Conjecture is defined as an opinion or conclusion formed upon the basis of incomplete information. And it's an easy thing to do.
Strong opinions in sports are not only just a common theme these days, it's pretty much a requirement. With the prevalence of and interest in social platforms, each and every one of us has a voice and an outlet for their opinions. And while this is generally a good thing, it can get a little tricky.
Where the trickiness comes in is that with so many opinions on blast, it can be difficult to filter out those based upon missing or incorrect information. Said opinion gets injected during the social conversation, then slowly begins to creep up the appendages of thought and into serious discussion as accepted fact.
While a lot of sports discussion and media talk (both traditional and social) is simply prediction and opinion, the key is basing those predictions and opinions around as many factual observances as possible.
It's certainly not an exact science. If it were, we'd all be working for the casinos setting lines — or at the very least cleaning up ourselves.
A prediction or opinion begins to slide into the icky muck of conjecture when there's nothing to back it up; an empty vessel masquerading as a full one.
Take a piece of conjecture that's been creeping recently into some of the discussion around the Rockets, their ongoing and longstanding issues finding a power forward, and two current roster members in fourth-year man Terrence Jones and rookie Montrezl Harrell.
I’m astounded by how many Rockets fans think Montrezl Harrell could already be better than Terrence Jones right now. No.— The Dream Shake (@DreamShakeSBN) October 5, 2015
In case you have reservations whether this is an actual argument and not just a lonely strawman set up by your trusty author and his editor, simply follow the social conversations. Don't forget, even most recent TDS posts involving Jones and/or the power forward position have also devolved at some point into the suggestion that Harrell is either already better than Jones, or will be shortly.
The lack of evidence to support this claim is astounding. As a rookie, Harrell has yet to play a single minute in an NBA game. A thigh bruise has kept him out of the Rockets first two preseason games, and there is currently no timetable for his return.
He did have a fine NBA Summer League performance, averaging 16.5 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks on 48.1 percent from the field in four games, but the amount of players who have had nice summer leagues only to fade against the big boys are too innumerable to even mention. Summer League's a nice warm up against similarly skilled competition. That's it.
Harrell did also have a quality three-year college career, averaging 11.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.1 block on 58.1 percent shooting, but college stats are rarely a direct translate to the pro level, especially in the form of a second round draft pick.
Since 1999, less than 6 percent of all total second-round picks have gone to average over 25 minutes per game in the NBA. It's extremely unlikely for a second-round player to become a consistent contributor and performer at the NBA level. It does happen, sure, but the odds are absolutely stacked against it..
By the same token, players taken in Jones' area (first rounders, but just outside the lottery) have a 29 percent chance of becoming long-term NBA contributors and averaging over 25 minutes per game for their careers. Low and behold, Jones' current career minutes average is 25.3.
Drawing the microscope a little closer even to look at individual draft slots, the outlook does improve slightly for Harrell, but it's still an uphill climb worthy of Sisyphus.
From 1989-2008, the likelihood that a player picked 32nd overall, as in Harrell's case, would become even just a role player in the Association was only 15 percent and there is an 80 percent chance that player hardly or never saw the floor. That leaves only a 5 percent chance that player became even a solid starter or better.
Consequently, for a player drafted 18th overall as Jones was, those expectations rise. There's a 45 percent chance a player drafted in Jones' slot becomes a role player or better (Jones is already there) and a 20 percent chance he becomes a solid starter or a star.
We're all very familiar with Jones' positive and negative attributes here at TDS, and there's no need to continue to beat a dead horse, but even in the only apples-to-apples comparison of Jones to Harrell we have, Jones outshines his new teammate.
Jones finished his two-year college career (one less than Harrell) averaging 14.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in over 30 minutes per game on an absolutely loaded Kentucky squad. He had a better defensive and overall plus minus than Harrell, with Harrell the slight edge offensively (3.9 to 3.5), and Jones also had a better career college PER (24.9 to 24.1).
Jones also shot 32.7 percent from behind the arc in college, a percentage he's carried over (31.3 percent in the pros) and been absolutely chastised for since arriving in Houston. Harrell was a career 27 percent shooter from downtown while at Louisville, and don't look for that absolute necessity in the Rockets' offensive game plan to improve for Harrell anytime soon. As we've learned with both Jones and Donatas Motiejunas, a trusty three-ball is often one of the last skills a big man develops, if it doesn't come already equipped.
At 23, Jones already has three NBA seasons on the 21-year-old rookie, and he's improved in all of them. He got off to a great start last season, averaging 14.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.0 steal on 52.3 percent shooting before succumbing to a nerve issue (his stats took a hit later as he battled back to health), and almost a full year removed from recovery, look for the upward trajectory on the young big man to continue.
Harrell's an intriguing player, a fast fan favorite, and definitely one we should all be keeping ours eyes on, but he clearly lags behind Jones both in direct comparison and in the probability of his future success.The possibility does exist that Harrell's production matches and exceeds Jones, but the probability is excessively small. Without any NBA sample size to examine, that's all we have to go on.
So please, the next time someone claims that a second-round rookie who had a worse college career and who has yet to play a single, real professional minute of basketball is already better or will shortly be better than a player who's already been contributing at a relatively high level for three straight seasons, call it out for what it is:
Pure, unequivocal conjecture.