basketball, NBA

Numbers and the eyeball test

By the Numbers

Numbers are fun and they are making a greater impact on the sports world every single day. They provide a way to objectively assess players or even do a none biased side by side comparison. The advanced statistics and tracking seem to be part of every major league now. The huge benefit of numbers is they are emotionless. However, one of the draw backs to relying on numbers is that lack context. For example, which NBA player from the below table is the best from the 2014 draft? All were first round picks and are still in the league.

Avg./Game Since ’14 PTS RBS AST STL
Player A 15.2 6.9 3.6 1.1
Player B 16.0 2.7 2.7 0.9
Player C 16.0 4.4 3.7 1.5

These players are pretty close in the stats per game. While it is true that I have only provided four statistical categories, these are the most mentioned in the game of basketball. These numbers on their own lack context… positions are ignored, franchise, wins, etc. While numbers are emotionless, they also can lie, or rather the interpretation or the weight one gives to the data can be misleading.

As crucial to the game numbers are, so is the eyeball test. Below are the contract values for the same players above. There is a ~$21mm spread from Player B to Player C. Their numbers are relatively in line. In fact, Player C has the edge. What is the difference? Who’s eyes are watching. When considering the value of a player, the potential, the X factor, whatever you want to call it, that is where the eyeball test trumps numbers.

 Contract Terms Years Value
Player A 4 $100mm
Player B 4 $106mm
Player C 4 $85mm

The Greek Freak

I will be honest, prior to this year I have only seen highlights of Giannis (who is so aptly nicknamed the ‘Greek Freak’), but after spending just a few minutes watching him live I thought to myself, this guy’s ceiling is limitless. Consider his size, 6’11” 222 lbs. He is a matchup nightmare at SF (not to mention when he moves to PG). The size, length, athletic abilities, it is all unparalleled. He is getting a ton of hype right now (its early!). It helps that he is leading the league in scoring and is averaging 36.8 pts/game (albeit through 4 games).

Giannis was drafted at just 19 years of age. A freaking child. Milwaukee made a bet on an international teenager and then the double down by signing him to a 4 year deal just last month. (and a less expensive move by doing it now). Giannis is already the highest paid on the Bucks, the #7 overall for his position at SF, and #32 in all of the NBA. He has something special and can be really special. Cause if we were going just by the numbers, he wouldn’t be getting this kind of hype…

View this post on Instagram

Giannis is just getting started.

A post shared by Bleacher Report (@bleacherreport) on

View this post on Instagram

LeBron knows where Giannis is headed.

A post shared by Bleacher Report (@bleacherreport) on

Another Comparison? Yes.

Giannis was considered a very raw talent and mysterious coming into the league. He was drafted #15 overall purely because of the eye test. He didn’t come into the league like LBJ, Melo, and Durant, all Small Forwards, which shows in his stats (I know, we are talking about the eyeball test, but stats prove the eyeball test!) in the first four years in league. He shows improvement year over year, but not that kind of praise that LeBron has already provided as being “great”. Now, after just four games, he has arrived.

Eyeball test bro.

Player A – Giannis Antetokounmpo // Player B – C.J. McCollum // Player C – Victor Oladip

References: // // Bleacher Report

Leave a Reply