A good hoops conversation with Ron Boone today lead into a discussion about what statistically area lead most directly to wins. Four or five years ago Tom Nissalke and I did this exercise and were stunned to find out one of the primary indicators to wins was 3 pointers attempted. Not made but attempted. The game has changed since then since the 3 pointer has become more universal.
Here are what we discovered today. The methodology is very simplistic. Rank the teams top 5, top 10, bottom 5 and bottom 10 in certain statistical categories and see what the combined winning percentage is for top 5, top 10, bottom 5 and bottom 10 in those categories.
If the statistic has no correlation to winning it should be near 50%.
3 point shooting is where this research started and it is not as a big factor as it once once. The 5 teams that use the most % of their possessions to shot three’s only win 52% of the time, the top 10 teams using three’s as part of their offense win 56%. However, if you don’t shot the three it is hard to win. The bottom 5 teams in the NBA using three pointers win just 35% and the bottom 10 win 50% of the time. The Jazz use the 2nd fewest possession to shot a three.
Does offensive rebounding help a team win? Maybe not. The top 5 offensive rebounding teams have a combined 50% winning percentage, the top 10 a 46% winning percentage. In fact, the argument might go the other way you are better off not offensive rebounding as the bottom 10 offensive rebounding teams win 60% of their games. The Jazz rank 4th in offensive rebounding.
Defensive rebounding, on the other hand, seems to be important. The top 5 defensive rebounding teams have a combined 62% winning percentage and the top 10 are at 58%. What is clear if you don’t defensive rebound it is going to be hard to win, the bottom 10 teams in defensive rebounding win 40% of the time and the bottom 5 win 41% of the time. The Jazz are 20th in defensive rebounding.
Let’s turn to turnovers. Lots of being made of the Thunder’s problem with turnovers is this legitimate. Taking care of the ball seems to have very little indicator if you win or not. The top 5 teams at taking care of the ball are winning at 51% and the top 10 win 54% of games. The worst teams in the NBA do about the same, the bottom 5 teams win 53% (have OKC helps) and the bottom 10 teams win 50% of their games. The Jazz are 6th best at taking care of the ball.
Surprisingly, it looks as though forcing turnovers can hurt your team’s chances to win. Or at least the best teams don’t force turnovers. The Top 5 teams in the NBA at forcing turnovers win 55% of the time and the top 10 teams forcing turnovers only win 53%. Here is the surprise, the bottom 5 teams in the NBA at forcing turnovers win 57% of the time and the bottom 10 teams in the NBA forcing turnovers win 60% of the time. The Jazz are 14th in the NBA at forcing turnovers.
The big indicator is free throw, teams that get to the line win. The top 5 teams going to the line win 65% of their games, and the top 10 teams going to the line win just 50% of the time. Teams that don’t go to the line come in at the mean line. The bottom 5 and the bottom 10 teams win at 50%. Jazz are 8th in the NBA at getting to the line.
The biggest indicator yet is if you foul or not. The top 5 teams at keeping the opponent off the line win at 67%. The top 10 teams at keeping teams off the line win at 60%. If you put teams on the line it is significant as well. The 10 teams that put teams on the line the most win at just 40% and the bottom 5 teams win at just 41%. Jazz are 29th in the NBA.
The #1 issue as it always has been if you make shots. Using effective field goal % which weighs three point shots you get the expected results. The top 5 teams in the NBA at making shots win 69% of the time and the top 10 teams win 63%. For all the talk of defense if you don’t make shots you are not winning . The bottom 5 teams in the NBA at EFG% win at just 26% and the bottom 10 teams wins at 40%. The Jazz are 19th in the NBA at EFG%.
Finally is defense more important than offense? You better be great at 1 or the other. The top 5 teams in DEF% win at 66% and the top 10 teams are at 61% whereas the bottom 5 teams win just 33% of their games and the bottom 10 win just 40%. The Jazz are 23rd in the NBA.
Digest how you wish.