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Pistons strangely rely on opponent’s last five games for scouting

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

When the Pistons scout upcoming opponents, they look at the most relevant information – which is the most recent information. They look, specifically, at the last five games to gauge lineup combinations, tendencies, strengths and weaknesses.

I get examining the last five games for lineup combinations and tendencies and then plugging in season-long data. But strengths and weaknesses from just the last five games? That seems like way too small a sample, especially when schedule strength can swing wildly during such a short stretch.

Kevin Pelton, back when he wrote for Basketball Prospectus, tackled the question of when data becomes significant:

Taken together, all three measures suggest that performance starts to flatten out somewhere around 25 games or so. If I was forced to put one number on when results become reliable, that would be the point, when two years ago teams were on average within two points of their final differential, adjusted or otherwise.

Player performance tends to stabilize a bit more quickly. Historically, analysts have used three benchmarks as cutoffs–250, 500 and 1,000 minutes. A starter can get to that first round figure, the smallest threshold at which I would ever seriously consider player performance, within the first couple of weeks of the season.

The interesting thing about player statistics is that there are a variety of different denominators, which means they stabilize at different rates. The denominators on rebounds (available missed shots), assists, steals and blocks (team plays) are so large that they tend to be highly reliable over small samples. The same is true of player tendencies (usage, and the percentage of plays used on twos, threes, free throws and turnovers). We see far more volatility in shooting statistics, since their denominators (shots attempted) are much smaller–especially in the case of three-point percentage. So it’s worth casting a warier eye toward hot shooting starts than players dominating in other ways.

It’s impossible for me to say how much the Pistons rely on their opponents’ last five games, so this might not be problematic if they use this info as a small piece of the puzzle. But it sounds unreliable, and in a season when Lawrence Frank’s team has routinely been out-coached, might this strategy be a factor?


  • Mar 22, 20133:03 pm
    by DasMark


    Whatever their strategy, it’s a little over 30% of the time. I would consider that unreliable. 

  • Mar 22, 20133:09 pm
    by sebastian


    “Pistons strangely rely on opponent’s last five games for scouting,” yet another reason why L. Frank and his staff should be shown the door!

  • Mar 22, 20133:27 pm
    by Sean Corp


    I wouldn’t be surprised if the strengths and weaknesses is dependent on how differently their lineup combinations have been in the past five games compared to the season overall. For instance, if a team’s best pick-and-roll defender get hurt and misses game you can see how that has affected their p-n-r defense, if they are giving up more points in the paint, wide-open 3s, etc. Still a small sample size but slightly more logical.

  • Mar 22, 20135:45 pm
    by anthony


    Completely irrelevant to this article, but apparently shabazz muhammad lied about his age. not that it makes a HGUGE difference, but still a little shady on his part..


    • Mar 22, 201311:10 pm
      by Ron


      HE didn’t lie his greedy dad did. For all we know this might be news to him too. Just wanted to clear that up

  • Mar 22, 20135:53 pm
    by Otis


    Gregg Popovich would have a hard time coaching this team to a .500 record. Why does everyone find it so hard to just accept that this team doesn’t have enough talent and leave it at that? Greg Monroe might be the worst first option in the league, and probably couldn’t be any better than a third option on a legitimately competitive team. Meanwhile, our other top young big man plays the same position as far as I’m concerned, until we actually see these guys on the court together having success. And the other third of our unspectacular young core will probably only ever be above average as a third guard.
    Add to that the fact that the only thing the team has actually DONE to rebuild is dump salary and wait for contracts to expire and it’s no wonder that this team is probably going to have one of the three or four worst records in the league. I mean, I don’t like Coach Frank one bit, and I think he absolutely has to go before this team is going to be respectable again, but a LOT has to happen before they’re respectable. And adding a few boring free agents isn’t going to get it done.

  • Apr 8, 20136:18 am
    by Shopping


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