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Points Off Turnovers vs Steals vs Fast Break Points

27 Nov

Lockout is finally over [yeah!] so next NBA season is going to start soon [yay!] and we’ll have a brand new batch of numbers to build narratives around so I think now is the time to tie together some old loose ends.

Like this one… before the break on this blog I published points scored off turnovers in the NBA in the last three years not only because it’s a fringe statistic which wasn’t easily available but also I was curious about the answers to three related questions:

1) How strong is a link between fast break points and those which come off turnovers?
2) Are team’s steals and point scored off turnovers closely tied together?
3) Do Pts Off Turnovers tell us more about team’s offense or opponents’ defense?

Obviously data about points scored off turnovers in the last 3 years comes from my blog via ESPN’s boxscores but information about the fast break points was found at teamrankings.com while all other teams’ statistics beside turnovers are from basketball-reference.com.

BTW, I have no idea whenever aforementioned questions actually represent a common wisdom but it sure feels like it to me [although there’s a possibility I made that up some day just to be able to focus on such obscure topic] so let’s check validity of those claims.

1) How strong is a link between fast break points and points scored off turnovers?
That’s probably a really personal question which focuses mostly on definitions but somehow instinctively I always confused those terms even though not every turnover leads to a fast break [for example offensive foul] and not every fast break starts with a turnover [for example outlet pass after rebound].

To stop and/or confirm that confusion I calculated correlation coefficient between those two variables and the result for the last 3 seasons is… 0,456. So there’s some common ground there but rather weak one.
So I can finally move on… to the next question ;-)

2) Are team’s steals and point scored off turnovers closely tied together?
In one of many random discussions about basketball a friend of mine once made an argument that steals are really underrated because of the value they create at the offensive end – he argued that it’s not only a gain of a possession but more importantly it usually leads to easy points at the other end.
And frankly I didn’t have any really good comeback for that – if it’s true then it would be a great observation but if it isn’t true it would a bullshit as usual… I’m just kidding here ;-)

Back to the point, correlation coefficient between steals per game and fast break points per game in the last 3 years is 0,455 [I also checked last 5 years and in the bigger sample it’s slightly lower] so such first test would suggest he was probably wrong but when I checked correlation coefficient between points scored off turnovers per game and steals per game it was a strong one – coefficient of determination around 70%.

So fortunately for my curiosity but unfortunately for my free time it means I have to dig in into play-by-play to calculate how effective are those points after turnovers and/or steals but that’s a project for another time ;-)

3) Do Pts Off Turnovers tell us more about team’s offense or opponents’ defense?
It may be a stretch but by accident isn’t it also a question:
which is more important, avoiding TOs or getting back on defense?
In both cases the answer is… the latter.
In the last 3 years only 5% of team’s offensive rating can be explained by points scored off turnovers but 24% of team’s defensive rating can be explained by points scored off turnovers by the opponent.

There you go, another useless fact you needed to know and that’s all for a short & random post of the week ;-)
I promise next post will be longer, more interesting and it will have way more in common with a real world ;-)

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Posted by on November 27, 2011 in Expanding Horizons

 

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