Thursday, August 4, 2011

Advanced Passing Stats: The Nickel And More

It's been too long since the last time I brought out some advanced statistics.

But it's that time again.

Passing is the part of the game I've been working on most recently.

So I want to show everyone what I've been working on and get you all familiar with these concepts.


A nickel is when a guy makes a nice pass only to have his teammate (1) miss an open jumper, (2) get fouled, (3) turn the ball over or (4) miss a shot close to the rim.

Nickels will generally be credited only for the fouls and turnovers which take place close to the rim.

And missed contested jumpers aren't nickels because there is no real expectation for a make on contested jumpers, and getting someone a contested shot isn't an indicator of strong passing ability.

Missed shots close to the rim which are contested will be judgment calls.

For misses where it is determined that the contest was a major factor in the miss, no nickel will be credited. For misses where it is determined that the contest didn't play a major factor in the miss, a nickel will be credited.

And when a player is fouled off of a nice pass and goes to the line and makes one free throw, the passer will get a nickel and a penny (or six cents); and when the player makes both free throws the passer will be given a nickel and two pennies (or seven cents).

To see this in action, let's look at Terrence Williams in his debut with the Houston Rockets.

Williams makes three nice passes here: plays starting at 1:42 to Patrick Patterson, 2:41 to Jared Jeffries and 3:08 to Courtney Lee.

But Patterson is fouled. Jeffries misses a layup. And Lee misses a three.

In these scenarios, Williams would be credited with three nickels plus the penny from Patterson's made free throw.

Looking at Williams' box score, you wouldn't think he did much of anything in this game. But the story from the ground paints an entirely different picture.

Looking at the game, you can see Williams was effective and made contributions to the team which the box score didn't capture.

And that is what the nickel is here to do, give what the box score doesn't and properly evaluate every player's passing skills.


This is an extension of the hockey assist, but it takes it a bit further to include not only the pass before the pass but all passes before the pass leading to a made basket.

Let's look at an imaginary scenario to see how it works.

Shaquille O'Neal passes the ball from the post out to Kobe Byrant, who swings it over to Rick Fox, who kicks it over to Ron Harper, who whips it over to Robert Horry for a three.

I know Kobe Bryant would fire up a shot the second the ball grazed his fingertips (I kid, LOL!). That's why I said this is an imaginary scenario.

In this case, here is how the assist would look: team assist: O'Neal-Bryant-Fox-Harper.

The last person listed in the assist string (Ron Harper) is the one who gets credit for the individual assist.

Looking at another imaginary play, let's say Kevin Love gets a rebound and zips an outlet pass to Ricky Rubio and three-quarter court.

Rubio throws a touch pass to Wes Johnson under the basket, and Johnson dishes a behind-the-back pass to Michael Beasley for a dunk.

The assist string would look like this: team assist: Love-Rubio-Johnson.

Calls will have to be made as to exactly where the assist string begins, but this is for rapid-succession passes which lead to made shots.

It's not for guys who catch a pass and hold it for five seconds, then dribble around and pass it to another guy who holds it for five seconds and dribbles it around some more.

It is for quick passes leading to buckets.

And it is designed to reward team play and give everyone credit for their contribution to the field goal.


Extra passes create better team chemistry. And better team chemistry leads to wins.

An extra pass is when someone has an open shot and passes it up to give a teammate a shot.

Guys who make the extra pass are unselfish, team players who make offenses go and who everyone loves playing with.

And the camaraderie they bring with their unselfishness brings the team closer together and encourages others to do the same.

So I'll be looking at guys who make the extra pass and what impact it has on how their teams perform.

And it is well understood that you don't want to get too carried away with these extra passes to the point where it hurts the team.

As I say with all of my advanced statistics, I don't have anywhere near the resources or the manpower to track and log this information as I would like.

But I will track some games or parts of games from time to time.

Note: It took me years to come up with the name nickel for the concept of one-half of an assist.

It finally came from the realization that you need two things to get an assist, or a dime: (1) a pass and (2) a made shot. A pass and a missed shot is half of an assist, or half of a dime.

So I named it the nickel. Sounds simple but it was really hard.

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