“The statistics won’t replace a book on how to coach a team and certainly cannot replace the experience of learning/playing the sport with your hands on a basketball. But for a coach whose job revolves around getting players to cooperate, it is important that statistics reflect, to some degree, how well they are doing.”

Key Takeaways:
  • Teamwork Statistics
  • Critical Parts of Possessions
  • Significance Statistics (Team & Player)

“A designed play is nothing more than choreographed teamwork. When you watch a play evolve, you can identify its most critical part once a team scores.”

This was one of my favorite lines during this week’s reading because execution is not reliant upon the ball and the person who scores it. The synchronization of all 5 guys on the floor working together increases the probability of a made field goal, and there is often a critical part in the possession where you can tell the play will work.

There is not a lot of statistics quantifying player impact without direct involvement in scoring. The hockey assist (the pass before the pass) is one that has emerged as a teamwork statistic. Yet as coaches, our job is to recognize personnel that understands the intricacies of systems well enough to enable timing and spacing for play execution on offense. Or, have the foresight or ability to anticipate vulnerability in the defense to disrupt a scoring opportunity on the defensive end à la Draymond Green. That being said, ironically there isn’t any statistic that exists that doesn’t implicitly reflect the rest of the team.

“But the fact that defenses defend one basketball first and five players second makes teamwork an inherent part of any defense.”

Significant Stats for Success

In How It Works we spoke about the four aspects of the game any team must control to be successful:

  1. Field goal percentage
  2. Offensive rebounds
  3. Committing turnovers
  4. Getting to the free-throw line and making them

Two questions were brought up during these last couple of chapters that were of interest.

  • What happens if the statistics are comparable? Where does the separation lie?
  • At what point are the statistics significant enough to identify a specific player production is detrimental to the team’s success?

Charity Strip is the Line of Demarcation

Getting to the free-throw line and making a high percentage of free-throws can be the separation between two competitive teams. This is not anything new, but it is something to consider when glossing over the early fouls in the game that become eventual bonus points provided in 1 to 2 possession final scores.

“Significance testing accounts for the number of games in a stretch, how well the team played in those games, and how well they were “supposed” to play.

Apply the concept, not the tests – or do both if you have the time and know what the hell you’re doing. In regards to the concept of significance for coaches evaluates past performances of play by the team in comparison to a most recent stretch. Asking the question, did anything deviate from our normal production during this time?

The example is if a player gets injured or a change in the lineups. Over that time period where a player is out due to injury, have the statistics reflected anything positive or negative that could support the reasoning for a change? This concept invites the notion of the plus/minus statistic. We won’t go too far down the wormhole of plus/minus and its value (or lack thereof); the point of the significance is recognizing if the fluctuation of statistics are true indications of poor performance or key contributions given the sample size to suggest if the numbers are valid.

For coaches competing with a limited amount of games on schedule this can be really challenging to evaluate. If there are not a lot of games to experiment with lineup changes or other variables the numbers may not be significant enough to measure the ramifications. Also, there has to be consideration to the consequences of reacting to statistics that might be misleading. This is why the preseason can provide a lot of value when it comes to evaluating players and the best lineups that will give the team the highest chance for success.


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