Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stats, Stats, Stats.

By now, everyone has read the Michael Lewis New York Times piece on the importance of Shane Battier. If not, here it is.

Lewis points out the different problems with the current way of rating players, namely by the stats that are available. With all the new mathematical formulas being produced by guys like John Hollinger, David Berri, Daryl Morey, etc., it’s a mystery why the NBA doesn’t simply begin accumulating basic stats and widening its scope with what stats are relevant.

Money and star power drive the NBA, and most stars are created by the numbers they put up, which leads them to getting paid more. In the case of some players (Corey Maggette I’m looking at you), better stats doesn’t always figure into a better team or a better game, or, on a larger scale, a better NBA.

This being the case, instead of trying to tell players that playing Basketball A is better than playing Basketball B, simply expand the stats and give relevance to aspects of the game that don’t include scoring, but most certainly affect and shape how the ball gets into the basket (or doesn’t).

The problem with the current stats in the NBA is that there simply aren’t enough of them. In professional baseball, you can track how many times a guy gets a hit when he’s playing outside, at night, when the temperature is 62 degrees in the month of April. The NBA doesn’t need that sort of analysis, but expanding past points, rebounds and assists is a definite must and should have happened years ago.

There are almost no truly helpful defensive statistics to speak of. A guy like Battier should get paid more if he contributes to winning, which would ultimately encourage other players, up-and-coming players, children still learning, to play the game “the right way.”

The biggest blemish on Michael Jordan’s influence, was that his game and subsequent fame created a whole generation of ballers who tried to emulate him but lacked the skill to do so. I mean, nobody’s Jordan—Kobe and Lebron included.

Hence, a generation of a bunch of me-first, shoot-first, ball hogs, who, to the detriment of the league, were handsomely rewarded for the number of points they put up.

This is just a basic beginning, and comments and suggestions are encouraged. But I’ve put together a list of both defensive and offensive statistics that would infinitely benefit the NBA.


1.) Possession Change Blocks (PCBlk): Blocks that lead directly to possession of the ball.

-Blocks (Blk): Blocks that result in a missed shot, but where the offensive player retains the ball.

2.) Possession Change Deflections (PCD): Deflections or tipped balls that result in a change of possession (similar to a steal).

-Steals: When a player directly takes the ball away or intercepts a ball from the other team thus resulting in a change of possession.

3.) Out of Bounds Deflections (OBD): Deflections or tipped balls that go out of bounds.

4.) Turnovers Forced (ToF): When a defensive player hounds a ball handler and it leads to some sort of turnover—bad pass, travel, three seconds, etc. Includes double teams.

5.) Offensive Fouls Drawn (OFD): Charges taken.

6.) Block fouls (BF): Due to the subjective nature of blocks/charges, record the number of defensive blocking fouls. A defensive player who amasses 3 blocking fouls is of a higher value than someone who commits 3 touch fouls.

-Personal Fouls (PF): Would be the total accumulation of fouls.

7.) Shots Contested (SC): Any time a player puts up a hand within a foot of an offensive player shooting. Would most certainly be up for personal opinion by the score keeper, but it would at least give an indication as to how many times a player actually does this.

8.) Changed Shots: Any time a player causes an offensive player to adjust his shot, pass out or miss his shot.

9.) Defensive stops: An accumulation of the times a team gets a stop given to every individual player on defense at the time. Will somewhat account for zone defenses and include possessions that end with missed freethrows. This stat would by no means be perfect, but it’s a more exact indicator than +/- and would have nothing to do with offensive output.


1.) Fouls Drawn: Records how many times an offensive player gets fouled. Includes non-shooting fouls.

2.) Mega Assist: Assist leading directly to a dunk or layup (alley-oop)

3.) Free throw Assist: Assist that leads to freethrows (1/2 assist for 1 made freethrow, 1 assist for both made freethrows).

4.) Outlet Pass: Number of times player receives ball and throws past half-court.

5.) Assist-Assist (Hockey Assist): Assist given to a pass that comes before the pass that leads to a made bucket.

6.) Screen Assist: Any screen set that directly ends with an offensive basket made.

7.) Double Team Drawn: The number of times player attracts two active defenders.

A lot of these new stats are really subjective, but the only truly non-subjective stats are made buckets. Even rebounds can get hazy when it comes to tapping it to oneself (think the Rodman rebound). Some of the stats, like Possession Change Deflections and block fouls would change the way we look at steals and fouls, but change is needed, if not entirely good.

Ask Obama.

Subjectivity is a part of basketball whether we like it or not. And no matter how closely we scrutinize referees or how many replays or how many refs we throw out on the court, there will always be blown calls.

In my opinion, Chris Paul commits an offensive foul every time down the court. Ryan Schwan of Hornes247 might believe Paul’s just a crafty devil. Either way, Paul initiates contact and the majority of the time gets the call.

The same subjective nature of fouls called could be said about Shaq. And Lebron. Etc.

What these stats I’ve proposed would do, despite a relative amount of subjectivity involved, is improve the way we record the game and give greater insight into the level of talent and skill that each and every player has on the court.

I mean, why else would a brilliant mind like Jerry Sloan play Jarron Collins 10 minutes a game?

Stats should be able to tell us why.

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