Published on December 2, 2020 by Warren Fitzpatrick  (Samford University)
Bucky Ball

In the same way the industrial revolution swept across the planet in the 18th and 19th centuries impacting every aspect of our lives, big data and sophisticated analytics has had a similar impact on the world of sports. The way coaches make in-game decisions, player recruitment, and everything in between is now fundamentally different from how it was just ten years ago. 

The collection of big data and subsequent analytical insights produced has become especially important in the game of basketball. Whether a team is game prepping, recruiting, or trying to develop players, every coach is doing their best to understand and use analytics.

At the professional level, NBA teams have begun to place data tracking cameras at every angle in the arena. These cameras offer NBA teams the ability to track every movement a player makes on the court and sync it with their individual statistics. This data is extremely beneficial but placing cameras around an arena can be expensive. However, expensive technology is not the only way coaches and teams can take advantage of analytics.

Ever since Springfield College instructor James Naismith developed the sport of basketball back in 1891 teams have been collecting basic statistical data like points, assists and rebounds. However, with the advent of big data and sophisticated statistical modelling software, basketball gurus have developed new “advanced stats” that allow coaches to gain a better understanding of what does and does not work. Some of those new stats include:

  • Player Efficiency Rating (PER)
  • Win Shares
  • Offensive/Defensive Efficiency
  • Points Per Possession (PPP)
  • True Shooting Percentage (TS%)
  • Free Throw Rate
  • Usage Percentage (USG%)
  • Rebound Rate
  • Assists/Turnover/Steal/Block Rate
  • Shot Locations/Shot Charts
  • On/Off Splits
  • Lineup Data
  • Adjusted Plus/Minus (APM)

All thirteen of these advanced statistics can be found for both professional and college teams on Sports Reference. To understand what these stats mean and how they are calculated, Bleacher Report has an article here with an in-depth review. The article lists the stats as “NBA Stats”, but they can be used at all levels if calculated.

The focus of shooting is another set of data that has become prominent in basketball. Companies like Noah Basketball have emerged to track this data. Noah Basketball is an affordable product that records a player’s shot through a camera. Noah then tracks the shot arc, left to right movement, percentage, and ultimately a player’s consistency. Noah is currently being used at every level of basketball and has tracked over 260 million shots.

Another rising company to look for is HD Intelligence. HD works specifically in college basketball. They offer two categories: Schedule Optimization and Performance Analytics. Not only do they use analytics to help scout opposing teams, but they also use data analytics to assist programs in building out their schedules to maximize the likelihood of qualifying for the NCAA March Madness National Championship Tournament.  

These are but a few of the ways that big data and analytics is changing the game of basketball. If you know of other articles or resources that discuss cutting edge basketball analytics, please reach out to Dr. Darin White, executive director for the Center for Sports Analytics at He is always on the lookout for the latest developments in sports analytics and would appreciate your help.

About the Author

Warren Fitzpatrick is a senior pursuing an accounting degree with a concentration in sports marketing. Warren also competes on the men’s track and field team at Samford. Warren will be serving at the Samford University Men’s Basketball Graduate Assistant Coach for the 2021/2022 season.

Twitter: @warrenfitz3


Five most important  metrics that determine the outcome of a basketball game. 



I learned from my basketball coaching mentor, Coach Mike Sorrell, that the five most important TEAM statistical categories are:

1)  Field Goal Percentage
2)  Free Throw Percentage
3)  Rebounds
4)  Turnovers
5)  Fouls

I have found in the 100s of high school basketball games that I have been involved in that it is nearly impossible to win three of the five categories and lose the game. The times that it is possible are when one team dominates the three point shooting or is able to get more possessions by getting the last shot of each quarter.We never ranked them in order of importance, but Coach Sorrell always geared each season’s overall plan and then game planned for each opponent to be able to win at least three of the five categories as I did when I left his program to become a head coach.

I have also learned that is is very difficult to win all five categories. The few times the teams I coached have been able to win all five categories, the results have been lopsided victories.

Tom Crean conducted a study using Statistics from 2005 Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big 12, and CUSA Season games that shows that there actually is an order of importance to those statistics.

I found the results of Coach Crean’s study in the newsletter distributed by Coach Creighton Burns:

  1. The team that recorded the high field goal percentage was the winner in 75 percent of the basketball games.
  2. The team that scored the most free throws was the eventual winner in 70 percent of the games.
  3. The team that recovered the higher number of rebounds was the winner 65 percent of the time.
  4. The team that committed the higher number of personal fouls was the eventual winner in oniy 25 percent of the games.
  5. The team that held the point advantage at halftime was the winner 74 percent of the time.

After seeing the study, I am even more convinced as to the value of keeping the ball out of the lane on defense, taking care of the ball to get high percentage shots on offense, and playing very hard on defense, but without fouling as the staple ingredients for our system of play year in and year out.

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