Saturday, August 21, 2010

More NBA Advanced Statistics

Before we begin, I have to first introduce a NBA floor chart which I have been working on.

Everything that will be talked about when it comes to advanced statistics revolves around this floor chart. 

Here is the mid-court area of the chart. Notice how the chart flips and reverses itself once the half-court line is crossed.

This was going to be called a "shot chart," but it hit me that this chart can track much more than shooting.

I use it mostly for defense. It can show where a player gets most of his blocks, his rebounds and where he gives up the most points.

Although it is free for anyone to use, for convenience it will be called the "High Basketball IQ Floor Chart."

It is not perfect and not accurate to the exact dimensions of a NBA court; it was created to the best of my limited engineering abilities just to have a visual representation of what I am writing about.

Also, a player a step or two outside of the high post, for example, may be labeled as being in the high post; it won't be an accurate description of where the player is to the exact inch, but you'll get my point.

Another great use of the floor chart is to show players who do or don't get rebounds outside of their area. 

You can look at where the players are when the ball goes in the air, where they are when it hits the rim and where they are when the rebound is secured.

Who moved? And who didn't? And how far did they move? It's great for hustle stats.

Ideally, I would like to use this floor chart to track the movement of the ball and every player for every minute of every game.

But since I don't have anywhere near the resources or the manpower to pull that off, I'll do what I can from in front of my computer.

It should be noted that this article is about to get really nerdy right now, talking about the minute details of various NBA games, so consider yourself warned.

Deflections will be covered first.

A deflection is when a player tips the ball, usually sending it in a different direction.

There are all kinds of deflections, pass deflections, rebound deflections, dribble deflections, you name it.

This is a hustle stat which needs to be accurately tracked because it is a play which a player makes to help his team.

In short, that is what we are shooting for here, the tracking of anything (anything!) which a player does on a basketball court to help his team win.

Sister to the deflection is the recovery.

Either the player who deflected the ball or another player recovers it.

When one player deflects the ball and another player recovers it, each must be given credit for the part they contributed to the play in order to accurately determine the value of each player and the overall ability of the team.

Like deflections, there are many types of recoveries.

There are blocked shot recoveries, saved ball recoveries, rebound deflection recoveries, pass deflection recoveries and many more.

And all should be tracked and recorded so that each player's value to the team can be accurately measured and because every possession counts.

Let's look at a play from the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat game from last season (3:50).

There are 21.9 seconds left in the game. Kobe Bryant drives and misses a layup.

Although what follows looks like nothing more than a wild scrum with no identifiable parts, that is the furthest thing from the truth.

The play's individual parts are actually highly identifiable.

Here is how I would score the play; the best angle is at 4:14:

Missed Layup: Kobe Bryant
Rebound Deflection: Kobe Bryant (O) & Pau Gasol (O) & Udonis Haslem (D)
Missed Rebound: Kobe Bryant
Rebound: Dwyane Wade (D)
Baseline Save: Dwyane Wade
Saved Ball Deflection: Mario Chalmers
Saved Ball Recovery: Pau Gasol
Foul: Quentin Richardson on Pau Gasol.

The scoring format comes from the "Play-By-Play" section of the box scores on

Also, this is being scored as best I can on a computer screen. More details would be seen on a full television screen and might change the scoring some.

Pau Gasol went to the foul line and made both free throws.

The Lakers won the game by one point on a running three-pointer by Kobe Bryant.

Without the hustle and deflections of Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant saving this possession for the Lakers, they might have lost the game; but we would never know that because there are no statistics for plays like this.

Steals also need to be more specific.

Against the New York Knicks, Kobe Bryant deflects the ball away from Chris Duhon (1:04); and Ron Artest recovers it.

Although both players combined for the steal, Ron Artest got no credit for his contribution to the play.

Is this fair?

Is it an accurate reflection of each player's contribution to the team?

Without Artest picking up the ball, a Knick could have gotten it; then there wouldn't have been any steal at all. What Artest did was very important.

Add up all of these uncredited plays over the course of a season, and it becomes extremely significant. And what about over the course of a career?

When two players combine like this on a steal, they should be given ½ steal (the deflection ½ and the recovery ½) each.

