Do any of you remember last year’s pre-season game that was supposed to be the worst ever, but ended up being pretty exciting (for fans, as it went to Overtime, with the good guys winning by a point)? Well, those same two teams faced off last night and here are the highlights (via YouTube – until the NBA pulls this video down). Enjoy, and remember, C.J. Miles for MIP !!!
Friday, October 2, 2009
Some articles to expect (when they’re done!):
- A full explanation of my newer revisions for my previously posted new stats. (original post – super duper long; 1st revision)
- Analysis of the revolving door at back-up PG over the years for the Jazz
- X-O’s analysis of the evolution of the Forward oriented offense (from Dick Motta), over time and multiple rules changes to the game
- 2009-2010 Season Preview
- Hardcore stat analysis of our current team
- Some nostalgia pieces
- My opinion on the whole Bynum/Kareem issue
Hello all. No doubt some have noticed a general lack of posting of late. Last off-season I had loads of free time, and enthusiasm, for posting. This off-season things have been a little less super when it comes to free time. (Or some would say, time management) I kept trying to make goals for me to reach per month, then per week, and so forth. These were goals that I was unable to keep when mixing my busy schedule, my so-called career and balancing my family life with the whole ‘blogging’ thing. I’m quite active on twitter, and do stop into a few basketball websites frequently enough to share my views on things. (mostly slcdunk.com and dimemag.com)
I missed blogging about the NBA Draft; the HOF ceremonies; about all the international competitions; and this season there’s not going to be a massive 20+ Pre-Season Preview – like there was last season. I do still enjoy blogging, and still have a lot of posts in me to get out. So I’m not going to be closing the doors – but I will be making myself available for outsourcing. (here’s something I wrote for @Nat77 on her amazing blog; and something I wrote for DimeMag on Jerry Sloan getting in the Hall – if you want to see what kind of stuff I’m capable of)
There’s some unfinished business for both the Jazz and for me – so don’t count us entirely out yet. But for the mean time, expect a few more posts at this location, and hopefully many more on other websites. (hey ESPN, gimme a job – here’s a free sample for Insider: “Kobe Kobe Lakers Slurp Slurp Adande Sportsguy Phil Jackson Jordan Kobe LeBron!”)
If you know how to put my blog in a google reader type of thing, or subscribe to my updates then feel free to do so. Probably the best way to stay connected to my infrequent postings. If you are on twitter I think you should follow me as I generally stop in there every day and talk sports – and announce when I post something too. Follow me @AllThatAmar
Friday, July 31, 2009
Thank you for your support over all these months, all of you, even the people who come here looking for e-mail addresses to use in Nigerian Spam Scams, the 83 people who do not yet have closure on Blue Edward’s paternity case, and of course, the people who are redirected here when searching the ‘net to see if Jeff Hornacek made any all-NBA defense teams. (Btw, the answer is no) I’ve tried to be fair, and write interesting posts for everyone to enjoy. Some deal with stats, others with looking back upon NBA records, or old players or whatever. That said, even when you try you just can’t support 100% of the readership 100% of the time.
So, to the 5 people who visit my blog under 640x480 resolution and the 11 people who visit my blog under 800x600 resolution, I’m really sorry. My blog will not be able to support your continued readership at this point in time. I can only hope that in the year of our Obama-lord 2009 that the only way you are visiting my site (let alone any other) under those pre-millennial resolutions would be if your computer happens to be running in safe mode. I’m flattered, I really am, but if you are in Safe mode, please try to get your computer fixed. The basketball commentary can wait for another time.
If those are the best resolutions your computer can do, it may be time to spend the $500 bucks to buy a new minimum spec desktop that’ll at least take you to 1024x768 and 1 gig of RAM.
