Statophile, Volume 14 | MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Edition

Dorkapalooza Edition We had the opportunity to attend M.I.T.’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this year. The conference offered sessions for a wide range of sports, but we focused our attention on the basketball-related sessions. After 11 sessions over 10 hours (1 1/2 days), we attempted to summarize the highlights below. We have sectioned this post ... Read more

Dorkapalooza Edition

We had the opportunity to attend M.I.T.’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this year. The conference offered sessions for a wide range of sports, but we focused our attention on the basketball-related sessions. After 11 sessions over 10 hours (1 1/2 days), we attempted to summarize the highlights below. We have sectioned this post by session, so the reader is able to focus on specific interests. For more detail on sessions I was not able to attend, see the posts from the excellent group of TrueHoop bloggers here.

Panel: Birth to Stardom, Developing the Modern Athlete in 10,000 hours

Moderator: Malcolm Gladwell Panel: Daryl Morey (Houston Rockets GM), Jeff Van Gundy (ESPN Analyst), Justin Tuck (Defensive End, New York Giants), Mark Verstegen (Athlete’s Performance)

“There are very few flawless players [in the NBA]. LeBron probably comes the closest.” – Daryl Morey

Moderator Malcolm Gladwell led the session with the majority of the questions aimed at the “nature versus nurture” debate. Mr. Gladwell is famous for his “10,000 hour rule” from his best selling book “Outliers“. He argues in the book the key to success in any field is largely influenced by practicing/working for 10,000 hours. This theory prompted an interesting discussion – since many athletes are quite physically gifted. The debate became how much of their success is based on natural talents vs practice time.

One of the more interesting comments came from Gladwell himself:

A lot of what we call talent is the desire to practice.

What appears to be natural talent is often simply a result of years of hard work.

Former head coach Jeff Van Gundy was certainly the most entertaining and candid of the panelists. He made the point that you want all “coachable” players, but the reality is you will not likely win with a roster full of them. There just aren’t enough of these types of players with all the qualities you’re looking for: “(A player) can be soft, selfish and stupid. (I can deal) with one of those, but not two.” Later, when the name Bonzi Wells comes up, JVG adds: “oh, I should add ‘fat” to that list.”

Daryl Morey echoed JVG thoughts, arguing you need stars to win in the NBA. Having a bunch of coachable guys is “just enough to get beat”. In the discussion around “nature versus nature,” he commented that point guards need to have a high IQ, whereas as big man does not necessarily have to: “you can be dumb and big. Can’t be dumb and small.” All you need to teach a big man? “See shot, block shot.”

The discussion turned to where analytics (data driven) can miss big opportunities. Justin Tuck, a defensive end for the NY Giants, said: “there is not enough focus on ‘heart’ during the draft.” Tuck was (I believe) the 7th defensive end picked in the draft (overall the 74th pick in the 3rd round in 2005) and none of the other players are currently in the NFL. Why? He had a deep desire to play. He loved the game. Perhaps others were slightly faster or bigger, but he had that key intangible of “wanting it.”

One of my favourite quotes from the discussion came from Van Gundy: “to be the best, you need a bit of stubbornness.” Van Gundy also gave the example of two players he had coached – one went to Yale and one went to Virginia Union. He said that the one that went to Virginia Union was his “rocket scientist” – he never made a mistake on the court. The “rocket scientist”, of course, is our beloved Charles Oakley.

Van Gundy concluded that one of the main challenges is to figure out “when their ‘love of the game’ shuts off.” Often, he notes, the ‘love of the game” shuts off before their bodies do.

See more from TrueHoop: Malcolm Gladwell on the fundamental questions about player development

The Real Resons Behind Home Field Advantage

By: Tobias J. Moskoqitz, co-author of Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won

The home court advantage in basketball averages approximately three points per game. The home team wins 60.5% of the games in the NBA. But why?

Mr. Moskoqitz dispells a few myths:

1) Larger crowds lead to better performance by the home team and poorer performance by the road team.

  • The easiest measure to test this is free throw percentage (as its consistent). The results? The home team shoots 75.9 percent. The road team? You guessed it 75.9 percent.
  • But what about close games? Isn’t there more pressure on the road team? No, the percentages are still identical.

2) Teams win at home because the rigors of travel doom the visitors

  • Examining “same city” games, he found the home teams have the exact same advantage as they do in all other game they host.
  • “Controlling for the quality of the opponent, the San Antonio Spurs, for example, fare no better when they take puddle-jumpers to play the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets than when they make longer trips to Boston, Toronto, and Miami. (He does note that scheduling, especially the high frequency of road back to backs does have an impact.

So what explains home court advantage?
Social influence on referees

  • While FT% percentages are the same, the frequency that the home team got the the line is higher – 1.0 to 1.5 times a game more. Is this just a matter of the home team being more aggressive?
  • To help answer this, the types of fouls and turnovers were examined – where a high degree of judgment is required. These include loose ball and offensive fouls.
  • The evidence? “Offensive and loose balls fouls go the home team’s way at twice the rate of other personal fouls.”
  • The authors also looked at fouls that are more valuable – ones that cause a change in possession. “These fouls are almost four times more likely to go the home team’s way than fouls that don’t cause a change in possession.”
  • The chance of a visitor being called for a travel is 15% higher than a player for a home team.

The author emphasizes they are convinced that the vast majority (if not all) officials are “upstanding professionals, uncorrupted and incorruptible, consciously doing their best to ensure fairness.” He cites several studies in the field of psychology and concludes: “when humans are faced with enormous pressure — say, making a crucial call with a rabid crowd yelling, taunting, and chanting a few feet away — it is natural to want to alleviate the pressure.” As well, “they may also be taking a cue from the crowd when trying to make the right call, especially in an uncertain situation.”

What Optical Tracking Data Says about NBA Field Goal Shooting

An interesting session from Sandy Weill. He presented initial observations from new data sets from Stats LLC. Stats LLC have put several cameras in three different areas and record all player movement as well as referee position. This allows for significantly improved analytics – including things like “how wide open was player x?”

Some initial observations:

  • Tight defense reduces FG% by around 12 percentage points.
  • Field goal percentage drops by 1% for every 1.5 feet from the basket.
  • A quick catch and shoot tends to result in a higher FG% – even with close defenders. He notes that perhaps there is a rhythm to shooting.
  • Shots on possession changes beginning with defensive rebound or turnover are still slightly better chances (FG% +3%) – even after controlling for shot type and distance.
  • Tip attempts have a 22% lower FG% than a jumper from the same distance.
  • A tightly contested 3-pointer is equal to a loosely contested 13 footer. A tightly covered 24-foot 3pt attempt is equal to an open 30-footer.
  • He also looked not just at the proximity of the primary defender, but the number of defenders. The second closest defender makes a difference too. (Me: Spacing and ball movement matters!)

See more from Queen City Hoops’ Brett Hainline: The “Data Holy Grail”

How Much Trouble is Early Foul Trouble?

By Philip Z. Maymin, Allan Maymin and Eugene Shen
Certainly this session piqued my interest, since I may have expressed some positive views on Amir Johnson the odd time in the past.

One interesting assumption, which I thought was a great rule of thumb, is that foul trouble = Q + 1. E.g. if the game is in the third quarter, 3 + 1 = 4 fouls would be considered foul trouble.
The three authors examined play-by-play data from 2006-2009. The focus was on the team’s starters as they’ll have the most impact on when to take them out.

