February 18, 2012

How good was Jeremy Lin in college?

Why was Jeremy Lin undrafted coming out of the Ivy League? Well, he wasn't really that great in college. He was definitely one of the top players in the Ivy League his junior and senior years, but he was never Ivy League Player of the Year. (Sidenote: the President's brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, won that honor twice.) 

Lin's college statistics are good, but nothing special: Senior year: 16.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.5 apg. His shooting percentage of .519 sounds good by NBA standards, but it's nothing special for future NBA stars, who routinely crush mortal competition their last year in college. Lin's percentages: .519 field goal, .341 3-point, and .755 free throw were all fine, but hardly eye-popping. He led the league in steals, which is a sign of quickness and floor sense, was second in assists, but only sixth in assists to turnover ratio.

Lin's senior year, the Ivy League award winner, unanimously, was Randy Wittman, who led Cornell to the third round of the NCAA tourney, with upsets of #5 and #4 seeded teams. Where is Wittman now? He's playing professionally ... in Poland. Must be bias against Wittman ... except his father Rick Wittman is now in his third NBA head-coaching gig, this time with the Washington Wizards.

Generally, Ivy League Player of the Year winners don't make it in the NBA. Matt Maloney in 1995 was the last to have much of an NBA career, once scoring 26 in a playoff game. 

So, Lin looked like a very good all-around player, but with little statistical evidence that his game would translate to the next level. When I was at Rice, one year our best player was a senior named Elbert Darden, who averaged 20.1 ppg., and was honorable mention All American. He was a good guy, on and off the court. Back then, they used to have seven rounds to the NBA draft (now they have only 2, right?). He wrote a letter to the NBA saying, "Please don't waste a draft pick on me, I'm going to seminary school to be a minister," which he did.

Anyway, I suspect Ivy League basketball has slowly gotten a lot better over the years, due to the Ivy League's role as the gatekeeper to Wall Street jobs, which have gotten so much more remunerative than any other career. If you've got a good head for numbers, why not go Ivy League now that Ivy League financial aid is so lavish? So, Ivy stats shouldn't be discounted as much as in times past.

With Lin, he tended to post big numbers against big name out of conference opponents, then recede somewhat in league play. With the best players in the Ivy League sticking around for four years to get their valuable diplomas, in contrast to big time college ball where one and done is the norm for top talent, the quality of Ivy League regular season play might now be a lot higher than is assumed.

Before the best players could go to the NBA early, conference play was hard because the same players met year after year. For example, the 1969 UCLA Bruins, with senior Lew Alcindor / Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (the future all time NBA scoring leader) leading them to a third straight national championship, was one of the best teams ever. Going into the last conference home and away series against USC, they were 84-1 with Alcindor, losing only to Elvin Hayes in the Houston Astrodome when Alcindor was hurting. But USC took them to overtime at Pauley, then beat them the next night at the Sports Arena. How? Well, the Trojan players had been thinking a long, long time about how to beat Alcindor and the Bruins. Similarly, by his fourth year, Lin's Ivy League opponents probably had better ideas about how to defend him than the Lakers had.

Also, keep in mind that Lin wasn't really a point guard in college, he was more like a Best Player on the Team guard, like a Harvard version of Michael Jordan. He didn't have any success in the pros until he was the best player on the team again due to problems with the Knicks.

I think the weird thing with Lin is that everybody still expects him to be a good role player and teammate because he's Chinese, and everybody is tired of self-centered black players like Carmelo Anthony. In the post-Obama age, lots of people have gotten tired of waiting for their dividend from electing Obama in terms of better black behavior, so they are seizing upon this Chinese guy as a role model to show up blacks with his team-oriented play.

But the evidence so far is that Lin does best, like against the Lakers, in Gimme the Damn Ball and Get Out of My Way situations. As a basketball talent, he's less like Derek Fisher and more like Allen Iverson.

81 comments:

Geoff Matthews said...

Harvard has probably sent more players to the NHL than the NBA.

Anonymous said...

Tommy Amaker has been recruiting pretty aggressively at Harvard. New financial aid at the top schools has nearly rendered moot the prohibition on athletic scholarships in the Ivy League.

You still need to recruit academically inclined players if you're at Harvard but that doesn't mean they need to be academic stars who could get into Harvard without basketball.

Amaker got the best training possible for this job by playing and coaching for K at Duke. Duke's basketball players don't have stellar SAT scores but K is extremely biased towards the "right kind" of kid and his recruiting reflects that. They rarely have academic or behavior embarrassments while still recruiting high level athletes.

K does, in fact, handicap himself to some extent. It would be much easier for Duke to dominate college basketball if he just aimed for the top talent like UConn and Kentucky do. But he doesn't play dirty and doesn't take on "character" risks. What this means in practice is that he recruits a certain piece of the demographic pie that represents a minority of the top basketball recruits. A lot of people have noticed Duke gets a lot of white players but they may not realize that something is up with their black players as well (although this did come up recently when Jalen Rose called black players at Duke "Uncle Toms")


Grant Hill
Jeff Capel
Shane Battier
Jason Williams
Nolan Smith
Seth Curry
Austin Rivers


You can check out their bios if you're interested. They are not typical black recruits. Not to mention Trajan Langdon and Carlos Boozer, two light-skinned blacks from Alaska of all places.


