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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter January 28, 2010

Scoring and Shooting Abilities of NBA Players

  • James Piette , Sathyanarayan Anand and Kai Zhang

We propose two new measures for evaluating offensive ability of NBA players, using one-dimensional shooting data from three seasons beginning with the 2004-05 season. These measures improve upon currently employed shooting statistics by accounting for the varying shooting patterns of players over different distances from the basket. This variance also provides us with an intuitive metric for clustering players, wherein performance of players is calculated and compared to his cluster center as a baseline. To further improve the accuracy of our measures, we develop our own variation of smoothing and shrinkage, reducing any small sample biases and abnormalities.The first measure, SCAB or, Scoring Ability Above Baseline, measures a player's ability to score as a function of time on court. The second metric, SHTAB or Shooting Ability, calculates a player's propensity to score on a per-shot basis. Our results show that a combination of SCAB and SHTAB can be used to separate out players based on their offensive game. We observe that players who are highly ranked according to our measures are regularly considered as top performers on offense by experts, with the notable exception of LeBron James; the same claim holds for the offensive dregs. We suggest possible explanations for our findings and explore possibilities of future work with regard to player defense.

Published Online: 2010-1-28

©2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston

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