Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Play by Play Data Now Goes Back to 96-97

Play by play data has now been released for a few new seasons, going back to 96-97. What does this mean? There is now more complete information for a few more seasons, which can lead to more detailed shot data and plus/minus numbers. Basically, what this means is that for the first time plus minus models can now directly measure Jordan on the Bulls, although it's only his last two seasons, and a more complete appraisal of prime Shaq.

You can see the detailed information starting here. Click on advanced to sort through "net" plus minus data. Click on player shots to sort by percentage by shot distance. Dig through all the levels to find the interesting information. For instance, here are the top midrange shooters in 1996-97 and 1997-98 with a minimum number of attempts at 100:

Table 1: 1996-97 Midrange Shots
Midrange FG
Midrange FGA
Muggsy Bogues (CHH)
Steve Kerr (CHI)
Bill Wennington (CHI)
Anthony Mason (CHH)
Dell Curry (CHH)
Marty Conlon (BOS)
David Wesley (BOS)
Ricky Pierce (CHH)
Glen Rice (CHH)
Dino Radja (BOS)
Chris Mullin (GSW)
Michael Jordan (CHI)

Table 2: 1997-98 Midrange Shots
Midrange FG
Midrange FGA
B.J. Armstrong (CHH)
Tom Gugliotta (MIN)
Dale Ellis (SEA)
Karl Malone (UTA)
Patrick Ewing (NYK)
Dana Barros (BOS)
Hubert Davis (DAL)
Joe Dumars (DET)
Eldridge Recasner (ATL)
Jeff Hornacek (UTA)
Steve Nash (PHX)
Muggsy Bogues (GSW)

Table 3: 1998-99 Midrange Shots
Midrange FG
Midrange FGA
Muggsy Bogues (GSW)
Dell Curry (MIL)
Danny Ferry (CLE)
Dana Barros (BOS)
Lindsey Hunter (DET)
J.R. Reid (CHH)
Wesley Person (CLE)
Rik Smits (IND)
Rick Fox (LAL)
Arvydas Sabonis (POR)
Dean Garrett (MIN)
Luc Longley (PHX)

The pint-sized Muggsy Bogues was a supreme midrange shooter, and you can see a bunch of other names known for their shooting prowess like Curry, Hornacek, Nash, Ellis, Kerr, etc. There are also a lot of big men on the list like the huge Sabonis, Ewing and Luc Longley. What's more amazing is that Gheorghe Muresan hit 52% of his shots in 97 and barely missed the attempts cutoff at 95. These numbers are also comparable to the recent seasons where only elite guys like Nash or, strangely enough, Horford consistently hit their midrange shots in the upper 40's and 50's. Another interesting note is the sheer volume of Jordan's midrange game: 1200! And he does this with a very good percentage, even though he's constantly being guarded by the best defender or double-teamed. He makes the leaderboard in 97, and missed it the next season with 42% and 1100 shots. I couldn't find a player with similar volume, even Bryant when he averaged 35 points.

The plus-minus leaderboard is intriguing, but the obvious problem is that players on great teams will have sterling numbers. Ostertag is the leader one year, likely because he only plays with the other starters more often than not, while Stockton and Malone play such long stretches they're often in there with the bench so the offense doesn't fall apart. Hopefully soon, we'll have adjusted plus-minus models out there trying to measure the Holy Grail: Michael Jordan.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

All-star Friday Night Diary

A quick note on last night's dunk contest. The crowd was absolutely horrendous and didn't care when a guy did a two-hand dunk from the foul line (don't bring up his foot was on the line; most free-throw dunks, even Dr. J and MJ, were the same.) Ross and Evans saved the contest from disaster, however, and Green's first round dunks were underrated. His second dunk was the mythical Earl Manigault special: the double-dunk, where you dunk twice with one ball while still mid-air. This was a playground legend, and even though Green only completed it after the time expired the dunk should be enshrined in the Dunk Pantheon. The dunk contest is valuable for providing a platform for notable dunks, so as long as we gain a small handful for entry into the annals of history and award a rightful winner, it's a good contest. The dunk contest was never perfect, and when you expect the Best Dunk of All-time with each one you will be disappointed.

