College Football Preview: Florida State Seminoles

Apollo’s College Football Preview Series | #1 the Florida State Seminoles

FSU
There is no doubt that the defending champs will start the season #1 in all polls. There’s no doubt that Jameis Winston is the greatest QB in college football (maybe even ever). And there’s really no doubt that FSU will repeat as ACC Champs. The question is: Can Famous Jameis do the impossible by repeating as Heisman winner AND lead the Seminoles to another national championship? Jameis is losing some of his favorite targets to the draft but Florida State returns 8 on a defense that was good enough to stop Auburn’s rushing attack.

Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. are gone and so is the 1800 all purpose yards and 23 touchdowns they produced. Senior RB Karlos Williams is more than ready to take over duties. However, despite Williams’ senior status, it’s going to be hard to keep incoming freshman and former 5* recruit Dalvin Cook off the field. Dalvin is a 5’11 197lb running back with 4.46 speed. Williams and Cook could quickly become a deadly duo.  BSC Championship Game hero Kelvin Benjamin took his celebrity status to North Carolina, but Jameis still has his 1st and 4th favorite target returning in Rashad Green and TE Nick O’Leary. Looking to replace Benjamin is another 5* incoming freshman, Ermon Lane. He might not have the side of Kelvin Benjamin or the speed of Rashad Green, but he’s not the 2nd ranked WR recruit for nothing. He’s very strong with great hands as well as possesses the route running skills of an NFL player. He could be another Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin. I’ll give Ermon Lane 5 games before he becomes a household name.

The biggest departure for FSU wasn’t a player but a coach. Former Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt left the Land of Oranges for the Land of Peaches. If you think Pruitt can be easily replaced then think about this. When he was the secondary coach at Alabama, the Crimson Tide had the best secondary in the nation. He leaves for FSU and Alabama’s secondary looked more lost than Christopher Columbus. This is the realization that Jimbo Fisher will face this season.

The schedule is pretty favorable for FSU, but not as easy as it was last year. They start their road to 4 in Jerry Land against the good Big XII foe Oklahoma State. After that game, they can cruise through their schedule. They face Boyd-Watkins less Clemson at home as well as Notre Dame. Their biennial trap game at North Carolina State is earlier in the season this year. They face Louisville in Kentucky, but they will not have Teddy Bridgewater or Charlie Strong. Their toughest games will be against their most hated rivals. The first test is against the heavy favorites to win the ACC Coastal Division, the Miami Hurricanes. Under Al Golden, the ‘Canes have improved their record each year. They will get the pleasure of hosting the Seminoles in their stadium this year. Now that the Heat bandwagon is all but gone, Miamians will gravitate towards the next successful Miami team. I fully expect the stadium to be packed for this game as well as the rematch in the ACC Championship Game. Will Muschamp’s job might be one the line when his Gators travel to the Doak. This Gator team SHOULD…emphasis on SHOULD…be a lot better than they were last year. They return one of the best defenses in the nation. Get through the schedule and they will be a lock for the college football playoffs.

Best Case Scenario: 13-0 and #1 Overall Seed in the college football playoffs.

Realistic Scenario: 12-1 but finish in the top 4 for the college football playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: 9-4 with an ACC Championship Game lost.

Never Leave Kids an Inheritance

Please let me clarify before you start calling me a cold-hearted jerk.  As long as children are still dependents, then I believe parents should do everything in their power to perpetually provide for their spouse and children from the grave—hefty term life insurance and thoughtful savings invested into a good mutual fund (an endowment per se).  Whether the children are 2 years old or 17 years old, that is my firm stance.

However! The average age of death is roughly 75 years old, and parents are typically 20-30 years older than their descendants.  So in this example, the “children” are between 45 to 55 years old.  Suffice it to say, it is fairly disingenuous to call someone who might have grandchildren a “child.”  For that very reason, I wouldn’t give my children anything if I make it into my twilight years.

Yep, I would leave my “children” absolutely nothing.  Zip.  Zilch.  Natta.  Zero.

But what are a few reasons why I would do this?

(1) Proverbs 22:6 | “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  As a result, I do not worry about my future adult children.  I trust them to do well (better than well) because that is what Baxters do—pray hard, love hard, and work hard.  Because of early guidance and early monetary investment, our children will be far more successful than we could have ever imagined them to be.

(2) Actual Children | The amount of actual young children, orphans especially, who could benefit from the death of an old geezer is almost endless.

(3) Other Elderly People | There are so many widows, widowers, and otherwise disabled elderly who could really use a leg-up from a person who knows (or knew) exactly how they feel.

(4) Worthwhile Charities | Do you know who usually leaves big gobs of money for shelters that take care of battered women? Usually old dead people.  What about animal shelters? Again, old dead people. How about full ride academic scholarships? Once again, old dead people.  With all that good going around, why wouldn’t I want to be an awesome dead person too?

What about you? In an ideal world, would you give all your money to your kids?

