Jump Ball Statistics

Ever wondered how many times Dwight Howard won the opening tip in each game of the regular season? Seems like a mundane statistic to track, and maybe some of you are saying 'who cares?' but thanks to the current statistical revolution occurring in the NBA, more and more data is being tabulated for the benefit of the general public to analyze & examine. It never hurts to look at different types of numbers. 

 

A few weeks ago, I enlisted the help of Ryan J. Parker of Basketball Geek to provide me with the jump ball statistics for different players around the league. I was curious about the numbers because you figure, using a little common sense and a little observation, that Howard should be among the leaders in the Association on winning the opening tips at the beginning of games. Is this true?

 

Let's take a look:

Using my data, if we limit the list to all players that have taken part in 50 jump balls to start the game, we get the following list:

 

The mean of this group: 54.1%

 

Shaquille O'Neal 70.0% 70 (57.7%, 80.1%)
Dwight Howard 69.2% 78 (57.6%, 78.9%)
Zydrunas Ilgauskas 67.9% 56 (53.9%, 79.4%)
Samuel Dalembert 63.4% 82 (52.0%, 73.6%)
Josh Smith 62.1% 66 (49.3%, 73.5%)
Chris Bosh 59.4% 69 (46.9%, 70.9%)
Jeff Green 56.4% 55 (42.4%, 69.4%)
Emeka Okafor 56.0% 75 (44.1%, 67.3%)
Erick Dampier 52.6% 76 (40.9%, 64.1%)
Tim Duncan 50.7% 69 (38.5%, 62.9%)
Marc Gasol 49.2% 70 (36.7%, 61.8%)
Nene Hilario 48.6% 70 (36.6%, 60.7%)
Brook Lopez 48.6% 72 (36.8%, 60.6%)
Mehmet Okur 45.3% 64 (33.0%, 58.2%)
Andres Biedrins 41.2% 51 (27.9%, 55.8%)
Yao Ming 39.7% 68 (28.3%, 52.3%)
Kendrick Perkins 39.4% 71 (28.3%, 51.8%)

 

So that's the player name, % of time their team obtained possession, # of jump balls, and then a 95% confidence interval for the true proportion.

 

As you can see, there is a fair amount of uncertainty here. Even the guys on the bottom could really be >50% guys. That said, there is evidence to suggest Howard is in the top of the league in this statistic.

The fact that Howard ranks, essentially, at the top of the NBA in the jump ball statistic (behind O'Neal, ironically) during the regular season shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that follows the Magic closely. I mean, let's be frank here, Howard is an athletic freak so he's going to win his fair share of opening tips at the beginning of games. That's the perception, and with a look at the numbers, that's the reality. 

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