Using Advanced Metrics to Chart Intangibles

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In past articles, we discussed using advanced metrics or analytics as another means to evaluate our players.  We can use any of the many criteria already out there or we can devise our own systems to measure what is really important to us.

We all know that when we arrive at a number (or letter) to evaluate our players’ performances, all we really have done is charted a sample size of actual game data.  Presumably, the larger the sample size, the more accurate the data for us to glean impressions of our team and individual players.

However, no matter how many different advanced stats we might use, we all invariably form impressions of our players based on seemingly non-chartable traits- the so-called “intangibles”.  If we like the way a player conducts himself, we give that player “bonus points” in our mind, regardless of what the numbers tell us about that player.

Since we already assign unofficial intangible bonus points, why wouldn’t we make the process more official by also charting the intangibles?  For our model, all we have to do is go back to our elementary school report cards, in which we were evaluated on a seemingly endless checklist of character traits from the ever-present CONDUCT to COOPERATION to INDUSTRY etc.

Using the report card model, we can then construct a checklist of traits each of us deems important. Besides the standards for learning in any classroom situation, we would add characteristics that are especially applicable to athletics (Approach, Focus, Coachability, etc.) and specific to basketball (Court Vision, Stance, Peripheral Vision etc.)  Perhaps the trait I personally liked the best was“reliability”. Knowing that I could rely on a player to perform his duties to the best of his abilities on a consistent basis was especially important to me.

If we then give each player a grade (10-1 for instance) in every category and then cross reference the composite intangible grade against the performance grade, we would have a more accurate overview of players’ values.  If one so desires, the by-product of charting intangibles is using the “report card” as a teaching tool in individual conferences.  All too often, coaches revert to clichés when trying to motivate their players to “work harder”, “be more team oriented” and the like.  The report card can serve as a template to get real specific with an individual player and have a more pointed and meaningful discussion.  

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