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A "Moneyball" statician predicted Jeremy Lin's success 2 years ago (hoopsanalyst.com)
190 points by GBond on Feb 11, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 103 comments

Just some background for those not familiar with "Lin-sanity":

- He was a great college player at Harvard but wasn't drafted.

- He was cut by 2 NBA teams before the Knicks picked him up.

- He was probably the 4th point guard on the Knicks depth chart.

- The Knicks have been terrible this year and are currently without their 2 best players (Amare Stoudamire and Carmello Anthony)

- The Knicks have now won 4 straight games with Jeremy Lin playing big minutes (including 3 starts).

- The 89 points he scored in his first three starts (including Friday) got him a historical distinction. They are the most scored by an NBA player in his first three starts since the NBA-ABA merger 1976-77.

- Everyone loves him.

Not to mention, he led our basketball team to the state championship in high school, but got little to no recognition from college scouts. I would guess that most state championship winning starting point guards in high school would at least get 1 scholarship offer. Jeremy Lin got none. It just makes his success more shocking/amazing at this point.

This isn't necessarily true (most state championship winning starting point guards getting scholarships). How big was his high school? Upper division programs (large schools) get significantly more attention than smaller schools.

From his wikipedia, "In his senior year in 2005–2006, Lin captained Palo Alto High School to a 32–1 record and upset nationally ranked Mater Dei, 51–47, for the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division II state title." I assume division 2 is the second highest division in california. Given that, and he was the main player on that team, it is SHOCKING he didn't have multiple scholarship offers from major division 1 college teams.


I looked on his Wikipedia page, and the "recruiting process" section had some additional info. It sounds like he led his recruiting process, which seems odd for a highly talented player. The U.S. has a huge youth basketball eco-system with AAU Basketball. Most talent is identified at a young age, and the AAU system allows the best players to travel the country playing with other top talent. There are built-in college recruiting channels into this system. Also, good high school coaches should have strong ties with at least the local college coaches. It seems odd that he had to lead his recruiting efforts in California.

It doesn't sound like Lin had these support systems behind him. The PAC-10 schools (Cal, UCLA, Stanford) had enough interest in him to encourage him to walk-on, but not enough to offer a scholarship. He also sent out feelers to ALL the Ivy League schools, but only got offers to join basketball teams from two of them.

Division 1 NCAA scholarships are restricted to something like 70 per school across all sports. I'd be surprised if any 2nd tier high school players get div 1 athletic scholarships, even if they're good. The guys getting scholarships were scouted out in junior high school.

"Division 1 NCAA scholarships are restricted to something like 70 per school across all sports." That's not true. I've never heard of an NCAA total scholarship limit, only limits based on specific sports. Even if there were a limit, it would be way more than 70 (college football alone is allowed 85). Also, basketball would get first priority on being fully funded because it's a high revenue sport. Here is a list of the scholarship limits by sport, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Division_I_(NCAA)#Scholarship_l....

Are you saying he's a 2nd tier high school players because he played for a division 2 high school team? If you are, I don't think you understand much about high school basketball. California is some of the best in the country. As mentioned above, their division 2 state title win was over a nationally ranked team. Division 2 just means your high school is smaller, it's not the same as being an NCAA division 2 team.

"The guys getting scholarships were scouted out in junior high school." Although this happens (chris webber being the first example that comes to mind) it doesn't happen that often, and even if it does the player still has to prove things in high school because only verbal scholarships can be offered before a players junior year.

I'm just saying it's not surprising he didn't get a scholarship from a div 1 school. Athletic divisions may be enrollment based, but generally correspond to top levels of play. Smaller schools known to be a powerhouse in a sport can petition to play in the top division. Where I grew up in Minnesota, the hockey team with the most division AA championships is in a small town and only has about 350 students. Even Palo Alto high school plays Division 1 in baseball and women's volleyball. If it was known as a basketball powerhouse, Lin probably would have received more attention.

With your correction, there's still only 4500 Div 1 basketball scholarships available. Did anyone else in his division get such a scholarship?