Retirement

PS: All of this assumes that I do not have a successful business that my children could potentially become owners of one day. In that case, a succession plan is necessary so that that transition is a smooth one and not a train wreck.  However, since successful businesses are statistically improbable, I am assuming I just have a regular job that I have retired from.

Do You Follow Teams, Players, or Storylines?

Being from the state of Alabama, I have grown up my whole life not really having a dog in the fight.  We do not have any major professional sports teams in our state.  Sure, there are fans of professional sports teams that live in Alabama, but their passion doesn’t match the passion that is exuded over college sports—particularly college football.  Literally, during bowl season, the Alabama television markets are by far the biggest watchers of even the most obscure bowl game.  However, this is an article about professional sports, so let’s get to the point so that we can begin discussion.

There are supposedly three (3) major sports leagues in the United States; though I’d argue that there are only two (2)—the NFL and the NBA.  Given that, people follow those sports for a variety of reasons.  Below of the three main reasons:

(1) Team | If you live in metros like Boston, San Antonio, or Denver, then you follow your particular teams because you live there and are immersed in the frenzy all year long.  Also, transplants of those types of metros tend to follow their favorite teams even while in another state or country.  Then of course, you have the random fans who follow teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers even though they aren’t even sure what state Pittsburgh is actually in (it is Pennsylvania, for the record).

(2) Player | Blame it on unrestricted free agency, fiery fantasy sports, or wholesome hometown pride, but individual players or sets of players are followed now more than ever.  Our favorite players connect directly to us through Facebook and Twitter—connectivity that fans from the 1980s and 90s could only imagine.  Heck, some of these athletes even have their own mobile apps!

This individual player fandom is probably most prevalent in the NBA, but it can exist in other sports too.

(3) Storylines | Do remember last year’s NFL season?  There were people who have hated Peyton Manning since his freshman year at the University of Tennessee who all of a sudden were pulling for Peyton Manning.  Why?  He had a great storyline.  He was trying to achieve the impossible—come back from a near career-ending neck surgery and win a Super Bowl in perhaps his final year in the league. All eyes were on the Denver Broncos.  So many eyes that even casual fans were paying attention.  Be careful though: fandom of this genre tends to have the briefest shelf life—once the amazing story is over, the fans disappear.

So what type of fan are you? Why? #teamfan #playerfan #storylinefan

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Music News: Summer NAMM 2014

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to attend Summer NAMM 2014 in Nashville.  NAMM, which is short for the National Association of Music Merchants, is a biannual event where many of the giants of the music industry, as well as smaller start-ups, come together to showcase their new products. The winter NAMM is held around January in Anaheim, CA, and the generally smaller summer NAMM is held in the Music City in July.

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As this event is closed to the public, this was my first time getting to get inside through some very special connections of mine. As soon as I arrived in Nashville and I made it to the convention center, the area was abuzz with people entering the show. NAMM was held at the Nashville Music City Center which is an absolutely stunning venue, conveniently located downtown across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame. As you walk into the building you notice that not only is a NAMM a great place to check out new gear if you’re a gear head like me, but there are a few areas where you can catch performances from some of Nashville’s up-and-coming talent.

Inside the showcase you are visually and sonically assaulted with so many sights and sounds, for a first time show goer it can really be quite overwhelming to take it all in or know where to start. There are product demonstrations, concerts, product giveaways, guest speakers and industry workshops. Larger companies like Gibson, Boss, and Casio have a large presence, and for many of the smaller companies NAMM is a great way to generate buzz about their products and secure dealers. For a music lover like me it was a very rewarding experience.

I spent two hours walking the show, trying out products and networking with people in the industry, and even then I only began to scratch the surface of all there was to do. When I was done with the show, I decided to get a little bit of guitar shopping in. Nashville is one of those cities where you just have to take a look at their selection and there are plenty of great vintage shops near downtown. Although I will caution the prices in these places are not for the faint of heart, but then again these are the same shops where you might run into Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Billy Gibbons, or Keith Urban. I dropped into Carter Vintage Guitar after reading about them in Epiphone’s press release about the NAMM show. This place was an absolute treat! They had guitars ranging from a couple of hundred all the way up to over $167,000! If you love vintage gear, even if you can’t afford it, this is a great shop to stop in to get up close and personal with music history.

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Even though I didn’t get to stay at the show and Nashville the entire 3 days that it was held, visiting on Friday was a definitely a worthwhile experience and I think it’s something every gear lover should try to do at least once, especially if you can make it out to the larger Anaheim show.

Check out my Flikr album here

Top 3 Success Tips for the Unemployed

Unemployment—we have all been there for one reason or another.  Some of us complete high school or college only to realize we cannot get a job as fast as we had hoped.   Others of us have had solid jobs but are now in between jobs due to layoffs, injuries, etc.  The reasons are endless but the feeling we all share when unemployed is the same—anxiety!

I personally felt this anxiety during the 1st quarter of 2012. During December of the preceding year, I had willingly resigned from a major nuclear facility to relocate to be with my brand new wife.  The only problem with that is that the new city’s major industry was automotive—an industry that I knew very little about and had very few connections in.