Their conclusion: Coaches are usually right. Taking your starter out when they have foul trouble (as defined above) is usually the optimal strategy.
See more from CelticsHub‘s Brian Robb: The “Data Holy Grail”

Moral hazard in long-term guaranteed contracts: theory and evidence from the NBA

By Arup Sen and J. Bradford Rice

I’ve dubbed this session “Turkoglu Theory.”
The authors presented several great data points to confirm what many of us were fairly sure of: players exert much more effort in their “contract year” and subsequentially see performance drop after signing the big deal. #LikeABosh

“performance … in the final year of a multi-year deal is approximately 10% higher than in the year prior.”


“We find that relative to the year prior (i.e., the final year of the previous contract), player productivity falls by 17%, lending further support to the hypothesis of decreased effort subsequent to signing a new contract.”

Basketball Analytics

Moderator: Marc Stein (ESPN) Panel: Mark Cuban (Owner, Dallas Mavericks), Kevin Pritchard (Former GM of Portland Trailblazers), John Hollinger (ESPN), Mike Zarren, (Asst Exec Director of Basketball Operations, Boston Celtics)

This was the best session of the conference. Mark Cuban is quite open with many of the tools the Mavericks use – they certainly invest significant resources into analytics (and it’s paying off).

A few of the best nuggets by the panel:

  • Cuban: “Analytics is about risk management.” It helps GMs avoid the big blowup trades and/or free agent signings.
  • Cuban thinks mid season trades are easier as you know how the team is working or not working. Leading up to (and coming out of) the draft, scouts help you fall in love with players and you believe you have good team. Once the season gets going, the shortcomings become clear.
  • Cuban: “I think the first misunderstanding about trades is that the NBA is an efficient market for trades. It’s not.”
  • Prtichard: Regarding the draft: guards and wings get it earlier (learning the NBA game) while bigs take longer (uses Aldridge as an example). The challenge is to assemble a team and try to get everyone when they’re peaking.
  • Pritchard: “You’re not trying to beat the S&P 500 [like a portfolio manger], you’re trying to ‘win’ the S&P 500” re: compiling a team.
  • Zarren: Not enough people look at the variance of various stats. (E.g. a 20 ppg scorer that scores 30 half the games and 10 the other half is much different that one that scores 20 consistently.)
  • Cuban: also need to weigh the time of game and situation. (E.g. a player that scores frequently through 3 quarters, but disappears at crunch time.)
  • Cuban is a fan of Adjusted +/- for lineup building purposes.
  • Cuban: w/ basketball “there is no moneyball solution to say ‘the numbers say you have to draft this guy’”
  • Panelist: (forget who) estimated that 10 NBA teams are not doing analytics.
  • Cuban: “the worst position in the league is a 40 win team.” Hear, hear.
  • Cuban: Some GMs worried about what they are thought of in media (implying this may affect some trading decisions).
  • Audience member asked the panel to respond to a comment by Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn: “Analytics are less important for rebuilding teams” … Cuban: “I’m glad they think that.”

New Sports Owners: The Challenges and Opportunities

Moderator: Jessica Gelman (VP of Customer Marketing, Kraft Sports Group) Panel: Wyc Grousbeck (Co-owner & CEO, Boston Celtics), Brian Burke (President and GM, Toronto Maple Leafs, Jeff Moorad (Owner, San Diego Padres), Joe Lacob (Owner, Golden State Warriors)

Having Bill Simmons on a panel always makes for an even more interesting session.
Key points:

  • Moorad: our goal is to “break even”. Feels that the asset will appreciate in value. (Me: scratching head)
  • Simmons: Three reasons why he thinks teams are purchased: 1) Owning is an investment. 2) Hero complex. White knight. 3) Ego thing. Attention.
  • Lacob: Disagree. It’s a dream. Fun business.
  • Lacob: Its really hard to get these deals done. Have to strike when situation comes up. So hard to value teams. But the opportunity to buy rarely comes up.
  • Grousbeck: 23 out of the 24 championship teams included a “top 50 all time” player and two other big all-stars. Thus, he endorsed the “big 3 concept” from the beginning.
  • Grousbeck: His plan started in 2003 to add a Kevin Garnett-type player (which happened to be Garnett!) 4 years later in order to win in 2010. [Liston’s note to Raptors: that’s a 5+ year plan. Copy it]
  • Lacob: corporate owners don’t work – they can get better returns elsewhere.
  • Lacob: On bloggers: “they are not real fans, because they don’t have season tickets.” (I’ve added it to my “Really Stupid Things New Owners Say” book)
  • Burke: During his interviews to owners over the years “There are only two hands on the steering wheel and they’re both mine.”
  • Burke: Once you approved the budget, “get out of the god damn way.”
  • Burke: “we’re in the game to have a parade” Re: not trading for experience and giving up youth. Also, second place is worthless.

A few takeaways:
I was a little shocked to hear successful businessmen try to convince themselves sports franchises are a good investment. Two of them essentially admitted they likely overpaid and these assets are “hard to value.” Mr. Moorad paid $500 million for the San Diego Padres and bragged about improving the club from a $18 million loss to breakeven. Certainly a nice achievement, but last time I checked paying $500 million to “hope to break even” (Moorad words) over the foreseeable future is not a sound investment. He added, we think the asset will appreciate. This will ONLY happen if you find another billionaire with an ego. Yes, some rich owners buy franchises simply as a hobby – to “have fun.” The challenge is you have a limited audience. Traditional investors are quite hard to come by. And Lacob even admitted, due to scarcity value of franchises being available for sale, you have to “strike” when they come available. Which means you have to overpay even further. There is potential for what’s known as the “winner’s curse“. Thus, you have to hope there continue to be plenty of billionaires looking for a money-losing hobby who will overpay even more. Maybe, but given the economic backdrop, how deep can the losses be for the “hobby” to be worth it?

Other notes:

  • Growth of the conference has been substantial: 1,500 attendees this year versus 1,000 a year ago.
  • Largest group? From Canadian Brock University in St. Catharines (47 people)
  • Attendees from various teams:

  • No one from the Toronto Raptors.

  • Best panelist (by far): Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke

Quote of the Conference?

Current Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey on a pre-draft interview with Marcus Banks:
Mr. Morey: What do you really want to do with your life?
Marcus Banks: Be a male fashion model.

Sources: TrueHoop, MIT Sloan Sports Conference,
Questions? Email me: [email protected] or find me on Twitter.

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145 thoughts on “Statophile, Volume 14 | MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Edition”

  1. Nobody at the conference from the Raptors??

    It would be great to get a more detailed post about stats use by the Raptors: their attitude, if they buy stats, who looks at or uses stats within the extended coaching/management team, who should be responsible for deciding if they buy/use stats, etc.

    To me this mistake is the same type/size of mistake as doing all your scouting in North America, and never bothering to even look at anyone out of Europe … it’s a big mistake that will hurt you over time, but will still give you a reasonably competitive second-rate team.

  2. “Mark Cuban is quite open with many of the tools the Mavericks use – they certainly invest significant resources into analytics (and it’s paying off).”

    Toronto is Down the road from the University of Waterloo, the MIT of Canada, and cant get anyone to come in and run risk assessment, logistics, game theory mathematics, or actuarial science for the Raptors. Its a brave New World, use every avaliable resource to help the team. Although it doesnt take a Masters in applied Mathematics and Statistics to know our biggest problem is NO D.

