NY Knicks: Responding to RJ Barrett being left off The Athletic’s top 125 players

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NY Knicks

RJ Barrett, NY Knicks. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

NY Knicks: Why does RJ Barrett continue to get disrespected?

As many NY Knicks fans know, this isn’t the first time RJ has been excluded from a “top players” list.

A similar thing happened months ago when he was left off a “top 25 under 25” list created by a group of ESPN writers. I really cannot think of a prospect as touted as Barrett who has played such prominent minutes, with a large role on a winning team, made great progressions in his game from year 1 into year 2, who still only has his shortcomings put under a microscope while his strengths are ignored.

This new list created by Seth Partnow ranks players into tiers. His top tier, “1A” includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James. His “1B” tier lists James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Jokic, and Stephen Curry.

He goes into detailed explanations of specific players, their talents on offense and defense, their physical strengths and shortcomings, their injury history, and efficiency metrics.

They’re very thorough explanations, the only thing is, we only get these detailed profiles on the top few players. That’s fine. I understand that going into depth on the player profiles of 125 players is, well, a lot.

On the list, we do get to see two metrics listed next to all 125 names, one being “BORD$” which as statistician John Hollinger explains:

“I call BORG (Big Ol’ Rating) to estimate each player’s value on a per-possession basis. I then used that rating and an estimate of each player’s likely minutes to determine a dollar value for his 2020-21 season, his BORD$ (Big Ol’ Rating Dollars).

The other rating listed next to the players’ names is “EPM wins”, which is a relatively new metric that has received a ton of praise. I admittedly needed to search to find a definition of EPM and found a thorough explanation from Cryptbeam.com, which stated:

“Roughly as young as LEBRON, EPM is the product of data scientist, Taylor Snarr. As noted by RPM co-creator Ilardi, EPM is similar to RPM in that it uses RAPM calculations to regress toward the box score, but also includes tracking data. The tracking data, as has been shown with RAPTOR, makes all the difference here. During his retrodiction testings, Snarr constructed linear regression models to estimate the effect of lineup continuity on the metric’s performance.

To the envy of every other metric, EPM’s reliance on lineup continuity was estimated to be roughly half of the runner-up metric, RPM. It may not sound like a crucial piece of information, but given EPM’s model strength and some of these types of metrics’ largest problems, EPM performs fantastically. It’s also worth mentioning EPM is predictive as well, having led the retrodiction testing in SRS error throughout the examined seasons. I allowed these details to simmer in my head for some time in case I was having some type of knee-jerk reaction to new information, but the points still stand tall and clear: EPM is currently unmatched.”

Now I do consider myself someone who is pretty big into analytics so I’m very familiar with RAPTOR and RPM, even if it sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo.

Still, what this list on the Athletic screams to me, and is a constant problem in all sports, is the idea that analytics is gospel.

It’s not just the analytics community, there’s the other side of the basketball analysts who are equally annoying — the “real hoopers” who have been a constant joke on social media… the people who completely ignore the positive impact analytics have had on understanding the game of basketball and they simply decide if a player is good by how many dribble combos he can pull off in 5 seconds.

You really need a balance of both analytics and an understanding of the nuances of the game that come with actually playing basketball, being around players and their personalities, and analyzing the game on film.

If you don’t find that balance, you end up creating a top 125 players list that excludes RJ Barrett and includes Patrick Beverely, Alex Caruso, Nerlens Noel, Jeff Green, and so many other strange, undeserving names.

Let’s get into RJ Barrett’s game and why it’s so undervalued.

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