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NBA "Points in the Paint"

by Roland Beech, Founder 82games.com

Points in the Paint in NBA Basketball

Among the little details you come across in "official" NBA box scores is the Points In Paint total for each team for a game. These days you do hear the stat bandied about a fair amount by commentators, shown on the first half summary stats on broadcasts and the like...and of course many a coach has been heard lamenting how many points were given up in the paint by his team in the post-game discussion.

Now this official number has some major problems to my mind:

  1. it does not include points from free throws where the foul was drawn in the paint
  2. we are not told how many shots were taken in the paint, or how many turnovers in the paint
  3. ...and consequently there is no way from the straight box score to extrapolate any kind of efficiency measure for points per possession on "in the paint" activity
The first question then is does the number have any value at all? Or would we be wise to ignore it until a better rendition of the concept is created.

Does winning the "Points in the Paint" battle win the game?
A simple test is to see how often the team that score more points in the paint wins the game. Looking at the past two regular seasons (06-07 and 05-06) it comes out like this:

Pts in Paint
edge
Won
Lost
Win%
1-5 323 279 53%
6-10 464 347 57%
11-15 221 131 62%
16-20 211 105 66%
21+ 170 61 73%
Any Edge 1389 923 60%



So at a glance it can seem impressive, but keep in mind you would expect an advantage since we know the team with more points in the paint has at the least outscored its opponent in that one department, which means the opponent has to make up points elsewhere (free throws, field goals made outside the paint) to win.

Another way to examine the issue is to look at season long totals and whether they have much correlation to overall team success.

2006-07 Team Points in the Paint Stats

The table below shows the per game points in the paint for each team during the 06-07 regular season.

Team
Pts in Paint
(Off)
Pts in Paint
(Def)
Pts in Paint
(Net)
Won-Lost
 Orlando 43.2 34.0 9.1 40-42
 New York 45.2 38.1 7.0 33-49
 Utah 43.1 38.2 4.9 51-31
 Miami 40.6 36.1 4.5 44-38
 New Orleans 41.8 37.8 4.0 39-43
 Golden State 46.8 43.9 2.9 42-40
 Houston 35.3 33.0 2.3 52-30
 Cleveland 40.3 38.1 2.2 50-32
 Denver 46.7 44.8 1.9 45-37
 Milwaukee 45.3 43.5 1.8 28-54
 Phoenix 43.8 42.3 1.4 61-21
 New Jersey 36.6 35.6 1.0 41-41
 San Antonio 39.9 38.9 1.0 58-24
 Chicago 35.7 35.1 0.6 49-33
 Seattle 42.6 43.6 -1.0 31-51
 Philadelphia 39.9 41.2 -1.3 35-47
 Dallas 35.3 36.9 -1.6 67-15
 L.A. Lakers 42.1 43.7 -1.6 42-40
 Detroit 35.3 37.2 -1.9 53-29
 Indiana 36.7 38.7 -2.0 35-47
 Boston 39.0 41.7 -2.7 24-58
 Washington 38.9 41.6 -2.7 41-41
 Memphis 42.5 45.4 -2.9 22-60
 Charlotte 39.1 42.0 -2.9 33-49
 L.A. Clippers 36.9 40.0 -3.1 40-42
 Portland 38.1 41.2 -3.1 32-50
 Sacramento 38.5 41.8 -3.3 33-49
 Atlanta 38.7 43.0 -4.4 30-52
 Toronto 35.3 40.0 -4.8 47-35
 Minnesota 35.0 40.4 -5.5 32-50



Now if you look at correlations over the last two seasons (so include 05-06 as well) you get the following:

-.11 for PTS in PAINT on Offense
-.34 for PTS in PAINT on Defense
+.20 for net Pts in Paint

The 95% CI's are huge with just a 60 team-season sample, but the basic premise is offensive points in the paint don't have a huge impact, defensive points in the paint allowed are the most connected to winning record (it's showing a negative correlation since fewer points allowed in the paint is the goal) and the net is somewhat related to record.

Over the past two season the eventual NBA finalists ranked 1st (Miami 05-06), 8th, 9th, and 13th in net points in the paint...but the 2005-06 conference finals losers were Detroit (ranked last in the league in net pts in the paint) and Phoenix (ranked 26th).

So you find good and bad teams at both extremes in the rankings, albeit in both years the top fifteen teams in net points in the paint outperformed the bottom fifteen as a group, winning 54% overall in 06-07 and 53% in 05-06.

