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Talent

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  • Dean Oliver <deano@rawbw.com>
    Y know, I was wondering why this cross-generational thing has been bugging me. I really don t have much interest in simulating old teams vs. new teams, but
    Message 1 of 6 , Jan 31, 2003
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      Y'know, I was wondering why this cross-generational thing has been
      bugging me. I really don't have much interest in simulating old
      teams vs. new teams, but there are elements of doing it -- and
      elements of Mike's study with minutes -- that really get at something
      I am very interested in. It just took a while for it to click in my
      brain what it is.

      Both Mike's study and the cross-generational stuff get at the
      question: 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 (that Mike
      is getting at), coaching, home/road, etc.

      Though I don't have much time right now, there is a lot we've talked
      about that gets at potentially better evaluating _talent_ in modern
      players, an issue of great value. I will post some of my results on
      the impacts of height when I have time. Height is only a small
      element of talent but it is at least quantifiable, unlike quickness
      or strength or speed to get a shot off or ability to create own shot
      or...

      Ultimately being able to say that a player would do x if it weren't
      for his coach/system/role, but does y with his coach/system/role,
      allows for better translation of statistics between teams and between
      leagues, which is important for draft and trade analysis. And we all
      know that those are important.


      DeanO
    • Mike G <msg_53@hotmail.com>
      ... You might have to distinguish between individual talent and team talent. At the most basic level, I suppose height, jumping ability, ballhandling skills,
      Message 2 of 6 , Jan 31, 2003
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        --- In APBR_analysis@yahoogroups.com, "Dean Oliver <deano@r...>"
        <deano@r...> wrote:
        >...: 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...

        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 even 1955.

        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.


        > Ultimately being able to say that a player would do x if it weren't
        > for his coach/system/role, but does y with his coach/system/role,
        > allows for better translation of statistics between teams and
        between
        > leagues, which is important for draft and trade analysis. And we
        all
        > know that those are important.

        Well, some of us just do this for fun.
      • Dean Oliver <deano@rawbw.com>
        ... ability, ... I think I m calling this the system . All subjectively here, but I do think the talent gap was a lot smaller this past year. But the
        Message 3 of 6 , Jan 31, 2003
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          --- In APBR_analysis@yahoogroups.com, "Mike G <msg_53@h...>"
          <msg_53@h...> wrote:
          > --- In APBR_analysis@yahoogroups.com, "Dean Oliver <deano@r...>"
          > <deano@r...> wrote:
          > >...: 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...
          >
          > 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.
          >

          I think I'm calling this "the system". All subjectively here, but I
          do think the talent gap was a lot smaller this past year. But "the
          system" was clearly better laid out for foreign teams who knew each
          other's roles, had consistent defenses called, etc. With more than 2
          weeks training together, our team would have been better. With the
          knowledge that they'd be together for a couple months and fighting
          hard, they would work more together. I don't think they thought
          they'd have to fight so hard.


          > 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 even 1955.
          >

          It is interesting that fitness and height are incredibly important in
          professional evaluations of players. Part of my goal has been to try
          to numerically assess whether just professional evaluations are
          correct. I think I found that a team that is an extra inch taller
          picks up about 1.3 points (offense + defense) per 100 possessions.
          Only about a third of the home court advantage, but not insignificant
          and something that is definitely not hard to overcome with additional
          skill. (Also most teams don't differ in height by a full inch.
          Tallest to shortest typically is about 1-2 inches within a year.) So
          if a scout is picking a taller player, he is generally being safer.
          Duh.

          > As one without any (professed) bias, I find it intriguing to think
          > the league may be equally competitive in 1955 and in 2003.

          Sports economists believe this in general.

          Expansion
          > bumps notwithstanding, I can't see a clear reason for the
          appearance
          > of equivalency, based on the cumulative minutes study I've
          presented.
          >

          I'm not sure what you're saying here. Just clarify.

          >
          > > Ultimately being able to say that a player would do x if it
          weren't
          > > for his coach/system/role, but does y with his coach/system/role,
          > > allows for better translation of statistics between teams and
          > between
          > > leagues, which is important for draft and trade analysis. And we
          > all
          > > know that those are important.
          >
          > Well, some of us just do this for fun.

          I did it purely for fun for many years. It's still fun. Basketball
          is perhaps the greatest science I've encountered. So many tough
          problems and so many insights upon solving them.

          DeanO
        • schtevie2003 <schtevie@hotmail.com>
          DeanO:...: 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
          Message 4 of 6 , Jan 31, 2003
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            DeanO:...: 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
            even 1955.

            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
            various hypotheses.

            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.
          • Mike G <msg_53@hotmail.com>
            ... I was fully expecting to see evidence of a seriously weaker league in the mid-50s. It is surprising that I don t see it; so still disbelieving it, I said
            Message 5 of 6 , Jan 31, 2003
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              --- In APBR_analysis@yahoogroups.com, "Dean Oliver <deano@r...>"
              <deano@r...> wrote:
              > --- In APBR_analysis@yahoogroups.com, "Mike G <msg_53@h...>"
              > <msg_53@h...> wrote:

              > > the league may be equally competitive in 1955 and in 2003.
              >
              > Sports economists believe this in general.
              >
              > Expansion
              > > bumps notwithstanding, I can't see a clear reason for the
              > appearance
              > > of equivalency, based on the cumulative minutes study I've
              > presented.
              > >
              >
              > I'm not sure what you're saying here. Just clarify.

              I was fully expecting to see evidence of a seriously weaker league in
              the mid-50s. It is surprising that I don't see it; so still
              disbelieving it, I said there was an "appearance of equivalency".

              Rather than over-tweak, I just presented it as is. Hoping others
              will help to interpret it.
            • Mike G <msg_53@hotmail.com>
              ... The correlation is very rough. The minutes data suggest we are just now getting back to the competitive level that existed in 1966, before the ABA
              Message 6 of 6 , Feb 4, 2003
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                --- In APBR_analysis@yahoogroups.com, "schtevie2003 <schtevie@h...>"
                <schtevie@h...> wrote:
                >... 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.

                The correlation is very rough. The minutes data suggest we are just
                now getting back to the competitive level that existed in 1966,
                before the ABA expansion era.

                >
                > 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.

                It's tempting to say all change is for the good. No one changes
                rules in order to make the game worse.

                What I was suggesting is that while we can say athletes are in better
                physical shape these days, the oldtimers should get 'credit' for what
                conditions they had to overcome, as modern players get credit for
                their workout regimens, etc.

                You could plop a physical specimen like Karl Malone into 1955, and
                then what? Let him take his nice shoes, his personal trainer,
                dieticians -- heck, a private jet. Then what?

                You would see a culture clash that would be fodder for a
                backtothefuture comedy, I guess. Nothing predictable. He might
                dominate Bob Pettit and Dolph Schayes; or the refs might not buy his
                flops, and his elbows might earn real retaliation instead of a 1-game
                suspension.

                He might run out of healthy food, get tired of being refused lodging,
                be abused by fans and possibly shunned by his teammates. These are
                only fantasy scenarios. 'Better' doesn't really exist.

                I can do more calculations and have knowledge that Leonardo da Vinci
                didn't have. Does that make me a better thinker?

                A champion race car driver from 1920 who never passed 120 mph should
                get credit for dominating his milieu, regardless of whether his
                machine can outrun one from 2003.


                > 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.

                That's debatable, too. The NBA is much more alluring these days. At
                some point in the past, guys had to choose between the fun NBA, or
                the better-paying factory job.
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