I’m picking a fight.
In fairness, it was not Kevin Pelton who titled his new column "Ryan Anderson: The Next Dirk"? That was ESPN’s title for the link.
If you click on that link, you will see that the article is actually entitled "How Ryan Anderson Resembles Dirk," and makes a point of saying that there will be no next Dirk, that Dirk is unique, that he’s not saying Ryan Anderson is like Dirk.
What follows that is a couple of pages of some of the worst, most sneakily argued "let’s pretend this is a thing, what can I strategically not mention to prove this is a thing" junk that you’re likely to see on the pages of the world-wide leader.
This is the kind of thing, journalists. This is the kind of thing that makes the mainstream press an endangered species.
KP points out that Anderson is also tall and shots three pointers nearly as well as Dirk does—37.9 for his career, compared to 38.2 from Dirk.
He argues that Anderson "out-Dirks Nowitzki from downtown" because—what is it? Has he shot better of late? Are his threes a bigger part of the offense? Do the numbers show something deeper?
No. He out-Dirks Dirk, because he shoots MORE shots from downtown. And makes it with slightly less frequency.
He makes the point that Dirk and Ryan Anderson have similar true-shooting percentages. Dirk had only a .612-.591 advantage, in the last year.
Did he mention that if somebody bothered to play defense on Ryan Bowen, the tale of the tape might be different?
He didn’t, though he did mention Ryan’s usage rate which is apparently "above average".
He argues that Anderson’s number from his second season "track well" with what Dirk did in his second season. In marshalling evidence for this point he includes true shooting %, rebound %, 3-point %, free throw %.
He does not mention points, rebounds, minutes, attempts or anything that might be expected to give any context to any of those numbers to make any of them meaningful in any way.
As a 19 year old from Germany, Dirk shot 13.6 shots a game, 3.7 three-pointers, 4.2 free throws, scored 17.5 a game and grabbed 6.4 rebounds in 35.8 minutes.
As a 21 year old from UCal, Ryan Anderson shot 6.2 shots a game, 3.3 three-pointers, 1.3 free throws, scored 7.7 points, and grabbed 3.2 rebounds a game in—what’s that?-- 14.5 minutes a game.
You can see why KP didn’t choose to use ACTUAL numbers for his comparison of their second years.
More than that, both Ryan and Dirk have actually HAD third years, if you can believe it. While Ryan upped his scoring to a whopping 10.6 a game, grabbed 5.5 rebounds and took 8.2 shots, 5.3 of them threes, yer man Nowitzki threw up 21.8-9.2, on 15.2 shots a game, only 4.8 of which were threes (yes, even in those days, a shocking 68% of Dirk’s shots were not three-pointers) .
So, here’s what you got.
After spending your first half of the article admitting that Anderson is not like Dirk, you go ahead and paint the picture of a player who is like Dirk IF all Dirk could do is be tall and shoot threes (which was never true, but is incredibly untrue now, as the Heat and others discovered), if Dirk didn’t play much of a role for his team, attracted little defensive attention and shot slightly worse, and if you only use numbers that don’t describe anything that happens when Dirk and Ryan Anderson, respectively, are on the court.
Essentially, you have a backup PF who rebounds even worse than Dirk and has exactly one of his offensive skills.
Maybe I’m just cranky because I found out that the new NBA 2k11 has Pau Gasol and Amar’e ranked higher than Dirk, today. I agree that Dirk isn’t going to be a fun video game character until there’s a joystick that controls angle of shot release, but that’s absurd, especially after what Dirk did to Pau in round two. Maybe.
Yet I can’t help but see a guy who knows stats up and down writing a column that he has to know is extremely misleading that is only permissible because of an old idea that should be dead now. It isn’t. I’m not going to let it get me—or the World Champion Dallas Mavericks—down, but I did want to pick a fight.
We look forward to Pelton’s next column, on how Roddy B is the next Kobe. After all, if you take a look at their first seasons (Roddy, 7.1 points, 1.3 assists, 51.8% from the field, 40.9% from three, 80.8% from the charity stripe vs. Kobe’s 7.6, 1.3 assists, 41.7%, 37.5%, and 82%) it just kind of leaps out at you, doesn’t it? Practically twins.