Sabermetrics hasn't quite yet revolutionized the way we watch basketball as it has done with baseball, but the last five or so years has seen statistical analysis become steadily more ingrained in the hoops community. Usage rate and efficiency per 100 possessions have become expected pillars of knowledge for enlightened NBA heads, while Ken Pomeroy's tempo-based stats have proved essential for college basketball junkies. John Hollinger's PER remains the biggest fish in the statistical pond, though.
PER (Player Efficiency Rating) was once seen as a divisive and highly polarizing measurement, but those days now appear to be over. While any statistic that attempts to capture everything in just one number is bound to have obvious flaws, PER is generally accepted these days as a resource, not a be-all-end-all. Because of its creator's prestigious platform, it's likely the one advanced basketball statistic non die-hard fans are familiar with. Still, there's plenty of other people creating and fine tuning similar measurements to get a better handle on player performance in the NBA.
Basketball lacks its Bill James figure, but that doesn't mean teams are foolish enough to base everything off the thoroughly incomplete box scores you can find in the back of a daily newspaper. The truth is that NBA teams -- the smart ones, anyways -- have been investing in ways to better understand what's happening on the court for many years.
A friend pointed me to a Cubs message board that linked to Harvey Pollack’s 2010-11 NBA Statistical Yearbook. It includes two pages (found on pages 82-83) of an entirely unique player efficiency stat created by Thibodeau. Here's how it works:
A system created by Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls Head Coach, calculates the efficiency of NBA players, and it’s done via player positions. The formula is field goals made doubled minus field goals missed plus free throws made minus free throws missed times .5 plus 3-pt. field goals times three minus 3-pt. field goals missed times 1.5 plus rebounds and assists minus personal fouls plus steals minus turnovers plus blocks. The final total is divided by the minutes played.
The ratings in Pollack's yearbook are for the 2009-2010 season, when Thibodeau was the Boston Celtics' top assistant and Derrick Rose led a valiant but doomed Bulls team against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs. James was the league MVP that season, so it's no surprise to see him finish atop Thibodeau's rating system with a score of 77.75.
The forum poster who found the link went through the trouble of calculating the stat for last season. Here's what he found:
So, because I was really curious, I calculated Thibs-PER for 2010-11...and the results were really interesting...
Top 10 by T-PER:
1. Kevin Love 74.76
2. Dwight Howard 72.39
3. LeBron James 67.86
4. Tim Duncan 64.77
5. Pau Gasol 63.12
6. Blake Griffin 63.08
7. Dirk Nowitzki 61.74
8. Zach Randolph 61.25
9. Kevin Garnett 60.36
10. Andrew Bynum 59.50
Thibodeau's attention to detail and obsession with the game is reminiscent of that of an NFL coach, so perhaps it's not too surprising to learn he's went through the trouble to create his own statistic. It's just another feather in the cap for Thibodeau, who's quickly establishing himself as one of the brightest basketball minds around.
Ricky O'Donnell is a writer and editor in Chicago and the founder of the Chicago sports blog Tremendous Upside Potential. He is always very much available for hire. Follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.