While I applied for numerous jobs every day, visited every career fair in the area, and possibly overcompensated on domestic cooking and cleaning duties, I still made one mistake that I sorely regret—I left “easy money” on the table!  Here are my tips on how not to let much-needed “easy money” slip through your fingers while unemployed.

(1)  Don’t Be So Picky – Having worked for a Fortune 200 company as a student and as an engineer, I was very snobby about small insignificant issues with new jobs.  For instance, if it was a short-term contract job, I didn’t want to do it.  If it was a “teacher’s salary” permanent job, I didn’t want to do it.  Luckily, I grew out of this habit once debts and bills started being due.  And guess what? Once I started being humble and less of a brat, better job opportunities opened up that were previously unavailable.

(2)  Be Entrepreneurial – Although it may take a few lucky bounces to land a permanent job with benefits, you do not need luck if you start your own small business.  You may not know this but many people in your town need their kids watched, their dogs walked, their leaves racked, and their houses cleaned.  If you visit websites like CARE.com, you will see tons of opportunities to make the equivalent of $20-$30 per hour!

The best thing about those jobs is that they do not take up all of your day or all of your week.  This will still give you plenty of time to apply for full-time jobs and to interview for full-time jobs.

(3)  Knock on Doors – Fun fact. You cannot find jobs online.  Well, at least not at the same rate as you would if employers have a personal connection with a living, breathing person.  Online job hunting only has a 1-2% success rate. I don’t know about you, but that’s a horrible success rate.  So my advice now and forever is to visit employers in person, ask for tours, and attend career fairs.  Those are sure fire ways to get your name out there, especially if you do not know anyone at the very beginning of your job search process.

Also, do not be afraid to get a head hunter or a recruiter—they are monetarily incentivized to look for great opportunities for you.  The more money you make, the more money they make too.  So take advantage of this relationship.  Recruiters know way more employers than you will ever know.

Can you think of other tips? Do you disagree with these tips? #unemploymenthustle

Hustle

Is 2014 Job Creation Truthfully Faster in States that Raised the Minimum Wage?

I came across a Huffington Post article New Analysis Debunks Claim That A Higher Minimum Wage Kills Job Growth. I was intrigued. I am a huge fan of statistics and data. I was expecting a complex statistical analysis of employment data that compares states with minimum wage increases versus those without. I was sadly disappointed.

While the Huffington Post article is what I stumbled upon, the data originally comes from 2014 Job Creation Faster in States that Raised the Minimum Wage from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) blog. CEPR compared the employment growth (data collected from Bureau of Labor Statistics) of all 50 states and Washington D.C from the last five months (August through December) of 2013 to the first five months (January through May) in 2014. On January 1, 2014 13 states raised the minimum wage. Of those 13 states, four states (Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island) of them pass legislation to raise the minimum wage while the other nine states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington state) raised the minimum wage at the beginning of the year due to inflation.

The chart below was compiled by CEPR and shows the percent change in employment by state. This graph is the only semblance of data analysis. Three major observations stood out to me from this chart. Firstly, states with minimum wage increases are mixed in with states without minimum wage increases when ranked in order of decreasing employment growth. There is no clear separation between the two just from looking at the graph. Secondly, almost all states had positive employment growth (43/51). Finally, two states with no minimum wage increase had the greatest employment growth, while one state with a minimum wage increase had the greatest employment decline. These are my subjective observations and others might have different observations.

What did the author say? You might have a good guess if you read the titles of the aforementioned articles. Huffington Post said that this data “debunks” the idea that higher minimum wage kills jobs. CEPR said that job creation is faster in states with minimum wage increases. How did they come to this conclusion?

The author concluded that states that increased the minimum wage had faster job growth by comparing the mean job growth from states with and without minimum wage increases. The author reports:

The average change in employment for the 13 states that increased their minimum wage is +0.99% while the remaining states have an average employment change of +0.68%.

This must be the case. Basic arithmetic tells us that 0.99% employment growth is greater than 0.68% employment growth. Unfortunately, basic arithmetic is not the correct tool to determine if means are different. Statistics provides a whole host of tools to compare means. In this case, a t-test is the correct tool to compare the means of employment growth with two groups (states that increased the minimum wage and states that do not increase the minimum wage).

What does the t-test tell us? Not much. The t-test reveals that the mean employment growth for states with a minimum wage increase is not statistically different than the mean employment growth for states without a minimum wage increase (p=0.2135). The figure below shows a boxplot for both groups.

I was curious and further broke down the minimum wage group into two groups. One group pass minimum wage specific legislation while the other group had minimum increases due to inflation. The correct statistical test to use here is an analysis of variance (ANOVA) since we now have three groups of employment growth. The ANOVA results are very clear, minimum wage laws had no statistical effect on mean employment growth (p=0.0543). The figure below shows a boxplot for each group.

