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NBA "Fastbreak Points"

by Roland Beech, Founder 82games.com

Fastbreak Points in NBA Basketball

Previously I looked at the NBA's Points in the Paint stats and today is the follow-up that examines at the quirky Fastbreak Points for each team that is listed in the expanded version of the official box score. From what I understand the fastbreak points are defined as points scored within six seconds without a clock stoppage, which is not without some issues.

Most significantly, again from my understanding of how these numbers are compiled:

  1. they do not include points from free throws drawn on a fastbreak
  2. we are not told how many fastbreak shots were, or how many fastbreak turnovers occurred
  3. ...and consequently there is no way from the straight box score to extrapolate any kind of efficiency measure for points per possession on "fastbreak" activity
Let's start with a look at how often fastbreak points seem to effect the outcome.

Does winning the "Fastbreak Points" battle win the game?
A simple test is to see how often the team that scores more fastbreak points wins the game. Looking at the past two regular seasons (06-07 and 05-06) it comes out like this:

Fastbreak Points
edge
Won
Lost
Win%
Points in
Paint
1-5 593 579 50% 53%
6-10 423 266 61% 57%
11-15 223 114 66% 62%
16-20 80 33 70% 66%
21+ 27 3 90% 73%
Any Edge 1346 995 57% 60%

I kept the same groupings as used for the Points in Paint to make comparison easier. Overall having an edge in fastbreak points is somewhat less predictive (to be expected given you find more games with larger edges in points in the paint).

However, for a team with a 6+ points edge the fastbreak points are more telling than a like advantage in points in the paint.

Another way to examine the issue is to look at season long totals and whether they have much correlation to overall team success.

2006-07 Team Fastbreak Points

The table below shows the per game fastbreak points, for and against, for each team during the 06-07 regular season.

Team
FB Pts
(Off)
FB Pts
(Def)
FB Pts
(Net)
Won-Lost
 Golden State 20.4 13.4 7.1 42-40
 Phoenix 17.0 10.5 6.5 61-21
 Denver 18.6 14.6 4.0 45-37
 New Jersey 13.3 11.1 2.2 41-41
 Philadelphia 14.0 11.9 2.0 35-47
 Washington 15.3 13.3 2.0 41-41
 Cleveland 12.2 10.7 1.6 50-32
 Chicago 12.3 10.7 1.6 49-33
 Orlando 14.0 13.0 1.0 40-42
 Toronto 12.6 11.7 0.9 47-35
 San Antonio 11.6 10.8 0.8 58-24
 Dallas 13.4 12.7 0.7 67-15
 New Orleans 12.3 11.9 0.4 39-43
 Milwaukee 13.0 12.9 0.1 28-54
 Memphis 14.3 14.6 -0.3 22-60
 Boston 12.0 12.4 -0.4 24-58
 Detroit 10.6 11.2 -0.6 53-29
 New York 9.3 10.1 -0.8 33-49
 Seattle 11.8 12.6 -0.9 31-51
 Indiana 11.7 12.6 -0.9 35-47
 Sacramento 11.6 12.5 -0.9 33-49
 L.A. Clippers 7.9 9.0 -1.1 40-42
 Atlanta 11.8 13.3 -1.5 30-52
 Miami 10.8 12.8 -2.1 44-38
 Houston 7.4 9.6 -2.2 52-30
 L.A. Lakers 9.6 12.2 -2.6 42-40
 Utah 9.4 12.2 -2.8 51-31
 Minnesota 9.0 11.8 -2.8 32-50
 Charlotte 9.6 13.1 -3.5 33-49
 Portland 6.3 13.9 -7.6 32-50



Now if you look at correlations over the last two seasons (so include 05-06 as well) you get the following:

.17 for Fastbreak Points on Offense
-.29 for Fastbreak Points on Defense
.32 for net Fastbreak Points

The 95% CI's are huge with just a 60 team-season sample, but there is some modest supposed correlation to winning on offense, with somewhat stronger relationships on defense and on net fastbreak points.

Over the past two seasons the eventual NBA finalists ranked 7th (Cleveland), 8th (Dallas), 11th (San Antonio), and 14th (Miami) in net fastbreak points...with conference finalists ranging from #2 (Phoenix) to #27 (Utah).

You can find good and bad teams at both extremes of the rankings, just like with net points in the paint. It would be interesting to go back more years though and see if indeed there is a 'sweet spot' to the rankings for finalist caliber teams, perhaps somewhere in the 7th through 14th range!

In both years the top fifteen teams in net fastbreak points did have better records as a group than the bottom fifteen (winning 54% overall in 06-07 and 53% in 05-06).

For the pure entertainment types, here are the leaders the last two years in offensive fastbreak points per game:

'06-07 Most Fastbreak Points per Game
Golden State 20.4
Denver 18.6
Phoenix 17.0
Washington 15.3
Memphis 14.3

'05-06 Most Fastbreak Points per Game
Denver 20.2
Phoenix 16.0
Washington 15.4
Seattle 14.9
Golden State 14.0

...and the obvious comment to make is Nellyball brought an extra 6.4 fastbreak points a game to the Warriors! And then if you thought the Suns have been the fastbreak kings of the past couple years, well, the Nuggets have had higher "official" fastbreak points in both seasons.

