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Thread: Intelligence in players?

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    Raptors Republic Veteran Nilanka's Avatar
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    Default Intelligence in players?

    I posted this on the main page as well.

    Bill Polian (former NFL General Manager for the Bills, Panthers and Colts) was on Sportsnet 590 last night talking about evaluation criteria when scouting potential draft picks. And one of the factors he mentioned is a player's ability to scan the field, absorb/process all information in a split second, and react/make the right decision accordingly. I loosely interpret this to mean intelligence (not "football IQ", but general intelligence). He said that he has seen hundreds of players over the years who have all the physical gifts in the world, combined with a strong/dedicated work ethic, who have failed on the field because of their inability to process information quickly. He was mainly speaking of quarterbacks, but reiterated that it applies to all other positions as well.

    Long story short, I wonder how true this is in basketball. Is general intelligence what truly separates good players from the all-time greats? Should general IQ tests be used as part of the scouting process? Do the Raptors currently have players that appear to be of high IQ (again, not "basketball IQ", but general intelligence)?

    Thoughts?
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    Raptors Republic Starter Fuchan's Avatar
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    I'm not really sold on a generalized IQ test. They could administer one, put I wouldnt put too much stock into it.

    I know some people who are not the brightest bulbs in the package, but they have amazing instincts and reflexes. Granted, its not on the NBA level, but some people just have a feel for the game I find, and they're not necessarily 'smart'

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    Raptors Republic All-Star Craiger's Avatar
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    I imagine there is a level of truth to this, but I'm not sure its entirely encompassed by 'IQ'

    I think a big part of this is still physical (ie. reaction time, in the sense of the muscles doing what the brain is asking, and hand eye co-ordination, both of which can come from someone who isn't necessarily seen as an 'athlete'), but also mental. Specifically confidence. If you are 2nd guessing yourself, or unsure of your decision, even if only for a split second, that can be the difference between making or missing a play in any sport.

    I think concepts like intelligence (IQ) helps someone know what they should be doing (ie. properly running a play the coach called) or helps with ideas like pattern recognition (ie. the QB has been going left so I'm going position myself a little closer to that side of the field) and as such still adds becomes a net benifit.

    But then again, maybe being intelligent also gives one more confidence and thereby further improves their ability to, or atleast appear to, make good decisions

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    Raptors Republic All-Star Mediumcore's Avatar
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    LeBron James is the best player in the league, but I wouldn't say he's particularly bright. Same case with VC. On the other hand Shane Battier strikes me as a player whom has a high IQ, but he's not at the level of those other two. I would think it's a combination of a physical gifts along with intelligence (both basket ball and general IQ).

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    Raptors Republic Veteran Nilanka's Avatar
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    Quote Mediumcore wrote: View Post
    LeBron James is the best player in the league, but I wouldn't say he's particularly bright. Same case with VC. On the other hand Shane Battier strikes me as a player whom has a high IQ, but he's not at the level of those other two. I would think it's a combination of a physical gifts along with intelligence (both basket ball and general IQ).
    I didn't mean that IQ is the sole reason, but perhaps the missing ingredient that separates good from great. Physical ability and work ethic are still crucial.

    BTW, just curious, what about LeBron gives the impression that he isn't bright?
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    It's being physically gifted, combined with intelligence to be able to use those gifts in an effective manner. Coaches can help.

    EDIT: To elaborate a bit, an example would be DD. He's an athletic freak, but he hasn't been able to utilize his gifts properly. I think having Casey on his ass and teaching him how to play (instead of under Triano, where he'd just 'play') is helping him a lot.

    An IQ test probably wouldn't be worth as much as having a coaching staff / veterans that can help teach players what they should be looking for on the court.
    Last edited by Zewo; Fri Nov 16th, 2012 at 10:14 AM.

