A different look at basketball statistics

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By Larry Goffinet

Readers of my Nov. 26 column know I am not a big fan of new baseball statistics created by sabermetricians.
And generally I feel the same way about revised ways of looking at basketball statistics, though some of them can be helpful.
In the Pro Basketball Prospectus published each year by Bradford Doolittle and Kevin Pelton, instead of traditional statistics such as points and rebounds per game, they list the percentage of rebounds per game that each player hauls in.
That might not make much difference in the NBA, where every game is played with a 24-second shot clock.
It would be more useful in college basketball, where the shot clock is longer (35 seconds) and the number of shots taken in a game vary greatly from a team that runs Paul Westhead’s seven-seconds-or-less offense to one that runs a Princeton-type offense with a lot of passing and screening before a shot is taken near the end of the shot clock.
Judging players based on point and rebound percentages instead of totals would be even more useful in high school basketball, where there is no shot clock and some teams run and gun and others use many elements of the Princeton offense.
Perry Central’s girls basketball team falls more into the latter category, which makes center Ashley Graves’ statistics even more amazing.
Through 13 games this season, she is averaging 20.9 points and 15.5 rebounds per game.
A player’s field-goal percentage (number of shots she makes divided by the number of shots she attempts) should be the same in any statistical system, though the Pro Basketball Prospectus factors in the number of three-point shots a player takes to determine what it calls “true shooting percentage.”
Graves broke Perry Central’s girls basketball field-goal percentage record two years ago when she hit 60.7 percent for the season while shooting mostly inside.
This year she still shoots mostly inside but has extended her range to where she has taken six three-point shots and hit two of them. Yet she is still on pace to break her overall field-goal percentage record, having hit 63.3 percent so far this season.
No wonder several colleges have scouted her this season.
To me, though, the new approach to analyzing statistics comes in most handy with assists. They have been watered down so much in the last three decades that the statistic has begun to lose any meaning.
So I found it interesting that the Pro Basketball Prospectus included the leaders in percentage of assists that led to shots at the rim (dunks or layups), which many old-timers consider the only true assists.
Steve Nash, then with Phoenix, was the leader  in that department last year with 43.9 percent of his assists leading to such shots. Ricky Rubio of Minnesota was second at 42.7 percent.
That did not surprise me, since I consider them the top two passers in pro basketball.