NOTE: This is the User Guide for the Quest for the Ring (QFTR) site as a whole. For User Guides for Reports that have a lot of performance measures in them, see the QFTR Reference page.

WARNING: Since QFTR has been almost exponentially expanding the variety of resources it produces from 2007 through the present (2011) some specific QFTR Site User Guide articles that are older than about 1 1/2 years old are often going to be only partially relevant. QFTR would like to but can not guarantee that we can update all of the most important User Guide articles once a year. When a User Guide article is updated the older one is deleted except that a link to the new version may be installed as opposed to complete deletion.


QUEST FOR THE RING USER GUIDE: YOU CAN QUICKLY LOCATE AND GET THE SITE INFORMATION YOU NEED OR WANT RIGHT HERE. You can read the Guide either in this reader or in the standard blog presentation below it

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Mission and the Primary Objectives of The Quest for the Ring

The last time Quest for the Ring (QFTR) posted the very important statement of mission and primary objectives was two years and two weeks ago. This is something that in a perfect world we would post once a year. But with the time limitations we have, posting an updated version of the mission and the primary objectives every two years is a reasonable compromise, and we are happy to have an update in the two years and two weeks!

In this updated version there is a primary mission and a primary objective based on that mission. Then there are ten primary specific objectives all of which are tied to the primary mission and the primary objective.

Among the ten primary specific objectives, one stands out as particularly new and interesting, number eight: To teach players (especially point guards) and coaches how to manage and operate the point guard role.

The reason I pulled that out and mentioned it up top here is that I recently realized that one of the most important things QFTR will ever do is determine and explain how great point guards should approach playoff games and series. This year, in the Conference Finals, the Oklahoma Thunder lost to the Dallas Mavericks and the Chicago Bulls lost to the Miami Heat for about the same reason: their offenses broke down for lengthy stretches because their point guards, Russell Westbrook for Oklahoma and Derrick Rose for Chicago, were too young and inexperienced to be able to correctly determine on their own how to nail down key playoff wins. Their coaches failed to completely and accurately instruct them, but in all fairness the subject is too complicated for most coaches to be able to correctly and completely instruct young point guards.

There are establishment writers who claim that NBA Championships are almost always won by whichever team has the best centers and power forwards. They are seriously underestimating the role of veteran point guards in winning Championships.

I saw a short article by one of those establishment writers very recently that irritated the hell out of me. This writer stated that LeBron James smothered Derrick Rose while defending him in the Miami-Chicago East final this year and that Chicago lost all hope of winning because of that. Well, maybe LeBron did "smother" Derric Rose, but that hardly meant Chicago had no hope of winning. So what if LeBron "smothered" Derrick? Derrick Rose should have had a plan B (and a plan C and a plan D for that matter) for what he would do if Miami resorted to putting LeBron James on him. If James is on Rose then there is going to be a Chicago 2-guard, a small forward, or a power forward that enjoys a huge advantage. Rose should have abandoned all hope of scoring a lot himself and should have been ready to get the ball to that teammate badly guarded (and to all his other teammates for that matter). It’s really just tunnel vision to say that LeBron James won it for Miami by smothering Derrick Rose defensively. No, what really happened was that Derrick Rose was not smart or experienced enough to know what to do when Miami made the move of putting LeBron James on Rose. There were options available to Chicago and to Rose that if taken could have led to Chicago winning the series rather than Miami. But Rose and Chicago were not smart enough to take those options.

As you might expect, at one level we are talking about what the breakdown should be between the point guard shooting and the point guard making plays. That’s complicated enough as it is, and more complicated than you probably think, but there are other aspects, and the overall subject is much more extensive and complicated than most people are going to think it is.

QFTR has written extensively before about how point guards should play (and about which types and which specific ones are the best) but we still have not by any means completely covered this subject. So for the rest of 2011 and for most or all of 2012 look for QFTR to concentrate on the point guard issue. Under development and nearing roll-out are new custom designed point guard ratings (as well as broader “offensive quality” ratings.)

We want to reach the point where we can completely and accurately instruct young point guards how to win NBA playoff games regardless of what moves the opposing team makes, particularly of course when the young point guards’ team is actually better than the opposing one. The best of the veteran point guards more or less know instinctively what to do but young point guards generally do not. So unless the young point guard can learn some sophisticated strategy, he is generally going to have to wait a few years before he learns this stuff the hard way and is then eligible to win the Quest.

