Kirk Goldsberry Rumors
David Lee’s key to any defensive improvement, as he’s often struggled in a defensively important position. Bigs tend to matter more on D, as the art is about occupying space. Lee has especially poor agility when hedging back towards the paint from the perimeter, so the sink strategy was meant to mitigate that flaw. Kirk Goldsberry’s Lee-skewering Sloan paper on interior defense, titled “The Dwight Effect,” came at the right time for Kirk and the wrong time for D-Lee. The Warriors were imploding defensively and Lee was getting plenty of blame. After the victory, I asked Lee for his thoughts on the paper: “At this point I could care less. I’ve worked hard to improve my defense. I think I’m a much better defensive player today than I was a year ago and definitely to start my career. There’s a lot of different numbers to support a lot of different things. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say me putting up 20 and 10 doesn’t matter because ‘numbers don’t matter,’ but at the same time, ‘charts at MIT matter.’ You can’t have it both ways.”
“We need better people not at doing the stats, necessarily, but at communicating the stats — at building the bridges,” said Kirk Goldsberry, who co-wrote a paper with behavioral analyst Eric Weiss that uses the SportVU data to examine interior defense, long one of the under-explored elements in analytical work, during a late Friday panel.
Spatial analysis comes with another clear advantage, said Goldsberry: it is easy to understand. Several coaches and team executives at the conference described the necessity of keeping the statisticians away from the players, who should not be thinking about their relative shooting percentage on plays in which they take two dribbles rather than three. A map, on the other hand, turns the mathematical rigor into a simple chart. Goldsberry showed off a map that plotted every spot on the floor where Bryant had shot from, color-coded by shooting percentage, so that it was clear where the defense would do best to send him. “Virtually anybody can understand a well-designed chart,” Goldsberry said.
To do this, Goldsberry divided the area from just behind the 3-point line down to the rim into 1,284 “shooting cells,” and looked at how players shot during every N.B.A. game between 2006 and 2011. Not a single player took a shot from every spot on the floor. (Kobe Bryant came the closest, shooting from 1,071 places. ) Then, Goldsberry looked at which players averaged more than one point per attempt from the greatest percentage of the places they shot from. By this analysis, Steve Nash and Ray Allen were the best shooters in the league.
Kirk Goldsberry, a visiting scholar on geography at Harvard, is one of the people at M.I.T.’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference dabbling into sports after developing skills in another field. He has worked as a professor, and creating maps that give insight into public health issues. He set out to answer who was the best shooter in the N.B.A., a quality that traditional metrics like shooting percentage do not fully address. (Tyson Chandler currently leads the league in field-goal percentage, for instance, largely because he specializes in the kind of jump shots that end with both of his hands touching the rim.