Let's talk about Expected Points

Advanced statistics.

They should be your friends. If you’re a huge basketball nerd like a lot of us, they should be some of your best friends. They really do matter in analyzing the game.

On the warfront of Watch The Games vs. Check Out These Advanced Stats, I like to toe the line and remain fairly neutral. I think both are equally important and neither can simply stand alone on its own merits. I think it’s essential to use each one as a check and balance for the other.

Ian Levy of Hickory-High.com has a new (at least I haven’t really seen it anywhere) theory on Expected Points.

“Expected Points uses a player’s FGA from each area of the floor and multiplies it by the average number of points scored on that type of shot to come up with an Expected Point total from that area. The Expected Point total can than be compared to the actual number of points a player scored from that area to arrive at a Point Differential. This point differential is an expression of how a player shot compared to the league average, but I like that the comparison is drawn with actual point totals. The average values of shots by location that I use (At Rim – 1.208, <10ft. – 0.856, 10-15ft. – 0.783, 16-23ft. – 0.801, 3PT – 1.081, FT – 0.759) were calculated by Albert Lyu of ThinkBlueCrew.

In simpl(er) terms the stat is a way of looking at a player's shooting percentages compared to league averages. I like that it turns that comparison into the more tangible asset of points scored. Instead of saying Player A shoots 2.3% less than average on long jumpers you can express it in how many points less than the league average he is scoring on those shots. I'm sure to most people the whole Expected Scoring thing will seem much more abstract than the shooting and scoring statistics they are used to. To me, probably because I have spent so much time playing with it, it seems a more concrete way of looking at player's shooting percentages.

At the very least it gives us some different language to discuss shooting percentages and efficient scoring. Instead of saying Player A is a below average shooter on long jumpers you can take it all the way to the outcome of his below average shooting. His below average shooting will cost his team 2.3 points per 40 minutes, or whatever the case may be. I see the value of this stat in that it considers made AND missed shots as actual points and not just a percentage of the whole.”

I’m a pretty big fan of what he’s saying here.

This idea of expected points giving us a clearer look into just what a shooting percentage means from different areas of the floor (as seen on HoopData) makes a lot of sense.

Sure, Brandon Jennings was horrible finishing at the rim last season (42%) but does his 3-point shooting (37%) make up for it? Did Tyreke Evans’ ability to get to the rim so much and score with good efficiency at the basket make up for the fact he didn’t shoot well from the perimeter?

I think you can look further into this idea of expected points and see the true value of a shooting percentage by breaking it down.

Check out more discussion and analysis from Ian on this topic here, here and here.