Synergy makes its triumphant return

It has been much too long, Synergy Sports.

When that tweet came out, I thought it was the end. No longer could us peasants be showered with the enormous wealth of information. It was the dark ages of basketball as we know it.

And then this morning:

The drought is over! And wow, is there alot to sift through! So let’s get started:

The data has been organised into 10 distinct play types, plus 1 miscellaneous category. The beauty of this new format is that no longer are players only accessible individually, but can be sorted in a leaderboard. Overall, the interface seems much cleaner. I can’t be the only who would try to scroll down when comparing two players, only for cuts to be blocked off right?

Seth Partnow has an excellent article over on Nylon Calculus briefing a baseline knowledge for using these Synergy stats. The biggest takeaway is that it punishes the players that everyone goes to to finish plays, even if the opportunity doesn’t present itself. A player that holds onto the ball in the post, then passes it out uselessly is not negatively impacted.

Seth also links to some beautiful charts organised by Austin Clemons and Peter Beshai. At first glance, they seem to be similar shot chart apps, but there are some nuanced differences. The advantages of Clemons’ app are that you can

  • Export the Data
  • Combine players
  • Choose entire teams
  • Select by Quarter
  • See defensive shot charts
  • Goes back all the way to 1997

While the advantages of Peter Beshai’s app are:

  • Compare up to 5 players
  • Much more interactive use interface. Seriously. #Dataisbeautiful
  • Provides numerical data for every single foot away instead of 3 zones.
  • Right side vs Left side differentiation
  • Contains leaderboards, boosting its ability to suck out time

Anyways, shall we get to the real star of the show, the data? Here are some random observations that I have made:

  • Houston’s defence: While its rim protection is below average, its 3 point defence is insanely good. This is the secret to their elite defence, the combination of Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza, and … of course Harden (who by some miracle is still top 10 in defensive win shares.) Another hypothesis worth looking into: They have really mobile big men who have no problem defending guards to the 3 point line
  • (Fun with small samples) As a Clipper, Austin Rivers iso’s more than Kobe
  • (Fun with small samples) As a spot up shooter in Boston, Tayshaun Prince has a higher PPP than Kyle Korver
  • The Andre Drummond post up experiment is failing badly. He has 0.67 PPP while taking more post up shots than Jonas Valanciunas.
  • Valanciunas is an elite post-up player with not enough touches. His 0.93 PPP is right around Griffin, Jefferson, Nowitzki, and Boogie
  • Durant vs Westbrook debate. Both take the same number of iso’s but while Durant is at the top of the mountain for PPP, Westbrook doesn’t even crack the top 100. Hmmmm…..
  • Drummond is 1st with 205 put back attempts. Next highest is Vucevic with nearly half at 113. What can you say, man forms a ******* wall
  • (Fun with SSS) In transition Tyler Hansborough
  • Although one would expect Boogie to be a transition monster, he has turned the ball over almost 40% of the time.
  • Do the Trail Blazers really play as a team. Lillard has 462 pick and roll possessions. Next highest? Batum with 88. Shut down Dame, shut down Portland.
  • On iso’s Jamal Crawford gets fouled more than half as many times as he actually makes a shot. Has anyone considered that? Just let him shoot? Same goes for Lou Williams.
  • I have long thought that the Raptor’s defensive woes are on the perimetre. For spot ups, they are bottom 10 in PPP, frequency, and fouls. Interestingly, they are also number 1 in turnovers caused on spot ups. Moral of the story? Stop Gambling, Toronto. That means you, Lowry.
  • The Cavaliers run iso’s more than any other team. What happened to those insipiring concepts of “team basketball?” But hey, they’re also 2nd in PPP, so whatever works, right?
  • Interesting phenomenon with Dalls big men. They average the least number of post-ups per game offensively, and yet get challenged with the fourth most number defensively. Is there a misconception that they’re soft inside? If there is, there shouldn’t be. They’re PPP on defensive post-ups is second best in the league. Tyson Chandler is elite. Even Dirk is getting in on it, with a fantastic 0.74 PPP.

As you can see, Synergy is a great tool for teasing out the nuanced aspects of the game of basketball. There’s a great deal of data out there, go try it for yourself!


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