Thursday, March 1, 2012

Freakonomics tries to explain how teams missed on JLin

Here is the link.

I'm not completely buying the analysis and especially the conclusion that it should be no surprise.  And how do you quantify a factor like race?


  1. this is so stupid. all the fancy stats and it still doesn't explain everything. lin was simply overlooked because he was asian american. you have to be a fool to not see it. all the div 1 coaches and scouts and gm who overlooked him to the racism and hatred from the media shows race was an issue from the beginning and still is today.

  2. The #1 reason Lin was overlooked by the NBA was because of the school/conference he played in. The fact is, there are many college players in major conferences with great stats that are duds in the NBA. Lin had good stats, but they were not exceptional (16.4 pts, 4.5 ast, 1.5 A/TO). If Lin was averaging 25 pts/10 asts, he probably would have been drafted. But he was 16/5, playing for *Harvard*, so of course NBA scouts are going to dismiss that as the result of playing in a very weak conference. I would too.

    Race was a distant #2 reason he was not drafted. Believe me, if an African-American player did exactly what Lin did at Harvard, he wouldn't have been drafted either. On the other hand, if Lin did exactly what he did in college, but played in the Pac-10, he would have been drafted.

    The biggest place where race factored in was during college recruitment. I'm pretty sure that race was the biggest reason he didn't get any D1 scholarships. Which led to the first reason above. So you could say that race indirectly led to the NBA overlooking Lin, but it's not the direct/#1 reason.

    1. If you look at how much Lin improved physically over 3 months last summer, you can see how underdeveloped he was when NBA scouts were looking at him:

      - added 3.5 inches to vertical leap
      - 33% improvement in lateral quickness
      - more explosive now (0 - 10 mph stop to start time is same as John Wall)

      PLUS, he completely rebuilt his jumper.

      If he got recruited to a big time Divison I school, maybe he developed physically more quickly, and maybe transition to NBA offense was easier because of competition he played, but he also wouldn't have exploded on scene with Lin-Sanity and all the fame and forture it will bring Lin with it.

      Seems like a pretty good trade-off to me.

    2. Matt Maloney made the NBA from UPenn and was a very good (and underrated) starting PG.

      Maloney and Jerome Allen (a 2nd round pick) were phenomenal college players. They dominated against D1 schools. Maloney in particular was a terrific no mistake NBA starter who probably deserved to last longer in the NBA.

      I felt that Maloney was a victim of anti white racial prejudice in the NBA. Plus, people never let the Ivy League negative stereotype go.

  3. The NBA draft process has become so bad that a team of undrafted players now can beat a team of lottery picks in the same year.

    2010 Undrafted No Stars:
    PG: Scottie Reynolds (1st team All American)
    SG: Jeremy Lin
    SF: Wesley Matthews (Utah and Portland star)
    PF: Samardo Samuels (bruising Cleveland forward)
    C: Omar Samhan (22 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 bpg)

    1. Whoops.

      Matthews is not a 2010 player. Samuels I am not sure.

      The point is that NBA evaluators are drafting mainly busts while ignoring future All Stars like Lin.

  4. Jeremy wasn't really overlooked in the Draft. I watched him in the Portsmouth Tournament (In Virginia for NBA prospects) and he was not "lighting it up" or superstar 1st round pick there by no means....he was just a solid player. His first year in Golden State there were no real "break out" games like New Jersey this year that showed he was going to be a player. I mean if anything just making a roster was a goal accomplishment in and of itself at the time.

    I think what happened was that he dedicated himself to getting stronger and faster and he worked like a mad russian over the Summer and his situation (pick n roll with dantoni offense, Knicks desperate for a spark), his back against the wall for his entire career and he came out with no fear attitude of "just going to play my game if it's not meant to be so be it" and the rest is history.

    Jeremy Lin said he even surprised himself. So there is no looking back and saying yeah somebody should have just happened and it's a beautiful thing.

    1. How could he have had a "break out" game at Golden State when he was never given the chance?

      The Nets game he was finally given the minutes and the chance to run the offense. At Golden State he was put in for 2-5 minutes here and there in garbage time and was never really given any kind of chance.

      One of the very few times he got a good amount of minutes he dropped 13 on the Lakers, then was relegated to sitting on the pine behind Acie Law again.

    2. Jeremy was a rookie just trying to fit in. As players understand you usually earn minutes in practice by outplaying guys ahead of you or making the coach have to play you because it's obvious. I'm not sure I remember hearing/reading about Jeremy killing guys in practice in Golden State. Yeah he had obvious stereotype to fight and so forth but he was on the team and Golden State gave him an opportunity. NOt sure why people questioning things and turning everything into Race Card - no need to now cause everything has changed for the better for Asian Ball players now. Remember regardless of race, a coach who's dependent on winning to keep his job will play guys who he thinks will help win regardless of who they are, how they look....players play if they can help team win games. You find that out in Practice - I've heard that Jeremy was not the greatest practice player at Palo Alto High and has unique ability to turn up notch in games? Maybe that's what happened? He got opportunity in game and he played much better than he had been practicing? Unusual but possible in this situation?

  5. JLin is an very fast. Compare his speed to last three #1 draft picks.

    1. Great article! These numbers must be "deceptively" impressive to think that JLin is "deceptively" fast/athletic.

      I also like the Freakonomics analysis. I believe that some players are overrated based on their average points per game. For example, Kobe may be overrated because he leads the league in scoring, yet he also leads the league in FG attempts by a significant margin. Jose Calderon may be underrated because he's only averaging 11 points a game, but he's also averaging 9 assist with only 2 TOs per game. He's really helping Toronto getting more points in the paint and making other players look better.