Modern history of the contest.

Dunk contest diary from last year.

Celebrity Game

-I'm here with my trusty Pepsi and some Lay's potato chips -- the basic essentials.

-George Constanza wonders why you can't take Pespi to a fancy adult party. I wonder too.

-The first celebrity MC Stu Scott introduces is the Secretary of Education. There's no better indicator of the level of "celebrity" than that.

-Now the analysts are detailing his dominating performance last year. He didn't win MVP because of Bieber fever.

-Fortunately, Usain Bolt will play. The game would obviously be better served by athletes from other sports, but a concern of injury probably prevents a lot of this.

-I can't tell which ones are the ball-boys and which ones are the celebrities.

-Ne-Yo: apparently a rapper. Is his name a reference to Neo from the Matrix? How does misspelling the name do ... anything? Is he a yo-yo enthusiast?

-This is one of the few mixed gender competitions. I'm still pushing for a mixed tractor pull event in the summer Olympics.

-I know I haven't seen a lot of recent movies, but I refuse to believe Josh Hutchenson is important.

-Queen Latifa. I don't even need a joke here.

-Westbrook is rocking the stupid "geek" glasses. This is the most perplexing fashion trend since the 70's perm.

-When Stu Scott towers over your puny, dwarf body, it's not a good sign for your basketball value. Sorry, Josh.


-Nothing worse than watching old stars play a celebrity game. This actually isn't a recent invention and goes back years; and it's always sad.

-I take that back. Mutombo. MUTOMBO. If he doesn't use the finger wag on a WNBA player, I'm calling his lawyer.

-Kevin Hart doesn't even come close to Harden's shoulders. Is that in his scouting report?

-After a commercial break, we learn from Twitter that Hart predicted he would score 40 points. This is a 0 on the scale of Babe Ruth calling out his home run.

First quarter:
-Tipoff between two guys around 5' 3". I think a WNBA player won that tip somehow.

-Instead of number, it's easier to track them by shoe color.

-Someone airballed a 1-foot shot. I thought there were fundamentals in the WNBA....

-Usain Bolt and Mutombo are sharing a court. Is this a dream?

-...And Mutombo shoots a three. I think he speaks more languages than his total number of three point attempts in the NBA. (NOTE: I checked, and it's only two.)

-Kevin Hart breaks away in transition and dribbles twice wildly into the out of bounds area under the basket. 40 points, here we come.

-Guy with yellow shoes and black jersey brings the ball up. He's my favorite!

-Why do the WNBA players have to defend each other? Can't one of them take Mutombo? Please? A female hasn't defended Mutombo since he last played the Clippers.

-Because of the gray jersey and relative height, I mistook one of the rappers for Tony Parker momentarily.

-During the commercial break I wondered whether or not someone is keeping track of celebrity game advanced stats. Who has the highest career true-shooting percentage? It's probably not Michael Rapaport.

-It's not a good game when fans could replace most of the team and the level of play wouldn't drop.

-Oh. That's what Nick Cannon looks like. I had no idea. (Note: I'm not an avid reader of ... er, whatever celebrity magazines or sites there are.)

-Drexler was double-teamed by Nick Cannon and an WNBA player. Lost the ball. This won't be in his career highlights reel.

-Usain Bolt dunks!

-The commentator says it's been an "exciting" first quarter. His sarcasm was so masked I couldn't even tell until I printed the words.

-"Clyde there with no glide" on a layup attempt. Thanks for reminding me of the oppressive march of time, play-by-play man!

Second quarter:
-Bolt and Hart raced during the break. Hart was allowed a 50-foot head start, enough for a close victory. I'm ... not sure what to do with that information.

-I'm still waiting for Bruce Bowen to twist someone's ankle by putting his foot under theirs during a jump shot.

-Chicago Bulls are in trade talks for Hart; Boozer considered.

-I don't know anyone who votes for MVP for the celebrity game. I bet the text message vote goes directly for David Stern, who eagerly counts the scant few votes he receives with a gleeful smile.

