People try to make basketball complicated. Ever since coach legend Phil Jackson‘s vaunted Triangle Offense that enabled Michael Jordan‘s domination — and the advent of a million statistical categories made possible by Big Data — the statisticians have moneyballed their way to prominence in pro sports. But the players, while finding much of the data helpful and instructive, tend to rely on feel and the old standard statistics to illustrate and understand the events of an NBA Game.
Toronto Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard is old school in many respects. He doesn’t beat his chest and celebrate every made basket, he doesn’t cater to a social media following, and he doesn’t need Big Data to figure out the narrative of an NBA basketball game.
Leonard says he looks for three things on the box score that tell him what he needs to know. Leonard looks for rebounds, turnovers, and field goal percentage. Achieve high rebound figures, low turnovers, and high field goal percentage — and you’ve very likely got a winning effort on your side. Those are the three factors that mean the most to Leonard. Maybe after those he’ll look at points in the paint.
To calculate this Leonard hardly needs a computer, though of course all those who accuse him of being a basketball-playing robot (it’s a compliment!) believe he’s already doing intricate calculations on his internal Kawhi hard drive.