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Visualization of Warriors Offense According to Synergy

Stephen Curry launching a good looking shot.
Stephen Curry launching a good looking shot.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

It's been quite a while since I did one of these "statistical" posts. By now you probably already know that Synergy is a service that charts video and classifies scoring plays into one of several different types, including spot-up, isolation, transition, pick and roll, screen, post-up, cut, hand-off, offensive rebound, or "other". Synergy isn't perfect (it's not 100% error-free) and it isn't as cool these days, perhaps, as SportsVU. But it does give us some orthogonal data from the typical box score or play-by-play data that most of us have access to on a regular basis.

While Synergy itself is easily understandable, the treemap visualization below likely needs a bit of explanation to comprehend. It's actually a very clever and compact way to see a ton of data all in one place. The basic idea is that it shows a hierarchy of information that flows down from the team to the player. The (relative) size of a box represents the number of scoring opportunities. At the lowest hierarchical level we have a single box representing a single type of play for one player. When you add up all the boxes representing all the plays for a single player it adds up to the size of the player's box. Curry has taken the most shots on the team, so he is the player with the largest total area of boxes. So just to be clear, the smaller the box the fewer number of plays it represents. The other crucial piece of information a treemap represents is the efficiency of each shot type, which is given by the color. Here, I've mapped inefficient plays to blue and very efficient plays to red. A short discussion of some takeaways from the data follows the treemap:



  • Curry is the best spot-up shooter in the league, but he's only taken as many spot-up shots as Iguodala. Only 6% of his shots have been of the spot-up variety. Compare that to 12.5% last season. That's a marked difference, perhaps, due to the loss of Jarrett Jack and Iguodala being out for several weeks. If the Warriors want to compete with elite teams in the NBA, the size of that spot-up box for Curry needs to get bigger. Curry is also one of the few players in the league who is fairly efficient in isolation plays.
  • Klay has been excellent in transition, and has definitely improved his ability to finish shots at the rim (last I checked his layup percentage was over 60%, so "klayups" are hopefully a thing of the past). While Klay's spot-up efficiency is down a bit from last season his efficiency coming off screens is slightly up, so not too much to criticize here. It would probably be to our advantage if we could turn more of Klay's isolation and pick and roll plays into post-up opportunities where he is relatively efficient, especially against smaller guards.
  • Bogut is obviously very efficient at cutting to the basket, but those plays tend to be mostly opportunistic. What I see that I like in his chart is fairly efficient pick and roll. If we are going to run more plays for Bogut, I'd prefer those over post-ups where he really hasn't been efficient (really going back to before 2009).
  • Ah, David Lee. Although he is heavily criticized almost always, his chart actually doesn't look too bad to me. For all the complaints about his post-ups, they are about as efficient as Curry shooting on pick and roll plays (although those arguably set up other more efficient opportunities). Ever since Lee announced that he had been dealing with a sore knee that has been improving, it seems that his game has been steadily improving back to where he was last season. Obviously that is a welcome sign.
  • Barnes' chart pretty much looks like what I expected: He's useful (but not great) at spot-up and transition opportunities. He's going to get the occasional advantageous matchup against a point guard where he can post-up or iso, but other than that, he's probably best used right now as a spot-up shooter and finishing on fast break points.
  • Draymond's chart is actually fairly interesting. I did not realize that his efficiency on pick and roll plays was that good. Perhaps, that's something we should be running more often for him.
  • Iguodala tore up the early part of the season with his spot-up shooting but his work out of the pick and roll definitely leaves something to be desired.
That's it for now. Let's re-visit this sometime in the second half of the season and see if anything significantly changes. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

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