Monthly Archives: April 2012
Westbrook isn’t a point guard. Westbrook needs to pass more. The Thunder need to trade Westbrook. Oklahoma City is Durant’s team. The Thunder will never win a championship with Westbrook. Every shot, every play, and every decision Russell Westbrook makes is immediately scrutinized and called into questioned by the media and general sports-following public. When the Thunder lose, it’s Westbrook’s fault. When the Thunder win, it’s Durant’s doing. My new favorite player in the game has ended up in a precarious position.
The media scrutiny Russell Westbrook had to endure midway through last year’s playoffs into the off-season was nothing short of torturous. He was called a cancer to the team, vilified as a saboteur out to shatter Kevin Durant and the Thunder’s championship dreams. There were talks of a Rajon Rondo trade. There were talks of a Chris Paul trade. There were talks that the Thunder would not to extend his contract. Yet, his teammates and the organization continued to stand by him, and even after a poor start to the 2011-12 season, the Thunder signed him to a 5-year, $80 million extension. And wow, has he been ballin’ ever since.
Although the situations are entirely different, 2011-12 Russell Westbrook is my 2008 Aaron Rodgers. The unwarranted and constant negative media attention doesn’t sit well with me, and I just wanna get emotional and give ‘em a hug. Since I’m the self-proclaimed champion of all athletes receiving undeserved, negative attention, Russell Westbrook, like Aaron Rodgers in 2008, has become my favorite player. Sidenote: Has there ever been a funnier ESPY’s host than JT in recent memory? He should really host something more important. Sidenote #2: Has anyone ever made the jump from devoid-of-personality to oozing-with-personality quicker than Aaron Rodgers? He couldn’t be more awkward in that video. Sidenote #3: After winning the Super Bowl, Aaron Rodgers reached the ‘too-famous-of-an-athlete’ plateau to be my favorite player anymore and was quickly replaced. Kevin Durant recently hit that level. Enter: Russell Westbrook.
I respect everything about Russell Westbrook. This is my guy. He might be the most athletic player to ever play the point guard position (not even D-Rose can do this…or this), he gets into the lane at will, his swagger is on another level, and he looks a lot like Bodie from The Wire. Even through all of the criticism, Westbrook is still managing to have himself a stellar season. He’s averaging 24.2 ppg/4.6 rpg/5.6 apg, with 47% FG/33% 3PT/82% FT right now. He’s a legitimate…alright, a long-shot MVP candidate, and he should be a 1st-team All-NBA selection. So how come he’s still being critiqued?
Everything is so concrete when it comes to the NBA nowadays. Positions and player roles are rigid and set in stone, and if you don’t fit the mold of what you’re expected to be, you’re immediately criticized. Russell Westbrook takes heat for not being “a true point guard”, but beyond CP3, Rondo, and Steve Nash, there aren’t many other “true” point guards in today’s game playing at a high level. ESPN’s oh-so-brilliant Jon Barry and Skip Bayless like to portray a basketball world where it’s virtually impossible for there to be two alpha males on one team. One superstar must abandon their “Batman” role to become “Robin” for the greater good of the team, or it’s impossible to win an NBA championship. Wut? ESPN analysts dictate the widespread public opinion on most subjects in sports, and it’s about time to put this Russell Westbrook debate to bed.
I found the advanced stats for game score at http://www.basketball-reference.com/, but I did most of this work myself. “Game Score” is a formula created by advanced stats guru John Hollinger to roughly measure a player’s productivity for a single game. For instance, a game score of 40 would be an amazing game, while a game score of 10 would be pretty average.
All stats are derived from the 57 games the Oklahoma City Thunder have played up until this point. I’m pretty sure I did more homework on Russell Westbrook’s stats this year than I’ve done in my entire four years of college.
Russell Westbrook’s Game Score
(45 pts, 61% FG, 4 reb, 6 ast, 4 TO)
(24 pts, 47% FG, 5 reb, 5 ast, 4 TO)
(4 pts, 0% FG, 4 reb, 6 ast, 6 YO)
Games taking 18+ shots (37 gms) : 19.2
Games taking less than 18 shots (20 gms): 11.4
When Russell Westbrook takes more than 18 shots, he should put up better numbers than he averages, which is around 24/5/5. When he takes less than 18 shots, he should have significantly worse games, most likely well below his statistical averages.
