Basketball NBA

NBA Play Type Effectiveness

As I mentioned in my last post, NBA.com has great statistics available for anyone to use. One of these is Team Play Type, where you can look at different team stats for a particular type of play. This post will be about two types of plays: transition and isolation.

All data in this post is as of 2/20/20.

The first two graphics will be looking at a teams frequency of play type and their effective field goal percent. The first will be for transition plays and the second will be for isolation plays. Average lines as well as standard deviation bands have been added for both measures.

The Toronto Raptors have the highest frequency of transition plays at 21.3%. They are followed closely by the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets at 21.0% and 19.7%, respectively.

The Miami Heat are an interesting case. They are tied for the second least transition play frequency at 12.6%, but they have an effective field goal percentage of 64.8% on those transition plays.

If you have been following the NBA even a little over the past few years, this graphic should not surprise you. The Houston Rockets are far and away the team with the highest frequency of isolation plays, mainly because of James Harden. The Houston Rockets use isolation plays 19.7% of the time, 9.4% higher than the next closest team, the Portland Trail Blazers.


The next two graphics look at a team’s free throw frequency and and one opportunities on transition and isolation plays. Another way to think of this graphic is it shows how many extra scoring opportunities a team gets given a certain play type. The first will be for transition plays and the second will be for isolation plays. Average lines as well as standard deviation bands have been added for both measures.

The L.A. Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Milwaukee Bucks are the three teams with the most extra scoring opportunities. The Clippers have a free throw frequency of 16.2% on their transition plays and an and one frequency of 4.6%.

The Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz, and Denver Nuggets have some of the least extra scoring opportunities on transition plays. The 76ers have only a 10% free throw frequency and 1.3% and one frequency on transition plays.

The San Antonio Spurs are the only team with a significant number of extra scoring opportunities on isolation plays, with 15.7% of them resulting in free throws and 4.4% of them ending with and ones.

I was surprised by this, I really thought the Houston Rockets would be up there with them. I guess the refs finally realized Harden wasn’t really being fouled as often as he would like to think.

The Utah Jazz are yet again in the bottom of the pack, but this time they are joined by my beloved Minnesota Timberwolves. With only 0.9% and 1.1% and one frequency on isolation plays, respectively, it’s difficult to win games.

Data: stats.nba.com

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