Monday, October 24, 2005

Basketball's New Math

SI's Chris Ballard recently covered the stat science that is emerging in basketball. Baseball has been using new statistical measures to rate a player's performance (OPS rather than just BA, runs created, etc.), and now basketball junkies are looking at ways to look past just the points, rebounds, and assists to see who is really valuable to a team. Make sure to check out they're all over this new math.
Regardless of your height, physical condition or jumping ability, there is one thing you could do in the NBA right now: rebound a missed free throw. Especially if the other team is already running back on defense.

Just stand there, watch the ball bounce off the rim and catch it. If you liked, you could slap it from one hand into the other to make the act look more emphatic, but this would be optional. Do this seven times a game and you would be considered a good NBA rebounder, at least statistically.

That's why conventional NBA stats are misleading. Houston head coach Jeff Van Gundy calls defensive rebounds off free throws "the biggest selfish glut of all time." He also points out, rightly, that on contested rebounds, "The guy who is blocking out and preventing a rebound is every bit as important as the guy who gets the rebound."

Our own Adonal Foyle was quoted in the piece as one of the guys whose work does not show up on the stat sheet:
Warriors center Adonal Foyle brings up the following point: "If I'm on the weak side and one of my players is on the strong side and he's coming to the basket, I might just pull on the guys shorts -- and that's not going to show up in statistics -- but the player on my team knows that guy couldn't come over because I pulled him. How do you measure that?

"I always feel queasy about somebody in an office looking at a sheet and saying pretty good, OK, good, must be good," Foyle says, pantomiming looking at a box score. "I think of myself as an ugly player, for example. I'm like the wine, the first time you taste it, you spit it out and you think, 'it's s--t.' But you sip it and you look a little bit more and you sip a bit more and you're like, 'not baaad.'""
So what does this all mean? At the very least, it will open up new ways for coaches and GM's to rate players and make decisions. But it would also be interesting if the stats could easily be accessible to the fans so that we could have debates over which players are better according to these extra set of stats. Are the traditional stats overrated and is there a need for a different statistical analysis?


At 5:42 PM, Blogger Ush said...

I think that there is a lot of room for new statistical stats in basketball. These new stats can help you understand what happens in a basketball game and why. However, people like John Hollinger of take these new stats too far, and make too many generalizations with them.

At 8:23 PM, Blogger mikej said...

Basketball is more like football than baseball with respect to statistics: too much happens away from the ball that directly impacts what happens with the ball to allow for the kind of statistical profiling baseball allows. The same circumstance should lead anyone to treat basketball statistics with caution: they show something about what a player does, but there's a lot they don't show and can't show (such as what Foyle mentions).

At 8:25 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Haha...Adonale said "s**t".

That made my day.


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