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Research Topics

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  • Dean Oliver
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 10, 2001
      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
      through time?

      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
      http://www.tsoft.com/~deano/articles/kalman.html, Massey ratings
      http://www.mratings.com/rate/nba-p.htm) 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

      Dean Oliver
      Journal of Basketball Studies
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