Nylon Calculus 101 is TNC’s ongoing effort to provide a syllabus for learning the analytic approach to the game of basketball as well as a reference for terms, concepts and topics within the field of basketball analytics. It will likely never been “complete” because analysis never stops.
Evaluating NBA players using advanced stats can be challenging at times. Not only is it important to know what any given metric indicates, but it is vital to have a relative understanding of the competition as well. It could take hours of diving deep into statistical databases to attain the necessary understanding of league-wide production for each category. Without this experience, a 58.0 percent true shooting or a 24.5 percent usage are quite meaningless.
To help alleviate some of the pain in trying to contextualize advanced analytics in terms of their comparison with other players, I have made the tables below. Each player has been sorted by their most-used position in the 2015-16 NBA season according to Nylon Calculus’ positional estimates. Then, each metric is sorted into percentiles indicated at the top of each chart. By using these percentile benchmarks, it’s easy to see where a player falls in terms of their position. Of course, there are some factors (like offensive role) that are not taken into account here, but these tables can still be helpful in getting a quick overview of each position.
For example, let’s take a look at Russell Westbrook. Last season, Westbrook posted a usage of 31.6 percent. Looking at the percentile tables below, his usage was more than nearly every other point guard in the league. Additionally, Westbrook is often criticized for inefficiency, but his 55.4 percent true shooting last season falls just outside of the 80th percentile amongst point guards.
Along with usage and efficiency, these tables can be helpful in determining how well a player rebounds. Rebounds per game numbers can be skewed by factors like how well a team defends and the team’s pace of play, while defensive rebound percentage is an advanced statistic that isn’t affected by these factors. Defensive rebound percentage instead takes into account the percentage of available defensive rebounds that a player grabs while on the floor. This percentage is much more telling than raw rebounding numbers, but one must be familiar with the metric before it can be used effectively. For example, we can see just how low Jahlil Okafor’s defensive rebound percentage (17.8 percent) was last season compared to his counterparts at center.
Qualifier: >500 MP (2015-16 NBA Season)
(Statistics taken from Basketball-Reference and NBA.com/Stats)