Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lin or Anthony

Who would you rather have on your team if you had to select one or the other, Jeremy Lin or Carmelo Anthony?

For those not in the know, Carmelo Anthony would beat Jeremy Lin 15-5 in a game of one on one. He can shoot better, moves to the hoop as well as anyone in the game, and when he wants to can play great defense.  Carmelo Anthony went to Syracuse and as a freshman led the Orange to the national championship. After that he left to play in the NBA.  Jeremy Lin went to Harvard, played all four years during which Harvard did not go to the NCAA tournament and was undrafted when he originally sought out to play in the NBA.

However, if the Knicks had to select one or the other to give them a better chance at beating the Heat tomorrow night, they would at least hesitate before taking Anthony, or perhaps select Lin.

So, why is that. How is it possible that a player that is better than another can be less valuable than someone less talented.

The reason is that in a team sport--and basketball is an ultimate team sport no matter how they measure the prospective athletes--the whole is either greater or lesser than the sum of its parts. It is not equal to the sum of its parts.  And what can make a team greater than the sum of its parts is a player who distributes the basketball. And what can make a team less than the sum of its parts is a player who does not involve teammates.

Let's say a weaker player can shoot 60 per cent when nobody is guarding him and 30 per cent when someone is guarding him.  And a great player can shoot 80 per cent when nobody is guarding her or him, and 50 per cent when they are being guarded.  This would mean that a distributor who can get the ball to the weaker teammates will allow the teammates to take shots at 60 percent whereas a better player who is well defended and taking shots will be shooting at a lower rate.

There are other reasons why distributors like Lin, Steve Nash, or Chris Paul or Magic Johnson in his heyday might be more valuable than "better players" but the biggest reason is that the distributors increase the percentages of those who take the shots because they find those players when they are open.

Take Lin over Anthony and the Knicks have this series tied at two games a piece, and Stoudamire does not get frustrated because he did not get the ball and does not cut his hand missing the game.  Without Lin on Wednesday, the Heat will pummel the Knicks.

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