You know me, I love some quality advanced statistics or the ability to look at the sport we love from a differing perspective. Okay, maybe you don’t know me, but if you’ve read me here on Bright Side for the past year, you’ll find I have an affinity for wandering down awkward advanced allies and hanging out at strange statistical bars. The game of basketball is unbelievably interesting and engaging. The further you dig, the more thought-provoking factoids you will find.
I was recently listening to the Bill Simmons Podcast — because most of you don’t — and the Sports Guy shared that he stumbled upon HoopsStats.com, a site that provides numerous basketball related statistics that are interpreted rather than simply reported. The stats are real, scraped from the NBA dailies, and used in a variety of different ways.
It sounded fascinating so I checked out the site and reached out to it’s creator.
George Vardopoulos runs the site and has done so since 2003. That’s pre-Nash resurrecting the franchise era for you and me. Based in Athens, Greece, George is a web developer who decided to create the site as he was motivated by his love of basketball and statistics. He was excited to share with me that “a big upgrade is coming next season.” Stay tuned.
The site uses ‘NBA Efficiency Recap’ as a statistic to evaluate a player’s performance on a given night. The formula is:
((Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks) - ((Field goals attempts - Field goals made) + (Free throws attempts - Free throws made) + Turnovers))
This formula produces an end number. Let’s look at Devin Booker’s 34-point showing against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night as an example:
- 34 points + 7 rebounds + 4 assists + 0 steals + 0 blocks = 45
- 21 field goals attempts - 11 field goals made = 10
- 9 free throws attempts - 8 free throws made = 1
- 4 turnovers
Booker’s NBA Efficiency metric for the game was 30: ((45) - ((10) + (1) + 4)) = 30.
Using this as a base, and evaluating a players opponent relative to the same statistic, Hoops Stats determines who won and lost their matchup each night. Both players must play more the 25 minutes or more to qualify.
Nikola Jokic is 45-6 against his matchups. Joel Embiid is 23-3. Ricky Rubio is 7-30.
Okay...there is something about this system that started appealing to me. It seems to reflect actual NBA performances, fortifies the eye test, and each player has a record! Like Mike Tyson in boxing or Conor McGregor in UFC, each player carries their personal win/loss record based on their performance versus the performance of their nightly opponent.
Is it a perfect system? No. Basketball is a game full of variables and irregularities, switched matchups and designed exploitation. If Cameron Payne steals the ball and pushes it up the court, leading to a Mikal Bridges dunk, can you really fault his “matchup” that game, which for this game is Andrew Wiggins?
A fun rabbit hole to go down? Double check!
It is an interesting way to look at the game and using the >25 minutes threshold does create allow for a baseline for both players. The example used above displays one possession. It isn’t a trend for the entire game, rather, an outlier for Mikal’s performance.
Let’s use our new toy to take a look at the Suns most likely starting rotation for the playoffs — as well as a couple member of the bench — seeing as they qualify with 25+ minutes the majority of the time. There are numerous nights in which there is a draw, that is, the player and their opponent end with the same NBA Efficiency Recap number. These records and winning percentages do not reflect those draws.
Chris Paul: 35-19
The Point God has lives up to his name, winning his matchup 65% of the time (not including his 7 draws). The Suns are 26-9 (.743) in games in which CP3 out performs his opponent and 11-8 (.579) in games in which he loses.
Paul leads the team with average efficiency, posting 22.6 per game. That is actually 10th among point guards in the league. Paul is a different story and reflects why the system isn’t perfect. Chris Paul is not the primary scorer on his team like the other point guards higher than him on the list. He averages 16.3 points per game, which will hold him back relative to the NBA Efficiency metric
Here are other splits:
- 18-9 in home games
- 17-10 in away games
- 17-12 vs. playoff teams
- Largest NBA Efficiency number: 43 vs. Luka Doncic
- Largest win: +31 vs. Reggie Jackson
- Largest loss: -26 vs. Kyrie Irving
It isn’t necessarily a “the Suns go as Chris Paul goes” story, but we all know Chris Paul does well playing both sides of the ball. He shimmies, he shakes, gets his and limits his opponent. Hoops Stats verifies that train of thought and our eye test.
Devin Booker: 35-16
There is a reason Booker has earned the Player of the Week award three times this season. He has been damn good. Sure, there have been some stretches in which he was less-than-stellar, but overall he is throwing quality punches. His Hoops Stats numbers reflect that.
The NBA Efficiency stat rewards the metric it references: efficiency. Look at Donovan Mitchell, for example. He averages more points per game than Booker (26.2), but due to his inefficiency, his win/loss record is 25-18.
Phoenix is 25-10 in games in which Booker is better, 11-5 in games in which he not.
- 19-5 in home games
- 16-11 in away games
- 18-9 vs. playoff teams
- Largest NBA Efficiency number: 42 vs. Denzel Valentine
- Largest win: +29 vs. Luguentz Dort
- Largest loss: -20 vs. Jamal Murray
The telling number here is his on-the-road performances. While he carries a 79% winning percentage at home, it drops to 20 points to 59% on the road. In the 11 away games in which Booker has lost to his opponent, Phoenix is 6-5.