Of course there have been poor black players at Duke. But not nearly as many as you'd expect at a top basketball program. The only real exception to the general vibe of Duke basketball were a couple of teams in the late 90s when an assistant named Quin Snyder had taken over recruiting. He was a bit more aggressive in getting talent. Duke was in a rut and Snyder was plugged into the shadier aspects of high school basketball that K would rather avoid.



Incidentally, Amaker's former teammate Johnny Dawkins is the coach at Stanford.

Joel said...

There was this guy, though:

http://hoopsanalyst.com/blog/?p=487

derek sutton said...

Maybe slightly off topic, but it's really insane how good college and NBA players are. I went to Ball State in the mid 90s and played pick up ball constantly at the gym. I remember some of the Ball State players would show up to play in the spring after the season ended and it was frightening how quick and strong they were. I remember playing against Lasalle Thompson, a backup point guard. He was a 5-10 whippet thin black dude, and I'm serious when I say you could not dribble the ball within 10 ft of this guy before he'd steal it and be halfway down the court before you knew what happened. Very humiliating. Sometimes Bonzi Wells would show up and that guy was in another universe. It was a good experience to be subjected to direct competition from the super-elite...teaches you a lesson in humility in a big way, and it doesn't take long to draw some more useful lessons long term about how average most of us are. I'll never be as good at anything as Bonzi Wells was in 1996 at basketball.

Shouting Thomas said...

The level of play in the NBA has been declining dramatically as players spent less time in college. Source... none other than Charles Barkley. Barkely says that level of play is so poor that the league should probably lop off six to eight teams so that there are enough decent players to field a competent product.

With most pro players spending only one to two years in college, the level of play has fallen catastrophically. Players just don't know the game.

I have the feeling that this has more to do with Lin's success. He played four years in college and he's a well coached player with a high basketball IQ.

DCThrowback said...

Lin played SG at Harvard. A 6'2"-6'3" shooting guard is just not tall enough to make it in the NBA in most cases.

But a 6'3" point guard? Well...now you just may have something here...

@geoffmatthews
According to College Hockey News, Harvard has 8 players on their current roster who have been drafted by NHL teams. Not too shabby.

@joel
Great link. Thanks. Read the WSJ piece but never read the actual entry.

gangsta said...

Ah ivy league, were America woulb be without them.

Drunk Idiot said...

Apropos of this iSteve post, the Wall Street Journal had a piece about Lin the other day that tracked down some of the former Ivy League rival players who guarded Lin in college. Appropriately, all but one of the former Ivy players interviewed by the WSJ currently work on Wall St. (the one who doesn't is a teacher in Chicago -- most likely a Teach For America type).

Each of the former players interviewed turned in good defensive efforts against Lin. One former Yale player held Lin to four points. Another guy held him to six. And that seems to absolutely boggle the minds of people at their firms.

For yours truly (as somebody who's spent a good chunk of his life in and around college basketball), that was the most interesting part of the article. The former Ivy players' work colleagues appear to be NBA fans (a given, as everybody who's anybody in Manhattan is at least a casual "big Knicks fan" -- even Calvin Klein has courtside season tickets!) but they're pretty clueless about college basketball.

The best line came from one Wall St. guy who heard that his work colleague held Lin to 10 points while playing for Brown. Of his colleague, the guy said "Jeremy Lin outscored Kobe Bryant, you've outscored Jeremy Lin, so by default that makes you better than Kobe Bryant" ... "So why'd you end up here?"

Well, college basketball and the NBA are really two different games. College basketball is all about winning every game: games are played with intensity and a sense of urgency, teams play tight defense on every possession, and there isn't as much scoring as there is in the NBA. By contrast, the NBA regular season is all about scoring: the league actually bills itself as a "sports entertainment league," after all. NBA teams are notorious for not playing tight defense until the playoffs. Guys routinely score more prolifically in the NBA than they did in college (Dan Dakich -- a mere role player for Indiana U. -- famously shut down the great Michael Jordan in the 1984 NCAA Tournament).

That the former Ivy players' Wall St. colleagues didn't seem to know any of this was kind of a surprise for me. Guess I need to get out more.

BTW, the extent to which the WSJ has jumped head first into the "Linsanity" hype is something to behold. To find that two-day-old article, I had to go to page 5 of the WSJ online's search results for articles about "Jeremy Lin." The first two pages of search results yielded only Jeremy Lin articles that appeared in yesterday & today's WSJ (two full pages!). They've got steep competition though, the Bloomberg News financial hour did a good 20 minutes on Lin the other day.

Secular Blood said...

Sad to see Harvard fall to the lure of sports orientation.

Anonymous said...

Maybe slightly off topic, but it's really insane how good college and NBA players are.

Yeah they're both good. Though even the NBA is just on a whole different level from college. I like watching college, it's a very different game in many ways, but it's easy to notice how much better the NBA players are. Not just athletically, but skill-wise they hit open shots so much better.

Anonymous said...

"Anyway, I suspect Ivy League basketball has slowly gotten a lot better over the years, due to the Ivy League's role as the gatekeeper to Wall Street jobs, which have gotten so much more remunerative than any other career."

