Monday, September 9, 2013

STO: The Nets say ‘Screw You’ to Moneyball

And the maker of Photoshop died happy

The Brooklyn Nets are owned Mikhail Prokhorov (above) who is one of the wealthiest men in the entire world. According to his Forbes profile, he made his fortune through "investments" and "self-made". 

Now, those terms might be confusing because they are in Russian. I've run them through Google Translate, and I got the American equivalent; "car wash business". If you're not a fan of Breaking Bad, that joke might have sailed way over your head. 

Look, the man is rich, okay? He's currently worth $13 billion USD. That's a lot of cash. I don't know how he "self-made" the money, or what he "invested" in. Did he finance sliced bread AND IBM? Probably not; you can put two and two together (it equals illegality, by the way).

Anyway, Prokhorov might be filthy rich but he is a kind man. He doesn't just lay on his money and dream of beach excursions in Mexico. Rather, he's decided to single-handedly finances the entirety of the NBA. 

As it currently stands, the Nets will be (James) doling out $103 million in player salaries for the 2013-14 season, which is $8 million more than the next closest spender (the Lakers). 

Thanks to the collective bargaining agreement, the Nets will pay ~$80 million to teams under the tax. Since the money is split equally amongst non-tax teams, this amounts to ~$4.6 million (18 teams under 71.75 million, 83 million from Mikhail). He's almost paying as much for players to play AGAINST the Nets, than he is for players to play FOR the Nets. Crazy.

This got me thinking; which players is Mikhail paying to play against the Nets? I went through the payroll of each team beneath the tax threshold and selected a player that fits the criteria (will receive less than 4.6 million next season). The list is below:

2013-14 Salary
2012-13 PER
LA Clippers
Matt Barnes
Paul George
Golden State
Klay Thompson
Ricky Rubio
Vince Carter
Chandler Parsons
Damien Lillard
New Orleans
Al-Farouq Aminu
Vucevic + Harris
Andre Drummond
Tristan Thompson
Kemba Walker
Ben McLemore
Elton Brand
Eric Bledsoe
Gordon Hayward
Larry Sanders
Noel + MCW


Fun list, right? Wouldn’t you want those players on your favorite NBA team? Actually, the Nets could probably use some of those players. They currently only have five players who posted a PER of 16.66 or better last season (Williams, Pierce, Lopez, Garnett and Blatch; one of these things is not like the other).

Thanks, Mikhail! (from the entirety of the NBA).


Thanks to basketball-reference for PER data and salary information

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Which NBA team runs the most unconventional offense?

Step aside regular boxscore stats. Your time in the spotlight has come to an end. We no longer worship at the temple of PER or Win Shares. You're old. You're outdated. You're abstract.

The new hot thing in NBA analysis (at least within the blogosphere) is synergy data. It's simple, it's concise and it gives you just the right amount of context.

For example, you can look up how the Bobcats fared in isolation plays. 12% of their plays last season were spent on isolation and they scored 0.79 points per play which ranked 19th in the NBA. That's pretty cool, right?

Unfortunately, the data set is only available at, and the set-up on their website is terrible. It's borderline unusable. It's really slow and it's almost impossible to export the data. It's just a mess, really.

However, this information was just too good to pass up, so I've exported the data (team-by-team) and compiled them in a google spreadsheet. The spreadsheet features three tabs; play distribution, points scored per play on offense and points allowed per play on defense. Feel free to use and copy the data to your heart's content, just don't forget to accredit synergy stats for their diligence. 

With this data in mind, I wanted to answer the question; which NBA team runs the most unconventional offense?

I used the data from the play distribution tab and compared each team's play distribution to the distribution for the average NBA offense. I took the absolute value of each difference (ie: Charlotte's isolation = 12% minus NBA average 13.1% equals 1.1), and weighted each difference by standard deviation (some play usage is variable, others aren't). I then took the sum of each weighted difference across all play types. Here are the results:

Before I go on, I want to clarify that the x-axis measures "how different". It does not explain "why" or "where" the differences come from. When you see that San Antonio and Milwaukee are relatively equal in their differences, it does not mean that San Antonio and Milwaukee have similar offenses, it just means that they're equally different from the average NBA offense.

