Dig Deeper Into The Game With New Defensive and Hustle Data

02/15/2018 at 03:02pm

By Brian Martin

On Thursday, Feb. 15, three new features were added to NBA.com/Stats to allow users to analyze the game more completely. Box Out data is now available within the Hustle Stats section, while Defense and Matchup Box Scores have been added for every game this season, allowing users to view data on all individual defensive matchups.


Hustle Stats: Box Outs

The NBA introduced hustle stats during the 2016 Playoffs to finally measure the effort plays that “don’t always show up in the box score” but are so important for team success.

After beginning with deflections, loose ball recoveries, screen assists, charges drawn and contested shots, now box outs are available for all players and teams for the 2017-18 season.

The importance of boxing out an opponent has been drilled into basketball players from day one. When a shot goes up, don’t just stare at the ball and watch what happens, get a body on someone so you’re in position to secure the rebound in case the shot misses.

As expected there is a direct correlation between boxing out and rebounding. If a player ranks among the league leaders in rebounding, he’s most likely near the top of the rankings in box outs as well.

Top 10 Rebound Leaders (through games played on Feb. 14)

  • Andre Drummond: 15.7*
  • DeAndre Jordan: 15.0*
  • DeMarcus Cousins: 12.9
  • Dwight Howard: 12.6*
  • Karl-Anthony Towns: 12.1
  • Joel Embiid: 11.1
  • Clint Capela: 11.1
  • Anthony Davis: 10.7
  • Enes Kanter: 10.7*
  • Nikola Jokic: 10.5

Top 10 Box Out Leaders (through games played on Feb. 14)

  • Steven Adams: 11.3
  • Enes Kanter: 9.5*
  • DeAndre Jordan: 8.8*
  • Robin Lopez: 8.6
  • Marcin Gortat: 8.5
  • Andre Drummond: 8.2*
  • Ed Davis: 8.0
  • Rudy Gobert: 7.8
  • LaMarcus Aldridge: 7.7
  • Dwight Howard: 7.4*
Note: Players listed with an asterisk (*) rank in top 10 in both rebounds and box outs per game.

But the ratio is not 1:1, which is why tracking box outs is important to measuring player hustle and effort. Now the work that a player puts in to get himself – and his team - in the best position for a rebound is noted, even if a shot is made and there is no rebound to grab, or if the ball careens in the opposite direction and there is no chance at securing the ball.

Then there are times when a player is able to swoop in for a rebound because his teammates boxed out the opposing players. Steven Adams leads the league in box outs (11.3 per game), but is not even the leading rebounder on his own team, let alone the entire league. Adams’ box outs not only help him secure 9.1 boards per game (15th in NBA), but help Russell Westbrook fly in from the perimeter to grab 9.4 rebounds per game (13th in NBA) and get the Thunder on the move.

Adams’ work on box outs can also be seen in player tracking rebound data as he ranks first in the league in contested rebound percentage (57.6%) among players that grab at least five rebounds per game.

The addition of box outs to the hustle stats offering now gives the players that do the dirty work more credit for their efforts on the court.

Where to find Box Outs on NBA.com/Stats
Hustle Leaders

  • Open main menu near the top left corner of the page, select Hustle Leaders, select Players or Teams (default is Players), then scroll to bottom of the page to find Box Outs
  • Open main menu near the top left corner of the page, select Players, select Hustle Leaders
  • Open main menu near the top left corner of the page, select Teams, select Hustle Leaders

Complete Hustle Stats Grid

  • From the Hustle Leaders page, select the arrow next to the title of any category to see the full list
  • Open main menu near the top left corner of the page, select Players, scroll down to find and click Hustle Stats, when the page opens, the players are shown alphabetically, click on any stat in the header row to sort by that stat
  • Open main menu near the top left corner of the page, select Teams, scroll down to find and click Hustle Stats, when the page opens, the teams are shown alphabetically, click on any stat in the header row to sort by that stat


Box Scores: Defense

The traditional box score has always struggled to capture defensive effort and success. There have been counting stats like steals and blocks for decades; and while opponent field goal percentage is important (Steve Kerr listed it among the first three stats he checks in a box score during a recent appearance on the Bill Simmons podcast), does it truly capture defensive pressure or did the opposing team just miss open shots?

With the addition of the defensive box score, we can now drill deeper into the defensive effort of teams and individual players during each game.

Not only do we know how many points the opposing team scored while a particular player was on the court (which has been available in plus/minus for years), now we can tell how many points a player allowed by the players he was directly defending throughout the game.

Take a look at the image below for a sample defensive box score from Tuesday’s game between the Heat and Raptors.

We can see that Josh Richardson allowed 21 points to the players he was defending during his 36 minutes on the court. In getting those 21 points, the players Richardson was guarding throughout the game shot 8-of-18 (44.4%) from the field and 2-of-5 (40%) from beyond the arc.

How much did Richardson have to do with those 10 missed shots? We can see that he contested 10 of the 18 field goals his matchup attempted (making 4 of them), with three of those contested shots coming from three. That equates to Richardson allowing eight uncontested shots (including two 3-pointers). If we do the math, his matchup shot 5-of-13 on contested shots, but 3-of-5 on uncontested shots.

Where to find Defense Box Scores on NBA.com/Stats

  • Go to the Scores page (from top navigation link or by opening the menu at the top right of the screen and selecting Scores
  • Select the game that you want to view
  • Below the line score, click the word Traditional (the default box score view) to open a drop down menu of the different box scores available and select Defense
  • Quick Tip: Make sure to open the Glossary at the top of the page (below the line score, on the right) to clarify any questions about the stats provided within the Defense box score


Box Scores: Matchup

In the example above describing the defensive box score data, we mentioned the “players” that Josh Richardson was guarding in Tuesday’s game against Miami. The defensive box score groups all 76 of those possessions into a single line of data to give an overall snapshot of his defense during the game.

To get even more granular into the analysis, there is the Matchups box score, which details each individual defensive matchup, for every player, from every game.

Here is the full breakdown of Richardson’s defensive matchups from Tuesday’s game. This can be gathered by selecting Richardson's name in the Defensive Player drop down menu.

We see that he spent most of his night defending DeMar DeRozan (36 of his 76 defensive possessions) with DeRozan scoring nine points on 3-of-7 shooting from the field and 1-of-1 from beyond the arc, while also dishing two assists when defended by Richardson.

Having such detailed information on defensive matchups is extremely valuable to players, coaches, media and fans alike. Finding favorable matchups is imperative for team success both in the regular season and especially in the playoffs, when teams can square off seven times in the span of two weeks.

Where to find Matchup Box Scores on NBA.com/Stats

  • Go to the Scores page (from top navigation link or by opening the menu at the top right of the screen and selecting Scores
  • Select the game that you want to view
  • Below the line score, click the word Traditional (the default box score view) to open a drop down menu of the different box scores available and select Matchups
  • Quick Tip: Similar to the Defense box score, be sure to open the Glossary at the top of the page (below the line score, on the right) to clarify any questions about the stats provided within the Matchups box score