HoopsHype Statistics rumors

November 3, 2013 Updates

I recently calculated the probability of reaching the N.B.A., by race, in every county in the United States. I got data on births from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; data on basketball players from basketball-reference.com; and per capita income from the census. The results? Growing up in a wealthier neighborhood is a major, positive predictor of reaching the N.B.A. for both black and white men. Is this driven by sons of N.B.A. players like the Warriors’ brilliant Stephen Curry? Nope. Take them out and the result is similar. New York Times

But this tells us only where N.B.A. players began life. Can we learn more about their individual backgrounds? In the 1980s, when the majority of current N.B.A. players were born, about 25 percent of African-Americans were born to mothers under age 20; 60 percent were born to unwed mothers. I did an exhaustive search for information on the parents of the 100 top-scoring black players born in the 1980s, relying on news stories, social networks and public records. Putting all the information together, my best guess is that black N.B.A. players are about 30 percent less likely than the average black male to be born to an unmarried mother and a teenage mother. New York Times

These results push back against the stereotype of a basketball player driven by an intense desire to escape poverty. In “The Last Shot,” Darcy Frey quotes a college coach questioning whether a suburban player was “hungry enough” to compete against black kids from the ghetto. But the data suggest that on average any motivational edge in hungriness is far outweighed by the advantages of kids from higher socioeconomic classes. What are these advantages? The first is in developing what economists call noncognitive skills like persistence, self-regulation and trust. We have grown accustomed to hearing about the importance of these qualities for success in school, but players in team sports rely on many of the same skills. New York Times

The second relevant advantage of a relatively prosperous upbringing is height. The economist Robert W. Fogel has demonstrated the impact of improved early life nutrition on adult height over successive generations. Poor children in contemporary America still have substandard nutrition, holding back their development. They have higher infant mortality rates and lower average birth weights, and recent research has found that poverty in modern America inhibits height. In basketball, the importance of every inch is enormous. I estimate that each additional inch almost doubles your chances of making the N.B.A. New York Times

Meanwhile, other countries have caught up to the United States in health and height. A widely available proxy for early life conditions is infant mortality. In the United States, roughly 20 fewer infants per 1,000 births died in 2012 than in 1960. In other countries, declines have been much larger. In Turkey, over the same period, the rate dropped by a staggering 159 per 1,000 births. Even some Western European countries, like Spain, Greece and Portugal, had declines more than twice as large as those in America. All of these countries, recent research finds, have grown taller. New York Times

November 2, 2013 Updates

You said that there was a core group of teams that were already ahead of the game on this initiative. Do you know what the lag was for the rest of the league being readily able to adopt it? Adam Silver: I think it was, maybe, a little bit on the expense side for some teams. Where, because they were busy also trying to make a business out of their team and weren’t able to spend as freely. But I think there were some philosophical differences among some teams. I think it was no different than the way ‘Billy Ball’ evolved in Major League Baseball that certain GMs and certain coaches were early adopters. Obviously [Celtics Assistant GM] Mike Zarren here in Boston, Darryl Morey who comes from Boston and is taking his technique to Houston. But I think also, it spread, seemingly to me, more quickly through this league maybe than other leagues. CLNS Radio

October 28, 2013 Updates

The NBA opens its season this week, and the information surrounding the game has never been as rich, detailed or impactful. It’s not like the Moneyball divide that split much of the baseball world; most in basketball have embraced detailed statistical analysis. “We use it. The Wizards use it. Everybody uses it to different extents,” Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. Washington Post

“Risk has been mitigated,” said Shane Battier, a 12-year veteran known for his ability to rely on analytics to find subtle, effective ways to impact games. “It’s like playing blackjack in the casino. Teams are giving themselves the best opportunity to shave off a few percentage points and improve their chances of success.” Washington Post

Hollinger joined the Grizzlies last December. A month later, the team raised eyebrows by trading away Gay, its leading scorer and most popular player. The criticism was loud in many NBA circles, but Memphis remained steady, entered the playoffs as a fifth-seed and upset the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder to reach the conference finals. Hollinger declined to specifically address Gay but said in general, “I think there’s a better understanding of what is a high-value player or a high-value shot versus just what looks good.” Gay told NBA.com last month: “Honestly, how I view it, a computer can’t tell talent. It just can’t. When it comes down to it, it’s all about winning, and however you get the win.” Washington Post

October 26, 2013 Updates

Similar to what foreign soccer leagues have been doing for several years, the NBA and STATS, the data firm that services every NBA team, will use the cameras to quantify and analyze every movement of every game throughout the entire season. Recording from the rafters, the six cameras will document everything, capturing speed, distance, player separation, sets, plays, passes — areas that have never before appeared in the standard box score. “It’s going to have a big impact,” said John Hollinger, vice president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies, “and the scary thing is, we don’t know how. It’s too early. I just hope I figure it out before everybody else does.” Washington Post

Every team will receive a base package of data and analysis, and some will pay for a deeper dive and more video integration. They’ll all figure out their own way to use the information, but teams will finally be able to “quantify what hasn’t been quantifiable,” said Brian Kopp, the senior vice president at STATS. For example, if a player is within 10 feet of 30 potential rebounds but only pulled down three, coaches will know he’s well behind league average, which is 15. “A lot of these statistics are very indicative of effort,” said Steve Hellmuth, the NBA’s executive vice president of operations and technology “and also indicative of whether players are doing what coaches are instructing them to do.” Washington Post

October 18, 2013 Updates

The 2013 season marked the first time since the 2009 season that the HEAT finished outside of the top-5 in defensive efficiency. The HEAT gave up 100.5 points per 100 possessions according to NBA.com/stats, which ranked 7th in the NBA (the average defensive efficiency in 2013 was 103.1). In 2010, 2011 and 2012 the HEAT ranked 4th, 5th and 4th in defensive efficiency respectively. The drop in rankings isn’t a total shock considering the HEAT defense got off to a slow start last season. But, as you may have guessed, there was something else at play, those pesky free throws. NBA.com

October 7, 2013 Updates
September 27, 2013 Updates
September 5, 2013 Updates
September 2, 2013 Updates

It seems that I have heard every general manager of a non-playoff team utter the phrase this summer, "I intend to change the CULTURE of this franchise." And I am not thrilled with the new trend of teams hiring GMs and coaches based upon their "analytics" background. I believe that the observation of a player during a game is far more important than to rely on his stats. Thus, I don't like the word for not only its overuse in quotes but also for its application. Something is wrong when proven people like Lionel Hollins and Chris Wallace get replaced because they don't rely on "analytics." NBA.com

August 24, 2013 Updates

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