Having said that, the three most different offenses belong to Miami, Indiana and Houston. I've illustrated their differences in a bar diagram:

Let's touch on each team individually. Miami is weird because they feature a lot of isolation and they run a ridiculous amount of spot-ups while seldomly posting up. Their offense is obviously geared towards Lebron, Wade and Bosh drawing double teams and kicking it out to the open shooters at the three point line (Allen, Battier, Chalmers, Miller, etc). They also rarely post up, which might seem strange, but their post plays usually feature Lebron, Wade or Bosh, and there is a lot of passing out of the post (ie double teams) which results in possessions ending as spot-ups, rather than post-ups. 

Indiana is also strange, but for different reasons. They run very little isolation, spot-ups and the pick-and-roll ball handler rarely elects to shoot the ball. They prefer to run post-ups instead (#1 in NBA; usually for Roy Hibbert and David West). They also don't score very much in transition but that's probably a product of their snail-like pace (6th slowest in the league per NBA stats).

Finally, Houston is similar to the Heat. They run a tonne of spot-ups and isolation plays while rarely posting-up (Kevin McHale might be their best post-player, and he's the coach). They also really like to run in transition (2nd in the NBA) which could again be explained by their supersonic pace (1st in NBA per NBA stats).

My esteemed editor Shant asked me to look into the relationship between "unconventionality" and winning percentage after deftly noting that Houston, Indiana and Miami were pretty successful last season (okay, very successful for the Heat).

There was a slight correlation between win% and unconventionality but I'd caution against concluding anything from a dataset of 30 teams in one season. Nevertheless, the data is below:

So there you have it. The Heat, Pacers and Rockets have the most unconventional NBA offenses. Synergy data is pretty cool, right? Play around with it sometime.


A huge thank you to Synergy Stats for all the data used in this post

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Observations from Jonas Valanciunas vs. Serbia

Yesterday marked the start of Eurobasket 2013 (otherwise known as the one thing hardcore basketball fans cling to during this god-awful offseason). Right off the bat, Finland pulled off a huge upset against Turkey (boasting Asik, Ilyasova, Turkoglu) and Spain dominated, if not coasted, to an easy victory against Croatia.

But you don't care about any of that. What you're interested in is how Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania fared against the Serbians (63-58 Serbia).

Monday, September 2, 2013

Rosterbation: Potential Trade Destinations for Kyle Lowry

"If I get traded, that means I can rock this outfit for a second time...score!"

I'm a huge fan of Kyle Lowry.

I love the way he plays the game; he's fearless, he's tenacious, and he's the blue-collar type of player that should hold dominion over the hearts of every Toronto sports fan.

On the court, Lowry gives you both style AND substance. I was going to plaster this page with advanced stats, but let me just present three; Lowry was a top-11 passer (by assist rate), top-5 in charges taken and the best rebounding point guard in the NBA (by total rebound rate). Not bad for 6.2 million dollars per year, right?

The troubles with Lowry lay off the court. His stubborn personality (read: dickish) has rubbed multiple coaches the wrong way (both with McHale and now Casey). He's also a bit injury-prone. Worst of all, his team-friendly deal is coming to an end after this season.

Nevertheless, Lowry will have a big say in the fortunes of the 2013-2014 Toronto Raptors. If he manages to stay healthy, and is able to hold down the starting point guard spot (read: prevent Augustin from seeing the floor), he will significantly help the Raptors.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Toronto's Bench: A Cluttered Tool-Box

"Why are we wasting our careers playing with these shitbags?"

The NBA regular season is long. No team escapes the brutal wear-and-tear of the 82-game schedule without sustaining an injury to one of their starters. When this (invariably) happens, bench guys are thrust into unfamiliar roles and called upon to replace the production of the missing starter. Depth is important, especially in the regular season.

