impact on the college basketball scene with play that will no doubt be rewarded with several end of the year awards as he has rewarded the Longhorn faithful with 23.7 points per game, tops among these three. Impressive scoring prowess, yes, but there is one part of Durant's resume that requires further elaboration. Those who look at his 11.0 rebounds per game should not be fooled into thinking Durant is a prodigious rebounder. One look at his 19.3 rebound rate will debunk the myth he is in Fazekas' class when it comes to rebounding, even though he only averages 1.1 rebound less per game than the Nevada forward. Instead, Durant has benefited from additional rebounding opportunities. In Durant's sixteen games, there are have been an average 73.2 rebounds a contest while in Fazekas' fifteen played games, there have only been 63.2 rebounds per game that were available for the taking.

Defensively, though, Durant has no peer among this crowd when it comes to filling up the stats in the box score. He is better than Fazekas and Tucker in both blocks per game (1.8) and steals per game (1.6), no small feat for a college freshman.

With many games left to play, each of these players has a chance to distance himself from the other two, and college basketball fans should keep an eye on all three of these players as the season progresses.