I was thinking about how one can use the NBA’s new SportVU system to figure out optimal positions for players on the court. One of the interesting things about the SportVU system is that it tracks player coordinates on the court. Presumably, it also keeps track of whether or not a player located at makes a shot or misses it. Let us denote a player making a shot by , and a player missing a shot by . Then, one essentially will have data in the form .

One can then use a logistic regression to determine the probability that a player at position will make a shot:

The main idea is that the parameters uniquely characterize a given player’s probability of making a shot.

As a coaching staff from an offensive perspective, let us say we wish to position players as to say they have a very high probability of making a shot, let us say, for demonstration purposes 99%. This means we must solve the optimization problem:

(The constraints are determined here by the x-y dimensions of a standard NBA court).

This has the following solutions:

with the following conditions:

One can also have:

with the following conditions:

Another solution is:

with the following conditions:

The fourth possible solution is:

with the following conditions:

In practice, it should be noted, that it is typically unlikely to have a player that has a 99% probability of making a shot.

To put this example in more practical terms, I generated some random data (1000 points) for a player in terms of coordinates and whether he made a shot from that distance or not. The following scatter plot shows the result of this simulation:

In this plot, the red dots indicate a player has made a shot (a response of 1.0) from the coordinates given, while a purple dot indicates a player has missed a shot from the coordinates given (a response of 0.0).

Performing a logistic regression on this data, we obtain that .

Using the equations above, we see that this player has a maximum probability of of making a shot from a location of , and a minimum probability of of making a shot from a location of .