Challenge: Choose an NBA team. Think about the team’s strengths and weaknesses during the 2011-12 season. What needs do you think the team should be addressing in free agency?
- If the team has already signed a free agent, how would you evaluate the fit of the signed free agent with the team’s needs? If you agree with the signing, why do you think it was a good move? If you disagree with the signing, which player should the team have signed instead?
- If your team has not yet signed any free agents of note, who should they be chasing?
- Please support your response with an analysis of the team’s strengths and weaknesses and how the particular player fits in with those strengths and weaknesses. Feel free to focus on players acquired through trades as well.
This challenge is about how to address a team’s weaknesses with a single player. In the Unpacking the Challenge hint we talked about looking for “clusters” of weaknesses. This means team weaknesses that are related and therefore may be addressed by a single player. For example, if the team you are focusing on struggled to rebound effectively and also allowed their opponents to shoot a high percentage from the field, a defensive-minded big man may be where they should focus this off-season.
One way to quickly identify clusters of weaknesses is with the team stats pages at Hoopdata.com. Hoopdata has tons of useful statistics but they are especially helpful because they group their team statistics into related clusters. Across the top of the team stats page you’ll find several statistical clusters: Basic, Defense, Offense, Shot Locations, Opponent Shot Locations, XeFG, Advanced and Four Factors.
Clicking on one of those clusters will change the display to focus on team statistics that fall into that cluster. For example, clicking on the defense cluster will change the statistical categories to things like Defensive Efficiency, Opponent’s 3PT%, Defensive Rebound Rate and Opponent’s Turnover Rate. Clicking on the heading for any of those statistics will re-sort the list so that you can see where your team ranked in each category.
One other really nice feature of Hoopdata is their interactive glossary. If you are unfamiliar with any of the statistics or abbreviations they use, simply scroll over that statistic in the black glossary bar, and the full name and formula for calculating each statistic will pop up.
Once you’ve mastered moving through and re-sorting these statistics, focusing in on a team’s weaknesses becomes a much more manageable task. For example, looking at the offense cluster and sorting by Offensive Efficiency, we find the Charlotte Bobcats at the bottom of the heap, scoring 92.3 points per 100 possessions, well below the league average of 101.8
Re-sorting by some of the other offensive statistical categories we find the Bobcats closer to the middle of the pack in things like Assist Rate, Turnover Rate and Offensive Rebound Rate. However, they were dead last in the league in Field Goal Percentage, Three-Point Percentage, and True Shooting Percentage. The Bobcats’ offense was the league’s worst for many reasons, but a lack of good shooting seems to have been one of the biggest problems. Answering Challenge #2 with a focus on the Bobcats may mean finding a free agent who is a great outside shooter.
- List of Free Agents – List of restricted and unrestricted free agents eligible for consideration
- Data Resources - Links to statistical websites that may help in answering Challenge #2
- Unpacking the Challenge - Questions to help you begin thinking about Challenge #2
- Digging Deeper with the Challenge – Some more complex variables to consider in selecting your answer, and providing supporting evidence