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Which Rate Stats Correlate More With a Player’s Role Than His Skill?

Posted by Neil Paine on July 9, 2011

Here's a quick-n-dirty study I ran this morning... The idea is this:

Some stats seem to be more correlated with a player's role than his actual skill. Take a player out of the role, plug another similar player in, the new player produces just like the old one (and the old one can't "take the stats with him" to his new destination).

How can we quantify this, though? Well, let's identify players whose circumstances changed. I took every team since 1978 and assigned its players to 10 "roles" -- primary PG, backup PG, primary SG, etc. -- based on my detailed position file and where the players ranked on the team in terms of minutes played. I then isolated every player in that sample who:

  • Played at least 500 minutes in back-to-back seasons
  • Was between age 24 and 34 in back-to-back seasons (to filter out potential aging effects)
  • Moved to a new "role"
  • Was replacing a player who played >= 500 MP in the role and was between age 24 and 34 the previous season

This leaves us with 1,866 player-seasons to look at. For each of those, I need to know which predicts the player's performance in Year Y better -- his own stats from Year Y-1, or the Year Y-1 stats of the player whose role he took?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Analysis, Insane ideas, Statgeekery, Win Shares | 9 Comments »

On/Off-Court Plus-Minus, 1997 Style

Posted by Neil Paine on July 9, 2011

Just saw this while watching a replay of the Flu Game that I DVR-ed from a few days ago...

Proof that somebody in TV was thinking about on/off-court plus-minus as early as 1997.

Posted in History, Just For Fun, Statgeekery | 19 Comments »

The Moral of the Story: Humans and Computers Both Suck at Predicting

Posted by Neil Paine on June 30, 2011

One of my favorite quotes from Jonah Lehrer's oft-ripped Grantland piece was this:

"By nearly every statistical measure, the Mavs were outmanned by most of their playoff opponents. (According to one statistical analysis, the Los Angeles Lakers had four of the top five players in the series. The Miami Heat had three of the top four.) And yet, the Mavs managed to do what the best teams always do: They became more than the sum of their parts. They beat the talent."

Yep, because the stats guys were the only ones who didn't predict the playoffs with perfect accuracy:

ESPN National Expert Picks vs. Simple Rating System (no HCA), 2011 Playoffs:

Round Team A Team B Winner Adande Broussard Ford Legler Sheridan Stein Wilbon SRS
1 IND CHI CHI 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1 PHI MIA MIA 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1 NYK BOS BOS 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1 ATL ORL ATL 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1 MEM SAS MEM 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1 NOR LAL LAL 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1 POR DAL DAL 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1
1 DEN OKC OKC 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 0
2 BOS MIA MIA 1 1 1 0 0 0 1
2 ATL CHI CHI 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
2 DAL LAL DAL 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2 MEM OKC OKC 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
3 MIA CHI MIA 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1
3 OKC DAL DAL 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 1
4 DAL MIA DAL 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0

ESPN Experts: 63.5%
SRS: 66.7%

I'm not doing this to pick on ESPN's national NBA experts, by the way. It's just my way of showing that nobody predicted the playoffs very well, and nobody saw Dallas going as far as they did. Nobody. For Jonah Lehrer to act as though statheads were the only ones who failed to see the potential for Dallas to upset L.A. and then win 4 games in a 6-game sample against the Heat is beyond absurd. (But you probably already knew that, because you've read the 600 other takedowns of Lehrer's article.)

The point: when it comes to the unpredictability of sports making them look silly, computers hardly have the market cornered.

Posted in Playoffs, Rants & Ramblings | 38 Comments »

Players & Coaches Who Won Championships With Multiple Teams

Posted by Neil Paine on June 27, 2011

BBR user Kenneth asked:

"I have a question regarding players and coaches with NBA titles--which player(s) and coach(es) have won NBA titles with the most teams? As for players, I suspect Robert Horry, who won titles with the Houston Rockets (2), Los Angeles Lakers (3), and San Antonio Spurs (2), unless another player has won titles with four teams."

