Saturday, April 23, 2011

"The truth about Kobe Bryant in crunch time" Rebuttal

A couple months ago, Henry Abbott wrote a column disputing that Kobe is the king of crunch time.  While he made some good points, he failed to address some basic flaws to the stats he presented.  For one, he didn't acknowledge the degree that the postseason affected them.  When the stats just combine regular season and postseason totals, you're ignoring the levels of postseason play.  How many other players in the league have taken clutch shots in the Conference Finals or NBA Finals?  How can you get an accurate interpretation of the stats, if you're not differentiating the difficulty of a game-winner against the Grizzlies in the first round and the difficulty of a game-winner against the Pistons in the Finals?  I think it's erroneous to put the same amount of weight on a late-postseason shot (Conference Finals or Finals), an early-postseason shot (first or second round), and a regular season shot.

More importantly, he fails to acknowledge the vast difference in the number of attempts.  There's absolutely no way you can compare the percentage made of 30 attempts to the percentage made of 115 attempts.  In case you don't believe me, let me ask a question: Who's the greatest 3-Pt shooter of all-time?  I'm guessing at least one of these two names came to mind: Ray Allen or Reggie Miller.  Why not Steve Kerr?  Or Hubert Davis?  Or Drazen Petrovic?  They, along with 36 other guys, have a better 3-Pt percentage than Ray Allen (and an additional 4 guys after Allen have a better percentage than Miller).  Why are there no people pointing out that Allen ranks 40th all-time in 3-Pt percentage and Miller ranks 45th?  How could they be the cream of the crop, if there's at least 39 guys more accurate than them? 

Could it be because none of the guys ahead of them in percentage are ahead of them in attempts?  And that most of them aren't even in the top 50 in attempts?  You bet it does.  Why?  Because making 40% of 6,000 3-pointers is more impressive than making 45% of 1,600.  If you omitted anyone ahead of Allen and Miller who did not finish in the top 50 in 3-Pt attempts, the list goes from 35+ guys down to 8.  And now looks like this:

Steve Nash-     1565/3644   .429
Brent Barry-     1395/3442   .405
Mike Miller-       1298/3215   .404
Dale Ellis-         1719/4266   .403
Allan Houston-   1305/3247   .402
Dell Curry-        1245/3098   .402
Peja Stojakovic- 1760/4392   .401
Glen Rice-         1559/3896   .400
Ray Allen-         2612/6554   .399
Dennis Scott-    1214/3060   .397
Reggie Miller-     2560/6486   .395

Let's apply that same principle to the list that Abbott provided.  If you omitted anyone who didn't have at least 60 attempts, the number of guys with better percentages than Kobe would drop from 24 to 5. Let's look at the updated list:

Dirk Nowitzki-   25/65   38.5%
Tim Duncan-     23/62   37.1%
LeBron James-   23/69   33.3%
Ray Allen-         23/70   32.9%
Vince Carter-    31/96   32.3%
Kobe Bryant-    36/115   31.3%
Allen Iverson-    21/68   30.9%
Kevin Garnett-   22/72   30.6%

While there are still guys with higher percentages, the differences in the amount of attempts is still relevant.  Yes, Kobe has missed more clutch shots than four of the five guys ahead of him have even attempted.  But guess what?  Ray Allen has missed more 3's than six of the eight guys ahead of him have even attempted.  It's alright for Allen to miss a lot, because he takes a lot, but it's not the same for Kobe?  If Ray Allen shooting 44% more 3-pointers than Steve Nash makes up for the 2 higher percentage points Nash shoots, shouldn't Kobe shooting 40% more shots than LeBron and Allen make up for their higher percentages?  Especially if you're comparing Kobe's late-postseason shots to LeBron's and Allen's early-postseason shots? 

Now I'm not saying that I refuse to believe Kobe's not the most clutch player in the league.  If you can prove that Nowitzki or LeBron are better, than I'll believe it.  But ignoring the affect that a higher volume of shots has on a percentage, and ignoring the different levels of postseason play in which shots are happening, is a failure to do so.  You can't pretend that Dirk shooting 50 less shots than Kobe, and none in the Conference Finals or Finals, doesn't matter. And if Ray Allen missing more 3's than most people take isn't enough to not be considered the greatest 3-Pt shooter of all-time, then the amount of clutch shots Kobe has missed is not enough to prove he's not the most clutch player in the league today.

There may be a case to be made that Nowitzki, Duncan, LeBron, or Allen are more clutch than Kobe, but Henry Abbott did not successfully make it.

*stats taken from

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