Stepping Aside

by 5. November 2013 10:56

After much thought over the past few days, I've decided that Hoopdata won't be returning for the 2013-2014 season.

 

When this site was launched over four years ago, our mission was to provide the public with previously unavailable statistics using as simple an interface as possible. I'm happy to say that all of the statistics we provide are no longer unique to this website, with basketball-reference.com, nbawowy.com, and most importantly, the newly unveiled SportVU section of stats.nba.com all providing more comprehensive sets of data for public use. Combine this with the fact that the motion-tracking statistics available directly from the NBA are inherently more accurate than anything we can track from public play-by-play data, and I believe this is as good a time as ever to proverbially hand off the baton.

 

The fact of the matter is this service was always one that would best be provided by a much larger outlet than two guys in their 20's hosting a site through GoDaddy, and I'm thrilled that day has finally come. 

 

I'm aware there are many users of this site who still prefer using our interface, and I'm truly sorry to any of you we're letting down. I strongly encourage you to peruse the three sites I listed above, and I'm extremely confident you'll grow to love at least one of them more than us once you get familiar.

 

I'd like to quickly thank the less public half of the site, Matt Nolan, for his part in building Hoopdata from the ground up. Without his incredibly adept programming abilities and creative contributions, none of this would exist. I'd also like to thank the writers who contributed to us, namely Tom Haberstroh, Jeff Fogle, Eno Sarris, Matt Scribbins, and Blake Murphy. Equally important are the too many to list early adopters who promoted the site from day one, and while I am certainly going to leave out many, I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention Matt Moore, Kurt Helin, Tim Varner, Zach Lowe, Howard Beck, Kevin Arnovitz, and Henry Abbott. And it goes without saying, but I'd also like to personally thank Jonathan Givony for hiring me as a scout at DraftExpress.com over eight years ago, without which I'd never have had the opportunity to contribute anything to the basketball universe.

 

Most importantly, I'd like to thank all the fans who regularly used this resource over the past four years, and it's truly been a pleasure to serve you and contribute this rather small piece to the history of basketball analytics. It's been an incredibly humbling experience to continually receive such amazing feedback from users and have had the opportunity to interact with so many brilliant people through this website, and for that I am extremely grateful.

 

Thanks again,

 

Joe Treutlein

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Introducing Arena-Adjusted Assists

by Blake Murphy 6. January 2013 16:17

When Jose Calderon was recently credit for an assist on this play (the first in the video), it had some questioning the validity of assists based on favorable home-court scoring. There’s no way, in any sense of the definition, that should have been scored an assist for Calderon.

The definition, per the NBA’s statistics manual according to this Wall Street Journal article, is as follows:

The NBA statistician's manual says an assist should be "credited to a player tossing the last pass leading directly to a field goal, only if the player scoring the goal responds by demonstrating immediate reaction to the basket."

Really, the validity question should come up for a handful of other reasons with respect to assists, but the idea of a home-advantage is an interesting one, and one that Ken Pomeroy had previously tried to tackle", albeit it was about college basketball rather than the NBA.

Question: Do scorers favor home teams when giving out assists?

According to one former Grizzlies stat-hand, it’s a lot of subjectivity and there’s room for bias from the scorer’s position. That said, that same WSJ article linked earlier had comment from the NBA that all stats are reviewed, so perhaps this is a problem that has been ironed out since the late-‘90s.

Nonetheless, the topic got me curious. In a discussion with my Beyond the Boxscore colleague Bryan Grosnick, he mentioned that he had actually pulled data on this matter before. He was kind enough to send it to me and share his findings with me.

I repeat: All of the credit for the research and pulling the stats belongs to Bryan. I greatly appreciate him sharing it with me to communicate via Hoopdata.

Bryan’s methodology for answering the question was as follows:

“I found a way to quantify it out, by comparing road and home assists to field goals made for each team, during each season from '06-'07 to '11-’12.”

That is, it compares a team’s at-home A% with its road A%. (Note that this method, using Assist Percentage, should strip out factors like pace and teams playing better at home, since it’s just A/FG. Not perfect, but it’s a start.)

So…

Question: Do scorers favor home teams when giving out assists?

It turns out that yes, scorers tend to favor the home team when it comes to giving out assists.

Answer: Scorers give home teams a boost of 2.7 percentage points, which makes for a 4.9% boost in Assist Percentage.

In other words, the Assist Percentage for all road teams in the sample was 56.1%, while for home teams it was 58.8% (a 2.7 percentage-point or 4.9% increase).

The data that Bryan gave me contains every team season in the sample, so there is a lot of room for me to build on this initial article with further analysis. My plan over the next few weeks is to re-create the assist leaderboards in each season using what I’m roughly calling an “Arena-Adjusted Assist” metric (AAA). Those types of articles should flow from this finding and this data set fairly easily, especially given the wide disparity between teams in particular seasons.