The t-test and ANOVA results reveal that there is no statistical difference among employment growth between states with minimum wage increases and those without minimum wage increases. The boxplots help to visualize the variability in employment growth. The overlapping error bars are a strong statistical indicator that there is no difference.

Practically, what does this mean? Not a whole lot. This data does not the support the claim made by CEPR, that increasing the minimum wage causes faster job creation. This data does reveal that job growth is not solely dependent upon minimum wage laws. This makes sense to me. In 2012, only 1.1% of workers made minimum wage. This means that greater than 98% of jobs pay more than minimum wage. Each state has many different economic policies that have a large effect on the local economies. Historical data would need to be analyzed for each state in order to see the effect of minimum wage on employment growth before and after a change in minimum wage legislation.

minimum wage

Which In-Laws Should You Live Closest To?

This was a big hump to get over when my wife and I were engaged and getting married.  And I’m sure this discussion has caused a lot of heartburn for other couples as well—new relationships or old reliables.  Although you are not extrinsically valuing one set of in-laws over the other (or one spouse’s career over the other), intrinsically it tends to feel that way during the heat of battle… I mean… discussion.  But maybe this decision can get easier!

A few years ago, National Institutes of Health performed a 26-year longitudinal study that showed when a husband reported having a close relationship with his wife’s parents, the couple’s risk of divorce decreased by 20%.  Conversely, when a wife reported having a close relationship with her husband’s parents, the couple’s risk of divorce increased by 20%.

I’m not a marriage expert by any means, but if I wanted to statistically safeguard a friend’s marriage, I would automatically tell him to submit and figure out a way to live near his wife’s parents.  There is a lot of benefit from a husband modeling what humbleness and submission looks like.

This will not solve all your marriage problems (you’ll have plenty).  But maybe it will help a little.

Do you agree? Should you live near your wife’s parents as a rule of thumb?

In-Laws

Unhappy People Shouldn’t Buy Houses

As you may know, I’m a big proponent of mobility—especially when we are young and ESPECIALLY if we are unhappy or unsatisfied with where we currently are.  So if you hate the current city that you live in or if you despise the current job that you have, then please DO NOT buy a house!  And do not over-leverage yourself (e.g. getting in too much debt)!

Nothing is more gut-wrenching than being stuck in a house that we really didn’t want… in a city that we really don’t like… in a job that we really want to quit!

If you are unhappy, please keep your options open—you never know what lies around the corner!

For instance, many companies do not offer relocation packages.  So even if you are perfect for a new job, if you’re upside down in a house 300 miles away from the dream job, then you’re pretty much STUCK where you are!

Likewise, if you’re deep in debt, you’re also STUCK.  How many times have you admired a great city, but your expectant income in that city is much lower than what you’re used to in the current city that you hate? Sallie Mae and Master Card are keeping you from living in your dream city, and that is shame!

What are some ways that you have kept your OPTIONS OPEN? #becomingyourtrueself

Mover Rates 2013

King of the NBA Big Men

Besides being the obvious best player, the distinction of the best NBA big man has long been a very contentious argument. From Kareem, to Wilt, to Russell, to Duncan, to Shaq, and many more, being the best NBA big man carries a certain honor that being the best defensive player or point guard just doesn’t seem to carry. With all due apologies to some amazing players, there are a clear top 4 hierarchy in the NBA right now. Although some of these men buck the trend of parking your ass in the post and being big, we have to account that the NBA is just going in a new direction. While players like Marc Gasol and  Dwight Howard are still great players, they just do not bring the tangible value of the “Big 4.” Kevin Love, Lamarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, and Demarcus Cousins.

Marc Gasol

Sorry, Marc!

I have broken down this debate into 3 categories and will explore some subsets within these. Passing, rebounding, and shooting. We will examine some of the numbers involved in these categories and decide who does what best.

Passing

Passing can be an extremely valuable skill from the low post. Just ask Kobe how much he loved having Pau Gasol’s passing skills on display during their title runs. Ask Magic how nice it was to play a two-man passing game with Kareem. It just helps when you have a big man who can pass. He doesn’t need to be a Steve Nash, but having vision helps when trying to set up shooters for the best shot possible.

Topping this list we have Kevin Love. If you have ever seen Kevin play, one of the first things that pop out at you is his outlet passing. The best outlet passer in the league. His numbers are drug down a little by the fact his team mates had a rough time finishing at the rim, even on breaks. However, he still managed to average 0.8  passes per game that lead directly to free throws and 0.7 hockey assists a game (the pass that leads to a pass that became an assist). So, 1.5 times a game, Love was able create points from making the right pass. This was evidenced by his outlet passing. Love averaged 4.4 assists a game, add that to his ability to create shots from making the right pass and he accounted for 10.3 points per game from his passing alone.

