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Should he shoot? Looking at the data of selfishness – Part 2

In part 1, we plotted players’ selfishness against their eFG%. Now we’re going to turn the four-quadrant chart into a ranked list. The two measures we are focusing on are touches per pass (TPP, our measure of selfishness) and selfishness efficiency (SE, a combination of how selfish a player is and how well he shoots).

Because SE essentially forces the chart, which has data in all directions, into a straight line, some sacrifices have to be made. As mentioned in part 1, because SE uses the standard deviation of eFG%, it is great for analyzing the extremes (players who shoot really well and really poorly). However, players who are average shooters will have an eFG% stand deviation close to zero, and thus their SE will also be close to zero, or basically average.

With that being said, the results of TPP and SE are displayed in the following tables (click for a full-size interactive version).

All columns are sortable (except team, which you can filter). The first table shows players’ touches per game, passes per game, TPP, and their TPP rank. The second table shows players’  TPP, eFG%, SE, and SE rank.

Thought 1 – Visual Team Chemistry

Using the visual representation, we can also analyze players’ tendencies from individual teams and begin to understand how those teams operate offensively. Houston, for example, has one selfish player (Harden), who fortunately also shoots a high eFG%, with everyone else in the unselfish/high eFG% quadrant (Howard is on the cusp). The Spurs take unselfishness to another level, with almost everyone in the unselfish half of the chart (only Kawhi Leonard is barely selfish).

Of course, the quadrant that teams do not want players in is II, selfish and low eFG%. That signifies ball-stopping, iso-inclined players whose shots don’t fall. The Knicks and Raptors both have two players in this quadrant (Anthony/Smith and Gay/Derozan, respectively). Probably not fun to be on those teams. Though no team is as selfish and horrible as the Sacramento Kings, who have a whopping four players in the quadrant.

NOTE: This data was collected before Rudy Gay was traded to the Kings. The Kings have now added arguably the most selfish and poor shooting player to inarguably the most selfish and poor shooting team (they didn’t trade away any of their selfish/poor shooting players). This could become very disastrous and/or hilarious.

Thought 2 – Roles Matter

Expectedly, a player’s role is strongly related to how selfish he is. The most selfish players (i.e., the ones who pass the least per touch), as measured by TPP, tend to be ball-hogging, isolation-happy, prone-to-chucking wings. Players like Eric Gordon, Nick Young, Rudy Gay, Demar DeRozan (eek, Raptors), and Carmelo Anthony are all in the top 10. The least selfish players (i.e., the ones who pass the most per touch), as measured by TPP, are pure point guards who are poor scorers, like Ricky Rubio and Shaun Livingston, and hustle/defense guys, like Joakim Noah and Anderson Varejao.

For selfish efficiency, spot up shooters top the list. This makes sense, considering their job is to seek out extremely open (usually three point) shots and not pass them up. Thus, we see the likes of Kyle Korver and Klay Thompson in the top 10. Range-limited big men also congregate near the top, likely due to their high percentage shot selection (Drummond, Dalembert, DeAndre Jordan). At the bottom are aforementioned volume-scoring wings (Rudy Gay again, and JR Smith makes an unsurprising appearance), and also players who are having terrible shooting seasons, like the entire Brooklyn Nets roster.

Thought 3 – Defying Expectations

Since players’ roles greatly influence their selfishness and selfish efficiency measures, players who buck those trends, one way or another, should be acknowledged. Considering how central he is to pretty much everything, Lebron James’s SE is unbelievable. He is ranked fifth, sandwiched between three-point specialists and dunkers. There isn’t even another star wing player in the top 30. In comparison, Carmelo Anthony’s SE ranks him at 166. For the same reasons, Chandler Parsons (11th) and Trevor Ariza (13th) also have impressive SEs.

While paint-clogging big men tend to have high SEs, their stretch counterparts can become very inefficient. Pau Gasol, Kelly Olynyk, and Kevin Garnett are all in the bottom 30 for SE.

In part 3, we’ll talk Houston Rockets using these data.

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About the author: Richard Li is an independent researcher and consultant. He likes numbers and pictures.

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