Monday, December 22, 2008

Smarter Visualizations, Exploiting the Play by Play

Often here when I do a game recap I'll link to the pocornmachine visualization of the game in question, as a point of reference for the claims I might make about how the game was affected by particular lineup changes. I've always found the gameflow presentations there to be insightful and useful, and overally just a smart and effective way of communicating as much relevant information as possible from the play-by-play logs that are available to us. If you haven't looked at the gameflow data there yet, I highly recommend taking a look at a few games' worth to get a feel for how the information is presented and how to read it, as it's a valuable source of insight into a game.

A little while back, I stumbled upon a similarly ingenious visualization of play-by-play data, currently being presented here. It takes a while to get used to, but the use of color allows you to see at a glance which players were involved with various runs throughout a game, and at what point the decisive run might have happened. I don't have much to say about it right now, except to direct your attention towards that site, as it is a unique and interesting way to look at the data.

On the topic of intriguing visualizations, I always found the work of The Arbitrarian particularly smart. I especially enjoyed the network diagrams of player similarities, like this one. Sadly, that blog has been inactive for a while, ever since the author was hired away by an NBA team. Similarly, at countthebasket, Eli's use of shot location data to come up with detailed shot charts was really nice, and something I'm hoping to copy for upcoming team-by-team looks. Eli also got hired away.

Anyways, not much else to report here, just wanted to draw your attention to those new visualizations at the NBA Graphs website. Also, while I'm going over some nice references, I might as well mention the "Statistical Scouting Reports" up for each team at the basketball geek website. I found it interesting enough to add a link up in the reference section here, but do check it out. Try researching the opponent of your favorite team before a game, and see if there's anything to pick up and watch for during the game.

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