Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Advanced Statistics are Important in the NBA

In the 2010-2011 NBA season, Kevin Durant averaged 6.8 rebounds per game, a respectable but not staggering number. It was not good enough to put him in the top 40 rebounders for that season, however, he might have been the most ferocious rebounder in the whole league. What very few fans know is that Kevin Durant led the league in rebounding percentage, which is defined as percentage of rebounds gathered when within 3.5 feet of the ball. His percentage was 73% which is a staggering number. The NBA is changing due to knew stats and player tracking and for the teams who do not jump on board fast, they will have a tougher time catching up.

Player tracking and new technology is changing analytics in the NBA. A new system called SportVU is being used in the NBA and will change the game forever. There are six tiny cameras placed in the rafters of the NBA arenas. These cameras are synched with complex algorithms extracting x, y and z positioning data for all objects on the court, capturing 25 pictures per second. Each picture is time-stamped and automatically processed by a computer, which connects the data to the play-by-play feed and delivers a report within 90 seconds of a play. This started in the 2009-2010 season where six teams had the cameras placed and in the recent 2011-2012 season this number grew into the teens. Within five years, I believe all the NBA teams will install this new technology.

Here comes the big question. So we have all this new information, but how do we use it and analyze it?  Well here is one example, Paul Pierce averaged 4.5 assists in the 2011-2012 season. This is a respectable, but not top of the league number. 

However, according to SportVU, Pierce’s teammates shot a higher percentage after his passes than any other player in the NBA. Very interesting. This tells us that Pierce is putting his passes on the money and making the right passes at the right time. Seems like the type of player I would want on my team. For all you point guard out there, who set up a play with the assist before the assist, listen to this. The new technology can track secondary assists, in which Derrick Rose, Steve Nash, and Rajon Rondo were at the top of the charts.

In order for this concept to really grow and for the league to reap its benefits, all 30 teams really need to start using it. Once that happens, anything can be accomplished with this new technology and we will see the game in a way its never been presented before. With analytics growing in the NBA every year, be on the lookout for new statistical categories to arise and realize that they are made possible with this new, innovative technology.


Michael Proska is a freshman at Drexel University from Springfield, PA pursuing a Sport Management degree along with a minor in Statistics. Along with being a writer for the SMTSU blog, The Sports Complex, he has an internship with Drexel Athletics in the promotions and marketing department. Michael is a member of the Army ROTC at Drexel University.  Michael is the Secretary for the SMTSU.  Follow Michael on Twitter @mikeprosk.

Connect with Michael Proska on LinkedIn.


  1. Interesting article!

    It would be interesting to see if these analytic tactics can be applied to former players to make for a more comprehensive/balanced argument concerning the greatest players of all time.

    1. Good point! I think eventually as these stats catch on more, people will begin to do so. We've seen it in baseball. And we saw it in football - sacks stick out in my head because they calculated how many sacks Deacon Jones had in a season. RIP.

    2. That is a great point you make! I feel like it would be difficult to accumulate some of the stats because the lack of the modern technology and cameras, however I do think some statistical categories could be calculated and help in the debate of the greatest of all time!

  2. From listening to him, I sense that Charles Barkley thinks all the analytics stuff is hogwash. I think CB is looking to be a GM somewhere and, if so, I think he'll need someone with an analytics bent to complement his gut-feel approach. Personally, I don't think he's cut out for the GM role--he's too undisciplined.