On the flip side of this, we have Aldridge. Out of the 4, Aldridge had the fewest assists per game (2.6), the fewest passes leading to FTs per game (.2), the fewest point created by assists per game (6.5), and the fewest points created by assists per 48 minutes (8.6). In other words, Aldridge was a black hole. Some of the can be attributed to the fact that he had Damian Lilliard who was the main distributor for the team. Kevin Love was used as an offense initiator at time, so his numbers are a little higher. However, Love was used in this fashion because he is able to because he has the skills, and Love played with Rubio who was one of the 3 best pure point guards in the league last year. Cousins was nearly as big of a black hole as Aldridge, but held ever so slight edges over Aldridge in passing.

LaMarcus Aldridge autographed 8x10

The stats:

Kevin Love- 4.4 APG, 0.8 FT APG, .07 secondary APG, 10.3 points created per APG, 13.5 points created per assists per 48 minutes

Lamarcus Aldridge- 2.6 APG, 0.2 FT APG, 0.8 secondary APG, 6.5 points created per APG, 8,6 points created per assists per 48 minutes

Blake Griffin- 3.9 APG, 0.4 FT APG, 1.1 secondary APG, 9.1 pointes created per APG, 12.1 points created per assists per 48 minutes

Demarcus Cousins- 2.9 APG, 0.2 FT APG, 0.4 secondary APG, 6.8 points created per APG, 9.9 points created per assists per 48 minutes

Rankings- 1) Kevin Love, 2)Blake Griffin, 3) Demarcus Cousins, 4) Lamarcus Aldridge

Rebounding

It should be pretty self explanatory, but your big man should be able to rebound. This automatically excluded Andrea Bargnani from the list. Because he couldn’t rebound in a church league. For kids.

Andrea Bargnani

Andrea, probably not rebounding anything

This was an extremely tough category. I could honestly be talked into one of 2 players, however, one stat stood out to me more than anything. Contested rebounds. Before we get into stats, I have to admit that I gave Love and Griffin a little bit of an advantage to their superb numbers since both of them play next to good to great rebounders. Nikola Pekovic for Love and Deandre Jordan for Griffin. So good job rebounding next to those two big behemoths!

Lets look at some stats:

Kevin Love- 12.5 RPG, 66.1% of the rebounds he had a chance at (within 3 ft of a missed shot), he snagged

Lamarcus Aldridge- 11.1 RPG and he grabbed 66.4% of the rebounds he had a chance at

Blake Griffin- 9.5 RPG and 64.6% of rebounds he had a chance at

Demarcus Cousins- 11.8 RPG and a whopping 69.4% of rebounds he had a chance at, he swallowed up!

PlayersWorld

Looking at simply these stats, we can see that these 4 men are all good rebounders. Again, it was especially impressive for Griffin to put those numbers up next to Jordan, who is the best rebounder in the game. Same for Love, although Pekovic is not on the level of a Jordan. Demarcus was just a beast on the glass. Out of every rebound near him, he grabbed 70% of them. This is just fantastic, even if he never played next to a strong rebounder.

These next group of stats is what really made this group and separated who is a man on the boards:

Kevin Love- 4.9 contested RPG, 38.49% of his rebounds were contested

Lamarcus Aldridge- 3.0 contested RPG, 27.4% of rebounds contested

Blake Griffin- 3.8 contested RPG, 40.3% of rebounds contested

Demarcus Cousins- 4.1 contested RPG, 34.6% of rebounds contested.

Love obviously stands out most here. A whopping 5 rebounds a game tells me one thing, Love is down low and he bullying grown men around. The fact over a 3rd of his rebounds are contested are a good sign that he is down low fighting the good fight. Again, Blake Griffin shines here. For being such a fierce rebounder down low next to Jordan is a feat. The contested rebounding shows us who is really fighting in the trenches and who is opportunistic. Even more impressive to me is that Love and Griffin spend most time at PF. Cousins and Aldridge spend time at both positions, but each spend over 10 minutes a game at the center spot.

Blake Griffin

Sorry, Aldridge, you’re bringing up the rear again.

Rankings: 1) Love, 2) Griffin, 3) Cousins, 4) Aldridge

Scoring

Everyone’s favorite stats! While rebounding and passing are great skills to have, if you don’t score in this league, you are not a superstar. Luckily, all 4 of these men are elite scorers. Adding attributes like rebounding and passing to their scoring prowess is what makes these men truly super stars.

We are going to break down a few different areas of scoring, since these men score in a variety of ways.

There are three ways to score in this league. Close, mid-range, and 3 pt shooting. One does all of these things well, some do one at elite levels, some do a few great.

This Lamarcus Aldridge’s shot chart. Obviously, the strength of his offense lies in his ability to hit mid range shots, especially from the left mid range area. Basically, yellow is comparable to league average, green is above league average, and red is below. We can also see that Aldridge shoots fairly well from in close, and even has a sweet spot from the right block, although he doesn’t take near of advantage of it. Aldridge shoots well from in close, but only averages about 2.8 shots per game from in close. Probably the best part of his game is the catch and shoot. In catch and shoot situation, Aldridge took 6.2 shots per game and hit on an amazing 45.97. Nearly all of this was from the mid range, attesting to the fact he is a mid range sniper.