Here is how it should look:

STEALS: K. Bryant: FULL (0); DFL ½ (1); RCR ½ (0); TOTAL (½)
                 R. Artest: FULL (0); DFL ½ (0); RCR ½ (1); TOTAL (½)

"DFL" is short for deflection, "RCR" short for recovery. A "FULL" steal is when one player completes the entire steal by himself.

Now it is time to get really technical.

Steals would also be divided into type.

There are three types of steals: passed ball steals, dribbled ball steals and held ball steals.

Wouldn't it be important to know going into a game against a team which uses its small forward to bring the ball up the court that you have a point guard who can steal dribbles but not passes?

You think his steals might be down that night?

Let's throw in the floor chart and look at one more play, a steal by Jordan Farmar against the Orlando Magic (2:49).

Here is how I would score the play:

Pass Steal: Jordan Farmar, straightaway three-point line (ORL) deflection and right mid-court (LAL) recovery of Jameer Nelson pass from top-right three-point area (ORL) to Ryan Anderson at top-left three-point area (ORL).

Deep Right Paint (LAL) Foul: Ryan Anderson on Jordan Farmar.

The ORL and LAL tell on which offensive half of the court the play takes place.

This scoring method is technical and highly-detailed, but it gives credit where credit is due and gives an accurate accounting of every player's contribution to the team's success, or failure.

In a prior post I wrote that the NBA was in the Stone Ages when it comes to advanced statistics. It looks like that may not be entirely true.

Some of this information is being tracked; it is just not publicly available.

Bill Simmons tried to get some details and wrote a great story on what he would like to know and his journey to find out. Some of the things he asks about are the very same things I am trying to log and account for: winning plays.

Note: I got the idea to use numbers instead of words on my floor chart from this chart on When I went to add the names to the areas of my chart, the names were too long to fit into those tiny little spaces.

Floor chart updated September 2012.

Comment or e-mail:

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Next Iverson Moment

It was the end of the 1996-97 season. The Chicago Bulls were on their way to another NBA title, and the Philadelphia 76ers were on their way to another lottery appearance, but something happened along the way which will live forever.

Allen Iverson happened.

Very few players in the NBA ever stood up to Michael Jordan after he won his first title in 1991. Jordan defeated most opponents with a psychological advantage well before the game even started.

It was the most frustrating part about rooting against Michael Jordan, the realization that the league was full of punk-bitch players afraid to challenge Jordan out of a legitimate fear of being publicly embarrassed.

Then along comes this cocky little snot-nosed punk named Allen Iverson, a rookie, six-feet tall and all of 165 pounds "soaking wet," as they say.

A baby by NBA standards (you might have been able to see his pamper through his uniform at the time), in one moment Allen Iverson showed he had more heart and courage and was more of a man than 99.9% of the players in the league at that time.

Philadelphia was playing Chicago in Philadelphia.

Iverson got the ball. Michael Jordan switched out on him. The crowd rose to its feet. And the scene was set.

Allen Iverson vs Michael Jordan, man to man (8:22).

Here is more for those who want to enjoy it in slow motion.

Unlike Byron Scott and many others before him, Allen Iverson didn't punk out when he got his chance to go toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan.

Iverson "gave him a little cross to see would he bite on it," he says.

He then hit Jordan with his patented crossover and splashed cotton in Jordan's eyes from about 17 feet away. It is one of the most classic rookie moments of all time.

No one did this to Michael Jordan.

No one, especially not a player in his first year in the NBA.

But Allen Iverson did it.

He went up against the "greatest player of all time" and didn't back down. Not only that, he succeeded, and in a big way.

It was unheard of at the time.

This year, there is another crop of rookies entering the NBA who will be looking to establish themselves and show signs of their future greatness.

Here are some of their games and matchups from the first month of the season.


Wall probably has the easiest time of all rookies to start the season. It was hard to find many good matchups for him, but there are some games to look out for.

Individual Matchups: at Derrick Rose (Nov. 13); at Rajon Rondo (Nov. 17).

Big Games: vs Evan Turner (Nov. 2); vs Evan Turner (Nov. 23); at Miami (Nov. 29).


