As our summer mainstay, Aaron's writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. Intent is to get you talking, thinking, and appreciating the myriad of wonderful folks who play in our favorite sports league. Today's first trio: Gustavo Ayon, Dwyane Wade, and Terrence Williams.
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Follow Gustavo Ayon on Twitter at @AyonGustavo.
There's a certain breed of question often asked of those who work in statistics. The classic "gotcha" question, intended to catch the answering party in the act of committing their profession's cardinal sin. That sin in question has to do with confirmation bias -- the question's form is nebulous, but generally asks the party to statistically quantify something subjective they've had experience with. How good is a sports star they've loved for years? What are the the chances of your favorite politician winning the election? How good is your poker tell? The thought tends to go that no matter how the statistician answers, the answer is necessarily biased in their assessment of the question's object. Even if they try to weasel out by mentally trying to overcompensate, the bias is still there. In effect, the question "proves" that the existence of rampant confirmation bias dramatically undermines objectivity in even the most ancillary of cases.
It's a smart question, all things considered. I actually asked a derivation of it at a cocktail party for new statistics majors back before I graduated, when a young major got a bit too cute with assertions of objectivity. Less than proving some insightful universal truth about the existential uselessness of the discipline statistics in general, I take the position it simply reinforces the necessity of full disclosure. If you're personally invested in something you're trying to analyze, you need to tell your audience that and ensure they understand it. That's all. The important thing is to stay humble and self-aware of the necessary gaps in your knowledge and expertise, and this self-awareness extends as well to minor things -- if your first personal experience with a particular person or object was overwhelmingly positive, you should be ready to disclose that such an experience colors your analysis a tad. It's important to keep an audience in the loop, and important for statistical analysts to understand this wrinkle to their work. Virtually everyone in the profession does, too -- it's simply a hassle for most statisticians to reiterate it on a regular basis.
This has to do with Gustavo Ayon because I really do like Ayon a lot, even though I've got a sneaking suspicion it's mostly rooted in the first game I distinctly became aware of his presence as a player -- an incredible bout against Cleveland where Ayon put up 9-17-4-2-1 in a close Hornets victory over the Cavaliers on February 22nd last year. I'd watched him in games prior to that one, but never really focused on him. And I'll readily admit that may color my analysis. In most of the games afterwards, I'd watch Ayon and wonder why in the world the Hornets weren't giving him more leeway -- Monty was quick to pull him from games when he was having trouble, and while I perhaps didn't notice those early season games that contributed to that attitude, I don't think the Hornets made quite the right move by not getting a better sense of what they had with Ayon after he proved he was an NBA rotation player or more. On the other hand, it's not like Ayon's minutes totals were awful -- he played the 18th most minutes of any 2012 rookie despite going undrafted! So the sense that Monty was quick to pull him -- while possibly true -- also seems like something I could be overstating. Regardless. Ayon is a lot older than you'd think for an incoming sophomore. He will turn 28 late next season, and should be in his physical prime in a year or so. Which is an issue when trying to figure out what kind of a contract Ayon really "deserves." He has two years on a $1.5 million team option with Orlando. Those will take him to around 29 years old when he finally gets on the market for his first "big" contract.
So how big will it be? I think the floor for Ayon is a 3-year $15 million deal like the one Robin Lopez got. If he continues the play he's shown so far, though, and grows his game a bit? Could be looking at 4-year $40 million or 4-year $50 million. He's really very good -- an extremely low-usage big who converts at the rim as well as anyone. His passing was exquisite -- only four centers registered a higher assist rate than Ayon, and only two of those four played regular minutes (those two being Boris Diaw and Nick Collison). His defense is actually remarkably good, and was one of the keys to Monty Williams' surprisingly good defense last year. He's a very "Anderson Varejao" type defender, with exquisite footwork and excellent timing. He doesn't put a premium on drawing charges, but he does put a premium on a strong contest that doesn't get him out of position. Combine that with his solid offense and only-slightly-subpar rebounding? You have an excellent roleplayer that could (possibly) get a bit better as he gets better conditioned for NBA basketball and goes through a full training camp. Not to mention the biggest change -- Ayon didn't know more than a few sentences of English when he first arrived at training camp. As he learns more of the language and gets more comfortable, his opportunities to succeed in the NBA should expand. I like Ayon, though again -- the first time I truly saw him, he was dominating the Kyrie Irving Cavaliers. Maybe I'm a little biased. But I like him a lot.
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Follow Dwyane Wade on Twitter at @DwyaneWade.
Sometimes, certain players go extremely long. I'm making it a point to explicitly allow the leeway to produce a really long capsule, but I'm trying to also use them as an opportunity to spread word of the project to new readers. To that extent, I'm going to take these super-long post-sized capsules and spread them to different institutions we're partnering with. Today, Dwyane Wade's capsule goes up at a blog helmed by one of Dwyane Wade's biggest fans -- Hardwood Paroxysm, of course! In it I discuss the broader story of Wade's career, examining the evolution of a narrative began by FreeDarko's Dr. Lawyer IndianChief way back in 2006 and culminating in a lesson re-learned about the game. Take a look, it's in a book? (Warning: isn't actually in a book.)
