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Orlando Magic News for March 6th: Flipping the Switch; Dispatches from the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

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  • Should a 10-point win over the New Jersey Nets be a cause for concern?

    After the Orlando Magic beat the New Jersey Nets by just 10 points last night, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was unhappy with his team. Tania Ganguli asked Rashard Lewis if it's possible for the team to take its game to the next level in the playoffs. Here's Lewis' response:

    "I don’t think it’s gonna be hard to flip that switch because playoff intensity is so high. He’s trying to get that set into our minds right now because he knows going into the playoffs if you’re not ready to play you will get beat. It doesn’t matter if it’s the last place team or the first place team, you’ll lose."

  • The value of a blocked shot
    TrueHoop summarizes presented at today's MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference which attempts to quantify the value of each blocked shot.

    The paper also found that, with many different new factors taken into account, Tim Duncan's blocks are the most valuable in the NBA. The least valuable, they say, are Dwight Howard's.

  • Sloan Sports Analytics Conference: "What Geeks Don't Get: The Limits of Moneyball" Panel Report

    M. Haubs recaps this year's "the show-stopper panel," which featured Rockets GM Daryl Morey, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, ESPN's Marc Stein, and other luminaries.

  • The Value Of A Blocked Shot
    UPDATE (from Eddy): Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook explains in detail why Dwight Howard's blocks aren't as valuable as blocks from, for example, Tim Duncan or Jermaine O'Neal.

    Is blocking a lay-up more valuable than blocking a jump-shot? Mr. Huizinga’s data says yes. In his presentation, he said that it all comes down to expected value. A jumper has an expected point value of 1.04 while a lay-up has an expected point value of 1.54. Looking at it this way, Brendon Haywood, who many people is a very good defender (me included) actually is a less valuable shot blocker than Jermaine O’Neal.

    Haywood gets 69% of his blocks on jumpers, meaning he only blocks 31% of the more valuable lay-ups. On the other end of the spectrum, 91% of Jermaine O’Neal’s blocks were on lay-up attempts, while only 9% of his blocks were the less-valuable jump shots.

    [...] why was Mr. Huizinga’s paper called From "…Dwight Howard to Tim Duncan?"  Well as he explained, through a series of charts, Tim Duncan has had the best season in history when it came down to value/block with 1.12, meaning he saved 1.12 points with every block and Dwight Howard ended up with the worst season in terms of value/block with with .53 (both came during the 2008 season).

More from the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference after the jump.

  • Will Coaches Listen to Stat Heads?
    UPDATE 2 (from Eddy): Zach Lowe of CelticsHub reports that, according to Brent Barry, "the old guard is holding back the statistical revolution in the NBA."

  • Be Less Than You Can Be
    UPDATE 3 (from Eddy): Rob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm cites Brian Skinner's presentation at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, called "The price of anarchy in basketball." Skinner explains sometimes its wise not to have the best player on a team to shoot the basketball all the time.

    Skinner invokes Dean Oliver in stating that as usage goes up, a player’s offensive efficiency goes down, and that makes a ton of sense.

    But at the same time, that creates a bit of a boggling result: a team’s best play is sometimes to have their best shooter not shoot.

  • It’s Not Whether or Not Use Can Find the Perfect Stats, It’s How You Use Them to Play the Game
    UPDATE 4 (from Eddy): Jared Wade of Hardwood Paroxysm details the uses of statistics in the NBA and how it's "collected, analyzed, and adjusted to provide the closest numerical representation of the truth."

    Trade and free agency decisions are increasingly being made with more statistical information, and Oliver broke down how widespread this is all becoming, stating that he knows of eight teams that have actually integrated advanced analytics into their decision-making (Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Oklahoma City, Orlando and Portland). In all, he says that he saw 14 different teams with personnel on the attendee list for Sloan Conference this year — and knew of two other assistant GMs who were not listed. Kevin Pelton also broke down which statisticians are now working in the league, in the process, revealing that he is now consulting with Indiana. [...]

    A big challenge to all this, however, is just gathering the data. "[Only] 20% or maybe a quarter of defense shows up in a box score," said [John] Hollinger. Steals, blocks and personal fouls are there, but what happens on all the other plays is not. Who forced a shooter to miss? Who blew a rotation? The box score will never tell you that.

    "The box score is an incomplete story," said [Kevin] Pritchard. "And more than that, it can be misleading."

    Another reason why Dwight Howard's impact is sometimes overlooked, in my opinion, because what he does isn't always quantified.
  • Bias In Officiating
    UPDATE 5 (from Eddy): Brian Robb of CelticsHub looks into the issue of biased officials in professional sports, specifically in the NBA. Tobias Moskowitz and L. John Wertheim's findings confirmed there is "star treatment" in the league and there is a tendency for referees to swallow their whistles much more in the second half compared to the first half in close games or late game situations.