Have we found the Holy Grail of basketball stats? In Part 5 of the Thinking Basketball stats series, we dive into the entire world of plus-minus as a way to determine impact or value. Is single-game plus-minus any good? Full season vs. on/off data? How do we account for teammates? And if we make the right adjustments, do we have an ideal one-number stat for ranking NBA players?

Stats series:

Additional resources:

Rob Antle summarizing RAPM:

Daniel Myers on APMs:

Joe Sill’s paper using Ridge Regression:

Justin Jacobs series on Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM)

WOWYR primer:

How to use lineup data responsibly:

Support at Patreon:
Book:
Podcast: (available on iTunes, Spotify, etc.)
Website:
Twitter: @elgee35

Ben Taylor is the author of Thinking Basketball, a Nylon Calculus contributor, creator of the Backpicks Top 40 series & host of the Thinking Basketball podcast.

Stats courtesy:
@bballport

Player art by @CrumpledJumper
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Music: Music by Jordan Ciurcovich (Forest) & The Way Forward, 80s Hairlight (Instrumental)

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25 Comments

Thinking Basketball

June 28, 2020

This video is now part of the Stats Series playlist (designed to be watched in order): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtzZl14BrKjTJZdubjNEY5jU0fGOiy51x

Really enjoyed the comments and discussion below so far…

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Michael Cinelli

June 28, 2020

"Grizzly Mathematics"

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weksauce

June 28, 2020

The thing you stated against Rodman is actually the greatest argument for Rodman being the greatest player of all time. A good scorer who can add +3 points per 100 possessions, with a bench unit or a starting unit sounds like the holy grail: better than the person who goes +20 w bench unit and can only budge +0.2 in an All-Star game. Rodman's value is incredible, superhuman, disgusting, alien, freaky because he essentially only made scrubs +0.2, but he made the BEST TEAM OF ALL TIME +5 better against opposing superteams! Such a player is by definition the most valuable player imaginable. Value is making great teams a little better, or at least not making them worse. Value is eking out an extra rebound for your team when your team is vs all-time rebounding greats: Barkley, Shaq, Olajuwan. Value is NOT making crap teams a lot better than a replacement player, or beating crap teams by even more points than a replacement player.

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August Simon Lim

June 28, 2020

When will part 6 be out?

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Thomas de Haan

June 28, 2020

Great video! It seems like the adjusted plus-minus indicator also does not really account for whether the used point differentials were created in for example "garbage time" minutes versus say "crunch time" minutes. Is that correct?

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Dan10900

June 28, 2020

11:30… And this is where you can get into the wonderful world of microstats (I'm coming from the world of hockey, but it seems like people could certainly track boxouts, boxouts from certain locations, probably some other stuff in rebounding alone) also I will say, QoC, in hockey at least has a very small impact on individual players, you usually end up going against the star players of the other team around the same % of your toi compared everyone else on your team, coaches can't control who the other team has out, I would assume it's somewhat similar in basketball

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austin Towns

June 28, 2020

This is making my head hurt

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james benedict

June 28, 2020

The only number that can justify their greatness is the number worn on their backs

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More Skittles

June 28, 2020

I know something that's better than stats. Play style and how it translate into all eras. For example, James Harden travels and has horrible shot selection. In the 60s he would not make a team. Because his entire playing style doesn't translate at all. Thinking Basketball u should make a video on that.

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certocondes

June 28, 2020

this sounds like trying to quantify something that's not actually quantifiable (although this doesn't mean that the attempt is not without it's own merits)

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amplitudehertz17

June 28, 2020

As a statistician I couldn’t express how great my appreciation to your channel is. I hope I could tie up every one of friends who constant bring up sTaTs without understanding the implication and intuition behind each number and force them to watch every video of yours.

Heuristic biases are just way too big among basketball fans

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dickies docos

June 28, 2020

"Alright brain you don't like me and I don't like you, but let's just do this and I can get back to killing you with beer"

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Sh3rlockBon3s

June 28, 2020

We need a video on dennis rodman

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Gareth Holland

June 28, 2020

Love the video but the only stat that matters is the final score. Did you win, great. Did you score 50 and lose, not great.

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DHD95

June 28, 2020

Pete Maravich was on the 80 team too…..

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flyingchimp12

June 28, 2020

Keep this shit going, most people don’t think deep enough.

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Eltalstro

June 28, 2020

"Basketball is my favourite sport

I like the way they dribble up and down the court"

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Reshad

June 28, 2020

this video is a trick. he's trying to teach some real mathematics hidden beneath the basketball theme!

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Alex White

June 28, 2020

Where can I check adjusted rebound rate?

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dude love

June 28, 2020

Very interesting. But hard to do. It's cool to keep thinking though on all points

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Lihl ' Trxp 2300

June 28, 2020

Love yo channel bro

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william blake

June 28, 2020

highest level of art and science.
you are better than bob ross and neil tyson combined.

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zakw11

June 28, 2020

are you gonna do a vid on defensive stats? ive always wanted a good way to quantify individual defense but it seems like its almost impossible

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sophie s

June 28, 2020

As always, thank you so much for such a high quality content. Would you do a video on other impact measuring metrics like PER, PIE,…??? What those really measure and how to best utilize them? Especually, PER is referenced a lot but I know there are lots of people who do not believe in PER at all.

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Trevor Lambert

June 28, 2020

As a hockey fan, I'm amazed by how much effort there is in basketball to quantify player value. I think there are way too many variables, and inconsistency in the availability of the data surrounding those variables to ever reach the "holy grail" you are looking for. So much of a player's impact is contextual. It's probably more realistic to evaluate a player's impact at the end of his career than at a particular instance in time.

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