When ESPN debuted RPM last week, I have to admit my first reaction was classic hipster: I've been down with APM models since before they were cool (though, as I'll get into later, I'm not a huge fan of any "one number" metric). That bit of churlishness aside, I want to join the echoing chorus of those lauding ESPN for taking the plunge into the world of non-box score evaluation and especially into giving defense its due.
Realized it's been a month or so since I last updated the Isolated Rim Protection Metric, so reran the numbers through games of Saturday, March 22. Google doc with the results is here. Nothing terribly surprising in this iteration. Roy Hibbert still crushes the rest of the league in this measure. Robin Lopez continues to show up surprisingly well (2nd in per game value), even though Portland has given up large numbers of paint points all year.
Mid-Season Updates to Rim Protection and True Usage Stats (SportVU aided)
As you might have noticed, NBA.COM now includes (some) SportVU player tracking data in each game's box score (e.g.). I'll have a longer piece soon on using and interpreting this box score level data. But, now that we're at the All-Star Break, now seems like a natural time to update the Isolated Rim Protection and TrueUsage/TrueTurnover Rate metrics I've been looking at all season.
Over the last month-plus, Kevin Durant has quickly changed the conversation from "maybe LeBron James isn't the MVP for this season" to "maybe LeBron isn't the best player anymore?" While I'm not ready to countenance the latter question, the former is, barring injury, plague or LeBron tiring of this talk and showing us mortals what's what, settled. KD's last month or so has sealed it. He has done so by not only using up basically all the possessions formerly the purview of Russell Westbrook, but using them at an incredible rate of efficiency.
One of the biggest issues with theIsolated Rim Protection metric has been been adjusting for shot "deterrence" and pace. Basically, from the defensive perspective, the best shot at the rim is the one not taken at all. And while I had accounted for this previously with a team adjustment, that was fairly blunt, as it is clear as day that there is a great difference in the intimidation factor presented by a Dwight Howard and by his current backup Donatas Motiejunas .
Related to the piece I had up on ClipperBlog yesterday (thanks to Andrew Han for running it), I recalculated "Isolated Rim Protection" values up through games of Monday the 20th. Based on a suggestion from Rob, I ran the whole league, not just big men, though obviously "rim protection" is a far less important stat for wings and guards than for bigs. But, looking at the whole league (well, players who had played at least 20 games and at least 10 minutes per game) reveals the contribution each "position" on the floor tends to have in protecting the paint:
I've been noodling around some more with the data from my look at total offensive load (still would LOVE a better name for the stat, suggestions please. EDIT: Colin suggests "True Usage" done and done), and seeing if there are some interesting tidbits to be gleaned. I mentioned a few of them in that post, but here are a few more. Further, I cleaned up the numbers a little (stupid spreadsheet errors!). All data is through Monday's (1/6/14) games.
I'm pretty happy with the way the "isolated rim protection" analysis I've been noodling with works as a broad measure of that particular area of defensive achievement. It also translates NBA.com's SportVU numbers into a more easily digestible data point. Most of the numbers are interesting, but without context don't really explain whether the actions tracked are good, or indifferent as far as positive contributions on the floor. For that reason, I've been on the lookout for more ways to try and interpret the publicly available data, perhaps in combination with other, more traditional stats to provide that context. One area where I think this is possible is "offensive load carried."
Continued Thoughts on Rim Protection in Isolation (more numbers)
It's been two weeks since I first used SportVU data to try and isolate "rim protection value" provided by various NBA bigs. I want to revisit this periodically to see how it holds up over the course of the season. Has anyone improved or regressed greatly, and do these changes mean anything? Certainly teams have gone on streaks, which usually entails "an improved commitment to defense", or so we're usually told.