My research topic is the proliferation of analytical thinking throughout the NBA and any changes that may have been made with efficiency in mind. Most teams in the NBA have recently hired entire division dedicated to analyzing every move and how that can change the outcome of the game. They are all searching for the same thing: any advantage available to help the team.

The main thing I found in my research is the movement by a majority of teams to try and shoot more threes and less midrange jump shots. This is a trend away from the basketball from the post dominant 1980s and 90s. The midrange game of the late 90s and 00s pioneered by Michael Jordan and carried by Kobe Bryant is now going out of style.

This is a big deal as the game of basketball has fundamentally changed from the lumbering big men in the post and now the offenses are based around small guards who can shoot.

Many sports news websites have adopted advanced statistics to give fans the same insight as for the teams. The most prominent one is FiveThirtyEight. Their entire website is built around the idea of data-driven decisions. They believe that efficiency should determine shot selection no matter what.

Other outlets have stuck to the gut feelings of their reporters and columnists to determine how a team is doing. A prime example of this would be the season Demar Derozan is having currently. He takes the highest percentage of his shots from the midrange area in the league. He leads by almost 20% compared to the second highest on the list. However, he also is third in the league in scoring at over 30 points per game.

There is a split that I can see between more traditional basketball minds and the new age data-driven number crunchers. The other thing that I believe a lot of outlets fail to mention is the changing defense in the NBA.

Most teams now try to induce drives towards the hoop where they have shot blockers. Compare this to even ten years ago the main goal then was to prevent penetration and maybe give up more shots. This trend of three-pointers as a primary weapon instead of a complementary one will continue as long as teams like the Warriors and Rockets win games and stay at the top of their conferences. The only hope for traditionalists is for a resurgence in smash mouth basketball that is particularly effective against the smaller teams of today.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Analytics in Basketball by Luke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

12 Comments
  1. Tom 9 months ago

    This is a great topic and I have wonder if the game has changed too much and if it has gotten a little softer. The research behind the analytics of basketball is a great topic and I can’t wait to see what els you find out about this.

  2. David 10 months ago

    Luke, I like how you used back in the 1900 and comparing to today. I want to know what is better in your opinion NBA in 2016-17 or in the 1900. Who is your favorite player right now.

  3. Ben 12 months ago

    I think your research is really interesting. It’s amazing how basketball has changed and you are write. It seems everyone is trying to make a three pointer instead of a basic shot.

  4. Emma 12 months ago

    Luke,
    Great job I really like this whole article, it reflects how knowledgeable about the topic you are. I think you did a good job throughout the whole article.

  5. Jack 12 months ago

    Luke, I believe that analytics can be applied to more sports than just basketball. For example, if you look at Baseball, the number of strikeouts are up as well as the number of homeruns. Analytics like these show just how much the sports we love are changing through time.

  6. Skylar 12 months ago

    This is a really interesting outlook and topic to research. Basketball in this way is looked at very analytically, carefully studied for even the slightest advantage that may be hidden in the game. I thought it was a really cool paper, and I really learned a different side to the sport of basketball, and the actual precision of the game.

  7. Seiji 12 months ago

    This is a great article, I love basketball and I’ve been wondering about this analytics movement for a while. You really highlight how the game is changing. I think that if you included more examples of this change it would really help strengthen your paper.

  8. Nathan 12 months ago

    Hi Luke. As a basketball player, I can relate to this. I find that hardly anyone shoots a mid range jumper the days unless it is wide open. Because the three is becoming a higher percentage shot, more and more players are taking far more threes than any other shot. I believe that in roughly twenty years, the three point line will be extended out further than it already is. This will change some habits in the game. Really great post, keep it up.

  9. Samantha 12 months ago

    This is topic. I can definitely see the changes being made to the basketball world today. As a basketball player I like to ply the more traditional game of basketball where you score from anywhere because thats the point of the game: to score. I like the idea the new research is bringing in but it also has its faults. What if your team or best shooter is off on his shooting and you can’t score any threes? the team will have to start making midrange jumpers and getting to the hoop.

  10. Genevieve 12 months ago

    Wow Luke great work. You’re clearly very knowledgeable about this subject and made it really interesting to read. I didn’t know a lot about that and you provided a lot of information. Keep up the great writing.

  11. Samuel 12 months ago

    This is great, I have always wonder why the NBA has not been the same post 2010. Like Sid said this is very unique, it shows the science behind the game and what the NBA has evolved to. Along with that how it has influenced the younger generations and what basketball is headed toward in the future to come. Great Job.

  12. Sid 12 months ago

    Hey Luke,
    I like how you’re taking a unique aspect of basketball and talking about how it has changed over the past couple decades. This paper could use a ton of background information letting readers know how the game was played many years ago with player statistics and all. I think that would really highlight the contrast between the two time periods.

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