Q Thoughts

The Greatest NBA Player in History: Artis “The A-Train” Gilmore

A commentary on Click Thru Rate

by Steve Ustaris

Yes, I was surprised myself. Like me, you may have been under the previously ill-informed assumption that legends like Jordan, Magic and Bird would bear this title. If you are under 25, you might even throw wanna-be’s like Kobe and Lebron into the debate. But as a former colleague of mine once said, “Nothing ends a debate better than DATA.” And I am here to tell you, my ignorant friends, that based on the DATA, Artis Gilmore is the Greatest NBA Player in NBA History. Why? Quite simply, “The A-Train” holds the record for the NBA’s highest Field Goal Percentage of all time! More than 10 percentage points higher than that scrub, Michael Jordan. And since the game of basketball is all about scoring more field goals than the other guy, the title of “Greatest” undoubtedly should be his. Take a look how he stacks up against the conventional candidates:

If this was the roster of an NBA team and I was the General Manager, I’d make the following optimizations:

• I’d reduce the # of Field Goal attempts by Jordan and Bird, and re-allocate them to Gilmore
• Cut my 2 worst-performing players in Lebron James and Kobe Bryant (3.2 and 5.2 points below overall team FG%, respectively)
• If they want to stay on the team, I’d negotiate a reduction in salary to get their CPMFGA* down near The A-Trains’
• AND with the additional dollars, I would sign and test players who have show better performance on past teams; e.g. Kiki Vandeweghe, career FG% of 52.5!

*CPMFGA (Cost per Thousand Field Goal Attempts)

Now, some of my detractors will argue that I have to look at other stats that reflect a player’s contribution, such as assists – (a pass from a player to a teammate in a way that leads to a score). Magic Johnson, for example, averaged over 9 more assists per game than Gilmore, and had a total of 8,364 more assists in his career than The A-Train. Nope, sorry though. I just don’t buy into the whole “assist” stat. Frankly, I think most assists are coincidental. My team strictly works on a “last action taken” accreditation. In this case, the Field Goal is the last action.

Another counter-argument may also ask, “What about total WINS, or even better, CHAMPIONSHIPS?”  Well, statistics like Championships would only matter to someone who is goal driven, but my NBA team would be solely focused on the efficiency by which we deliver field goals. The owner of the team can tell me how we did overall later, if he/she chooses to. Then again, if I don’t get fired I can just assume a job well done.

Of course, any fan of the NBA would find this view completely absurd. The notion of ignoring statistics like total points, assists, steals, rebounds, and ultimately wins/losses and championships would seem ridiculous. Yet, for some reason we see this type of narrow performance view used over and over again in online advertising. Of course I am speaking of continued emphasis placed on the Click Through Rate (CTR). Now, unlike many of my contemporaries, I won’t preach about how the CTR is a completely obsolete performance metric. However, I will say that its significance is increasingly shrinking.

Based on the infamous “Natural Born Clickers” Study of 2009, 16% of the internet audience stills clicks on ads, down from 32% in 2007. This means that media teams that focus solely on CTR as a performance metric have no insight as to the impact of their advertising on 84% of their online consumers. That number could reach 90% by the end of this year.

Just like in basketball, to truly assess the performance of the online channel, individual campaigns and each individual site, it is imperative to consider how to best use all available “statistics” to assess true contribution of their roster. Advertisers cannot completely ignore view-based data; they should rather work to determine to what degree they can use it. They have to move past the “last action taken” measurement standard and use tools to account for advertising “assists,” i.e. what influence each online channel has on the other. Finally, this isn’t the recreational league at the YMCA. There is real money being spent with real jobs on the line. Doesn’t it just makes sense to know whether you are winning or losing (sales)?

But then again, maybe you do believe Artis Gilmore is the greatest NBA player of all time.

Categories:Posts from 2010


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