Aldridge is more like a Rip Hamilton that is 7 feet tall than a traditional big man. He can pound it down low at a good clip, but his game is all mid range. Lets also note his range absolutely does not extend out to the 3 point line.

This is young big man, Demarcus Cousins. As we can see from here, Cousins has a nice mid range from almost straight on. This is most likely from him not cutting hard to the rim off of pick and rolls and instead settling for the pick and pop. Which is not a bad thing, because he obviously can hit at a decent clip from out there. He shoots a fairly average percentage from in close, but you like that he is so aggressive down there. This probably accounts for the fact that Demarcus gets to the line at an elite rate. This is a great trait for a young big.

One note to make on Cousin’s shooting is his surprisingly great catch and shoot game. He only takes 2.5 a game, but he shoots it at a 47.1% clip. That is the highest of our four horsemen of big men. Maybe he should settle for the pick and pop a little more!

Basically, Cousins is a high volume scorer who seems to be getting better and better at shooting. He is not quite there yet, but he is getting there and should be deadly in a few years.

Come on down, Blake Griffin! One thing absolutely pops off of the chart, Griffin is an absolute elite finisher. His low post game is not very refined, but that is ok, because this shot shows that he is clearly just ahead of most of the league in scoring at the basket. This also translates into a high amount of free throws. When you combine those two things, there is no getting around it, Blake Griffin is unstoppable down low.

Sadly, Blake’s game doesn’t translate very far outside of the paint. Given how he scores inside, this isn’t the worst news. You can see a nice little left elbow jumper that he hits with nice consistency. If he learned that form both side, it could open up even more of an offensive game, which is a scary thought. He definitely needs to work on that part more, seeing as how he is catch and shoot happy. Griffin takes 3.3 of these a game for a low 36.89%. Give him credit for trying, but he needs to tighten that up.

Griffin is almost a one dimensional scorer, but it is at such an elite level you don’t even mind. He takes a healthy 5 shots a game in close and converts an amazing 61.2% of them. Wow.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what being unstoppable looks like. Kevin Love simply can just shoot from anywhere. Lets put this into a little perspective. Kevin Love is shooting with a few percentage points of Blake Griffin at the rim and shoots within percentage points of Aldridge at midrange, expect Love is doing it from 3.

Love can simply punish you anywhere. He is a bully down low and shoots almost 59% from down there. He is basically Kevin Durant from the 3 point line. So how do you guard him? And if you take those away, he can step in and hit the mid range with at least a league average clip. Almost as dangerous, is that Love can hit from the corner as well. There just isn’t a place he can’t score from. It is not that Love is elite from every area, it is that he is good from everywhere. This is a chart you would expect from Curry or Durant. Instead, it is a monster big man who also happens to be a top 3 rebounder in the league and easily the best passing big man in the league.

Some key stats about this. Love knows his bread and better. Taking the two highest yield shots in the NBA with ferocity, the close range and the 3 point. He takes 5.7 close range shots a game at a 53% clip. Catch and shoot? Yeah, well has some practice with that. It is not that he takes 7.1 catch and shoot shots a game at 41.1%, it is that he takes 5 3 point shots a game at a 39.8% clip. Holy shit. He is basically emulating Aldridge’s catch and shoot game from 3 point range, a much higher yield.

Simply put, Love does not have an offensive equal in this group. You would have to search the Lebron, Durant, and Curry’s of the world to find a Love offensive equal.

Rank: 1) Love, 2) Griffin, 3) Aldridge, 4) Cousins

Anything Else?

If you have stuck around this long, we all know who the winner is going to be. However, what about some of the advanced metrics? Lets look at Win Shares, since we haven’t touched on defense, we will look at defensive win shares (win shares are how many wins a person is worth on that end).

I didn’t go much into defense, because all of these guys are basically equal on defense, despite some myths.

Kevin Love- 3.7 DWS

Lamarcus Aldridge- 3.5 DWS

Blake Griffin- 4.1 DWS

Demarcus Cousins- 3.8 DWS

Griffin is the best here, but the difference is negligible. However, Griffin deserves recognition for being the best defensive player on the list.

Offensive win shares seem to back up the shot charts and the conclusions I drew above.

Love- 10.6 OWS

Aldridge- 4.0 OWS

Griffin- 8.1 OWS

Cousins- 4.1 OWS

Cousins grades out a little but higher than Aldridge than I concluded, much likely a result of Cousins getting to the line more. However, Aldridge’s floor spreading brings slightly more value to an offense.

Conclusion

Kevin Love is undoubtedly the best big man in the game right now. And it is not even really close. His ability at every spectrum of the game is just unmatched. Griffin is a distant second, but Griffin is still a head above three and four.

  1. Kevin Love
  2. Blake Griffin
  3. Demarcus Cousins
  4. Lamarcus Aldridge

Lamarcus is a great player, but he just isn’t as impactful in as many areas as Cousins. Cousins is a black hole like Aldridge, but Cousins is a much better rebounder.