-Either I've had too much Pepsi, or the grey team is using the triangle offense.

-Bolt missed an alley-oop. Athletically, he really does look like an NBA player out there, even though it's not his sport.

-Arne Duncan is starting to take over. He's taking out his frustrations with the US's math test results.

-I spent much of the second quarter wondering if a dog snoring made him seem more human, and if that made sense. I didn't reach a conclusion.

-Halftime! Finally. This was too much basketball for me.

-Halftime has included very little analysis of the first half of the celebrity game. I sure hope someone was fired for that blunder.

-We need Kevin Love back in the NBA because we have no 20-10 guys right now. Yes, that's why he needs to be back, Stu Scott.

-From one angle, Kevin Hart looks as tall as Mutombo's legs.

Third quarter:
-They keep saying Common's name, so he must be doing a lot of stuff, but I can barely tell which one he is. Does he have yellow shoes? I'll never remember to look that up.

-Arne Duncan is outclassing everyone, including the ex-NBA players.

-Mutombo blocks pink shoes girl and wags the finger! Will this be included in his career total? He's behind only Olajuwon.

-Chris Broussard is asking Dwight if he ever thought the Lakers with all their talent would have the record they have. I wish Dwight would just say, Yes, I knew we would be terrible, but I did it anyway! Suck it, LA.

-Do they call flagrant fouls in this game? Are they ... encouraged? I swear there was one in a celebrity game once. It probably involved the celebrity game legend Rapaport, who in a celebrity NBA game hall of fame would be first ballot, no question.

-The secretary of commerce with the shot. Oh sorry that's Tamika Catchings.

Fourth quarter
-I don't remember when this quarter started, and with the DVR I have the option of checking. But I won't.

-Trey Songz has won a few Grammy awards. Given his birth name, his destiny was music and not an English teacher.

-Bolt's speed doesn't translate into free-throw shooting. Who'd have thought that?

-All-star weekend is made for a specialist like Novak. Him and James White being in the three-point and dunk contests: those two define those respective contests.

-Arne Duncan's career stats looking great so far. I think we should also pencil him in for the celebrity all-star game hall of fame. By the way, if you have a good list of 10 to 20 names to add to the hall, you are a saint ... with too much time on your hands.

-The game ends with a whimper, not a bang. The west team won.

Stasis time:
-I'm not quite sure why the all-star weekend is so obsessed with division by conference, like it matters. The three-point contestants are limited by this. The dunk contest final will be the winner of the east and west sides. Green and White (good combination of names) are so legendary in their dunking that the ultimate gift would be a showdown between them. Instead they're in the same conference. Sorry for ranting, but this is beyond stupid in the only thing that matters in the all-star weekend: a memorable event. This one had potential. (NOTE: ...erm, potential, sure.)

-Kevin Hart won the MVP. This makes sense because as there was no actual basketball played you can't award the MVP based on basketball talent and production.

-The teams disperse and the fan mix into the court, destroying the boundary line between celebrities and us, as if in some grand proclamation of 21st century television.

Rookie Game
-I'm still not sure what to think of the general managers. I think it's fine as long as the rookies are represented well and given a good chance to play, but it was cool seeing if the rookies could beat the sophomores each year.

-People love to talk about Bradley Beal's shooting prowess, but the results are lacking. His TS% is below 50, and after a year of college when everyone was comparing him to Ray Allen he was 77% at the line and 34% from three.

-Why do people think Shaq's team was better? Just because of the names? Shaq's team made no sense at all, and he had a bunch of overrated guys like Barnes and Waiters. Two of his three best guys played the same position and needed the ball in their hands. He had no power forwards, and Zeller sucks so much they had to depend on one guy for their frontcourt. Losing Drummond is a reminder why you select more than one good big man. Look how Chuck picked a team. He hit ever position in his top five picks, and he picked up good value. Rubio in an all-star game makes sense. Everyone else wants to shoot, and he wants to pass. Leonard is a starter on a great team, and he'll compete and defend even in a meaningless game. Same for Faried's energy.

