To start off the group, I think that it is most appropriate to identify
some of the outstanding questions in basketball. These are topics that
would be interesting to me and to several teams or leagues.
1. Does Hack-a-Shaq work? Can we define parameters under which it makes
sense, such as game situations, Shaq's FT%, etc.? (Project ongoing with
Tim Lee at Princeton)
2. Why has Charlotte had such a good record without Derrik Coleman in the
lineup and a mediocre one with him in? Is there anything we can identify
to help Charlotte fix the problem? (Is it defense? Is he shooting from
poor locations on the court?) (Preliminary evidence published elsewhere
suggests a defensive problem.)
3. What rule changes can the NBA make to improve the quality of the game?
Is increased scoring an improvement? If so, what rule changes will
increase scoring? Will the zone do it? Why?
4. What additional statistics could be taken to improve individual
defensive evaluation? (I have numerous suggestions for later.) How do we
evaluate individual defense?
5. What happened to the fast break? Did it disappear as a general
strategy (as opposed to a situational reaction) because it somehow is less
effective? Are there numbers to evaluate how efficient fast breaks are
6. Basic predictions/evaluations: How would Orlando be doing now with
Grant Hill? Next year should be a test. Why have the Lakers slipped a bit
this year? How has their game declined? Will the Sixers suffer now that
their defensive force, Theo Ratliff, is out 6 weeks? Who got the best of
the Laker-Sonic-Knick trade?
7. Can Twin Towers really work? Robinson-Duncan won a somewhat tainted
title. Other twin tower combos have really not had much success. Why?
8. Theory: How do we translate college stats to the pros? How do we
translate high school stats to the pros? Is it possible?
9. Shot analysis: Is there an optimal angle/rotation for making a shot
go in? (I have seen general studies on this) Has NBA shooting declined
because players have evolved into a "less optimal" shot?
10. Player persistence: There was a study several years ago that showed
that the best predictor of a player's career length was his draft position
-- not performance. The study may have been flawed by the authors'
methods of evaluating performance. Can we redo?
11. General game prediction: Numerous methods exist for predicting the
scores of games. (Example: Kalman Filter
These methods don't account for
the loss of a player, for instance. They account only for home court
advantage and the strengths of the opposing teams (using strength of
schedule). Can we improve?
12. Game simulation. Can we simulate a variety of lineups? Can we test
the simulations? Can we simulate in-game strategies, such as a pick and
roll, give and go, playing a zone vs. man defense, matching up one player
on another, setting up a low post offense vs. a three-point offense?
I personally have thoughts on all of these issues, but no definite
Feel free to propose other questions as well as approaches to these
Journal of Basketball Studies