Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Basketball stats that need more attention

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that a player who takes 50 shots, scores 20 points, and plays no defense doesn't help his team.
No, I'm not talking about Stephon Marbury.
There are guys who I label box score players. They're numbers don't help you win but that line in the box score sure does look good. The 20-7-5 guys. The guys that get a lot of steals and blocks, but miss 10 assignments and give up open layups. The guys that swat a ball into the 10th row when a tipped block could have led to a fast break.
How can we separate the players who truly help teams win?
Here are three stats that go overlooked. Two of them are courtesy of hockey and one is courtesy of Chaminade junior varsity coach Todd Wolfson, who I hope charts stat No. 3.

1. +/- rating

The amount of points the team scores minus the amount of points the team gives up while player is in the game.

The object of the game is to win. Or as Herm Edwards would say "You play to win the game."
If the team is consistently winning while you're on the floor you're doing something right.

By the way. NBA.com now puts +/- into its boxscores. Here's the boxscore from the Lakers win against Utah.
Notice Andrew Bynum's +14 and Jordan Farmar's +11 off the bench.

Kobe Bryant's +/- rating through 3 games is +43.
Ronny Turiaf is +26.
Farmar is +32 including an astounding +26 in a road win over the Suns.

Meanwhile, Brian Cook is a -26.

Even though the Lakers beat the Suns by 21, Sasha Vujacic was a -8 in the game and Cook was a -12.

2. Secondary assists

Coaches like to talk about the extra pass. Stat guys like to talk about assists. Certainly a pass that leads to a contested fadeaway three pointer that luckily goes in is worth less than a pass which leads to an easy assist. Secondary assists shouldn't be added on to regular assists but can a separate category. It rewards the player who makes the correct pass rather than tries to make the flashy assist. I bet Luke Walton would be among the league leaders.

3. Controlled blocks

We live in a SportsCenter universe. Blocks that fly into the stands look pretty. Sometimes they make the top 10. Often times, the team that got blocked takes the ball out of bounds and scores. So on the possession, offense receives 2 points, and the defense gets a highlight, which counts for 0 points. Bill Russell used to be the master at blocking shots, controlling them and starting Celtic fastbreaks. Turning defense into offense.
A good shotblocker not only helps on the defensive end, he helps create easy scoring chances. He controls the lane. He doesn't just put fear into people. He's actually productive. And this stat measures a productive shotblocker versus a swatter.

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