NBA Sabermetrics: The Ultimate "Moneyball" Team

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NBA Sabermetrics: The Ultimate
Harry How/Getty Images


Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane determined that a sabermetric approach to baseball gave a team a more statistically probable chance of winning.

The belief of sabermetrics is that statistics such as batting average, home runs, and RBI are a lot less indicative of a player’s value to his team, than is slugging percentage, on base percentage, and total run production. Sabermetrics values players with high output in these categories, who can be had on the cheap.

The concepts and theories proved to be so successful, that  it spawned copycats all over the league. Hollywood was so enamored by it that it deemed it worthy of its own movie, “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt.

My question is why other sports haven’t adapted these proven philosophies, most especially the NBA, where it makes a lot of sense.

Currently, in the NBA, the traditional statistics which are most valued are: points, rebounds, assists, in that order.

But if you look at the mathematics of the game, these are some of the least important statistics.

Let’s examine an NBA game.

Two competing teams alternate possessions, back and forth, for 48 minutes. The team that converts the most of those opportunities, wins.


A team can increase its likelihood of winning a game by giving itself extra possessions and shots through offensive rebounds, steals, blocked shots, and forced turnovers.

Likewise, they can decrease their total possessions by turning the ball over.

The only other mathematical factors for winning, besides total shot attempts and percentage of success, are bonus shots (free throws), and higher valued shots (three-point attempts).

A team will win 100 percent of the time if they take more total shots, and make a higher percentage of those shots.

Therefore, shouldn’t we place more value on statistics that affect these numbers? Statistics like shooting percentages, free throw attempts per game, and a player’s ability to affect an oppositions average in these categories?

I believe we should, and I believe you could put together an NBA championship team, on a lower budget, using these statistics.

By my estimations, a guy who scores 28 PPG (about 30 percent of a team’s total points), but shoots 35-45 percent of the teams total shots, making only 40 percent of his attempts, is not a very efficient player. I’d rather have several guys who score 10-18ppg, taking 15 percent of their team's shots, and making 45-50 percent. I want guys who get to the foul line and create extra possessions by blocking shots, forcing turnovers, and getting offensive boards.

And so, by my theory, for your entertainment, I’ve assembled a 12-man lineup that is way under the salary-cap, who, by dominating the possession game and the field goal percentage game, would bring home the hardware for my imaginary franchise.

So, Donald Sterling, after you tire of G.M. Neil Olshey, I’ll be more than happy to take your call and put together a winner at Staples.

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