Evan Turner probably hasn't slept since the schedule came out.

That is because his first game (Oct. 27) is at home against Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Good thing he has Andre Iguodala to help him. Here are some of his other matchups.

Turner and Iguodala: at Paul George and Danny Granger (Oct. 30); vs Paul George and Danny Granger (Nov. 3); at Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (Nov. 26); vs Brandon Roy and Luke Babbitt (Nov. 30).

Big Games: vs Milwaukee (Nov. 19); at Oklahoma City (Nov. 10).


Wesley Johnson and Corey Brewer form one of the youngest and most exciting wing combinations in the NBA.

When Jonny Flynn comes back from injury, look out! Things will be really exciting in Minnesota.

The only question is can they win? Wesley Johnson's key matchups from the first month of the season are small in number but large in impact.

Individual Matchups: at Gerald Wallace (Nov. 15); at Kevin Durant (Nov. 22).

Johnson and Brewer: at LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (Nov. 2); at Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant (Nov. 9); vs Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant (Nov. 19).


As John Wall has the easiest, Gordon Hayward has the hardest start to the season.

The league didn't do Hayward any favors with the slate of tough individual matchups they gave him out of the gates. Like Turner starting off against Wade and James, it will only make him stronger.

Individual Matchups: at Carmelo Anthony (Oct. 27); at Kevin Durant (Oct. 31); at LeBron James (Nov. 9); at Gerald Wallace (Nov. 13); vs Kevin Durant (Nov. 15); at Luke Babbitt (Nov. 20); vs Ron Artest (Nov. 26);


It is always nice to have help, and Paul George has a pretty good running mate in Danny Granger. They could turn out to be the most exciting and entertaining duo north of Miami.

Take a look at some of George's not-previously-listed games during the first month of the season.

Individual Matchups: vs Vince Carter (Nov. 20).

George and Granger: at Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (Nov. 22); at Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest (Nov. 28).

Big Games: vs Milwaukee (Nov. 5).


Luke Babbitt landed in one of the best situations of all of the rookies. He is surrounded by so many talented teammates that he won't be the focus of another team's defense probably all season.

On top of that, Portland is going to win a lot of games. Plus, he has minutes waiting for him. All he has to do is perform. He'll get a chance to do that in the following games.

Big Games: vs Phoenix (Oct. 26); vs Oklahoma City (Nov. 4); at Lakers (Nov. 7); at Oklahoma City (Nov. 12); vs Denver (Nov. 18); at Boston (Dec. 1), had to slip that one in.

Rookies are my favorite players in every sport. There is just a certain magic to rookies which can't be explained. They are talented, inexperienced, young, fun, energetic, naive, fresh, new, funny and more.

It will be interesting to see whether or not one of the current rookies can establish himself and make his mark in the NBA by putting on a big performance in a big moment, one like Iverson in 1997 or maybe even better.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dissecting Pacers vs Lakers And Darren Collison

The Indiana Pacers acquired point guard Darren Collison from the New Orleans Hornets this week.

There have been so many things written this off-season about the Pacers and their need for a point guard that I almost started to believe it.

Then I went back and looked at the game tape.

Since the Los Angeles Lakers have been the best team in the NBA for the past two seasons, and there isn't much video of other teams available, why not start there?

What better way to measure yourself than against the best, right?

The Pacers played the Lakers in Los Angeles on March 2, 2010, and were crushed 122-99. They were also punished at home on January 27, 118-96.

Only the game at Los Angeles will be used, but for those who want to continue dissecting on their own, here is the game at Indiana.

THE FUN BEGINS (:38 on the video player)

UPDATE: 6/10/2011, 12:35 PM

The original video used for this analysis has been removed by the user. You can still see many of the same plays described below but at different times on the video player.

Looking at Dahntay Jones' box score, you would think he had a pretty good game. Looking at the game, you would know otherwise. At :38, the Pacers are ahead 24-20.

Jones allows Kobe Bryant to beat him off the dribble. This forces Troy Murphy to have to come over and help, which leaves Murphy's man Pau Gasol in position to tip in the offensive rebound.

Jones then drives to the basket against Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol and gets his shot blocked. This leads to a transition three-pointer by Jordan Farmar.

