The Suns topped the Spurs in points, blocks, and rebounds in their preseason opener on Monday night, but there is one other stat to keep an eye on as the season unfolds.
“We have a high-five stat,” Head Coach Earl Watson said following the 91-86 victory. “I’m being honest with you. This is true. So we want to keep track of how many high-fives we get per game to each other.”
Although this might make basketball analytic experts scoff, there is actually some science behind the theory.
Dacher Keltner, Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley, in 2015 took one game of every NBA team at the start of the year and coded all of the fist bumps, embraces and high fives.
“Controlling for how much money they’re making, the expectations that they would do well during that season, how well they were doing in that game,” Keltner said. “Not only did they win more games but there’s really nice basketball statistics of how selfless the play is.”
Keltner found that the teams that made more contact with each other were helping out more on defense, setting more screens, and overall playing more efficiently and cooperatively.
This, of course, aligns with Watson’s philosophy of preaching trust, family and selflessness to his team. When asked about Dudley and Chandler’s morale-boosting high-fives on Monday, the first-year coach said “I’ll let them know you said they led the team in high-fives.”