Blog Post

Insight: My NBA Lament

By: James Wood

I still love the game but I’ve lost a little love.  As a NBA fan for 60 years and a Jazz season ticket holder for 39 years I’ve watched my share of games; over 1,600 Jazz home games.  I’ve seen the game evolved with rule changes and players skills.  Today’s game is not nearly as physical.  No Karl Malone with his back to the basket or John Stockton fighting hand-checking from mid-court.  The game is much faster now with a premium on guards rather than centers or power forwards.  On offense it’s perimeter shooters and on defense it’s the length (wingspan) of the guards.  Both Donovan Mitchell and Dante Exum have wingspans of 6 foot 10, three or four inches longer than the typical guard.  Milwaukee Bucks have built their current team around maximizing wingspan while the Houston Rockets have built their team around launching three point shots, no matter how much time is left on the shot clock or how many rebounders are in position.

Underlying every NBA team’s offensive and defensive philosophies are analytics (statistical analysis). The Rockets have been the pioneers in analytics but nearly all teams, coaches, broadcasters, and ardent fans have embraced some of the metrics.  And along with the metrics has come a new vocabulary.  No longer do we hear “with a gentle push, and a mild arc, the old cowhide globe hits home.”

[1] Instead the game is described in statistical terms; and an evolving lexicon with terms like. adjusted plus-minus, offensive conversion rate, versatility index, and diamond rating.  Ever wonder what the diamond rating is? “Diamond rating is a metric which was invented by Kevin Broom who devised a simple general formula that works with any per-minute statistic to figure out how much the players per game stats undervalue his cont