North by East/West: A Statistical Question

North by East/West: A Statistical Question

Tonight, I have an assignment for all those geeky enough to take it. While everyone else is eating wings and nachos, take out your pen and a piece a paper and chart one thing from the championship game tonight.

Ok, not just one thing, chart this specific thing.

There are really only two directions that basketball actions can go – North/South and East/West (sure, I suppose a player can lazily drive Northwest, but bear with me). Every pass on the perimeter, dribble along the perimeter, skip pass, etc. that moves the ball around the goal is East/West. Every penetration dribble, post feed, give and go, etc. that attacks the basket is North/South.

On each possession, count how many E/W actions are made and how many N/S actions are made. Then, chart whether a basket was made or missed.

So, your chart may look like this: 4 E/W, 2 N/S, basket; or 1 E/W, 0 N/S, no basket.

Rick and I tried this a bit on Saturday night and our hunch is that there is a correlation between the number of N/S attacks in each possession and made baskets. Essentially, we think, the higher the N/S count, the higher the shooting percentage.

That’s just speculation, which is why you should do this exercise and see for yourself.

Are you emphasizing N/S actions enough in practice? Maybe, maybe not. We just thought it would be an interesting study. If nothing else it will demonstrate (sadly, in my opinion) how unfocused the attacks are of even the most skilled teams in basketball.

And, come on, you can eat your wings at the commercial breaks. I’m sure they’ll be plenty of them.


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