Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Play Index Plus: Mana From Heaven




For those of us who could be classified as basketball elitists (or, if you prefer, "nerds"), Wednesday was something like Christmas and Independence Day and New Year's and Arbor Day combined.

The popular statistics site Basketball-Reference.com added a new layer to its play index database tool, Play Index+. The feature allows you to search through play-by-play data for the last 11 seasons to break down stats based on event type, shot type, time of game, score situation and even five-man lineup. It's incredible information, and now fans have accuess to short it however they'd like.

For example: since 2001 (which is as far back as the database goes, for now), there have been 76 game-tying or go-ahead baskets made in the last 10 seconds of fourth quarter or overtime of the postseason (I'd link to that query, but it actually required doing a year-by-year query and summing them manually). Two players have made four of those baskets, the most in the NBA. Those players? Kobe Bryant, which would've likely been everyone's first guess, and LeBron James, which might surprise people.

The level of detail in Play Index Plus is the kind of thing you can lose yourself in for hours at a time. For example, did you know that all but one of Ryan Anderson's 3-pointers this year have been assisted? Or that Anderson Varajeo leads the NBA in highest percentage of assisted dunks (min. 10 attempts) with 100%. Or that Norris Cole has attempted the most shots in the NBA with his team leading by at least 25 points?

I could go on and on, but really you're going to want to dive in and play with this thing yourself. You can use it to amuse yourself (Garbage time is fun!) or use it to be a smarter fan (Chris "Mr. Clutch" Bosh?), there's really something for everyone in there. Mostly, though, it allows all of us the OPPORTUNITY to be smarter fans.

You don't have to take advantage of the opportunity. There's nothing wrong with preferring to be an observer of the game, someone who loves it for its asthetic beauty. But if you're going to be the kind of fan who wants to draw conclusions about things that happen on the court, it's nice to be armed with as much evidence as possible, and Play Index Plus is like having your own team of hoops paralegals doing discovery for you.

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