Earning the #2 seed, ensuring you have home court for the first two rounds of the playoffs, is vital. Based on Booker’s performances this year, we see why. Who will Playoff Booker be on the road? We’ll find out in a couple of weeks.
Mikal Bridges: 33-20
The Warden is outplaying his fellow 2018 NBA Draft first round compadre, Mr. Deandre Ayton, in the win/loss column (as you’ll see shortly). And I am sure none of us are surprised. Phoenix is 26-7 in plus games from Mikal and 12-8 in minus games.
- 15-10 in home games
- 18-10 in away games
- 18-11 vs. playoff teams
- Largest NBA Efficiency number: 34 vs. Justin Holiday
- Largest win: +19 vs. Anthony Edwards
- Largest loss: -34 vs. Andrew Wiggins
Bridges is the hardest player to judge seeing as his defensive matchups are constantly changing, possession to possession. I’m not sure how Hoops Stats tracks the switchability of Bridges, but regardless of how they do, he puts up some nice W/L numbers.
Defense travels. Mikal will as well due to his ability to shut down the opposition. He passes the eye test as well as the Hoops Stats test.
Jae Crowder: 15-23
It’s nice to see the Bossman back on the court after twisting his ankle a few games back. While his overall winning percentage isn’t sexy (39%), the Suns are 18-5 in games in which he losses the matchup. Why? When names like Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Giannis Antetokounmpo are on your resume, you probably aren’t going to fare too great.
- 3-3 in home games
- 2-10 in away games
- 5-6 vs. playoff teams
- Largest NBA Efficiency number: 26 vs. Zion Williamson
- Largest win: +19 vs. Al Farouq Aminu
- Largest loss: -36 vs. Anthony Davis
Jae is tasked with some tough matchups as he faces MVP’s. His role in these games isn’t necessarily to win, it is to limit his opponent. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It mirrors his 3-point shot: sometimes it’s on, sometimes it is not.
The Suns will need Crowder to continue this role in the postseason. Get into the oppositions head, mess with their stars, disrupt their rhythm. If he gets a win in his matchup that is a plus, it isn’t required.
Deandre Ayton: 22-20
Consistently inconsistent is my Deandre Ayton mantra. Hoops Stats fortifies that thought as he sports a winning percentage of 52%. Throw in 16 draws and yes, you get one of three outcomes pretty consistently. The Suns are 14-8 in his wins and 13-7 in his losses.
- 6-3 in home games
- 13-8 in away games
- 12-12 vs. playoff teams
- Largest NBA Efficiency number: 45 vs. Christian Wood
- Largest win: +23 twice, vs. Brook Lopez and vs. Christian Wood
- Largest loss: -27 twice, vs. Joel Embiid and vs. Karl Anthony-Towns
Ayton owns Wood. He dropped at +21 on him in January and followed it up with a +23 in April. Those were nights in which we received the aggressive version of Ayton, a player calling for the ball. A player looking for his shot. A player wanting to make an impact on the game. Too bad the Rockets won’t make the postseason.
Then there are the passive Ayton evenings. His May 11 performance at Golden State — where Hoops Stats had him matched with Draymond Green (again, imperfect system) — saw him post a 15 over efficiency rating.
Anyway you cut it, however, you truly don’t know what to expect from the 22 year-old center on a nightly basis. This has been an area of concern throughout he 2020-21 season. It will amplify in the playoffs. You’ve been warned.
Cameron Johnson: 5-13
There isn’t too much data on Cameron Johnson, seeing as he’s only played over 25 minutes 24 times this season and his opponent has just 18. But there is one quite compelling statistic to note: The Suns are 5-0 in games in which Johnson outplays his opponent when given the opportunity to do so. They are 7-6 when his opponent out plays him.
- 3-3 in home games
- 2-10 in away games
- 5-6 vs. playoff teams
- Largest NBA Efficiency number: 20 vs. Bojan Bogdanovic
- Largest win: +11 vs. Bojan Bogdanovic
- Largest loss: -31 vs. Zion Williamson
It’s been said throughout the year that this team goes as Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges go. Knowing that one day Johnson will see an increase in minutes per game — potentially — as a regular rotation player, this displays how effective he could be.
We do not know yet how Monty Williams will divvy up the bench minutes in the postseason and how deep he will go. If Williams chooses to go with an 8-man rotation, expect plenty of Cameron Johnson. And plenty of chances to be impactful.
Dario Saric: 0-3
I just had to put Dario here because of his winless record. That is so Dario. He has only played over 25 minutes 4 times. Three L’s and a draw. His losses? Domantas Sabonis, Markieff Morris, and Mason Plumlee.
While I enjoy the rabbit holes, I do understand that they do not tell the entire story. They are not more important than the eye test. Do they fortify the eye test? Sure. But nothing is more valuable than watching a game and absorbing the product.
One of my primary takeaways from this exercise is that Phoenix is a true team. There are numerous guys out there winning their matchups nightly. If enough guys do that, the team wins. Mikal can have an off night. Booker can. They all can. The focus is to ensure that it isn’t more than three starters having piss poor performances.
When the playoffs arrive the number one number I am looking for from these Hoops Stats is 16 in the win column. If you make it to 16, you’re hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Editor’s Note: All statistics and player records were accurate prior to the Thursday night game versus the Portland Trailblazers.