In each state, there is at least one guy with his stats in the equivalent division who also doesn't get a scholarship. My cousin was 6 foot 5, averaged 30 points a game, led his team to state, was very athletic and won summer dunk contests, but played division 3, so still wasn't good enough to even play in college, in any division, much less get a scholarship. I went to college with Devean George and he was only there because didn't get scholarships anywhere, either.

It was the largest public school in Palo Alto in the most competitive division for non-private schools in Northern California. Also, they beat a team with 5-star college basketball recruits (including Taylor King who went to Duke Basketball) in the championship game.

That's insane. It's been suggested he was passed over because he's of Chinese decent. You'd think the teams would be climbing over themselves to get a good player with a Chinese name, because that's a way to get tens (or hundreds) of millions of Chinese fans.

He's not the next Yao (since he's American born, for starters), but he'd still be worth a lot purely for the fans he'd draw.

While "hundreds of millions" is often just hyperbolic thinking, Chinese are keener on the NBA than Americans. Unless the world cup (soccer) or Olympics is on, it's the only spectator sport worth speaking of. And Chinese love brand-name goods, and sports memorabilia, though many are forged.

Plus, he's a good player.

I'm a Knicks fan visiting China right now. Jeremy Lin's game against the Lakers was the lead story on the sports program on television last night. He could catch on here.

I am a Nets fan for 12 years and hate the Knicks. Today I followed NYK vs MIN just because of Jeremy Lin. Game tied, 24 seconds left, and he got the ball in his hand. I could have became a Knicks fan if he made that layup. This is insane.

Nets spent billions to build a new arena. Knicks got Jeremy Lin.

I'm a Jersey guy who was more sympathethic to the Nets too and I think I too might be a Lin convert to the Knicks.

Game-winning 3-pointer. That's it. I am now supporting any team he plays on.

I highly doubt any team passed over him because of his ethnicity. That's insanely counter-productive and something that doesn't happen in modern sports, especially the NBA. Yao Ming was a #1 draft pick. The NBA knows it's strong position in China.

I don't know. That one Chinese player was highly sought after in the last decade in the NBA does not convince me that unconscious racial bias hasn't played a role here, not that I think malice has either.

It seems obvious that Lin's Chinese descent is at least still a novelty in the NBA

I still have a very hard time chalking it up to racial bias, whether conscious or unconscious.

If the NBA is lacking in Chinese players, I'd amount it to:

1. Chinese players' talents aren't good enough, or they simply don't fit into the NBA style of play

2. NBA teams are not good at transcribing their play to the NBA level

Lin is an American, however, and has been playing US-style basketball his whole life.

Lin's had a streak of statistically good games, and a much larger sample of below average play off the bench. I haven't watched his games and I don't know how good he is on defense, or how he looks in operating an offense. But even if he turns out to be a really great NBA player, it's not like he was the first professional athlete to be overlooked/underrated. John Starks, former Knick, who played a big role in the Knicks' success in the 90's was undrafted, as was Ben Wallace, a premier defender for the championship Pistons in the 2000's.

The NFL also has a lot of once underrated talent. The Super Bowl losing Patriots have future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, who has been an elite quarterback for about a decade now was the 199th player picked in his draft class. And one of his prime targets the past few years has been undrafted Wes Welker. Kurt Warner was undrafted, sign as a free agent, cut during the preseason and had to play several years in the Arena League before becoming a Super Bowl MVP and superstar quarterback.

What's the difference between "US-style" basketball and "other" style? (i.e "chinese-style"?)

Doesn't everyone play the same game/style?

Specifically "chinese-style"... Chinese are mad about NBA, do they really play different rules?

Maybe U.S.-style wasn't the correct term, but since the NBA is regarded as the top basketball league in the country, it's what most people look up to.

The NBA tends to run a very isolation-oriented offense. This means that a point guard usually brings the ball to half-court, and if the PG is the main iso guy, he keeps the ball, or he dumps the ball to the main iso guy. The rest of the offense then spreads out so that iso guy is 1-on-1 with the defender. He'll usually play 1-on-1 (taking a shot or driving to the basket if he can) until there is 10 or so seconds left, and then the offense will start really moving.

