Thursday, March 13, 2014

The 8th man starters - Part I

Nate Who!?
Nate Wolters (22.3 minutes per game). This is my personal answer to the fun game 'go to sort players by minutes per game and name the first one for whom you have no clue which position he plays' (Fun is a loose term here, but it could be a nice game between basketball nerds. Just like limbo it's about who gets the lowest). Well, being a Buck probably doesn't help with getting recognition.
But it is a nice start to my question: 'If you had to pick five 8th men to form a team - who would you pick?' or to put it differently 'Which five players could start for the 76ers?'. To find something like an answer, I will use data from and collected on 7th of March 2014. To be 8th man eligible, a player had to play 12 to 24 minutes and in at least 30 games. I will mostly use percentages or Per36 values and will give data of Starters (at least 30 minutes per game) as benchmarks.
To make my life easier and because positions are becoming more and more vague in any case, I will pick my team as one Point Guard, two Wings and two Bigs. There are two great stats on that - normalized by minutes - can be directly used as a filter to automatically divide my players into those three groups: One being time of ball possession and the other defended opponent field goal attempts at the rim. Plotting those two stats against each other we can easily see how we have to set the threshold for each group. By overlapping those thresholds a bit, we assure that we don't miss out on anybody.
(click to enlarge)
Having set those rules, we can now start by finding a floor general for our team.1
Point Guard
One of the most important skills for a point guard is to be able to create opportunities 'off the dribble'. Which means he should either be able create points by 'taking it to the hole' or by 'pulling up'. Furthermore, he should provide a 'bunch of dimes', while at the same time 'take care of the rock' - I guess I just fulfilled my hardcore NBA metaphor quota for the day.
The following three graphs provide info about all candidates for these stats. (Note: I know that you cannot see anything on them like that. Just open them in a new window...)
Turnovers vs Assists
As a short summary:
Turnovers vs Assists: The best position of the graph is the upper left corner (just like Chris Paul). Unfortunately, most players are rather on the same diagonal. From this graph, you would probably pick Barea, Greivis 'Biscuits' Vasquez, Shelvin Mack - or simply anybody not named Diante Garrett.
Drives per game vs Drive Efficency: A drive is generally a very effective shot (your team produces on average something between 1.1 and 1.2 points per drive2), so any player that drives a lot is probably a good player. Once again, we have Barea and Mack at the front of things.
Drives per game vs Drive Efficency
Interesting note: For assists and turnovers the Starters background differed heavily from the eight man data. But for drives the points scored are not so different. Only players that got it all like Parker, Lawson and Ellis are slightly standing out).
Attempted pull ups vs pull Up eFG%: Speaking of standing out - Stephen Curry! From our group of eight man, I would probably pick Mills (who had a phenomenal run as substitute for the injured Parker), Jordan Farmar, Brian Roberts - or once again José Juan. Prigioni disqualifies, because he simply doesn't take enough Pull Ups.

Attempted Pull up shots vs Pull Up eFG%
Well, that's it for right now, my real job calls me back! Let me know which player you would prefer, my dear non-existant reader. I'll try to talk about the wings as soon as possible.

1 Yes WE can! Let me know which player you would pick or if you would include other stats. Or why else I am a complete idiot ;)
2 Personal rule of thumb by looking at the stats from

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