That is, a gatekeeper to being America's biggest welfare queens. Let's never forget that all this Ivy IQ couldn't wasn't smart enough to see an 8 trillion dollar housing bubble and are only rich because they ran to the government with their hands out.

Anonymous said...

There was this guy, though:

http://hoopsanalyst.com/blog/?p=487


His argument is based on 2-pt FG pct and RSB40 (rebs, steals, blks per 40 min), which he claims demonstrate NBA athleticism better than other stats, and on Lin's performance against big programs (UConn, G'town, BC).

The figure for 2-pt FG pct he uses is .598, which differs from the .519 on the Ivy League website. Presumably that's from including non-conference games.

Against the 3 big programs his FG pct was .63.

He compares the figures against NBA PGs from other small colleges.

Anonymous said...

"How good was Jeremy Lin in college?"

Forget Jeremy Lin, I want to know how good was Jeremy Bender as a man of leisure.

Anonymous said...

"That is, a gatekeeper to being America's biggest welfare queens. Let's never forget that all this Ivy IQ couldn't wasn't smart enough to see an 8 trillion dollar housing bubble and are only rich because they ran to the government with their hands out."

FYI: Ivy League IS the government.

Anonymous said...

It's not that uncommon for some Ivy League and other small conference players that were undrafted to bounce around playing for short stints and getting cut and waived, playing in the D-League, playing internationally, etc. and never getting a chance to start or play significant minutes.

There was a good chance that was going to happen to Lin - they were thinking of releasing him before Feb 10th or something before his contract got guaranteed so they could get another player - but they were playing so badly that they put him in and he played really well in that game against the Nets when his "streak" started. So he definitely caught a lucky break.

Some of these other Ivy League and other small conference players who bounce around without ever making it or playing internationally instead might have been able to perform well had they caught a similar lucky break.

And who knows, it's still early. It's only been about a week since this thing blew up. He could still end up getting benched and riding pine for the rest of his career or playing internationally.

Anonymous said...

How much do Euroleague b-ball players make?

Anyone have any ideas?

Drunk Idiot said...

Anonymous (2/18/12 5:44 PM),

Harvard made a commitment to being good in basketball when they hired Tommy Amaker. It's quite a departure from the approach that Harvard and its Ivy League rivals have traditionally taken (well, except for Penn -- back in the 90s, opposing Ivy League coaches used to complain that Penn won big by having lower academic standards for athletes than the rest of the league).

Amaker gets guys into Harvard who would never have been admitted prior to his arrival. His first recruiting class even included two Junior College transfers (IIRC).

Back in 1993, Northwestern targeted Amaker to fill their head coaching vacancy (they'd just canned Bill Foster). At the time, Amaker was working for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and was considered to be one of the hottest, up-and-coming young coaches in the business. Amaker showed up for his Northwestern interview carrying the anonymous high school transcripts of two mystery players from Duke's 1991 & 1992 NCAA Championship teams (the players' names were redacted). Amaker was interested in the job, but he was concerned that Northwestern's admissions standards were too high for student athletes. So after having Northwestern people go over the mystery Duke players' transcripts, he asked them if the mystery players could get into Northwestern.

The answer was no.

Northwestern informed Amaker that the mystery Duke players simply wouldn't make the admissions cut at Northwestern. Amaker, in turn, informed Northwestern that the transcripts belonged to Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner -- the two most important players from Duke's 1992 Championship team and, frankly, two of the biggest college basketball stars of all time. Obviously, Amaker also informed Northwestern that he was no longer interested in the school's coaching vacancy.

BTW, Quin Snyder was one shady MF, wasn't he!?! The guy was a star player at Duke in the late 80s, and he earned a J.D. and an MBA while serving as a Duke assistant coach. But he didn't quite live up to the choir boy image that Krzyzewski has been so careful to cultivate at Duke (with a little help, of course, from the media -- OK, with a lot of help from the media).

The wheels really fell off when Snyder was at Missouri. It was widely rumored that he was partying like a rock star (embarrassing internet videos of Snyder staggering around wasted outside of bars and clubs; LOTS of rumors about problems with the white stuff), banging coeds and carrying on an extramarital affair with then-21 year old Wal-Mart heiress Paige Laurie (her parents donated the money to build Mizzou a new arena during Snyder's coaching tenure -- they named it Paige Laurie Arena).

The rumors were confirmed during Snyder's divorce proceedings. Also confirmed was the fact that Missouri players were receiving under-the-table payments from the coaching staff -- a big violation of NCAA bylaws. Missouri went on probation and Quin Snyder was fired. He hasn't worked in college basketball since.

Anonymous said...

"A 6'2"-6'3" shooting guard is just not tall enough to make it in the NBA in most cases."

The average shooting guard is only 6’3.5” per NBA draft express (these are actual measurements taken by the NBA’s combine, not the inflated heights listed on the programs).

http://www.draftexpress.com/nba-pre-draft-measurements/?page=avepos&year=All&source=All&draft=0&sort=

In addition to their physical measurements the website also gives the players' results in athletic tests. Their no step vertical leaps (Sargent test) actually compare quite poorly with NFL skilled position players. Also, they’re not particularly strong (the bench press reps are for 185 lbs.).

