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Possession Length

I’ve been obssessed with pace lately. From questioning why teams slow down in the playoffs, to looking at the pace for individual blocks of time within a game, I haven’t been able to shake the topic. In playing around with some numbers I found a new (to me) angle. In the of process of chasing down a totally unrelated idea, I found myself converting a team’s pace into the actual length of a possession. Using the possessions for each team and their opponents, as well as the total minutes played on the season, I was able to calculate the average possession length for each team.

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The more I learn about basketball statistics, the more I’m fascinated with they way they are often viewed in isolation. Each statistic is usually one way of looking at one area of the game. In an effort to make sure we’re speaking the same language as other fans, we often take for granted the connections between the numbers and the idea that there are other ways of representing the same information. Pace is the relationship between possessions and time. We usually view this relationship as possessions over a fixed period of time. This table is simply another way of looking at the same connection, as the length of time for a single possession. Hearing that the Timberwolves’ possessions were, on average 1.42 seconds shorter than the Trail Blazers’, is really the same as saying the Timberwolves averaged 8.2 more possessions per game. However,  the fresh phrasing somehow helps me see the difference in a new way.

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