Last week on the B.S. Report, Bill Simmons had John Hollinger on and they talked a lot about the limitations in NBA statistics. And one reader took that as a challenge and watched the Thunder/Warriors game with a little bit more of a keen eye. Thunder fan Taylor sent this great breakdown in of Saturday night’s game (HERE and HERE are his “box score”):
I am a huge fan of stats and wish that there were more of them that were recorded. There are many little things that players do that don’t show up in the box score. Because of this I have started to take some in depth stats of Thunder basketball games. I do this not just because of my love for stats or the Thunder, but because it helps me become a more educated viewer while watching the games and allows me to really look for things that I would normally miss.
Attached were some footnotes explaining each stat. Assists have five categories: Key (pass led to a bucket in the painted area), Open Jumper (pass led to an open jumper), Open Three (pass led to an open three), Contested Jumper (pass led to a made jumper, but it was closely contested), Contested Three (pass led to a made three pointer, but it was close contested).
Doing this is very interesting as we can see that all six of Watson’s assists led to baskets in the key, meaning his assists were very efficient and productive (try to disregard how he played in other aspects of the game, haha). This isn’t implying that the other assists aren’t important but it is interesting to view them in these categories.
I like the idea of the next category, because I battled the same issue as a player.
The next category is labeled “Could Have Been Assist”. This is one that my dad invented in high school for me after a few frustrating games in a row where teammates missed wide open layups/jump shots after good passes. The first five categories are the same as above with a sixth added: Free-Throws. These categories are fairly self-explanatory: if Westbrook feeds Durant under the basket and KD misses the lay up, Westbrook gets a “Could Have Been Assist – Key” in the stats. This can show how much of a play maker someone was during the game even if they aren’t showing up as official assists. The “Free-Throws” category is for any play where the recipient of a pass is fouled while shooting a missed shot. If that player makes at least one of his free-throws then the passer gets a “Could Have Been Assist – Free Throw”. The playmaker is then rewarded even though in the official box score an assist will not be given.
The main problem with CHBA is that when you’re playing a team sport, you have to rely on the other guy to finish the play. In football, you can’t give Peyton Manning a “Should Have Been Completion” because the ball went through Dallas Clark’s hands. You can’t give Vlad Guerrero an outfield assist on a bullet to the plate when one of the Flying Molinas has it bounce off his mitt. I get the logic there entirely, but in reality it doesn’t work. I do think players should get an assist if the guy is fouled on the shot and makes both free throws. The problem there is how do you award the stat if he makes 1 of 2? Half an assist? I think that’s the main complication there.
The next three categories break down the assists in three categories: Fast-Break, Half-Court, Inbound. Taylor explains that this allows us to see where players and the team are obtaining most of their assists whether in the half-court, during a fast-break or off of an inbound play.
The next four categories all generate percentages for us to evaluate. The first is “Fast-Breaks” and then “Success”. I have since decided that these four categories will be broken down the following way: “Fast-Breaks” “Points” and “Success”. For the game against the Warriors I only have the two categories. How this works is anytime a player leads the fast-break that is reflected in the stats. If that fast-break led to a basket then it is shown as a successful fast break. In the new system a successful fast break won’t just be from a made basket. For instance, there may be a fast break where Westbrook finds a wide open Durant trailing for a three. If Durant misses that three, it should not be reflected in the stats that Westbrook had an unsuccessful fast-break. He did his job and got an open look. In that scenario Westbrook would see the following in the stats: “Fast-Break” 1 “Points” 0 “Success” 1 because he did lead a successful fast-break even though points were not scored. If he then leads a fast break where he turns the ball over, followed by a fast break where he attacks the rim and scores his stats would be updated as follows: “Fast Break” 3 “Points” 1 “Success” 1. This means that out of the three times Westbrook has led the fast-break, he has been successful twice, although only producing points once. For the Warriors game, only made baskets are recorded as being successful.
Next, Taylor looks at outlet passes. This is such an overlooked component to basketball. Against Phoenix, the Thunder was torched by Shaq and his pinpoint outlets. Taylor says, “Jeff Green did a great job last night of starting the break by making a quick, smart outlet pass. If the fast break eventually leads to a basket or open look, Jeff Green will either get a tally in the “Points” or “Success” category.”
“On Ball Screens” measure the amount of on the balls and the success rate of them. It follows the same “success” rules as above. “Crash Boards” is a category that measure when a player attacks the glass on the offensive end.
“The box score does reflect Collison’s hustle with his five offensive rebounds, but it is very informative to see that he crashed the boards (attempted to get an offensive rebound) 22 times. It is counted when a player makes a clear attempt to grab the ball or get around the defender boxing him out.”
So I guess you could take that two ways: Nick is working hard on the glass and trying to get second chances, which is good. Or that while Nick works hard on the offensive glass, he comes up empty a lot. The key to this stat (as in all stats) is proper comparison. What’s Paul Millsap’s Crash Boards stat? What’s Dwight Howard’s rate? Obviously Taylor can’t put together that stuff, but that would make this stuff much more interesting.
Fouls Drawn and and Charges are exactly what they sound like. Now defensive stats:
“Contested Shots” is simple: did the defender get a hand up? Was he attempting to contest the shot? Did he close out on a shooter? “Altered Shots” is basically a blocked shot that is not reflected in the box score because the defender did not actually touch the ball. It is more valuable than a “Contested Shot” because you are not just putting a hand up, you are making the player change his shot in a drastic way that often leads to a miss.“Deflections” are kept to measure how active a player is. These deflections can come in a variety of way: off passes, rebounds, loose balls, etc. Anytime a player deflects or tips the ball, whether or not it leads to a Thunder possession, that play is accounted for.
“Box Outs” are self-explanatory and are recorded when a players makes an attempt to box out the opposing player, not just standing there waiting for the rebound. Obviously, many rebounds are obtained without a box out but I love seeing who is putting forth the effort to put a body on someone. “Give Up Rebound” occurs when a Thunder defender is responsible for giving up an offensive rebound to the opposing team whether by being out of position or missing a box out. The Warriors only had three offensive rebounds.“Ball Denials” are recorded to track when a player denies the ball or does not allow a pass to be made. Durant did a great job last night of not allowing the ball to be thrown into the post which is shown in the stats by his 4 ball denials. This stat can occur in the post, on the wing, etc. “Help Defense” shows us how much a player is helping on defense when his teammate get beat off the dribble or when a rotation needs to be made. The big men (Krstic, Collison) get a lot of these because they are in the paint and in most cases help out when a guard or forward is beat off the dribble. They also are the players who most often guard the picker on a pick-and-roll play and consistently have to help out. I was surprised to see how much Collison was helping out his teammates. It is mainly because of his position but it also enabled me to see how much he was hustling on defense and moving his feet.“Charge Attempts” and “Charges Called” record how many times a Thunder defender attempts to take a charge and how often that attempt is rewarded with a charge call by the official.
I really like getting a percentage on charges attempted and charges called. It could help us distinguish the floppers and the guys that actually do a great job of getting in front and getting their feet set. That may be my favorite stat of the bunch.
So there you have it. And as Taylor notes at the bottom:
I am sure there are more stats that we can come up with but these are a few that I thought would be valuable to track. I am not a certified official but did play basketball competively through high school. Naturally, my stats will not be 100% (For instance, I have Westbrook down for 10 assists – box score shows 11) and many of the categories are very subjective but I still feel one can gain from looking at these stats. The Warrior game was my first attempt (watched the game recorded in case anyone thought I would even try to do this all alive) and I am sure I missed more than a few stats.