And yes, the vast majority of the random / non-repeat reader of my blog comes here to find out more info on Blue Edwards/Kimberly Van de Perre. (That and pictures of CeCe Boozer)
and now we will resume our regularly unscheduled blogging.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
There are some really good tandems out there in the NBA right now. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, Tony Parker and Emanuel Ginobili along with Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen obviously comprise championship caliber backcourts. Mike Bibby paired up with Joe Johnson causes all kinds of trouble for defenders – similarly Steve Nash and Jason Richardson can flat out make defenders look silly. Even hypothetically amazing backcourts will assemble this season, like in Portland with Andre Miller and Brandon Roy, and down in Orlando with Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter. These are all great backcourts in paper, but just where does Deron Williams and Ronnie Brewer rank among them? Justin DeFeo, of Sir Charles in Charge, states that the Jazz tandem is clearly a Top 10 backcourt in the league – 6th specifically – and one where both players “compliment each other well,” (DeFeo, 2009, ¶13). He continues to say that:
Deron dominates the ball on offense. Some teams have some sort of ball-sharing provision between the PG and the SG (like how Brandon Roy basically had to do everything himself in Portland). This has never been the case in Utah, not in Stockton’s time, and not now. Deron has a very solid handle on the ball and is able to maneuver himself into the lane with or without help from screens. Williams does this not with simple blinding speed, or a series of picks from teammates, he uses power and finesse to go from point A to point B, going over any and all terrain in the process. He has all the moves, and can get into the lane whenever he wants. (Essentially, he’s a swashbuckler with a basketball in his hands) He’s not just a PG who will bring the ball up the floor, hang out at the three point line, and pass the ball to someone to start a play. Deron’s penetration allows for defenders to shift their attention from the man they are guarding to Deron Williams (who is a scoring threat in the lane). This shifted attention allows for guys who move well without the ball to find open spots (often in their defender’s blindspots) and be in scoring position. If Deron Williams is daring swashbuckler who can move with a quickness and body control that belie his physique then Ronnie Brewer is the stealthy assassin who moves in the shadows, unaccounted for, with muscles tensed up for a finishing strike. It happens again, and again and again. Ideally, a drive and dish PG would be paired with a guy who had a reliable outside shot – but at best, a three pointer is a 40% success rate, while dunks are, generally speaking, much, much more effective.
Deron is a capable three point shooter – though his percentage has been a roller coaster his entire NBA career (42%, then 32%, then 40%, then 31%), and if he’s the only one of the two with an outside shot you can clearly see a deficiency in that department for this backcourt tandem. (By comparison, LA, Orlando, Atlanta and a few other teams on DeFeo’s list are replete with guys who can absolutely bomb from outside)
This group is just as adept in halfcourt sets as they are on the break. Utah produces a lot of deflections and Brewer starts as many breaks (with his natural quickness and 6’11 wingspan) as he is capable of finishing (with his 42” vertical). Deron hardly ever makes the wrong decision on who to pass to, and the two (naturally) hook up for Alley-Oops more frequently than any Utah tandem since Mark Jackson played here. Offensively, the two are nearly a match made in heaven.
If Deron is the leader on Offense, Ronnie is the leader on Defense. Brewer starts the game off checking the other teams’ best scoring wing – regardless if he is a shooter or slasher or whatever. Ronnie gets the call until AK gets off the bench. If the last few playoffs are an indication – few players play better man defense (without fouling) on Kobe Bryant than Brewer does. In no way am I suggesting that Brewer shuts Kobe down, I’m just saying that he plays good man defense. Many times I’ve seen Kobe take shots that absolutely could not have been defended better without the aid of being allowed to do Bruce Bowen style fouling, and still make them over Ronnie. Kobe just makes amazing shots – and he’s had quite a few against Brewer. Brewer is more than just a speed bump on defense. His long arms, quickness and penchant for playing the passing lanes made him one of the league leaders in steals last season. He’s long enough, with good enough hops that I would expect him to get more ‘from behind’ LeBron style blocks this season though. While Brewer is a physical freak, his defensive instincts lead the way – and that’s usually towards pressuring the other team into making a mistake.
Deron does not get all the flashy steals that Brewer does, but he is quick enough on defense to stay with faster ball handlers, and just big and physical enough to discourage them from driving too much. (Just look at how the, honestly, best PG in the NBA, Chris Paul, is so taken out of his game whenever he plays Deron. CP3 owns everyone, and he is rightfully the best PG in the league right now. Deron is just the perfect storm on defense to give him trouble, and good enough on offense to tire him out there) If the first foundation for team defense is to slow down the other team’s ball handler / forward progression, then it’s obvious that Deron Williams is a very solid defender.
Together they comprise a physical, long defensive backcourt. Brewer is 6’7 with the previously mentioned 6’11 wingspan and the quickness of a man much smaller than he. Deron is a 6’3 point guard who was a wrestler in high school and deceptively quick. (check out his draft combine scores, you’ll be surprised) If anything, I think that they are better on defense than they are on offense!
What do the Stats Say:
I’m a stats junkie. So this is important to me. Also, I guess I’m debuting my new stats format. If you want to know about what some of these things are, you can always read my treatise on my own created stats. If you don’t want to, just wait for the analysis that will appear below.
First of all, for those of you following along at home, I have changed the GO Rating, and expect a new post about the New formula shortly. What you need to know about it is what these scores mean. The GO Rating incorporates all possible statistically tracked outcomes on offense, hence the full name of “Gestalt Offense”. The GO Rating is in light blue, all the things in the light blue cell background are my own invented stats. I think they better round out what you see. Anyway . . . what is a good GO Rating? I depends on what you are looking for. If you are a point guard it’s hard to be upset if you get a rating in the 130’s. Magic Johnson’s regular season career totals calculate to a GO Rating of 138.784. Allen Iverson’s GO Rating for the same category (career regular season stats) is 134.883. Deron gets 135.701 for his work last season – though shortened by injury, arguably his best season ever. As a further point of reference, Gary Payton’s career GO Rating is 88.882, that’s almost 50 points lower than Deron. Brewer’s rating is much lower, but that’s due to a few major factors. Firstly, wing players who do not take many shots (see shooting frequency, the higher the number the more time it takes to get a shot off) hardly ever do well. Scottie Pippen’s GO Rating for his career regular season stats stands at only 71.431. As solid as Pip was offensively, Brewer is nearly there in his 3rd season in the NBA. That’s not too shabby.