After that, while paying too much attention to Bryant being defended by Earl Watson, Jones loses track of his man Farmar, who cuts to the basket and gets a bucket off of a Bryant pass.

Not done yet, Jones then allows Lakers guard Shannon Brown to beat him off the dribble for a runner off the glass. Bryant beating Jones off the dribble could be written off as the best player in the NBA, but how do you explain this?

At 1:12, Jones has the ball taken from him by Shannon Brown. This leads to a fast-break layup by Adam Morrison. The score is now 33-30, Los Angeles.

So the Lakers went on a 13-6 run, and 11 of the 13 points Indiana allowed were directly caused by Dahntay Jones' mistakes. Dahntay Jones does not play point guard.


Indiana coach Jim O'Brien foolishly tries to defend Andrew Bynum with Troy Murphy. The result? A catch-and-finish reverse-layup and a back-down dunk. Don't mean to laugh, but this is really funny, literally a comedy of errors.


Determined to get in on the act, Pacer Brandon Rush gets backed into the paint by Bryant for a left-handed jump-hook. He then commits a turnover which leads to a transition three-pointer by Derek Fisher. At 2:43, Rush again allows Bryant to take him to the basket for two.


Team star Danny Granger actually started his mistakes a while ago. At :20, he gets beaten for a dunk by Ron Artest on a cut to the basket and runs into Earl Watson, who came over to double Pau Gasol, in the process. Again, I don't mean to laugh.

Granger's series of mistakes starts at 2:49. He gets beaten off the dribble by Ron Artest for a layup. At 3:07, Granger holds the ball in front of Artest like Artest hasn't been the best perimeter defender in the NBA for the past decade or more.

As expected, Artest swipes the ball from him. On the play, Kobe Bryant is fouled on a fast-break dunk attempt and makes both free throws. In between the prior two plays, Josh McRoberts proves he can't guard Andrew Bynum either and gets dunked on just like Troy Murphy did.

At 3:28, Dahntay Jones is back again, allowing a turn-around by Ron Artest before Shannon Brown hits a three-pointer on him at 3:46. Danny Granger then again forgets who Ron Artest is and has the ball taken from him and passed to Farmar for an open-court dunk.


To put the icing on the cake, Roy Hibbert allows Didier Ilunga-Mbenga to hit a turn-around jumper on him, not Pau Gasol, not Andrew Bynum, not Lamar Odom, Didier Ilunga-Mbenga.


The Pacers lost this game by 23 points. Let's add up the individual plus/minuses and see what happens.

Dahntay Jones, -16: Gasol offensive rebound (-2); Farmar three-pointer (-3); Farmar cut to basket (-2); Shannon Brown runner (-2); Morrison layup (-2); Artest turn-around (-2); Brown three-pointer (-3).

Troy Murphy, -4; Josh McRoberts, -2; or Jim O'Brien and/or Larry Bird, -6: Bynum reverse-layup (-2); Bynum dunk (-2); Bynum dunk (-2).

It looks like coach O'Brien didn't have a choice but to defend Bynum with Murphy and McRoberts with Hibbert in foul trouble. The Pacers don't have the big men to defend the Lakers, blame who you want.

Brandon Rush, -7: Bryant jump-hook (-2); Fisher three-pointer (-3); Bryant drive (-2).

Danny Granger, -8: Artest dunk (-2); Artest layup (-2); Artest steal leading to Bryant free throws (-2); Artest steal leading to Farmar dunk (-2).

Roy Hibbert, -2: Mbenga turn-around (-2).

As you can plainly see, not one of the errors in this comedy of errors was committed by a point guard, although I am certain they made their fair share of mistakes too.

You have to win with the team you have, so the fact that the Pacers don't have the big men to match up with the Lakers is no excuse. Miami and Charlotte didn't have the big men either, but they went 2-2 against Los Angeles.

Indiana could have won this game by simply eliminating mistakes. Dahntay Jones alone accounts for almost the entire point differential (-16 for him to -23 for the game).

