Beyond the Numbers
March 28, 2019
Ignoring the statistics
Although we often use per-game averages as an indication of contributions, these can sometimes be misleading in terms of interpreting a player's value. For instance, players could score at a high volume simply because they take many shots or because they are required to play a larger role on a poor team. For young players, excessive attention to statistics can also result in mistakes in a variety of ways.
Points: As mentioned, players may take too many shots in an attempt to rack up the points. This can lead to ill-advised attempts, where players take shots beyond their comfort and skill level, rather than within the flow of the offense. For a team to win games, it does not matter who is scoring the rock.
Assists: Many new point guards are eager to take on the role of a playmaker and attempt to do so by notching assists. However, this can result in them holding on to the ball for too long as they try to look for a direct assist, instead of simply swinging an easy pass to the open man.
Rebounds: For a team to rebound well, every player has to box their man out instead of just going for the ball. A greedy rebound-hunter can jeopardize these team efforts by being too aggressive and losing track of their opponent, or fighting their own teammates for rebounds.
Steals and blocks: Although these are the two main statistics on defense, defensive contributions are even more difficult to gauge than offensive impact. Players who gun for steals and blocks may end up gambling and taking unnecessary risks, instead of having the discipline to stay down and force tough shots.
Turnovers: Turnovers are seen as the ultimate mistake in basketball, and players generally seek to keep their turnover count low. Despite this, even the avoidance of turnovers can be problematic, as players may try not to do much on offense, taking an approach that is too cautious.