Some Interesting Findings *The top-five most favorable home scorers belong to: Nuggets, Clippers, Hawks, Lakers, Cavaliers *The five least favorable home scorers belong to: Heat, Suns, Kings, Knicks, Grizzlies *The single highest-inflated season was the 2008-09 Nuggets with a 13% inflation *The single most-deflated season was the 2006-07 Heat with a -8.7% deflation *LeBron’s quest to average a triple-double is actually hampered by Heat scorers *Steve Nash was probably undervalued in his MVP years

Please let me know via comment/email/twitter if you have any ideas for follow-up pieces based on this information. As mentioned, I plan to do a handful of articles based off of this data set in the next couple of weeks, and suggestions are always welcome. So stay tuned for more.

And a HUGE thanks to Bryan for all his hard work.

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What's Wrong With Dwight Howard?

by Omar Shaik 26. December 2012 19:42

As the Lakers struggled through the early part of this season, much of the blame has been cast on Pau Gasol's passivity or Steve Nash's absence. The Los Angeles Lakers are at .500 even though Kobe Bryant is in the midst of one of the best 28-game shooting stretches of his career, despite being forced to undertake greater ball-handling responsibilities. How good has Kobe been so far? The last time his PER (Player Efficiency Rating) approached 25, it was 2007; he's never managed .222 WS/48 (Win Shares per 48 min) until this season. In spite of Kobe, the ageless wonder, the Lakers are tied for ninth in the Western Conference and have significantly underachieved through the first 28 games of the season.

Although Dwight Howard has flashed signs of occasional brilliance, he is playing below the All-NBA level expected of him. While Nash was out due to injury, the Lakers needed Dwight to play well to make up for the lost offense. Instead, Howard has completely disappeared on offense. His USG% (percent of offensive possessions he uses during his time on the court) is the lowest it has been in eight years. His rebounding has been way down as well. His DRB% (defensive rebound percent) is 24% this year, after it was 33% last year. Similarly, his TRB% (total rebound percent) is 18.1% so far, after five straight years of 21.7% or better.

According to many all-encompassing metrics, Howard is playing worse than he has in years, at least so far. His PER (20.5) and WS/48 (.148) are his lowest since '05-'06, and his WP/48 (Wins Produced per 48 min = .172) is the lowest it's ever been.

There are a couple ways to rationalize Howard's decreased production. The most obvious theory is that he still isn't fully healthy. There are trends in the data to support this hypothesis, such as the career-low rebounding numbers and the career-high %Blkd (% of Howard's shots that are blocked). 8.9% of Howard's shots have been blocked, which is the 4th highest rate in the NBA among Centers and Power Forwards who play 30 minutes per game. Howard, a former Slam Dunk champion, does not fit the profile of players who typically lead the NBA in Blkd%. Omer Asik and DeMarcus Cousins usually have high %Blkd because they don't have the combination of elite athleticism and low-post skill that Howard does. There are not many players in the NBA who can block a healthy Howard or take rebounds away from him, so the numbers suggest that he isn't completely himself yet. Indeed, Howard blames his health for his shockingly low production.

There is also the possibility that Howard has not learned how to fit in with the Lakers or with Bryant yet. This theory is also supported by the data (and Andrew Bynum), as the Lakers are much better when Bryant plays without Howard (+16.2 per 36 min) than when they play together (+2.3 per 36 min). When LeBron James joined the Miami Heat in 2010, his numbers after the first month were similarly well below his norms. His PER was only 24 after that first month, but he managed to regress to his career averages the next 5 months. A similar regression could be in store for Howard, and the Lakers might need every bit of it.

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Greg Monroe's Emergence as a Passer

by Blake Murphy 20. December 2012 22:15

When it comes to passing big men, it’s usually the Gasol brothers who get most of the love. After all, they rank second and third among players classified as forward, center, or forward/center by Basketball Reference in assists per game this year. They both also have a strong track record and reputation for being adept as passing, especially from the elbow for high-low feeds.

Joakim Noah is in first with 4.5 per game, the first time he’s eclipsed the rough “three per game is a good passing big man” plateau. Noah has been getting love all season for his phenomenal play, so I won’t expand except to say that, yes, he’s really improved and is a treat to watch and own in fantasy.

It’s the fourth name on the list that I want to talk about, because I think Greg Monroe may be the league’s best passer out of the low post. His 3.4 assists per game are solid and, without digging deeper, show a passing skill most big men don’t have. However, unlike the other names around him on the leader board, Monroe isn’t really an inside-outside big man in terms of the shots he takes.

To wit, look at his Hoopdata page. He actually leads the entire league in field goal attempts per game at the rim with 7.1 and also takes another 2.6 from three- to nine-feet out. In total, he takes more shots inside of 10 feet than any other player in the NBA except for Dwight Howard, Brook Lopez and Nikola Pekovic, and they’re all razor-close.

Monroe proceeds to take just 2.5 shots per game outside of 10 feet, meaning that roughly three quarters of his touches come from in the paint or short out on the baseline. So he’s spending a good amount of time down there.