So instead of blaming the point guard or blaming the big men, the Pacers could (1) play better defense, (2) play Jones fewer minutes or cut him, (3) make sure Danny Granger gets and/or pays attention to and/or remembers a good scouting report and (4) take better care of the basketball.

This also is the perfect example of why I support plus/minus based on individual and not five-man-unit performance when evaluating individual players.*

It is not the fault of the other Pacers on the court with Dahntay Jones that he made so many mistakes. Why should they have their ratings dragged down by his play?

And why should anyone other than Danny Granger lose two plus/minus points because he had the ball stolen from him by Ron Artest? Contrary to what the Indiana Pacers bloggers and sportswriters will tell you, it wasn't Earl Watson's fault; he was all the way on the other side of the court.

So all of you Pacers fans and others celebrating the trade for Darren Collison, you better wake up and smell the coffee. When Larry Bird says he's note done, he means it! And he better not be done, not with this team.

I picked Indiana to be one of the most improved teams this year and will stick to it. This was before they got Darren Collison. Collison helps because every good team needs two point guards, but he is no savior.

The Pacers' only hope right now is No. 10 pick Paul George. The Pacers better hope and pray he is as good as advertised, otherwise ... more Shakespearean (writer of The Comedy of Errors) theater.

Note: It is understood that these are Lakers highlights and don't tell the full story of the game. It is also fully understood that scoring games is subjective; one man's base hit is another man's error. But as the old saying goes, I call them like I see them. Finally, I tried to include only the most obvious errors and mistakes; so you may see something which I didn't include.

*Updated 2-16-2012, 8:40 AM to add the words "when evaluating individual players."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Most Improved Teams

The life of a sports fan is a roller coaster of emotions. You go from delirious highs to gut-wrenching lows over the course of a season, a game or even a few seconds.

We love our sports, and we love our teams and our players.

They may never win a championship or even come close, but we still love them for trying.

When you really think about it, all you can ask from a team is that they do their best and try to get better every year in hopes of winning a championship.

No fan of any team in any sport should have to suffer supporting a team which never improves and remains hopelessly stuck in the land of mediocrity, or even worse, atrocity.

Looking at this off-season in the NBA, it is safe to say that everybody knows teams like the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls got better, and the Milwaukee Bucks have received recognition for their improvement as well, although I may have been the first to give them their due.

At the same time, there are other improved teams which for one reason or another haven't received the same publicity for their key additions and other moves which will make them better next season.

Before we get started, it should be pointed out that teams which decide to play lottery-ball instead of basketball can't be accounted for.

"Lottery-ball" is the term made up here to describe teams which play to win next season's NBA Draft Lottery rather than this season's schedule of games.

It is a phenomenon in the NBA which happens almost every year, especially when there is a can't-miss, franchise player available.

Bill Simmons has written about it, and here is a Dime Magazine summary of a Chris Tomasson piece quoting John Lucas and his description of how Cleveland sabotaged their 2002-03 season to win the right to draft LeBron James, a charge former Cavaliers owner Gordon Gund denies.

This phenomenon goes all the way back to the days before the NBA Draft Lottery, and it is why the league felt it had to input the lottery to begin with, although some people will tell you it was put in place in 1985 so the NBA could put Patrick Ewing on the New York Knicks by fixing the lottery.

Injuries are another thing which can't be accounted for, so this list is put in place assuming the teams (1) will remain relatively healthy and (2) will try their best to win as many games as possible.

(1) Detroit Pistons

One way to spot a team destined to improve is to look at teams who lost a lot of minutes from their best player(s).

This causes them to lose a lot of games, many more than they would have with the player(s) available.

They then end up in the lottery and get a player they never would have gotten with a healthy team.

The best player(s) come back joined by the lottery pick and poof!

Instant improvement.

Last year, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, probably Detroit's best two players, both missed about half of the season.

The Pistons were able to parlay that misery into No. 7 overall pick Greg Monroe.

Hamilton and Prince returning and teaming up with high draft pick Monroe puts Detroit in prime position to improve its win total from last season.

Those injuries also allowed young players like Jonas Jerebko, Will Bynum and Austin Daye to gain valuable experience which will help the team.

Detroit has a deep team with many talented players whose skills go together. They should be much better than they were last year.