Being from Cleveland, we saw this in the extreme when Lebron James played for the Cavs. We nicknamed this the "Lebronfense", because the entire offense (especially in the playoffs) consisted of Lebron holding the ball for 15 seconds and then making a move. This generally doesn't happen as much in other countries and leagues as it does in the NBA. Generally, guards and SF's who score a lot in the NBA are iso-specialists.

I'm not well versed enough in basketball strategy, so I'm not sure why this happens. It likely has to do with maximizing a superstar's athletic ability and overall impact on the game, but that's just a guess.

Is Yao Ming the best comparison though? He's 7'6", something that sets him apart more than ethnicity would. I wouldn't be surprised if Lin's did play a part, maybe not overtly, just because Asians in the NBA are fairly underrepresented.

I'd like to add the Knicks gave serious consideration to cutting him from the roster hours before his first start because his 30-day contract was set to expire in a few days.

The moral of story here is that if you have an expiring contract, you better hope your next opponent would be the Nets ;)

Where did you hear this? I follow the Knicks closely and never heard they were considering cutting him.

All over the place, during the telecasts... etc.

They weren't going to cut him, so much as not renew his contract. His contract wasn't guaranteed, and he was living on his brother's couch.

They were going to let him go and probably sign vet Mike James (currently in the D league)

This is true. RealGM knicks forums had a thread about this.

If you go by the WP48 stat, Amare is actually the Knicks' second worst player and Carmelo is their 8th best player. Tyson Chandler is by far their best player, and is currently the second best player behind LeBron.


He's also currently ranked 2nd in PER right behind LeBron James who by most metrics is the most dominant player in the NBA. PER is a metric for player efficiency adjusted for pace and time played etc. Pretty nuts.


WP isn't really considered a credible metric in the basketball stat community. It overvalues rebounding; players such as Danny Fortson and Reggie Evans have been ranked in top 5 for WP.

> The Knicks have been terrible this year and are currently without their 2 best players (Amare Stoudamire and Carmello Anthony)

... and you could say Baron Davis, their point guard that JL is in place of.

Wouldn't it be more noteworthy if we weren't able to find one analyst who predicted Lin? With the number of amateur analysts, and the number of players, you'd think that its likely there's a web page somewhere plugging every prospect.

Reminds me of that classic scam of sending out sports (or anything else) predictions to a huge mailing list, and basically AB testing in such a way that after a little time there are at least x% who think your success rate is incredible.

Yeah. Done historically by stockbrokers making cold calls. Every week, "Now, don't put your money with me just yet. Here's what I'm putting my clients into this week. Just watch Stock XYZ this week to see what happens." If you pick three highly volatile stocks every week, make a lot of calls, and drop the prospects to whom you have given "bad" advice, you'll end-up with a decent sized set of potential clients who think you are a god.

How is this anywhere the same?

In a scam, you don't have any way of making any future correct predictions--it's just random. This analyst has a reasoned system that can be tested against past players and against future prospects. Sure, there's going to be someone out there that picks Jeremy Lin. But the trick is, can you correctly identify players who are already known to be good based on their college stats, make the right call on Jeremy Lin, and go forward and continue to make good calls on draft prospects?

I'm not saying this sabermetrician generally makes good calls; I haven't looked. But dismissing his call as the result of a series of Bernoulli trials is completely missing the point.

His point is the number of people making predictions is high enough that it raises the bar for people to stand out from the pack. Basically run an ANOVA test on 10 groups vs 10,000 groups and it takes a larger divination to stand out from the pack.

PS: It does not matter if there is a system behind their predictions, what matters is how well their predictions hold up over time. Otherwise your just: http://xkcd.com/904/

That's my favorite xkcd - so simple, and true.

Ironic side note - I tried to use it as my ESPN.com forum account avatar, and was denied.

