December 10, 2009

A Really Bad Argument For A Really Good Player

We have heard two defenses of Anthony Randolph's continued reserve status. One is that he can not compete against first-string NBA centers. The other is that playing time is earned, not granted; he can only (re-)acquire a starting job by playing well. With Randolph's performance last night, both arguments jumped the shark once and for all. Randolph outplayed Brook Lopez during their time on the floor together, and played the best all-around game of any Warrior or Net. Randolph has been playing with intelligence and focus for awhile now. In fact, by several metrics, PER and BP's Win % among them, Randolph has been our best player so far this year. There is no reasonable argument for leaving him on the bench; there are dozens of good arguments for starting him.

I'm not here to give a good argument for starting him. I'm here to give a silly, terrible, indefensible argument for starting him. Let's have some fun and misuse some numbers. Let's say that last night's game alone proves Randolph needs to start.

Last night, Anthony Randolph scored 11 points and grabbed 9 rebounds; he blocked three shots; he had four assists and didn't turn it over once. He did a lot of things well, which is an impressive feat for a young player. It'd be an impressive game for a 22-year-old, let alone a 20-year-old. How impressive? Let's use Basketball Reference's highly addictive Player Game Finder to find out: since 1986, how many 11+ point, 9+ rebound, 3+ block, 4+ assist, 0-turnover games have been recorded by guys who were 22 or younger at the time?
Randolph's was just the seventeenth game of that type... he is only the fourteenth under-23-year-old to accomplish this. The previous thirteen can be sorted into three categories:

1) Legends. Kevin Garnett had four games of this type before turning 23; Shaq, Tim Duncan and Lebron each had one. All four of these guys rank comfortably among the top 40 NBA players of all time.

2) Stars. One game each by Pau Gasol, Larry Johnson, Chris Webber, Vin Baker, Richard Jefferson and Gerald Wallace. The first four made multiple All-Star appearances (yeah, Vin too, look it up)... the latter two have never made an All-Star team, but Jefferson put up a couple monster seasons for the Nets that would've gotten him there if his teammates had been better, and Wallace may be headed to his first All-Star game this year. All six of these guys had at least a couple years where they were among the twenty best players in the league.

3) Young Studs. One game each by Andrew Bynum, Josh Smith and Kendrick Perkins, each a young frontcourt anchor of one of the NBA's best teams this year. All three have taken big steps forward this season; all three rate among the ten best players at their position, and Bynum and Smith have both played at borderline All-NBA levels.

That's everybody, since 1986. Four icons, six genuine stars, three rising stars... and Anthony Randolph. He was the fourth-youngest guy to have a 11/9/3/4/0 game, after only Smith, KG and Bynum, and he accomplished his in only 20 minutes, far less than anyone else; a lot of the other guys needed 40+ minutes to get their lines. In fact, if you double Randolph's totals from last night to give him credit for 40 minutes, you get a 22/18/6/8/0 night -- only one NBA player of any age has had a night like that since 1986, and it was Hakeem Olajuwon, and, oh my God, we're going to win a championship--

Just to reiterate: this is a joke of an argument, made purely for shits and giggles. If you lower the bar to eight rebounds instead of nine, Duane Causwell and Wilson Chandler join the list; if you lower the bar to three assists instead of four, Bo Outlaw and Darius Miles sneak in there; if you allow one turnover, Stanley Roberts rears his huge ugly head. This is not proof of anything. This is just stupid.

But it's not as stupid as keeping Anthony Randolph on the bench. Last night's performance should, at the very least, earn him a start in Chicago, and if it doesn't, the Warriors should be ashamed of themselves.

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