Crazy about Colors and Correlations, pt. 2

Written by Ian Levy

This post is a follow-up to Crazy about Colors and Correlations, Pt. 1 in which I examined the correlations between Offensive Efficiency and some key offensive categories. These posts are less about me discovering some untold revelation of statistics and more about my excitement at figuring out the correlation function in Excel, and how to color code tables.

For this analysis I included the Defensive Efficiency of each team and compared the correlations with the defensive categories of Pace, Opponent’s Turnover Rate, Defensive Rebound Rate, Block Rate, Opponent’s Assist Rate, Opponent’s Free Throw Rate, Opponents At Rim FG%, Opponents 3PT%, and Opponents 3PT Rate. The idea is to see if there are certain characteristics that strong defensive teams often share. For Opponent’s Turnover Rate, Defensive Rebound Rate and Block Rate a strong correlation will actually be indicated by a negative result. (When those categories increase Defensive Efficiency should decrease.)

Here are the results:

Strong Correlations –

  • Correlation between O At Rim FG% and Defensive Efficiency: 0.7580
  • Correlation between Opponent’s Assist Rate and Defensive Efficiency: 0.7105
  • Correlation between Opponent’s 3PT% and Defensive Efficiency: 0.7078
  • Correlation between Defensive Rebound Rate and Defensive Efficiency: -0.6797

Low/Moderate Correlations –

  • Correlation between Block Rate and Defensive Efficiency: -0.5934
  • Correlation between Pace and Defensive Efficiency: 0.3899
  • Correlation between Opponent’s Turnover Rate: -0.1679

(Essentially) No Correlation -

  • Correlation between Opponent’s 3PT Rate and Defensive Efficiency: 0.0958
  • Correlation between Opponent’s Free Throw Rate and Defensive Efficiency: 0.0850

When looking at the results, several categories jump off the page. Most of the best defenses in the league do a good job of defending at the rim and defending the three point line. They rebound their opponent’s misses and limit ball movement, forcing them into isolation shots. There was a moderate correlation between shot blocking and playing at a slower pace; which in theory limits transition opportunities. The three smallest correlations were pretty surprising to me. The best defenses don’t necessarily force a lot of turnovers or limit their opponents free throws and three point shots. This seems to be counter to the common wisdom of getting steals and avoiding fouls.

Again, nothing earth shattering here, but enjoy all the colors and decimal places!

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