In the scam one person is making loads of predictions knowing that some will pay off. In this story, lots of people are making predictions and again, the chances are some of them will be right. Read the comment I replied to, his point was exactly the same as the scam's logic, which is basically that if enough monkeys spend enough time with typewriters... etc.

There's a very important difference that you're missing. In the scam you're applying you're random machine over all possible results. In the sabermetrician example, the random machine is being applied across methodologies of picking prospects, ie bunch of different "moneyball" hobbyists trying out different stats and weights to rank players. The end result is the possibility of the discovery of a very good methodology that has found stats that traditionally are not important.

But it takes more than one result to tell whether the methodology is good or if it was just lucky - otherwise it's just a guy tossing a coin once and saying "see, I predicted heads!"

Agreed. And you can't even do that test with a scam, which was my point.

That doesn't really detract from the accomplishment. The numbers don't lie. To me it's clear that despite Lin's strong numbers, he wasn't given a chance until now because he didn't fit the archetypal NBA player mold.

I'd say the impressive thing is the analyst found some figures that seemed to have a high correlation to success, and Lin has panned out pretty close to how he described him. And remember, this is a player who wasn't even drafted, it'd be like finding an analyst tell you Tom Brady has a chance to be a top 5 QB before he was drafted in the 6th round after being a partial backup at Michigan, and backing it up with convincing data.

What surprises me most about this story isn't that it happened, but that people still are surprised it works. A data-driven approach will always be better than picking people by how good they "look", etc. Human scouts are biased, make mistakes, and miss plays. Statistics don't lie. The one catch is of course how you analyze those statistics makes all the difference.

NBA media and fans are much much more resistant to empirical stuff than baseball. I think it's because the appeal of the game is more about emotions and hype than baseball. There's this feeling that things can't be captured in the numbers, but what they use instead is so inferior for judging players. I mean the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony at the cost of all the efficient players on the team. All of the stats guys were very skeptical the media blared on and on about how they would be contenders and they were terrible until this undrafted rookie came along.

Another example, what I've found interesting reading some of the NBA statisticians blogs is this argument about "clutch". Most fans and media insist that Kobe Bryant, a player who shoots a lot of shots at the end of games and makes spectacular shots sometimes is the best closer in the game. Meanwhile almost all statistical evidence points to Chris Paul, a player who runs boring routine plays down the stretch, as by far the best closer in the league in terms of actually winning close games.

Until the NBA stats can predict winners like baseball, the public will always go by the "look." The teams themselves however, are almost all hiring statisticians now.

Baseball is easier to predict from statistics when compared to most other sports. Most plays in baseball occur in isolation (relatively).

For example: pitcher vs. batter -- each pitch is essentially a new, repeatable experiment.

In basketball, I would guess that there are very few repeatable experiments. (Different players, strategies, locations, etc). It is a much more fluid game and therefore determining an indicator of success is much more difficult.

Agreed. Also keep in mind baseball probably keeps track of more stats than any other sport, making it easier to spot potential.

I once read an interview with a Major League scout who said he relied heavily on the numbers. He basically said, "We can get any stats, on any of these guys, at any minute, and find out exactly where they are, and if they have the numbers for the big leagues."

Talk about pressure. . it was an eye opener.

Stats work well in baseball because there is no time component to the game.

The clock completely changes the approaches you have to take in analyzing any other sport.

Exactly. The key difference is how advanced the statistics that matter are in the different sports. Only very advanced stats will really tell the story in basketball whereas it is much easier to see in baseball with just baseline stats. Most laymen take that to mean that watching games is the only way to tell when, in reality, they just need to get the right stats and formulas.

That's a helluva a catch.

At the core, stats tell a story of what a player has done in the past. Projections predict what a player might do based on what comparable players have done in the past. Statistics don't tell the future. They are just one tool of the scouting process.

Plus the models are always evolving. What was considered an indicator of talent 20 years ago might be inferior to the indicator 10 years ago that is actually inferior to what is in vogue today.

Statistics don't lie, but what story do you think they actually tell?

