Mystery Statistics Theater: Power Forward Edition

Welcome to the fourth edition of Mystery Statistics Theater, an ongoing series here at Hardwood Paroxysm. In this space, Conrad Kaczmarek and I will be attempting to do the previously impossible; we’ll be removing all personal bias from our conclusions. Here and in the subsequent editions of this series, this is what you’ll find: a comparison of the per-36 minutes and advanced statistics lines of two different players – one from this season and one from a randomly selected season – with no names attached. Our task was to decide which of the two players was better, or more valuable, or which we’d rather have on our team; whatever you want to call it, we chose between the two players without knowing who they really were. You can see the comparisons, conclusions and corresponding player names below. Enjoy.

(NOTE: We used per-36 minutes rather than per-game stats to marginalize and/or eliminate any differences in playing time. Additionally, we recognize that these comparisons do not account for team context or player roles. Rather, this exercise intends to demonstrate how simply looking at the numbers can lead you to conclusions that may seem counter-intuitive, for better or worse, and that surface opinions and bias can lead to drastically different conclusions than simply analyzing the stats. Also, we whited out the player names so you can play along for fun! All stats current through March 30, 2012.)

Comparison #1 – Created by Jared, Analyzed by Conrad

Player A seems like a pretty obvious call to me. He’s got a better TS% and is just about even in total rebounding rate. What he lacks in blocked shots, he makes up for with steals. I can’t really find anything wrong with Player A when it comes to what I want out of a power forward. Furthermore, he doesn’t take three-pointers while Player B occasionally does. For that alone, I hate Player B.

(Player A – Carlos Boozer 2011-12, Player B – Pau Gasol 2011-12)

Note: Highlight the line above this to reveal player names

Comparison #2 – Created by Jared, Analyzed by Conrad

Not much to dislike about Player B. He’s a wildly efficient scorer, solid rebounder, and a fantastic offensive rebounder. I’m terrified of picking him because I think I know who it is and it might be a result of a small sample size. Regardless, based on these stats, there’s no reason for me to take Player A over Player B. Give me Player B, even though I’m really scared.

(Player A – Tim Duncan 1997-98, Player B – Kenneth Faried 2011-12)

Note: Highlight the line above this to reveal player names

Comparison #3 – Created by Jared, Analyzed by Conrad

These guys are virtually identical in a number of statistics, except for one of the most important: true shooting percentage. In that area, Player B can’t come close to Player A’s efficiency. Similarly, while ORtg and DRtg aren’t the most accurate ways to determine a player’s value, the 107-99 gap in ORtg is somewhat significant. Because I’m a huge nerd, I know who Player B is and I absolutely love him. I also know that these stats don’t come close to explaining what he does on the court. The assist % of 20.6% is wildly impressive, but Player A is right there behind him. Going off of these numbers, I’m forced to take Player A and I’m okay with that, because he’s an incredible player as well.

(Player A – Kevin Garnett 2011-12, Player B – Josh Smith 2011-12)

Note: Highlight the line above this to reveal player names

Comparison #4 – Created by Conrad, Analyzed by Jared

Let’s see here. Player B seems like the kind of player you can build your offense around. He’s got a 29+ usage, gets to the line a good amount and has solid percentages from everywhere. Player A is a long-range sniper – 8.0 of his 14.0 FGA per-36 come from behind the 3-point line and he hits at a 41.5% clip. Player A is the better offensive rebounder and turns it over less (though the TOs might have something to do with their usage). Player B, though, is a much better passer, defensive rebounder and is better at shooting inside the arc and getting to the line. This is insanely close, but I’ll take Player B, the more well-rounded player, as the foundation of the offense.

(Player A – Ryan Anderson 2011-12, Player B – Dirk Nowitzki 2011-12)

Note: Highlight the line above this to reveal player names

Comparison #5 – Created by Cornad, Analyzed by Jared

I hate bad free throw shooters. Player A’s 54.3% mark from the line is hella-concerning. That said, he does get to the line an awful lot, which is a plus. And he’s shooting over 8.0% better from the field than Player B. Then again, Player B is a better rebounder and free throw shooter. But since Player A has the advantage in everything else (passing, TOs, blocks, usage, D-Rtg) and he isn’t deluded into taking two 3’s a game at just 33.0%, I’ll take him despite the awful FT%.

(Player A – Blake Griffin 2011-12, Player B – Kevin Love 2009-10)

Note: Highlight the line above this to reveal player names

Comparison #6 – Created by Conrad, Analyzed by Jared

HOLY BLOCKS, PLAYER A!!!! You seem like more of a complementary piece than a foundational player, but what you do, you do ridiculously well. Offensive rebounding, blocking shots and making your own FGs. Player B doesn’t have the defensive counting stats but does have a similar D-Rtg, gets to the line more, makes his own fair share of shots and seems like he’s a better passer and point producer. He’s got a higher usage, by a lot, gets to the line more and makes a higher percentage of his FTs. Player B is probably the better player, but I’m going with Player A because of the blocks and rebounds. Hopefully I have other scorers on my squad.

(Player A – Serge Ibaka 2011-12, Player B – Amar’e Stoudemire 2011-12)

Note: Highlight the line above this to reveal player names

Comparison #7 – Created by Conrad, Analyzed by Jared

This is really tough, but I’m going with Player B because of his ability to simultaneously crash the offensive boards and kill it from the 3-point line. The two players seem to be about equal in the defensive counting stats, and I’m willing to guess Player A just plays on a better team and that’s why his D-Rtg is better. Player A is a lot better passer, but that’s really his only big time advantage. So Player B it is.

(Player A – Kevin Garnett 2011-12, Player B – Ersan Ilyasova 2011-12)

Note: Highlight the line above this to reveal player names

Jared Dubin

Jared Dubin is a New York lawyer and writer. He is the co-editor in chief of Hardwood Paroxysm and the HPBasketball Network.