(An OT discussion of statistical analysis to follow, tune out now if you are uninterested)
It is an oft repeated catchphrase here on GSoM, and likely on many other blogs, "Stats don't tell the whole story." This is a true statement, and one that I don't see a good reason to refute, but it's not true in the way people seem to think that it is. A statistical breakdown of a season, a game, or a quarter will give you a very close to complete picture of what went well, who played poorly and how teams won or lost. What they don't give us is a reason to care about that. In this way, basketball-reference.com, Wages of Wins and other analytic sources are the CliffsNotes of the NBA.
Let me come out and say this first, I hate CliffsNotes. If I ever heard someone say "We were supposed to read The Red and The Black for class today, but I just read the CliffsNotes. I think I get it now," I'd immediately think less of that person. They don't get it, because Stendhal's prose does more than tell you what happened to Julien Sorel, it tells you why you should care about not just what happened, but how that relates to life itself. This is why no one who just reads CliffsNotes really gets why literature matters, and why people who read novels often do. It is also why no one just reads the Wages of Wins blog and doesn't watch basketball games. The games themselves are why we care about basketball.
The games themselves are poetic struggles between athletes at the peaks of their abilities. Every Monta Ellis fast break, Stephen Jackson scream, Anthony Morrow 3 and pretty much anything Anthony Randolph does give us an aesthetic appreciation for what we are watching. It's a beautiful, intricate game and anyone who's seen LeBron James float down the court and elevate for dunk or find a teammate that the cameraman couldn't can attest to that. It pisses me off that a website can tell me who played well and who didn't without giving me anything else from that experience. The problem is, they pretty much can.
Sure, there are bits that statistical analysis doesn't pick up on. It can't make value judgements for us. We do require actual scouting to see what the stat sheet misses, but the truth is, it's really not that much. As long as you look past PPG and get into the more advanced analysis, you'll find almost everything that happened on the court represented by a number. It's disgusting, but it's just about dead on.
Just as I know that any summary worth its salt will provide a reader with all the relevant events of The Unbearable Lightness of Being and provide some basic discussion of why it matters, I know that basketball-reference.com will let you know almost all the relevant details of a player's NBA career. The main difference between the two is that I don't need to go to SparkNotes or some other website to figure out the value of a good piece of literature, but too much happens too quickly for me fully grasp the moasic of constantly moving parts that is an NBA basketball game. I need the help of stats to really grasp it. This is why we need to take stats seriously, but it's in watching the story unfold on the court that we can see why basketball matters to us. This isn't a school assignment- it's poetry that all of us here at GSoM seem to truly appreciate and in a few months, we'll be able to stick our noses back in the beautiful novel that is the National Basketball Association.