It doesn’t really matter about them at the moment, because Kevin Love is entering his prime and is already much better than his colleagues. It is quite staggering just how good Kevin Love is at every aspect. Kevin Love is an elite once in a generation player. I think the numbers bare this out. But to the extent of his domination over other players, is really astonishing. We should enjoy all of these men while we can, but it is time to give Love the credit he is due. He is a superstar and maybe only Lebron and Durant are his equals.

Kevin Love

One Last Thing

As I noted, Cousins has a lot of room to get better. Love and Griffin can get better, but there is probably not too much room for them to grow. If they did, it would be scary anyways. Aldridge is already at his peak and this is what he is. Cousins, however, still has a few years to learn the game. If he can refine his jump shot and be more aggressive on the boards, he has a chance to be as dominant of a force as Love. He is not there yet, but lets hope he reaches that potential.

Also, Anthony Davis belongs here. He just does. However, this is his third year. If he continues this, he is on here next year probably over Aldridge and Cousins.

I also wanted to put Noah on here, but I just couldn’t justify it. He is easily number 5, but it is hard when your offensive game is a little lacking. Individual offense wins more games than individual defense.

This was a tough list to make, and I think outside of Love and Griffin, you can make an argument for the next spot for about 5 players.

 

Natural Awakenings… and Stupidity

A friend of mine recently turned me on to a magazine, Natural Awakenings. It is basically a magazine that promotes healthy living through natural products, green living, and naturopathy.

My friend did not turn me on to this magazine because he thought it was insightful or meaningful, he turned me on to this magazine because he saw the dangers in promoting the pseudoscience that this magazine pushes. To be fair, there are a number of pseudosciences pushed within this magazine, from editorials to advertisements. But a few, namely essential oils and naturopathy, stand out above the others. While we are on advertisements, here is an actual quote from Natural Awakenings:

“We do not necessarily endorse the views expressed in the articles and advertisements, nor are we responsible for the products and services advertised. We welcome your ideas, articles and feedback.”

Well, then. Here is some feedback. Also, please check out some informative links that I have included. I am merely trying to provide an introduction and basic overview. Arm yourself with knowledge.

What is Naturopathy?

From the opening of Wikipedia: “Naturopathy, or naturopathic medicine, is a form of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that a special energy called “vital energy” or “vital force” guides bodily processes such as metabolismreproduction, growth, and adaptation. Naturopathy favors a holistic approach with non-invasive treatment and generally avoids the use of surgery and drugs.”

Such treatments include essential oils, color treatment, brainwave entrainment, homeopathy, and acupuncture, to name a few.

Straight from the Association of Naturopathic Practitioners, here are the principles and foundation of Naturopathic treatment:

  • The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae): Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in people that is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery, and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process.
  • Identify and Treat the Causes (ToIle Causam): The naturopathic physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms.
  • First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere):Naturopathic physicians follow three guidelines to avoid harming the patient:
    • Utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat;
    • Avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms; and
    • Acknowledge, respect, and work with individuals’ self-healing process.
  • Doctor as Teacher (Docere): Naturopathic physicians educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.
  • Treat the Whole Person: Naturopathic physicians treat each patient by taking into account individual physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development.
  • Prevention: Naturopathic physicians emphasize the prevention of disease by assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease, and by making appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness.”

This is a basic overview of Naturopathy, but I think we all can see what is the goal of Naturopathic medicine. It is to treat the body with the body’s own immune system by enriching it naturally with the nutrients and energy it needs. A noble task.

Where Naturopathy Falls Short

Probably the first and largest glaring issue with Naturopathy is the very foundation it is built upon, life force and vital force.  Vital force is a non-material force that appears to defy the laws of chemistry and physics. There is absolutely no scientific proof for anything that can be labeled as a vital force. Despite the many claims, life force cannot, and has never been measured. Especially by any credible scientific source.

Furthermore, a vital force is subjective. We do not know what optimal health is, it is a vitalistic concept with no real scientific or empirical measurement. Also, these “optimal health” levels and “vital forces” cannot be scientifically tested.

This isn’t just a new concept either. Medical doctors and scientists have been debunking Naturopathy for quite some time now. An early skeptic of the Naturopath, named Morris Fishbein, M.D., debunked the following Naturopath treatments and theories:

  • Aeropathy: baking the patient in a hot oven ( a personal favorite)
  • Alereos system: spinal manipulation plus heat and mechanical vibration
  • Astral healing: diagnosis and advice based on reading the patient’s horoscope (I hope I do not have to explain why a horoscope is a bad thing)
  • Autotherapy: treating infections with potions made from the patient’s infected tissues
  • Biodynamochromic diagnosis and therapy: administering colored lights while thumping on the patient’s abdomen (color therapy, which I mentioned above, is still in high use)
  • Bloodwashing with herbs
  • Chromopathy: healing with colored lights (more color therapy,s till used)
  • Electrotherapy
  • Geotherapy: treating disease with little pads of earth
  • Irido-diagnosis: diagnosis based on eye markings—now called iridology
  • Pathiatry: self-administration of spinal adjustment, massage, and traction
  • Porotherapy: treatment through pores, used to treat internal and intestinal problems
  • Practotherapy
  • Sanatology, based on the theory that acidosis and toxicosis are the two basic causes of all disease
  • Somapathy: spinal adjustment followed by applications of cold or extreme heat
  • Tropo-therapy with special nutrition based diets
  • Vit-O-Pathy, a combination of 36 other systems
  • Zodiac therapy, combining astrology and herbs
  • Zonotherapy (now called reflexology): pressing on various parts of the body to heal disease in designated body “zones.”