Unfortunately, the Raptors have no real depth.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ujiri's Front-Office Acquisitions

"How many guys do I want to hire? This many"

Reigning GM of the year Masai Ujiri is undoubtedly the biggest addition to the Raptors this offseason. This is already starting to pay dividend for the Raptors; he was able to orchestrate the best subtraction of the entire NBA offseason (Bargnani leaving for picks + filler). His resume precedes him; you can read about it here.

However, lost amiss the exuberance and excitement was the three main front office hires he made. Ujiri hired his former director of scouting Dan Tolzman. Ujiri also hired Bobby Webster to become the Raptors new vice president, and to consult on basketball management and strategy. Finally, Ujiri hired former Bucks assistant GM Jeff Weltman to become the Raptors assistant GM. Got all that?

I'll touch on each newcomer, and offer some insight into how they'll affect the Raptors going forward. Hey, the NBA offseason is slooooow.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Trade Idea: Rudy Gay for Ersan Ilyasova

I don't have the money to pay for a Getty Images account. Your donation is welcome.

The amount of (digital) ink I've spilled on Rudy Gay's behalf could...well it could fill up a niche basketball blog (like this one!). In the process, I've made myself pretty clear (here's a refresher) on where I stand with the 6'9 small forward; I think he's a bad fit, and if possible, the Raptors should trade him.

I strongly advise you to read the posts I've linked to above, but if you really can't be bothered, I'll recap my list of grievances. 

Gay produces at a league-average rate. He is extremely pricey (19 million this season, player option for 19 million for the following season), and was probably paid on the basis of his semi-gaudy raw per-game stats. However, his raw numbers are likely inflated by the volume of his minutes played and usage rate, both of which are astronomical. The problem extends beyond his price (which is universally renounced as egregious); he's just not that good. He's league average.

If you get beyond his price and his production, he's still a bad fit for the current starting five. His talents overlap with Derozan's (his talents actually include all of Derozan's), and their collective lack of efficient outside shooting grinds the offense to a halt. Again, just read my posts; it details the problem much more thoroughly than I do here. 

So there's a problem; Gay's not that good, and his talents don't mix with the rest of the staff. What should the Raptors do?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Even More Tanking: When Should You Tank?

"Here's your expensive cup of pretension, sir"

Just a quickie today (on tanking, because the conversation just never dies). I've argued pretty staunchly against tanking, especially for this year's iteration of the Toronto Raptors. However, that's not to say that tanking is a bad idea absolutely; there are instances where I think tanking is warranted. It's a matter of marginal benefits.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I'm Published...Again?!?!? Evaluating the Most Valuable Fanbase (Squeeze the Orange)

Hey readers!

You might have noticed that things have slowed down a bit around here. That's because I've been writing frantically for other websites. I'm excited to announce that I've been invited to become a contributor to Squeeze the Orange. Don't know the name? You will shortly; we are your one-stop-shop for quality analysis on the NBA.

My first post over at "STO" was regarding the most valuable fanbase in the NBA. If you're curious as to how the Raptors fanbase (us) fared, check it out here:

Anyway, I'll certainly still keep posting here on Both Teams Played Hard. I've got a lot to say about the Toronto Raptors, and more importantly, I've got way too much love for y'all. Keep coming back to check out my work, but also follow me around the internet as my stuff appears on other (read: better) websites. I appreciate every view and every comment.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, August 16, 2013

More Tanking: Reason #104802 Why It's a Bad Idea

It's all in the math, kids. You should have paid more attention in Data Management

The tanking issue has been talked to death this offseason, so the obvious move was for me to spill more ink over this much-maligned strategy. I'll spare you the rehashing of arguments; you can read up on the anti and pro arguments (as they pertain to the Raptors) on your own time. 


If you want the Raptors to tank this're probably an idiot. I don't say that to insult your intelligence. It's just that the strategy of tanking is pretty stupid, and it's especially stupid for this year's version of the Toronto Raptors.

But fine, let's say you want to tank. Let's say you want to intentionally make the team really bad to land some ping-pong balls. How bad do you have to be, and how many ping-pong balls would you get?

Let's evaluate (skip to the jump!)