Wages of Wins and the Value of skepticism. More thoughts on John Wall, Derrick Rose, Dave Berri and his disciples.

I notice I was quoted in the Truth About It article casting doubt on Dave Berri's wages of wins assessment of John Wall. Then Berri responded.   I figured I'd weigh in and babble for a while on the topic.


Eh.  The way I see it,  the problem lies in the adherence to a single stat as a metric for deciding whether or not a player is any 'good'.  Or by extrapolation and inference, whether they will be in the future. 

Yeah yeah yeah, Berri doesn't have the temerity to boldly assert that John Wall will not be a good player in the future.  Okay.  But he does have the cojones to flatly state that Wall has not been any good to this point.  And he raises the question whether Wall's success is merely a byproduct of  DeMarcus Boogie Cousins' dominance.

Would the Wildcats had been so successful had Cousins spent his freshman year elsewhere? And if the Wildcats were less successful, would people still be sure that Wall was the obvious choice for the Wizards in the NBA draft?

Via Dave Berri

Well deja motherfrickin' vu.  Looking back we've had this exact same conversation regarding Derrick Rose and Win Score goliath Joey Dorsey.  Quoting WoW disciple Eric Dohrr:

Dorsey, not Derrick Rose, was the engine that drove the Memphis Tigers through the regular season, and both players stepped up for a fantastic tournament run.  Rose may go 30 picks earlier, but Dorsey can well prove to be the better value given the cheap projected price of a 2nd rounder.

2008 Wages of Wins draft preview.

Now here and elsewhere the Berrians have flatly stated that Derrick Rose is not a good player--  by comparison to Chris Paul, who may be the best PG the game has seen since Magic Johnson.  (Way to stack the deck there, buddy). 

Rookie of the Year awards notwithstanding, etc. what's the reasoning behind sneering at the abilities of  an ascendant young star like Derrick Rose (who proved good enough to bump sometime champion Rajon Rondo from the world champion USA squad)?

Well chiefly this:   DRose doesn't post the sorts of stats that Berri (and devotees) like.

Granted he scores well, etc.   Yes he's among the top 5 scoring PGs in the league.  But points are not earnest and sincere statistics:   Rose doesn't block shots, he doesn't really rebound, perhaps he should tally more assists, or fewer turnovers, he doesn't shoot especially well from outside, and he puts the ball in the basket without actually getting fouled since he proves elusive to defenders...    

Understood, statisticians get overly proud of taking a contrarian view.  Any assertion ought to be backed by data after all, and it’s comforting to be able to defeat these pituitary freaks and improbably athletic mesomorphs  in a different arena.    So yes Derrick Rose is among the top 5 scoring PGs in the league, and he won the ROY and all, but is he any 'good'?  

But it's easy to overlook context:   Could it be that a system like Coach Calipari's might inflate the rebounding statistics of players like Dorsey and Cousins?  That perhaps Coach Cal discourages his guards from rebounding (making an exception for Ty Evans who proved proficient at it-- though it threw off his preferred uptempo transition attack, or interfered with proper transition defense in the case of offensive board attempts)? 

Context in Chicago:  Derrick Rose is the primary, almost the sole threat on his Chicago Bulls team.  On a team with no low-post finishers and few outside gunners, is he likely to rack up  assists? 

And granted there's no 'degree of difficulty' award in Wins and Losses, but of high usage PGs (top 5 in FG attempts per 40 adjusted) his raw unadjusted FG% is the best, close to 49%.    A better raw FG% than any other attacking PG in the top 20 high usage 1-guards.  In effect, he's scoring with a handicap:  no help around him, no three point shot in his arsenal,  won't even pick up free throw shots since he tends to out-quick opponents and avoids injury by attacking only where he sees an opening.  Yet he still manages decent efficiency. 

And quite frankly is pure scoring overrated?  Players who can convert on just under half their touches are considered some of the elite players in the game.  Not by this pet metric, perhaps, but by the people whose livelihood depends on stopping them.

(And if we're talking about real 'Wages' and value to the front office, acquiring players who can score increases ticket sales tv numbers and thus ad revenue.  25 of 30 teams would happily make an offer for Derrick Rose if they thought Chicago was dangling him).

So any stat that sneers at a player of Derrick Rose's evident and remarkable talents will tend to be dismissed by scouts and paid professionals as fundamentally unserious.  Especially when you consider the track record of Win Score supernovas like:

Joey Dorsey, Richard Hendrix, Kenny George,  John Bryant, Nick FazekasSean May , even Hasheem Thabeet or more tellingly:   Cool Beeze Mike Beasley who clearly has stellar talent, but it is in doubt whether he will ever realize all of his potential.

This last sorta brings us back around to John Wall.  People are excited by the kid not only because of his superlative athletic abilities-- which any mouthbreather with a sufficiently wrinkly frontal cortex has to admit are pretty startling—but because at his age the kid is remarkably mature, with natural leadership qualities and a poise and humility beyond most 19 yr old kids (much less pampered star athletes).  The cliché goes:  best thing about young players is that they become veterans.  Eventually.   Hopefully sooner than later.  That learning curve is the toughest thing to predict, but ALL young PG’s (okay all not named Chris Paul) tend to turn the ball over; a problem which quite often is fixed by senior year; and the one skill reliably improved by practice and repetition is the efficiency of a jumpshot.

You can scratch your chin with a pose of well-considered skepticism, but the kid is already good and he stands to get better.  He’s got the requisite size and athletic baseline (and then some) and the mindset to dial in on his flaws and improve (check the Elie Seckbach interview, where he clearly is irritated that his standard 3pt shot isn’t yet up to snuff, as compared to his ridiculous underhand 3pt scoop shot from the bench).

The kid IS good by the only measure that matters:  his teams win.  Can’t blame Cousins, who played relatively few actual minutes on the floor, due to foul trouble and coaches managing his volcanic temperament.  Scoff at the summer league stats all you want, but there’s no question his team was orders of magnitude better when he was on the floor.  With Johnny Ballgame on court: 4-0; without him: 0-1.  Pretty decent track record there.

The question I'd pose to Win Share fan-addicts is:  can a player ever be 'good' even without posting WS boosting stats?  And if so what does that look like.   Consider it like this, from a degree of difficulty standpoint, in the case of John Wall, the kid was able to dominate games _despite_ poor shooting and over-exuberant passing.  Imagine how good he’ll be once that’s all under control.

This represents the view of the user who wrote the FanPost, and not the entire Bullets Forever community. We're a place of many opinions, not just one.

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