Games with 6+ assists (27 gms) : 18.9
Games with less than 6 assists (30 gms): 14.7
When Russell Westbrook dishes out 6+ assists, he should put up better numbers than his statistical averages. When he records less than 6 assists, he’ll probably put up numbers just below his statistical averages.
Conclusion: Russell Westbrook is simply at his best when he’s taking 18+ shots per game. Although he almost plays just as well in games in which he has 6+ assists, his statistical output isn’t much worse if he has less than 6 assists. You might still be thinking that Westbrook is better suited for a ‘facilitator’ role, but no:
Games taking less than 18 shots with 6+ assists (8 gms): 10.7
Ideally, you would want your “true point guard” and facilitator shooting less and dishing out more assists. Westbrook registers his lowest average game score in these games, where he’s shooting less, and passing more. Russell Westbrook needs to be an aggressor, not a facilitator.
“But what about Kevin Durant? He needs to be taking a lot of shots.” Well, not necessarily:
Kevin Durant’s Game Score
(51 pts, 68% FG, 8 reb, 3 ast, 5 TO)
(28 pts, 50% FG, 8 reb, 4 ast, 4 TO)
(18 pts, 27% FG, 6 reb, 2 ast, 6 YO)
Games taking 18+ shots (37 gms) : 20.6
Games taking less than 18 shots (20 gms): 20.1
Conclusion: When Kevin Durant puts up 18 or more shots in a game, he should be right around his statistical averages. When he puts up less than 18 shots in a game, he should still be right around his statistical averages. There’s almost no difference between the two, unlike with Westbrook, whose level of play significantly drops off if he doesn’t put up at least 18 shots. In no way am I saying that Westbrook is a better player than Durant because of this, as Durant’s average game score is higher by a decent amount, but the amount of shots he takes doesn’t matter nearly as much as it does for Westbrook. The myth that Westbrook needs to be deferring so Durant can shoot more is false.
“What about the actual impact on games? The Thunder lose when Russell Westbrook shoots more because Durant needs to be taking those shots.” Not at all:
Oklahoma City Thunder, W-L
Kevin Durant taking 18+ shots (38 gms) : 23-15
Kevin Durant taking less than 18 shots (19 gms): 19-0
Russell Westbrook taking 18+ shots (37 gms) : 26-11
Russell Westbrook taking less than 18 shots (20 gms): 16-4
Kevin Durant taking more shots than Russell Westbrook (27 gms) : 18-9
Russell Westbrook taking more shots than Kevin Durant (26 gms): 21-5
Conclusion: The Oklahoma City Thunder win more games when Russell Westbrook takes the most shots, and it’s as simple as that. Most noticeably, OKC is UNDEFEATED when Durant takes less than 18 shots. Once again, this is not to say that Westbrook is the better player, but there’s concrete facts that prove that Westbrook shouldn’t be in the backseat. Whether Kevin Durant wants make room in the front or sit in the back himself is up to him, but I think there should be plenty of room in the front. Will this translate into a championship? I can’t say, as the Thunder still lack an interior scorer and running half-court sets down the stretch remains a glaring weakness for them. The point I’m trying to make is that Russell Westbrook is wrongly blamed for losses that are not his fault.
/end nerdy stat analysis
Russell Westbrook is only 23 years-old, in his 4th year in the NBA, and still learning how to play the PG position. Just read his jersey number if you want to know how many games this dude has missed going all the way back to his high school days. It’s scary to think that he hasn’t even entered the prime of his career yet. I predicted before the start of the season, that in the ultimate redemption story, Russell Westbrook would win the 2011-12 NBA Finals MVP. Now, if the Thunder happen to win the title, Russ might be in for the 2010 Pau Gasol treatment and get his shit robbed for not being the face of the franchise, but I’ll stand by my prediction. He’s that good, in my opinion. The dude’s nasty.
Anybody who follows Russell Westbrook on Twitter (@russwest44) should know about his #whynot hashtag. Many professional athletes use Twitter to connect with their fans (in many different ways), and Russell chooses to do so with a page full of “why nots” serving as a sort of motivational reminder to himself and to the fans who tweet it back to him. Though he would normally read and respond to a barrage of these “why nots” on a daily basis (if his Twitter hadn’t been more barren than Davis since the NBA season began), he needs to do the exact opposite to his haters. He needs to deflect the criticism and continue to brush aside the vitriol spewed in his direction. Why not try to be the best player on your team? Why not try to win your team a championship? I can’t tell you if they’ll win that championship or not, but alongside Kevin Durant, can Russell Westbrook be the guy in OKC? All I’m saying is yeah, why not? (Although I wanna say say this.)
