Control Freaks

As part of a discussion in the comments to an open thread at Pickin’ Splinters, I offered up my quick opinion on the Lakers’ 4-game mini losing streak:

For the Lakers, I think their mini losing streak is tied to a decline in the balance of their offense. On the season Kobe has been averaging 21.1 shots per game. Over their four game losing streak he has been averaging 25.8 shots per game. He is a terrific individual scorer but he is not incredibly efficient and when he goes into that mode it makes defensive decisions way easier to make for the opponents. Over the past three season the Lakers are 135-48 for a winning percentage of 0.737. Over that same stretch there have been 45 games in which Kobe took more than 25 shots. The Lakers are 24-21 in those games for a winning percentage of 0.533. The Lakers are at the best when they spread the ball around, keeping Gasol and Odom involved. Things will certainly even out for them and their is no reason to think they won’t still be among the 3 or 4 best teams by the end of the season.

Out of curiousity, I used Basketball-Reference’s Play Index to find some context for the idea of player’s shooting taking a lot of shots but still losing. I started by looking for games in which a player took 25 or more shot attempts but their team lost the game. I expected to find Kobe at the top of the list, but was surprised to find him topped by someone I never expected. This same player also tops Kobe in the list of most games lost by their team whan a player scored 35 or more points.

Now obviously I am just looking at total losses, not win percentage. If you compare that to wins for each category you can come up with a win percentage. Kobe has a career 0.535 win percentage in games where he takes more than 25 shots. The win percentage jumps to 0.638 if we just go by games where he scored more than 35 points. The player who topped Kobe on both lists had a 0.635 win percentage in games where took more than 25 shots and a 0.728 win percentage in games where he scored more than 35 points.

For a more comprehensive and current analysis in this same area, check out Andres Alvarez’s post from today, Taking Control and Possibly Winning Games. Andres used Wins Produced to measure the effectiveness of 10 players last season in games where they had a Usage Rate above 33%. Spoiler alert: the two players who produced the most wins last season in high usage situations play on the same team this year, the Miami Heat.


Filed under NBA, Statistical Analysis

8 responses to “Control Freaks

  1. JJ33

    As a guy dealing with probabilities I usually don’t put to much emphasis into shorter streaks since “they are bound to happen”. If we look at the Lakers losing streak in a context of several seasons it’s not as unlikely as people like to believe. Was it 4 seasons or something since their last 4 game losing streak?

    Consider this, if we pretend Lakers is a 65 win team the probability of them losing a random game is 17/82. The probability of them losing 4 games in a row is (17/82)^4, indeed a very low number but if we look at the probability of them losing 4 games in a row somewhere during the 4 seasons it’s a different story. In fact it is above 38 percentage and this by playing 65 win basketball. (for people who doesn’t enjoy fibonacci calculations, a online streak calculator!

    This is by no means directed at your post, I’ve been reading so much about what is wrong with the Lakers etc áround the web and nowhere have I seen the word randomness written. People love to find explanations for everything and seem to forget the power of randomness. I’m not saying one is supposed to explain everything with randomness but it is always wise to have it in your mind.

    Sorry for the messy post.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. I agree there is a largely quantifiable amount of randomness inherent in winning and losing streaks. I certainly don’t think this 4 game losing streak is indicative of a larger trend in the Lakers potential record or ability.

      There is certainly a movement to assign a simple and easy explanation to a losing streak. I guess I sort of think of the term “randomness” in this context as a way of acknowledging that there are a myriad of factors known and unknown, measureable and unmeasureable which affect a team’s wins and losses. I was just trying to offer the idea that the team’s shot distribution was one factor which seems to correlate with their win percentage fairly well and which had changed recently as had their winning percentage.

      I agree with you that it is certainly not a comprehensive explanation and is definitely not the only reason they lost 4 games in a row, but I do believe it might have played a role.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  2. JJ33

    Yeah, I didn’t mean to come down on your post. I found it interesting and it certainly has its merits. My post could just as well been posted under any random (no pun intended) analysis around the web. It was seeing a streak mentioned that triggered me, not the post itself.

    And thank you for blogging. I have your blog in my Google Reader so I read all of your posts and enjoy them! Keep up the good job.

    • I’m glad you’ve been enjoying my writing. Just so you know I wasn’t offended in the least by your intitial comment. I am still pretty new to writing about basketball and have a ton to learn. I have almost no formal background with statistics or higher level math so most of my knowledge in this area has been gained from reading other people’s writing. I make mistakes frequently and I look at every comment with a different viewpoint, or a suggestion on a different angle to take on a subject, as a way from me to learn and get better at what I am doing. I am happy to hear from anyone with an opinion on my writing, positive or negative. Thanks again for reading and for the discussion!

  3. Fred Bush

    How many of those losing games were from unnamed player’s final two years at unnamed terrible team?

    • I forgot about those two seasons. Selective memory loss I guess. He had 15 losses in those two seasons with 25 FGA or more. 4 losses in those two seasons with 35 points or more. Looks like he had a few games taking and missing a ton of shots.

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