Sunday, July 1, 2007

Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Recently took a quick look at points in the paint for the 2006/07 NBA season. The 82games study focused on both sides of the ball to see if interior play really correlated with winning basketball games and concluded:

The 95% CI's are huge with just a 60 team-season sample, but the basic premise is offensive points in the paint don't have a huge impact, defensive points in the paint allowed are the most connected to winning record (it's showing a negative correlation since fewer points allowed in the paint is the goal) and the net is somewhat related to record.

This is of particular concern to Raptors fans this off season with some people suggesting the need for a big shot blocking presence in the middle to protect the paint. Normalizing the 82games numbers for pace, in the 2006/07 season the top interior defenses were:

Team Pts in Paint (Def)
Houston 37.0
Chicago 38.1
Orlando 38.4
New Jersey 39.6
Miami 40.8
Dallas 41.8
Utah 42.3
Indiana 42.5
New Orleans 42.5
Cleveland 42.6
New York 42.6
Detroit 43.2
Toronto 44.0
San Antonio 44.1
LA Clippers
Washington 44.8
Sacramento 44.8
Phoenix 44.9
Golden State 45.0
Minnesota 45.1
Boston 46.0
Philadelphia 46.1
Charlotte 46.3
Denver 46.6
Portland 47.2
LA Lakers
Milwaukee 47.8
Seattle 48.1
Atlanta 48.4
Memphis 49.3

According to the pace adjusted numbers, Toronto had the 13th most efficient defense in the paint this year.

This obviously begs a few questions. Are the Raptors somehow an average interior defending team...and are the Spurs? Is "points in the paint" too indiscriminate (IE, fast breaks count too)? Is Rasho Nesterovic the greatest C in Raptors history? Is Chris Bosh's interior D underrated?

That last question interests me. Watching the Raptors I have noticed Bosh is not pushed around down low defensively nearly as much as his message board critics like to claim. Some players seem to get stuck with certain labels like "soft" or "bad defender" and that label will stick with them throughout their careers, despite obvious improvement. Watch Dirk defend now and compare that with the Dirk of 2002, for example. I feel that Chris Bosh really stepped up his defensive game this year and was one of the big reasons the Raptors improved their overall defensive efficiency from 29th in the NBA last year, to 12th in the NBA this year, and these points in the paint numbers might help illustrate that belief.

But with that in mind, a great man once said:
Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that.

1 comment:

Matthew Gordon said...

Inside points don't necessarily mean from the paint. Points in the paint is a misleading stat. A 10-foot jumper from the side isn't from the paint yet straight ahead, it is. Also, the blocks are technically slightly outside the paint so any back to the basket move not requiring a step inward won't result in points in the paint. Just saying.

(Also, most of the teams near the top of that list are very good teams.)