Arc Of History
If you watched an NBA game in 1990, not only did you see many more free throws than you'd see now, but you also didn't see anything like as many 3s. Here's how the game improved. Henry Abbott »Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports
Ray Allen in the corner.
Miami's 2013 NBA Finals win over San Antonio can reasonably be boiled down to those five words, an iconic moment that has already achieved legendary status.
You know the story: Seconds from the Spurs clinching the title, LeBron James misses a game-tying 3, Chris Bosh gets the rebound and dishes to Allen who hits the shot and forces overtime in Game 6. The Heat win, then take Game 7 and the championship.
But what are the chances of that even happening? What's the cumulative possibility of that trio of events -- James, Bosh, Allen -- unfolding just like that?
About nine percent, according to Rajiv Maheswaran.
In a March TED talk that was recently released, Maheswaran used Allen's shot to illustrate the importance of understanding efficiency and shot quality.
As the CEO of Second Spectrum, a company devoted to providing real-world results and context to advanced analytics, Maheswaran concerns himself with what a sophisticated machine can tell us about our habits once it learns the vagaries of human behavior. Pick-and-rolls, for instance, are a difficult thing to calculate because of the variety of options available to the players on the floor.
But through repetition and recall, Second Spectrum has generated enough data to provide insight to coaches throughout the league.
And beyond the cold, binary sea of numbers are real stories and moments like Allen's that can occasionally be better appreciated when put into a statistical perspective.
Watch the full TED talk here.
Who are the best prospects in this year’s NBA draft? The draft class appears to be loaded with talent, which can put even more pressure on teams to get it right.
To gauge current opinion and find the wisdom of the crowd, we asked our ESPN Forecast panel (plus several participants from the APBRmetrics discussion board) to vote on a series of head-to-head matchups: Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell vs. Emmanuel Mudiay, and so on.
To create these randomly generated one-on-one “contests,” we took the top 15 prospects from Chad Ford’s Top 100. About 50 voters, with more than 3,000 total votes, weighed in to produce a ranking of the top prospects.
What did we learn?
First, Towns is way above the field, according to our panel (see full rankings below).
Second, Russell took 62 percent of the head-to-head matchups versus Okafor (meaning that most voters see Russell as the better prospect). Despite that, their final scores were close together, because Russell tended to lose a little more often against other big men in the field compared with Okafor.
Third, big men tended to get the benefit of the doubt overall. Teams have traditionally favored bigs in the draft (though a little less so in recent years), and that tendency showed up among our panel too.
Fourth, just as Ford publishes tiers based on his reporting, our panel produced distinct tiers:
In the table, we show the rank, score and head-to-head score versus the prospect ranked just below. The score is the overall winning percentage against everyone else in the field of 15, and the head-to-head score is the winning percentage versus the referenced prospect. For example, Towns won 95 percent of matchups against the field and 73 percent of matchups versus Russell.
And now we’d like to get your views, using the same format.