NBA player stats aren’t what they used to be! Just like organizations make use of advanced analytics, even the casual fan has a myriad of options available right at their fingertips.
If you’re a true hoop head you might watch games with your laptop handy to check box scores as they occur. Other more intense measures exist that we bloggers tend to utilize like basketballreference.com which offers multiple game statistics to gather things like VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) TS% (True Shooting Percentage or USG% (Usage Percent).
Hoopsstats.com provides multiple comparison options by team, position and even can isolate performance in short intervals such as past 10 games. NBA.com has historically offered player and team stats along with category leaders, but this year they introduced a new feature for public perusal called player tracking stats.
So, what exactly is player tracking and how does it work? Six cameras are utilized to track each player and the video collected provides details on things like ball and player movement, shows their efficiency and areas of the game previously unmeasured such as number of passes or rebound opportunities.
NBA.com offers this definition:
Player Tracking is the latest example of how technology and statistics are changing the way we understand the game of basketball.
Using six cameras installed in the catwalks of every NBA arena, SportVU software tracks the movements of every player on the court and the basketball 25 times per second. The data collected provides a plethora of innovative statistics based around speed, distance, player separation and ball possession. Some examples include: how fast a player moves, how far he traveled during a game, how many touches of the ball he had, how many passes he threw, how many rebounding chances he had and much more.
The information is broken into 9 stat categories which I’ll examine in eight separate articles highlighting the top 5 performers as well as the top Houston Rocket within each category. First up is Speed and Distance:
Part 1: Speed and Distance
Definition of this category as per nba.com: Speed and Distance- Statistics that measure the distance covered and the average speed of all movements (sprinting, jogging, standing, walking, backwards and forwards) by a player while on the court.
Players are ranked based on:
- Total Distance covered on court measured in miles
- Speed: Average speed in miles per hour of all movements
- Distance Traveled Per Game: Total distance traveled by a player in miles in a game, measured in miles
- Distance Traveled Per 48 Minutes: Total distance traveled by a player in 48 minutes, measured in miles
Top 5 Players & Top Rockets:
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Feb 8, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) drives the ball during the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. The Trail Blazers defeated the Rockets 109-98. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The Blazers new top dog finished first in the category. His 205.4 miles per hour average speed and 3.4 miles per 48 minutes average showcase how pivotal the point guard was to Portland’s success. Looking ahead to the new season with 5 of their 6 top players exiting this past summer, expect more of the same.
The Rookie Of The Year saw his numbers steadily climb especially in 2015 as he began to handle the ball more frequently and became more comfortable assuming a natural leadership role on the Timberwolves.
3. Ben McLemore
Perhaps the most surprising player included in the top 5, the Kings wing man obviously racked up the miles flying down the sidelines of Sleep Train Arena. His average speed (4.5) was the fastest of the top 5 and his per 48 minutes distance traveled (3.6) was also tops.
4. Trevor Ariza
Given the Rockets push the ball on offense and Ariza is tasked with defending the best player on most evenings his inclusion in the top 5 isn’t that shocking.
5. Goran Dragic
His fifth place includes his totals from both teams (Suns and Heat) though it’s likely the numbers were padded more via Phoenix’ fast paced offense.
13. James Harden
The second Rocket to crack the top 15 is Harden who like Ariza isn’t a shock especially with the amount of ball handling he was tasked with due to injury this past season. Harden and Ariza represent the only duo in the top 15 from the same team, though Bledsoe and Dragic are both on the list they no longer play on the same team.
Ty Lawson ranks twenty-third though we could see him climb up the ladder with the Rockets tendency to push pace.
Next up in the series we’ll look at touches and possesions.
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