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Just The Sports: 2010-11-21

Just The Sports

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Miami Dolphins still need to find their quarterback of the future

I sincerely hope that the Miami Dolphins do not think their franchise quarterback or quarterback of the future currently resides on their roster. Chad Pennington would be the best option, but his inability to stay healthy combined with his age eliminate him from any quarterback of the future discussion. Chad Henne, while he has an above-average .639 completion percentage this season, has an annoying propensity to throw more interceptions than touchdowns, a turnover habit the Dolphins have to be getting tired of.

Since the Dolphins have already seen what Pennington and Henne have to offer and have not found themselves pleased with the results, they may be tempted to turn to Tyler Thigpen. By doing so they would be making a grave error because while Henne is never going to be anything more than an average quarterback over the course of his career, he will still give them more value than anything Thigpen will provide.

To be fair to Tyler Thigpen, he really has no chance to succeed in the NFL because he was an extremely mediocre college quarterback during his time at Coastal Carolina University. As a four-year starter, in games where Thigpen either attempted the most passes or threw for the most passing yards, he only managed a .554 completion percentage.

For a quarterback playing in the football bowl subdivision (FBS), a completion percentage that low is incredibly poor, but for someone playing in the inferior football championship subdivision (FCS), it is almost embarrassing and should kill any NFL prospects. A truly elite quarterback, one who is ready to play for the NFL, would have completely dominated such lesser competition. That Thigpen not only failed to do so, but performed so miserably, is an enormous indictment against his talent.

Another strike against Thigpen, as if he even needed any more, is that his career college completion percentage is only that high because of his senior season's .640 completion percentage. NFL teams should always be wary of a quarterback who has one season that is so far above what he has done in other ones, which is what Thigpen's senior season represents.

This season was so out of character for him that the .640 completion percentage he posted his senior year is statistically significantly better than the .497 completion percentage he managed in his other three years. None of his other seasons were outliers in the same vein. As with all outliers in statistical samples, Thigpen's senior season should be discounted.

He is certainly not that accurate a passer, which he has already shown with his career .545 completion percentage. Given the chance to play in more games, that is about the level of accuracy which any team that employs Thigpen should expect. Such an inability to throw the ball accurately would make Thigpen one of the worst NFL quarterbacks.

For the rest of the season, given their options, the Dolphins really have no choice but to start Henne for the rest of the games and hope they can find an elite quarterback in the NFL draft next year.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

As the game progesses, O'Neal's production declines

The next time Shaquille O'Neal scores a quick six or eight points in the first quarter, his opponent should be comforted by the knowledge that whatever heights O'Neal reaches in the first quarter are not indicative of how he will play for the rest of the game. Instead, through the nine games O'Neal has participated in, there is an inverse proportional relationship between O'Neal's impact on a game and its length. As the game progresses, O'Neal experiences a rather steady decline in production.

It is in the first period of play during which O'Neal does most of his damage. Even though the first quarter constitutes only twenty-five percent of a game, more than half of O'Neal's statistics are acquired over the course of the first twelve minutes.

In the first quarter, O'Neal has totaled 60% of his field goal attempts (36 of 60), 57.8% of his field goal makes (22 of 38), 54.2% of his points (51 of 94), 57.9% of his offensive rebounds (11 of 19), and 36.8% of his defensive rebounds (14 of 38).

The second quarter is O'Neal's second most productive quarter, narrowly edging out the third quarter for the honor. O'Neal has scored twenty-one of his ninety-four points in the second quarter by way of shooting 8 of 13 from the field and 5 of 7 from the free-throw line and also has pulled down eighteen of his fifty-seven rebounds (six offensive rebounds and twelve defensive rebounds). His thirteen second-quarter field goal attempts are also the second-most of the four quarters.

O'Neal's third quarter play continues the trend in that it represents his third-most field-goal attempts (8), field-goal makes (6), points (17), and rebounds (11; 1 offensive and 10 defensive). Interestingly enough, the third quarter is his best in one area: free throw attempts. In no other quarter has O'Neal bested his twelve third-quarter free throw attempts, which is not to say he has exactly taken advantage of his more frequent trips to the charity stripe; O'Neal has only made five free throws in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, O'Neal has barely put up any numbers, only scoring 9 points and having 3 rebounds. Not all of his lack of production in the fourth quarter is his fault, though, considering the Celtics have built up big enough leads in a couple of contests to keep O'Neal from even seeing the floor in the fourth quarter, which would naturally lessen his statistical impact.

What these data simply further confirm is that O'Neal is no longer able to have a dominant presence for an entire game. This should be news to no one since he is in the twilight of his career, but what should be remembered is that even though O'Neal is no longer at his peak, he is still able to dominate at times, most notably to start the game.

Even his dominance in a short period of time provides value to the Celtics as his 0.189 win shares per 48 minutes illustrates. This is the highest win shares per 48 minutes mark he has posted since the 2004-05 season.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

The 2010-11 Heat are not far off from the 2007-08 Celtics

As the Miami Heat have gotten off to a shaky 8-5 start, which is made worse by the lofty expectations heaped on them before the season , it has become too easy to ridicule the Heat for not being able to win every single game they play. However, it is important to remember that the Heat are not far behind the pace set by the Boston Celtics thirteen games into their 2007-08 championship season.

Of all the teams in recent history, it has always made the most sense to track and grade the Heat's season based on how closely they performed in comparison to the 2007-08 Celtics. Like the Heat, the Celtics, too, added two star players to complement the star player they already had, radically changing the composition of the franchise.

Such a roster overhaul resulted in the 2007-08 Celtics having a roster stability percentage of .495, meaning less than half of the players who were on the roster during the championship season were on the roster the previous year. Since there are five positions in basketball and each position comprises 20% of the team's minutes, the Celtics were replacing two and a half position players.

Yet, despite having to incorporate so many new pieces into a functional unit, the Celtics went on to post the most dominant regular season since the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls decimated their foes by 12.0 points per 100 possessions. During the season, the Celtics outscored their opponents by an astounding 11.3 points per 100 possessions, basically running roughshod over the league.

The Heat are also suffering from limited roster stability with only 52.0% of the team's minutes having been played by players who wore a Heat uniform last season. Their roster stability percentage will no doubt get even smaller after Mike Miller fully recovers from right thumb surgery and begins to play starter-type numbers.

Still, the Heat are doing pretty well for themselves, outscoring opponents by 10.6 points per 100 possessions, which is only slightly worse than what the Celtics did in the first thirteen games of the 2007-08 season when they outscored their opponents by 12.4 points per 100 possessions, indicating the Heat could be in for a championship run of their own.

Moreover, the Heat's record of 8-5 underrates how well they have played. Based on how many points they have scored and allowed, the expected win total for the Heat is actually 10.4 wins, which rounds down to ten, giving them an expected win-loss record of 10-3.

In the 2007-08 season, after thirteen games, the Boston Celtics' expected win-loss record stood at 11-2. Again, the Heat are nipping at the heels of the team they are most similar to.

On another note, expecting the 2010-11 Heat to come out playing like the 1995-96 Bulls who won seventy-two games in the regular season was a bit ludicrous considering those Bulls had a roster stability percentage of .808 with Dennis Rodman, a role player with a highly specific skill set, as their only major acquisition from the year before.

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