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Dumpy's Statistical Analysis: Phoenix at New Jersey, December 7, 2006

Dumpy’s Statistical Analysis
December 7, 2006: Phoenix 161, New Jersey 157

My apologies for missing the previous two games. In order to get this out quickly, I’ll keep the commentary to a minimum. The numbers pretty much speak for themselves in this one, anyway.

Team Statistics

Possessions. The number of possessions (i.e., each time a team brings the ball up court) is a way to measure the pace of the game. For games involving running or trapping teams, the number of possessions will be high, possibly more than 100. For more methodical teams, the number of possessions may be closer to 80. Possessions can (generally) end one of three ways: on a field goal attempt that is not rebounded by the offense (this includes successful FG attempts); on a turnover, or through some free throws. Since this is an estimate based upon various statistics, and because the number of possessions should be approximately the same for both teams, we also present the average estimated number of possessions.

Phoenix 126.9
New Jersey 123.2

Offensive Rating. A team’s offensive rating is just the number of points scored per 100 possessions. The opponent's offensive rating can be considered the team's Defensive Rating. For the past few seasons, the average team offensive rating in
the NBA has hovered around 105.

Phoenix 128.8
New Jersey 125.6


Assist Percentage. The assist percentage measures the frequency that successful field goals have been assisted.

Phoenix 70.5%
New Jersey 61.7%

"Big Four" Factors. The four primary factors that determine the outcome of a basketball game are: field goal percentage, offensive rebound percentage, turnovers, and the ability to get to the line and hit free throws. Offensive rebound percentage is measured as a percentage of rebound opportunities; turnovers are measured as a percentage of possessions; and free throws are measured by the percentage of time the team got to the line in relation to field goal shot attempts.

Phoenix New Jersey
FG% 52.1% 56.1%
OREB% 21.6% 26.3%
TOV% 9.6% 13.6%
FTA/FGA 23.1% 29.0%

And the effective field goal percentage:

Phoenix 59.4%
New Jersey 60.7%

Once again, the same problem reared its head in this one: The turnover ratio. Some people will point to the Suns’ phenomenal 3-point shooting as a primary factor behind the loss—the Suns shot 17-for-31 from behind the arc—but even with that advantage, the effective field goal percentages were about the same. With the Nets holding a lead in the rebounding and free-throw departments, it came down to turnovers. During the first three quarters, the Nets had committed 13 turnovers to Phoenix’s 6, the difference being the Suns’ 7-0 advantage in steals. At the offensive ratings in this game, those seven possessions accounted for about nine points. I should point out, too, that these stats don’t take into account the randomly-obtained "team" rebounds, and Phoenix held a 13-10 advantage in that statistical category.

Scoring Possessions. This figure is an estimate of the number of times a team scores at least one point on a possession.

Phoenix 71.4
New Jersey 72.2

Field Percentage. This figure is an estimate of the percentage of times a team scores a basket on possessions where no free throws are awarded.

Phoenix 52.6%
New Jersey 54.2%

Number of plays. This figure is an estimate of the number of times that a team both gains and loses control of the ball, either when the opposing team gains control or when a shot goes up.

Phoenix 139.8
New Jersey 136.4

Play percentage. This figure is an estimate of the percentage of a team’s plays on which it produces a scoring possession.

Phoenix 51.1%
New Jersey 52.9%

Individual Statistics

Phoenix Suns

Player Scoring Poss'ns Poss'ns. Floor% Offense Rating Points Prod. Points Scored % Tm Poss Plus/ Minus
S. Nash 17.3 27.3 63.4% 146.8 40.0 42 26.4% 9
R. Bell 6.7 12.9 52.3% 137.2 17.7 24 12.8% 2
B. Diaw 10.4 16.0 64.9% 142.1 22.7 16 18.1% 4
S. Marion 12.2 21.4 57.2% 131.5 28.1 33 20.0% 13
A. Stoudemire 10.8 17.0 63.9% 133.6 22.7 23 23.3% 0
L. Barbosa 8.8 18.3 48.0% 104.3 19.1 16 23.4% 2
J. Jones 0.9 6.3 13.9% 41.7 2.6 3 19.1% -8
K. Thomas 1.2 3.8 32.5% 67.7 2.5 2 11.8% 4
M. Banks 1.7 2.5 69.2% 147.9 3.7 2 23.8% -6
J. Rose 0.0 0.0 0.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0.0% 0
J. Jones 0.0 0.0 0.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0.0% 0
P. Burke 0.0 0.0 0.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0.0% 0