Again, the stats don’t lie when they show how poorly they are as a team when it comes to three point shooting. They make up for it with stellar eField Goal percentages (which I think are more important than just FG% and 3PT%). They both shoot better than average, when it comes to their shooting worth (average being 1.2). Offensively they are very competent getting to the line a combined 10 times a game and averaging over 30 points between the two, while dishing the ball with a good Assists to Turn over ratio. Offensively they put up quite solid stats, and I feel like they are even better defensively. Of course, defensive stats are pretty much useless, so take these with a grain of salt. (if you want more on that rant, read my treatise, linked above)
These guys don’t usually get called for fouls, so that’s pretty good. What is even better is that both of them come out on the positive side of their defensive gambling – Brewer especially makes very smart gambles on defense: effectively getting 2 steals for each fouls he commits. If he was to gamble defensively at that rate he would foul out with nearly 8 steals a game. (For those watching him closely know that he got 6 steals in a recent USA Select team scrimmage) Deron still manages over a steal per game as well, and his primary duty is to man up on his guy, and not actually go for steals. Neither of them block worth a damn – though Brewer should get more in my opinion. Both of their pure hustle ratings clearly fall below that of the Dream Team members, but exist within an acceptable range for starters in today’s NBA. These defensive statistics are not overwhelming – but I don’t put much stock in defensive stats at all. The best defense causes no effect on an individual’s boxscore; if you defend a guy so well that he takes shot he can’t make then you get nothing, except the satisfaction of playing good defense. These two guys are good defensive players – but Brewer gambles more and gets more steals – and it shows.
Some statistics are worth more than others, and I’d put my money on the offensive ones actually relating to actually being good at playing. That said, Deron and Ronnie are a better defensive tandem than offensively, where their weaknesses are more exposed. (Weaknesses being that neither of them shot over 35% from three last year; as a unit they do not produce much from deep per game; they both do not jack up shots frequently (jacking up shots gives you a better Shooting Frequency and GO Rating for some reason); and so forth) Other guard tandems will score more points per game, and probably get to the free throw line more times per game. There will always be a better offensive tandem around. Collectively Ronnie and Deron make up a better defensive force, and have the talent and ability to get better (they are both closer to 20 than 30 – guys like Kobe, Fish, Vince, Nash, J-Kidd and others are getting up there and aren’t going to be as good in the next few seasons). They can be a Top 5 starting backcourt in the NBA, but they just aren’t quite there yet. I agree with DeFeo’s rankings and thank him for posting this in the first place!
P.S. Thanks to J.E.Skeets for the Ball Don’t Lie link directing me to DeFeo’s post!
The best guards are the ones who can go where they want to go with the ball, despite what the other team is throwing at them. Essentially, the best guards can penetrate through the heart of the defense in order to better threaten for a score (or easy scoring opportunity for a teammate). Of course, not all guards/wing players are built the same. Though, you do have your archetypes . . .
The Blur: These guys have existed in the NBA since the Cenozoic era. They are short in stature, keep their dribble low, and rely upon blinding speed to get from Point A to Point B. Examples of this include Nate “Tiny” Archibald, Michael Adams, Muggsy Bogues and Avery Johnson. Modern incarnations may be a little bit taller (like the actually 6’0 Chris Paul), or a little bit stronger (like Nate Robinson). These guys all have amazing handles and often go deep into the lane and score amongst the trees. Probably the best examples of this type of player would be Isiah Thomas or Allen Iverson.
Mr.Quick first step: These players rely less upon their top speed, and more on their quick trigger muscles. They utilize a series of triple threat moves (ball fakes, jab steps, etc), or nothing at all, to unnerve their defender. With a drop of a hat (or more often, with the batting of an eyelid) these players explode into decisive motion while their defender fails to react. Another, obvious, component of having a quick first step is having a long stride. Taller guards who have both quickness and length display this form of penetration beautifully. Naturally, Michael Jordan possessed both attributes and mastered the quick first step. Behold! Today some of the best at this were guys who grew up and emulated Jordan’s move in their individual periods of basketball development: Vince Carter (think Toronto version), Tracy McGrady (think Orlando version) and yes, Kobe Bryant.
