The analytics arms race is in full force in the NBA, with each of the league’s 30 teams in perpetual pursuit of a new angle to further aide in the understanding of each player’s role on the court.
This year, that new angle is from above, where SportVU cameras have been installed into every NBA arena for the first time ever, providing complete player tracking data that’s never been previously available. As we touched on earlier this season, the Warriors are aiming to be at the forefront of taking advantage of this data. And we also want to share some of it with you, the fans, to give you a new perspective of the game.
In addition to giving you a look at information that isn’t readily available to the public, we’ll be periodically investigating all of the new player tracking data available on NBA.com/Stats. And with nearly a quarter of the season in the books, we thought it’d be a good time to take a look at where the highest scoring backcourt in the NBA—Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry—figured into the analytic equation.
Check out a few of the categories in which the Splash Brothers have impressed, according to the new eye in the sky.
POINTS PER TOUCH
The number of points a player scores per times they possessed the ball
We’ll lead off with an interesting nugget: Thompson is tied for the lead league with a points per touch average of 0.51. In other words, it’s worth a half point every time he touches the ball in the course of a game. Among players who have logged at least 50 minutes, only he and Brook Lopez are averaging over a half a point per touch.
CATCH AND SHOOT POINTS
Any jump shot outside of 10 feet where a player possessed the ball for two seconds or less and took no dribbles
Sometimes one stat explains another. That crazy points per touch figure from above? Could have something to do with Thompson’s ability to catch and shoot in a millisecond. Thompson leads the league in total points off the catch and shoot (186), an average of 10.3 points per game (nearly half of his 21.3 points per game). In fact, 6.1 of Thompson’s 7.5 three-point attempts per game come via this quick release method.
DISTANCE TRAVELED (TOTAL MILES)
The total distance in miles that a player covered while on the court
Just because Thompson leads the league in catch and shoot points, don’t get the impression that he’s standing in one spot waiting for the ball all game. He leads the team with average of 2.7 miles traveled per game and has totaled 47.8 miles on the pedometer so far this season, which is the eighth most in the league. After the team’s upcoming three-game road trip, he’ll likely have traveled a distance equivalent to more than two full marathons.
PULL UP SHOTS
Any jump shot outside 10 feet where a player took one or more dribbles before shooting
As for Curry, he shines on pull up shots, leading the league with 13.4 points in this fashion—over three points per game more than the next best mark of 10.2, belonging to Chris Paul (10.2 points). Curry takes an astonishing 14.5 pull up shots per game, which means only three of his 17.5 field goal attempts in a given contest come in a different manner.
TIME OF POSSESSION
The total number of times a player possesses the ball per game in minutes
Sports fans are used to seeing this stat on the football field, so on an individual scale it makes sense that the point guard, the quarterback of the offense, should be the one with the ball in his hands the most. For Curry, it amounts to 6.6 minutes per game, the sixth highest figure in the league.
Quantity of passes made by a player to the player who earned an assist on a made shot
Curry has tallied 1.7 secondary assists (10th most), better known as hockey assists, which, combined with his 8.8 assists the old fashioned way (third best in the NBA), makes him either the primary or secondary passer on 10.5 assists per game.
POINTS CREATED BY ASSISTS
Points created by a player or team through their assists
Curry’s career-high 8.8 assists represent an impressive figure, but it’s easier to visualize in terms of the amount of points those assists create. In Curry’s case, that’s nearly 20 points per game (19.9). Combined with his team-best 22.6 points per tilt, Curry accounts for an average of 42.5 of Golden State’s 103.4 points per game, or 41 percent of the team’s total offense.
As advanced metrics and analytics continue to play an increased role in the NBA, it’s easier than ever to pinpoint “the little things” that make individual players—such as Thompson and Curry—who they are. At the very least, all this new data serves to further confirm something we already know: these guys are pretty good.