    • BC does not need no stinking analyst. He pops his color up, puts the gel in his hair and roll like a Pimp Daddy while distributing Kool-Aid in Down town toroto an giving away our picks and future for Scrubs like James Johnson, Amir Johnson and Bayless.

        • it would have been a more salient point if the players mentioned weren’t obtained in at worst a fair trade. as a designated BC ‘hater,’ i can’t fault him for the moves he made in acquiring any of those three…designate them as ‘scrubs,’ who cares…it’s not as though ‘scrubs’ aren’t a vitally important part of any successful team.

  3. Tom, my naked eye tells me Ed Davis is similar to Al Horford: is there anything in the numbers to support this empirical observation? If Andrea were ever to become an average defender we would have a formidable frontcourt. Also if we plugged the huge hole at SF we could become a good team…

  4. I wonder … How many current Raptors are two of Soft, Selfish, Stupid or Fast? Anyone?

    I’ve always said that the smartest GMs & players only sign 1 year contracts, making the player ‘in a contract year’ every year.

    • The problem is that talented players would never sign such a contract because there are 29 other GMs willing to offer multi-year deals. The 1-year contracts are usually restricted to unproven players or ageing veterans, who would have a hard time getting a chance elsewhere. Supply and demand my friend.

      • If my math is correct, I’d play 17% better if I’m in a contract year. Thus, wouldn’t it be in my interest to always be in a contract year? Just asking …

        • no, as a player i’d be in your best interest to lock up a multiyear deal for more money than you’d get in a single year deal, to provide you with “security” in case you get injured/career ends/the gm realizes you suck.

          • I thought that that’s what insurance is for. My bad.

            I still think that having stats that are 17% better each and every year gets me more in sum total than being “secure”. But that’s just me …

                • Yes, but insurance wouldn’t cover what you could make if you signed a big, long term contract. And you still have to pay out the premiums. Either way, it’s obviously in a player’s best interest to sign long term contract for security.

                • Maybe you can get “job insurance” I’m not sure… but I highly doubt your “job insurance” would be anwhere close to what a long term NBA contract would give you. Even if you could what would be the cost of that insurance?

                  It would be great (theoretically anyways) if players always wanted 1 year contracts…. but they don’t. They want guaranteed money. Financially long term contracts make alot more sense than short term deals.

                  Teams generally want this aswell (to a degree) because it allows them plan. If players were all signing 1 year contracts, your roster change/turnover would be off the charts.

            • first of all and respectfully, boko, it doesn’t say players in the contract year have stats that are 17% better each and every year. One, its an approximation. Not every single player ups his stats in every single contract year. Two, the approximation was an increase of 10%, not 17%. Thirdly, if there only negaotiating for a series of one year contracts was even remotely a sound money making decision you dont think agent would be all over this strategy?

              • “We find that relative to the year prior (i.e., the final year of the previous contract), player productivity falls by 17%, lending further support to the hypothesis of decreased effort subsequent to signing a new contract.”

                That’s a quote from the article up above, not from me. AND it’s NOT an approximation.

                Agents have their own agendas.

                Why can’t anybody else see that playing 17% better is a desirable thing?! It could be the difference between a championship and a finalist team. It could be the difference between a playoff and a non-playoff team. Sheesh!! Sure, play for the security, and end up being 17% worse … that’s NOT the kind of player that I want on my team!!!!!!!!

                • The problem with your premise is that you assume that simply because a player gets better stats means he’s helping the team more. The problem with many players in contract years is they play for stats, rather than wins. Role players will want more shots, etc. There have been many cases where a roster with a lot of expiring contracts underperform because players are playing for contracts instead of wins.

                  Also, contenders need stability, and if you’ve got a lot of expiring contracts every year, there’s a good chance players will change teams. And it’s often cheaper to extend players, rather than let them get in a bidding war with other teams.

                  You want everyone on the same page, and when people are thinking about where their next contract is going to come from.

                • and I counter with … IF every player is on a 1 year contract, and every player gets a bonus for every win, you have an entire team that’s 17% better, and focused on winning every game. But that’s just me …

                • Those types of contracts aren’t attractive to players. If someone was offering $5 million and another team was offering you $4 million, with incentives that would pay you a little more if your team won a lot of games, which would you choose? Plus, you still end up with less roster stability and a higher chance you’ll have to overpay more.

                • Golly, imagine that, overpaying for actual production that’s really 17% higher. What’s the world coming to. If all GMs were smart enough to only offer 1 year contracts, for actual performance levels, we’d be better off because no team would be held hostage by players like Turkoglu for us. We were really lucky to unload him. Imagine if nobody had wanted him … and look what we got in return: Leandro Barbosa, a career sub. Big deal.

                • In an ideal world, no one would overpay and players would always try hard. But in the real world, teams overpay, give out long term contracts and players don’t live up to them. Unless ALL GMs give out one-year contracts, it would be foolish for a GM to do it because he wouldn’t be able to compete.

                • Just because it’s in this CBA a) doesn’t mean it’ll be in the next one, & b) doesn’t make it a good rule.

                • boko, here are the quotes:
                  “performance … in the final year of a multi-year deal is approximately 10% higher than in the year prior.”


                  “We find that relative to the year prior (i.e., the final year of the previous contract), player productivity falls by 17%, lending further support to the hypothesis of decreased effort subsequent to signing a new contract.”

                  Secondly, player productivity falling 17% in the first year of a new contract is different than playing 17% better in the final year of a contract.

                  If you imagine, a player puts forth X worth of effort in the 2nd last year of his contract. In the final year of his contract he will put forth X + 10%. Then in the first year of his new contract his effort will be X+10% – 17%

                  Lastly, these are all approximations. there is no universal law that says every player in every final year of his contract will have his game improve by 10%.

                • They’re AVERAGES, not APPROXIMATIONS. There’s a difference. If I make $100,000 this year, and you make $200,000 this year, our average is, in fact, $150,000, period. That’s not an approximation. It’s quite precise.

            • The player would have to get better every year – they would rather take a known quantity for the long term today, then risk injury, reduced playing time by a certain coach, etc and have their numbers/worth decline.

      • Nilanka is right – the author explains why long contracts are still signed.

        The arbitrage opportunity would be to look to trade an expiring year (b/c someone is playing better than they will with a new deal) for someone in, say their 3rd year of a 5 year deal. The latter player can have slightly worst #s currently, but ultimately be more valuable.

        Here’s the full paper:

  5. A tightly contested 3-pointer is equal to a loosely contested 13 footer.?

    Im assuming this was supposed to be ….

    A loosely contested 3-pointer is equal to a contested 13 footer?

  6. “Mr. Morey: What do you really want to do with your life?
    Marcus Banks: Be a male fashion model.”

    Mr. Colangelo: What do you really want to do with your life?
    Andrea Bargnani: Well I’ll start by telling you what I don’t want to do… defense.

    • So taking charges from a guy weighing 260 lbs or so coming at you like a bulldozer is not playing defense ? , his one-on-one defense is not good ? , 12 rebounds is not playing defense ? . Please criticize intelligently not stupidly , yes he is much more a scorer than a defender but he never said like Ru-Paul that he does not want to play center and that is the one position he is less suited for .

      • AB has …
        61 NBA players that have more blocks than he, therefore every team averages 2 players with better numbers than he!
        71 with more rebounds, ditto!
        33 with more FTs made (I’ll give credit where credit is due.)
        21 with more 2s made (Ditto.)
        74 with more 3s made, therefore every team averages 2 players with better numbers than he!
        Please explain to me why I should love him as our C, thank you …

      • I do believe it was a joke, and like most good jokes, there’s truth in it. Bargnani played some decent defense in the one game against New Jersey, but let’s not pretend that is a common occurrence. Games where Bargnani plays anything approaching acceptable defense is as common as games where Amir scores 20+ points. Are we saying that Amir is a great scorer, now?