According to 'Thinking Fast and Slow' which I'm currently reading expert predictors of performance are generally worse than even quite simple statistical models. This being due to all the flaws in human decision making - if it's a sunny day, if the player 'looks the part' if the scout happens to view them on a day when they're feeling lucky. It's a very good book, but it suggests that in all fields of prediction you should actually rely on combinations of statistical metrics over expert judgment.

Pretty hard to believe I accept.

I would expect a complete statistical approach to work great for a sport like baseball where a team is exactly the sum of its players (i.e. most play is individual), but basketball it seems like basketball has so many other factors because you need all 5 players to work together to be effective. A weak player can bring everyone else down and a strong one inflate everyone else's stats. But maybe that just makes the statistics that matter more complex.

They have been getting much more complex. For example many stat geeks have been trying to make one that takes the +/- stats (how well the team does when the player is on the floor in terms of point difference per 100 possessions) and adjusting it based on the +/- of the teammates and opponents that have shared the floor with them. It's definitely more challenging than baseball, but there are a lot of interesting things to try.

>"A weak player can bring everyone else down and a strong one inflate everyone else's stats. But maybe that just makes the statistics that matter more complex"

That's exactly it. People often argue that something or other isn't accounted for, but the statistical methods are sophisticated.

Besides, it's not about being perfect, it's about getting an edge.

Not surprised that most experts(NBA & DI school scouts) don't embrace this because it is easier and safer to go with the typical archetype as opposed to raw stats. Its "human nature" safe in the sense most people will not question if you go with the established archetype. It also devalues the current process of scouting.

An apt quote from the movie Moneyball: "I know you've taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall. It always gets bloody, always. It's the threat and not just the way of doing business, but in their minds it's threatening the game. But really what it's threatening is their livelihoods, it's threatening their jobs, it's threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it's the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch. They will bet you're crazy. I mean, anybody who's not building a team right and rebuilding it using your model, they're dinosaurs. They'll be sittin' on their ass on the sofa in October, watch the Boston Red Sox win the world series."

Erm, as I understand it most NBA organizations have significant statistics/economics departments. I don't think the practice of going by looks or things of that nature is dominant any more except for sports pundits trying to rationalize events after they have happened.

Yes, some NBA clubs have started to spend money on quant/stats but I wouldn't say there is a majority cultural buy-in particularly in regards to scouting. Mostly it is in the form of a stat guy assistance coach who will recommend how to play opponents.

It is gaining popularity. Boston Celtics are one of the pioneers. The Nets even Bought a sports video/stats startup recently. Time will tell if talent evaluation will also change as Lin has been a paradigm-destroyer of the old way of scouting.


Name ONE team with a stats department that consists of a SINGLE Assistant Coach.

What you said is not true. Stats is HUGE! Try to get drafted if the stats department gives you a thumbs down.

Yeah, but how often do they go with the statistics vs. their gut feeling?

"Sometimes the convincing force is just time itself and the human toll it takes, Kuhn said, using a quote from Max Planck: "a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."[1]"

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradigm_shift

I tend to agree with you, hell i'm basically an analyst by trade.

but for the other side of the argument you should check out mark cuban's post http://blogmaverick.com/2010/10/03/building-teams-using-quan...

While it's true that sport scouting has traditionally under-relied on data, I wouldn't be so quick write the entire profession off entirely in favor of spreadsheets. Statistics can certainly be made to lie (cf. the book, "How to lie with statistics"), and there are a lot of aspects of human performance that are difficult to quantify. Performance under pressure is the first thing that comes to mind--reliably sinking a buzzer-beating three-pointer is a harder and more valuable skill to possess than just being a good shooter from beyond the line. You could try to quantify "performance under pressure", but a good scout will pick that up intuitively and probably do a better job of it. As always, the truth lay somewhere in the middle; a combination of both data and human input seems to be the best course.

The baseball equivalent, clutch hitting, has been kicked around in sabermetric circles for almost as long as Bill James has been writing of baseball's flawed stats and biases of pro scouts.

