A new statistic to measure chemistry in basketball

Team chemistry is an elusive concept to measure but three “quantitative traders in the financial world” have developed a new statistic they say tackles the subject:

We introduce a novel Skills Plus Minus (“SPM”) framework to measure on-court chemistry in basketball. First, we evaluate each player’s offense and defense in the SPM framework based on three basic categories of skills: scoring, rebounding, and ball-handling. We then simulate games using the skill ratings of the ten players on the court. The results of the simulations measure the effectiveness of individual players as well as the 5-player lineup, so we can then calculate the synergies of each NBA team by comparing their 5-player lineup’s effectiveness to the “sum-of-the-parts.” We find that these synergies can be large and meaningful. Because skills have different synergies with other skills, our framework predicts that a player’s value is dependent on the other nine players on the court. Therefore, the desirability of a free agent depends on the players currently on the roster. Indeed, our framework is able to generate mutually beneficial trades between teams…

The research team pored over a ton of data, ran countless simulations and looked at how many points certain combinations of skills created…

One pattern that emerged was that “rare events” (like steals/defensive ball-handling) tended to produce positive synergies, while “common events” (like defensive rebounds) produce negative synergies. How come? Because increasing a team’s rebounding rate from 70 percent of defensive rebounds (which would be lousy) to, say, 75 percent (very good) represents only a 7 percent increase. But upping offensive rebounds, which aren’t nearly as common as defensive rebounds, from a rate of 30 percent to 35 percent represents a robust 17 percent gain…

Figuring out the component parts of what we know as chemistry or synergy is one of the next great frontiers of this movement. It’s not enough to put an exceptional distributor on the floor. To maximize that point guard’s gifts, a team must surround him with the right combination of players — and that combination might not always be the sexiest free agents on the market.

Sports has so much data to pore over that researchers could be occupied with for a long time.

This particular question is fascinating because one could get a lot of answers to why certain five player units are successful from different actors such as coaches, players, commentators, and fans. Players might be easier to assess (ha – look at all the issues with drafting) but looking at units requires sharp analytical skills and an overall view of a team.

Which team(s) will be the first to utilize this statistic and really build team units rather than cobble together a number of good players and then try to squeeze the best out of them? Certain players who might be considered “busts” may simply be in the wrong systems and be the “missing piece” for another team.

One thought on “A new statistic to measure chemistry in basketball

  1. It is heartening to know that a system has been developed, which can measure the team chemistry, or in other words, how the team members bond with each other while playing a game. Basketball requires synchronized action among the five players who play in tandem to gain points. With the use of this concept one can easily detect any anomalies in the functioning of a team, and plan accordingly. While this is true, sometimes playing on a bad surface also affects the style of the player. For optimum utilization of this concept, it is imperative that the surface upon which the game of basketball is played should be well laid & maintained properly.
    Basketball court flooring

    Like

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