Baseball is a game ripe for statistical analysis, largely because a box score can tell us almost everything that happened during a game. It doesn’t describe a diving catch or a home plate collision, but it does tell us how many men were on base at any given time, how many pitches were thrown, where each pitch was thrown, whether the batter swung at it, who recorded the out, how far the home run was hit, etc., etc.
Raw basketball statistics also have a lot to tell us, but they pose more of a challenge....
If you’re the sort of baseball fan who loves digging into numbers, your interests are well-primed for the statistical puzzle that is basketball. NBA statisticians crunch the numbers into compound stats such as Value Above Replacement and Win Share, concepts familiar to baseball’s stat nerds, as well as Usage Percentage, Points Produced, and Pace Factor. They have a healthy sample size in which to work: an NBA season features about half as many games as a baseball season, which is still a pretty big number.
But just as in baseball, compound stats aren’t the truth -- they’re a means of gleaning a better understanding of the truth. To best understand what’s really going on on a basketball court, you need to simultaneously watch the games and take in the stats.
It's a good question. I know I certainly am one of those guys that doesn't typically pay attention to the NBA until April, but should we give it more of a chance? Is Jon begging for acceptance or is there more happening in the NBA than baseball fans give it credit for?