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Basic/Traditional Stats vs. Advanced Stats

Since the NBA tipped off in 1946, statistics have been kept to track the game’s players and teams. Initially, the stats kept were very basic and included points scored, shots made and attempted, free throws made and attempted and fouls.

As the game continued to grow, so did the amount of information that was collected.

There was the addition of rebounds (1950-51), steals, blocks, offensive and defensive rebounds (1973-74), turnovers (1974-75) and the introduction of the 3-point line and its shooting stats (1979-80).

These are the basic/traditional stats in basketball – information that can easily be tracked by watching the game and looking at the box score. This information is not only important to the history of the game, but is still widely used in analyzing basketball today.

But thanks to a combination of intelligent basketball minds and new technology, we have plenty of new statistics to help us understand player and team performance on the basketball court.

Here are some key advanced stats to become familiar with. We will go into further detail on each of these at a later time.

Pace: The number of times a team has the ball (possessions) during a 48-minute game. Since all teams play at different speeds, we have to account for pace in order to level the playing field when comparing teams.

Offensive and Defensive Rating: In order to do that, we look at offensive and defensive ratings, which is the number of points scored or allowed per 100 possessions. By using the per-possession stats, we eliminate the fact that a team that plays faster has higher per-game stats just because they had more possessions to work with.

Effective Field Goal Percentage: To see how well a player or team shoots the ball, we look at field goal percentage (shots made divided by shots attempted). However, it is better to use effective field goal percentage since it takes into account the added value of the 3-point shot. Since those shots are more difficult, they are given added value in evaluating shooting skills.

On-Court/Off-Court: Even the best players in the world need rest and do not play the entire 48-minute game. With on-court/off-court stats, we can see how well the team performed when a specific player was in the game compared to when he was on the bench.

Player Tracking: Every NBA arena has six cameras that sit high above the court and track every movement of the players on the court and the ball 25 times per second. This information is used to provide new stats based around speed, distance, player separation and ball possession. Stats like how many times a player touched the ball, how fast each player is moving and how many passes each team threw in a game.

Play Types: Play type data allows us to break down how each team plays the game, not just how many points, rebounds or assists they tally each night. What play does this team or player run the most? What are they most successful at running? Whether it is a pick-and-roll, an isolation play or a post-up, it is available for us to analyze.

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