The lower the level of a team, the more constraints there are on a team for resources to gather data. In an era where analytics are increasingly valued in the game, there is also a proliferation of information. I asked Boudah specifically about what statistics are worth keeping during the course of a game. I was thinking specifically of halftime and how a team can make adjustments. He gave me three statistics to evaluate offense and defense.
While Boudah was an assistant at Keene State, the team always emphasized deflections. I personally like Dick DeVenzio’s message about making every pass tough. Players should see each pass an opponent makes as an opportunity for a deflection if they are applying appropriate pressure. The threat of a turnover always exists when deflections are kept as a statistic as opposed to keeping track of steals which can lead to bad gambles.
Boudah’s opening line was, “Mismatches don’t kill you. Uncontested shots kill you.” Especially in a high school game, if a team is taking contested shots all night, it’s going to be a long night. Boudah preached having a goal for the number (or percentage) of uncontested shots a team allows at halftime. In the locker room you can point to the scoreboard and see if there is a link between the number of uncontested shots allowed. By preaching it every game it adds value to closeout drills and communication at practice. Players struggle with constant communication and are often disinterested in closeout drills. If they see the value in them in games, they will see the value of getting better in practice situations.
Fouls per Half
Boudah brought up Bo Ryan as a case study. His Wisconsin teams just did not commit fouls. The San Antonio Spurs are the same way. There are those teams who preach physicality. Bump all cutters, get your player on the floor when you box out, and keep your player out of the lane all sound great on the surface. How is that working for teams though when the opposition is in the bonus with seven minutes left in the half? Or when your best player has two fouls three minutes into the game?
That’s what made Ryan’s teams and the Spurs of the last twenty years so successful. They were not giving up points at the free throw line and not giving away minutes by putting the refs in a tough spot. In order to become this kind of team, it would inevitably change the way that a foul is interpreted at practice. And it becomes a double-edged sword of helping make your defense mentally tougher, but your offense mentally weaker. Boudah suggested a compromise of enforcing it only on players that had recent issues with foul trouble.
Buddah groups turnovers in three categories: execution, careless, and aggressive. To simplify it for players, execution and careless could be lumped into the same category. These are the kinds of turnovers where a player breaks team principles, plays hero ball, or displays a lack of I.Q. The aggressive turnovers are what a coach should allow. An example could be if a team wants to play at a fast pace and the point guard lets a pass sail over the head of a teammate in transition.
Boudah advised having a goal of your team’s execution turnovers (again either as a percentage or an overall number). I have always been opposed to tracking turnovers in the game at the risk of making players hesitant. These attacking turnovers usually fit under the aggressive category, so this idea would work. By tracking them it is critical to recognize you are not trying to undermine a player’s confidence. It is mainly about preventing or at least reducing the mistakes in the future. Once again by emphasizing these at halftime it makes it easier to emphasize why you are doing the “boring” drills in practice that build up skill in the deficiencies players are displaying.
Boudah finds value in ball reversals because they ultimately force a defense into a long closeout. When that happens an offense will often have a 5 on 4 or even a 5 on 3 advantage. And even after the shot goes up, there’s the issue of boxing out when multiple players are scrambling to help and recover. This statistic is a little more unconventional and similar to uncontested shots harder to quantify. For instance, does the ball need to go from wing to wing, or corner to wing? Does it need to happen in a certain amount of time or passes? This can be worked out for an individual coach or system, but do not get lost in the overall goal: force long closeouts.
Free Throw Attempts
Tracking free throw attempts is hardly a revolutionary idea, but similar to fouls allowed, it is important. Are you being the aggressor or are they? It is usually an indication of the quality and quantity of good looks that your team is having. If at halftime you have only attempted two free throws it probably means that you are settling too often. Judge it with a grain of salt of course because referee inconsistencies can make it misleading as can a team which has one or two great shot blockers.
This is a four-part series with former Keene State player and assistant Steve Boudreau. Steve is currently a skills trainer at BST Basketball and a teacher. We also discussed a coach’s role with social media and teaching end of game situations. Tomorrow he will give his input on enhancing a team’s culture.