        • Agree that the games where he plays overall acceptable defense are rare . but his one-on-one defense is always there and his nearly 6 rebs/game and nearly 1 block/game are there also . It is one thing to say that he is a poor defender and another to say that he does not want to play defense , that is just plain dumb . A few games ago , he recovered a ball while on the floor and made a pass to Davis for a score , that is fighting for possession , an example of the many things he is improving on .

          • Bargnani’s one-on-one defense is vastly overrated. He’ll have a few good games that people remember, but most of the time, his one-on-one defense is pretty bad. Not as bad as his help defense, but still pretty bad.

            As for whether he wants to play defense or not, that’s not really the point. The comment was meant to be a joke. No one is saying that he said that. Arguing the semantics of a comment that is meant to be a joke makes even less sense than the joke itself.

            If the comment was:
            “Mr. Colangelo: What do you really want to do with your life?
            Amir Johnson: Well, what I really want to do is foul people”

            …would you have been as offended? Amir obviously wouldn’t have said that, but even I would have thought that would have been funny. I think you’re taking the comment way too seriously.

            • I’ll agree on help defense, but not on man-to-man, which I think Bargnani is one of the better ones on this team.

              • I’ve gone over this before, but Bargnani is SOMETIMES decent in certain specific situations. Unfortunately those certain specific situations are few and far between. The majority of games, Bargnani’s man-to-man defense is poor.

      • Cesco, you should know better than drawing conclusions from 1 (or 2) games…

        The trend over the past 5 years is probably a more accurate indicator.

      • The recent charges that Andrea are taking are good. He’s thinking on the defensive end and trying to anticipate where the opposition is going. That being said watch him in the key on any other occasion and you might ask yourself what is he doing or better yet why is he not doing anything? 12 boards was also good for his 2nd double double of the year but hey it’s basketball not reboundball we’re playing.

        Bosh said he didn’t want to play center because he’s a 4 and doesn’t have the body to hammer with centers. That being said he was playing the 5 as a rookie and when teamed with Bargs in the front court covering the tougher match-up which was sometimes the opposing center. Bargs may not have said it but when I watch the Raps play the Magic for instance and Evans or Amir is guarding Howard that should make you wonder what the heck is going on no? When they are playing Milwaukee and Amir is struggling with Bogut that should raise some questions shouldn’t it? If he’s a 5 he should be guarding the 5 but they often put him on the weaker offensive player, regardless of what position that player plays.

        Criticize intelligently not stupidly.

        • “That being said he was playing the 5 as a rookie and when teamed with Bargs in the front court covering the tougher match-up which was sometimes the opposing center”

          Not sure where this came from. Bargnani always got the tougher check last year. Whether it was Dirk, Dwight, Josh Smith, Tim Duncan etc. Bosh was always responsible for the “easier” check.

          One of the things I wish Triano would do now… move Bargs back to the tougher check, then him not leaving his man to help is alot easier to swallow.

          But its also one of the reasons why I’m more concerned/disappointed with Bargnani this year than last year, and why its alarming that the majority of his stats (non-point related) are decreasing.

          • Not sure where your assesment came from as I always saw Bosh guarding the more difficult check.

            Difference of opinion I guess.

          • Bargnani generally defended the bigger, stronger player. Not the better player. And there were more than a few games where Bargnani started on a player, but couldn’t stop him, so Bosh switched over to him on defense.

            • “Bargnani started on a player, but couldn’t stop him, so Bosh switched over to him on defense.”

              this happened often.

      • You’re defending Bargnani’s defense and then asking me to criticize intelligently!? Come man – you’re include his 12 rebound game and the one charge he’s taken in the last month in your argument – that’s blind love if you ask me.

          • I actually was commneting on him taking more charges as a good thing. I thought he beat the offensive player to the spot on all of those recent charges he’s taken. I do still think he is a major liability defensively regardless of these plays however.

        • First of all , he also took a charge in the friday night game , so it is two games in a row where he took a charge . Second , Andrea like many others (Jose and Nash for example) are not good defenders but they do their best . You were implying that he does not want to play defense , that is completely different than saying he is a poor defender . The last game showed that he want to improve , the same thing applies to Amir who is trying to cut down on his fouls and he knows he has to keep working at it .

          • Actually I didn’t imply anything – you inferred what you thought I implied. You’re also inferring that the level of desire that he has to play defense is sufficient, which I question.

          • There’s a big difference between doing something, and doing it consistently. There have been a few times, including the last game in London, where Bargnani appeared like he wanted to play defense and work hard on the court. That’s how he was able to grab 12 rebounds. Unfortunately, as his 5.5 rpg average shows, that’s not something that Bargnani does consistently.

            Bargnani has shown that if he really wants to be he can be a decent rebounder and defender. Unfortunately, he’s also shown he doesn’t seem to care enough to be, which is why he’s neither.

            I really don’t see how you can say that Bargnani tries his best on defense. It’s not as if, like Nash and Jose, he simply doesn’t have the physical skills to be a good defender. Bargnani is more coordinated, faster, quicker and more athletic than most guys his size, AND he’s big and strong enough that he can defend bigger post up players. Bargnani has the physical skills to be a first rate defender. Neither Nash or Jose are quick, athletic or strong enough to be good defenders.

            • .
              So wouldn’t that be on the Coach to draw out that effort. Motivate his players, like Popovich does – calling a time-out and making his point. Seems to be working this year for SA.

              • There’s a difference between motivating players who are self starters anyways, like most of the SPurs players are, and motivating lazy players who simply don’t try hard. San Antonio doesn’t bring in many players like that and if they do, they generally don’t last long.

                A great coach can get the best out of a player, but he can’t change who that player is. Jeff Van Gundy is a great coach, but he never could get McGrady to be something that he simply was not.

  7. Pretty neat stuff. The entire Basketball Anayltics piece just seems like ‘common sense’ stuff… but it never hurts to be repeated (again, and again, and again if necessary)

    Curious about the home team advantage discussion.

    “The easiest measure to test this is free throw percentage (as its consistent).” Couldn’t that consistency also make it the a poor choice to measure with. Here is a shot that players take in the 100s a day. Making it completely routine. Maybe a bad example, but like driving a car… you have me drive a car in the north, in florida, in mexico etc. and I will still drive within the rules of the road just in different conditions. But you have me drive on the opposite side of the road and everything changes.

    There are players who entire stat line changes when at home vs away (some better some worse)
    Why would then not look at the change in the entire a stat line to see if there was a difference (fg%, ft%, rebs, turnovers etc.) I can see this being much more time consuming…. but this would also offer much more diversity to the equation and eliminate the routine.

    • I agree with you. The thought may be that – especially in the fourth quarter of close games, you have the home team “more comfortable” and the vistors “intimated” by the large crowd. Even in these situations, the numbers are identical.

      On your last paragraph – that would indeed be interesting.

  8. “Lacob: On bloggers: “they are not real fans, because they don’t have season tickets.”

    So, apparently, poor people, people who live in different cities, and people who have opinions that they want to share them can’t be real fans. Also, what happens if a blogger IS a season ticket holder?

    “Cuban: “the worst position in the league is a 40 win team.”

