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The Stats See All Games

I watch many games, but the stats see all games is my primary philosophy. Many times I have gotten into debates about statistics, and the comeback from the “watch the game crowd” is always the same. Did you watch the game? Yes, I watched the game. Perhaps the only more annoying argument is “did you play”. Yes, I played to a level until someone told me to go home I wasn’t good enough, just like 99.99% of everyone else. My thought has always been an engineer doesn’t need to pour concrete to know how to build any more than you want the guy hammering nails to be your architect. They have fundamentally different requirements in education and practice.

I don’t claim to be an expert in anything, but what I do know is the stats see all. Every possession of every game, of every player. Every player has a resume of these tangible results based on unbiased stats that look for accumulated value. People will then inevitably talk about how stats can be manipulated, and while there is some degree of truth to that, there is no comparison in their value to bias human opinions that try to ignore them. People don’t watch every minute and possession of every game, much less without basis. It’s impossible to, you don’t have the time. Even if you could, your human brain couldn’t compute it fairly regardless.

What happens is you will remember certain highlights that stand out, and likely those more recently with recency bias. You will create a feeling based on the interpretations early on and look to feed them with confirmation bias as well, and that will be your opinion….. In contrast, the stats are about as unbiased as you can get, and see every play of every game without the same biases. They also see every other game played and know how to place them overall. I do believe scouting(video or in person) should always be in the toolbox mainly to see if the physical size and athletic ability line up, but stats give you the overall perspective of what is taking place.

Without the stats, you don’t know what you are even watching. I could put together a highlight video of JR Smith that makes him look like Kobe Bryant. You can cut together any highlight that makes a player look like an all-star. It’s the same concept for individual games, and almost anyone at a certain level can put it together in one game or even a handful of impressive games. If that’s all you were to watch, outlier games, it would be an uninformed impression without the overall stats. That’s why stats are so important, and you needed them to have an informed opinion.

The stats are what tell you what to expect, the consistency, and the history of a player which are all more important than what he did and one individual games you may have watched. It helps define what you are seeing and aids in forming an educated opinion with all the information. True shooting, for example, it’s as cut and dry as it comes, and it’s hard to have a bad True Shooting percentage and still be a great player. If you were to watch a few games sporadically of players you don’t follow might watch a guy go 2-10 one game and think he sucks or score 40 on a 7-11 fluke shooting and think he is one of the best shooters in the league. Without the overall statistical information, you are flying completely blind and are at the mercy of whatever version of that player shows up that night. Many different forms show up throughout the season.

I do believe there is value in watching games and highlights to get a sense of how they do it but at the end of the day actually doing it and doing it consistently is what matters the most and separates these players. To me, it doesn’t even matter if a guy looks like he was running in concrete shoes like Dirk Nowitski if he was still doing positive tangible measurable stuff. Conversely, there are plenty of examples of guys with amazing athletic ability that can’t play or do anything positive on a court. Yet the kind of incredible highlights or fluke shooting games they can sometimes put together will always skew sentiment because of the way the do it.

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