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Re: Pan-Era conversions

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  • Dean Oliver
    ... eras. Fundamentally, my answer to this question is always: Depends on what you want to do. 1. Do you want to see who dominated their era more? 2. Do you
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 25, 2001
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      --- In APBR_analysis@y..., msg_53@h... wrote:
      > expanded subject heading: How to compare players of different
      eras.

      Fundamentally, my answer to this question is always: Depends on what
      you want to do.

      1. Do you want to see who dominated their era more?
      2. Do you want to do the hypothetical competition of players from
      different eras?

      In case 1, you compare everything to league averages. This is pretty
      unambigous to me. Martin Manley actually spelled this out pretty
      well 15 years ago.

      In case 2, it is much harder, much more ambiguous. I am generally of
      the philosophy that players are better athletically now and (I have
      to choke a little when I say this) better coached. There is more
      strategy among players now than there was when I first began
      watching. (That being said, there is also a larger proportion of
      undisciplined players not listening to their coaches.) I really
      don't know how to show this statistically.

      >
      > I have been grappling with a few factors:
      >
      > 1) Between 1952 and 1969, the NBA increased its schedule from 66
      > games to 82 games. If a player's 1952 totals are multiplied by
      > 82/66, you get an estimate of what they might have produced in a
      > modern schedule. This might also give credit for accomplishments
      in
      > an era of primitive conditions, as physical training, equipment,
      > travel, etc.
      >
      > 2) Some systems rate a player's shooting percentage (FG%) against
      > the prevailing league-wide % at the time. Does this assume that
      > lower FG% is the result of tougher defense? Or is every player
      > responsible for his own shot selection? Would Oscar and Wilt shoot
      > 60-70% if they came up in the 1980's? Would Scottie Pippen have
      shot
      > in the .300's in the 1950s?
      >
      > 3) Have assists always been granted so liberally? There is a
      higher
      > % of assisted baskets today than in earlier times, notably the late
      > 50's - early 60's. Despite high-scoring games, assists did not
      keep
      > up with FG totals.

      I've asked someone I know with access to tapes to count assists from
      different eras using his rules to see how things come out. He's
      rather busy and hasn't done it. My opinion is that assists were as
      relatively prevalent back in the old days as now -- meaning that with
      all the additional FGM's, there probably should have been more
      assists. I don't have any hard evidence for this.

      >
      > 4} League expansion is very tough to deal with. To an extent, an
      > increase in talent can justify it; but the rapid expansion of the
      > late 60s - early 70s creates a case that there were a lot of stiffs
      > in the league, for a while. Would the superteams of the era have
      won
      > 70% of their games in any other era?
      >

      People always said the Bulls had it so easy because of expansion. I
      always thought they were shooting bull. I tend to agree that good
      teams of the 60's would have had a harder time with more teams to
      compete against.

      > 5) Finally, how can we get past the "what if?" factor? What if Bob
      > Pettit had had better shoes and training, etc.
      > What if Bob Pettit had been exposed to video games? What if
      Oscar's
      > mother had been a crack head?
      > There's just no point to it. I think we all like whomever we
      watched
      > when we were 10-15 years old, and no amount of analysis can change
      > it. Admit our biases, and move on.

      Ah to be young and optimistic.
    • harlanzo@yahoo.com
      The problem of comparing eras is obviously one where there are no verifiable answers. Still, I don t think we are at a complete dead- end and should give up.
      Message 2 of 3 , Mar 25, 2001
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        The problem of comparing eras is obviously one where there are no
        verifiable answers. Still, I don't think we are at a complete dead-
        end and should give up. These pan-era comparisons are a bit dicy but
        there is some evidence to work with. Most people agree that the
        level of basketball has increased since the 50s (it is arguable to
        some whether the improvement has flat-lined or not). I think the key
        is to at least catch evidence of this improvement.

        The first evidence that people point to is the average weight and
        hieght argument. Indeed, basketballs have gotten bigger and heavier
        almost every year since the 50s. (I think APBR's website told me
        that in the early 50s the player was 6'4 190 and today the average
        player is 6'7 225). THis is strong evidence that players are better
        today. Of course someone brought up whether it was fair to penalize
        older players for not having the same weight training and other stuff
        that players have today. This is a problem but I think a fair
        solution to the problem is by not penalize a player for being
        slightly underized (like happy hairston who i think is lister at 6'7
        225) and recognize that other players (ie neil johnston) may be too
        small to contribute in today's NBA. This is of course a first
        impression idea and we still need to look at more empirical evidence
        to make any real hard conclusions.

        The first bit of evidence that I see that gives a strong indication
        of NBA improvement comes in the early 60s. We can see the ungodly
        numbers put up by young player in 61-62 and 62-63 by Elgin, Wilt, and
        even Walt Bellamy, that they could not reach later on. As we can see
        from baseball analysts and looking at typical NBA careers, most
        players peak statiscally around the age of 27. However, Wilt, Elgin
        and Bellamy while still remaining great players really did not put
        the crazy numbers they did in their younger years. Some might argue
        that this decline is a function of adjusting roles to different roles
        but I think this is an indication that the NBA got a little bigger
        and better after the early 60s and Bellamy for example could not just
        show up and score 35 and 20 against Johnny Red Kerrs everynight.

        I am still looking over the late 60s and beyond to determine
        improvement in game play but I think the reduction of the crazy stats
        of the early sixties may very well be likely a function of the
        improvement of the nba by the late 60s.
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