(2) Minnesota Timberwolves

The biggest reason Minnesota will be better this year is that they were so far down to begin with. With only 15 wins, there is almost no other way to go but up.

Thankfully, for the team's fans and fans of good basketball, general manager David Kahn and coach Kurt Rambis did much to improve the team after the end of last season.

The talent upgrade alone should double their win total, and they could finish around .500 or better with intangibles like team chemistry breaking their way.

In a trade with the Miami Heat, Minnesota picked up Michael Beasley. We must remind ourselves how great Michael Beasley was in his one season at Kansas State.

Here is some footage from that season.

Without Beasley having issues, there is no way Minnesota gets him as cheaply as they did or even at all. Beasley is an all-world talent who can take Minnesota wherever they want to go.

He just has to get himself together and on the right path and also learn how to pass the basketball (10.9:1 career FGA:A ratio).

Minnesota also added Wesley Johnson, Luke Ridnour, Sebastian Telfair and Martell Webster to go along with Corey Brewer, Jonny Flynn, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic and Wayne Ellington.

That is a very nice group of players.

They still need a rebounder/shot-blocker to become a real threat, but that player can be picked up next season.

For now, fans should be thrilled with the prospects of the current team.

(3) Los Angeles Clippers

No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin missed the entire season last year. The Clippers drafted Al-Farouq Aminu No. 8 in the draft, so the Clippers will be adding two top-eight picks to their team from last season.

Griffin is another all-world talent.

The NBA has never before seen a power forward like him.

Here he is at Oklahoma, like Beasley, just incredible footage.

Another thing to look for is a team with a good backup point guard. Teams with good number-two point guards tend to do well because they allow teams to sustain their offenses for the full 48 minutes.

Like the Timberwolves with Ridnour and Telfair, the Clippers have Randy Foye. This was an excellent and underrated signing which will greatly help Los Angeles.

The Clips also have Chris Kaman and Baron Davis, two of the best players in the league at their positions. They have made significant roster upgrades and actually look like they are trying to win.

Coach Vinny Del Negro did an excellent job in Chicago last year, finishing 6-2 down the stretch to eke into the playoffs and making a great showing in the playoffs.

He did this while battling the adversity of having team executive John Paxson assault him in his office and the team suffering a 10-game losing streak when center Joakim Noah sat out with an injury.

The Clippers could make the playoffs this season.

(4) Indiana Pacers

Danny Granger missed 20 games last season, and TJ Ford missed 35. Indiana played Roy Hibbert only 25 minutes per game.

Neither of these three players played the most minutes (scroll down to "TOTALS" and click "MP") for the Pacers last year.

That honor belongs to Brandon Rush, followed by Troy Murphy and Earl Watson, not exactly the Super Friends.

That alone explains why Indiana won only 32 games. No team is going to win many games with those three players playing the most minutes.

Now that they drafted Paul George, maybe Indiana can start playing its best players again.

They have a deep and talented team and a championship core: Ford, George, Granger, Hibbert. These four players playing the most minutes will no doubt take the Pacers back to the playoffs.

The Pacers need a rebounder/shot-blocker at power forward and maybe a better backup point guard to compete for a championship, but we'll see how the team plays together and make that call later in the year.

(5) Golden State Warriors

Golden State was already covered here with their signing of Jeremy Lin.

We'll have to wait until Ekpe Udoh comes back from wrist surgery to fully evaluate them because along with Andris Biedrins, who missed 49 games last year, he gives them the ability to defend the paint, the most important thing a basketball team must do to win and a weakness of the Warriors since forever.

Look at who played the most minutes for Golden State last year.

Their only shot-blockers were Ronny Turiaf, Biedrins and Anthony Randolph; and they played in 42, 33 and 33 games.

That explains why Golden State allowed the most points in the league and had the second-worst field goal percentage defense.

Of the five players who played the most minutes, Corey Maggette was the tallest at 6-6; and Monta Ellis, at all of 6-3, led those five players with 25 blocks (.4 per game).

Nothing more needs to be said.

The Warriors will have to hold down the fort until Udoh comes back then try to make a run late in the season to make the playoffs.

Even without Udoh they should be drastically improved.