-Yeah Shaq. Make fun of Barkley's weight. Pot, kettle, etc.

-Kemba Walker is barely taller than some of those cheerleaders.

-Tyler Zeller is Shaq's only big man besides a rookie replacement for Drummond I couldn't pick out of a lineup.

-Chandler Parsons' ongoing love affair with Jeremy Lin is setting tumblr and the gif-verse aflame.

-I was completely wrong on Lillard. I didn't think he'd have a chance in the NBA. Boy was I wrong. And I'm glad.

-Alexey Shved is one of those rare 6' 6" point guards.

-Guys don't usually improve their rebounding like Vucevic did. It's fairly unprecedented.

-Rubio is perfect for the contest. He just needs athletic guys to connect for alley-oops.

-They're aiming to break the record for points: 155. What a game plan for Shaq.

-Wait, the fans vote for the starters? ...Why? Why do we want the fans to screw up the starting lineup?

First Half:

-Leonard with the alley-oop. He was the sleeper for the sophomores. He starts for Popovich on one of the best teams.

-Anthony Davis with the three. These guys use the game to do things their coaches won't allow.

-I think there are some breakdowns in their defensive schemes. Will they fix this at halftime?

-Now I can't unsee the green shoes. That is possibly the worst color perceptible by human eyes.

-A three-point contest broke out during the three-point contest.

-Two point guards on a two-on-one fastbreak leads to a pass off the backboard to someone else. Now we know.

-It's hard to type and watch because the play is so fast. I blink and miss two shots.

-Lillard dunking is always a nice sight.

-The rookie-sophomore game often devolves into middle-school street ball, making the legends weep for the days when they could wear short shorts and also abstain from defense.

-Hey, who was supposed to close out on Shved's three-point shot! Come on, guys.

-Shaq's team, ironically, is tiny.

-Isaiah Thomas is differentiated from Isiah Thomas by the spelling of his first name. Isaiah is the typical spelling from a Biblical figure, and Isiah is a variant. Oh and Isiah's taller and a better player. That's another way to tell them apart.

-Vucevic posted up Zeller and scored. That was weird to watch for some reason.

-Vucevic then hits a three. Bynum would love this game.

-Even though Isaiah Thomas is the normal height for human males, he looks like a little kid out there.

-Shved with the reverse alley-oop. Him?

-Chuck's destroying them "defensively" and in transition.

-Faried's back. Now they have no chance.

-And Faried hits a three. I think almost every big guy has a three. Quick, pull up for a three, Tristan Thompson!

-Shaq's team has no chance in transition versus Faried.

-I really don't think Beal will amount to anything, but that was a nice layup.

-Nicholson, the guy I didn't recognize, majored in physics at St. Bonaventure, apparently got a degree, is Canadian and has ten-inch long hands. Thanks, Wikipedia.

-Rubio has facial hair somewhere in between thin beard and five o'clock shadow.

-And Rubio with the sweet pass near the end of the half.


-Chuck's team has 90 points in a 20 minute half. That's ... yikes.

-Craig Sager towers over Isaiah.

-...And here's a good time to get some food.

-This inspirational music with the highlights of the first half makes me want to either climb a mountain or wash my Camaro.

-"We're not getting enough stops." Really? No way.

Second Half
-Wow, team Chuck got back in transition. Did I see that right?

-Irving is starting to takeover.

-...And there's Faried crashing the boards again.

-Shaq is one of the worst interviews in NBA history, even though he's a gregarious, silly guy with a legendary career.

-The stadium is about half empty. Please do not take the all-star game to Houston again.

-63 of Chuck's 102 points so far come from three-pointers.

-Rubio's jump shot was derived from Rondo and young Jason Kidd. Surprisingly, he's a good free-throw shooter.

-I find the fascination with college basketball weird. It's not good basketball. You could field an all-star college team, and they'd get skunked by the Bobcats. The one-and-done tournament means the most deserving teams are less likely to make it unscathed. It's random, and people love the chaos, but there's something to be said of championship results that make a lick of sense.