So the reason why it seems that a lot of Championships are won by the team with the better centers and power forwards is that younger point guards (right up to historical superstar level) don’t have enough experience to be able to instinctively know the smartest way to play in and win key playoff games when the opposing team is using “every trick in the book” to win themselves. If young point guards such as Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook were to learn how to play to beat the tricks thrown at them they could definitely win playoff series whenever their team was overall better than the opponent. QFTR is going to work like hell in the months ahead to nail down the extensive point guard issue more than we ever have up until now.

But for now let’s get to the matter at hand, an updated version of the mission and objectives of The Quest for the Ring.

Before we state the primary mission and the primary objectives it’s interesting and important to see the context in which they developed. The following is a very brief and partial history of Quest for the Ring (QFTR). It is not intended to be anything close to a full history. For that see the User Guide article on the history of QFTR.

QFTR was born as of about January 1, 2007 as a Denver Nuggets fan site. The roots of QFTR were in 2006 and production actually started on a forum rather than on a QFTR controlled Site. The deep roots go back years prior to 2006 in the sense that the primary writer had a huge interest in basketball going back some years prior to 2006.

On the other hand, QFTR as an independent Internet entity located at did not really begin until in the spring of 2007. As a compromise between using either an unrealistically too early or an unrealistically too late date, we think of January 1 2007 as the effective beginning of the QFTR Project.

In 2007, Editorial Plan #1 was basically that reports were done for each Denver Nuggets game. In the first year or so, most articles were centered on particular games, although even back then some of the topics covered while the games were being reviewed were ones that transcend any individual game.

In those very early days, we didn't yet realize that understanding how basketball games are won is even more important to us than it is to most other fans and writers. Today that is obvious that we are more obsessed about winning than seemingly all other writers out there, and more interested in getting to the bottom of exactly how NBA playoff games are won and lost.

In 2007 and into 2008, the game-based reports started out short and became longer and longer. More and more statistical performance measures were added into the mix. The statistical measures and the text reports were all rolled into one, and these reports eventually (in 2008) exceeded 10,000 words in length. These reports are most likely the longest reports based on NBA games ever produced in history!

During the course of the second year, 2008, we gradually decided that Plan #1 was too narrow, that being mostly a rose colored glasses wearing fan of a team was not going to be a productive enough way to spend time long term. So we graduated from that in the summer and fall of 2008.

For about ten months in late 2008 and early 2009, we had an editorial plan, "Plan #2," that was an expanded and modified version of the basic fan site concept. The number of teams covered in detail was doubled to two. We phased out extensive game recapping in favor of more wide ranging team-based reports and in favor of reports even more focused on how games are won than they already were. We started to focus more on how playoff games are won as opposed to mere regular season games.

Plan #2 was considered "state of the art," but nevertheless it turned out it didn't last very long! Plan 2 turned out to be just an interim because it was realized that even more departure from the original concept in Plan 1 was needed. So in May 2009, a huge editorial change was made.

At that time it was realized that resource limitations made it foolish to spend a lot of time on regular season games, especially since QFTR had become focused like a laser on winning the whole thing: the NBA Championship. So we decided to plan to pour a far higher percentage of our production effort into NBA playoff games (including the Championship) and a far lower percentage on regular season games than all other basketball sites do.

Formatted reports make heavy use of custom designed performance measures that use knowledge about basketball winning, valid statistical theory and data from reliable sources from across the Internet. Formatted reports have a pre-set format and there is little or no commentary included. The whole idea of formatted reports is to provide a very large amount of important information very efficiently. The carefully planned and long evolved and perfected formatting eliminates the need for time-consuming custom text reporting in contexts where there is really no need for it.

But to fully understand a formatted Report you need to be familiar with the User Guide for it. There are two things you can do to get the full value out of formatted / statistical Reports including Real Player Rating ones. First, you can read parts or all of the User Guide for them. Second, you can simply visit QFTR often and see a lot of Reports and then you will automatically become better at interpreting what you see.

In contrast to formatted reports, QFTR breaks new ground in general and reveals its latest discoveries about basketball in particular in free form (non-formatted) text reports. While formatted posts are "on the reservation", non-formatted text reports are where QFTR "goes off the reservation".

Both types of reports are essential; having just one type without the other type would reduce the value of QFTR by MORE than half.