Anonymous said...

O/T, but regarding Ivy League Wrestling; Cornell has been a top 10 team the past few years. The NYTimes or WSJ had an article about this last year.

Cornell has a young go-getter head coach. He pitches big time recruits ... why spend 4 years in Iowa City, Stillwater or State College when you can go to Cornell and win NCAA individual titles and then go immediately to Wall Street to work for some of our alumni friends?

The first year bonus on Wall Street pays off any student loans one may have had to utilize (if the grants in aid did not cover the full tuition).

Anonymous said...

"Barkely says that level of play is so poor that the league should probably lop off six to eight teams so that there are enough decent players to field a competent product."

I don't follow NBA basketball during the season although I usually do catch some playoff games and the championship series so I can't comment on the talent or lack of it, but I feel the NFL has way too many teams. Only a few teams have talent at the really important positions.

Anonymous said...

A PG at Penn named Ibrahim Jaaber who at 6'2" is about the same size as Lin was Ivy League player of the year his junior and senior seasons in '06 and '07. Jaaber was also an AP All-American Notable his senior year.

His college stats were similar to Lin's:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibrahim_Jaaber#Career_college_stats

Jaaber went undrafted and had stints in the NBA summer league before playing in Europe. This is a path that Lin could've likely taken.

I don't know how well Jaaber played in the NBA summer league though. Lin went similarly undrafted and played in the NBA summer league but apparently played pretty well in it, including in a matchup against John Wall:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Lin#Undrafted

It was after the summer league that he got offers from a few teams.

He seems to have a knack for playing well in crucial opportunities. Had he not played well in the summer league he probably would be playing overseas or coaching or something.

Anonymous said...

Their no step vertical leaps (Sargent test) actually compare quite poorly with NFL skilled position players. Also, they’re not particularly strong (the bench press reps are for 185 lbs.).

The NFL skilled position players with high vertical leaps are CBs, RBs, etc. They're a lot shorter than 6'3.5" shooting guards. They also weigh more and spend more time lifting weights.

Hacienda said...

"teaches you a lesson in humility...I'll never be as good at anything as Bonzi Wells was in 1996 at basketball."

I'll never sing as well as Sinatra. Dance as well as Astaire. Do math as well Terence Tao. Play tennis as well as Roger Federer. Run as fast as Usain Bolt. Alas, I'm not a humble man. There really is no lesson to be drawn from the fact you can't ball like Bonzi. Really, sport.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you are out of your depth here-- you're relying too much on conventional statistics and not enough on the advanced stats that more sophisticated analysts universally use.

The most visible of them John Hoillinger, ranked Lin 34th in the draft-- not overhwelming, but certainly an NBA player. Hoopsanalyst (noted above) ranked him the #2 PG in the draft and at least one of the other major advanced stats sites ranked him 12th overall.

The failure to draft Lin was, sad to say, one of the few true operations of genuine racism left in our society.

Anonymous said...

The failure to draft Lin was, sad to say, one of the few true operations of genuine racism left in our society.

It's only been a week. He could still end up being a bust.

Truth said...

One of the truly astounding things about Lin's story is not only that he was nothing out of the ordinary in college, but he was
lousy a couple of
weeks ago!

Anonymous said...

It's only been a week. He could still end up being a bust.

He'll never be a "bust" since there were no expectations for the guy. It's important to ignore the media hype -- ESPN in particular seems to be willing to say almost anything to get pageviews. He's already proven he can play at the NBA level -- now it's just a matter of consistency. Even if it turns out that he's not starting PG material, being a backup PG is really not bad for someone who was an undrafted nobody just a couple of weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

The NBA game is different than the college game. As an interesting comparison, here are the senior year stats for Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin in college:


Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
1995–96 Santa Clara 29 ... 33.8 .430 .344 .894 3.6 6.0 1.3 .0 17.0

2009–10 Harvard 29 29 32.2 .519 .341 .755 4.4 4.4 2.4 1.1 16.4

Anonymous said...

As an interesting comparison, here are the senior year stats for Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin in college:

The West Coast Conference is a mid-major and a stronger conference, though not that much stronger. Gonzaga has been pretty good recently and BYU tends to always have decent teams, but they also have some pretty lousy ones like San Diego, Portland, etc.

Steve Sailer said...

Nash was twice conference player of the year. His 3-point and free throw shooting was much better than Lin's in college. Of course, Nash didn't become a superstar until his 30s, so anything could happen with Lin.

Anonymous said...

"Gimme dat ball" - love it.

diana said...

Let's see how well the Knicks do against the Mavs today. Isn't Nowitzki having a great year? Think he's taken in by all this stuff? I doubt it.

"Of course, Nash didn't become a superstar until his 30s, so anything could happen with Lin."

Yeah. Asians develop latest of all 3 major racial groups. Nothing but a feeling, but I think that Lin is good. He's mentally tough and I don't think he's as taken in by the "Linsanity" as the rest of the world.

G Joubert said...