-Anthony Davis has been boring this year because he's good enough that you can't say he's a disappointing, but he's not good enough to make it interesting. And the injuries are worrying.

-Young Webber in the 94 Rookie game, the first one, looked like Isiah Rider with his 360 dunk.

-Even in the backdrop of NBA players, Anthony Davis is lean and long. His body is a bit freakish, in the way that Michael Phelps is to swimming.

-When's Kevin Hart going to sub in for Tyler Zeller?

-Shved with the step-back three. He's one of the best revelations of the game.

-One of Shaq's main problems is that with few big men he's getting destroyed on the offensive boards, and since Tyler Zeller is his "best" center he really has no chance.

-...And Shved with the big reverse slam.

-The Lakers definitely need to trade the 27 year-old former DPOTY center and rebuild around a shooting guard in his mid-30's, Pau Gasol's corpse and the 40 year-old point guard.

-Irving breaks a guy's ankles; he crumples to the floor.

-It's weird that Irving is in the three-point contest but Klay Thompson isn't, right? (NOTE: The three-point contest surprised me....)

-On the next play, Irving had an even better crossover. The crowd actually came to life! I thought the seats were just filled with blowup dolls and medical cadavers.

-Irving has taken over. It's almost impossible to keep in front of him.

-Shaq's game plan was to break the points record, and it was accomplished: Team Chuck is on track to crush it.

-Faried hustles back and steals the ball, preventing a transition dunk. Few guys actually hustle in this game. Off the top of my head, I remember David Lee doing this.

-Kawhi-air with the alley-oop.

-We're getting close to the point in the game where all manners of competition are tossed out the window and guys just try to pull off dunks and funky moves.

-Craig Sager's clothes this year are, unfortunately, pretty tame. I'm disappointed.

-And we're off! They clear out for Faried's off the glass dunk.

-Lillard tried a windmill reverse and ended up with a layup. Okay then.

-Faried with the huge two-handed windmill.

-Waiters had a decent off the bounce two-hand dunk.

-Shved just misses a one-handed windmill, and Faried cleans up.

-Parsons ends the game with a vanilla dunk, a fitting end to a mutant game that can scarcely be called basketball but is at least a showcase of young talent, dunks, and lots and lots of three's.

After-game Show
-The MVP was Faried, obviously, with 40 points in 22 minutes (!!). That kind of scoring burst in on par with Kobe's 81 point game, although one of them played against weaker defense -- Kobe scored his against the Raptors.

-I still don't know what BBVA is. Wait, did he say a bank? Is he sure?

-Faried and Lillard, two of the best players in the game, came from unheralded colleges.

-Basketball-reference has every box score of the rookie-sophomore game. It's fascinating to see how the rookies did in years past. Big Z was an MVP! Popeye Jones had 7 turnovers in the first ever game!

-Chuck's team has won twice in a row and he's undefeated. Let's put that on his hall of fame plaque.

-Karl Malone was invited to the ESPN panel with Chuck, Shaq and Ernie. I hope he shows up more often, because it was a delightful trainwreck of a conversation.  Chuck didn't even let Karl finish a story, and at one point I feared he would deck poor Ernie.

Until next year: Friday night at the all-star weekend is the red-headed stepchild, but it's as stupidly entertaining as anything.

Saturday Night Intro
-For years my tradition was to watch all the frivolous all-star weekend activities, and you may be surprised to learn I never had much of a social life.

-I'm really excited for a good crop of contestants in the premier contests: Green versus White in the dunk contest, and Novak versus Curry versus the field in the three-point contest.

-The best TNT crew is Ernie, Kenny, Barkley and Webber. Here they have Kenny replaced with Shaq, as Kenny is off pre-rigging the dunk contest.

-Now they're doing a segment on Down's syndrome, sponsored by Autotrader. I've heard of this company for years, but I still don't know what they do.

-It's too bad Howard's stock has plummeted because his past dunks were some of the most incredible. He tapped the ball off the glass and dunked it. Sheer innovation. And he did a windmill while his body was on the other side of the backboard. That doesn't seem possible.

