The Three Dimensions of Rebounding (2014 RP Grand Prize/Alpha Winner)

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The recent spread of tracking technology in sports is bringing about a new era in analytics where it is now possible to deconstruct events we previously understood as one item or one statistic. We consider rebounding in basketball. Until recently we would get at most one piece of information after a missed shot: the name of a player that got the rebound. In this paper, we (1) describe the full timeline of a rebound, from the moment the ball leaves the shooter’s hands, to the repositioning of players beneath the hoop, to the actual rebound opportunity, (2) develop metrics for the various dimensions of this timeline using novel techniques, and (3) apply these metrics to calculate individual player abilities in each of these dimensions. This analysis reveals different players’ particular strengths in ways that were previously not quantifiable.

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