The Pure Athlete: These guys aren’t top speed demons like Chris Paul, nor do they have all that it takes to be Quick first step artists . . . but they do possess some combination of the two, have ridiculous length and hops. It’s not that they have all the tools needed to get into the lane at any cost, but more of what they can do when they are in the lane that counts. Dr.J fits the bill here, same with guys like Dominique Wilkins and today’s versions: Andre Iguodala, Ronnie Brewer and Jason Richardson. After reviewing these types of players on YouTube I’ve come to the decision that everyone should watch this Top 10 video featuring just Scottie Pippen highlights … not just because he proves my point, but because of the crazy music in the background.
The Guy with all the Moves: Obviously at some stage, players can fit into more than one of these categories. Yes, a young Vince Carter had a great first step, but let’s not forget that he was among the top 5 most athletic players in the history of the sport as well; so a player like Vince could easily be placed in the quick step *or* pure athlete category. This is not what I mean when I say “guy with all the moves” though; while Vince is nice here, he’s not a true acrobat who drives the lane like an elusive running back: juking, spinning, side-stepping, hesitating his way to the goal line.
Some NBA players have mastered this form of penetration which allows them to use practiced talent and a learned skill to take them where others rely on purely physical abilities to go. Guys with all the moves do have to have speed, quickness and athletic ability as well, but these players string together a sequence of moves almost effortlessly – the only physical force these guys rely upon is momentum. (Like these kids in Russia displaying some of their parcour prowess: this video gets crazy at the 2:19 mark – watch at least 60 seconds of this video from that mark onwards, watch longer if you want to see this kid free run away from a dog in some guy’s private property.)
Additionally, these players have the over-all best handles in the game that allows them to use their Running back/Parcour movement skills while still holding onto the ball. Guys with all the moves eventually get from Point A to Point B, even if it takes a Point C, D and E to get there first. You may be familiar with their go-to move . . . the Crossover. Examples of guys who have all the moves include Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, “Pistol” Pete Maravich, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and Ball Don’t Lie’s Bedlam ‘09 Tournament winner: Deron Williams.
While this post was mostly to categorize the different types of ways guards get into the lane, I kind of wanted to touch on how bigger guys get there (and the chance to post a few more links to videos).
The Freight Train: For the majority of these guard type movement skills, strength is an afterthought. Pure Athletes and some guys with all the moves do need strength to finish the plays they start. But they are a far cry for how forwards and centers start, follow through, and finish plays with strength. Some of these hulks take the concept of momentum to a whole new level as they plow through the lane, dispassionately going through anyone in their way. Not only are these guys big, but they are all also great at running the floor – regardless of their size.
We’ve all seen that Charles Barkley clip where he has a full head of steam and goes coast to coast for a two hander where his momentum swings him around the entire basket support system. (1:56 in this 10 minute video) This is a prime example of the Freight Train. Other players we can easily include in this category are Karl Malone, Amaré Stoudemire and, of course, LeBron James.
The Black Tornado (only one player ever): Someone like Vince, Jordan, T-Mac or Wade may defy the laws of gravity. That’s nice. They are able to bend the rules of the natural world to pull off extraordinary moves.
Other guys are forces of nature altogether. You don’t need to bend any rules when you make the rules. Shaquille O’Neal took pity on our world, and self-banned this move which he called “The Black Tornado” – a move that he himself agreed was “illegal.” Take cover below!
It is only natural that players of different sizes, speeds, talents and ability would evolve different ways of getting into the lane. Penetration is usually the initiation of good things on offense, as players create advantageous passing angles, draw in defenders, or just plan dunk it on people themselves. Take notice of this, and enjoy these categories as you watch the upcoming season!
EDIT: I completely forgot this category:
The guy who does not look pretty dribbling, but makes amazing passes: Sometimes God gives you seemingly conflicting gifts. For one, you could be 6’9 and a great passer. Unfortunately for you, you are so tall that in order for you to dribble the ball effectively, yet not actually leave it wide open to get stolen from you, you have a really ugly dribble. Not every big guy who dribbles does it poorly, Lamar Odom has a very nice looking dribble and has a great handle with the ball. Magic Johnson also had a great handle on the ball, but he really had to pound the heck out of the ball to make sure it got back up to him fast enough that the guys who defended him (big time steals guys like Isiah Thomas, Alvin Robertson, Mo Cheeks, John Stockton, etc) did not pick his pocket each time down the floor. It was far from the prettiest dribble in the half-court set.
The modern player who immediately comes to mind when I think of guys who pass well, but don’t look like they can dribble at all is Andrei Kirilenko. This is a guy who has played point guard internationally and in the 2nd round of the NBA Playoffs – yet Jazz fans cringe whenever he drives to the basket. We don’t trust his dribbling skills at all – yet he does some really amazing things with the ball on occasion (not unlike Magic) with passes: through defenders legs (can’t find the vid of him doing this to Bosh); behind the back passes; no look passes (0:26); over the shoulder on a fast break (0:43); spinning through the lane (2:11); on the run in traffic with no eye-contact with any of your teammates passes; passes through his OWN legs; and so forth. Very good passer, and very creative player – he just looks like he’s murdering a goose when he dribbles. (really, the video to the left is a mixtape which starts out with him dribbling off his foot, and his goose killing continues at the 0:20 mark!)