-A musical group is performing now. A blond woman in black, shiny leather is singing. I have no idea who any of these people are.

-I can't think of a greater synergy with the NBA than female light pop-rock.

-This is Iverson's favorite song.

-Do you think Kobe had sex with her before or after the performance?

-Nick Cannon is hosting. I think he accosted Craig Sager, stole his suit and the mic.

-Wade is the captain of the east, yet he's not even the captain of his own team.

-I forgot about the Shooting Stars competition! What a glorious combination of pointless exhibition and awkward basketball teams.

-Mugsy Bogues!

-Brook Lopez is on a team. I don't understand why they pick big men for a shooting competition, but it's hard enough to drug an NBA player and drag him to the arena for this competition.

-This is hour two of introducing NBA players. Seriously, they're going through each and every one, and I'm getting bored already.

-I'm pretty sure I read once that most of Jeremy Evans' shots are dunks, which is impressive for a wing and says a lot about his lack of a game.

-Now they're introducing a children's choir. NBA, you know your fans well.

-Rick Fox is a sideline reporter. Kill me.

-For some reason, they

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Challenge to Wages of Wins

Well, I have a couple challenges. They continue to insist usage and efficiency aren't correlated, so I want them to directly answer how good this lineup would be:

Rondo (pretend he's healthy), 0.202 WP/48

Landry Fields, 0.155 WP/48

Thabo Sefolosha, 0.218 WP/48

Reggie Evans, 0.203 WP/48

Larry Sanders, 0.218 WP/48

Earl Watson, 0.082 WP/48

Jimmy Butler, 0.249 WP/48

Andris Biedrins, 0.164 WP/48

Pretend the rest of the roster is near replacement level. How good would this team be? I used the minutes distribution of last year's Hawks for their top seven guys, assuming things like Rondo playing 2835 minutes in a season, sanders 2657, etc. Over 26% of the minutes were given to guys not in the top 7 of the rotation, so this wasn't a top heavy minutes team; it's a fairly conservative estimate for how this team would play. Even so, based on Wins Produced, this would be projected to win 65 games.

Now my question for Wages of Wins is, does that seem right to you? What objections do you have? (And ignore anything quibbling with the numbers or something unrelated to the spirit of the question.) Can these group of guys who doesn't shoot often win that many games?

The other day I linked to a study that looked at usage and efficiency in the Wages of Wins comment section. Well, at least I tried to: the comment had to be approved by a moderator, meaning if you want to post evidence of the Falsehoods spouted by the website you could be censored. For years, Berri and company have stated that usage does not influence efficiency, that having a "shot-creator" is useless. Well, I found a study that looks into this question and finds that when a bunch of low usage guys are on the court, the efficiency goes down: the Diminishing Returns for Scoring - Usage vs. Efficiency. However, they did not approve my comment, for fear it would upset their preconceived notions.

Here are some of the key portions of the study:

"For each lineup, I used the ORtg and Poss of all five players to project the lineup’s points per possession. First I converted each player’s Poss into %TmPoss, the percent of their team’s possessions that the player typically uses when on the court. Then I took a weighted average of the five ORtg’s, with the weights being each player’s %TmPoss."

"For lineups composed of low usage players, where the sum of the five players’ %TmPoss is less than one, the projection assumes that the players in the lineup will maintain their efficiencies (ORtg) even though they will be forced to ramp up their usages above their typical level. And on the other side, if the lineup is a collection of high usage players with a summed %TmPoss of more than one, the projection assumes that even though the players will have to decrease their usage, their efficiencies will not increase."

"If a 1% increase in a lineup’s summed usage results in a drop of 0.25 points per 100 possessions, what does this translate to in terms of individual usage and individual efficiency? We can translate this pretty simply by multiplying 0.25 by five, which suggests that for each 1% a player increases his usage, his efficiency drops by 1.25 points per 100 possessions."

I would love for Wages of Wins to acknowledge this study because they insist there's no evidence of usage and efficiency correlated. And no quick two sentence dismissal either.

In the vein of academic rigor, I double dog dare you.