STATS LLC has the new player tracking technology called “SportVU” which essentially places a camera high in the arena to track player movements and plays, right down to how many times they dribble, how many times they touch the ball, which hand they dribble most with, how often they jog, how often they sprint and how many times they bite on their finger nails (OK, I made that last one up — I think).
It’s incredible stuff.
Fifteen teams in the league use the SportVU technology, the Thunder being one of them. It’s mostly private data that the teams use for their own benefit, but STATS has been releasing a little here and there to give people a taste of it all. And heavens me, if you’re a stathead, it’s cause for a new pair of pants.
Zach Lowe of Grantland sifted through a choice sampling of the data and came away with a big bag of thoughts, but here’s the juicy Thunder related stuff:
Post-ups? Durant is 26-of-37 from the floor when he catches a pass within 12 feet of the rim, which is the current STATS definition of “post touch.” The Thunder average nearly 1.6 points per possession when this happens, a top-10 mark among camera players, and a stat that makes you think Durant should get more than the paltry 1.27 such touches he averages per game.
That’s the thing about Durant: Scroll through these categories one by one, and you’ll say to yourself, “He should be doing this particular thing more often!” Then you realize you’ve said that for every category — drives, post-ups, elbow touches — and you just shake your head.
As for Westbrook, his numbers are merely “good,” but they also contradict the (dying) notion that he’s an irresponsible ball hog. Westbrook has attempted a shot on just half of his drives, a below-average mark for a high-scoring guard (and in general), and has coughed the ball up on only 5 percent of those drives.
We already knew Durant’s postgame is one of the most improved areas of his game (he’s currently No. 2 in the league in points per play in the post, per Synergy) but the limited number of touches he gets is a little frustrating. Then again, as Lowe wisely points out, Durant is really of a how-do-you-want-it kind of player — inside, outside, in the postgame, off the dribble, off a pindown, driving to the rim, whatever. He does it all.
(Note: This is the part where I fill 500 words of space telling you how awesome KD is, but I’ve already done that once this week, which I think is enough gushing.)
I love the Westbrook stat because I mostly love anything that helps validate that he’s not a selfish ballhog that’s looking to score every time he sniffs the ball. One thing about that though: You can be selfish even in passing in a lot of ways, something Westbrook is often guilty of. What I mean is that Westbrook has a penchant for going for the “hero” assist, an often forced pass that directly leads to a layup or dunk. It’s not entirely a bad trait, because when it works, it’s two points which is yay. But sometimes, simply swinging the ball to keep it moving is the better play.
Another stat via Lowe, via STATS: Westbrook is third in the league in drives per game at 9.3. The top five: Tony Parker (10.8), Rajon Rondo (10.3), Westbrook, Jrue Holiday (9.2) and James Harden (9.0).
Here’s one on Serge Ibaka: He averages only 1,59 elbow touches per game (the metaphorical basketball elbow, not his actual elbow, though it wouldn’t surprise me if SportVU tracked that too). That’s the fourth-lowest number of 90 players with at least 40 touches. Lowe: “But Ibaka knows what he’s there to do: shoot. He has jacked it up on 50 percent of his elbow touches, the highest such rate in the league. Ibaka has hit 41 percent from there so far, which is solid, but certainly not great.”
Check out the whole thing because even though you might think you don’t care about what Boris Diaw or Tyler Hansbrough is doing in post touches or dribbling stats, you will. Then pray that this data never becomes public because if it does, we’re all going to die.