Remarks on Statistical Analyses of the NBA Play

In this entry I look at articles where statistical analysis is used to draw conclusions regarding NBA play. What the articles have in common is that there is something questionable about the points they make or about the underlying assumptions they apply.

Article 1: How many possessions will the new shot clock rule impact?

By Danial Massop for Nylon Calculus on Aug 25, 2018.

Points made in the article: NBA implemented a new rule that reduces “the shot clock after an offensive rebound from 24 seconds to 14 seconds”.

According to Massop’s analysis “over 30 percent of offensive rebounds result in putbacks”.  And “75 percent of offensive rebounds result in a possession that is five seconds or less.” And “only 6 percent of all offensive rebounds resulted in possessions that are 14 seconds or greater last year.”

Massop implies that the rule change only affects the portion of the plays that would have lasted for longer than 14 seconds if not for the rule change. He writes: “Given that we are only talking about a few seconds per game, the affect that this [rule change] will have on actual game play will be minimal.”

What’s questionable:  The rule change will affect at least 25 percent of the possessions after an offensive rebound. Arguably, the effect extends to all such possessions. Potentially, the change could end up affecting the offense-defense dynamics throughout the whole game.

According to Massop, 25 percent of the possessions after an offensive rebounds last six seconds or more. In that time, teams usually have started running a play – or something they have set up in advance. The rule change will affect these tactical choices and thus at least 25 percent of the possessions – not just 6 percent as Massop implies.

The offense does not anymore have the time to run regular set plays. Instead, they now must e.g. set up a quick hitter. Also, the offense will probably even more heavily favour putbacks and quick 3PA’s off kick-outs. The defense will also adjust to the short shot clock. They may e.g. decide to switch all screens.

The arguable part mentioned above regards this: Does the rule change affect the other 75 percent of the possessions after an offensive rebound – or the possessions that would have lasted no more than five seconds even without the rule change? Those possessions often end with a putback or a quick 3PA off a kick-out.

I argue that the rule change affects those possessions, too, because the change affects players’ decision-making process. That is because the rule change lowers the offensive players’ threshold to go for a putback or a 3PA off a kick-out.

The defensive players’ decision-making changes too. Since the value of the putbacks rises, the defenders may take more risks trying to block them. Also, they may close out more aggressively to the shooter after the initial kick-out.

Potentially, in the long run, the new shot clock rule may affect the NBA play even more profoundly. If the change turns out to lower the value of a possession after an offensive rebound, the teams may start going for the offensive boards more cautiously. That could affect the whole offense-defense dynamics throughout the game.


Complex Basketball Coaching


What kind of an entity is basketball? And based on its essence, how should it be practiced and coached? Based on the analysis, should changes be made to the prevailing procedures? If so, what type of changes?

These are the questions we are dealing with here. In other words, we are trying to build a solid basis for discussing and improving basketball coaching. To do that, we are defining the main concepts and their relationships because that is an elementary prerequisite for a meaningful discussion.

I am writing and posting this piece by piece, chapter by chapter. Also, I am revising the blog whenever I find it necessary. So do not wonder if you revisit the piece and find it different from what you thought it was.

I last edited this blog on Thursday August 1 2019 when I put in Chapter 34: Preconditions for Applying the Practice Importance List –Tendencies of interactions.


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Under-8-year-olds’ Basketball Training Principles

This writing from 2014 lists principles of organised U8 basketball. References to scientific articles are provided to back up the stated principles. I wrote this originally for Kouvot, club based in Kouvola, Finland.


Basic Principles of U8 Basketball

  • Early engagement in basketball is encouraged in order to enhance a child’s health and psychosocial well-being.
  • Every effort is made to make these enhancements both short-term and long-term.
  • Also, a solid base is put together for the child’s future development as an over-all athlete and a basketball player.

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Utilizing Differential Learning in Basketball Training

Up to a point, variability enhances the efficiency of motor skill practice, and differential learning enhances the variability. Thus the differential learning method should be utilized in basketball training.

However, in praxis you can’t just start doing differential learning even if you wanted to. Rather you need to run drills where the method is utilized. Traditionally, such drills are not a part of a basketball coach’s repertoire.

Another practical problem is that the variability needs to take place day in and day out. Thus, coaches need to plan it daily. That is why differential learning drills should be such that varying them they day to day does not take much time.

Here are two such drills – one with the emphasis on passing, the other with the emphasis on shooting. The key is that the variability in both is achieved by drawing different variations from a list put together beforehand, maybe over several years.

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Ideas on Building a Fast Fast Break Offense

All solid offenses run breaks that are fast up to a point. In this entry I’m trying to see how we could accelerate the offense beyond the point set by conventional wisdom. This is where the title comes from: “fast fast break offense” refers to an offense that is visibly faster than a solid, reasonable offense on the average.

I am writing and posting entry this piece by piece, chapter by chapter. The 14th and last chapter Improve Relevant Techniques was posted on Friday March 9. Please let me know if you spot loopholes in my thinking or if you want to share some of your ideas.

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Let Us Re-imagine Basketball

We should re-imagine basketball.

The current equipment and rules are designed to suit men’s top level. Elite players can go coast-to-coast in a flash, palm the ball, throw end-to-end passes, dunk the ball thunderously, hit threes as if they were lay-ups. You know, do all kinds of cool stuff.

The rest – kids, women, recreational male players – are left with a ball game that’s not really suited for them. This could be changed. We could modify the rules so that players of all levels would get to really enjoy the game.

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