Of his 3.4 assists, 1.9 of them lead to baskets at the rim. These could be high-low feeds, quick dishes under the basket or passes to back-door cutters when he is facing up. Nearly one per game lead to threes, as well, which are likely passes out of the post and/or passes out of double teams.

It’s difficult, given the current statistics available, to tell where assists come from and which type lead to shots from where. It’s possible that Monroe simply gets a lot of assists when he’s outside the paint and then takes his shots inside, but that doesn’t seem to fly with conventional wisdom and what comparable players do.

For example, Noah’s 4.3 assists are spread more normally across the floor in percentage terms than are Monroe’s, which are almost exclusively at the rim or threes, the best “type” of shots a player can get for their teammates.

One final note is that, as a team, the Pistons shoot the sixth worst percentage in the league on shots at the rim (although that is including Monroe, who is a well below-average finisher himself). They are also roughly a league-average team at hitting threes. So it seems it’s possible Monroe is missing out on assists at the rim that an average team may hit, though it’s difficult to tell exactly.

However, just for confirmation that what I’ve witnessed in a handful of games and see in the stats is backed up by a “Pistons regular,” I asked Dan Feldman of Piston Powered to provide his thoughts, which ran counter to my thinking:

“Monroe works from the high post more than his shot selection would indicate. He's been a hesitant mid-range shooter lately, which has frustrated many fans, so most of his scoring comes in the low post. But most of his assists have come from the high post, from where he hits cutting teammates. I suspect his passing is similar to Noah's and Marc Gasol's.

Has Monroe evolved as a low-post passer? Yes. But was a very good passer at Georgetown, too. As a rookie, the Pistons didn't ask him to do it all. Last year, they did a little. This year, more than he's improved, I just think they're finally letting him loose.”

As Monroe continues to work to refine his game in his third season, some may look at the drop in PER and the slight dip in rebounding and suggest he’s faltered or stagnated. But in at least this one area, Monroe has continued to show growth, or at least unleash a skill that already existed below the surface.

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DeAndre Jordan and the Crunch Time Conundrum

by Blake Murphy 26. November 2012 19:01

DeAndre Jordan is a worse free throw shooter than some players are three-point shooters.

With a 44% career free throw rate, Jordan is a huge liability late in close games, enough so that coach Vinny del Negro has to be wary of playing him in such situations.

In fact, Jordan averages 26.5 minutes per game but has played just 4.5 minutes per fourth quarter, well below what you’d expect for a starter and one of a team’s core players. He’s been protected on the offensive end such that he’s actually yet to take a free throw in the fourth quarter, and has only been afforded 0.5 field goal attempts per fourth quarter. Basically, when Jordan plays in the fourth, he is there for defense only.

I was interested to see if Jordan (a) is in a unique situation with limited fourth quarter minutes and (b) should be a better free throw shooter given his shooting rates elsewhere.

Is this unique?

For the first point, I used NBA.com’s Advanced Stats Tool to find players in “crunch time” (last five minutes, ahead or behind five points) who had the lowest usage rate.

We are, of course, dealing with very small samples at this point in the year, so Jordan is one of many players with a miniscule usage rate in small crunch time minutes. He’s certainly not unique in this regard, but it warrants further and more detailed study controlling for FT%, position, etc.

Should he be better?

For the second part, I had planned to compare Jordan’s shooting percentages from different distances and come up with a sort of “expected FT%.” However, Jordan shoots so exclusively inside of five feet that the exercise would have been pointless.

Just how limited is Jordan’s range? Well, he’s taken just 23 shots outside of five feet this season, and just five outside of nine feet. He’s a 65% shooter within five feet and shot 66% from there last year (when he took just 32 shots outside of five feet and just 10 outside of nine feet). It makes sense for him to stay there since he’s so effective, and the samples are too small to know if he’d be any good from elsewhere (anecdotally, I doubt he would).

Are they right to bench him?

So the question for the Clippers becomes whether Jordan’s defense (and other offensive tools, such as screen settings, providing the threat of post offense, etc) is worth enough to keep him on the floor despite his free throw shooting.

The Clippers are actually better offensively with Jordan on the court, by 5.5 points per 100 possessions, but this is almost certainly due to him spending all of his time with strong teammates. Defensively, the team rebounds and blocks slightly better with Jordan on the floor but allows a significantly higher eFG%. The net effect is that the Clippers have been 7.1 points per 100 possessions worse on defense with Jordan off the floor.

Overall, the Clippers have been +4.3 points per 100 possessions with Jordan on and +5.9 with him off. He’s a slight net loss if we don’t control for his teammates, which is nearly impossible since he’s played 332 of his 344 minutes with Chris Paul.

Basically, you can’t fault Vinny for gluing him to the bench when the game is on the line. He hasn’t proven enough that he’s a better option than Turiaf, Hollins, or a smaller lineup, and until he can more reliably hit the freebies or more definitively prove himself a defensive presence, there’s not enough evidence to cry foul on del Negro.

And even if you could cry foul, Jordan would likely miss the free throws.

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