The "common wisdom" of sabermetrics (if you can call it such a thing) holds that clutch hitting doesn't exist, but many including James, aren't quite ready to completely write it off.

The common wisdom isn't that clutch hitting doesn't exist. Hindsight reveals that some people perform better in "pressure situations". The issue is that it's unpredictable and seems to be unrepeatable, and hence not applicable to models.

Your example is a good one: name someone who has a "skill" at draining game-winning buzzer-beaters.

Agreed. Theres a startup called NumberFire that essentially focuses on this perspective to serve up information based on sports stats.

it is true stats don't lie. but there is no replacement for the human judgment of personality and dedication. if it was all about stats, allen iverson would have lead the 76ers to multiple championships. THAT'S the importance of personality! thats the importance of showing up for practice. :)

Actually, a point guard led team winning a championship is rare. It's the reason people watch Rose[Bulls] with suspect. The last time it was done was with Piston during the Bad Boy's era[late 80s, early 90s]. So, although individual accolades accompany Iverson, I doubt anyone would predict him to win multiple championships without significant help[well except the media].

How good are the Oakland A's? Not very. So how successful is the data driven approach really? Isn't accepting a single case like this in the NBA as any kind of proof unscientific?

Didn't the Oakland A's stop being successful precisely because every other team picked up their methods?

How good are they? You could try watching the movie,or better yet, read the book. They did well.

Unfortunately for the As (and fortunately for those of us who embrace the statistical analysis of sports) other teams caught up and surpassed their approach. But it's still going on. In every sport. And there is much evidence that it works.

They did well, but they didn't win, and they haven't won. And winning is the point after all.

But they spent a lot less money to play pretty well, whereas other teams spent a ton of money to play about the same. Only one team can be the best, but many can be very good.

I love Jeremy Lin as a player and I really hope he succeeds. However, it must be said: Four games does not a statistically significant sample make. Read the NBA Playbook breakdown of his game:


In summary, he isn't good going left or shooting from distance. So far he hasn't played an elite defensive team. The true test will come if he can sustain his performance over the season and against good defence. Let's hope he does it!

So what if he hasn't played against an elite defensive team. That is irrelevant to determine whether or not he will succeed. How many players would do well against an elite defense team? Probably not a lot, otherwise they wouldn't be an elite defensive team.

No one is saying that he's going to be another Stockton, Nash, Wade (although Magic Johnson did say that Lin reminded him of Stockton and Nash), and he doesn't need to be in order to succeed. If he can keep the caliber of his game up to NBA standards, he can accomplish what he wanted, which is to play in the NBA, and that's all that matters. His performance over the past 4 games is saying pretty strongly that he can play at this level.

Remember, he just played against over 10% of the league already and has been the best player on the court. If the Knicks elite players can get their act together, then Lin only needs to contribute positively in order to maintain a strong career.

You make some good points. Lin has probably already done enough to have a decent NBA career and retire with millions in the bank. However the hype surrounding Lin is that's he more than that. The main point I wanted to make is that four games is not enough data to make that conclusion.

He's certainly lucky to play for D'Antoni, who is just about the only coach in the NBA who'd let a point guard freelance like Lin has. He's also lucky that the Knicks' star players are out so he doesn't have the pressure to just pass them the rock, which wouldn't showcase his skills. It will be interesting to see how Lin plays with Amare and especially Carmelo. We know from Phoenix that Amare is perfectly happy running the pick-and-roll with a good point guard. 'Melo prefers to handle the ball more, so there could be conflict there.

So what if he hasn't played against an elite defensive team. That is irrelevant to determine whether or not he will succeed.

I think the bigger concern is that our small data sample on Lin's performance is significantly biased in that he has played teams with poor defense at the 1 & 2 (guard positions). Derek Fisher is no defensive All-Star.

I can't verify this, though--haven't done sabremetric research in a while. Doesn't Basketball Prospectus have a section ranking guards on their defensive play?

If the Knicks elite players can get their act together, then Lin only needs to contribute positively in order to maintain a strong career.