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    Raptors Republic Veteran Nilanka's Avatar
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    Quote Zewo wrote: View Post
    It's being physically gifted, combined with intelligence to be able to use those gifts in an effective manner. Coaches can help.
    Coaches can indeed help with the decision-making, but can they help with the brain's reaction time, and how a player visualizes formations, sets, etc.? I'm going to say no because those are innate characteristics.

    Using Bargnani as an example, he's a physically gifted player who coaches have spent years trying to help him with his understanding of defensive principles. Bargnani's lack of work ethic is part of the issue, but is it possible that Bargnani is physically incapable of reading/reacting to situations as they happen in the moment, based of a limitation in his brain?
    Last edited by Nilanka; Fri Nov 16th, 2012 at 10:20 AM.
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    Raptors Republic Starter jimmie's Avatar
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    Quote Zewo wrote: View Post
    It's being physically gifted, combined with intelligence to be able to use those gifts in an effective manner. Coaches can help.

    EDIT: To elaborate a bit, an example would be DD. He's an athletic freak, but he hasn't been able to utilize his gifts properly. I think having Casey on his ass and teaching him how to play (instead of under Triano, where he'd just 'play') is helping him a lot.

    An IQ test probably wouldn't be worth as much as having a coaching staff / veterans that can help teach players what they should be looking for on the court.
    True, but there are sport-specific instincts that you just can't teach, too, IMO. Demar will never be Shane Battier, for instance, in terms of knowing exactly where and when to be on the floor to be most effective, no matter how well he is taught. Then again, Shane Battier will never be Demar, in terms of being able to use his athleticism to cover for a lower level of instinct for the game.

    I think it's really rare to find both attributes -- elite athleticism and high sport IQ -- in one player, especially when the other requirements of being a top-level athlete (work ethic, luck in the injury department, etc.) also need to be there to 100% maximize potential. Some guys are smart at the game, great athletes, but lazy. Some guys work their asses off, can jump out of the gym and run a 4.3 40, but can never find an open teammate with a pass and can't play good help defense even after years of practice.

    I agree that "sport IQ" and "traditional IQ" are not the same thing, but I would guess most guys with high basketball IQ are also semi-intelligent people on a real-world level as well. Sport IQ is more about instinct than actual thought/reasoning, but I have to believe that your brain capacity and level of development would contribute to instinct...
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    Raptors Republic All-Star Mediumcore's Avatar
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    Quote Nilanka wrote: View Post
    I didn't mean that IQ is the sole reason, but perhaps the missing ingredient that separates good from great. Physical ability and work ethic are still crucial.

    BTW, just curious, what about LeBron gives the impression that he isn't bright?


    LOL, I'm not sure if you're being sarcastic or not, but for all the physical gifts and natural basket ball instincts that he has I don't consider him a very cerebral player like for example CP3, Nash, Kobe etc..

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    Raptors Republic All-Star Axel's Avatar
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    Battier is a great example mentioned above, he always had the game of a savy vet even when he was a rookie. Jose is likely the guy on the Raps that best fills this criteria.

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    Quote Mediumcore wrote: View Post
    [/B]

    LOL, I'm not sure if you're being sarcastic or not, but for all the physical gifts and natural basket ball instincts that he has I don't consider him a very cerebral player like for example CP3, Nash, Kobe etc..
    This quote shows how it is difficult to figure out who is "smart" or not (defined by an over-hyped metric such as IQ). Nash seems like he is very bright, and is certainly well spoken and interested in the world at large. However, second-hand from those who knew him in high school, he really was a pretty poor student. Sure he spent most of his time playing sports, but it's high school... I'd say IQ doesn't mean a damn thing when it comes to sports. Raw IQ has little to do with the speed you process information at and make decisions - ie in terms of microseconds, not sitting pondering at a desk. Nash is probably off the charts on this sort of testing.

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    One key to being a savvy veteran, is being a vet. Demar is still pretty undeveloped in terms of basketball. Battier played college ball for four years under Coach K, a defensively minded coach. Demar was a one and done. Demar has mentioned the game slowing down for him and I think that's due to having the run-throughs and experience of playing at the NBA level long enough.

