Interview With John Schuhmann

"I do think that the mainstream media, in general, didn’t appreciate how good the Magic were on the defensive end of the floor last season. They understood it with the Celtics the previous season, but seemed to emphasize the offensive end (and 3-point shooting) with the Magic. Of course, not putting equal importance on defense isn’t isolated to just analysis of Orlando."

-- John Schuhmann, NBA.com 

 

John Schuhmann has been a writer I've admired from afar, given that he's someone that's been privy to advanced statistics and isn't shy to use them in his articles for a mainstream audience at NBA.com - which goes a long way in educating fans about the numbers. Here at Third Quarter Collapse, we've begun to link to Schuhmann's work on a frequent basis and we'll continue to do so, due to its high quality. If you haven't done so already, make Schuhmann a must-read. You'll be smart for doing so.

 

I was able to catch up with Schuhmann via e-mail and ask him a few questions concerning the statistical revolution occurring in the league, the Orlando Magic, and more. 

 

Click after the jump for the full transcript.

 

How long have you been writing for NBA.com? What did you do before that?

I’ve been writing for NBA.com since 2005, so this is my fifth season. Before that, I worked in the web department of a video game company. And before that, I was an architect. I imagine that my path to writing about the NBA is unique.

Reading your articles, you seem to be a stat-savvy writer. What peaked your interest in becoming more familiar with advanced statistics?

I’ve always had a mind for math, but my interest in advanced stats began a few years ago when I was writing something about the Nets. I noticed that they were a better team when they had a high assist-field goal ratio, so I wanted to see that was a league-wide trend. There wasn’t really a correlation there, but it led to me looking into other team stats that lead to success.

What is your opinion on the statistical revolution that's occurring in the NBA? More and more teams are committing themselves to the numbers in making better personnel decisions, etc.

I love it. I think it makes everybody (teams, writers, fans) a little bit smarter. If you just start with the basics (pace, efficiency and the four factors), you can learn a lot about why teams are good or bad. And then, if you choose, you can dive in deeper from there. Of course, you can’t just bury yourself in the numbers. You’ll understand them better if you pair them with both Xs and Os and knowledge of the personnel. You’ve got to watch the games too.

With the regular season underway and the Orlando Magic having a few games under its belt, what has impressed you so far about the team?

You had to be impressed with how well the offense was clicking early on, including the preseason. The Magic have five new guys in the rotation and their second-leading scorer from last year out for the first 10 games, yet the offense looked to be mid-season form, and maybe more potent than it was last season. It made you realize just how stacked they are talent-wise, even though three of their starters from the Finals are gone. Dwight’s presence in the middle just opens up everything else and Vince has always been a great pick-and-roll guy.

 

Of course, since the Oklahoma City game, the offense hasn’t been quite as sharp. Clearly they need either Lewis or Anderson in the lineup.

I know it's early but between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers, which team poses the bigger matchup problem for the Magic theoretically?

Boston, without a doubt. And the reasoning is simple: They don’t double Dwight, and they have three bigs who are capable of keeping him somewhat in check without any help. That obviously makes things tougher for the other four guys to get good shots. And the Celtics are just a better defensive team overall when KG is healthy.

Following the GM's annual survey, you wrote an article wondering "where's the love for the Magic?" In your opinion, why do you think the NBA and the mainstream media continues to overlook Orlando?

I definitely thought that the lack of votes the Magic got in the GM Survey was curious. The Magic got 17% of the votes for making the best offseason moves, but only 7% to repeat in the East. Still, there are valid reasons for picking the Celtics or Cavs above Orlando. It all depends on which teams you’re glass-half-full on before the season starts. Personally, I was more glass-half-full on the Cavs (didn’t give up anything for Shaq and Parker) and Magic (Vince > Hedo and Bass gives them another rebounder) than the Celtics (health concerns), but Boston quickly changed my mind once the season started.

 

I do think that the mainstream media, in general, didn’t appreciate how good the Magic were on the defensive end of the floor last season. They understood it with the Celtics the previous season, but seemed to emphasize the offensive end (and 3-point shooting) with the Magic. Of course, not putting equal importance on defense isn’t isolated to just analysis of Orlando.

What are your thoughts on Ryan Anderson? Several people I've spoken to (including David Thorpe) commented that he's like a Rashard Lewis-lite. What's his ceiling as a player, given his age (21)?

Obviously, he’s a very good shooter, which makes him a great fit in Orlando. But watching him pretty closely in New Jersey, I was always impressed with his energy on the boards. He goes after rebounds, which is an underrated quality.

 

Not sure about the Lewis comparison. The thing I love about Rashard is that he works his butt off defensively if he’s going against someone bigger in the post and doesn’t let the other team get the best of the mismatch. I think Ryan still has a ways to go defensively, and I don’t think he can do as much off the dribble at this point.

 

I like to thank John for taking the time to answer my questions.

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