Welcome to the first installment of Light Years Behind, a (hopefully) weekly look into the National Basketball Association.
Editor’s Note: if you come here expecting the in-depth analysis offered elsewhere at the Bowdoin Globalist, then PROCEED NO FURTHER. What follows is an exercise in whimsical nonsense.
Which NBA Players Embarrass Themselves the Most? A Completely Unnecessary Analysis
The NBA boasts the greatest players in the world. Even the twelfth man on every roster is better at basketball than any of us will ever be at anything. With All-Star weekend rapidly approaching, now is the perfect time to appreciate greatness. Luckily, NBA.com now offers a plethora of statistics for fans and media to indentify the best of the best. Using advanced player-tracking data, it’s easy to find which player has been the most prolific Iso scorer (Isaiah Thomas) or who has made the most pull-up 3-pointers (James Harden). The sky’s the limit with these new tools, and one could spend an eternity breaking into what makes these players so spectacular.
But I got bored almost immediately by the tops of the leaderboards, and have decided to pursue a much more interesting frivolous question: which players are subject to the greatest amount of embarrassment?
I determined five measurements of humiliation. They are as follows:
Blocked Field Goal Attempts (per 100 possessions) This one is pretty self-explanatory—players who get their shots swatted soar to the top of the leaderboard. I used the per-100 possessions stat, instead of a cumulative total, to account for the differences in playing time. Enes Kanter comes off the bench, so he gets fewer opportunities to have his field goal attempts sent into the fourth row. It seems so unfair to penalize him for that! In my methodology, he goes to first place, right where he belongs.
Clutch True Shooting Percentage (lower percentage means higher rank) This category is for players who brick shots when the game matters most. NBA.com characterizes a “clutch” situation as any point where there are 5 minutes or less left in the game and the score is within 5 points. True shooting percentage is like field goal percentage, but it takes free throws (which don’t count as field goal attempts) and 3-pointers (they’re worth more!) into account. This way, a player’s offensive impact, or lack thereof, is more fully measured. I also specified that the player’s usage rate be over 20 percent. We want players who single-handedly lose games, not just stand in the corner. Matthew Dellavadova takes the crown for this one, with a putrid 20.5 true shooting percentage. There is a larger gap between first and second places than between second and eleventh.
Isolation Defense (effective field goal percentage allowed) This is a measure of one-on-one incompetence. The players at the top of the board simply have no chance at getting a stop when left on an island. Effective field goal percentage adjusts for threes but not free throws, as NBA.com didn’t offer true shooting percentage for this leaderboard. Memo to teams playing the Magic: give the ball to D.J. Augustin’s man and clear out.
Turnover Ratio This statistic measures the number of turnovers a player commits per 100 possessions. It is one of the famed “four factors” (along with effective field goal percentage, free throw rate, and offensive rebound rate) that are crucial in determining NBA success—and failure. Jusuf Nurkic runs away from the field here, with a bigger gap between him and second place than between second and eighteenth place.
Pull-up Shooting Percentage (lower % means higher rank) Everyone loves the pull-up dagger, but we can’t all be Steph Curry. Actually, we can’t all be Austin Rivers. Some of us really should stop taking this shot (hint hint, Andrew Harrison). I limited this to players who average more than two per game.
I determined the top 50 players in each category. A player then received points for his rank in every leaderboard (first place got 50 points, second place 49, and so on). The totals were then added up to form a final leaderboard.
|1||Derrick Rose||124||New York|
|4||Russell Westbrook||106||Oklahoma City|
A few observations:
- Derrick Rose is our champion! This isn’t all that surprising: Rose has declined precipitously since his 2011 MVP season, but seems woefully ignorant of the change in his skill level. This means that Rose is unafraid to take the ball into his hands—and then promptly give it back to the other team. At least he hasn’t embarrassed himself off the court!
- The average age of this top ten is 21.3 years old. For context, the youngest team in the NBA (the Philadelphia 76ers) has an average age of 24.2. Young players tend to make mistakes, and mistakes lead to embarrassment and a high place on our leaderboard.
- Notably, there are a couple of superstars (Cousins and Westbrook) among the plebs on this list. These two phenomenal players have one thing in common: they are the only options on their otherwise pathetic teams. Their increased loads lead to increased embarrassment. They soak up all of the bad shots, are given the ball in every desperate situation, and are often forced to play one-on-five. Unfortunately for them, that leads to scoring high on the Humiliation Index.
Which All-Star Starter are you?
The NBA made big changes for their 2016–2017 NBA All-Star Voting Ballot. In past years, the fan vote was the sole factor in choosing who played. Now, the fan vote has been reduced to 50 percent of the vote; NBA players and media each get 25 percent of the vote. The change is significant because now teams in smaller markets with less national presence can get an edge against the household names of LeBron or Boban.
But players with an overwhelming number of votes from fans still might not make it. For example, Zaza Pachulia was snubbed this year while putting up fantastic averages of 5.9 points per game, 6 rebounds per game, and 2 assists per game. Zaza’s influence on the team’s success has been dramatic as well; he led the Warriors to a 41–7 record despite the loss of Harrison Barnes in free agency this past offseason. In spite of his tremendous output, Zaza will not see playing time in this year’s all-star game even after accumulating over 1.5 million votes, which was second just to Kevin Durant who had over 1.7 million votes. (Kawhi Leonard placed third with just over 1 million votes.) This absurd outcome foreshadows greater potential conflict between players, media, and fans who all different versions of an All-Star roster. But on the lighter side, take the quiz linked below to see which NBA-All Star Starter you are!