The Foreign Exchange will chronicle the individual seasons of Yoenis Cespedes, Aroldis Chapman, and Yu Darvish, keeping you updated on their progress throughout the MLB season as they continue to adapt, and hopefully improve, amidst new surroundings and a new style of play.
I have an inexplicable love for international players. Maybe it’s because everyone is so quick to assume that they’re going to fail once they make it to the grand ol’ US of A, and I always find myself rooting for them. It’s probably the sense of satisfaction I get when one of these mystery players makes their way over here, the consensus is that they’ll be a bust, I predict that they’ll be great, and they actually end up being pretty good. I pride myself on this uncanny ability to evaluate talent based on next to nothing (usually a mix of instincts, gut feelings, and whether or not the player seems pretty cool), and the current apple of my eye is Yu Darvish.
He looks like a Japanese pop star (or if he wants, Tom Selleck) but pitches like Roy Halladay, and in 2009, I pushed my chips forward and was all-in. From that point on, I was convinced that Darvish would end up on my Yankees. When the Kei Igawa experiment blew up bigger than…something that isn’t Hiroshima because that would be in poor taste, I should have known that the Yankees wouldn’t take a gamble on another Japanese export. Just as I expected, the Yankees didn’t budge, and Darvish signed with the Texas Rangers, but I’m completely cool with it. Under pitching coach Mike Maddux, I think Yu will flourish and adapt to the major league game quicker than Yu think (yeah, I just did that).
But keeping track of just one player is a little obsessive, so I decided to add two other intriguing prospects into the mix. My choices were two young players who recently defected from Cuba: Yoenis Cespedes (Oakland Athletics), a power-hitting rookie built like Ronnie from Jersey Shore, and Aroldis Chapman (Cincinnati Reds), an ultra-talented second-year flamethrower who is still trying to learn to control his own abilities. Chapman, like Darvish, is one of those international players I predicted greatness for, but the verdict is still out (and he’s still not on the Yankees…). Yoenis Cespedes is a much different case. Even after killing it at the World Baseball Classic (where I found Darvish), I never enveloped myself in his story that much. That’s not to say he won’t end up a superstar like my foresight for Darvish and Chapman says, but I just never really got a good read on him. He was touted as the Cuban Bo Jackson, but for some reason the hype never really stuck with me. Whether that’s good or bad for his future as a major leaguer, only time will tell, as my clairvoyant ways will be proven by the end of this MLB season, mark my words.
Yoenis Cespedes (HR/RBI/AVG/OBP/SLG)
2012 Season Stats: 3/7/.222/.364/.778
Bill James Projects: 19/77/.267/.321/.450
After everyone expected mediocrity at best, Yoenis Cespedes has actually gotten off to a surprisingly solid start. The A’s rookie already has 3 HR in his first seven games, one an absolute bomb to right-center (462 ft, to be exact) reminiscent of Oakland’s Bash Brothers. His absurd .778 SLG% is overshadowed by the fact that he’s only hitting .222, having racked up 10 K’s in just 22 AB. The 26 year-old Cuban phenom should still have plenty of time to prove that he’s worth the 4-yr/$36 million contract the Athletics gave him in the off-season. As he learns a little more of the English language everyday, he’ll also learn the plate discipline to face major league pitching, and could grow into a dangerous hitter in the middle of an A’s lineup that is devoid of any real talent.
Aroldis Chapman (W-L/IP/K/WHIP/ERA/FIP)
2012 Season Stats: 2-0/5.0/10/0.40/0.00/-0.66
Bill James Projects: 6-5/101.0/137/1.40/3.39/3.36
I’m really excited for Aroldis Chapman’s 2012 season. The Cuban Missile has been absolutely dealing so far. With a fastball consistently in the high 90′s, occasionally breaking 100 mph, Chapman has accumulated 10 K’s in just 5 innings of relief work. Last night, he struck out David Freese on a fastball so nasty that it actually spun him around. It isn’t all fastball though, as he’s been impressively working in split-fingers and breaking balls with great command. Even more impressive is the fact that Chapman is yet to register a walk, after struggling so much with his control last year. To Chapman’s probable dismay, injuries in the Reds bullpen will have him serving as a reliever for the foreseeable future.
