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Visualization of the Week: Evaluating basketball teams as networks

ASU researchers find the science behind the Lakers' 2010 championship.

Had the Lakers consulted with Arizona State University (ASU) researchers Jennifer Fewell and Dieter Armbruster, they might have gone a different way after firing coach Mike Brown. Nonetheless, current Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni may be wise to consult Fewell and Armbruster’s work. The duo led a team at ASU that used a network analysis model to analyze basketball plays — they applied the technique to the 2010 NBA playoffs to help explain the results.

According to their published research paper, “[t]he study involved more than a thousand ball movements and typically more than one hundred sequences or paths for each team” in the playoffs, which provided enough data to enable them to treat the game as a network.

Basketball Teams as Strategic Networks

“Weighted graphs of ball transitions across two games for the (d) Lakers. Red edges represent transition probabilities summing to the 60th percentile. Player nodes are sorted by decreasing degree clockwise from the left.”

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