The New Way?

Andrew Smith sent me a great article about Dean Oliver, a coach of a different sort for the DenverNuggets. Let me preface this by saying that I don’t subscribe to the fact that the game is a math equation, at the end of the day coaches still have to teach the game, but it never hurts to be ahead of the curve. Sure, Chauncey Billups helps, as does Carmelo, but they did manage well over 50 wins.

“…At a recent breakfast, Oliver opened his Dell, and on the screen were statistics as scrambled as his eggs.

“This ain’t points and rebounds, huh?” an onlooker asked.

“Nooooooo,” Oliver said with emphasis.

It was his personal breakdown of North Carolina’s team last season, first ranking individual offensive efficiency. What’s that?

“It’s how many points per 100 possessions did the player use, in order to create points,” he said. Field goals count, as do turnovers and free throws.

“So, you have to count the opportunities that it takes to create those,” he explained. “This is their efficiency in doing that, in creating points. Ty created 139 points per 100 possessions that he used — any factor of creating points. That is a huge number.”

Next was “individual defensive efficiency per 100 possessions,” in which “we estimate how often he forced his guy into a bad shot, or how many turnovers he created,” Oliver said. He also liked Lawson’s numbers there.

After that, there were columns dissecting a player’s scoring possessions, total possessions, points produced, percentage of the team offense a player is responsible for and, finally, defensive stops (how many times he was part of stopping the opponent). As Oliver often says, the stats see every game, and the Nuggets were pleased with what the stats saw when they looked at Lawson.

Oliver, who will do some college scouting for the Nuggets this season, also used “pure point rating” — which Warkentien believes is a stronger gauge of a point guard than assist-to-turnover ratio, if only because a turnover is arguably more harmful than an assist is helpful, so why should they be equal?

“It’s how much are you creating for your teammates, versus screwing up,” Oliver said of pure point rating, and sure enough, Lawson’s pure point rating ranked historically among the best in NCAA history.

“The numbers on Lawson absolutely reinforced our eyes and ears,” Warkentien said.

Asked if Lawson, the 18th overall pick, should have gone higher in the draft, Oliver could only smile and say, “I don’t care — we got him.” More.