Yu Darvish (W-L/IP/K/WHIP/ERA/FIP)
2012 Season Stats: 1-0/5.2/5/2.12/7.94/3.56
Bill James Projects: 16-8/209.0/207/1.11/3.27/3.08
YUUUUUUUUUUUU….The 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner (basing this off nothing) started off his Cy Young campaign in rather mediocre fashion. Darvish surrendered 4 runs in his first major league inning, laboring through a pretty lackluster Seattle Mariners lineup. Eventually he settled in, and managed to pitch his way into the 6th inning where he was pulled due to a high pitch count. At times, you could definitely see why the Rangers shelled out $110 million for the future ace. The resiliency required to give your team a solid outing after such a horrendous first inning was almost impressive enough. Darvish ended up keeping his team in the game long enough to pick up the win, going 5 2/3, with 5 ER, 8 H, 5 K, and 4 BB. I expect “Yu” puns to eventually overcome “Lin” puns, and I also expect a much better start out of Darvish after getting that first bad inning out of the way. Cooperstown, here we come.
In a crammed auditorium-turned-press conference for the Clinton Global Initiative, I decided that journalism wasn’t for me. It was midway through the Spring semester of my sophomore year, and I was asked to cover the event for my first major assignment in my Intro to Journalism class. The assignment required me to follow the regulations of some journalism bible, while including three quotations from the representative giving the press conference in a one page summary of the event. Pen and notepad in hand, I took my seat as the press conference was about to start. Although that legal notepad on my lap was blank, my mind was full of ideas. When the press conference ended about 45 minutes later, that legal notepad was still blank, and my mind was now full of ideas of sleep, or whether AJ Burnett was a viable starter in the Yankees’ rotation. I sat through that entire Q&A session without a care in the world, speechless, with no motivation to write.
Lackluster work and a blasé attitude was what I brought to that class from that point on. I yearned for a little creative freedom rather than simply regurgitating facts and reporting. Clearly, I was a little stubborn and presumptuous of what to expect from a simple Intro to Journalism class, but what’s done is done, and I decided to end my short tenure as a journalist, but not as a writer. Slim Charles Barkley will grant me the freedom to write what I want to write and say what I want to say, ignoring the archaic rules of some journalism guidebook. So I might start a sentence with ‘so’. And maybe I’ll start another sentence with ‘and’. I couldn’t be less worried about using contractions, and if I want to include a .gif of a fat chick getting knocked into the water by a cut-out on some game show? Yeah, I’m gonna do that. Fuck it, I’m gonna curse if I want to. Stylistically, this will not be journalism.
This is not a sports blog, or any blog for that matter, regardless of the layout, the host website, or what you might think. The term “blog” denotes singularity, whether it’s a single author, a single group of authors, a single theme, or a single subject. You follow a format, conform to what’s expected of you, and suppress creativity.
My ambition is not to assemble a small group of authors expressing similar ideas about similar things, but to establish the precedent that both style and subject, for the most part, are amorphous at Slim Charles Barkley. I hope to reach out to the funniest, the smartest, and the most talented people I know with something to say, stories to tell, opinions to share, and arguments to make relative to the sports world, intertwining pop culture, music, politics, everyday life, and more. Compound that with all of the different people they know, and I hope to establish a website that’s constantly growing, expanding, and changing with a constant flow of enjoyable pieces to read. Keyword: enjoyable. I want this to be one of those sites you unconsciously visit the moment you open up your laptop because you know there’s going to be something you’ll want to read.
The name “Slim Charles Barkley” was not created as an ode to Charles Barkley’s Jenny Craig weight loss plan (but congratulations anyway, Chuck). Slim Charles, for those of you who are not familiar (and if you aren’t familiar, I immediately look down upon you), is a character from the HBO series, The Wire. Slim Charles keeps it real, and that’s what I’ll always be trying to do here. Charles Barkley knows what’s up, but he often takes a step back, cracks a joke, and laughs at himself because life isn’t that serious, which I plan to do as well. Now, I just created that extremely forced metaphor describing the name’s origins as I was typing this, but I’m going to run with it. At Slim Charles Barkley, we’re going to keep it real, we’re going to be knowledgeable, and we’re going to have fun.
So yeah, that got a little bold real fast, but minus all of the bombastic speech and grand ambition, you should get the general gist of Slim Charles Barkley right about now. You have to start somewhere, and I’m riding solo at the moment, but I’d like for as many people to contribute as possible. If you know me personally, just hit me up if you want to write something for the site. If you don’t know me personally, although you probably do, just send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is your platform, let’s get it.