As the editorial plan for reports has changed from time to time, the quantity and the quality of the statistical reports have been growing almost month by month. The primary pre-formatted performance measurement reports can and generally do stand well alone (they are no longer attached to text reports). But other, more freelance performance reporting is interwoven into the text articles.

As of 2011 there are dozens of types of Reports that QFTR can and does produce. What they are and the schedule for them is shown in the QFTR Annual Production Plan which is on Excel and is continuously updated. A couple of the more recent versions were posted on the User Guide Site and on QFTR itself. The 2010 Production Plan was posted here. The 2011 Production Plan has never been posted and either soon will be or else it will be skipped.

The 2012 and subsequent Production Plans are scheduled to be posted each December on both the QFTR Site and on the User Guide Site.

The Production Plan gives titles of Reports and classifies them by type but does not attempt to explain in any detail what different types of Reports contain. For details about what is in various Reports see the latest version of the "What QFTR Produces" article on the User Guide Site (and potentially on QFTR itself). The version of this in effect right now is here, but be aware that this version is outdated and will be updated soon

Note that the Production Plan is never completely fulfilled but each year it is more completely fulfilled than the year before. In percentage terms as of 2011 the Production Plan is more than half fulfilled which is not as bad as it sounds given how big the Plan is and given that the percentage used to be down around 25% a few years ago. No one has the resources to produce everything he or she would like to including us. We are always pledging to produce things in the future that are put off indefinitely and we often miss target dates for all types of Reports.

Now let's get to the primary purpose of this User Guide....

First and foremost, the mission of this site is to investigate, to determine, to verify results, and then to reveal at the QFTR Site exactly how professional basketball playoff games are won and lost. The specific League covered is the NBA of the USA.

The primary mission exists in pursuit of the primary objective. The primary objective could alternatively be called the ultimate objective because reaching it is a lot more complicated than it may sound and so technically we may never completely (100%) reach the objective.

The primary objective is stated one way for players, coaches, managers and owners and is stated a little differently with respect to QFTR users and basketball fans.

For players, coaches, managers and owners, the primary objective is to explain to them what they have to DO and even more fundamentally what they have to BE if they want to become NBA playoff game and Championship winners. When you are a loser, basketball is nowhere near as fun and rewarding as it is when you are a winner. And when you lose you make a lot less money. So in other words our mission is really to make teams, players, coaches, managers and owners winners both in basketball terms and financially.

With respect to QFTR users (who are NOT also a player, a coach, a manager, or an owner) and with respect to everyday basketball fans, the primary objective is to make those users and fans smarter than everyone else out there. Since the primary objective of every basketball game and series is to win, fans who know exactly how games are won and lost will be ahead of most other fans in how much they know that is important. The more you read QFTR the more separation you get between how much you known and how much the average fan knows. QFTR is definitely NOT intended for the typical fan who wears rose-colored glasses for a particular team. QFTR heavily criticizes every team it ever discusses because no team and no person associated with any team is perfect or close to it.

For those wearing rose-colored glasses, either you will have to stop wearing them or you will not be able to fully understand, appreciate and enjoy QFTR.

Specific objectives are too numerous to list in full, but here are the ten specific objectives that come to mind as the most important specific objectives:

To determine and report on how basketball games are won, specifically and in general, which is information that can be worth millions or at least thousands of dollars to NBA and other players, coaches, and managers. You can and we do fine tune our understanding of how and why games are won from breaking down each and every game that we report on.

To determine and report on what various NBA teams are doing right and wrong and why. The NBA teams are broken down and ranked via the Real Team Ratings. Teams that are closely covered, which include all four of the Conference Final teams each year and some of the other playoff teams, are sliced and diced to the point where every substantial mistake or problem becomes public knowledge. Teams go under the microscope so that we can see in enough detail what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong.

To determine and report on how well the NBA players are doing, or more to the point how valuable they are with respect to winning NBA playoff games. This is reported sometimes in words but primarily by using Real Player Ratings.

Critics of statistics seemingly never understand what the most important purpose of statistics really is. (The ones who do understand apparently never mention the most important purpose for fear it would make their anti-statistics position look silly). The most important purpose of all for statistics is not to replace text reporting but to convey large quantities of important information efficiently that could be reported in text but only if far more time and space was used. Critics who say that statistics are inferior to text have literally missed the point: statistics first and foremost are very efficient ways to present information that were it in text would take a huge amount of text and too much time to produce. You could report every statistic in text format but it would be extremely inefficient if you did so.

