Welcome back to Corner Stats! Today we conclude our study on the individual game situations in NBA with the transition: the month will end with some studies related to the questions and curiosities born from the comments under the previous analysis. I take the opportunity to renew the invitation to submit topics and analysis: within the limits of my possibilities and the available data, I will try to please everyone. Now we move on, let’s start!
The transition is the offensive weapon that I love most in basketball: in those few seconds of action, you can appreciate the athletic skills and decision-making speed of the players. Moreover, they guarantee easy points in a short time.
Like the previous game situations, even the transition requires players with some characteristics that, if absent, make it less effective. For example, good handlers who know how to quickly bring the ball to the other side of the court or fast big men.
As already done, intersecting the total transition possessions and the total points made, we find this distribution:
We find Milwaukee, Golden State and the Lakers among the top positions. The Greek Freak, for example, is a very skilled fastbreak player, who knows how to turn his defensive rebounds into lethal transition. On the other hand, we find the Spurs, Portland and Dallas: for the Spurs, for example, the presence of Gasol and Aldridge, two more static big men than the average, makes the transition more complicated.
Thanks to the absolute values we have a general picture of the situation: let’s move on to the relative values.
The relative chart reveals several surprises. The Bucks are third in total points made, but fall down by many positions if you compare the points per possession; this means that at the same number of transitions, they have obtained less than other teams (12th for points per possession). Giannis’ team is higher about 1000 possessions than the Pelicans (the fourth team for total transition possessions) in a ranking where the average distance among the various positions is about 200-300 possessions. This same analysis can be done similarly for the Los Angeles Lakers, who get a worse position in terms of points per possession than Milwaukee (23rd). In other words, they have wasted even more transition than the Bucks.
Generally speaking, it can be seen that the first teams in the absolute chart drop down in the last chart. This because the opponents try to limit transition situations to these teams which are looking for them: this leads to a decrease in points per possession.
On the other hand, those who use fewer transition, when they have a clear chance they go to score, otherwise wait for all the teammates to play 5 vs 5. This leads to higher values of points per possession. Rockets and Hornets are perfect examples to highlight this aspect.
A common characteristic of the teams that exploit the transition is the will to keep up the Pace: therefore, let’s intersect the transition frequency with Pace.
It is not a coincidence that we find once again teams such as Golden State or the Lakers in the upper right corner. Expanding the selection, the Pelicans, the 76ers and the Suns are also in similar positions. In the opposite corner, we find once again Spurs, Portland and Dallas. Obviously, the high pace is generated with early shots or forcing opponents to take early shots, but also transitions influence the Pace: the above chart surely certifies this fact.
By the way, I suppose that you too note the strange position of the Bucks. Actually, it is not strange, but quite different than the positions of the other teams that were close to them in the previous charts.
In fact, the Bucks are a unique team because it succeeds to optimize a game aspect that allows the offensive transition: the opponents’ lost balls. Let’s take a look at the chart below:
As you can see, the Bucks are back in the upper right corner: this means that are among the best teams to force turnovers and to produce points after an opponents’ lost balls. Golden State and the Lakers are instead close to the center of the chart.
Pay attention! Points off opponents’ turnovers count all shots made, whether they are made in transition or not. The Bucks are the best in this aspect and most of the times they succeed to convert a lost ball into a transition, as the previous charts confirm. OKC and the Pacers are near the Bucks, but in previous charts are in the central area: this is because, like the Bucks, they are among the best teams in forcing turnovers, but unlike the Antetokounmpo‘s team do not convert those balls into many transitions.
This is probably related to a different coach direction and also to the fact that only some player looking assiduously for transition (Westbrook and George for OKC, Oladipo for Indiana). The graph below shows how the players’ distribution with at least 40 transition possessions is different; the players of Milwaukee are mostly on the right side, confirming that they are looking for more transitions than others.
In conclusion, the fastbreak is an important weapon and widely use thanks to the presence of many athletic players. However, as for other game situations, you must have the right players to be able to exploit, as well as have a right gameplan in order to have the required conditions for its use.