By now, you’ve seen the first two renditions of our new version of While We’re Waiting. Andrew got us started on Tuesday. Rick followed up on Wednesday. Now, with my usual bent toward sports analytics and media topics, here’s my first stab at this new format. Hope you enjoy and chime in with your thoughts in the comments.
The 76ers are awful. Like, really, really awful. Is it an “embarrassment”? What needs fixed? Last week, it seemed like the ESPN properties all seemed to gang up on the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving’s free agency status. Yesterday, they all appeared to team up to discuss “tanking” and the currently horrendous Philadelphia 76ers. Last weekend, former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy called the 76ers’ current scheme an “embarrassment” to the league.
In a one-question, 4,000-word mailbag (i.e. a column), Grantland czar Bill Simmons tore into new Commissioner Adam Silver for enabling a culture where incentives are high to be non-competitive. ESPN Insider’s Kevin Pelton looked into whether the 76ers might lose out the rest of the season and whether they just had the worst month ever. As of now, Pelton estimates their talent as an eight-win team over the course of 82 games.
All I could think about from either article: Rebuilding is really hard and tanking is no guarantee. Cleveland fans are seeing that right now with the Cavaliers. Liberty Ballers’ Derek Bodner had a very comprehensive look at the lottery and the advantages of having a top-5 pick. But it’s still not easy. Any possible draft solution will have long-term implications that actually could harm competitive balance.
Jim Thome doesn’t want to be finished. Last July, Indians legend and no-doubt Hall of Famer Jim Thome formally took a job as the special assistant to the Chicago White Sox general manager. He did not play during the 2013 season, But, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported, would he take a call from an MLB team if they still wanted him to play? I think you’d have to take that call,” the 43-year-old Thome said. It’s possible he might be better than Jason Giambi. But his playing days are likely well over.
How much math is too much math? This is a question I’ve been getting for much of the past week in the aftermath of the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaugnessy gave his #hotsportstake on the matter, arguing that since some stats are irrelevant, all of them are relatively meaningless. Yeah, good luck with that take Shaugnessy. Then why are teams like the Rockets and others investing oodles of millions on analytic innovations? Because it has worth in society. Efficient markets exploit opportunities for marginal advantages.
Hardwood Paroxysm’s Steve McPherson wrote about Yale scholar’s Edward Tufte’s theories on how analytics elevate fan understanding of the game. This was a topic at Sloan too. Are we becoming numb to the game because of all of these new numbers attempting to explain every last action on the court or field? Tufte argues no. McPherson backs it up. I’d agree, saying that these early answers only lead to more questions which only leads to a more complete understanding of the game works.
Speaking of math that aims to serve in practicality, ESPN Insider’s Amin Elhassan wrote about proprietary screen-setting data and mentioned Spencer Hawes as an effective screener. NBA.com’s John Schuhmann used SportVU data to again look at the Indiana Pacers’ impressive defense as it comes to the pick-and-roll. This information backs up what fans and scouts can both see out on the court.
Cavs playoff odds update. Entering Wednesday, the Cavs’ playoff odds were 2.9%, per SportsClubStats.com, with just 20 games left in the regular season. The website CrabDribbles ran a roundtable looking at the two last playoff sports in the Eastern Conference, a crawl-to-the-finish race between Charlotte, Atlanta, Detroit and Cleveland. Only one writer had faith in the Cavs to narrowly edge over the Hawks, who were 1-11 in the last month entering a late-night game at Portland.
#TeamDannySalazar. For the third time this spring, Grantland’s Jonah Keri middle-school-girl crushed all over Indians youngster Danny Salazar in a column. This time, Keri’s really interesting look into fantasy baseball began with the overvaluation of young players. Of course, the writer is an admitted huge fan of Salazar’s potential, his prospects for 2014 and his impact on the Indians’ playoff odds. But he still shouldn’t be going among the top 30 starting pitchers in baseball.
The Orange Bowl is dead and buried. Or at least that’s what it appears to be on Clemson’s campus, via Marc Dopher on Twitter. I’m sure that no Ohio State fans will overreact to this, right?
TrueHoop founder on blogging and more. “[Blogging] definitely shook up the snow globe big time, right? It used to be a very small channel of entry to be able to write about basketball all day every day. Basically, you had to know your local newspaper editor and get entrusted with a beat job or covering high school sports. That was just one subset of the population who got to have an audience on basketball. Blogging just let everybody who wanted to try it try it.” Go check out the entire interview with the new ESPN.com basketball editor Henry Abbott over at Nieman Journalism Labs.
Poor, poor Youngstown State. This right here, via The Dagger’s Jeff Eisenberg, might be the most depressing way to lose a basketball game ever. Let alone a Horizon League tournament game. That sucks.