  6. So how fast is Jeremy Lin?

    BAM gives three numbers: average speed, start speed, and top-end speed. BAM translates this into miles per hour. Average speed is calculated by an algorithm that averages start speed and top speed. Start speed is the first burst of speed, the acceleration phase. Top speed is shifting gears out of the acceleration to one’s peak speed. Here’s how Lin’s BAM numbers compare in the 25 yard sprint.


    Jeremy Lin: 16.66 mph

    Derrick Rose: 16.60 mph

    John Wall: 16.48 mph

    Kyrie Irving: 15.67 mph

    Lin wins this battle.


    Lin: 13.93 mph

    Wall: 13.25 mph

    Irving: 12.64 mph

    For Rose, BAM has only average speed data.

    Lin wins this battle too.


    Lin: 18.85 mph

    Wall: 19.30 mph

    Irving: 18.74 mph

    Lin comes in second to Wall.

    1. This is a very intriguing analysis. I didn't see Lin standing shoulder to shoulder with Wall/Rose in speed category. As a matter of fact, Lin has faster start speed than Usan Bolt!

      But then, for anyone who's played competitive sports with Asian athletes should have had the impressions that they are extremely agile and quick. They would be the guards in basketball, running back/safety in football, and the wing in rugby. Heck, Michael Chang, arguably the most successful Asian tennis player ever, based his game on speed and perseverance. Jeremy is clearly the best of an already above-average pool.

    2. I've been arguing with people here that Jeremy Lin is an elite athlete even by NBA standards. Now here are numbers that actually validate that.

      I was roundly criticized for daring to compare Lin to Lebron. Yet on a position basis, Lin might be as physically dominant as a PG as Lebron is as an SF.

      Most Lin observers like myself don't need fancy tests or metrics to see that Jeremy Lin is a physically dominant athlete who has incredible basketball talent. We simply look at him play and note that he can do things that most NBA athletes cannot do. One example of that (of many) is that nasty reverse layup that he starts on the right side of the rim and ends in the left side. Lin's been doing that in the NBA since his rookie year, and there are only a handful of All Star guards who can regularly score with that move.

      I do not agree at all that Lin's summer work is the prime contributor to his current success. Lin was athletically capable of dominating last year too. We essentially lost a year of Linsanity because Keith Smart couldn't see Lin's talent.

      I have always been of the mind that extreme physical conditioning does not necessarily make a guy play better basketball. I firmly believe that Lin would be doing great without extreme training measures simply because he is one of the best athletes at his position in the NBA.

  7. Mike you're wrong. It's a lazy excuse to say Jeremy Lin got significantly better, and it holds no water since the Knicks themselves were on the verge of cutting Lin. Even before this season Lin dominated DLeague, in his only NBA game last year with 15+ minutes (18 mins) Lin put up 12 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds. Despite limited minutes he led the Warriors in PER and adjusted plus/minus. He had bad luck playing for a blind coach irrationally devoted to Acie Law. Before the NBA Lin outplayed John Wall in summer league. Before that in college he destroyed 1st rd picks at UConn, Georgetown, and BC. Before that, he took a HS team with no players over 6'4 and won the Cal state championship over Mater Dei with 7 players at least 6'7 and who all got D1 scholarships.
    Lin has done it at EVERY level but it never mattered due to prejudice and confirmation bias.

    1. agree with you that Jeremy does have that unique clutch ability to rise to the challenge against best competition as you mentioned above. Smart doesn't like to play rookies (i.e. Fredette) and he said that repeadedly last year....Jeremy learned a lot last year regardless and he knew what he had to work on to get better in his 2nd year...that's all I'm saying. Think people need to get off the race issues and move forward cause it diminishes his accomplishments the more it gets talked about....Of course it's (racism/prejudice)obvious but him playing well addresses it better than anyone ever could - actions always speak louder than words.

    2. Smart likes to play BLACK rookies (like Isaiah Thomas who is not as good a rookie as Lin was).

      We are NOT moving off the race issue after a single month of Linsanity. Asian Americans are treated too badly on a daily basis for us to not cry foul over racism.

      Words speak louder than actions.

  8. Just to answer your question: Race is a categorical variable, thus the author most likely used an indicator variable for being black or white. I assume he ran a linear regression (or something more complicated) of draft position on all of his variables, which includes the race indicator, and looked at which coefficients were statistically significant. It seems kind of obvious that his conclusion would be that race does not matter, since a huge proportion of the players drafted are black. Furthermore, even if he added an indicator for "Asian," (for example, to see if being Asian affects your draft position) his result would probably be statistically insignificant since there were only like 3 or 4 Asians in NBA drafts from 1995 to 2009, and one of them was Yao Ming (drafted 1st)--the variance of the estimator will be very high as a result.

    Also, I'm assuming he used some sort of instruments in his regression, since something unobserved by the researcher but observed by scouts (for example, athleticism) would influence both draft position and most of his explanatory variables (e.g. points, rebounds, etc.). I didn't look through his methodology, but if he did not use instruments, his estimates would be biased.

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  10. "I'm an Asian hating racist who is trying to make excuses for why Jeremy Lin is kicking my butt".

    THAT is what the Freakonomics article is reaally saying.