on October 13, 2002
At last, here's a book that brings the kind of in depth statistical analysis to Basketball that Bill James brought to baseball (and is now carried on by the Baseball Prospectus) so many years ago.
Hollinger has written a great book, there is an introduction explaining his methods at the top, then a couple of general essays about the game (On Defense, and the greatest rebounder ever...who you ask? Read the book <g>). Then there are the team essays. Each essay begins with a general overview of the team's season and future prospects, which leads into a statistical discussion about the game or the team ("Are mid-career perforance jumps a fluke?" or "Does Defense win Championships?").
Then there are player comments for current players and rookies. The convential wisdom is always questioned, and the book offers tons of insights (Tracy McGrady better than Kobie, read the book if you don't believe it).
I'm not really a big basketball fan anymore, but I have to say I loved this book. It offers cutting edge research into the game. While some of the studies are rough, they are a great begining for a sport where the statistical analysis has been lacking (much like baseball before James came along).
If you're a basketball fan or just a sports statistics fan (I fall into that category) buy this book, its really top notch work.
on November 8, 2003
This is an amazing work. As a long-time reader of Bill James and the "Baseball Prospectus" staff, I had my doubts as to whether a similar statistical approach would work when applied to basketball. John Hollinger, though, allays those fears.
Hollinger has developed several statistics that illuminate the game, including Player Efficiency Rating (PER), which is a stat taking into account most of the ways a player can influence the game. PER seems to me to be on par with OPS or TPR (similar baseball stats) in assessing player performance. This is truly groundbreaking work.
Moreover, Hollinger shares with Bill James an ability to write. His essays on each team are informative, entertaining, and on-the-money, as are his player comments. I would recommend this book equally to an NBA fan and to the "Baseball Abstract"/"Baseball Prospectus" fan willing to cross over (dribble) to the NBA.
on October 22, 2002
As a reader of both "Baseball Prospectus" and "Football Prospectus", I was both surprised and pleased to find that both the content and writing style of "Basketball Prospectus" exceeded either of the other two publications. It is rare, in a Bill James sense, to find a writer who can both dazzle with words and with numbers, but John Hollinger is such a gem.
His insight into today's pro game is unique. The chaper on "Rebounding" in which the numbers of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell are compared with the players who followed them, should be required reading for any sports fan or any undergraduate taking statistics. If you are a free-thinker who doesn't merely accept the opinion of the crowd or your local columnist, this is the basketball book for you. Prepare to be intrigued and to look at the pro game with a new appreciation.
Greg Thomas, Ph.D.
on August 30, 2004
After pouring over Pro Basketball Prospectus last winter, this volume has become as popular on my bookshelf as any in my sports library. The content focuses on both team & player critical analysis and lively dissection of the "why's" or "why-nots" of a player's or team's success in the NBA. It's much more than a mere statistical overview howevere; rather the content explores and evaluates the strengths and weaknesses and overall outlook of the forthcoming NBA season vis-a-vis its 29 team rosters. Fans wil enjoy the individual player profiles and analysis, somewhat reminiscent of the old Dave Heeren basketball season annuals -- but more in-depth here in PBP, 2003-2004. Moreover, while the book remains on the short side(barely popping over 300 pages) for most can't-get-enough NBA fans, PBP is nonetheless a book full of fascinating overall information. Its content also features evocative insights on players and teams in strong sports prose. The spareness of each volume of this annual perhaps is what keeps many readers flocking back; that and what Hollinger has to say and analyze about each new NBA season. But for one to hector over such a trivial aspect of the book is not fair. In a word, PBP(last year's version anyway) is a much better choice for NBA Lovers than scanning any online database's impalpable access. A tangible reference such as this by your side feels like a comforting friend with inside-out knowledge & expertise on the NBA. Highly didactic in tone from an NBA guru, but well worth The Learn!
on June 3, 2003
John Hollinger is as good an NBA basketball writer as there is today. Last year, in his first "Prospectus", he revealed himself as the Bill James of basketball, an entertaining, funny writer who is both a keen observer of the game and its players, and an expert in innovative methods of using the available statistics to analyze team and individual performance. The book reminded me of James' annual "Baseball Abstract" of the 80s, which I eagerly looked forward to every year.
There hasn't been an annual book with a comprehensive scouting report on each NBA player since Rick Barry and Jordan Cohn stopped writing the "Pro Basketball Bible" a few years ago, so Hollinger is filling a big void for NBA diehards. Hollinger's discussions aren't as detailed as Barry/Cohn's, but they're insightful, accurate, and the best I've found on the book market. He has a good eye for evaluating player skills, and doesn't just recite numbers like a rotisserie league groupie.
Basketball statistics aren't as informative as baseball's, and are pretty poor at assessing the defensive end of the floor. Hollinger has come up with measures that give a better indication of a player's value than the official stats, and has the all-too-rare skill of knowing how to PROPERLY use basketball statistics. This year, Hollinger doesn't provide a separate essay on statistics related to each team. Instead, he expands upon last year's methods for determining each team's defense against each position, and provides a "Similarity Scores" method to estimate how a young player's performance might evolve in coming years. The book includes a chapter on each team, with a two-page evaluation of the team's overall performance, followed by a brief statistical summary for each player and a few paragraphs on that player's strengths and weaknesses. This is a book with a limited target audience, but NBA fanatics like myself will find it invaluable. I hope to be buying this book for many years to come.
(1=poor 2=mediocre 3=pretty good 4=very good 5=phenomenal)
on December 4, 2002
Lots of interesting insights and some nice studies. Some of the studies are probably flawed in that he doesn't collect all the datat available to analyze, and he uses the same, similar stats to praise Alan Iverson and bury Jason Williams, but basically a very solid effort.