The NBA recently began comprehensively recording players’ movements on the court during games, and analysts have just started to explore the trove of data the cameras have generated, hoping they’ll find new and better ways of playing the game. These charts by Andy Bergmann (@dubly) show how frequently starting players on each team pass to one another. Some teams, like the Chicago Bulls, share the ball widely, while others rely more on two or three players, like the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Also, some teams, such as the New Orleans Pelicans and the Milwaukee Bucks, just pass the ball less often than others, like the Indiana Pacers.
When teams have more data, will these charts look different? It’s possible. If better analysis changes how coaches understand the contributions of every player on the court and not just the leading scores, some teams might find more ways of using all five players on offense, but it’s still too early to tell how the data will affect the game. For example, much of the preliminary analysis so far has focused on offense, on the number of points scored rather than on the number of points allowed, but the data might suggest new defensive strategies as well.
Many thanks to Bergmann for the use of his charts, originally published on the NBA’s Web site. Click below for an essay on how the statistics currently used in basketball can conceal important information about how valuable players are to their teams.