Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lebron's 2009 vs. Oscar & Wilt's 1962

I pulled this tidbit from TrueHoop and, man, is it a great breakdown of how things were and how things are. Nextians know that Oscar Robinson averaged a trip-dub in 1962. This was also the year that Chamberlain exploded for a record 100 points in a game. Were these guys really that much better stat wise than the Lebron of '08/'09? When you factor in pace of play, your eyes are opened. From TrueHoop:

Wow. Wow. Wow. 40.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 10 assists per game. According to Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference, that's what LeBron James would be averaging if he played at the same pace (possessions per 48 minutes) that Oscar Robertson did in 1962 when he became the only person ever to average a triple double. Paine writes: "1962, if you recall, was not only the year Oscar averaged a triple-double, but also the season Wilt Chamberlain did all sorts of ludicrous things, like scoring 100 points in a game and averaging 50.4 per. He also averaged 26 rebounds a night; Bill Russell averaged 24. The stat-stuffing that went on that year truly boggles the mind. ... Okay, so you've all seen Wilt and Oscar's numbers from 1962, but have you ever sat down and looked at the league averages that year? In '62, the average team took 107.7 shots per game. By comparison, this year the average team takes 80.2 FGA/G. If we use a regression to estimate turnovers & offensive rebounds, the league pace factor for 1962 was 125.5 possessions/48 minutes, whereas this year it's 91.7. Oscar's Royals averaged 124.7 poss/48, while Wilt's Warriors put up a staggering 129.7 (the highest mark in the league). On the other hand, the 2009 Cavs are averaging a mere 89.2 poss/48. It turns out that the simplest explanation for the crazy statistical feats of 1961-62 (and the early sixties in general) is just that the league was playing at a much faster tempo in those days, with more possessions affording players more opportunities to amass gaudy counting statistics. Let's say LeBron '09 could switch paces (note that I didn't say "places”, which is another argument entirely) with Oscar '62 ... That means we would have to scale down the Big O's per-game numbers by multiplying them by .715, giving Robertson a far more reasonable line of 22.0 PPG, 8.9 RPG, & 8.1 APG -- which are still really good numbers, to be sure, but not as crazy as they looked at the breakneck pace of '62. By contrast, we have to multiply LBJ's stats by a factor of 1.4 if we want to see what they would look like if he played at a 1962-style pace. The results: 40.1 PPG, 10.3 RPG, & 10.0 APG!! As you can see, those 35.5 extra possessions per game really make a huge difference when comparing the two players' stats. So, no, LeBron probably will never average an Oscar-esque triple-double in today's NBA ... but it's more a consequence of the league's pace than any failing on his part. Just like we wouldn't say a .400 hitter in the 1894 NL (league BA: .309) was as impressive as Ted Williams hitting .406 in the 1941 AL (league BA: .266), basketball fans should keep in mind that the league's pace factor has gone down steadily since its inception, and with those fewer possessions come fewer chances to put up monster stat totals. This isn't meant to denigrate Oscar and Wilt in any way, but it does mean that their eye-popping stats from back then are, in reality, not quite as impressive as they appear at first glance."

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