Big 2’s and Big 3’s: Analyzing How a Team’s Best Players Complement Each Other

One of the most important aspects of team construction is identifying and acquiring the most talented and productive players on your team, the players on whom a team’s fortunes most rely. Teams must decide which player-types, when combined, yield the best fit. As an example, suppose there is a team, whose current best player is a scoring, shoot-first point guard. Suppose this team is looking to bring in a top-flight free agent. What type of player should this team target? Should they bring in a defense-oriented big man? Should they acquire a multi-faceted, jack-of-all-trades wing? This paper aims to answer these questions. Analyzing player data and team season data from 1977, this paper first uses clustering techniques to group players into appropriate groups, then regression to determine the degree to which the composition of a team’s top 2 and top 3 players affect that team’s win total, while accounting for team quality and coaching ability. This paper shows that the composition of a team’s top 2 and top 3 players is a strongly statistically significant factor in the success of a team, and shows which combinations yield over-performance, and which combinations yield underperformance, relative to the team’s talent and coaching quality.

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