Expectations can be tricky things, especially in professional sports. Phenoms plucked straight out of high school—like, say, Kwame Brown—in many ways bear a greater burden than someone at the same position who plays four years of college ball before making the NBA jump.
Kind of like, I don’t know, Roy Hibbert.
Which is all going a long way to say that this here is straight up ridiculous (hat-tip to the good folks at Reddit):
Kwame Brown 2003-04: "Bust" 10.9 - 7.4 - 1.5 - 48.9% FG Roy Hibbert 2013-14: "All-Star" 11.1 - 6.9 - 1.2 - 45.5% FG— Joe (@NBATalkJoe) April 1, 2014
That’s a pretty interesting comparison. It also kind of makes us in the NBA intelligentsia sound like we have no idea what we’re talking about.
Still, it’s worth noting the season he cites for Brown—his third, in 2003-04—was far and away the corn-rowed center’s most productive campaign. It was the only season he posted an above-average player efficiency rating, per Basketball-Reference.com.
There’s also a little bit of selection bias going on here. To wit:
|Player (Season)||ORtg||DRtg||Defensive Win Shares||Win Shares|
|Kwame Brown (2003-04)||106||104||2.0||4.9|
|Roy Hibbert (2013-14)||102||97||4.9||5.9|
So yes, you could make the argument that Kwame Brown—playing on a pretty terrible Washington Wizards team, mind you—had “better numbers” than Hibbert in some key areas.
Not to speak for the tweeter, but the argument here isn’t that Brown ought to be rated higher than Hibbert in the pantheon of NBA basketball players. Rather, it simply goes to show how perception often blinds us to deeper truths—however seemingly insignificant.
In a December 2012 interview with Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears, Hibbert shed a bit of light on how he expected not only to live up to his $58 million contract, but also prove a lifetime’s worth of haters wrong:
People said I wouldn't be in the NBA. People said I wouldn't be a starting center, this, that and the other. I just prove people wrong. I'm having a slump right now, but in the grand scheme of things I'm going to turn it around and hopefully be the best when it's all said and done.
Roy Hibbert is an All-Star in large part because of his indispensable defensive presence. Kwame Brown never had such a defensive presence—not even close.
That doesn’t mean we’re liable to learn from our mistakes, however. Writing at For the Win, Nate Scott argues that, had Brown come around 12 years later, he still would've been taken No. 1 overall.
So yeah, we’ll probably never learn.
There’s little doubt history will weigh more favorably on Hibbert than Brown—the former’s struggles this season notwithstanding.
But @NBATalkJoe does point out flaws in the calculus of performance and expectations, and how our biases prove that talent analysis is seldom, if ever, an exact science.