Have you heard the news? Technology is moving faster and faster. But many of the most profound new services rely on more human labor more than you might think. For instance, the trick behind Google Maps’s accuracy and usability is just tons and tons of people.
So it goes with stuff like Synergy, the invaluable stats tool to many NBA geeks, and even the play-by-play at ESPN.com. Yep, someone is locked in a room, I assume chained to a keyboard with feed tubes dangling at mouth-level, plucking away and keeping us all updated and informed. So it goes with a new stat service called Competitive Analytics Consulting (CAC), which tracks some of the stuff Sport Vu will hopefully one day tell us (EG- how close a defender is when a shot is taken, and whether his hand is up) but not with cameras and complex equations … but with people.
Evan Zamir of The City has done some work with CAC and been allowed a look at it’s data. Here are some of the highlights. It’s not all new stuff, but it’s always good to have another voice, and data set, in the world of analytics. Check out the full post for charts and more background on CAC.
On “hand down, man down”:
Another important takeaway from the chart is that on several play types, there isn’t much of a drop-off between pressured and guarded, in terms of shooter efficiency. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re 5 feet away or 2 feet away, if you don’t have your hand up. It’s no wonder Mark Jackson’s favorite line is “Hand down, man down!”
This gets to a theory that David Thorpe put in my ear about fouling jumpshooters. His idea was that occasionally fouling jumpshooters wasn’t such a big deal if it meant a team wasn’t afraid to contest every shot. Would it be worth one or two trips to the free throw line if a team contested, say, eight more shots per game as a result of such a philosophy?
You can see the distribution of shots by shot clock time remaining. I bet you’re wondering if the average shot clock time varies as a function of shot defense. Well, yes, it does actually. It turns out that contested shots on average take place with about 2 fewer seconds on the shot clock than open shots. If we remove transition plays (which skew the distribution), contested shots still occur about 1.3 seconds later in the shot clock on average.
…and yes, LeBron vs. Kobe:
I drilled down to a specific comparison of shot defense faced by LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as a function of the shot clock. This graphic shows the fraction of total shots facing each type of shot defense with a given amount of time remaining on the shot clock. The main feature and difference between the two stars is that Kobe faces a consistently high level of contested shots throughout the shot clock, whereas LeBron displays the more typical pattern of facing increasingly more difficult shot pressure as the shot clock winds down. I’ll leave it to the reader to debate with his or her friends whether this exposes a flaw or greatness in Kobe’s game.