The Power of Capital Letters
Pounding The Rock
The NBA has a seemingly new metric to predict game trends every other week. Over the course of the past decade statistics have been firmly lodged within the center of all decision making in the league. From the mouth of the prophet Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey to the rest of the basketball community—everything from popularizing the corner three point shot, to draft decisions, to deciding which players deserve massive contracts—is now in some way centered around algorithms and deep dives into advanced metrics.
In a world of player efficiency ratings, win shares, points per possession and true shooting percentages. It can be easy to overlook some of the simpler stats and trends that signify success on the basketball court.
A perfect example one is the unexplainable phenomena of success NBA players have who have more than two capital letters in their names.
As of the 2018 season there are a total of 491 rostered NBA players amongst the 30 teams. 29 of these players have an additional capital letter within their name that is not the first letter of their first or last name. I’m choosing not to include hyphenated names in this list. So names like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander don’t make it, but names with apostrophes and initials do. Shoutout E’Twaun Moore and J.J Barea.
Here’s a quick list of the 29 players.
LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, JaVale McGee, DeAndre Jordan, DeMarre Carroll, Caris LeVert, D’Angelo Russell, T.J McConnell, OG Anunoby, Fred Van Vleet, DeMarcus Cousins, Alfonso McKinnie, JaMychal Green, De’Anthony Mellon, De’Aaron Fox, Zach LaVine, Dough McDermott, Donte DiVincenzo, J.J Barea, P.J Tucker, C.J Miles, E’Twuan Moore, J.P Macura, Rodney McGruder, D.J Augustine, C.J Williams, C.J McCollum, and Royce O’Neale.
It is a strangely, if not shockingly strong collection of players. A 12 man roster would have James, DeRozan Aldridge, Jordan, McGee, LeVert, Russell, Cousins, Fox, LaVine, Tucker and McCollum all on the same squad. In a somewhat laughable fashion that team still might not beat the Golden State Warriors in a seven game series, but my God would they be good.
The statistics back up the name recognition. The average amount of points scored a game in that group of 29 players is 11.66. A number that includes the 2.2 points and 4.0 points of two-way contract players J.P Macura and C.J Williams.
I was only able to find the numbers for the 2015-16 season, but the representation should still justify the confusing production of a seemingly inconsequential detail.
The average NBA player scored 8.3 points in the 15-16 season. Showing right away a 3.36-point difference between the average NBA scorer and those with more than three capital letters in their name. In fact, the top 25% (top 119) scored 11.7 points a game and above. Meaning that the average three capital lettered player from the 2018-19 season would be just below the top 25% of scoring in the 15-16 season. And way above the top 50% (top 238) who scored on average more than 7.0 points.
The signs of building a team around players with three or more capital letters are everywhere. A strong example of the effect is looking at the five teams that have two or more of the 29 players rostered.
The Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors.
Four out of five of these teams are postseason bound and the Lakers not making the playoffs is considered a huge disappointment. Furthermore, the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors are in second and first place in their respective conferences and the Spurs have been the most consistently successful NBA team of the past 20 years. It simply cannot be coincidence that these powerhouse teams just happen to fall within the small group of squads with multiple players with three capital letters in their name.
The final straw is the biggest name on the list—LeBron James. The King, the best player of his generation, the man who will most likely retire with the majority of statistical all time records to his name, has a big fat capital B in the middle of his first name.
The modern NBA can almost become frustrating in the explosive analytical lens it has taken on in the past decade. It’s important to remember the simple things. Putting the ball in the basket is a point, a win is a win, and more than two capital letters in a name makes for a better NBA player.