A Wheel of Portions

A way to visualize passing on your favorite NBA team

Shri Tanna Rob Moore

Shri Tanna and Rob Moore

The Passing Wheel

The connection between two players represents the volume of passing between those two players. A connection that starts out thick for player A and becomes thin as it goes to player B means player A passes more to player B than player B does to player A.

Hovering over the connections will show you information about how many passes led to assists, and the field goal percentage of shot attempts after passes.

A Passing League?

For a league that has so many Herculean feats of athleticism, there's something especially aesthetically pleasing about good teamwork in the NBA. One of my favorite teams to watch growing up were the Steve Nash and Mike D'Antoni led "7 Seconds or Less" Phoenix Suns teams from the mid 2000s. Their emphasis on ball movement and spacing was a precursor for later teams that played what I consider the most beautiful basketball ever played, such as the 2014 Spurs and the late 2010s Warriors dynasty. In a 2018 interview with USA Today, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr described what passing meant to a team with as much talent as the Warriors:

If you have shooting — if you have great shooting — then the more ball movement the better, because you have guys coming off screens and you want to make the defense have to defend for long stretches rather than just one pass and a shot.. so we looked at the passing totals, and 300 was a really key number for us.
Steve Kerr

With the depth of shooting talent in the NBA today, understanding good ball movement is more important today than it's ever been before.

We were particularly interested in building something to help us answer the following questions:

  • How many passes per game are teams making, keeping in mind the 300 target that Steve Kerr had for the Warriors?
  • Who's making the most passes on a given team?
  • Who are those passers passing to the most?
  • What are the outcomes of those passes?

We decided on using a chord diagram to represent passing data, and hope you have as much fun exploring it as we did putting it together!

We're just getting started.

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