    Been saying this for years. Couldn’t agree more. Mediocrity is a killer.

    • Joe Lacob has a lot to learn as a new owner. And guess what? As you point out, many bloggers have invested a ton of money in season tickets, ind game tickets, merchandise, etc. There is a bit of arrogance with him – hope he realizes that owning a franchise is “a different game”.
      Enjoy: “The Warriors’ Joe Lacob is beginning to learn about life under the NBA heat lamp”

      • I don’t think I’ve liked one move the Warriors have made under his tenure, other than firing Don Nelson. His comment sounds more like lashing out against his critics, than a real thought. Still, if he was smart he wouldn’t make big generalizations like that that could eventually come back to haunt him.

          • Unfortunately he’s responsible for BUILDING the crap team. He had some pieces to build a good team, but reaching badly for Ekpe Udoh, while bypassing much better players, overpaying David Lee, who doesn’t play much defense, and plays the same position as Udoh, then not trading Monta Ellis etc etc.

    • a) How do we know he didn’t?
      b) Why on earth do you think Sloan would ever take over one of the worst teams in the entire league with one of the worst defending big men?
      c) He’s 69 years old. Is he really the right guy to take over a team that is at least 3 or 4 years away from being able to field a contender?

      • What would lead you to believe he had?

        History has shown us that BC isn’t fond of coaches that like to coach their team the way they want to if it doesn’t fit his mould or encompass an entertaining brand of basketball.

        He might not be the right candidate as you suggest but I guarantee you the defence would improve and all players would be held accountable for their performances or they wouldn’t play.

        • I’m not saying he has. I’m just not assuming anything either way.

          And as a Utah Jazz fan from before Sloan was even head coach, there, I’m a huge fan of Sloan and his leaving has pretty much put the icing on the cake for me not following the Jazz, anymore, but he makes absolutely no sense for this team. Holding players accountable is great, but what’s even better is to have most of your players not need to be held accountable. They just do it.

      • Are you guys positive he means Jerry Sloan? I was under the assumption he was wondering why colangelo didnt send anyone to the MIT Sloan Analytics Conferance not to the former coach of the utah jazz…

        • No, we were wrong. For some reason both of us saw Sloan and immediately thought he was talking about Jerry Sloan. I actually never noticed the name of the conference was the SLOAN Analytics Conference, which was where the confusion came in.

    • Could potentially be related to the games in London (at least I hope so).
      Several new presentations and papers that are quite interesting.
      Also, the new STATS LLC optical tracking is something to investigate (who uses it? Only the Spurs, the Rockets, the Mavericks, the Thunder and the Warriors, with the Celtics coming soon)

  9. What Optical Tracking says about the NBA imo

    – #1 is right
    – The percentages dropping 1% every 1 feet near the basket is an hallmark of great defensive teams imo. Shots closer to the basket(at the extreme, layups and dunks) are high percentage shots and good defensive teams try their best to take that away. As a defensive coach, the variety of shots, you most likely want against your team are long 2s(the most inefficient shot imo in basketball) because with teams even making them, they are trendily inconsistent shots that falter at the wrong time(which is in the clutch).
    – A quick and catch shoot results in a higher FG% imo because of the following:-
    a. The player does not have to second guess himself shooting. Questions to see why it is this line of thought – why is it that good shot makers in NBA history seem to have shot amnesia even when they have a horrible shooting nights? and Why is it that once a player has an open jumpshot especially at the three point line and waits 2 seconds, it most likely does not go in?
    b. Mankind decisions made without second guessing over time tend to be at least 65-70% right. Why is it that in exams, you are told to circle the answer that first comes to your mind which seems to be right more times than being wrong?
    – Shots beginning with a defensive rebound and turnovers usually result in a higher FG % because the opposing team is usually on their heels in such situations imo. However, only turnovers that are steals and blocks in bounds (not the out of bounds turnover resulting from taken charges, moving screens, offensive fouls, blocks out of bounds and over the back fouls) seem to result in a higher FG %.
    -That may be right about tip attempts being lower than jumpers at the same distance but imo, tip attempts or finger rolls less than 1 feet close to the basket is a much better shot than a jumper, floaters are good from 2-3 feet in, jumpers are good from the sides outside of the paint as jumpers most likely get blocked or airballed due to more pressure in the paint by good defensive teams.
    -Contested 3 pointers are hit or miss imo, that is right but being in the personal space(Artest, Jeff Green, Ariza and Battier are gold standards here), utilizing quick hands especially at a player who brings the ball up in a slow manner to shoot or make a move(*cough* Bargs) to get a steal(Artest, Stephen Jackson are the gold standards here) are ways to defend the 3 pointer to make it difficult and put on the miss column for your team.
    -That is really right – basketball is a team sport and hallmarks of great defensive teams is great team defense(even if the team has a not so good defensive player a la Manu Ginobili(has good defensive basketball IQ funneling his man towards help in Tim Duncan though and takes charges)) especially help defense.

    The home court advantage stuff imo is subjective. The real meaning to the stat here will be measuring the home court advantage of +.500 teams vs lottery teams, teams with loud fans(Boston, Utah, Portland) vs. teams with tepid fans(Atlanta, Memphis) to see more into the stat imo. The stat most likely will show home court advantage being pronounced with +.500 teams(now you see why Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves are being screwed on their home court by the refs?) and teams with loud fans(could be the reason why teams like Utah overachieved(teams with loud fans imo add 5-7 more wins over the season) and Portland too especially with their injuries).

    The heart stuff being measured in the draft will be really fantastic(See players like Derrick Coleman, Vince Carter and Tracy Mcgrady as examples of players without heart who would have had way better careers if they had heart and desire to be great). However, how do we measure a subjective character as heart especially as a barometer in the draft?(Will need some help from sport psychologists on this lol).

    My 2 cents on the little I read here.

    • smush,

      where did you get “the % dropping 1% every one foot NEAR the basket is a hallmark of great defensive teams…”

      The quote from Tom’s post is “Field goal percentage drops by 1% for every 1.5 feet from the basket”.

      Like, the exact opposite of what you referenced.

      • I did not have time to be copying and pasting but I rewrote it and that seems to be right imo(see your BC Era Toronto Raptors for evidence of a team that allow lots of points in the paint. Are they a good defensive team? Here is your answer lol).

        • you didn’t have time to copy and paste it (or to understand it) so you totally and completely made up a stat that says, now correct me if I am wrong, for every ft CLOSER you get to the basket, on a good defensive team, your field goal % will DROP by 1%?!?!

          • its pretty clear what he meant.. he just said it backwards.

            all you had to do was keep reading.

            “Shots closer to the basket(at the extreme, layups and dunks) are high percentage shots and good defensive teams try their best to take that away”

            • pretty easy miscommunication to fix. He certainly didn’t make it clear, though, with his follow up response, did he? Maybe he’ll grace me with another follow up.

  10. The only conference I’ll be soon paying attention to is of the presser variety by either Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and or Bill Russell to divulge their secrets… Stats happen in real time–the historical nature of trends is that they go up and they go down but as per the Justin Tuck argument, the ‘heart’ of the matter is the one thing no one can predict.

    Why is Player A not afraid to take advantage of the moment more often than Player B? What’s the correlation between tendency of failure and success besides the number? What are the aggravating factors that parlay confidence in some and fear of success in others?

