About that Map of Positions

Rethinking the rethinking of players' roles in basketball (again).
Share |

The Alagappan Plan [Image via Gizmodo]

Muthu Alagappan's scatter-plot of new positional definition made its way to Deadspin (via Gizmodo) this weekend, after first rearing its head at the Sloan Conference. Drawing on the methods of biomechanical engineering, Alagappan groups today's NBA players according to function and, in some cases, sheer quality. We get several distinct clusters of "ball-handlers," as well as "role players" and "All-NBA"—not to mention the soaring catch-all of "one-of-a-kind."

This is the latest, and certainly the most rigorous attempt to change the way we think about positions by determining a new set of categories. In Alagappan's case, the categories are drawn from the real-life data at hand. Positions are derived inductively, according to the facts on the ground, rather than deductively assigned according to transcendent forms and archetypes.

The problem, as I see it, is that this reversal of poles runs the risk of very quickly collapsing on itself. It's unclear, for instance, when a new category is set to emerge if the ultimate authority here is real-life teams. The model, then, is only as good as the latest trends—still an impressive accomplishment, but one far more fleeting than any remotely fixed redefinition of position. The system has become its own point of reference, rather than appealing to codes or languages set down by years of supposedly inflexible tradition.

Once this happens, the system is free to contort and fragment itself however it sees fit. We’ve seen how this story goes in other realms of human inquiry: structuralism gives way to post-structuralism, where positions are defined only in reference to each other on a team-by-team, or possession-by-possession, basis. I was told once by a member of the Thunder organization that often, their players shift "position" several times over the course of a play. At that point, what exactly is the point of definition, much less labels that make sense across the sport?

Rob Mahoney directed our attention to the strange case of Tyreke Evans. Evans, the 2010 Rookie of the Year and once the future of the Sacramento Kings, has spent most of his career trying to learn how to play point guard (pure point guards and centers, whose roles have always been firmly conceptual, do a mighty good job of surviving any and all revisionism of the Old Ways), and instead, shown that he's some sort of combo guard (whatever that means—it changes constantly) to the death.

The Kings have tried pairing him with a variety of backcourt partners whose shooting or playmaking could make up for Evans's one-on-one mentality. But Evans remained the poor man’s point guard: dominating the ball, initiating the offense, and scoring like it wasn't an end in itself. Now, Evans has been moved over to small forward, but absolutely nothing has changed. As Mahoney puts it:

A player's nominal position often isn't always dictated by what he can or can't do, but by who he plays alongside. We've become so locked into the notion that basketball is a five-position enterprise that successful lineups simply have to feature one of each traditional position type.

Evans isn't an idea, he's a dude playing with some other dudes. It's all fine and good to try and search for absolute labels, or at least relatively stable ones, but when the Kings can make this kind of move and have it be news, it's pretty obvious that positions are almost entirely arbitrary. The success of a team isn't determined by whether or not they measure up, formula-wise, but whether their assemblage works, in an almost mechanical sense. Or—if you hate technology-speak—if these distinctive organisms can work together as a colony.

I used to be a positional relativist, with players’ roles determined by a set of responsibilities that had to be distributed across the roster. However, this now seems way too rigid, as it locates the possibility of unflinching order somewhere between a team's identity and the identity of the individual players—neither of which was supposed to slip or crumble. Now I would say I'm more of a positional anarchist, but not in the violent, liberal-arts-kids gone wild, sense. I'm thinking more of the utopian version of anarchism, where everyone is provided precisely through the rejection of overarching order or authority.  

If you look at the marvel that is this year's Heat, the team has learned harmony through each of the Big Three staking out territory and working together based on this division of space, not labor. Labor was what I once thought to be the basic currency of positions; it's what I imagined the Heat would revolutionize, and what manifested itself in such ugly ways when LeBron and Wade dourly traded possessions, or quarters, last season. Instead, it's about giving players room to operate, and then piecing together a viable community out of this. It's what I thought the Knicks should have been able to do with Carmelo, Lin, and D'Antoni; it's the only coherent way to understand an OKC team lambasted for its lack of an offensive system but which apparently thinks about position in an extremely sophisticated way.

Maybe this only holds true for the best players, the "All-NBA" and "one-of-a-kind" creatures on Alagappan's map. Still, I want to believe that less, not more, complexity is the only way to adequately let players do what they do best while still allowing a team to go about the business of winning basketball games.  