The Wade/Shaq Heat wasn't a team that shocked and awed, it was simply a good team doing the things a good team does, and most importantly, living up to expectations. And that's the key. Even a dynasty like the Spurs involved some level of exceeding expectations -- the surfiet of titles was never quite expected for a motley crew of Duncan/Parker/Ginobili, especially not in a Western Conference featuring teams like the Nowitzki Mavericks, the Kobe Lakers, or the Nash Suns. There was never much thought that the Spurs had put together two of the greatest players at their positions of their generations, never quite the overwhelming media hype for Duncan and his brood that Wade/Shaq's pairing attracted. For Wade, he paired a repertoire of next-level Jordan moves with the then-formidable husk that was once Shaquille O'Neal -- one of the greatest big men ever. The question was never "can they win a title", the question was when. And when they fulfilled dismal destiny and seemed to relinquish Dirk of what seemed to be his grandest shot, there was some element of yawn-worthy precognition attached to it. Because like it or not, we saw it coming.
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Follow Terrence Williams on Twitter at @TheRealTWill.
Okay, for the sake of schadenfreude, I'll say it outright. I thought Williams was going to be an awesome NBA player. I was fully invested in the Bill Simmons logic that Williams was one of the best full-package prospects back in 2009, and as a result, I really felt like he had a chance to be something. I watched a decent amount of Williams in college, and I saw all the positives -- the passing, the defense, the rebounds -- and none of the glaring negatives. Among those, I somehow managed to ignore his inability to shoot, inability to finish consistently on any non-dunk at-rim play, inability to draw fouls, and inability to control the ball. Most of these negatives were pretty obvious straight out of college, but the thought went that with the right organization Williams would get his head straight, find a great shooting coach, and iron out the problems in his shot. Then he'd learn how to finish, start throwing himself more effectively into defenders, and work on his dribble. After all, those are all things an NBA player can improve if they set their minds to it. Right?
Well, I suppose it's possible. It's not like he's old, yet -- Williams turned 25 just 29 days ago, and it's true that he's yet to really arrive at a coaching staff well-suited to help him mold his game. He needs a good shooting coach, and the shooting coaches for the Nets, Rockets, and Kings don't come with any particular repute. He's never really had a fantastic environment to cut his teeth on. But it's also true that Williams has his own issues putting a damper on his efforts to become a solid, star-type player in the league. Avery Johnson isn't the easiest guy to get along with, but incurring his wrath via suspensions and fines for constant team-harming tardiness is a bit much. And listening to interviews his rookie and sophomore year, you got the sense that Williams had an opinion of himself based nowhere in reality. He compared his game to that of LeBron James, slyly managed to ignore questions about his mental fitness by completely changing the subject before the reporter could notice, and often would completely contradict himself. He's a funny guy, but a bit of a headcase, to put it lightly.
Still, there is the sense that if Keith Smart can help Williams get his act together, he can be an NBA caliber player. Perhaps even a starter. When he was demoted to the D-League as a punishment for chronic missed buses and late practices, he averaged a triple double of 28-11-11 in three games and played so incredibly well that the Nets were forced to bring him back up. You can't produce numbers like that in the D-League -- opposition be damned -- without playing some seriously excellent, NBA-quality ball. So there's that. There's also his defense, which (while still somewhat burgeoning) is very effective. A lot like Ronnie Brewer -- bulldog, gets into a guy's face, gets into a guy's head. He's very good at it. Which leads to the final takeaway. Williams is a homeless and leprosy-stricken man's Andre Iguodala. Nice guy, great at a few things, fills the box score admirably. Solid on defense, straight-up bad at shooting. He really needs to find a coaching staff he can respect -- I have a feeling that if he could simply grow to love a staff and get ingratiated with the group, Williams would be a very funny and engaging player. Instead, though, he's something of a disappointment for now. Which is sad. Though, perhaps, not as unexpected as I thought it was.
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At the end of each post, I'll be scribing riddles for the next group. Whoever gets the most right will get a shout out at the end of the next post. Tweet me your answers at @docrostov, or post them in the comments. No full 3/3 guesses this time, though reader J warrants respect with a solid 2/3.
- According to three girls I know, Player #55 is the most attractive player in the NBA. By a large margin.
- According to one of these same girls, Player #56 is probably the LEAST attractive big-market star in the league.
- According to none of these girls but instead myself, Player #57 is hilarious and one of my favorite NBA follows on Twitter.
Apologies for the lack of an update yesterday -- we're going to end up with only 15 this week unless I choose to post one over the weekend. Sad times. I may try to wedge in 21 next week to put us back on schedule, but we'll see. Regardless, these three will go up later today, probably around 4 or 5 ET. See you then.