The res of the Lin story is interesting because it is an object lesson in how narrow-minded and tunnel-visioned basketball recruiters and scouts are, first at the college level and then at the pro-level. This ain't anything like Moneyball, folks. No, they make assumptions precedent about what a first-rate basketball player ought to look like, racially and otherwise, and then go from there, and no way did Lin fit that template. Even though he was the best player on a Palo Alto HS team that went 32-1 and beat perennial powerhouse and nationally ranked Mater Dei for the CIF title, Lin couldn't even get a sniff from Stanford across the street or from UCLA (where he wanted to go), any from any other PAC-10 school. This is an incredibly smart player who has shown what he can do at every level. He's no flash-in-the-pan. If anything he's just going to get better and better.

Meanwhile, the brainiacs who decide who gets to play both in big-time college ball and in the NBA are stuck on stupid, preferring inner-city thugs and gangstas who can "play above the rim" and look for Euro-trash when they want diversity. That's why the NBA is in such a sorry state.

Anonymous said...

The failure to draft Lin was, sad to say, one of the few true operations of genuine racism left in our society.

The racism against Lin has not let up:
http://www.tmz.com/2012/02/18/jeremy-lin-knicks/

Peter said...

Also, they’re not particularly strong (the bench press reps are for 185 lbs.)

Partly a function of the fact that prospective NBA players are tall. Taller men, especially those with proportionately long arms, tend not to do well bench pressing because they have a very long range of motion when performing the exercise.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't decathlete Yang(in the 50s) also a Taiwanese?
And Sadaharu Oh the baseball player?

afromotive action said...

The apologetic idiocy of conservatives. Heather Macdonald argues against affirmative action NOT BECAUSE IT HURTS WHITES(especially poor ones)but because she thinks it hurts blacks. Who the hell cares what it does to blacks when 99% of blacks support it and 98% of blacks voted for Obama? This is why whites lose. Even white interest has to be argued in terms of what is good for non-whites.

DCThrowback said...

I come to read Steve, but I stay to read comments like Drunk Idiot's. Well-f**king-done sir. I have forwarded the Amaker story to numerous friends. Amazing. (Remind me to tell you sometime about Georgetown's reading test for Grant Hill.)

One note: if Lin is a guy who has to have the ball in his hands, how the hell is he going to exist with known basketball "black hole" Carmelo Anthony? Seems to me that Amar'e and Tyson Chandler were made perfectly for Lin's game, while Melo...well, Melo and a bunch of junk to ORL for Dwight Howard suddenly might make sense.

Kylie said...

"...he[Lin] was never Ivy League Player of the Year. (Sidenote: the President's brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, won that honor twice.)"

Nice to know that at least one member of the Robinson family was given an award based on his merit rather than just being rewarded for the amount of melanin in his skin.

Anonymous said...

Again, the D'Antoni System works wonders with the right talent, even if it's limited. Would Lin being doing this, with starter's minutes, within any other system?

I doubt it.

It's Steve Nash Redux.

Nash, without D'Antoni and with hand-checking allowed, was a less conspicuous talent than Mark Price.

I doubt Lin would do much, say, in the 90s.

Anonymous said...

Of course Steve is out of his depth.

Remember, he thinks the best basketball "analyst" is Bill Simmons for God's sake!

eh said...

ESPN fires Jeremy Lin headline writer, suspends anchor

Seems 'Chink in the Armor' was a headline too far.

According to ESPN (speaking of Lin): His accomplishments are a source of great pride to the Asian-American community, including the Asian-American employees at ESPN.

I guess they took a poll.

TGGP said...

"In the post-Obama age, lots of people have gotten tired of waiting for their dividend from electing Obama in terms of better black behavior, so they are seizing upon this Chinese guy as a role model to show up blacks with his team-oriented play."
That's really reaching. How does everyone think the reaction to Lin would be pre-Obama?

Truth said...

"Nice to know that at least one member of the Robinson family was given an award based on his merit rather than just being rewarded for the amount of melanin in his skin."

Nah, they gave him that basketball award because he was black.

helene edwards said...

"Barkely says that level of play is so poor ...

The other day on the radio Peter Vecsey, referring to Barkley, said, "I don't like stupid people," and that Barkley cost the 76'ers two titles because he got drunk the night before a critical playoff game.

ben tillman said...

The figure for 2-pt FG pct he uses is .598, which differs from the .519 on the Ivy League website. Presumably that's from including non-conference games.

No, it's from excluding 3-pointers.

Anonymous said...

preferring inner-city thugs and gangstas who can "play above the rim" and look for Euro-trash when they want diversity

The reason they end up looking to Europe is because young white players in the US are overlooked or give up at a young age to focus on other sports to maximize their potential as athletes.

The Euro players tend to be ok, some are great obviously like Nowitzki, but they don't tend to be that skilled aside from shooting.

White players from the US tend to be much more skilled and know and understand the game better. Probably in large part due to the better basketball infrastructure in the US where at every level from pick-up and beyond you can play against players that know how to play even if they aren't extremely good athletes.

So they go to Europe to get tall, lanky players that can shoot and might develop into pretty good players when there is probably a large pool of skilled white players that are at least as good as the Euro players. This domestic pool is overlooked or gives up.

