The NBA is constantly innovating and as advanced statistics become more prominent and the subtleties of basketball are quantified, astute organizations will capitalize. A team like the San Antonio Spurs, presumably. The Spurs’ offense, for instance, relies heavily on the second-most efficient shot in basketball, aside from a dunk: the corner 3-pointer. (This, of course, was before the value of the shot was calculated.)
This is why one-dimensional offensive players like Bruce Bowen can thrive in Gregg Popovich’s offense as long as they can consistently knock down the corner 3-pointer. For this reason, it’s easy to be excited about the potential of Kawhi Leonard when he has already grasped one of the essential tenets of the offense. (Leonard converted on 47% of his corner 3-pointers last season.)
In an attempt to further the analytical movement, the NBA is currently instituting high-tech cameras to track data from various NBA teams like, for instance, the top speed of Tony Parker and the amount of miles Tim Duncan runs on the floor per game.
Zach Lowe of Grantland unearthed an interesting statistical fact that supports the notion that Manu Ginobili makes the lives of his teammates considerably easier, via the tracking system:
We’ll also learn a lot (from the camera system) about stamina and player health, though that’s a long way away. But here’s one example, via sources familiar with the data: After Manu Ginobili broke his wrist early last season, the Spurs’ camera data indicated that the other four starters were suddenly expending more energy — spending more time running at peak speeds — with Danny Green in Ginobili’s place.
Think about the implications of something like that, for both on-court strategy and training schedules. The Spurs’ general substitution patterns last season were a bit different than the typical NBA team’s, with Gregg Popovich removing more of his starters earlier than most coaches do.
This makes intuitive sense. Ginobili is an elite talent and playing alongside him doesn’t require as much effort. Naturally, the luxury of having Ginobili on the floor extends to the entire lineup: Scoring isn’t as difficult because Ginobili garners so much attention and because he’s such a gifted passer, finding the right spots in which to operate is all it takes to be successful.
The team takes a different tenor with Danny Green, who isn’t nearly as capable of creating offense by himself. As such, it is reasonable to expect that the other four players compensate by expending more energy.
While this bit of data isn’t necessarily surprising, it doesn’t mean that it is useless. In the right hands — ahem, Gregg Popovich — this information could be invaluable.