    Thinking about it, I do think having a high IQ would be helpful, but moreso being able to recognize and visualize space than just a high IQ in general (they are related). Recognizing and visualizing space can be taught to a certain degree, but having an innately high IQ would help.

    ie, Pau Gasol vs Shaq. Pau is a high IQ player and you can see it in his passes, but if you're built like Shaq, you don't really need to visualize much more than how far you are from the basket.

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    Super Moderator ReubenJRD's Avatar
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    Landry Fields & standford

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    Raptors Republic Veteran Nilanka's Avatar
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    Quote Zewo wrote: View Post
    ie, Pau Gasol vs Shaq. Pau is a high IQ player and you can see it in his passes, but if you're built like Shaq, you don't really need to visualize much more than how far you are from the basket.
    Shaq was a very good passing big man, too. Almost 4 assists per game in his prime. Not too shabby for a 7 foot behemoth.
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    Raptors Republic All-Star ebrian's Avatar
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    Wonderlic is normally only emphasized for the QB. Still, I wonder if there is even anything like that test in basketball (or any other professional sport for that matter).

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    Raptors Republic Starter jimmie's Avatar
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    Quote ebrian wrote: View Post
    Wonderlic is normally only emphasized for the QB. Still, I wonder if there is even anything like that test in basketball (or any other professional sport for that matter).
    Caliper is the only thing that comes to mind, but that's more about a player's response to pressure. It might be telling in terms of psyche and ability to process information in an analytical (vs. emotional) way, but I don't think it would be a good judge of "sport IQ"...
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    Raptors Republic Rookie Fanchie's Avatar
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    Intelligence is a blurry notion : it can mean lots of things. Roger Federer, for example, has been tested way above average in terms of data processing : when exposed to a situation that needs a combination of stimulus detection and translation of this piece of information into a reaction, he's considered as a genius because in a sense, his eyes and their communication with his brain are way faster than ours. This allowed him to develop a very balanced game because he has more time than others to run the court, prepare his shot and execute. His body is less rushed because his movements are planned earlier. And what's the outcome (apart from greatness) ? The guy has never suffered a single injury in his career (I'm talking about proper injuries). In a way, Lebron is very similar : the guy never seems in a rush, he seems to execute smoothly as if the script of his play had been written and circulated to every part of his body for a long time. And he's never injured.

    That doesn't mean you can't be good without this, but an example of someone who seems to be the complete opposite is Noah : look at how messy his body movements are, just as if his brain had been late on telling his ankles, knees, elbows what to do. He fight this with way above average motor and heart, but he's always injured...

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    Raptors Republic Superstar Puffer's Avatar
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    Quote Nilanka wrote: View Post
    ...Is general intelligence what truly separates good players from the all-time greats? Should general IQ tests be used as part of the scouting process? Do the Raptors currently have players that appear to be of high IQ (again, not "basketball IQ", but general intelligence)?

    Thoughts?

    To be a truly "great player" you obviously need outstanding physical gifts and also a high level of the right kinds of intelligence. As has been noted above, situational awareness and data processing speed are required to get your body moving to the correct location as quickly as possible. You need to be able to internalize learned lessons (studying scouting reports on other players so you can use their tendencies against them in a game...perfect example might be DeMar doing his spin move right into another players hands - not recognizing who bites on it and who doesn't - not picking on him but that is the first example that comes to mind). The ability to focus is required for useful practice. Being able to visualize things in 3D is useful for practice on your own and also for analysing possible moves on the court during a game. These are all individual aspects of intelligence that are not necessarily related i.e they don't always come together as a package. The truly great ones tend to get the whole package.

    As for performance in school...no way is it a reliable marker for high intelligence. Poor performance frequently indicates boredom, as in "Jeez teach. Why are we going over this stuff again and again and again. I got it first time around. Some real mutton heads in this class. I wonder what that guy outside the window is doing? Man this stuff is boring. Damn, Suzy looks hot."

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