Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

I didn't get to post yesterday as I spent the day fixing my formulas. I finally have my numbers lining up with the examples from Dean Oliver's book. The analysis isn't any different as the changes were minor and the change from year to year was even more minor. The difference is my level of confidence in the calculations.

The Value of Statistics

Not everyone cares about stats. Even the people that are interested are not always sure what the statistics are telling us. Frankly, the numbers are useful when looking backwards at trends and identifying traits like consistency. There are some cases where they might help in a predictive fashion, or show something surprising to us, but they don't win games or build championship teams. I happen to be a person that likes numbers, and loves basketball, so it is natural that I will play with statistics. There are NBA teams that utilize statistical analysis tools like WinVal to evaluate players (Dallas Mavericks) and teams that use statistics to help prep coaches for upcoming games (Seattle Supersonics), and Dean Oliver, who I keep mentioning, consulted to the WNBA public relations director to help them with marketing. There is growing interest in exploring how statistics can help team management and coaches to strengthen their teams and improve their edge in games, but it is still a young field. I am just interested in seeing what the numbers say and whether they give me any interesting ideas or insights. The most difficult part of statistics in basketball is the impact of teamwork on numbers. The formulas that I am using TRY to share contributions across teammates and include the intagibles as much as possible. The people who developed the formulas have put a great deal of thought combined with huge amounts of research into the existing numbers to try and find ways to include teamwork in the equation. I expect that to continue as more analysts leverage the existing work and take it even further.

2005 Storm Offensive Statistics

All of my numbers are produced by applying the formulas laid out in Dean Oliver's book Basketball on Paper which is published by Brassey's, Inc.

The first number that I want to look at is the number of possessions. This attempts to understand how many possessions. In this case, the number tries to account for the number of possessions that we can credit to a particular player, including their scores, their missed shots, unrebounded, missed free throws and turnovers.

Player 2004 Poss.2005 Poss.Change
Sam/Castro Marques319.66276.45-43.21
The bulk of possessions for the starters has moved to the post. With the runner up MVP and the runner up MIP manning the post, that doesn't seem like a bad idea. The other trend is a noticeable increase in the contributions from the bench. With less experience in the starting lineup, Coach Donovan moved more playing time to the bench. While some might argue that was a problem for the team this season, it certainly created an excellent opportunity to build experience for the younger players they wanted to groom for the future. In the end, this strategy still earned the team 20 wins tying last years record.
The next number I looked at was the number of scoring possessions. How possessions can be credited to a player where the end result was a score, whether it is is a free throw, 2pt or 3pt shot. This gives me the chance to see how effective the player is at scoring when they are trying to do so.
Player 2004 Floor %2005 Floor %Change
Sam/Castro Marques47%43%-4

In terms of effectiveness, it looks like the starting guards and small forward position were the biggest drops, other than the bottom of the bench. The top of the bench showed improvement as did the center position. Burse really stepped up her game this year, and Suzy is proving to be a more effective backup for either post position. I expect the Storm to look for further improvement from Izzy at the SF and to seek a more effective backup for the point. Tanisha is clearly a keeper. She, as a rookie, and one who started the season poorly, still comes out as an improvement for the bench's backcourt. I believe we should look forward to great things from Tenacious Tenisha in 2006. Simone really improved her effectiveness in limited minutes. You can't teach that...I think she will earn her way back next year if she wants to do so.

The final area that I looked at was the points produced per game with their scoring possessions. Oliver claims that his formulas take away credit for scoring that comes easy for a particular player and gives more credit for scoring that is difficult for a particular player. Different types of scoring are weighted differently based on how the player performs overall.

Player 2004 PtsPr/G2005 PtsPr/GChange
Sam/Castro Marques9.387.92-1.46

I am left surprised. The loss of points is mostly spread across the starters, with the bulk of the loss at the forward spots. I suppose that while Lauren had more possessions and was more effective with them, her big drop in three point shooting is what hurt her numbers. If her three point shot had been there this year she would have been much higher. The Storm are growing their depth, with more points coming from their first two positions off the bench. Simone improved her game, but doesn't shoot the three like Chelle does, so her point contributions are lower. Unfortunately my answer for the drop in offensive rating goes back to the first statistic, individual player offensive ratings. Sue, Betty and Izzy were simply not as effective overall on offense as Sue, Betty and Sheri were last year. They demonstrate the big drops in rating, with only some of their production offset by the improvement at the center position and off the bench.

Sue shot a lot less from 3 point range this year. She took 43 less 3 pointers, and only 32 less total shots. She shot 44% from beyond the arc in both years, she needs to look for her shot more. She also went to the line a lot less. She took 85 free throws in 2004 and only 69 free throws in 2005. She shot 86% from the line both years, she needs to be more aggressive going to the basket. Perhaps the back to back broken noses have made her more tentative, unfortuately she can't be, they need her to attack on offense, that is what drives the Storm's offense.

Betty's drop was purely in her shooting percentage. She took less shots but also made less of them. She dropped from 42% shooting on 2004 to 39% shooting in 2005. She did get to the line more and improve her shot selection from 3pt range. She needs to get her jumper back for 2006.

Izzy is young, and the coaching staff gave her a list of things to work on in the offseason. She has great speed, and can shoot from midrange and long range. She is taking the offseason to work on that list, and I look forward to her further improvements in 2006.

All in all, I think the Storm remain one of the top teams in the League and are poised to challenge the Monarchs and the Sun to reclaim their title in 2006.

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