Part of the reason might be scouts covering their own asses. It looks much better to be recruiting the best player in Lithuania or wherever as opposed to the really skilled player from rural Indiana even if both players are similar or if the foreigner is worse.

Hacienda said...

Just watched Knicks beat Mavs. The question should be- how good was Jeremy Lin in January compared to now?

Anonymous said...

One possible, even statistically testable, explanation for the Lin miracle is the rest of the team is being told to hand the ball over to Lin as much as possible. All NBA payers are among the best athletes in the world so if you feed the ball to any NBA player you would expect the ball to go in the basket. The best NBA players are IMO only a tiny bit better than the worst NBA players. But when it comes down to 89 vs 85 point games, that tiny bit is what counts.

BEN TILLMAN said...

Nash, without D'Antoni and with hand-checking allowed, was a less conspicuous talent than Mark Price.

Rick Carlisle says that Nash is the best of all time at running the pick and roll, and it's not even close. At Dallas, instead of Stoudamire, his 5 was Shawn Bradley. How are you supposed to pick-and-roll with him?
Even with Bradley at center, the Mavs were a Nowitzki knee injury away from an even-money shot at an NBA title in 2003 with Nash at point guard.

Anonymous said...

One possible, even statistically testable, explanation for the Lin miracle is the rest of the team is being told to hand the ball over to Lin as much as possible.

They've been forced to because they haven't been able to run any sort of offense without the ball in his hands. Baron Davis is one of their PGs and he's been injured. Their SGs and wing forwards haven't been able to run any offense, when they've tried they've just tried to go one-on-one.

All NBA payers are among the best athletes in the world so if you feed the ball to any NBA player you would expect the ball to go in the basket.

It's not that simple. A lot of forwards and centers can't really do much with the ball in their hands 15+ ft. out.

And unless you have someone like Jordan or Kobe, just feeding someone the ball on the arc and expecting them to score is not a sure thing. There's defense and team defense.

Anonymous said...

Rick Carlisle says that Nash is the best of all time at running the pick and roll, and it's not even close.

A lot of people don't understand or appreciate pure point-guard play.

They're just used to seeing big dunks and high-flying scorers from the wing and think that's all there is to basketball.

They don't understand how valuable good, pure point-guard play is.

diana said...

Knicks beat Mavs today, Lin had 14 assists.

Now I'm impressed.

Anonymous said...

"In the post-Obama age, lots of people have gotten tired of waiting for their dividend from electing Obama in terms of better black behavior,"

This attitude among whites (and perhaps among blacks and other groups as well) still confounds me, even as I know it's a real phenomenon. People who behaved badly pre-Obama are the type of people who aren't influenced by any role models of "goodness" or "decency" and people who were already behaving well won't behave "better" because of Obama or any other President.

Strange. Is it a "hope is eternal" kind of thing?

Anonymous said...

"In the post-Obama age, lots of people have gotten tired of waiting for their dividend from electing Obama in terms of better black behavior,"

This attitude among whites (and perhaps among blacks and other groups as well) still confounds me, even as I know it's a real phenomenon. People who behaved badly pre-Obama are the type of people who aren't influenced by any role models of "goodness" or "decency" and people who were already behaving well won't behave "better" because of Obama or any other President.

Strange. Is it a "hope is eternal" kind of thing?

Anonymous said...

"Rick Carlisle says that Nash is the best of all time at running the pick and roll, and it's not even close. At Dallas, instead of Stoudamire, his 5 was Shawn Bradley. How are you supposed to pick-and-roll with him?"

Wait, your argument is that Nash had to run pick&rolls with Shawn Bradley? Instead of Dirk Nowitzki?!

Nash never showed much ability as far as overall facilitation before D'Antoni; he was not a great player. Not a great PG. And not known for floor-reads.

So far as Carlisle, this guy argued that Dirk was a top-10 all-time player.

Am I supposed to believe that his word carries great weight? It's the Doc Rivers Syndrome: a mediocre coach wins a title, then becomes a Sage.

Further, the idea that Nash is a better P^R point guard than John Stockton, or even as good, doesn't match up with game footage. Stockton's court vision was probabaly the best ever, he had huge hands, and could one-hand passes from seemingly any angle; Nash doesn't match him on skillsets.

Seven Seconds or Less is about loosening defensive focus across the board, and the defensive rules have really helped such a system as well.

Try strong to weak-side action off a high pick and roll in the 90s, with hand-checking allowed, versus today. Floor-reads and parameters have changed a great deal, and the ability to physically harass the ballhandler is so diminished to be non-existent.

When Nash played within the old hand-check rules he was a good player. Not stellar. Not all-time great.

He's a system player. The stat-trail shows this, as does the footage.

Put him in a defensive system that relies on pace-control. Let's say Jerry Sloan grind it out basketball.

Nash goes back to being a poor-man's Mark Price.

And the Jeremy Lin story's hype, versus the underlying reality, becomes much easier to see.

Anonymous said...

"Even with Bradley at center, the Mavs were a Nowitzki knee injury away from an even-money shot at an NBA title in 2003 with Nash at point guard."

Derek Fisher has how many rings?

What would a title, as a mid-level player in Dallas, prove as far as Nash's all-time worth?

