Searching For a Formula

     One thing agreed on in the basketball stat analysis community is the field is still basically in its toddler stages. Baseball has been around quite a bit with their analytical break down and number crunching. Even before Bill James, whose work the past two plus decades inspired so many players, coaches and fans to look at their respective games differently, there were pioneers delving into the game in search of further understanding.


     One of James' earliest contributions in the National Pastime was the Runs Created metric.  A measurement regarding how proficient a player is in contributing to the success of his team. Basketball has a number of formulas out there. Many have come under criticism for a particular reason or reasons. Part of the problem in developing a player efficiency or proficiency metric is the nature of the game.

     In baseball you have the matchup of pitcher versus batter. You do not have the teamwork factor  to the extent of basketball. Granted, managers may request a player sacrifice a player over in a one run game but the fact is, baseball is a decided different team dynamic than basketball.

   On the court you may have a player stand out on your club talent wise but have a need to fit in with your teammates and ensure they are comfortable on the floor with you. There are measurements as Synergy, which determines how well a team shares the basketball. On the individual side, outside of field goal attempts, turnovers and (lack of) assists, it is not as easy determining who might be a little selfish. Granted, a player taking over 35% of his team's shots might be a bit trigger happy. What we are talking about is identifying a player who should adopt a little more of a pass first, shoot second approach for the sake of the ballclub.

     Another limitation of a player formula, and this could be said for other major sports as well, is measuring a player's 'heart'. Said player may have the numbers overall but let you down when you need him to rise to the occasion. Again, some have the talent to excel against the best but maybe that desire (heart) is lacking on a consistent basis. When he coached,  Hubie Brown tried to determine this concept in his teams. He would break down the club's basic statistics against the top half of the league and another set against the bottom division. The comparison was eye opening and served as a valuable teaching tool.

     The one thing those of us in statistical study can agree on is there is no perfect individual formula to date. Some swear by David Berri's Win Scores and Wins Produced. John Hollinger's PER is a favorite and TENDEX has been around before the Beatles. A personal favorite is the Manley Formula. Devised by Martin Manley who penned Basketball Heaven in the late Eighties, the Manley is basically the same as the NBA's efficiency formula. The University of Alabama Media relations department even uses it in their releases and game notes. It's easy , comprehensive and not requiring users to pursue a degree in Mathematics. The formula:

Manley EFF = Pts + Assists + Rebounds +Blocked shots +  Steals - (missed field goal attempts + missed free throw attempts + Turnovers).

      More, especially on the Manley, next time.

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