A look at NBA’s new tracking stats
by Sean Highkin, USA TODAY Sports
Chris Paul has been widely considered the best point guard in the NBA for the past few seasons. His late-game heroics, lightning-quick handles and passing instincts are unrivaled in today’s game. Traditional stats, basic and advanced, have supported his elite status at the position.
But what if we could know not just how many assists Paul gets per game, but how many assist opportunities he has, where he wouldn’t be credited with an assist because a teammate missed a shot? What if there was a way to track so-called “hockey assists,” where the passer who passed to the player credited with the assist gets recognition for setting up the play?
As of now, we can. Over the summer, the NBA installed STATS LLC’s revolutionary new SportVU cameras in 29 arenas (15 teams had already paid to have them installed last season). These cameras track player movement on an astonishingly specific level, picking up every little nuance of a play.
In a surprising move, the NBA has made this data available to the public on NBA.com’s stats site. The site is available to the public, meaning anybody can sort through it to better understand the action on the court.
None of the data is particularly useful right now, because teams have just a couple of games under their belts. The sample sizes are too small. But the data available now provides a window into what fans will be able to evaluate once the season is in full swing.
Paul currently leads the league in assist opportunities and points created by assists per game:
If you want to see just how much of Derrick Rose’s explosiveness has returned, the tracking service offers a section for drives to the basket. Rose has made 11 drives over two games and scored four points. Those numbers will look different once Rose becomes acclimated to playing NBA-level basketball again.
The cameras have the ability to measure speed and distance. Debates of quickness between Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook will be able to be resolved, and questions of “mileage” for veteran stars like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan can now be quantified.