    It’s an interesting discussion no doubt but I highly dispute the theory science will ever catch up to the Real Time practical decisions that determine winners v losers. Which is why I think the Miami heat are having most of their struggles: They’re depending on a video coordinator, Erik Spoelstra stats geek to lead them into a game than won or lost in between the lines of emotion… Instead of a guy who’s played the game and just has a knack/knowhow to win as a player/coach in Pat Riley…

    The similarities between Phil Jackson and Pat Riley are astounding… Only 2 men in HIStory to win championships as both a player and coach THEN also win championships in both conferences coach–I think the field of study could be narrowed to study the best instead of focusing on the historic losers to better navigate the path to success…

    Which brings us to Toronto Raptors… The greatest talent I can think of, in a game setting vs practice is the management of emotion–when to be angry, when to play it cool…As far as I can tell re: Toronto–Jay Triano is ‘very slow’ in making adjustments and his favorite #1 Player is slow in taking direction which is why I can understand why this team has a 25 game “ceiling”… If someone were to take a stop watch in real time to figure out how long Triano takes to react to an on the court situation with a change in personnel/approach…or how long it takes #7 to get to his 5th rebound (which is his average per game) I’d like to have that info…

    • I agree with you on many of your points and I am in complete agreement with you that when your in the trenches its more beneficial to have a cohac that has been there done that on the court and on the sidelines.

      As for the Heat it could definitely be a Spolestra problem but the main difference I see with them now and earlier in the year when they went on that big string of wins is that they are not defending with the same energy. Right now they are being dissected in the half court and giving up a ton of open looks.

      The Bulls on the other hand are putting their foot down when defending opposing teams sets in the halfcourt and Coach T has them buzzing around the ball and making teams take shots they want them to take….much like Boston does.

      • I think Miami’s biggest problem is that their 2 best players essentially play the same position. In comparison, the Bulls are a much more balanced team 1 through 5.

        • I’d bet that Miami’s biggest problem is the level of play they get from players #3 thru 8. Lebron & Dwyane are NOT their problem. One’s a swing forward. One’s a swing guard. Michael & Scottie won 6 championships with the same scenario!!!!!!

          • yep I agree.

            The rest of the bulls teams didn’t ride on the backs of Jordan and Pippen, rather they cleared the way to make their (Pippen and Jordan’s) game easier. (played D, grabbed rebounds, set hard screens, gave hard fouls, got themselves in position etc)

            This Miami team? They are simply not getting invloved in LBJ and DWades game… not running the floor, not rebounding, not hustling, not hurting the opponents. (ok well Dampier does, but he doesn’t have the capacity to do it for long)

            I actually think Dwade and LBJ have made a great tandem… as for the rest of the team, well they might as well be the cavaliers.

          • But Boko, what really is the difference between a swing forward and a swing guard in this scenario? Both Lebron and Wade are ball-dominant players who are expected to facilitate the offense, score, defend, hit clutch shots, and lead the team on and off the court. Each player is less effective when being forced to defer to the other. There’s only 1 ball.

            The Heat are just a poorly constructed team. They’ve put themselves in a position where either Lebron or Wade has to sit and watch while the other does his thing (I’m exaggerating for simplicity’s sake, but you get what I’m saying). There is redundancy in their starting lineup.

            This isn’t hindsight speaking, but either Lebron or Wade (not both) would’ve been much better off choosing the Bulls as his option. Having a legit PG in Rose, and a legit defensive centre in Noah, combined with a superstar wing just provides a prototypically balanced team compared to the current rendition of the Heat.

            • That I can agree with. Every team with championship aspirations should want a C or a PF that can score well above average, a SF or a SG that do likewise, and a PG that can both score a little above average AND pass well above average. The rest of the team can be role players … That’s probably the optimal franchise model to use. Although one can win with deviations (Bird/McHale/Parish).

              • Not necessarily one that scores about average, but one that is a scoring threat. And more important than that is a C and PF that both defend. Several teams have won with big men who didn’t score a lot of points. But none have won with poor defenders at the 4 or 5.

                • Yea, you’re right. The difference between most playoff series winning teams and the teams that lost to them is usually that their players ALSO played D above average. Andrea, is it registering at all with you after all these years?

                • Is that the first thing championship teams have in common, a C and PF that can both defend? Or is it a star player(s)?

                • Oh, you obviously need star players. I never said that the first thing you need is a C and PF that both defend. It’s just that’s one of the things you need.

                • If Miami has Rose , Wade and LBJ and have Davis and Andrea as their bigs , their chances to win the championship are pretty good , so your theory is just an opinion not a sure fact.

                • Perhaps , there has never been a championship team with 3 big stars that can play both offense and defense plus one big that can play good defense and one big that is a great scorer but it may happen some day.

                • There’s never been a Championship team that consisted of five 20 ppg scorers who simply tried to outscore their opponent instead of playing defense, but it may happen some day. Anything could. But logic and history say differently.

                  Winning a Championship is hard enough. Why handicap your team by making it even harder? COULD a team win a Championship with a guy like Bargnani starting? Sure. But the odds are certainly against it.

                  There’s plenty of evidence to support the claim that a D’Antoni coached team will never win a Championship because he simply doesn’t focus enough on defense, but it still COULD happen. If you’re a GM, you could simply get as many of the leagues best defenders as you could, which would offset D’Antoni’s unwillingness to preach defense. Or you could simply get a new coach who will. D’Antoni is unarguably a very good coach. He’s had a lot of success in the league and has shown he can help his team win games. But if he’s not going to get you a Championship, then why not get one who will give you a better chance to?

                • Obviously it’s not a fact, but neither is your assertion that Rose, Wade and LeBron’s chances of winning a Championship would be pretty good, even with Bargnani. It IS a fact that no team has won a Championship, at least in the last 35 years, that had a rotational big man that was a below average defender.

        • +1 Nilanka but imo Wade and LBJ are similar players – they are not consistent jumpshooters(instead driving and slashing players), they are iso players, they hardly move without the ball a la Richard Hamilton or Ray Allen off screens and both can’t shoot 3 pointers consistently to keep opposing defenses honest. That is a lot of flaws for starting wings on a playoff team (imo, the optimum wing-wing combination is a starting wing that slashes and drives and a wing that moves without the ball curling off screens to make shots(a la Paul Pierce and Ray Allen of the Boston Celtics or Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton of the 2004 Championship Detroit Pistons). Until one or both of Wade and LBJ learn to move without the ball, have consistent jumpers and by extension, 3 pointers, that Miami Heat team might never realise their potential.

          Finally, the “big 3” conundrum under the current CBA hardly works (unless you are the desperate for a championship a la the Boston Big 3 in 2008 that sacrificed money and ego at the door to win a championship). Let us look at the other contending teams under the current CBA:-

          San Antonio Spurs:- basically a big 2 of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan with a very good player in Manu Ginobili as part of the supporting cast. This is not a real “Big 3”.
          Dallas Mavericks:- Big 2 of Dirk Nowizki and one of Jason Terry or Jason Kidd. surrounded though by a very good supporting cast in Tyson Chandler, Brendan Haywood, Ian Mahmini(for size in the long haul of the playoffs), JJ Barea (a fast and versatile PG), Rodrigue Beaubois(an offensive punch).
          Chicago Bulls:- Derrick Rose and Luol Deng(having a fantastic year). Also have a fantastic supporting cast.
          Boston Celtics:- only true Big 3 here.
          Miami Heat:- not a Big 3 obviously – more like “Big 2 and a half” lol.
          Lakers:- Big 2 of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and a very talented supporting cast.

          Honorable mention:- Big 2 of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder with a good supporting cast too.