The next place to turn is to look at the details of net fastbreak points on a game by game basis for specific teams.

Team-by-Team "Fastbreak Points" Won-Lost details
Using a six group split, we can examine each teams' W-L record when hitting certain net fastbreak points scenarios for a single game.

So if in a matchup a team had 18 fastbreak points and allowed 10 fastbreak points, that would be a "+8" net edge and depending on whether the game was won or lost would tally a W or L in the 6-10 Pts Edge column

Team
Any Edge
11+ Pts
6-10 Pts
0-5 Pts
Any Deficit
-1 to -5
-6 to -10
-11 down
 Atlanta 15-23 1-5 4-7 10-11 15-29 7-15 3-4 5-10
 Boston 16-23 5-1 4-5 7-17 8-35 7-20 0-10 1-5
 Charlotte 11-13 0-2 2-4 9-7 22-36 10-17 8-12 4-7
 Chicago 28-20 11-2 4-9 13-9 21-13 11-6 7-5 3-2
 Cleveland 35-16 6-3 10-3 19-10 15-16 9-11 4-2 2-3
 Dallas 34-6 10-0 10-2 14-4 33-9 22-3 6-5 5-1
 Denver 29-26 9-8 9-9 11-9 16-11 10-6 5-3 1-2
 Detroit 27-16 3-0 8-3 16-13 26-13 15-7 7-2 4-4
 Golden State 35-28 24-9 7-7 4-12 7-12 3-8 4-2 0-2
 Houston 17-10 3-0 6-2 8-8 35-20 22-5 9-11 4-4
 Indiana 17-21 3-3 7-4 7-14 18-26 11-10 5-8 2-8
 L.A. Clippers 19-17 4-2 5-3 10-12 21-25 14-12 6-8 1-5
 L.A. Lakers 18-14 1-1 3-3 14-10 24-26 14-10 8-9 2-7
 Memphis 16-27 4-5 8-3 4-19 6-33 3-12 1-8 2-13
 Miami 22-13 4-1 7-0 11-12 22-25 10-9 7-7 5-9
 Milwaukee 17-24 6-5 5-7 6-12 11-30 7-12 3-12 1-6
 Minnesota 14-20 0-1 5-3 9-16 18-30 9-12 5-8 4-10
 New Jersey 28-22 5-5 8-7 15-10 13-19 9-11 2-8 2-0
 New Orleans 26-20 5-3 10-5 11-12 13-23 8-12 2-6 3-5
 New York 15-20 5-3 5-6 5-11 18-29 11-10 3-13 4-6
 Orlando 27-15 8-4 9-5 10-6 13-27 9-15 2-5 2-7
 Philadelphia 25-27 8-2 8-10 9-15 10-20 5-9 4-5 1-6
 Phoenix 51-13 21-5 18-5 12-3 10-8 6-5 2-1 2-2
 Portland 8-4 1-0 2-0 5-4 24-46 12-8 7-16 5-22
 Sacramento 18-24 2-2 7-5 9-17 15-25 10-10 2-7 3-8
 San Antonio 35-12 7-0 14-3 14-9 23-12 11-5 9-3 3-4
 Seattle 15-22 0-3 3-4 12-15 16-29 14-15 0-9 2-5
 Toronto 25-21 8-2 5-10 12-9 22-14 15-6 4-3 3-5
 Utah 21-6 5-0 6-1 10-5 30-25 15-11 8-9 7-5
 Washington 23-20 7-7 5-1 11-12 18-21 14-15 3-3 1-3

So, some interesting factoids here...

best with fastbreak points edge
Dallas 34-6
Phoenix 51-13
Utah 21-6
San Antonio 35-12
Cleveland 35-16

...interesting list with three of the four conference finalist teams making the top five (the missing Detroit Pistons were ranked 8th)

worst with fastbreak points edge
Memphis 16-27
Atlanta 15-23
Seattle 15-22
Minnesota 14-20
Milwaukee 17-24

highest percentage of games with fastbreak points advantage
Phoenix 78%
Golden State 77%
Denver 67%
Philadelphia 63%
Cleveland 62%

lowest percentage of games with fastbreak points advantage
Portland 15%
Charlotte 29%
Houston 33%
Utah 33%
L.A. Lakers 39%

best with fastbreak points deficit
Dallas 33-9
Detroit 26-13
San Antonio 23-12 8-29
Houston 35-20
Chicago 21-13

worst with fastbreak points deficit
Memphis 6-33
Boston 8-35
Milwaukee 11-30
Orlando 13-27
Philadelphia 10-20

The official fastbreak points stat does give insight into the styles of respective teams in that you have pronounced outliers like the Suns and Warriors who outscore their opponent in this department better than three of four games, while a team like the Blazers clearly emphasized a slow down style which meant they weren't getting as many fastbreak buckets.

We can also assume that fastbreak points are generally accrued at a fairly efficient or even very efficient points per possession rate, which means holding a significant edge is indeed a strong step to winning a game outright.


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