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Four Factors, New Worksheet

I was sitting around earlier this afternoon thinking to myself that I haven't written a post that states the obvious in a while. I guess it's time to correct that, and not only will I state the obvious, but I'll back it up with stats.

After the jump we'll take a close look at each game using the four factors, see just how bad the shooting has been, and how many games it's cost this team.

If you look at the home page, you'll see I've added another link to the "Extra Credit" section in the middle of the page called "Four Factors." That link will take you to the spreadsheet below. I'll update it throughout the season.

Four factors is a method of statistical evaluation championed by Dean Oliver, the link takes you to his book, "Basketball on Paper." For a brief primer on the stats, click here.

Knickerblogger.net does an excellent job of tracking the four factors on a team level, what I want to do is take a microscope to the Sixers season and boil each game down to the four factors. The school of thought is that these four stats are the keys to winning basketball games.

When you're looking at the spreadsheet, you'll see offense and defense, so there are really 8 factors. eFG is effective field goal percentage, it measures shooting. TO% is turnover rate. ORB% is offensive rebounding, FTF is the free throw factor, it measures free throws/field goal attempts. The stats are the same on the defensive side, except for rebounding. DRB% is the percent of defensive rebounds the Sixers grabbed.

All told, there are five battles a team can win in every game: eFG vs. opponents eFG, TO% vs. opponents TO%, FTF vs opponents FTF, ORB% (PHI offensive rebounding vs. OPP offensive rebounding) and DRB% (PHI defensive rebounding vs. OPP defensive rebounding). The winner of each battle in each game is highlighted in yellow.

A couple things jump out immediately. First, when you look at the season totals for each category, the Sixers have an advantage over their opponents in all but one, eFG. They've been better in FTs, ORBs, DRBs, and TOVs. It's the shooting, and more specifically, the three-point shooting. They're trailing their opponents by nearly 3% in eFG, even though they've made 3 more field goals than their opponents and only trail by 1% in field goal percentage.

When we start looking at the results for each game, the importance of shooting becomes even more apparent. Check this out (through 30 games).

  • Only 10 times they've lost more battles than they've won. Not surprisingly, they're 1-9 in those games. The only win under those circumstance came against the Clippers.
  • They've lost every battle three times, twice in the last three games. They were all losses.
  • They've won more battles than they lost (3 wins, minimum) 20 times. their record in those games is 11-9.
  • They won all five only once, in their thrashing of the Kings.
  • They've won four battles five times, all wins. (WAS, @DET, GSW, OKC, @IND)
  • They've won three battles 13 times, their record in those games is 4-9.
  • They've won the eFG battle seven times. All wins. All against horrible defensive teams (NYK, SAC, @TOR, OKC, WAS, MIL, @WAS)
  • Each time they won the game with three battle wins, they won eFG.
  • Each time they lost the game with three battle wins, they lost eFG.
  • Their record when winning eFG, 7-0.
  • Their record when losing eFG, 5-18.
Take a step back and think about that for a second. This team outperforms their opponent in each factor regularly, except shooting. More specifically, in shooting the three and defending the three. They're 12-18 simply because their shooting is so much worse than their opponents. The margin is so large. They shoot so poorly that the work they do in every other area of the game is nullified.

While they may never be able to raise their own eFG with their current roster, there is still work they can accomplish without making a trade. Over the past five games they've allowed their opponents to hit 46 out of 106 three point attempts. That's 43.4% from downtown. That simply cannot happen.

The perimeter defense of this team needs to step up, and they need to do it now. Over those same five games they've been outscored 138 to 45 from three, 93 points. Overall, they've been outscored by only 35 points over the stretch and they've lost 4 of 5 games. Had they simply held their opponent to 35% (roughly league average), and not improved their own paltry percentage one bit (24.9%), they would've been outscored by only 8. You can't become great shooters overnight, but you can defend the three better. This needs to start with the coaches in practice and it needs to be enforced by the coaches during the game. The next time Willie Green gets lost and leaves a shooter wide open, you put him on the bench, immediately. Cut back his minutes and he'll learn. The same should go for everyone on the roster at this point.
by Brian on Dec 31 2008
Tags: Basketball | Four Factors | Sixers | Spreadsheets | Stats |