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I find that some tweaks are in order . . . so I’m re-working some of the numbers. This has caused a delay in the big tables of Go Ratings (that we’ll use for frames of reference down the line).
- I’m rethinking the issue of using 77% (numerically, .770) as the baseline for Free Throws. Over the last 20 years the league average has not been 77%, and it normalizes more towards 75% (.750). As a result I’m probably going to change the formula accordingly.
- Similarly, I think that my baseline for Assist:Turnovers really hurts non-passing specialists too much. Not everyone in the league is an awesome ball handler . . . yet they are still capable of making good enough passes to keep the defense honest. The point of Go was to see how much pressure a single player put on the defense. Turnovers are already another step of the equation as it is. Putting the base line from 1.48 down towards 1.25 isn’t going to shake things up too much. Good passers will still be good – but now more forwards will not be HURT for attempting to pass out of the post.
- The number for Offensive Rebounds (0.2673) was taken from the current league average, though this is like the FT% number . . . and does not stand through the test of time. Heck, the “proper” number for the 1984-1985 season was closer to 30%, which would cause havoc with today’s style of play. This number needs more work to find balance.
- Lastly, with Shooting I don’t think the last part of the equation should be “total points / 10”, that’s not good enough as points is a total crapshoot sometimes – obviously the guys who shoot the ball more or play more minutes will look better because of this.
So . . . hold tight stat-a-roos, I’m going back to the work book to figure this one out.
Here are some of the (jazz related) pictures from the scrimmage featuring Kyle Korver, Paul Mil$ap and Ronnie Brewer (and coach Ty Corbin too!). All the pictures were photographed by Andrew D. Bernstien for NBAE/Getty Images.
Here is the team picture (L to R): Bottom row is Paul Millsap; Top row is Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and Tyrone Corbin.
Kyle is on offense, and at half court here. Great job Kyle!
Here Millsap watches Anthony Randolph throw it down
Kyle jokes with Thad Young and business casual friday guy.
Here Kyle defends Ronnie Brewer, uh-oh, Kyle is on you . . . you better look to pass!
Brewer and Millsap take a breather
Durant talks while Brewer mentally constructs new ways to defend him
What does this picture have to do with the Jazz? Oh yeah, Kyle is in it waaaay in the back. Great job Kyle! Keep it up!
Brewer makes airspace to dunk on Durant
Kevin Love dunks on Millsap
Here the two are going for the same rebound . . . but obviously looking at two different things. I wonder who got the rebound . . .
Brewer skies in for two more!
Okay Amar, now really! What does this have to do with the Jazz? Ah yes, Korver is behind Westbrook (foreground) in the center of the picture, in stealth mode.
And Tyrone is over near a cheerleader on the right hand side.
It was business as usual after the game for Kyle, who seems to be moving into the Kevin Costner period of his career.
Thad Young is trapped behind the basket and Millsap is looking for a pass -- ‘Sap, that pass isn’t going to come, Young is going to shoot this. It was that kind of camp for Millsap – it seems.
Let’s finish this with some OJ going up and over some Korver defense! You can do it! Go JAZZ!
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Okay, I love direct observational research as much as the other guy, but as someone firmly rooted in the sciences (aka. wasting my life in college and beyond), I love quantifiable results. As a result, I find that statistics are vital towards observing, categorizing and understanding the environment that we inhabit (and share with other organisms). Stats are awesome, and I love them (I got 98% in stats in university) . Though, I know that stats can be manipulated and abused – furthermore, statistics do not fully explain the entire situation, nor do sufficient statistics exist that can approach a full knowledge of a hybrid (not just numerical) system.
We can attempt to use statistics to better understand basketball – and as a fan, and non-paid analyst, I’m not alone in this point of view (just check out the Wages of Wins sometime). That said, the statistics that we currently have in basketball are not complete. No current stats exist to fully describe all possible positive actions on the court (e.g. there’s no stat for a defender breaking / slipping a screen and staying on his man, despite the set play run by the offense). Also, some stats that would be useful are just not recorded in the NBA (e.g. in the Adriatic league their stats also include things like how many times a player has their shot blocked, or how many times a player draws a foul – don’t you want to know how many times Dirk gets stuffed, or how many fouls Shaq drew per game during his peak?).