Most of these occurred in the 1930-1960’s. Many, if not all of these are still practiced. Despite all of modern medical science disputing the efficacy of these treatments.

The Education Needed to be A Naturopath

In the United States, there are 5 full time schools dedicated to students become a Doctor of Naturopathy. Most programs are 4 years long. These 4 years include 2 years of basic sciences and then another 2 years of rounds and outpatient clinicals. This may sound very similar to the tract of an MD program, but there are some key differences.

One difference is the sheer scope of an M.D. program. A M.D. program encompasses literally every aspect of disease, infection, treatment, surgery, and other medical practice. An M.D. program will send a prospecting doctor through every discipline of medicine before they are out of the program. Medical schools also are larger staffed, better trained, and have access to all of the current technology and theories surrounding the medical curriculum.

The rounds of a N.D. includes that of homeopathy, which has long been proven to be nothing more than a placebo affect. And in some cases, homeopathy has additives that can cause serious harm to a patient. If a person is doing rounds in disciplines that fall outside of scientific validity, one can not expect a full education that is robust with current curriculum is being obtained.

Upon completion of medical school, most doctors spend another 3-6 years specializing in a certain field, and will spend most of their time dedicated to that one part of specialization. A N.D. may start practice upon completion of school, and will practice amongst many parts of medicine, or their brand of medicine. No specialization, no extra training.

A statement from the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare:

Naturopathic theory and practice are not based upon the body of basic knowledge related to health, disease, and health care which has been widely accepted by the scientific community. Moreover, irrespective of its theory, the scope and quality of naturopathic education do not prepare the practitioner to make an adequate diagnosis and provide appropriate treatment.”

Back to the Magazine

On page 10 of the April 2014 magazine, there is an advertisement for Medical Aromatherapy Certification Classes. The Middle Earth Healing and Learning Center offers a Level One class on medical aromatherapy (essential oils). For the cost of $475, you may learn all about essential oils and their medical uses. It even encompass the dangers of using modern medicine over essential oils. Not surprisingly, you may also buy essential oils directly from them after the class.

I was honestly going to try and debunk why this is a waste of money and a bad idea. But I quickly realized I did not have to. There are almost zero credible studies championing the use of aromatherapy and essential oils as a legitimate medical use. It is snake oil. We are dealing with literal snake oil. If you are using essential oils as a legitimate form of medicine, you are going to hurt yourself or someone you know. A great little website has even more detail here: https://skeptoid.com/blog/2014/04/05/essential-oil-claims-the-dangers-keep-on-coming/

Dr. Emu’s Rx for Pain

On page 28 of the April 2014 edition, we see a lovely little add for Dr. Emu’s Rx for pain. A naturopathic medicine. A list of uses includes:

  • Diabetic neuropathy foot pain
  • arthritis pain
  • stiff joints
  • knee, neck and back pain
  • sore muscles
  • inflammation and swelling
  • clear brain fog
  • restore positive a mood
  • regenerate energy levels
  • and increase circulation

Oh my! That is quite the topical solution! From the WebMD website, it does state that Emu Oil does have some uses in relieving some inflammation pain. However, it states that it works better (if at all) for sudden acute inflammation and not long term. As a matter of fact, the very things WebMD says Emu Oil may be used for also fall under the category of insufficient evidence. So, does Emu Oil even really work? At this time, we have not done enough scientific research on emu oil to know if it is truly the miracle drug it says it is. It does have some slight positive affects on rodents done in a lab setting, but not much is known outside of that. The truth is, emu oil probably has slight very short term inflammation reducing properties, but nothing to suggest it does anything more than that.

Conclusion

Naturopathy, essential oils, emu oils, and all of these new age medicine have absolutely no basis in science. Anecdotal evidence and testimonials are not a substitute for science. Naturopathy and magazines such as Natural Awakenings make countless claims that what they offer is better than modern medicine. My thoughts? Prove it. The science community should not waste countless hours debunking your…well, bunk. If you can get in a lab and show with consensus that what you sell works, we will listen. Until, then, we want none of what you are selling.

Informative Links

http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/altbelief.html

http://skepdic.com/acupuncture.html

http://www.skepdic.com/aroma.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aromatherapy

http://www.chelationwatch.org

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/134385.php

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/reference/naturopathy/

Atl Medicine