There is something fundamentally wrong with the NBA All-Star game and All-Star Weekend at large. The new NBA Jam-like rule change, while interesting, does not fix what plagues the NBA’s premier regular season event.
So What Is the Problem?
Give the NBA credit, they have shoehorned the All-Star event into the perfect time period. Those feeling hungover from the Super Bowl have something to watch, and those who are waiting for prime time NCAA basketball to come during March have an event to hold themselves together in the meantime. If you are an NBA fan, chances are you were already going to watch the All-Star activities. By picking mid-February, the league has found a period in the sports calendar where the NBA has center stage.
In spite of the logistical victory, fans do not care and players do not care. The NBA has seen a sharp decline in viewership numbers for the All-Star game from the ’90s leading into the 2000s, and then almost no growth since 2005 (Please note the Lockout of 1999 had the All-Star Game cancelled, all data from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Basketball_Association_on_television). Viewership is not the best metric for fan engagement, but it does give a decent look at where fans stand with respect to watching the actual game (admittedly, it does not measure interest in the other festivities during All-Star Weekend). I also examined the voter numbers to assess engagement, but worried that the results might be unreliable. Due the constant changes in how and where fans could vote, any correlations might not be instructive.
The Houston Rockets are at a point of critical failure – or rather, they have reached a crux with more than one point of critical failure.
The Rockets’ record stands at 13-7 roughly a quarter of the way into the regular season. It has finally been long enough to shake off the “it’s too early to comment” crowd, and we can finally make some valid statement about this team long-term. To all appearances, things are not looking particularly spectacular for a team that entered the season with championship expectations.
Chances are if you’re into sports you’ve seen the famed charts from @NBA_Math that feature overlapping pictures of NBA players in a conventional Cartesian plot with a line plotted on it (y=-x). Anything above the line is good, anything below is bad, and average values will tend to walk the line. The graph is a visual attempt to quantify some mystery statistic known as TPA.
What is TPA?
This is something of a loaded question; the acronym TPA stands for “Total Points Added”. The basic idea behind it is that a player adds points on offense and defense. You then total these subsections to get TPA.
Unfortuantely, the definition above is rather incomplete. We now need to understand Offensive Points Added (OPA) and Defensive Points Saved (DPS), the components which make up TPA. The two subcategories are much more complex than TPA alone.
To get OPA and DPS, we need to use “Box Plus/Minus,” an all-in-one statistic created by Daniel Myers and hosted at basketball-reference.com. I promise we are almost at the bottom of the well here in terms of stat definitions. Box Plus/Minus is a relativistic stat that gauges a player’s impact on team performance when s/he is on the court. S/he again will have an impact on both defense and offense, so accordingly Box Plus/Minus can break down into two stats: Offensive Box Plus/Minus (OPBM) and Defensive Box Plus/Minus (DPBM). We can already see that TPA has the same structure as Box Plus Minus; both purport to measure a player’s impact on both ends of the floor. What is the difference between the two?