Share |

Comments

wonderful, fact-filled data below. Your current blogposts Do not ever let down, knowning that surely holds true below also.. ipro academy

I would certainly commit 10 on 10 for such incredible cognition. nutryst network

Loved your blog page!!!The stuff that you have remarked up here is superbly wonderful and I vigorously thank you for the same...

buy airsnore online

The writer understand better the mind of people what they want to learn through their writing therefore this article is outstanding. Thanks!!! BioRestore

The quality of your articles and contents is great. Denver Roofers

I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Just wanted to tell you that you have people like me who appreciate your work.
site here

"No one has swung Bowie or Byrne," she says, "but you really can. I know a couple of Bowie tunes like 'Life on Mars,' 'TVC 15' and 'China Girl' that would make great jazz tunes."leads tunnel

I found your this post while searching for some related information on blog search...Its a good post..keep posting and update the information. http://www.ericslaw.com/

I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Just wanted to tell you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. club flyer design

I am feeling joyful to came here.I would like to thank you for sharing such info with us,I like to advise you that Keep sharing such ideas in the future as.... project supremacy

Your blog audit would swell up your visitors. I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!!
plantar fasciitis

I don't know what has happened to the custom of delivering consistent good articles. delhi to jaipur taxi

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here. High PR Blog comments

I don't know what has happened to the custom of delivering consistent good articles. I hope that the custom comes alive after this pure slim cleanse

I was pinning away for such type of blogs, thanks for posting this for us. astrology answers reviews

I see the greatest contents on your blog and I extremely love reading them. fat diminisher system reviews

I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Just wanted to tell you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. The information you provide is really very good...app empire

This is very interesting content! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your points and have come to the conclusion that you are right about many of them. You are great... check over here

I constantly emailed this site post page to all my friends, because if prefer to read it then my all friends will too. http://www.leylandcypress.net/

I have a similar interest this is my page read everything carefully and let me know what you think. Red Smoothie Detox Factor Review

With the help of Julie Stokes of bereavement charity, Winston's Wish, John and his staff have provided valuable support to the pupils through and beyond the tragedy. marketing automation software

Why do only so much written on this subject? Here you see more. Magnetic Messaging Review

Tennis players, free of the constraints of a uniform or highly specialized performance gear, have a ton of freedom for sartorial expression.download showbox for pc

Regards,Ms Juliana Please contact meextra resources
direct to my private Email bellow for me to give you my picture and further communications

Carly Skankey, a junior theatre arts major from Portland, Ore.; and Nate Smith, a junior theatre arts major from Kaysville. Zac Trotter, a senior theatre arts major from Lehi, is directing....double glazing glass

The gorgeous post learned a great deal Thanks greatly! Macfarlane Group Curry

Coles faced a significant challenge in helping his pupils cope with the loss. With the help of Julie Stokes of bereavement charity, Winston's Wish, John and his staff have provided valuable support to the pupils through and beyond the tragedy.mobile optin

Keep the balls rolling!! Nice posts you have given for us. real payday loans

In Alagappan's case, the categories are drawn from the real-life data at hand. Positions are derived inductively, according to the facts on the ground, rather than deductively assigned according to transcendent forms and archetypes.
shadow fight 2 hack tool |
triche gemmes clash of clans

Good blog along with the excellent quality stuff and I’m sure this will be greatly helpful. best insurance comapanies for whole life insurance cost

Nicest information!!! I'll be enchanted to greatly help due to what I've learnt from here. va online payday loans

It’s a classic great for me to go to this blog site, it offers helpful suggestions http://www.seriouslytrademarks.com.au/

I really appreciate this wonderful post that you have provided for us. I assure this would be beneficial for most of the people. How to turn a Guy on with words

Mainly because I've been the witness of reading the most wonderful article ever.. Yes, I am talking about this article. This is really wonderful and astonishing. I want more articles like thi
here I found it

I have a similar interest this is my page read everything carefully and let me know what you think. Forever Yours

Keep it up!! You have done the nice job having provided the latest information. Mobile Optin Review

Nicest information!!! I'll be enchanted to greatly help due to what I've learnt from here. ajmer to jaipur cab

Initial You got a awesome blog .I determination be involved in plus uniform minutes. i view you got truly very functional matters , i determination be always checking your blog blesss. The Magic of making up

This post is very simple to read and appreciate without leaving any details out. Great work! You completed certain reliable points there. I did a search on the subject and found nearly all persons will agree with your blog. What Men Secretly Want

I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. The Penguin method

Nicest information!!! I'll be enchanted to greatly help due to what I've learnt from here. unsinkable bounce back system

I read all four in one sitting. Was captivated from start to finish and was pretty melancholic when i went to bed. Hard to describe why but i got the feeling this guy was really cool aaahandbag site

The quality of your articles and contents is great. online loans

I attach importance to reading this post that could make the people think. Furthermore, thanks for allowing me to comment! online loans

This is an excellent post I seen thanks to share it. It is really what I wanted to see hope in future you will continue for sharing such a excellent post. coolsculpting Houston

You have provided such great information I really love that! Keep up trying well…. www.euroasiasamuiweddings.com

With so many books and articles coming up to give gateway to make-money-online field and confusing reader even more on the actual way of earning money, Hubwit is a refreshing change. I stumbled upon this site while searching for work-form-home options. Language of Lust

This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. this is very nice one and gives in depth information. thanks for this nice article proteccozumel

I have feel that this blog is really have all those quality that qualify a blog to be a one.I wanted to leave a little comment to support you and wish you a good continuation...Medical Degree

Your blogs are easily accessible and quite enlightening so keep doing the amazing work guys. comprar detox slim