Right now there aren’t enough stats to fully map out good play, and some of the stats that we do have appear to mean more than they actually do! A steal means that a defender has disrupted the offense to the point that a turnover has occurred – many guards and swingmen get steals. The bigman analog has always been blocks, but the most important part of the steal (aka, the change of actual possession of the ball) is lost in a block. Often a blocked shot prevents a made basket, but does not always give possession back to the defending side. In effect, a blocked shot that still gives the ball back to the offense is no better than a defender causing a deflection of a pass where the ball goes out of bounds – and the offensive team retains possession.
Deflections are the most important stat that continues to not be officially counted by the NBA; on one hand it would be difficult to adjudicate (when is it a block? when is it a deflection?), but on the other hand, deflections often lead to other stats. The guy who picks up a ball that’s deflected out of the hand of the ball carrier is rewarded with a steal – but the guy who got the ball out of the ball carrier’s hand (the deflector) doesn’t get credited for causing the play. I think that’s kind of unfair.
In fact the guy who defends well frequently gets jobbed out of a good stat. For years I’ve seen a solid defensive play in the paint by a center (straight up single coverage that results in his man taking a shot – and missing) be recorded as a GREAT defensive board by the power forward (who wasn’t defending anyone, he just happened to get the rebound off of someone else's good defense). I’ve seen this happen on all levels of play. If anything, it prove the limitations of stats, and the limitations of the stats to accurately reward defense.
It’s no secret that defense is way harder to grade by using stats alone. Firstly, there are not enough defensive stats (like the guy who can navigate through a number screens and gets back in time to contest/change a shot gets the same amount of stats as another play who doesn’t even go through the screens and lets his man take an open jumper), and secondly, the stats that do exist do not always mean great defense. A very quick guy like Allen Iverson spent years on the court playing in the passing lanes. This is him gambling on defense to get steals. It’s exciting when a guy does get those break away steals in the game – but it’s not sound, fundamental man defense. Really, this play is sorely discouraged in the case where there isn’t a big shot blocker in the paint to clean up any mess that an unguarded PG getting into the paint can cause.
I know – I’ve seen John Stockton make these same type of ‘Defensive Back’ style steals because he had big Mark Eaton (two time defensive player of the year – once had close to 500 blocks in a season) watching his back. Iverson had the same with Theo Ratliff and Dikembe Mutombo. Chris Paul is another player who benefits from being backed up by shot blocking force of nature Tyson Chandler. If guys like Stockton, Iverson and Paul had Mehmet Okur and Jarron Collins laying down the law in the paint behind them you can be sure that the head coach would have told them to defend their man more, and gamble on defense less.
Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to coach some basketball on the youth developmental level. We tried to go past the lack of collected stats on defense in order to quantify good play on both sides of the ball. An attempt was made to count the number of times the player defending a shooter resulted in that shooter missing. Other times we tried to record good traps on the ball carrier, or how many times the defender harassed the ball handler into turning the ball over. These types of things can be recorded but by far the best defense I’ve ever seen on any level is that where the man being defended does not ever get the ball, entry passes are denied, position is denied, and when he does get the ball – he’s in such a disadvantageous point that he cannot positively help his team when he has the ball. You know what kind of stats that guy gets – for playing the best defense? He gets nothing for it. There is no reward for him that shows up on the boxcore – and this is a failure in terms of statistics being used to categorize and enumerate good play in a game. But if he manages to tip an errantly passed ball that he forces the guy he’s defending into attempting(because he can’t shoot it where he is), the team mate who picks up the ball gets credited for a steal.
Oh yeah, that’s basically it for defense in the NBA, I talked about the fallacy that defensive boards is akin to good defense, I talked about how blocks may stop a shot, but do not give you possession of the ball all that time, and I talked about how steals can be indicative of poor defense, not good defense. (Of course, exceptions to these rules always exist – it is good defense to control a tough defensive rebound that’s contested, or to block a shot to a team mate, or to single handedly strip a guy that you are defending. But let’s not forget that these instances of good defense are counted just as much as the same stats that are products of situational defense. A ball that rolls do you on defense counts just like a ball that you fought for.)
The long and short of it is that we need more stats – especially on defense. If you’ve read this far down then you are awesome . . . because I’ve tried to make some ‘new’ stats. Some people are good enough for simple points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. That’s fine for a casual fantasy basketball league . . . but not good enough if you really watch the game like your life depends on it. I wish there were more stats, and more ways to reward good play – but right now the NBA does not appear to give us things like that (instead the +/- stat is thrown to us, like it means anything). Anyway, I’ve tried to make some new stats and here are five calculations that you can even do at home (studio audience of old ladies says ‘ooooohh’, already put in a receptive mood because of the deal that they got on that juicer they just purchased):
1. Defensive Gambling (DG): This stat is pretty easy – I try to recognize that some of the stats that people get on defense are related to gambling on some level. (Gambling in a passing lane, gambling by leaving your man to get a weak side shot block, gambling by trying to strip a man when the ref is right there, and so forth) We already had blocks and steals . . . but they exist in a world without accumulated risks. The risk here, of course, exists as a foul being called – another stat that we already have. The fun part is balancing the risks vs. the rewards.
