Basketball Stat Cherry Picking

Deep into the NBA playoffs, we are graced with stats-o-plenty before, during, and after every game. Some of the numbers are informative. Most of them are randomly used to illustrate a commentator’s point.

One of the most common stats is the conditional that says something like, “When player X scores at least Y points, the team wins 90 percent of their games.” It implies a cause-and-effect relationship.

The Cleveland Cavaliers won the most games when LeBron James scored 30 or more points. So James should just score that many points every time. Easy. I should be a coach.

It’s a bit of stat cherry picking, trying to find something in common among games won. So to make things easier, and for you to wow your friends during the games, I compiled winning percentages for several stats during the 2017-18 regular season. Select among the star players still in the playoffs.

We can do better than that though. Let’s consider two stats at a time for the same group of players. The Cavaliers are at their best when James takes a bunch of three-pointers and has a lot of assists. Like I said before, easy.

In the chart below, color represents the percentage increase or decrease relative to the overall win percentage. More blue means relatively more wins. More orange means relatively fewer wins.

I kid, but this view actually gives a sense of player roles and importance of a player to his team.

For example, Stephen Curry from the Golden State Warriors missed a lot of games this season, so you’re seeing his team’s win percentage improve when he did play. In contrast, Klay Thompson, also on the Warriors, serves a more focused role, and a high foul count is a good indicator of tough games. You can see similar patterns with the Boston Celtics players, as the team is without two of their star players.

At the end of the day though, I think it’s all about scoring more points than the other team. That is how you can win. Play hard. Put in 1,000%. I should be a coach.

Notes

Chart Types Used

Bar Chart

The old standby. The classic. The bar height or length represents data. The baseline starts at zero.

Heatmap

Cells or bins are colored based on data. As with all visualization types that use color as the main visual encoding, choose shades carefully.

Become a member. Learn to visualize your data. Gain instant access to tutorials.

Join Today

Membership

This is for people who want to learn to make and design data graphics. Your support goes directly to FlowingData, an independently run site.

What You Get

  • Instant access to tutorials on how to make and design data graphics
  • Source code and files to use with your own data
  • In-depth courses on visualization in R
  • Hand-picked links and resources from around the web

Favorites

Shifting Incomes for American Jobs

For various occupations, the difference between the person who makes the most and the one who makes the least can be significant.

Where Bars Outnumber Grocery Stores

A closer look at the age old question of where there are more bars than grocery stores, and vice versa.

Best Data Visualization Projects of 2016

Here are my favorites for the year.

How You Will Die

So far we’ve seen when you will die and how other people tend to die. Now let’s put the two together to see how and when you will die, given your sex, race, and age.