          So out of the 7 teams I mentioned, there is only one “Big 3”. The way to winning a championship imo is an elite wing and a defensive post presence, scoring and rebounding man(see Lakers with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, Lakers with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’neal, Miami Heat with Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’neal with clear exceptions of the desperate “Big 3” of the Boston Celtics and the two wing trouble of the Chicago Bull’s Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen(who could guard different positions in his time)).

          Finally, Miami Heat should trade Wade or LBJ(preferably) to get a center who is a low post presence and an elite PG(D-will and Lopez of the Nets?, other trades will come up too for a Top 10 player, the Miami Heat might want to trade in Wade or LBJ) which gives Wade and Bosh – a big 2 tandem a very good supporting cast for the long haul of the playoffs if they ever want to win a championship.

          In Summary, Big 2 of elite big man and elite wing or elite wing-wing combination + very good supporting cast = NBA Championship imo.

          My 2 cents.

          • you acquire players like LBJ and Wade so they have the ball in their hands. You dont have them on your team and then ask them to run around a number of screens, like Rip Hamilton or Ray Allen, while Mario Chalmers handles the rock and decides what to run.

            The potential difference in Miami and Boston is not a big 3 vs a big 2. its a big 4 vs a big 3. You gotta include Rondo as an elite player for boston. If it was Labron, Wade and Bosh vs Pierce, Allen and Garnett, Miami would win every time.

          • “That is a lot of flaws for starting wings on a playoff team”

            thats the first time I’ve heard of what is generally accepted as 2 of the 3 best players in the league as having “alot of flaws” or don’t keep the “defense honest”

            I understand people aren’t convinced about the Heat winning, and while I don’t disagree, I have no idea why people think moving Wade or Lebron is the answer. They actually have a good chemistry. I think its the rest of the team… one person inparticular… who doesn’t fit into that scenario. And the money he is making, is not worth what he provides.

            • Yeah Bosh might not be the good fit on that team but having similar players too who need the ball in their hands all the time emasculates the full potential of the team they are playing for. Imagine if Ray Allen were like Wade or LBJ and needed the ball in his hands too when Pierce and Rondo also have a right to the ball, do you think the Celtics win their championship? No (See also other teams with 2 ball handlers, how they fared – Turkoglu and Jose Calderon on 2009-2010 Toronto Raptors, Steph Curry and Monta Ellis on the 2010-2011 Toronto Raptors, Andre Igoudala and Evan Turner(notice that Doug Collins remedied that and started Jodie Meeks instead who could move without the ball). Now compare to one man teams – LBJ with 2010-2011 Cleveland Cavaliers “weak” supporting cast(but still has a better record than the big “3” lol), Derrick Rose and the 2010-2011 Chicago Bulls and others).

              Imo, when you have two players that need to handle the ball, the offense becomes predictable especially if one or both players can not move without the ball(and the seams of the offense comes undone in the clutch as it becomes an iso which most times except if you are Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, Rudy Gay in this league does not do the job in the clutch). Now imagine LBJ holding the ball in iso and Wade running around screens and spacing himself on offense, LBJ now has an option to pass to Wade and keep the defense honest.

              Finally, a team with two players that need the ball also run simple pick and rolls down the clutch that can easily be defended by other opposing good defensive teams(unless they face the abysmal defensive Toronto Raptors) which leads to lulls on offense at the wrong time (one of the reasons imo, why the Miami Heat team goes on a drought when most playoff teams tighten up on defense in the 3rd and 4th quarter. Coincidence? Absoulutely not. ). You want offenses like Jerry Sloan’s flex offense, Portland’s cutting based heavy offense and Phil Jackson’s triangle offense – offenses that keep the defense honest in the clutch not pick and roll sequences or isos.

              My 2 cents.

            • The heat will be fine.

              People were all up in the Lakers’ grill when they were losing. Now, not so much.

              The Heat is a great team.

              Although they are still huge douches.

          • FYI …
            Which top 8 teams have four players in the top 60 in efficiency?
            Celtics Garnett, Pierce, Rondo & Allen
            Bulls Rose, Boozer, Deng & Noah
            Lakers Bryant, Gasol, Odom & Bynum

            Which top 8 teams have three players in the top 60 in efficiency?
            Heat’s James, Wade & Bosh
            Spurs Duncan, Parker & Ginobili

            Which top 8 teams have two players in the top 60 in efficiency?
            Mavericks Nowitzki & Chandler
            Thunder’s Durant & Westbrook

            Which top 8 teams have one player in the top 60 in efficiency?
            Magic’s Howard

            • P.S.
              Mavs Kidd is in the top 90.
              Thunder’s Ibaka is, as well.

              I conclude that there’s indeed 7 teams that have the triple star power to win a playoff series … NOT the Magic, however.

            • I am clearly not taking about a Big “3” in terms of eficiency (I clearly do not base my players on efficiency, sorry. My question is who are the superstars in this league? Is the Ibaka you mentioned a superstar? Yeah, I thought as much lol) . I am talking about elite players, the league knows which I am basing my championship winning formula on.

              To repeat once again, elite wing + elite big man with scoring and defensive presence plus talented supporting cast = NBA championship imo.

              You don’t need a Big “3”, you need a big 2 and a very talented supporting cast to win.
              My 2 cents.

              • Forgive me for being so objective. … nonetheless, FYI, the efficiency/48 results aren’t much different (ADDITIONS ARE IN CAPS)

                Which top 8 teams have four players in the top 60 in efficiency/48?
                Lakers Bryant, Gasol, Odom & Bynum
                Spurs Duncan, Parker, Ginobili & BLAIR

                Which top 8 teams have three players in the top 60 in efficiency/48?
                Celtics Garnett, Pierce, & O’NEAL (Rondo is in the top 90.) (NOT Allen)
                Bulls Rose, Boozer & Noah (NOT Deng)
                Heat’s James, Wade & Bosh
                Thunder’s Durant, Westbrook & Ibaka (MOHAMMED is in the top 90)

                Which top 8 teams have two players in the top 60 in efficiency/48?
                Mavericks Nowitzki & Chandler (MAHINMI & MARION are in the top 90.) (NOT Kidd)
                Magic’s Howard & ANDERSON (BASS is in the top 90)

      • +1… They’re simply not matching the playoff level intensity that these other .500+ teams are giving them night in, night out–but they should benefit by getting sharper a lot earlier than round 1…

    • There is so much wrong with this way of thinking I don’t even know where to start but a few things.

      First, I remember when people said the same thing about sabrmetrics that they are now saying about basketball metrics. All of those people look like idiots now. Second, you can talk about ‘heart’ all you want but it is a completely nebulous matter. You can’t meaningfully analyze or judge any player based on factors you can’t articulate, describe or measure. For example, if I argue Bargnani has a tonne of heart, how can you possibly disagree with me? Do you talk to him? Do you know him personally? Your response would be based on, good lord, stats! He doesn’t rebound, defend, etc. To which I would reply, ‘but he has heart!’.

      Your last paragraph is incomprehensible but I have to laugh when the guy who believes psychology trumps numbers wants us to put a stopwatch on Triano to evaluate his decision-making process. To which my response is, ‘it doesn’t matter what the watch says, Triano has heart!’.

      • In the History of sports analysis, #7 will never be able to confused with anyone of merit with possessing a tonne of anything but hair gel… If u can find that stop watch, then you should also try tom find the measuring tape that lets the world how far away from the basket that #7 is standing on average from the rim on offensive/defensive possessions when a rebound is being contested in relation to guys like Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, ZBo, Joakim Noah etc…

      • I think what KJ-B is saying is what creates the ability for someone to produce “good stats” in the first place.