New Jersey Nets

Player Scoring Poss'ns Poss'ns. Floor% Offense Rating Points Prod. Points Scored % Tm Poss Plus/ Minus
J. Kidd 18.2 31.5 57.7% 131.4 41.4 38 30.7% -10
V. Carter 14.2 18.1 78.3% 165.0 29.9 31 20.0% 2
R. Jefferson 8.9 15.6 56.7% 120.6 18.8 25 16.3% -15
J. Collins 3.2 7.1 45.1% 96.1 6.8 2 19.7% -7
N. Krstic 5.6 12.1 46.4% 92.0 11.2 10 25.9% 6
M. Williams 7.0 11.2 62.8% 140.7 15.7 18 15.9% 1
M. Moore 6.4 11.1 57.6% 127.8 14.2 14 16.3% -5
E. House 4.2 5.6 74.4% 189.1 10.6 12 8.2% 1
A. Wright 2.4 7.3 33.2% 79.3 5.8 5 18.7% 3
H. Adams 0.8 2.3 36.1% 72.3 1.6 2 28.7% 4
B. Nachbar 0.0 0.0 0.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0.0% 0
J. Boone 0.0 0.0 0.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0.0% 0

Some pretty amazing numbers on both sides of the court. For the Nets, one surprise is that Jason Kidd used up the highest percentage of possessions, which I believe is a first for the season. Just one more indicator of how seriously he took the challenge of running up against Steve Nash. With six players surpassing the 120 offensive rating barrier (and two more in the 90s), the Nets exhibited a strong, balanced attack.

I’ll also note that Jason Collins played just 16.6 minutes—about half that of back-up Mikki Moore—but performed well in limited action despite his 1-for-5 shooting. On the strength of five offensive rebounds, one assist, two blocks, and just one turnover, Twin racked up a respectable 96 offensive rating. Any time you can accomplish more offensive rebounds than missed field goals, you are doing pretty well. Incidentally, the starting five was a plus-one when on the court together, in about 12 minutes of play.

Recently, after I noted that Jason Kidd had scored in the single digits for five straight games, someone noted that, despite the low scoring totals, J-Kidd had continued to post strong rebounding and assist totals, and that had to count for something. That is certainly true. The assist totals, in particular, obviously allow Kidd to contribute despite poor shooting nights (although, as a starting point guard, anything below four or five would be a travesty). With regard to the rebounding, though, we have to be careful not to compare apples and oranges. What we are doing here in this space is examining each player’s offensive contributions. Most of Kidd’s rebounds come on the defensive end, which would have to be considered a defensive contribution, not an offensive one, because it limits the opposing team’s opportunities to score and do not, by themselves, create additional opportunities for the Nets to score (since eventually they’ll get the ball back anyway, even if the opponent scores). If we could measure defensive contributions, then definitely we’d incorporate those defensive rebounds, as well as blocks, steals, and a number of other factors that don’t show up in the box score, such as contesting shots, the number of uncontested shots, taking charges, and contributing to other turnovers through strong man-to-man defense. In my view, a player's defensive contribution can be separated into two components: preventing the opposition from taking shots, and, when the opposition does take a shot, ensuring that it is not a high-percentage shot. Factors that would affect the former would include blockes shots, steals, and defensive rebounds. Factors that would affect the latter would include contesting shots, and keeping your man in front of you and far from the basket. Using these factors, I can envision how I would try to measure defensive contribution, but for some reason I suspect that my employer would frown upon me spending all day in my office examining game video. I believe that looking at plus-minus for four- and five-man combinations is a reasonable proxy, however. Nevertheless, the person who responded to my initial comment certainly knows more about the science of basketball than I ever will, so I'd be interested to hear more about his thoughts on this.

These individual statistics are estimates based on the premise that teammates should share credit for points and scoring possessions based upon their individual contributions to each play. They are derived from the research of Dean Oliver, and more can be read in his book, "Basketball on Paper."

Glossary for Individual Statistics:

Scoring Possessions: A scoring possession is awarded to an individual when he contributes to a team scoring possession. If multiple players contribute, then credit is split among teammates based upon a formula.

Possessions: Number of team possessions used by a particular player.

Floor percentage: The percentage of a player’s possessions on which there is a scoring possession.

Offensive Rating: Points produced by an individual per 100 possessions, as calculated by a complex formula.

Points Produced: The number of points a player generates through various offensive contributions, including assists, field goals, free throws, and offensive rebounds.

Points Scored: Number of points actually scored by the player in the game, which is included here for comparison to points produced.

Percentage of Team Possessions: How often a player uses a team possession when he is in the game. With five players on the court, an average value would be 20%.

Plus/Minus: How much the team outscores the opposition when the player is in the game.