The most common way to judge a player’s skill set has always been the “eye test.” But thanks to the growing technology that made information and box scores easy to access, we are now able to understand the game in a different way.
Sports and numbers have always had a complex relationship.
Numbers can tell how many points a player can score, but it won’t show how hard he works for his shots. Numbers can identify how many times a player has missed in clutch situations, but it won’t take into account his will to win. Numbers can show the contributions of a player, but never the mindset of a competitor.
And yet, despite its limitations, advanced analytics are helping team executives in various sports leagues make decisions regarding their roster.
In the MLB, Billy Beane was able to change the modern era of baseball by applying sabermetrics to make personnel decisions for the Oakland Athletics. By signing and trading for players that fit the system, the A’s were able to remain competitive despite the team’s limited budget.
In the NBA, Houston Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey has been dubbed the “Nerd King” for being a pioneer of applying analytics in the pro basketball level. By focusing more on the importance of 3-pointers and signing players (and coaches) that fit their system, the Rockets now hold the 3rd best record this season with one of the most potent offenses in the league.
Both “Moneyball” and “Moreyball” were proof that statisticians can play important roles in running a franchise as analytics have found a way to value players based on efficiency and overall impact in a game.
In his quest for the ultimate basketball statistic, ESPN sports journalist-turned-NBA team executive John Hollinger managed to quantify the impact of a player, which lead to the birth of the Player Efficiency Rating. The PER has since been used by many basketball fans and analysts as the all-in-one stat that boils down all of a player’s contributions.
Take for example what Russell Westbrook is doing this season. With game averages of 31.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists, Westbrook leads all players in the PER category (30.59) with Harden four spots behind him (27.45). That should make Westbrook the favorite to win MVP if the award was based on numbers alone. In the lifetime PER category, Michael Jordan (27.91) reigns supreme with LeBron James (27.61) not far behind.
Applying the same formula to calculate the PER of PBA players is not an easy task. I mean, just look at this formula:
And that’s just PART of it!
In a nutshell, the formula above looks at the percentage of a player’s contribution on both the team and the league while also taking into account the minutes played. Thanks to the magic of internet, it was easy to get the stats I need. After hours of working through the formula, I was able to get this:
Despite the limited minutes that they’re playing this season, both Moala (18.8mpg) and Espinas (15.5mpg) are currently on the top 5 of the highest PERs in the PBA this season. If we were to set a minute limit and have only those who played at least 20 minutes per game:
Fajardo continues to be the most valuable player both on advanced metrics and the eye test, with both Maliksi and Castro are a distant second. If we were to find out which team has the most number of players with at least a PER rating of 10:
Perennial contenders, Talk N Text and San Miguel Beermen, continue to have the most number of talented players based on PER rating with Purefoods and Ginebra just below them. Vic Manuel (16.97) and Calvin Abueva (13.34) had a 10 or more PER rating for Alaska while only Carlo Lastimosa (11.87) was able to register a 10+ PER rating for NLEX. No wonder coach Yeng Guiao is having trouble trading away his players.
For Ginebra, Japeth Aguilar (16.36) leads the team in the rating, followed by Devance (14.67). Kevin Ferrer (9.98) missed the cut while, surprisingly, fan-favorite Scottie Thompson only has an 8.83 PER.
Another advanced metric that is constantly being used nowadays is Usage Rate, which is the estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor. According to Fox Sports, Westbrook currently has a 41.7% UR. This means that 41.7% of plays end up with Russell shooting the ball, turning the ball over, or getting to the line for free throws. That number, if it stands, will go down as the highest rate in a season, beating Kobe Bryant’s 38.74% in ’05-06.
In the PBA, the average usage rate is 3.89, which shows how balanced the teams are playing in the local setting. Below are the players with the highest usage rate this season:
Romeo, who averages 26.2 points per game, comes up on top with the highest usage rate while Alaska’s Manuel and Abueva make the bulk of Alaska’s offense. Lastimosa continues to be the sole bright spot for the struggling NLEX team while Maliksi remains as the Hotshots’ number 1 option on offense. Here’s the list of players who lead their team in usage rate:
Turnover Percentage can give us clues as to how effective a player is on the offensive end. As per Sporting Charts, the idea of TO% is to look at the possessions of a team while a player was on the floor and find how many of those possessions ended up with the player turning over the ball. Below are the top 5 most turnover-prone players in the PBA according to the advanced metrics:
The formula takes into account the player’s total turnovers, field goal attempts, and free throw attempts to come up with an estimate of turnovers per 100 plays.
True Shooting Percentage measures the efficiency of a player when shooting the ball, from field goals to free throws. Fellow sports blog Nylon Calculus argues that the TS% is more important than conventional stats (FG%, 3P%, FT%) because True Shooting is based on points and possessions.
Stats from ESPN show that in the top 10 qualified players in the league, only Kevin Durant is the non-center/power forward to join the ranks while Tyson Chandler leads the league with 70%. Durant’s entry in the TS% shows how crazy efficient he has been this season before going down with an injury. Joining KD in the top 20 are Kyle Korver, Otto Porter Jr., Isaiah Thomas, and teammates Andre Iguodala and Stephen Curry.
Globalport teammates, Pennisi and Pringle, were able to garner two of the top 5 spots in this category while Jvee Casio’s numbers show how deadly he is on the offensive end of the court:
If we were to set 20 minutes played as the minimum limit for this category, Pennisi and Reavis will be replaced by TNT’s RDO and NLEX’s Guinto:
The advanced metrics that we have used so far may never fully comprehend the true value of a player. That’s just how the relationship of stats and sports works! But analytics will continue to help executives and owners make decisions in pursuit of championships.
As for us, fans, it will only stir the pot as we continue our never-ending debates on who’s the best shooter, defender, and overall basketball player. But it’s good that we now have numbers to back it up.
After all, this is only the start of the analytical revolution in the PBA.
– David Gamboa
PS. I will be posting full team rosters with PERs, Usage Rates, TO%, and TS% on the official Facebook page of Fresh Off The Bench once all games this weekend have finished. I will also continue to add advanced metrics to help further evaluate the contributions of PBA players. If you have any questions or player requests, don’t hesitate to post comment below!
Player and team stats were based from Real GM and current through Thursday evening