Outside the Box

Turns out a player's scoring average isn't the big key to a win

If you're still judging teams and players by what you see in a box score, chances are a large part of what you think you know is wrong. You might as well crack open a 19th-century textbook and proclaim that you've got this whole science thing figured out. If you really want to know basketball, put aside your prehistoric notions of a player's scoring average and check your ego at the door. Professor Daryl Morey is about to teach Basketball 101. Class is in session.

"The big thing is rigorously tying every decision back to wins," says Morey, "since winning is obviously most important."

Then it's all about breaking things down to the four components which create wins. They are as follows:

• Effective field goal percentage, which is far and away the most important factor in determining wins. "Basically, it's the percentage you've made on your shots if everything was a two-point shot," explains Morey. "The easiest way I describe it is: two for six from three-point land is equivalent to three for six from two, because in both instances, you get six points."

• Turnovers

• Rebounding

• Free throws

Those are the elements involved in winning basketball games. From there, Morey and his staff break things down even further, asking questions like, "How did the rebound happen? Was it good positioning? Was it because we have a scheme that doesn't take us back in transition? You're isolating down each level on all the types because it all ties back to wins and what things have predictive power going forward. Because even if you perfectly figure out who helped you win in the past, it doesn't mean that's going to help you predict who will in the future, and that's really the goal."

 
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