The Foul is the base for this equation – as it means that you tried a risky move and you got burned. Not only do you have a penalty against you, but it directly benefits the offensive team. A steal, on the other hand, is a situation where a player takes a risk, is rewarded – and the offensive team is directly disadvantaged. When a team misses a three pointer and the opposing team gets the ball and scores a layup that is a 5 point swing. A steal does not directly mean you gain points, but you directly prevent the chance of points – it’s not a 5 point swing, but it’s a possession swing. I say that this is worth 1.5 fouls, in terms of risk/reward. A block does not guarantee such a similar swing in terms of possession (it does sometimes though), but while a steal only prevents the potential of a shot being taken, a block directly affects shots that are taken. (It’s a shame there’s no stat for shots changed, because a good shot blocker has an aura that surrounds him that changes many shots – for example when players started to scout Kirilenko his blocks went way down . . . but he was changing the same number of net shots as guys changed their shots to avoid getting blocked by him) A block, then, is not as good as a steal, but it’s still good – a block is equal to 1.3 fouls. The full equation for Defensive Gambling is as follows:
Clearly looking at things like blocks and steals on their own gives a skewed view of the world – putting it against a risk/reward system is a better frame of reference that we can use to see which players make smart gambles, and which ones do not. Andrei – for all his faults – has a good Defensive Gambling ability if you ask me.
2. Pure Hustle (PH): Pure hustle builds off of the Defensive Gambling equation, but adds more chances for risks and more chances for rewards. Here we see Blocks, Steals and Offensive Rebounds go against Turnovers and Persona Fouls. The common factor for hustle is a turn over. It’s the most benign result of hustle. Too much hustle can result in a foul – which hurts you and your team. This is why a foul is worth more. On the good side of things, hustle can result in good defense, or a second effort (or third, or fourth) on offense. We all remember Tayshawn Prince robbing Reggie Miller with a game winning block. We should all remember Bird stealing the inbounds from Isiah. And we all know that second chance shots can not only allow you to score from an advantageous position – but also result in scores themselves. This is why I think when it comes to hustle, Offensive Rebounds are worth the most, with Blocks and Steals being on equal footing with fouls.
3. Shooting Worth (SW): This is an easy one, because it already exists on many website by it’s other name “Points per Shot” (PPS). It’s just how many total points you get (including free throws) divided by the number of shots (FGA) you take. Sure, there’s some points that may be unrepresented by FGA (like technical fouls, or being in the bonus), but the fact that the player is involved in those free throws is a benefit that they get for being good shooters. The idea is that if you take a shot it’s worth two points, right? Well, that doesn’t always work out in the PROs, and the league average (or mean for all player data) is 1.22. [Yes, I looked at every shot in the L last year on ESPN.com] So, in effect, you have a positive Shooting Worth if you are better than average, and have a SW greater than 1.22 – of course, you can still be good at your job if you have a lower value; you’d just be below league average. That’s the crux of this statistic – it seems to display individuals who take good shots, and this stat can be used to better differentiate between guys who score a high ppg who take good shots, or the guys who shoot a lot in order to get good stats.
4. Shot Frequency (SF): Some websites try to find out often a player shoots and they represent it by the number of shots / value of time (usually minutes). I don’t know what 0.282 shots looks like, so that representation means little to me. I would rather look at the same data in another way, namely, how many minutes of burn does a player need before he jacks up a shot. Some guys start shooting the ball as soon as they are on the court, while others spend a lot of time on the court – but don’t shoot the ball. In effect, this stat (Shot Frequency) will be able to identify if a certain player is gun shy to a fault (some would say that John Stockton was) or a pure, unashamed jacker of shots (too many to name). In this case, the lower the number means a higher frequency of shots . . . because the number represented is the time needed on the floor between shots. To find this out we divide the total minutes played by the number of Field Goals attempted (FGA).
Gestalt Offense (GO): This is the biggie. I’ve fretted over this for days and days and finally am prepared to release it upon an unwitting population. It’s not perfect, and it seems to only work best with larger sample sizes (a seasons’ worth of data, or a road trip, may look fine – any singular game can break it). It really favors guards and only really works best for players who played in a modern-ish era (one where turnovers, offensive rebounds and other similar statistics were actually recorded). The basis for this was to isolate how much pressure certain players could place on the defense. What a player does on offense (when it comes to stats) can be either one of five things: he can assist on a score, he can get to the foul line, he can take a shot, he can be called for a turn over, or he can grab and offensive rebound. There are no stats for setting solid screens, or anything like the ‘hockey assist’ right now with how the stats are kept. So the statistic is already limited, but I try to do the best with the data that I have. Essentially the GO Rating is the summation of a player’s modified assists, free throw opportunities, offensive rebounding ability, penchant for scoring against their turnovers, all over the number of games a player has played:
Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that . . .
