Sunday , Jan , 31 , 2010 Jesse Andrews

Statistical Fingerprinting: LeBron=Durant and Vince≠Good

Dirk Nowitzki.  Danilo Gallinari.  The German; the Italian.  Two lunkish big men with a silky touch from outside and a national heritage of totalitarianism and luxury car-making.  It’s a comparison that’s been made with increasing regularity as the crazy-eyed Lombard has come into his own this season.  There’s just one problem: there is a max-contract player out there with a statistical fingerprint that looks strikingly like Gallinari’s, but he doesn’t play for the Mavericks.

No, Gallinari is instead doing a Rashard Lewis impression.  And unlike with Dirk, the resemblance is striking.  I developed a crude but serviceable back-of-the-envelope-type metric this morning to demonstrate how similar any pair of players are.  Let’s call it DIFF.  Any DIFF below 2.0 indicates a pretty strong resemblance between players; DIFFs below 1.5 caused me to make small noises of joy and fear; and the lowest DIFF I found made me wander out into the street bellowing Schiller’s An die Freude.  I saved it for the end of this column.  If it does not have the same effect on you, it is safe to say that you will never know the feeling of love. 

My point is this:  Danilo + Dirk = 4.858.  Danilo + Shard = 1.069.  Numerically speaking, they’re the same guy this year.  That’s insane.

Kobe and LeBron could only be impersonated by a select few, and the names here aren’t very surprising:  Kobe has the most in common with Carmelo (1.757), and LeBron’s match is the Durantula (1.529).  Kevin Durant has five fewer assists per game; if he had the same assist numbers, the two of them would have a DIFF of 0.612, which would make them the same guy.  LeBron and Dwyane Wade (1.749) also have plenty in common, like Daft Punk and Justice, or like two beautiful yet measurably different snow leopards.

More DIFFs:  The Gasol brothers have a pleasing DIFF of 1.815.  Actually, Marc is weirdly similar to a lot of players—Al Jefferson (1.816), Joakim Noah (1.713), Brook Lopez (1.429)—who in turn aren’t very similar to each other.  Al Jefferson, for example, is actually closest to Andrew Bogut (1.577).  Get fired up, Australia.  More big men:  Kendrick Perkins and Andrew Bynum (1.857) are cousins.  David Lee and Carlos Boozer (1.092) are clones.  Bad boy Zach Randolph and squeaky-clean Chris Bosh (1.883) are two cookies in a delicious ice cream sandwich.  Nene, meanwhile, has the most in common with the semi-injured Kevin Garnett (1.445) and Elton Brand (1.789).  Did you just gasp?  When I saw that, I gasped.  Maybe I’m just weird.

The point-guard controversy in Toronto is nicely summed up this way:  Jarrett Jack scored a 1.848 with the estimable and also-short Jameer Nelson.  Meanwhile, at 1.423, Jose Calderon looks a lot like—there’s no nice way to say this—Luke Ridnour.  Um; your move, Colangelo.

Here’s an insane one:  Vince Carter looks like no one right now as much he looks like Ray Allen (1.079).  Vince gets one more rebound per game, and misses two more shots from the field, and beyond that they’re about the same.  Vince, for God’s sake.  Grow a soul.  This is not a knock on Ray Allen, whose numbers are about what they should be for an aging shooting guard who gets to the hole through guile and little else.  This is an indictment of Vince, pure and simple.  Which, I realize, I’m not the first to do.  Whatever.  I’ve waited my turn.  They should give out numbers for Vince-bashing, like at deli counters. Actually, they should give them out at the deli counters themselves.

Moving on:  Ben and Eric Gordon have the same name and game (1.675), but Ben Gordon is actually even more like the season’s premier sixth man, Jamal Crawford (1.199).  Steve Blake and Mike Bibby (1.304) are brothers in Ball.  Derek Fisher is not excited that his doppelganger is C.J. Watson (1.648).  You are probably not excited that Tyreke Evans is so similar to Russell Westbrook (1.911).  Andres Nocioni, meet Mickael Pietrus (1.371).  Rudy Fernandez, shake hands with Devin Brown (1.248).  Shall I compare thee to a Rudy Gay?  In the case of Luol Deng (1.908), yes.  Surprising Rookie Taj Gibson, say hello to Disappointing Sophomore Marreese Speights (1.736).

Two more.  These are DIFFs below 1.0, and one of them makes total sense, and one makes me want to eat a pinecone.  The latter: Beno Udrih and Nate Robinson (0.908).  True, there are some undeniable similarities between them, especially with the way their minutes have been yanked around all season.  But they just don’t have the spiritual kinship shared by these men:  Pau Gasol and Tim Duncan (0.540).  Do you even want me to analyze this one?  You don’t, am I right?  They’re the past and future philosopher-kings of the low post.  Kobe, you glorious bastard, you’ll pass MJ yet.