Reductive thinking, rather than deductive on your part.

And the idea that the Mavs should have won in 2003, ignores both that it was a down year (Lakers trying for four WCF/Finals in four years, which is nearly impossible in the modern era, usually ending in a second round exit) as well as the fact that the Spurs (a team known for taking advantage of slippage in top contenders, as seen in 99, 03 and 05) and Kings, sans Webber knee ender, were comfortably better.

With Nash, the Mavs had a miserable defense. Without him, their defense jumped -- based on DRtg -- some ten slots on league average. Their offense held steady.

Nash was not that valuable in Dallas.

Anonymous said...

"Lin miracle is the rest of the team is being told to hand the ball over to Lin as much as possible."

Lin passes the ball to other players.

Anonymous said...

[i]Rick Carlisle says that Nash is the best of all time at running the pick and roll, and it's not even close. At Dallas, instead of Stoudamire, his 5 was Shawn Bradley. How are you supposed to pick-and-roll with him?[/i]

If a player is only as good as the guy he's running the pick&roll with, or as bad, then how would we ever judge the player's value individually in that play?

This is one of the dumbest arguments I've witnessed as relates to basketball and low-level equations.

Come on.

Anonymous said...

Steve Nash is one of the best PGs of all time, and thus one of the best players of all time.

ricpic said...

Lin's weakness continues to be turnovers. Which he has admitted. Look for him to only improve.

Anonymous said...

A rising Chinese star in soccer.

Anonymous said...

I remember before the 2008 Beijing Olympics there was some hype about a Chinese hurdler that was supposed to be good named Liu Xiang. But he got injured and didn't get to compete.

Hurdling is a bit different though. It's not pure sprinting so Christian Lemaitre is a better "great non-black hope" in that regard.

MQ said...

A couple of thoughts:

1) The current NBA is easily the best basketball league in the world. Today's talent level and quality of play at least competitive with any point in its history. The level of NBA play is extremely good, full stop (leaving aside the crazily compressed schedule this strike year). I swear it sometimes seems like people have set shots into the peach basket as some kind of stupid ideal.

2) Numerous college stars post great numbers in college and flame out in the NBA because they can't keep up with the speed and defensive pressure. There are a thousand Adam Morrisons out there.

3) Jeremy Lin is for real and a legitimate star. His numbers are not a fluke. He is advantaged by the rules changes put in to free up point guard play, but his quickness off the P&R, court vision and feel for the game, and ability to finish around the basket (he has excellent natural body control) would have made him a very good point guard player in any era.

4) As the hoopsanalyst.com guy pointed out (link posted above -- http://hoopsanalyst.com/blog/?p=487) it was already pretty evident from Lin's college stats that he would be really, really good. He was playing out of position as a SG in college and he torched top opponents in every out-of-league game he played. His shooting percentages were terrific in general given that he was by far the major scoring threat on that team and opponents keyed to stop him. When I saw Lin against UConn I knew he could be good in the NBA...although not this good.

5) Re Lin as an Iverson-type player...it's true that Lin is very aggressive and heady and needs the ball in his hands, but that was true of Stockton too. Iverson was at heart a SG and I do think Lin is at heart a PG. He is a really good facilitator but he uses the scoring threat from drives to the basket to break down the defense.

Steve Sailer said...

Look to me like he was misused at Harvard, kind of like the old joke that the only man who could hold Michael Jordan to 20 points per game was his U. of North Carolina coach Dean Smith. Amaker at Harvard should have just given him the ball.

Anonymous said...

Amaker at Harvard should have just given him the ball.

Colleges tend to run pretty set offenses though. Lots of motion type stuff. That's what makes college ball almost like a totally different game altogether and more fun to watch in many ways.

NBA is a lot more one-on-one - even when they run plays they revolve around 1 on 1 - which can be fun to watch (Jordan, Kobe, etc.) but also really bad when the players just stand around while one guy plays offense.

Andre Chouravong said...

Small correction - the Cornell player is Ryan Wittman. The Wizards coach is Randy Wittman.

Anonymous said...

His best skill seems to be being able to get into the paint and being an above-average finisher.

Anonymous said...

"Look to me like he was misused at Harvard,"

Yes.

The same way Steve Nash was "misused" until the hand-check rule changed and he hooked up with D'Antoni in an all-offense, no-defense system; these two things allowed him to ball-dominate as he couldn't before, and gave him much more freedom thanks to the lax defense that resulted.

Steve Sailer, the man that believes that Obama's a bipolar "night dweeb" rather than a political puppet, or that there's some great mystery in a decent PG hooking up with D'Antoni and exploding statistically.

Being allergic to the obvious doesn't make you brainy. It may make you ridiculous, however.

I still get the feeling that you think you're a slightly politically incorrect producer for the Oprah Winfrey Show with this schtick.

Anonymous said...

Here are the highlights from the summer league game 2 years ago where Lin was matched up against John Wall:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvkXmMcGfLo

He played just like he's been playing this past couple weeks.

Anonymous said...

"5) Re Lin as an Iverson-type player...it's true that Lin is very aggressive and heady and needs the ball in his hands, but that was true of Stockton too."

Stockton could penetrate and ball-dominate to great result.