Right you are, Kenneth (although, like many people, you forgot about John Salley). Here are all the players and coaches who won championships in the same role with multiple teams:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in BBR Mailbag, History, Playoffs, Trivia | 32 Comments »

Layups: Stay Soft, Dirk Nowitzki

Posted by Neil Paine on June 16, 2011

Here's a great piece about Dirk Nowitzki from Deadspin's Luke O'Brien, wherein he examines the media narrative about Dirk's "soft" game. Although we were told that Dirk had acquired a tougher style of play, is that really even true?

"Instead of everyone casting about for ways to explain Nowitzki's transformation now that he has a ring, we should celebrate the fact that he hasn't transformed at all. In being exactly who he's always been, he defies the silly notion in American sports that an athlete has to don armor, psychic or otherwise, to win a title. Nowitzki has never been the guy who screams into the upper decks like a maniac after each and-one. He's never tried to be. He's one of the best low post scorers in the NBA, but you'd never know it because he doesn't play with his back to the basket like other seven-footers. Instead of dunking opponents through the rim, he's mastered a step-back shimmy to get off a soft jumper that nobody can defend and that often leads to a free throw that almost always goes in. Softly. Nowitzki doesn't charge into battle. He fades away. And he wins because of it, not despite it."

As O'Brien notes, real courage comes in sticking with an unconventional style despite high-profile failures and media criticism. Dirk's conviction in his own "soft" style eventually vindicated it, and in a perfect world the media would admit they were wrong instead of inventing a false narrative about how Dirk changed at their behest.

Posted in Layups, Playoffs | 153 Comments »

Layups: How LeBron James Broke the Golden Rule of Sports

Posted by Neil Paine on June 14, 2011

Posted in Playoffs, Rants & Ramblings, YouTube Finds | 37 Comments »

Layups: Young Dirk

Posted by Neil Paine on June 14, 2011

Here's a great story at Slate by Benjamin Markovits, whose German minor-league team played against a 17-year-old Dirk Nowitzki in the mid-1990s.

"What amazes me when I watch him now is the effort that goes into each of Nowitzki's offensive moves—how he uses all of his length and athletic ability to win a few inches of separation for his turnaround fadeaway jump shot. When he played against us, nobody could keep him out of the lane. He was not only the tallest player on the court but one of the fastest. I remember switching on to him once at the top of the key. One dribble later and he was at the rim. How can you stay in front of a guy who can go around you and past you in a single stride? After that, it didn't even matter if he missed the shot—he was the quickest man to the ball and could tap it back in at will."

UPDATE: In the comments, Chris shared another link that gives quite a bit more of Markovits' backstory, and how his path came to intersect with Dirk's that summer.

Posted in Just For Fun, Layups | 7 Comments »

Layups: Have Mavericks found a recipe to defend LeBron?

Posted by Neil Paine on June 13, 2011

Have Mavericks found a recipe to defend LeBron?: From Weak Side Awareness -- Lost in all the analysis is the fact that Dallas seems to have figured out how to stop LeBron James.

Posted in Layups, Playoffs | 55 Comments »

Final 2011 NBA Finals Series Win Probability Graph

Posted by Neil Paine on June 12, 2011

Dallas' Series Win Probability Graph after Game 6 (Dallas wins series 4-2):

Dallas' Quarter-by-Quarter Series Win Probability Data:

Minutes Elapsed p(win)
0 46.7%
Game 1
12 48.0%
24 48.8%
36 42.3%
48 33.8%
Game 2
60 34.3%
72 34.9%
84 29.3%
96 54.0%
Game 3
108 46.0%
120 46.0%
132 45.9%
144 30.9%
Game 4
156 30.3%
168 27.2%
180 21.7%
192 45.0%
Game 5
204 43.0%
216 48.3%
228 53.4%
240 63.7%
Game 6
252 73.0%
264 69.9%
276 90.7%
288 100.0%

(For more info on the Series Win Probability methodology, click here)

Posted in Playoffs, Statgeekery | 101 Comments »

Dallas Mavericks & Miami Heat Championship Probability Graphs Through the Playoffs

Posted by Neil Paine on June 12, 2011

Here are a couple of graphs showing the game-by-game progression of Dallas & Miami's championship probabilities as they moved through the playoffs:

Dallas Mavericks

Miami Heat

("Leverage" is the importance of the game relative to the average playoff game, which always has a leverage index of 1.00)

Posted in Graphs, Playoffs, Statgeekery | 6 Comments »