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NBA teams offer insights into building strategic network

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Post#1 NBA teams offer insights into building strate
Fri Nov 16, 2012 9:44 pm by evenflow

Not sure if this is the right place so if there is a better home Mods, please move.

Came across this and thought there would be some on RealGm who would enjoy it. Not really up my alley but interesting from a basketball perspective.

What started out as a project to teach undergraduate students about network analysis, turned into an in-depth study of whether it was possible to analyze a National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball team's strategic interactions as a network. Arizona State University researchers discovered it is possible to quantify both a team's cohesion and communication structure.


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To evaluate the teams as networks, researchers graphed player positions and ball movement among players, as well as shots taken. Then, they used that data to find out whether network metrics can measure team decisions in a useful way. The study involved more than 1,000 ball movements and 100 ball sequences. "What that paper basically says is the 2010 data shows that the most successful teams are the ones that use a less predictable, more distributed offense and that connect their players more," said Fewell. "Those were the teams that had actually hired more elite players and allowed them to work together."


Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-11-basketball ... s.html#jCp
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Post#2 Re: NBA teams offer insights into building st
Sat Nov 17, 2012 6:03 pm by Americafkya

I do not really know much about networks , but I find this very interesting. My degree is in Philosophy and the program I graduated from was built around the understanding of effective communication and understanding of information. One of my professors was a leader in the study of information and technology. His theory was basically that everything was information, more specifically, everything was quantum information. A bit unrelated, but I stand by his theory that the universe s just a network of information.

That being said , also find it interesting how our brains are nothing really new to nature. As in they are made of the same things that everything else is made out of, but what makes them unique is the way in which they are connected. We have billions of interconnected nerve endings that allow us to do unprecedented things with our brains. Interconnectedness is fascinating. What more is language, the internet, telephones, televisions, and radios than effective means of increasing the flow of information. The better connected, the more effective.

Back on topic: I am not surprised that the most effective means of winning a game is by effective communication, in this sense networking. The information being the ball, and the passing being the flow of the information.f

If you are interested in networking I suggest watching 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon. Such a great documentary about how everything is networked together. If you haven't already, please check it out.
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Post#3 Re: NBA teams offer insights into building st
Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:17 pm by Doctor MJ

Well, thank you for sharing evenflow. This is exactly the type of thing I like to see, but, I'm pretty wary of what I'm seeing.

Calling a concept "team entropy" to talk about how unpredictable the offense is is pretty cool, but look what they do with it:

They make a table which shows the Lakers & Celtics were the top 2 in the playoffs in entropy, and then end with this quote:

"I started working on this in part because I'm a Suns fan, especially of the 'run and gun' Suns," shared Fewell. "Our data suggested though that the 2010 Suns played the game as a fairly traditional point-guard centered play style. The Lakers and Celtics, in contrast, showed the network equivalent of the triangle offense, and it paid off for them. They were the teams in the finals that year."

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-11-basketball ... s.html#jCp


It's pretty clear the conclusion you are supposed to draw is that with this concept the researchers might have found something profound key to what you need to do on offense in basketball.

However they do all this in a vacuum without getting to know even the basics of what stats are actually used. They don't check against offensive efficiency. Had they done that they'd have found that the Suns had an incredibly successful offense in the playoffs, while Boston was an unsuccessful offensive team succeeding through their defense.

So yeah, these people, they simply don't know enough basketball to be able to actually analyze the data they are producing. That's unfortunate.

Looking at some of the more straight forward data they have proves useful: Path Length & Flow Rate, along with the variances for these things. This basically means, how many people touch the ball, how quickly they do it, and how much things get changed up.

They call Phoenix a "traditional" offense which is really kind of amusing given that people quite rightly point out that no one has ever ran an offense like it before. What do they mean by that?

Well, Phoenix has a low path length, which means they aren't passing the ball all around. They also have a low flow rate, which means they aren't passing that quick. And in both areas, the team has low variance. That does sound pretty straight forward doesn't it? Not a lot of passes and a good amount of time per pass, without a much variation from possession to possession. Sounds like the simplest possible offense, and one which is pretty easy to predict what they will do. "Traditional" seems an appropriate adjective to the uninformed.

However what we know as basketball geeks, is that this is the offense that has produced the greatest results in all of history. Did they do this using a boring, predictable offense? Certainly not, it's just that this entire study completely misses the single factor that makes this point guard dominated offense interesting, unpredictable, and hugely successful: Analysis of the point guard in question.

On the other hand, the fact that that offense looks so boring in terms of its actual interactions really is an indication of how simply the offense is for the rest of the players on the offense, and hence how easy it is for the coach to tell the players what to do. THIS is what the "system" actually looks like, and it's completely unremarkable.
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Post#4 Re: NBA teams offer insights into building st
Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:20 pm by Doctor MJ

To evaluate the teams as networks, researchers graphed player positions and ball movement among players, as well as shots taken. Then, they used that data to find out whether network metrics can measure team decisions in a useful way. The study involved more than 1,000 ball movements and 100 ball sequences. "What that paper basically says is the 2010 data shows that the most successful teams are the ones that use a less predictable, more distributed offense and that connect their players more," said Fewell. "Those were the teams that had actually hired more elite players and allowed them to work together."


And just to be clear:

What Fewell is saying is dead wrong. She's taking the fact that Boston's defense was amazing as evidence that Boston's offense was successful. This is exactly the kind of "correlation is not causation" error a scientist hopes not to make, and exactly the type of error you risk making when you analyze numbers without understanding the context.
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Post#5 Re: NBA teams offer insights into building st
Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:30 pm by Doctor MJ

I replied on the site:

I love being able to see data like this, but I'm sorry, the paper is misreading the context. The claim is "the most successful teams are the ones that use a less predictable, more distributed offense" done in part because the Celtics offense fits this description, and the team was successful. However the team was successful because of its defense, not its offense, so this is a classic bad assumption of correlation implying causation. Interestingly, the one team used as an example for what does not work, the Suns with their "traditional" offense, recorded the 2nd greatest offensive playoff performance in history that season (only surpassed by the Suns in a previous year). So if anything, what would make more sense is for the paper to say that more traditional offenses work better than the "unpredictable, distributed" model. Of course that's not accurate either. The Suns offense is incredibly unpredictable, and about as far from traditional as you possibly get because..(no more space).

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-11-basketball ... s.html#jCp
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