But he was also probably the best off-ball lead guard I've seen.

That's another problem with Nash: the guy cannot work with big men of any real talent -- i.e. low post players -- because it closes lanes and requires the ball to leave his hands. Meaning it takes away from the SOS System, and Nash doesn not have a versatile skillset that allows him to play off-ball or with a more clogged lane, which PHX used its personel to open most years outside the Shaq miscue.

It would be interesting to see if Lin is any better without the system and without the ball-domination that results.

Anonymous said...

"1) The current NBA is easily the best basketball league in the world. Today's talent level and quality of play at least competitive with any point in its history. The level of NBA play is extremely good, full stop (leaving aside the crazily compressed schedule this strike year). I swear it sometimes seems like people have set shots into the peach basket as some kind of stupid ideal. "

Empty rhetoric. Let's hope that you at least realize it.

The NBA has devolved largely through a lack of real big man talent, matched to Euros who would rather shoot threes than post up in deep position, and rule changes that have created an imbalance between offense and defense. That's the reason guard "talent" has exploded since 2005, when the hand-check change kicked in.

The idea that the league is as good today as it was in the 90s is risible. At least if you know skillset values rather than rule-manipulations from the head office.

"I would either score 100 or foul out in the first quarter" -- Jordan on today's NBA

Anonymous said...

If you try a Google search for "better black behavior" there are only eight hits, with this post of yours today at the very top.

WarLord said...

"All NBA payers are among the best athletes in the world..."

The old insanity is here again?! I see you are really a bunch of desperately indoctrinated losers, aren't you? Face the reality: Basketbal and American football are the least "athletic" team sports that you can find on this planet. There is a good reason, why the average athlete isn't 2 meters tall and doesn't weigh 112 kilos. What are always babbling about, for goodness sake?

In reality, you confuse "athleticism" with "freakism", i.e. a parade of guys, who most differ from the human average. But freakish physiques doesn't guarantee freakish athletic abilities!

Anonymous said...

The hand check also allowed guys to play lazier defense. Guys like Jordan could conserve their energy on defense by the hand check, which would often devolve into a stiff arm block or even a hold, to save up for offense. It also helped guys who are weaker on defense and have trouble moving their feet.

eh said...

How good blah blah. The kid can play. Obviously. But to put up good numbers over a career in the NBA you have to be durable, and be able to do it when they start really trying to play defense against you.

Anyway, no doubt he wasn't given as much of a chance because he was Asian. Just like some colleges don't recruit Whites at running back, no matter how good they were in HS. Or would be in college. SBPDL has written about that.

Look to me like he was misused at Harvard,...

Could be. I remember a few guys who could've helped the team out did not play in HS because they didn't like the coach/his offense: pass it around the perimeter looking to get it inside. And they saw and heard about the frustration some felt playing that 'system'. Players with athletic ability like to be able to use it.

Anonymous said...

Rick Carlisle was a nice 3-point shooter and is not a bad coach. But the Celtics used to have a couple guys that ran the pick & roll pretty well, too. You may have heard of them: Bob Cousy and Bill Russell.

Anonymous said...

It's true he is a lot like the rookie allen iverson. although iverson had deadly shooting accuracy, his game was fundamentally about driving to the basket on offense and forcing turnovers on defense to compensate for his lack of height. Lin's moves around the basket and his sudden appearances in the right spot to make steals are similar to Iverson, the early years. you wonder at times if Iverson was a role model for the insightful 11-14 year old Lin.

With Lin more or less proven at this point, you wonder if linsanity is the end of the line, or if Lin's championship spirit will eventually produce an actual championship. With some kind of enforced parity through the salary cap, if Lin's leadership qualities raise the team's performances by, say, 8 points a game relative to the payroll value, while Kobe's and Lebron's negative energy subtracts four points, you would have to figure the Knicks would be statistically likely to win a championship within, say, a five-year time frame, provided Lin's effects don't produce salary inflation for the other Knicks.

Of course, Knick prospects might be aided by sacharine stage- management, with Lin-industry pushing for further and further progress in the playoffs, against which you have the network analysts and sports media often noting the genuineness of Linsanity and tacitly asking the league to let it run its course in a natural way. How these factors play out is anyone's guess, but you have to figure the Knicks will make the Eastern conference finals this year.

Anonymous said...

He did become the first player in Ivy League history to record more than 1,450 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals.

Anonymous said...

I have only watched a few games of NBA since Lin appeared. I have the same sense that Jeremy Lin needs to have the ball and score, not just a distributor for his team to be successful. It looks to me everytime he tries to be a nice and a teamplayer to pass the ball around, the team gets lost with lower energy. He usually plays the nice guy at the first half the game, then just be himself at the end of the game to save his team. I wish he could just be himself the whole time! Anthony is very cunning, by emphasising Jeremy Lin should create for him, he is rubbing Lin's chance to be really successful. I hope Lin realize this!

Anonymous said...

He's not really a shoot-first point guard. He's not a pass-first guard either, but he's no Allen Iverson. His pro success came from confidence, I think, rather than him being the best player on the team. We'll see how his next season goes, though.

By the way, the coach of the Wizards is Randy Wittman, and his son is Ryan.