        Michael Jordan made shots that were simply impossible to practice with any degree of regularity. Why did he even attempt those in the first place? What drove him to do it? Why was he able to accomplish feats that others with just as much athleticism never could?

        What about Magic Johnson or Steve Nash… what drove them to make their first no look pass? Why could they complete these, not just successfully but with a high degree of accuracy while most of the world couldn’t?

        The stats display the results. And they can say alot about how good/bad a player is, what they are doing right/wrong, what else they need to do/improve etc. …. but what motivates someone to do something in the first place. What gives them the confidence to not only try, but to be successful, and to do it consistently… even if its something that can’t be done with repition (ie. practice). Is it natural? Is it learned? Is it developed?

        • I don’t know about anyone else, but I prefer results. I don’t care if you can make a no-look pass, if the game is lost. I only care if the game is won. Michael and Magic won championships.

          Steve obviously made one of his teammates better. He just needed a third star on his teams … The same with Stockton & Malone … Payton & Kemp …

          Dirk, Lebron & Dwight had it even tougher, recently… who was their legit #2?

        • +111111111 = Thank you… Confidence is the #1 Emotion and determining factor in sports or anything where success or failure is being measured–you take away confidence, you can throw stats out the window….

          As far as #7 goes, I would say that he’s not a ‘confident’ rebounder which means, I think in his mind he feels he has to out jump everybody to get a board–I’m not sure if he’s willing to learn how to box out BUT it’ll feel good when he ‘gets it’… Just observe Kevin Love and his “Numbers”, his dad told him growing up, “There’s no such thing as a selfish rebound”, and just look at what that confidence produced… The numbers/stats don’t lie about players of somewhat equal ability (i.e. If u made it to the L you’ve got talent) can experience such different outcomes based on confidence…

          All of the players you’ve jut named 1st demonstrated confidence and THEN their creative abilities were tapped into…to take the game over!

          Great post in translating my rant!

          • I agree confidence is one of the deciding factors in producing results. But I also think it can be taken to far… example Belli. The guy had a ton of confidence, but to the point where he thought he was capable of things he simple couldn’t do (atleast on a regular basis). Confidence needs to be tempered with rationalism.

            As for AB… I don’t think he feels he can jump over anyone. I think he is nervous about contact, and thats what leads to his defensive challenges, his rebounding deficiency, and lack of willingness to play near the net on offense. You can see it in his game play. From setting screens, to boxing out, to stepping in for charges, to hard fouls, to blocking shots, to taking jumpers over posting up or penetrating. These are all things that can (will) lead to contact Its not that he doesn’t do these things at times, but rather he rarely does them. When he does, its never in a situation where he is truelly “sacrificing for the team”. (ie. he has taken a few charges this year… but never steps into the lane when the guy is penetrating from the perimeter, but will on his man who only takes 1 or 2 steps. He does at times block shots, but again its on his man and rarely stepping over the weak side. I’m not sure if he has even made contact on a screen all year. When he posts up he falls away from the net. When he does penetrate he rarely takes it right to the net… but tries to find an ‘alternate route’ to the rim). Basically, the more likely it is to lead to more (or harder) contact, the less likely he is to do it. When he does do these things, and is willing to do these things (ex. Chicago game) he is valuable player. Unfortunately they are just to rare to make a difference.

            Thats why he is “the skirt”

          • Competence and experience create confidence – not the other way around. Great players all have situational confidence in that they know they are highly skilled and can do whatever they want on the floor. So, they exude confidence. It’s like the IT geek at work who will talk easily to the hot assistant while he fixes her computer but couldn’t look her in the eye at the bar. At work, he is competent and skilled so he feels relaxed and confident there. At the bar, he is inept and nervous cause he doesn’t know what to do there.

            @theswirsk, what motivates people to try and be great? That’s an interesting psychological and philosophical question but I think it largely comes down to a desire to excel at something, along with a willingness to take risks. Most people have no such desires. That’s why there are so few people who are good at things.

  11. What a great post! Excellent stuff. Very neat stuff in there, loved the part about contested/uncontested jumpers.

    The stat about tip-in being a lower percentage shot needs to be seen in context. A jumper from that same area is a higher percentage shot, but it’s not as if the player attempting a tip-in has an option to gather the ball, set for a jumper and release it. The tip-in is usually the only option in that case, otherwise you lose the offensive rebound.

    • Completely agree with your assessment. I would guess (and its a guess) 80%+ of tip-ins were situations where it was sub-optimal to pull the ball down and go back up with it.
      Besides, the player still has a solid chance to rebound a missed tip – or tip it again (hence Evans’ high offensive rebounding numbers and poor “near rim” FG%).

  12. I think this has been posted here before, but as I was reading the National Post, this really made me go wow. :0

    “Bargnani has played 2,029 minutes this season and has collected 311 rebounds. Raptors rookie Ed Davis has played 1,038 minutes this season and has collected 315 rebounds.”

    Food for thought.

    • Yes, Tank, that’s why AB is the one I’d trade away, with AJ & ED being the two I’d keep. Wouldn’t signing RFA Marc Gasol look good beside those two?

    • .
      While we’re at it, why not insert Reggie into the fold. Evans has 182 rebounds in only 409 minutes (15 games). Hell, that would be a dynamic set of Big Men – wouldn’t it. 16 TOTAL points (per 36) for the Front Court.

      • .
        Actually, why not have Joey & Reggie start. 25 total rebounds (per 36) would get us pretty far. Including another chance at 1st overall pick.

  13. Mr. Liston, I hope you had a chance to see / speak to Malcolm Gladwell. I love his work and have read all his works (I’m a nerd that way). I’m also a firm believer of the 10,000 hours rule that he sets out to be excellent at something. I’m jonesing I know.

  14. Not much new above. Most of it is already known stuff.

    However there were some errors above

    For example

    Former head coach Jeff Van Gundy was certainly the most entertaining and candid of the panelists. He made the point that you want all “coachable” players, but the reality is you will not likely win with a roster full of them. There just aren’t enough of these types of players with all the qualities you’re looking for: “(A player) can be soft, selfish and stupid. (I can deal) with one of those, but not two.

    From the quote above it seems that JVG is saying that a player can be coachable and selfish at the same time. This is clearly not true. If a player is selfish the coach will coach him otherwise because the coach doesn’t want selfish players. If the player continues to be selfish then they are not coachable.

    There are a number of significant partially quantifiable reasons for the home court advantage in the NBA.

    1. When playing at home especially before a loud crowd the home team brings more energy and is more aggressive. Being more aggressive as long as it is under control is almost always a big advantage in competitive sports.

    2. When a player shoots they shoot at the basket however there is still a visible background. Players help use those known backgrounds at home to help them shoot better. Plus not all courts are the same except in size. Though courts are more similar today then say when Bird played in the Old Garden there are still noticeable differences. Home teams take advantage of the differences because they know them.

    3. Players when at home tend to as Casey said spend less time looking for it in off game hours and get more of it when at home then on the road. Getting it helps a player’s performance and contrary to old myths does not drain them.

    I agree with all of what Cuban said.

    • “There are a number of significant partially quantifiable reasons for the home court advantage”

      Where are these quantified? Because the study I read showed otherwise. Have a read.
      What are your sources for this information?


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