Phil, Phil, Phil


Last Sunday, when each of the four NBA playoff series stood at 2-1, with the trailing team in each series being the more dependent on the 3-point shot, the Guru tweeted this:

As Kevin Draper pointed out yesterday, this was a wrong-headed sentiment even at the time, reflecting an infinitesimal sample size and a seemingly bizarre refusal to acknowledge some basic logic behind the growing reliance on the three-pointer in today’s NBA:

But more importantly, Phil’s tweet was stupid the moment he pressed send, and it would’ve been stupid had he sent it two years ago too. It wasn’t proven stupid by the events of the last week, it was proven stupid by the events of the last decade. The tl;dr is that teams shoot an ever-increasing amount of three-pointers, abhorring mid-range jumpers. The basic logic underpinning this is that players only shoot a little bit worse on threes than mid-range jumpers, and those threes are worth an extra point, making it a much more valuable shot.

Of course, organizations can build winning teams in a variety of ways. Even if Golden State wins it all this year, that won’t *prove* that their relatively jump-shot oriented approach (accepting the premise that it’s being properly characterized) is the way to win in the modern NBA. But what worries me is that Phil’s attitude is based less on serious analysis than a belief that because of his success as a coach, he knows better than any fancy-pants statheads. And relying on his own instincts, when neither MJ, Pippen nor Shaq is suiting up for the Knicks any time soon is, I am afraid, not a recipe for success.

As it happens, what a difference a week makes. Here’s a tweet from last night providing an update on how those three-point oriented teams are doing now (before Houston eliminated the Clippers today):

Oops (all but the Clippers who, to repeat, lost to the Rockets, have advanced to the conference finals).

This doesn’t prove anything, either, of course (except how silly Phil’s tweet from last week was). But as a Knicks fan, it has me especially concerned. Jackson said last week that he wasn’t going to construct his team according to this particular trend. Which is fine, but does raise a question – why did he trade the Knicks’ best player last off-season (Tyson Chandler) for a player whose primary value is in his three point shooting (Jose Calderon)? More broadly, you’d think a guy whose team went 17-65 after he insisted with a straight face at the start of the season that they were a playoff team might have developed a little humility about the rebuilding process, rather than lobbing cheap shots three games into some playoff series. Yes, he’s got more jewelry than anyone. But he’s new to the front office game, and so far (granting that we are *very* early in the process), the results aren’t great.

This little twitter episode – minor though it is – isn’t likely to bolster the confidence of many Knicks fans.


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