Tag Archives: Ricky Rubio

Player tracking in basketball: not a silver bullet

For anyone who follows quantitative sports analysis, player tracking cameras are not news. Along with the NBA, soccer teams use them (even in the MLS) and rugby teams use them. They give x-y-z coordinates for each player at a high frame rate, which can be processed into a variety of statistics. Many think that this approach will revolutionize sports analysis. I stumbled across an article at ESPN today spreading this view to the masses.

Tracking data can help with many things, but it won’t save analysts from themselves. Here’s a point-counterpoint from the article linked above.

Point: “Paul Pierce averaged 4.5 assists this season, which is pretty good for a scoring wing. But that number doesn’t tell the whole story. According to SportVU, Pierce’s teammates shot a higher percentage after his passes than any other player in the NBA. This shows Pierce is passing at the right time — he’s giving his teammates mostly layups and open shots.”

Counterpoint: Pierce might be making great passes, but it’s just as likely that Pierce plays with better than average shooters or better than average cutters/floor spacers, or that Pierce commands a strong defender Continue reading

Back to earth

As I predicted, Jeremy Lin came back to earth against the Timberwolves last night (8-24 shooting, 8 assists, 6 turnovers, three more bricks from three point range). I found the whole thing quite revealing, since the Wolves have their own marketable point guard (Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio), but he gets much less attention in a small market.

This is not to diminish Lin’s achievement. He has made the Knicks winners without their two best players. However, there are plenty of reasons to temper the enthusiasm. During his five game launch to stardom, Lin has three games with 8 assists or fewer and 6 turnovers or more. He’s shooting 3-17 from three point range. Let’s see if he can get those numbers in line before we get too excited.

Basketball endgame

The Thunder and Warriors played a very entertaining game last night. All the stars showed up (Monta Ellis, career high 48 points; Kevin Durant, 33 points, game winning shot, close to a triple double). The defense wasn’t terrible — the Warriors especially made a bunch of tough shots. Close games like this are generally decided by luck, but there were two interesting decision points in the endgame where each team affected the odds:

Down one, should you shoot early or late?

With about 22 seconds left, down one point, the Thunder had Durant drive right to the hoop and go for a quick shot — air ball, but the Warriors knocked it out of bounds. On the next inbounds play, Durant pulled up immediately and banked in a (relatively) open jumper to take the lead with 16 seconds remaining. This gave the Warriors plenty of time for a rebuttal, and the Warriors announcers were confused that the Thunder didn’t run down the clock to take the last shot.

The Thunder clearly wanted to shoot quickly. Did this help or hurt their chances of winning? It gives the Warriors another chance Continue reading

Ricky Rubio: a secret genius?

Not only has Ricky Rubio made the Timberwolves a potential playoff team, but he might also be a genius. The Timberwolves led by three with 10 seconds left last night, and the Nets had the ball with a chance to tie. Deron Williams quickly dribbled up court, did a nice crossover to beat his man, and drew the big man in the lane. He had Anthony Morrow wide open in the corner for a three (he had 42 points and was 8 of 11 from three for the game) but botched the pass. Rubio ended up with the ball. Rather than get fouled, he chucked the ball high and far down the court; the clock ran out as the ball bounced harmless under the other hoop. The Wolves would have almost surely won if Rubio held the ball, but he removed any doubt. Nice work, Rubio.

For a related situation, check out my football riddle from a couple weeks ago.