NBA's final four are 'believers' in analytics

Getty Images

According to ESPN’s Great Analytics Rankings, the Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors -- the remaining four teams in the NBA playoffs -- are “all-in” or “believers” in analytics, and their play on the court backs those claims.

One conclusion from basketball analytics is the value of 3-pointers, layups and free throws generally exceeds that of other, less efficient 2-point shots.

The four teams remaining are among the league leaders in percentage of points scored from behind the arc, at the rim (less than 5 feet) and at the foul line.

Below is a quick note on each of the teams:


Houston general manager Daryl Morey is the NBA’s most prominent proponent of analytics, and Rockets coach Kevin McHale is “all-in” with the push for high-value shots. More than any other team, the Rockets have eliminated midrange jumpers. During the regular season, they scored 5.7 percent of their points on midrange jumpers, nearly half the rate of any other team in the NBA.

Stat to know: The Rockets set NBA single-season record for both 3-pointers made and attempted this season.


Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert has been one of the early investors in analytics and the Cavs have one of the largest full-time analytics groups in the NBA. GM David Griffin regularly mentions director of analytics Jon Nichols when discussing the overall team approach to evaluating trades and player signings.

Stat to know: The Cavaliers are outscoring their opponents by 9.5 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs, best net efficiency of any team.


Atlanta is considered the “Spurs of the East” because of its style of play, emphasis on numbers and coaching style. Coach Mike Budenholzer is a Gregg Popovich disciple who similarly emphasizes ball movement and spacing.

Stat to know: The Hawks had the highest regular-season assist rate (67.6) since the 2009-10 Jazz.


Golden State was described as a “cautious believer” in analytics in the rankings, but coach Steve Kerr has noted that he is open to what numbers can tell you. In general, the Warriors’ efficiency is captured more by analytics than traditional stats; Golden State led the NBA in defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) in the regular season but only ranked 15th in points-per-game allowed.

Stat to know: The Warriors led the NBA in effective field goal percentage and opponent effective field goal percentage during the regular season.