We've talked about how DeAndre Jordan deserves to start the All-Star game. We've talked how he's played at MVP level. In response to our recent we got an astute comment:
I don't think DeAndre only gets snubbed because of Yay Points. There's also the Hack-a-DeAndre factor. A lot of NBA types find the missed free throws really problematic, beyond just the value of the missed points. That was the reason Bill Simmons gave for not including DeAndre on his personal All Star team, if you heard his podcast last week.
Bill Simmons and others view DeAndre's free throw woes as a major problem. Are they? Given how good DeAndre plays, and the fact that basketball is about more than just shooting, I don't think so. Even going with the "clutch" argument, it turns out "clutch time" is a very small part of the game. So, I disagree that being bad at Free Throw shooting is even close to a black mark on an otherwise great player (please see 4X MVP Wilt Chamberlain or 3X Finals MVP Shaquille O'Neal.) That said, I understand why so many think this way, and the insight comes from an article Dan Ariely wrote years ago on the price of gasoline!
Dan had some great ideas as to why we feel so annoyed (or glad) about the price of gas. At the time of Dan's article, he noted how irked he was that gasoline prices had risen. He also noted that when compared to other staples like milk or bread, the price wasn't that dramatic. So why the anger at gasoline and not at say milk?
First, when we purchase gasoline, we have to stand by our car and watch as the price goes up and up. Also, we buy gasoline "in bulk", unlike say coffee, which is much more expensive per gallon, we load up a week's worth of gasoline at once. I imagine many would kick their Starbucks habit if they had to pay $50 bucks to start each week on their coffee.
This perfectly relates to free throws because of the same quirks. I consider myself a savvy stats person but I'll notice how much I miss going to a game. I'll think a player shot well only to realize I'd forgotten about several of their misses. I'll know that a player is a great rebounder and wonder why they rebounded so poorly. Then I'll get home, review the box score, and see they got a double-double. That's because basketball happens quickly and your eyes and memory miss a lot.
However free throws happen slowly. The entire game stops. The other players stop moving. We sit and watch the player get ready and shoot...and in DeAndre's case, often they miss! Also, free throws have the exact opposite problem. Other shots are counted in twos and threes. Free throws are counted one by one. And this makes it that much easier to be happy with a player like Kobe shooting poorly because they can quickly rack up three points in the span of a second. DeAndre can delay the game for twenty seconds to earn...0 points!
The reality of basketball is that without many people recording statistics, it's impossible to analyze as an individual. Your eyes aren't good enough to track all the action. Your memory isn't good enough to keep a running total of what everyone has done. And worse, you have psychological biases that will fail you frequently if you only trust your eyes to judge players. In spite of his poor free throw shooting, DeAndre is still one of the most efficient scorers in the league. He's also one of the best rebounders, and despite what many claim, his defensive numbers appear to be at least decent. The real problem with his free throws? They manage to hit a set of biases perfectly matched to overreact.
jcnfinch also noted that Andre Drummond is bad at free throws but does not suffer the same disdain. I may write more on this later, but I consider that issue to be related to what I call "The Pippen Problem." I'll let you infer what that means! Until next time!
p.s. Top 10 Boxscores of the Week coming tomorrow for those of you worried you wouldn't get them.