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Basketball on Paper: Rules and Tools for Performance Analysis Paperback – November 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"At the risk of succumbing to hyperbole, Basketball on Paper is a revolutionary strike for statistical analysis of the game of basketball. . . . There has never been a basketball book quite like [it]."

"The must-read hoops numbers book."

"Statistics guru Dean Oliver . . . is to the NBA what Bill James is to baseball."

"Excellent writing. There are a lot of math guys who just rush from the numbers to the conclusion. . . . Dean is more that that; he's really struggling to understand the actual problem, rather than the statistical after-image of it. I learn a lot by reading him."

"Oliver's book provides an insightful framework for basketball. . . . This book is a unique and surprisingly practical addition to a coach's library."

"A revolutionary strike for statistical analysis of the game of basketball."

From the Publisher

Basketball stats and strategy for coaches and fans alike. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books; New edition edition (November 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574886886
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574886887
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Sheehy on August 17, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been using the formulas and ideas presented in Dean Oliver's book for the past three years. I was never a math fan, but my spreadsheets for calculating basketball statistics are the most complicated I have ever created and it was this book that started my obsession. The book inspired me with a fascination over a new way to look at the game and the players that bring it to life. Mr. Oliver's work was just a starting point and over the past few years I have added other formulas and other mathematical approaches to looking at the game, but I would not have gotten anywhere without this book. It is an essential tool in my toolbox for evaluating and enjoying the game of basketball.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Doctor Bob on July 1, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a statistician, and someone who also loves sports, I have totally enjoyed the "new" satistical approaches to sports stats, from tversky to moneyball to learning you should never punt. Sports arguments are often a lot more fun these days (e.g., 90 percent of the ESPN analysis on NBA draft night is how well the players scored the ball in college, when that appears statistically to be only a minor indicator of professional success.

The problem I have with much of the literature aimed at the general public though, is that is over simplifies the problems, and all to often takes away the argument by assumption. John Maynard Keynes taught us that the big problem with statistics is not the methods, it's having no way to validate the numbers we put in.

So here we have an assumed method of picking the best offensive and defensive teams in history, no discussion of why most of those teams did not win a championship, no discussion of alternative methods. We get probabilities of winning streaks, but only a couple paragraphs on problems with those stats. (player injuries as the only example.). What about the fact that NBA teams almost always lose the second game of back to back road games? What about teams tanking at the end of the season to improve draft position?

I appreciated large parts of this book, but also found myself deeply frustrated with it at points. There are better books out there for people who want to get started on modern sports statistics.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Greg Thomas on December 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Oliver's work shows a maturity that has been lacking from many basketball evaluation books--John Hollinger's "Basketball Prospectus" being another exception. Not only are players evaluated statistically but their roles on their teams are considered in context in relationship to their numbers. If you want to gain an understanding of basketball as perhaps you've never had before, and are willing to accept the ambiguous nature of numbers themselves, this is the book for you!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By hoopsfan68 on August 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a great book for people who are both numbers geeks and basketball geeks. I wish that there was more of a focus on college basketball, but that's just me. The author even replied to a couple of my questions regarding some of the formulas via email. Highly recommended for a basketball fan intrigued by statistics and indexes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Young on January 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thought it was an excellent book. The author was clearly very knowledgeable both as a basketball player and as a quantitative analyst. Probably this dual identity is also what allowed him to communicate the findings so well to non-analysts while preserving enough of the meat of the analysis for pure analysts to see where it would all lead to.

Best book on sports statistics that I've read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Timothy A. Lewis on May 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While Oliver's methods and approaches are all applied to the NBA game in this book, they nevertheless can be applied in whole to the collegiate game. After reading "Basketball on Paper" over the last year and watching the 2009-2010 college basketball season, I can truly say that this book has revolutionized how I view a basketball game -- all for the better.

Without giving away key premises, Oliver truly dives deep into the fundamentals of how a basketball game works to determine tools to evaluate how teams and players do just past the final score. Typical cliches are challenged -- some proven, some shown to be irrelevant -- as he puts a statistical and logical argument behind why the proposed approaches are superior. And I agree with his results. After focusing on them over the past year, I can truly say that this book has helped me further understand how and why a team wins just behind the final score. Diving into the box score alone can reveal hidden gems that you might not have thought about otherwise. If you're a stat nut, a basketball fanatic, or some sort of a combination of the two, this book is a definite must read.

Considering that this is one of the greatest books I've ever read, I'd say it is worthy of a five star rating.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you are interested in advanced basketball statistics or are just a fan looking for ways to be a more discerning viewer, you will probably find this an interesting read. If you are looking for new insights, not so much.

An example of an interesting idea: Comparing a team's points scored, points allowed differential with the league average for a particular year is a pretty good indicator of the teams winning percentage. Of course, if a team has played enough games to have a statistically significant point differential, the teams won/loss record is also a pretty good indicator of how the teams winning percentage will end up. An interesting correlation but not very interesting for making predictions nor for understanding the game.

The author makes a very good point that players should be evaluated not on how much they score, but their value as a scoring asset minus their liability on defense. The author considers shooting percentage, assists, free throws, etc. as contributions to scoring. He also tries to include statistics on blocks, shooting percentages of opposing players, etc. to determine a defensive value. While a step in the right direction, it is a long ways from being useful to determine a players value. A couple of examples:

1. A player is very good at 3 point shooting. The opposing teams denies him the ball and instantly double teams him every time he touches the ball. This allows the remainder of his team to play 4 on 3, get lots of open looks presumably score very efficiently. Since the player in question probably commonly passes out of double teams but not directly to the player ultimately taking a shot, he will probably get few assists. According to the author, this player has very little offensive value.

2.
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