This is a non-trivial problem. Conditional on being the offense's #1 option, Lin has played well. How will that change when Melo and Amare return, and he has to set them up? When those guys are healthy, Lin is a #3 option at best (maybe lower, as he has no outside jumper).

Lakers are a top 10 defensive team (Bynum and Gasol should have not allowed 38 pts). Kobe has made former all defensive team Lin did a respectable job when Kobe defended him. Lin is probably only going to have trouble vs Westbrook, Wade, Rose, Rondo, and Paul, but at the same time, he is more than good enough to be an NBA starting PG right now.

We have to keep in mind he is doing this well despite the odds stacked against him.

- No jump shooters / scorers in the starting 5. - No practice. - A tremendous amount of expectation and pressure both nationally and internationally.

Dribbling with his left hand and making 3s will come. Derrick Rose took a couple years to get it down in terms of treys. It's a matter of effort, and by all accounts, Lin is a hard worker.

I would be completely shocked if he did not remain a starting PG in the NBA. His effect should only grow as Melo and Amare return.

By most statistical measures, the Lakers are an elite defensive team. They allow only 0.458 efg% and 101 points per 100 possessions. I'm not exactly sure where that rates overall in the league, but I'd guess they are both in the top 15% or so.


I looked into his stats because I don't pay much attention to the Knicks.

At any rate I think Jeremy Lin is definitely going to have a good deal of trouble succeeding long term. There are a number of concerns there, but by far the biggest is TOs. In each game he's played, he has had the most TOs of any player. You can coach that away but one of two things will happen, his FGs will go up and his ASSTs will go down, or his ASSTs will go up and his FGs will go down. What you want, for a lot of reasons that most of you probably already know, is for the latter to happen. What seems to be happening is the former. There is a reason it is called a Point Guard. That needs to be fixed or other coaches will definitely take advantage of it when it counts.

You say, "well no problem...when Stoudemire and Anthony get back the problem will ameliorate." It may. I don't know. I would have to revisit his stats at that time. If I had to bet, I would bet that it will get better. But other young PGs struggle with the same issue...to the detriment of their teams in my opinion.

I guess what I am saying is that success in basketball, as measured in rings, requires stats optimized for balance and flexibility rather than strength. When Jason Williams finally got to Miami he was a more balanced PG. IIRC, during the 2006 finals he averaged 12 points and 7 ASSTs. Critically, at that point in his career TOs were under control. Jason Williams peaked at, somewhere around 3.5 a game. Jeremy Lin is averaging twice that at least. Not good. And consider, Jason Williams could make some of that up on the back end with steals. Not so much with Jeremy.

So I can see why a lot of statisticians would look at Jeremy Lin and say,"...well with my personnel...I'll have to pass on this guy." Of course if we scour the web we will find one guy who rated him highly, that is the nature of the beast. But there are a lot of good reasons that a lot of good scouts did not rate him highly. And most strategists probably see a lot of those reasons every time he plays.

All that said, Jason Williams, after initially playing a lot like Jeremy, achieved a REALLY good ASST/TO rating. If it wasn't THE highest...it was close. But again, that's the 12 points 7 ASSTs Jason Williams, which is what you want in a PG if you want to get to a ring.

In response to the turnovers, I want to mention that there are a couple reasons for that.

The first is that he's playing PG and has to handle the ball a lot more than anyone else on the team right now. Combined with his minutes, that's generally going to give you more TO's just because of the amount of time with the ball and the probability of a player of his skill level losing it (although this point doesn't account for other PG's who average way fewer TO's).

Second, he's just started to play a ridiculous amount of minutes over the past week and hasn't had enough time to refine himself yet. Did you watch the first couple weeks of games this season? Because of the lockout this year, there were almost no preseason games and it showed. Turnover rates were extremely high for pretty much every team, so I'm inclined to think that Lin can get his turnovers down throughout the rest of the season assuming they keep playing him.

