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.

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