Passion meets project [Part II]

Passion meets project [Part II]

Note: this is the second part of my article on sports, data and the link in between. Missed the first part? Read it here.

Our turn

So previously we discussed the collaboration between SAP and the NBA. I said it was a powerful tool.

But I don’t just want you to take my word for it. Let’s dive in together and get a little example of the insights data can provide. *Heading over to the*

Let’s not go for the easy statistics. We could look for the top scoring team or the team with the most rebounds this season. Not that difficult. Let’s search for the most efficient players from beyond the three-point line, last season. (SAP and the NBA don’t make it very difficult to look something like this up. And that’s the point. End user friendly software,  .)

Shooting a basketball is an art if you ask me, and those who can do it well are of great value to their team. Even more so if they are able to stay consistent under pressure, when the game is tied or in the playoffs where the season could be on the line.

First we will look at the players who shoot a good percentage. We’re filtering on last season, looking for the totals, and looking at how many of their attempts go in:


So Alex Caruso and Joe Harris are the most accurate shooters who attempted 50 or more three pointers. Amongst NBA-aficionados these names will sound familiar. But they might have done it when there was nothing on the line, let’s dig a little deeper.

Now we’re hunting for the big hitters. We’ve selected the play offs. The atmosphere of a playoff game is much more intense, the crowds are noisier, the players just a tad more nervous. These are the ones who shoot a great percentage in winning games. These players were all key players to their respective teams. Players you could count on to make a shot, even when a possible playoff exit was looming.

Let’s take it a last step further.


This last one can tell us a lot. We are looking at the 3-point percentage in fourth quarters of playoff games. Again, only players who attempted more than 20 3-point shots. If I were to ask you which team became the NBA champions last year, who would you pick?

I hope you just went ‘Toronto Raptors’ in your head. And looking at the statistics, it’s easy to see why. They have some of the most accurate sharpshooters in the play offs. Not only do they take a lot of three point shots, they make the highest percentage of all of them. The top three consists of Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet. All members of the Toronto Raptors. Coincidence?

Does that mean you just have to make a lot of your three pointers to become the NBA champs? Of course not, but nobody will argue that it helps your chances.

It’s amusing little insides like these that I wouldn’t ever have found if SAP hadn’t put its tool online.

Data at 200 carats a piece

Data is powerful & fun. It’s as simple as that. It’s used everywhere and anytime, from companies who use it to optimize their supply chains, to marketing and advertising to the right person, or even in the NBA, to track all kinds of weird and insightful statistics.

Before we end this article maybe one more NBA-fun fact from last season, please indulge me. Picture the following situation: it’s a playoff game and the score is within 5 points. There’s less than 5 minutes on the clock, tension’s rising, crowd is going bonkers, every player is giving it their all. In these extremely important and clutch situations, Kawhi Leonard totalled 58 points in total last season. 16 points more than the second person on that list. What does that tell you?

Kawhi Leonard became an NBA Champ and ‘Finals Most Valuable Player’ for the second time last season. He’s the player you can count on when the chips are down and your season is on the line. (In basketball terms, he’s got ice in his veins.)

Data is often referred to as the new gold. It can provide tremendous value, but only if it’s cleaned, structured and read the right way. Companies like SAP offer different ways to do this (to organizations like the NBA). And even then, you still have to interpret the figures the right way. (Another expertise entirely.)

To some these numbers might not mean anything, but I’m one of those odd ducks that loves the little wrinkles. Because it’s the little things that could shape the future of a sport. Who knows what the NBA might look like in 20 years… But it’s also the reason I do what I do for a living. Searching for value and meaning in numbers and figures. (And when basketball is involved, I’m always in.)


Lebron James hitting a ‘buzzer beater’ against Orlando

Thanks for reading!

Blog by Martijn Van Herck