Watch the Sky

Posted by Rob Mahoney on September 3, 2010 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

Screen shot 2010-09-03 at 6.55.46 AM

One of the more glaring problems with debates over positionality is that they take place so far beyond the court. The aspirations of those discussions are lofty, and as such, redefining position involves a lot of staring at clouds, supposing what shapes they might be.

That makes any way to bring that conversation just a little bit closer to Earth pretty invaluable.

Tom Haberstroh did just that with his latest post at Hardwood Paroxysm, in which he analyzed the intersection between traditional positions and shot location. Thanks to HoopData, Haberstroh was able to statistically ascertain the shot selection of a “typical” point guard, etc. Based on that data, he then determined which players fit those standards best, and which were the most divergent from their positional norms.

A quick look through a list of the latter reveals why the positional revolution should be near and dear to all Mavs fans. We know that Dirk Nowitzki is not normal. Not typical. Still, it means something to be able to make those sentiments a bit more concrete; to say that Dirk Nowitzki’s shot distribution makes him one of the five most deviant power forwards in the game today. To know that Shawn Marion’s shot selection puts him the farthest away from small forward normality. To recognize that Jason Kidd, despite living in a space reserved for the point guard ideal, is — and this is Haberstroh’s term, and one I’m eager to adopt — a positional contrarian.

It’s not easy to place where this kind of analysis fits into the bigger picture, but as is the case with everything anyone has done with positionality thus far, it’s a step. There are interesting conceptual issues here, but the ultimate hope is that work related to or even directly based on Haberstroh’s will eventually tether the positional revolution to the hardwood.