Screw the flowery language, the references to Raymond Carver, solipsism, and obscure players from the 80’s. We’re taking a break from niceties today. You see we’ve had a chance to read ESPN’s latest look at college basketball’s NBA prospects and we’ve come to one irrefutable conclusion that can only be expressed through blunt colloquialisms: John Hollinger is a useless tool.
Hollinger, one of ESPN’s head NBA writers apparently as a result of lost bet, is consistently ludicrous yet easily ignored because his nonsense is at least usually confined to the NBA. His ouvre revolves entirely around a statistical formula to quantify a player’s value, an amalgamation of statistics that Hollinger no doubt spent hours locked in his office devising. It is useful and only mildly annoying when it does things like conclude that LeBron James and Chris Paul are very, very good.
We could live with the fact that Hollinger is trotted out as some sort of expert just because he has a statistical tool with a catchy nickname to support what most basketball fans have concluded by doing things like, oh I don’t know, watching basketball. But what really, truly peeves is that not only has Hollinger so obviously never played a game of basketball in his life, he lacks a basic understanding for the game, a feel for the things that could be picked up by spending more time using the ESPN press pass to actually observe the game in action rather than holing up in the media room perusing box scores. As anyone who has played or watched basketball for long enough knows, it is the one sport where a team and a player can be much more or less than the sum of its statistical parts, a game of nuance where one player’s toughness may be worth much more than another player’s ability to put up 20 then disappear in the 4th quarter. It’s the kind of knowledge that prevents you from saying such blatantly nonsensical things like the most important piece of last year’s Golden State/Indiana trade, the trade that led one team to the playoffs for the first time since the Clinton administration and another to irrelevancy, was…wait for it…Ike Diogu. Sarunas Jasikevicius is still pissed.
As much as we revile Hollinger when he’s writing about pro basketball, it’s a whole other thing when you step into our world, pal. You see, in his latest missive Hollinger has come to the rescue of NBA GMs everywhere, taking the guesswork out of scouting by concocting a formula to isolate the best pro prospects currently playing their college ball. He spent a lot of time on this baby, going back to the lab to refine it numerous times, no doubt sweating over beakers and test tubes like an 80’s movie montage over a Kenny Loggins or Oingo Boingo soundtrack, and has come to the inescapable conclusion that the best pro prospect in college is…Michael Beasley.
So the first Hollingerism, using a complicated statistical calculation to conclude the glaringly obvious, certainly holds true. But this wouldn’t be a Hollinger calculation without the second Hollingerism, the completely random result that could have as easily been reached using the scientific method of my four year-old and a Magic Marker. Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin checks in second, a point I won’t argue because I love Griffin (though not enough to draft him second), with names such as Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo not even appearing in his top 25 prospects. Of Mayo, Hollinger says, “Let’s just say he’s got a lot of work to do if he’s going to play point in the pros.” Of course anyone who has actually fucking seen Mayo play would know that, despite the preseason hype, Mayo is not a point guard. At best he will be a combo guard, and frankly from what we’ve seen he will be an offensive killer. God forbid we should ask Hollinger to put down the computer and watch the game he writes about.
Hollinger spends a lot of time lauding his system for its efficacy in providing results that are as utterly random as the actual draft. When he first introduced this calculation in last year’s draft preview, he commented smugly that “at least this one doesn’t result in consecutive lottery picks being spent on Jared Jeffries, Melvin Ely and Marcus Haislip”, which would sound a lot better if he didn’t illustrate later in the very same article that he had Jeffries as the 7th best prospect in the 2002 draft. He also oddly seems to think that his system is proven out by the fact that in the 2006 draft, by far the top player in his analysis was Tyrus Thomas. And although he is occasionally vindicated by players like Carlos Boozer, he is more often proven a complete ass by the likes of Michael Sweetney, Curtis Borchardt, Luke Jackson, Andre Emmett, et al. In other words, his infallible system produces results that are either painfully obvious or as completely arbitrary as the draft itself. In other other words, John Hollinger is a useless tool.