Walberg and the Wall Street Journal (and the Knicks)

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal about the New York Knicks and their use of statistics offers a lot of support to the way Coach Walberg thinks about basketball.

Among other things, this is really interesting:

A New Way To Keep Score

The Knicks rely on these statistical measures to measure performance.

  • SCORING EFFICIENCY: Points scored per 100 offensive possessions.
  • SHOOTING EFFICIENCY: Also called effective field goal percentage, a statistic adjusted to incorporate a three-pointer’s value.
  • TRUE SHOOTING: Incorporates field goal percentage, three-pointers along with getting to the free-throw line.
  • BALL MOVEMENT: Assists per field goals made.
  • PACE: Possessions per game.
  • FG OUTSIDE PAINT: The percentage of two-point shots made outside the paint, which is statistically the worst shot in basketball. (Source: New York Knicks)

Especially the last statistic, FG OUTSIDE PAINT, is interesting. Another way of saying it: We like threes, but we love layups. You want to force the opponent to shoot the mid range shot while you shoot threes and layups yourself.

The problem for most of us is that those statisticsare not available to most of us. With a program like the world basketball governing body FIBA’s stats program it takes about 90 minutes of spread sheet and copy/pase work after each game to arrive at the plus/minus numbers and the numbers above (believe me, I’ve done it a lot of times).

Someone has said; “There are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics”. To an extent I agree. Normal basketball statistics like points per game or rebounds per game are pretty much useless, but I do think advanced statistics have something to offer (though they still have nothing on knowledge of the game).

Points per game is a pretty much useless stat – if you’re a fast paced team you’ll look great, if you’re a slow paced team you’ll look bad (on offense, numbers reverse on defense). A much better statistic is points per 100 posessions – that meassures how effective you are each time down the floor on offense and defense, regardless of game pace.

Same with rebounds per game. You can be the best rebounder in the world, but if you play 7 minutes per game you’re going to struggle pulling down 15 rebounds. That’s where rebound percentage comes in; How big a percentage of the available rebounds does a player get while he’s on the court?

The big problem with these statistics; They’re not available to the average coach, without taking way too much time to compile. Hopefully the Stats Program makers will step up to the plate soon.

A New Way To Keep Score

The Knicks rely on these statistical measures to measure performance.

  • SCORING EFFICIENCY: Points scored per 100 offensive possessions.
  • SHOOTING EFFICIENCY: Also called effective field goal percentage, a statistic adjusted to incorporate a three-pointer’s value.
  • TRUE SHOOTING: Incorporates field goal percentage, three-pointers along with getting to the free-throw line.
  • BALL MOVEMENT: Assists per field goals made.
  • PACE: Possessions per game.
  • FG OUTSIDE PAINT: The percentage of two-point shots made outside the paint, which is statistically the worst shot in basketball. (Source: New York Knicks)
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