- Jan 31, 2003DeanO:...: What is talent? Or what is a measure of talent? As
I've mentioned before, we measure performance with stats, not
talent. Performance is a function of talent, but also a bunch of
other things, including the average talent level in the league...
Mike: You might have to distinguish between individual talent
and team talent. At the most basic level, I suppose height,
jumping ability, ballhandling skills, pure shooting, etc. would be
elements of 'talent'.
But in the wake of the US disaster against the world, in Indy, we
have to recognize Team Talent. i.e., the better Team wins. If I
standardize the stats for the last 3 World Games, the US players
would not look as good as the 3 teams that beat them. Yet this
season's NBA is not dominated by Spanish, Argentines, and
whoever else got in on the dismemberment.
So arguments about increased bulk, reduced body fat, etc. aren't
relevant (in my mind) to whether today's game is played at a
greater competitive level than it was played in 1975, 1965, or
For all I know, the 1955 game was brutal, and a slamdunking
skywalker would have about as much chance of landing safely
as he would in the water with a polar bear.
IF one had a time machine, teams of different eras would have to
learn the style of one another (not to mention refereeing
discrepancies). By the time an exhibition season had ironed out
the differences, they'd be well on their way to playing on even
footing -- footwear included.
So I suggest all peripheral era-dependent artifacts be dropped
from consideration, and competitiveness remain in the realm of
mathematics. Then we can just tinker with the formulas.
As one without any (professed) bias, I find it intriguing to think
the league may be equally competitive in 1955 and in 2003.
Expansion bumps notwithstanding, I can't see a clear reason for
the appearance of equivalency, based on the cumulative
minutes study I've presented.
Me: I think it is important to be precise about terminology, before
we reduce the relevant questions to the point of insignificance.
It seems to me that if we are going to talk about talent, we should
leave that to the domain of the individual. Then "team talent" has
to do with organization which is the function of coaching/strategy
(along with player acquiescence, of course.) As such, we can
think of competitiveness (or offensive/defensive productivity to be
more precise in my schema) as a function of talent, where the
function is the operation of organization/strategy.
Interpreting the recent debacle in Indianapolis in this regard, "A"
level talent American (if not A+) from the NBA with mediocre
organization was unable to beat equivalent B-/C+ NBA level
talent with superior organization (at playing the international
game of course.)
That said, distinguishing individual and team talent does not
negate the relevance of appraising individual talent and its
changes over time; it is a separate category.
Now your increase in minutes played data series is a very
interesting piece of evidence in this regard. One should think
about what it means, and what it can be used for to distinguish
Regarding height: To my mind, if it is borne out that the "true"
series is effectively flat, this would imply that height doesn't
matter. (Now, I do not believe this to be the case, but it would
seem to me that this would be a primary implication.) Why?
Because an increase in the pool of taller athletes, if there was a
postive "return" to this attribute, this would imply that there would
be an increase in playing time for this group. (Hey, could you
break out your minutes data as a function of height to directly
address this question?).
Regarding strength: I don't think that the minutes series could
ever address this, and not because this factor has no available
measure. It is because as players in the league would begin to
become generally aware of the benefit of strength training, they
would "all" begin to train, negating the apparent benefit to anyone
and the resultant minutes played.
Regarding team organization/strategy: I are quite sure that the
series has nothing to say, as all players get better together as
strategies become refined and improve, so the minutes played
should not be affected.
Regarding the overall talent pool: Here the series has a lot to
say, and the tentative conclusion that league expansion has
roughly correlated with expansion in the talent pool accords with
my prior beliefs.
All this said, the series you provide does not suggest that "the
league may be equally competitive in 1955 and in 2003". Of
course it does when you add the proviso that we drop all
"peripheral era-dependent artifacts be dropped from
consideration", but that is just defining the problem away. To my
mind, those things aren't peripheral; they are central. The
interesting stuff is the history of the game itself, how it evolved,
how it improved, how rules may have been changed to
compensate for perceived advantage by the offense or the
defense, how the physical form of the athlete and his regimens
changed, how the available talent pool changed.
By your specification, we would be left with no dynamic
questions at all, as we all know that at any given time (with some
minor caveats) we know that the best players available and
willing to play were in the NBA.
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