My last point is a pretty obvious one, but he's still young. A few more years of experience and I expect to see turnovers go down. I watched his 38 point game last night, and while he played pretty amazing, he did have moments where he looked confused and flustered when running the offense.

I agree. Generally with smart basketball players, there TO's go down as they get familiar with the pace and level of play. A comment struck me the other day by an announcer, Lin has never played against 7 footers before. Whether that's true or not, he may have seen a few while at Harvard, but to consistently play against these behemoths has got to be a new feeling. Regardless of skill, it'll still take time to get use to the size and style of the NBA.

What I love about Lin is he is a smart player and a smart person. It's not a surprise to him that he's turned the ball over. Guess what he'll be working on in the future.

Aren't we also talking about a tiny sample size with the Knicks? And one of those games I believe he had 8 turnovers. That could easily be skewing these early numbers.

Is there any evidence of turnover concern from his time at Harvard?

Yes - way too small of a sample and given that, some of the hype in this topic is completely unwarranted. Comparing his PER to Lebron? Let's see him hold a PER close to 30 for a full season, or over multiple seasons.

I hope he continues to do well, but some of the comparisons that are being made are without merit.

somewhere around 3.5 a game. Jeremy Lin is averaging twice that at least

In his first four games of real time, he's averaging 4.25 turnovers, 8 assists, and 28.5 points per game. Deron Williams, a premier point guard in his prime, and playing with talent about on par with Lin's right now, is averaging 8.4 assists and 4.22 turnovers per game.

The turnovers might be a touch high, but there wasn't a moment in last night's game where I thought, "oh, this guy's just taking way too many risks." He seems quite solid.

And any fool watching these games knows that Lin's no Jason Williams.

I think you are over-analyzing. Like others have said in this thread, TO's are expected from PG's. While, these stats need to be considered, you should also consider the timing of these turnovers. If his team is up 15 with 1 minute to go and he turns the ball over because he was trying to test a play etc... that TO should not be given the same weight as the others.

I think the most important stat is scoring efficiency (or FG percentage). Against the Lakers yesterday, he was at 56.5% for the game (scoring 38 points). That is commendable given that it is against the Lakers.

4 TOs is very low considering his usage rate. The TOs will go down once Melo plays iso.

I'm involved in the startup scene for soccer "moneyball" metric development. If anyone has any interest, contact me.

Definitely interested. Mind putting your contact info in your profile?

A friend of mine is interested in stats for dodgeball. (yes, really!) let me know if you're interested and i'll connect you.

Curious to hear what you're up to as well

I'm interested.

How is he calculating RSB40? I'm guessing its some sort of weighted average of rebounds, steals, and blocks but I can't find a solid definition.

(Rebounds + Steals + Blocks) / (40 mins)

I know what you mean, but technically, it's: (Rebounds + Steals + Blocks) * (40 mins) / (minutes played)

I think he meant that more as an english statement than a mathematical one. It is indeed the number of rebounds, steals and blocks PER 40 minute interval.

I'm learning/reviewing MCMC methods now for work and...how about a MCMC algorithm that takes in basketball box scores and attempts to generate estimates of each player's ability?

You'd probably have to deal with too many parameters (one for each player in the league)...or maybe not?

Pardon the vagueness, I'm only suggesting this as a theoretical exercise.

EDIT: well, that didn't take long. http://www-stat.wharton.upenn.edu/~zhangk/2010%20Scoring%20a...

How many false positives has this statistician had over their career?

It's spelled 'statistician'.

The original post suggests he will be a lottery pick, perhaps first overall. Whoops. The writer caught his being undervalued but overestimated the math skills of basketball GMs.

It's hard to avoid the Linsanity now.

Noticed the article was written a year ago (May 13, 2010), and Lin went undrafted that year.

here is a good article about how players leverage stats to force the other team into low percentage shots and plays http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/15/magazine/15Battier-t.html?...

Great find, GBond. I found it an interesting read. Thanks!

HN-related factoid: Jeremy Lin was born in southern CA, grew up in Palo Alto and both of his parents are immigrant engineers.

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