The first, and most straight forward, part of the equation is assists. This equation not only values assists higher than their normal value ( 2.23 > 1, after all), but it also serves to give a bonus to good passers, and penalize poor passers. (Good or poor depending on if they have a high Assist to Turnover Ratio) The first standard value here is 2.23. Where did this value come from? Well, it’s the true value of an assist when you balance it for the ratio of assisted 2PTFG vs. 3PTFG. (According to the stats on ESPN.com, where all the major stats came from, aside from archived player stats from Basketball-Reference.com) The second standard number is 1.48, this is the mean Assist to Turnover ratio for teams in the NBA. (Room for improvement exists here if I could actually find the mean Assist to Turnover ratio for the players)
As it stands how good you are at passing (vs. turning it over) affects how many total points you get from this category. After all, Tim Hardaway may be able to get you 37 assists on a road trip, but those 37 assists would be better than 37 assists from Alonzo Mourning because Zo would pick up quite a few more turnovers along the way.
Free throws are simple enough to understand now that we’ve gone through assists. Here we don’t look at how many free throws an individual has made, as the point of the GO rating was to see the type of pressure that an offensive player puts on the defense. Instead the focus is to see how many free throw attempts the player gets. Of course the catch is that value for FGA is modified by how good a shooter you are compared to the league average (which is 77%). A guy like José Manuel Calderón may only go to the line half the time as someone like Shaq – but Shaq is below average and Jose above average to the point that the difference in points from this category are not as large as we would think.
Again, like in assists, it’s a bonus to good shooters and penalty to those who are not so hot from the line. In effect, you want your best free throw shooters at the line, their FTA are then worth more than that of guys who do not go to the line with as much confidence as they do.
Rebounding is easy. I figured that in the grand scheme of things, an Offensive Rebound is worth 1.16 points. I based this on how a Turnover is 1.3 points (see below), how an assist is 2.23 points and how points are worth, well, points. This is a modifier.
The second modifier is similar to previous categories. Before we looked at if the player was better than average at Assist to turnover ratio, and then how they fared in FT% against the mean. Here we see that 26.73% of the total rebounds in the NBA were offensive rebounds. If you are a better than average offensive rebounder then you get a bonus here, if you are worse, then you get a negative modifier (as seen as a number less than 1.0, but not a negative number, per se). This part of the equation really seems to get broken if used on Charles Barkley (who, if you look at just one game, would get some crazy number of points in this section because he had 11 offensive rebounds and 5 defensive ones). Thankfully this section self-neuters itself if you have zero offensive rebounds.
Man, where do I begin with this one? Well, we went over Shot Frequency already. We divide 33.6 (representing 33.6 minutes of action for an elite player) by the player’s own Shot Frequency. This tells us how many shots he will put up if given Starter type of minutes.
The next step is adding 1 to the Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%). This is so that we get a positive value with the percentage when multiplied. Why use eFG% instead of just regular FG%? Well, eFG% adds into account three point shots, and the higher degree of difficulty of shooting from that distance. (For more info on eFG% click here) This step tries to even things out a bit.
The third part is how the player’s Shot Worth (also described earlier) rates compared to the league average for Shot Worth (or PPS). If you are Malone-like, you get a nice bonus here, if you are Iverson-like, you don’t get a bonus, and if you are really poor, then you get a penalty.
The last part is the total points scored by the individual, divided by 10. Ten was one of the first numbers I used that seemed to make things work out when I was fiddling around. I don’t know if this last section of the Shooting section is legit or not yet, I remember when I tried this out without the last part that individuals would be getting very little from this part of the equation. At some stage you have to factor in how many points a guys scores, even if you are looking are how well they shoot.
Uhhhh, so this is very easy to understand. I’m not going to mention anything more than that this value is subtracted from the rest of the section values in the numerator. Don’t forget to divide everything by the total number of games, ya here!
Man, I’m super duper tired, so I’m just going to go ahead and post this. Give me feedback, tell me I’m crazy and set me straight. I think we need mores stats, and unfortunately, the lack of defensive categories means I can’t make a Defensive GO rating type of stat. I’m open to changing my formulas and re-working things. If you want I can e-mail you the spread sheet that contains the Macro that calculates these new stats. (I got really sick and tired of calculating the GO Rating by hand with pen and paper.)
I will probably make another post on the Go Rating in the future, filled with examples of players, and how they rated. So far I’ve seen that eFG%, Total Points, Assist to turnover ratio and a few other factors really seem to hinder bigmen, while giving guards and other wing players a boost. For the record, Magic Johnson’s GO Rating is 102.241, and he is the gold standard . . . some guys score higher than he does, while others politely fall into place. (Jordan is at 120, Karl Malone at 83, and so forth.)