Sunday, March 1, 2009

March Boringness

Apologies for the sporadicness of recent posting. My day job has been particularly demanding recently, and I haven't had much spare time. I've still been following the League, but watching games without taking notes doesn't often lead to many great insights. Anyways, there's a couple of things I wanted to discuss in this post. This is kind of a mind-cleaning for me, some thoughts that have been kicking around in my head. March seems like the time to get them out for some discussion, what with all this focus on the NCAA now.

First off: some stat-ish links:

- I've focused a bit in the past on metrics measuring how well teams get into the break off of defensive rebounds. So it was nice to see a real coach expounding the virtues of that. And advocating tracking the time from rebound to score (like I did!).

- For a while now Ryan at basketball geek has been doing really fantastic work examining what makes a good defensive lineup. He started out looking at each of the four factors' contributions to defensive efficiency, then began an investigation of shooting efficiency. First, he looked at which areas of the court have the most importance to overall efficiency (good defensive lineups guard the basket and the three-point line, as expected. Also of note -- the most efficient areas on the court to begin with (low-paint area and the corner 3's) are also the places where a defense can make the most difference by defending. It would be interesting to see to what extent a defense can affect the shot selection -- Eli at counthebasket had a pretty intelligent approach to this question about a year or so ago, with some results here, and if I were smarter I'd look into how they relate to Ryan's findings. In the latest installment, Ryan's applied the adjusted +/- methodology to look at the effect of individual players on low-paint shooting percentages, since low-paint FG% was such an important part of overall efficiency. While results were only statistically significant for some players, the idea and methods outlined here are really smart and thoughtful. Ryan points out in the first post that he's doing some defensive game-charting of games, and "I want to ensure I’m getting data that helps create a clearer picture of defense. To do this, I need to know what information would be most helpful to have." A reasonable extension, though: these results could inform how to create more informative box-scores that can tell us something about players' defense. Bruce Bowen, born too late!

- Kevin Pelton had two nice pieces about the correlation between team age and success in the NBA. Pelton himself notes that the correlation he finds could be caused by a bit of self-selection, mentioning that better teams always look for older players to fill out the rotation while rebuilding teams give more minutes to youngsters. There's also another factor at play, probably -- that lousy young players don't really last in the league, and so the only ones still playing at the later ages are the ones who were good to begin with. It seems like Portland, with so many good young players playing a lot of minutes, is an exception that doesn't really have a precedent (and the Lakers, who have so many very good players who are in their primes). In any case, the findings are interesting, and worth checking out. While I'm at it, Pelton also has an article up about the Spurs that's worth reading.

Other Notes

- For all the talk about Mo Williams in Cleveland, and the talk seemed to reach a high point during the "debate" about whether he should be on the all-star team, everyone who's been watching the games knows that Delonte West is probably an even bigger part of the story in Cleveland. He's a great fit for that team, and he's been playing out of his mind all season. So my question is: are the pundits watching? Why no Delonte mentions?

- Speaking of Cleveland, that Joe Smith acquisition should be big for them. As well as Hickson can play the minutes opened up by Ben Wallace's absence, Joe Smith will still do an infinitely better job playing whatever's left than anyone else would, and he'll also take some minutes from Hickson, Varejao, and Z. Good for everyone. I know Boston didn't want to take any chances, but I have to think they'd have been happier with Smith than with Mikki Moore . . .

- I like Kyle Lowry on the Rockets.

- Before the playoffs start, please make a date to watch a couple of Oklahoma City Thunder games. You won't regret it. Preferably wait until Durant and Green are healthy.

- The Bobcats have the 8th best defense in the league. Hats off to Larry Brown.

- My coach of the year choices so far this season. They are all rather obvious. In no particular order: Jerry Sloan, Mike Brown, Stan Van Gundy, Scott Skiles (ugh), Gregg Popovich.

More thoughts later . . ..

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