The graphs are designed to give an overall view of a player in a single glance, based on their statistics from the regular season. It's interesting to see the differences between players, and in this series, the graphs especially give unexpected insights into one-on-one mismatches.
I'm going to skip over my technical methodology and cut right to the charts.
I'll start at point guard, since it's easily the least interesting matchup in this series, and then move up from there.
Neither Derek Fisher nor Rafer Alston is a presence that requires building a game plan around, but they can both do some damage when they get rolling. Here they are, graphed:
Alston is quicker than Fisher, too, which comes out mostly in his higher steal percentage (that seems unusual at first, but we're going to see it two more times as we go).
The area of both players' graphs is small, suggesting that neither player has been a real statistical producer this season.
The pick: I pick Alston to win this matchup because of his quickness, but it could go either way. Ultimately, I don't see the outcome of the series depending on success at the point guard position.
Kobe's graphed area completely encompasses Courtney Lee's, which will typically mean complete positional dominance. It's slightly deceptive in this case as Lee only started 41 games, but Lee is a rookie (you didn't remember that either? weird), and we can be pretty sure that this matchup will be unfair.
Take a look at how Lee's graph spikes out on steals. Memorize that shape as we take a look at small forwards.
The pick: Kobe.
This is a great matchup, and this is where the graphs become very useful in distinguishing player styles. Hedo Turkoglu and Trevor Ariza's graphs are very different for two players who supposedly play the same position.
- The steals are up, which I've found to correlate with quickness.
- The assists are down, suggesting that they're not passing first.
- Finally, field goal percentage is up, implying that they'll take it to the hole over settling for a jump shot.
Now, look at Turkoglu instead. His field goal percentage is lower, so he's probably taking more jump shots, and his assists are up so he's looking to pass. His charted shape is actually closest to Alston's, and it's true that Turkoglu plays more like a point than most small forwards (Ariza especially included).
Now, remember that these charts are descriptive, not proscriptive. They only reflect the players' statistical accomplishments over this season, and they do so mathematically.
The pick: Turkoglu wins this matchup, unless Ariza steps up—he has the tools to stop Turkoglu defensively, but Turk's not going to miss if Ariza has lapses on defense.
The power forward position is just as interesting as the small forward when graphed, because again we're dealing with pretty different players.
With Pau Gasol, however, we start to see the hallmarks of a big man. More blocks. More rebounds. And a blazing-high field goal percentage.
This matchup is interesting because Gasol will play the post (as he always does) and Lewis will hang out on the perimeter to cause problems (as he always does). Watch for Lewis and Turkoglu to try to pull Gasol and Ariza out to the perimeter, to open up the middle a bit for Howard to work one-on-one.
The pick: Gasol. I see Gasol using his height advantage and having good success against Lewis in the post. He'd better, if the Lakers are hoping to take home the trophy.
We've always said that Andrew Bynum is the embryo of Dwight Howard. He's an athletic, physical center, with the ability to physically dominate the middle—he's just not as far along as Superman. Nowhere do we see this more clearly than in their graphs.
Most important to note, though, is that Bynum's graph closely resembles Howard's in shape, suggesting they play similar styles. The difference, however, is obvious—Howard's swallows up Bynum's, as we might expect Howard to swallow up Bynum in the paint.
Howard's graph is an anomaly. Look at that area; it's bigger than Kobe's. While these graphs don't reflect leadership, or clutch shooting, or any of those unmeasurable qualities that Kobe overflows with, you can't deny Howard's performance over this past season. At least from a statistical sense.
The pick: You have to pick Howard.
I'm not going to chart the bench players, but it's worth giving a nod to these guys—especially since both teams have such strong benches.
Orlando should get quality minutes from Mickael Pietrus, and Marcin Gortat has done a great job when Dwight is sitting.
Los Angeles has Lamar Odom, and often its success depends on him having a big game. The backup point guards, Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown, can also expect to get plenty of action.
The pick: It all depends on Odom—but he has been so inconsistent that I just can't rely on him producing every night. I pick Orlando's bench, mostly because Pietrus has been playing great basketball lately.
Field goal percentage is calculated slightly differently. The lowest FG% in the league is roughly 25 percent, so 25 is subtracted from each player's FG% before taking the percentage. This means that a zero on the graph represents a 25 percent shooting average, and a 100 represents the league high of 60.9 percent.
These values were then plotted on a six-axis radar graph, with zero at the center. The area covered by a player's graph roughly correlates to ability, as measured by standard statistics.
Note that the top of the graph represents offensive statistics, and the bottom represents defensive.
Also note that the bottom left of the graph is the typical domain of big men (FG%, rebounds, and blocks), whereas the upper-right tends to be the home of smaller players (scoring, assists, and steals).
Any suggestions for improving this graphing method are welcome—it's a work in progress. Feel free contact me if you have any questions or if you'd like to see my numbers.