Who Are Indiana's Biggest Ball Hogs and Black Holes?

black hole

Over at ESPN Insider, undisputed gentleman Tom Haberstroh (aka, Haberstromile) did a fun little statistical exercise to figure out who the NBA’s biggest ball hogs are. He used NBA.com’s wonderful new SportVu stat page to break down a few numbers and calculate who holds the ball the longest between passes. The site is very cool. The critical stats it gives us for this analysis are average time of possession per game each player has and how many passes each player makes per game.

Not so surprisingly, guards led the list.

Russell Westbrook, with a whopping 7.8 seconds of possession time between passes, was found to be the “biggest ball hog.” Brandon Jennings, Eric Bledson and James Harden also finished in the top ten, each holding the rock for more than 6.5 seconds between passes.

This is obviously not meant to discredit these players style of play (point guards, for example, obviously have the ball a lot as they bring the ball up the floor and set up the offense). But it does offer a nice, objective, analytical look at how long guys dribble the ball around.

So I decided to run the numbers on seven Pacers who lead the team in minutes per game.

Here are those findings.

Pacers Ball HogHabestroh also did a sister analysis to look at who the league’s biggest “black holes” are.

Pacer devotees may remember guys like Al Harrington and Jermaine O’Neal as infamous black holes. Essentially, whenever they got the ball — particularly Baby Al — you could assume a shot was going up. That was the common wisdom anyway.

By looking at the number Haberstron calculated, however, we can put some actual analytics on top of such common wisdom.

The way he broke it down was simple: Divide the number of shot attempts a player launches per game by the number of passes he averages per game. Easy peasy. Though it may seem odd, Klay Thompson has been the NBA’s “biggest black hole” so far this year (with just 1.3 passes per shot attempt). Then again, it makes sense. He isn’t much of playmaker and he leads the league in catch-and-shoot jumpers. That’s a definite recipe for black-hole status. Other guys in the top ten are obvious: Nick Young (1.6 passes per shot), Rudy Gay (1.7), and Carmelo Anthony (1.8).

Who are the Pacers biggest black holes?

Here are the findings.

Pacers Black Hole 2

Really, I’m not sure what the takeaway is.

On a leaguewide basis, it gives us some numbers to support stuff that is somewhat intuitive. For the Pacers, I think it shows the team’s balance. Nobody aside from the point guards who bring the ball up or — sort of — Paul George ever have the ball in their hands that much. They move it around and everybody takes a relatively similar number of shots (aside from George, who obviously should be taking more than anyone else at this point). And there is nobody who forces shots in a black hole sense or is unwilling to pass off when they don’t have a good look.

Yup, these numbers essentially tell us what we know: The Pacers offense is predicated on balance, and nary a sole on the roster cares how many shots they get per game. George has established that he will be — and should be — launching the most and the one who tries to create something out of nothing. But that’s as much a design of the system than it is a player doing something unilaterally simply because that’s the only way he knows how to play.


Topics: Stat Talk

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  • Philip Tarrant

    Relatively pointless, yet interesting trivia nonetheless. It’s too bad there’s no real objective way to calculate a forced shot rate. I’m certain Copeland would land himself in the running with Melo and JR Smith. Unfortunately, though forced shots are quite easy to spot, there’s no real statistical method for pinpointing when a shot is forced, especially as quite a few forced shots are made baskets and what may be a force for someone isn’t for someone else with a different skill set.

  • http://azraelsblogaboutwhatever.blogspot.com/ Patrick Talbert

    There are some players who warrant ‘black hole’ status (Klay Thompson is one of those, given his fantastic shooting %’s currently). Players like Waiters, Gay, and DeRozan, on the other hand, should not be shooting as much as they are because their %’s are terrible (at least currently). Those players should be working on getting teammates involved, driving the ball, and getting to the foul line. Kudos to the Pacers as a whole for having and a balanced attack.

  • Randy Lockdall

    Not so certain the Ball Hog status is correctly defined here. Typically we think of a Ball Hog as someone who places himself above the team and takes advantage of his talents for his own advantage. Ultimately under this description the Ball Hog would be the most productive player who would contribute the most in scoring, retrieving and assisting other players. Lebron James ultimately is the best Ball Hog especially in contributing to victories in crucial situations for his team on a regular basis. All statistics are somewhat incoherent as they fail to address the inadequacies of all aspects of the game. Roy Hibbert’s contributions may look bleak on the one hand but when you look at plus minus statistics they suggest otherwise. Obviously the crucial factor is decision making and some players are less predictable and more erratic than others, which makes coaching decisions all the more important.

  • Lefty Righty

    I did the math for the ‘black hole status’, as the results didn’t make sense. What is actually calculated is the passes divided by the number of shots (which is the opposite of what the article says). So, a large number of passes/shots means one makes many passes and takes few shots. Therefore, the numbers given are in the table are not ‘black holes’, but the opposite. This makes sense, as the two point guards move the ball the most, and PG is our resident shot taker/maker. Also, Hibbert takes many shots after he gets the ball because it’s so hard to get him the ball when he’s near the rim.

    Take away: The ‘black hole’ factor is the inverse of the numbers in the posting.