Bill Simmons' Bizarre Statistics

I don't much care for Bill Simmons' columns, and this week's (HT: Newmark's Door) column reminds me why:

Q: Why won't you understand shooting percentages? 33 percent from beyond the arc is the equivalent of 50 percent from within. If a guy shot 50 percent from the field, would you be killing him for shooting? Of course not. You obviously realize how stupid that would be. Yet that's what you've been doing -- FOR YEARS -- with your mind-boggling argument against 3-point shooting unless the guy can hit 75 percent of his 3s. Just think about it for a couple of seconds. Please ... we are begging you.
-- Nick, New York

SG: Dozens of readers e-mailed me Nick's same stupid argument in a similarly condescending way, which is what makes the following so much fun: I'm not stupid, YOU'RE STUPID. That 33/50 logic only makes sense in a professional basketball league in which they aren't calling fouls and you aren't allowed to pass to a teammate ... which, as far as I can tell, doesn't currently exist.

Let's say that one player attempts 12 3-pointers and makes four (for 12 points). His teammate attempts 12 2-pointers and makes six, but during that time -- because he's not standing 25 feet away jacking up 3s like an idiot -- he also draws three fouls on his defender, creates two assists for teammates, makes three of four free throws, turns the ball over once, and misses one layup that gets tapped in by a teammate (we'll call it 19 points). You're telling me those two scenarios are equal?

I don't disagree with his point that you can't just compare shooting percentages in a naive way like the emailer suggested. But his numbers are senseless, for a number of reasons.

Simmons conflates two different actions: "Going inside" and "shooting a two point shot" are not the same thing. If you're looking at shooting the ball, then you've already gone through a great deal of action, and either you have to do that on the inside and outside, or for neither. For some reason, he's willing to allow his hypothetical interior player taking twelve shots to also get fouls and passes, but the hypothetical perimeter player isn't allowed to find someone cutting to the basket, since his only "action" seems to be jacking up twelve 3-pointers.

He also double-counts points in an irrational way. Consider his "two assists for teammates". If one of those is a kick out to the perimeter, then surely this isn't a knock against using a three-point shot as a weapon. And if it is to another interior player, then you can't count the same "shot" twice, both as an assist and the shot itself, which seems to be what he's doing.

Like I said, I'm completely willing to believe that interior shots are underrated, for a variety of reasons (rebounding, fouls, etc.). I bet it's already been done (Kyle surely knows more about this than me.) But Simmons' argument is fairly nonsensical, and he manages to be amazingly condescending about it as well. Not an appealing combination.

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There are folks here with

There are folks here with much better backgrounds in statistics and economics and the like, and most of what I know is confined to baseball. There's been a recent expansion of quantitative performance analysis from baseball branching out into other sports like football, basketball and hockey. The recent piece on Shane Battier comes to mind. I know there are sites out there that cover this stuff, too, but I haven't done any reading myself. The incomparable Baseball Prospectus now has a partnership with Football Outsiders and has also launched their own Basketball Prospectus and Puck Prospectus.

Good Dis

Someone over at Deadspin, in noting that ESPN is now trying its hand at local sports coverage with their launch of ESPN Chicago, commented that it would probably sucks as much as their first attempt - ESPN Boston. And then linked to Bill Simmons. Ha ha.

I don't care much about Bill

I don't care much about Bill Simmons and his weird logic either. this comment just goes further to show that he has an attitude problem as well. Clay shooting Essex