Real Player Ratings at QFTR is an especially efficient way to convey information about players because they give you one number summaries of:

--How valuable a player is overall (for winning playoff games).
--How much a player has produced (the good minus the bad).
--How good (valuable) a player is on offense.
--How good (valuable) a player is on defense.

It is more than ten times more efficient to report on players using Real Player Ratings than using text reporting. In other words, per hour of investment in using Real Player Ratings, we can produce more than ten times as much information about players than we could by producing text reports about those players.

To determine and report on how well or badly NBA coaches are doing in the regular season and especially in the playoffs.

To determine and report on how well or badly NBA managers are doing managing their roster and in other relevant respects.

To determine and report on how well or badly NBA owners are doing with respect to operating their team (at the executive level).

To determine and report on why certain organizations such as the Lakers, the Celtics and the Spurs, are so often to be found at or near the top of the standings, in the Conference Finals and in the NBA Championship, whereas other organizations, such as the Nuggets, frequently drop down to become major losing teams, and seldom if ever reach the Conference finals or the Championship. In explaining why and proving the reasons, what we are really doing is giving advice to managers and coaches on how to keep their teams on the long term winning track. This information (assuming of course that it is correct) is worth millions of dollars, and could in theory be worth tens of millions of dollars.

To teach players (especially point guards) and coaches about how to manage and operate the point guard role. By 2011 the following have become obvious:

(a) The point guard role is the most complicated and tricky thing in basketball.

(b) Only a small minority of the smartest coaches and point guards are smart enough to manage the point guard role (or position if you prefer) in a really good way that makes winning playoff games a lot easier.

(c) Virtually all basketball writers underestimate the importance of point guard and the real reason is that whether or not they know it they do not have the ability (or in a few cases they don’t have the desire) to explain how point guards should play in order to win NBA playoff games.

To fill in critical basketball Internet information gaps. For example there was no place on the Internet to find out exactly how many Championship rings players have won (unless you restrict that to just roughly a dozen very famous players) so QFTR produces annual Reports that tell you how many rings have been won by EVERY player who has won one or more of them since 1980.

To focus on “basketball economics” in a handful of annual reports. For one thing, this fills another critical basketball information gap existing on the Internet. So another unique thing about QFTR is that we extensively cover financial and economics issues for the NBA and more generally for basketball and for sports. The primary QFTR writer has degrees in economics and accounting and is more than qualified to accurately cover financial and economics aspects.

Note that we cover the financial and economics aspects in such a way that helps the overall objective of explaining how playoff games and Championships are won and lost. We do NOT cover them ONLY to fill the Internet void.

What is the common denominator of all of these ten specific objectives? That is obvious: its how and why players, coaches, managers, owners, and franchises who win in pro basketball do so. And to make fans who read QFTR the smartest fans out there and to make them qualified to become good players, coaches, managers and owners should they want to be one of those in the future.

The internet is where secrets are revealed, and here we have and will continue to reveal how and why the winners win in basketball.

You may be surprised about what the real factors are. Basketball, like life, is much more complicated than it seems. For example, you are a fool if you think that the truly best players, coaches, or managers always win. Having great players, coaches, and/or managers is necessary but not sufficient. And there is a lot more involved than "how good" the players are or "how hard" the players play.

Also, you are a fool if you think the styles or personalities of players are among the important factors. Many managers and coaches make this mistake while the ones who win more than their share of playoff games do NOT make this mistake.

In order to win the Quest for the Ring, you don't have to be perfect and you don't have to be better than everyone else in everything, but you do have to do certain things very well, with some of those things being unknown to most of the general public and to many players, coaches, and managers.

Aside from doing “certain things” very well, teams also need a player or two or three or four of them to be extremely good at something, to be about the best in basketball. You’re going too far if you think that basketball is ONLY about the team and that whether individual players are the best at something is not really important.

Always remember too, the Quest for the Ring is out to make the unknown known for those who hang with us.

In final summary, at QFTR you will find out the true, verified, real factors that determine pro basketball winning and losing. We will relentlessly study and report on games, teams, players, coaches, managers, and owners. We will continually produce valid and custom performance measures and continually verify them. With each year we get closer to the ultimate objective, which is to discover and report on ALL of the factors that determine exactly how and why NBA playoff games and the NBA Championship are won and lost.

Google can and does drop sites from search results all the time, so don't forget to bookmark the QFTR home page. Or write it on your wall!