The next place to turn is to look at the details of points in the paint performance for specific teams.

Team-by-Team "Points in the Paint" Won-Lost details
Using a six group split, we can examine each teams' W-L record when hitting certain points in the paint scenarios.

So if in a given game a team had 48 points in the paint and allowed 40 points in the paint, that would be a "+8" net edge and depending on whether the game was won or lost would tally a W or L in the 6-10 Pts Edge column

Team
Any Edge
11+ Pts
6-10 Pts
0-5 Pts
Any Deficit
-1 to -5
-6 to -10
-11 down
 Atlanta 14-17 5-3 7-3 2-11 16-35 2-6 8-14 6-15
 Boston 14-21 7-4 3-9 4-8 10-37 6-6 2-13 2-18
 Charlotte 15-15 6-7 7-4 2-4 18-34 5-7 7-11 6-16
 Chicago 30-15 9-3 13-4 8-8 19-18 8-3 8-12 3-3
 Cleveland 34-15 15-5 7-6 12-4 16-17 6-1 6-8 4-8
 Dallas 32-1 13-1 12-0 7-0 35-14 12-5 11-1 12-8
 Denver 30-15 9-5 11-4 10-6 15-22 7-6 6-10 2-6
 Detroit 31-9 11-1 6-3 14-5 22-20 6-4 6-8 10-8
 Golden State 30-17 17-5 6-5 7-7 12-23 6-3 4-12 2-8
 Houston 32-13 15-4 13-2 4-7 20-17 7-8 6-3 7-6
 Indiana 21-16 6-3 8-2 7-11 14-31 6-5 3-13 5-13
 L.A. Clippers 21-12 4-3 10-5 7-4 19-30 11-5 3-10 5-15
 L.A. Lakers 23-9 9-1 8-6 6-2 19-31 5-7 7-11 7-13
 Memphis 13-19 7-4 2-7 4-8 9-41 4-12 1-12 4-17
 Miami 33-24 24-5 5-7 4-12 11-14 3-4 4-3 4-7
 Milwaukee 20-25 10-11 5-6 5-8 8-29 6-8 2-10 0-11
 Minnesota 13-12 2-3 9-1 2-8 19-38 5-9 9-9 5-20
 New Jersey 22-22 9-5 6-11 7-6 19-19 10-5 6-5 3-9
 New Orleans 26-26 15-5 9-11 2-10 13-17 7-7 4-6 2-4
 New York 23-35 13-15 7-10 3-10 10-14 2-11 6-3 2-0
 Orlando 34-34 20-14 11-14 3-6 6-8 4-2 0-1 2-5
 Philadelphia 20-17 5-3 8-4 7-10 15-30 9-11 4-8 2-11
 Phoenix 37-8 15-1 14-2 8-5 24-13 6-4 11-6 7-3
 Portland 15-15 3-5 7-6 5-4 17-35 8-9 5-10 4-16
 Sacramento 19-19 5-5 7-4 7-10 14-30 5-3 4-13 5-14
 San Antonio 33-12 10-3 18-4 5-5 25-12 15-4 3-3 7-5
 Seattle 14-23 5-7 5-6 4-10 17-28 9-7 6-10 2-11
 Toronto 16-8 6-3 6-1 4-4 31-27 13-3 6-10 12-14
 Utah 43-15 24-4 11-6 8-5 8-16 2-2 4-7 2-7
 Washington 19-14 5-3 9-4 5-7 22-27 10-6 5-8 7-13

So, some interesting factoids here...

best with points in the paint edge
Dallas 32-1
Phoenix 37-8
Detroit 31-9
Utah 43-15
San Antonio 33-12

worst with points in the paint edge
Seattle 14-23
New York 23-35
Memphis 13-19
Boston 14-21
Milwaukee 20-25

best with points in the paint deficit
Dallas 35-14
San Antonio 25-12
Phoenix 24-13
Houston 20-17
Toronto 31-27

worst with points in the paint deficit
Memphis 9-41
Boston 10-37
Milwaukee 8-29
Sacramento 14-30
Indiana 14-31

There are a number of further places to venture with this type of analysis, but given the official points in the paint stat doesn't give us insight into frequency of in the paint activity nor efficiency of such, it's ultimately not going to be the uber-stat some might think.

On the other hand, when you do take into account forays into the paint and a points per possession effectivenes...well that does possibly become quite revealing...


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