Analyzing Olympic Basketball Stats


The Rio Olympics are coming up and once again, the Team USA men’s and women’s basketball teams are the favorites to come away with the gold medal.

It won’t be a cakewalk though, especially on the men’s side, as many NBA veterans take to the court for nations like Serbia, France, Spain, and Nigeria.

In certain cases during the group, and eventual knockout stages, both teams will be in situations where they will have to deploy the right group of players in order to be successful. Today, we’ll break down the top lineups for different situations that may happen during the game.


There are plenty of players, from Pau Gasol, to Dario Saric, who can score in Olympic basketball, and the US will have to find someone to stop them. Based on the Defensive Rating, which is an individual’s ability to prevent a team from scoring, here is the best defensive lineup (with ratings in parentheses) that the US Men’s team can field, using two guards, two forwards, and a center:

Guard: Kevin Durant (Defensive Rating- 103.3- 40th in the NBA)
Guard: Paul George (100.7- 17th)
Forward: Jimmy Butler (104.9- 65th)
Forward: Draymond Green (99.4- 12th)
Center: DeAndre Jordan (96.9- 5th)

Just out of curiosity, if the rest of the world cobbled an All-Star team together to stop the USA from scoring, who would they pick? The results are pretty unsurprising:

Guard: Tony Parker (France) (Defensive Rating- 102.1- 28th in the NBA)
Guard: Patty Mills (Australia) (101.6- 17th)
Power Forward: Pau Gasol (Spain) (99.8- 13th)
Small Forward: Nic Batum (France) (105.1- 74th)
Center: Rudy Gobert (France) (97.1- 5th)

Pushing The Pace

A team that can run the break effectively can easily wear down other teams. The US Women’s team has several players who can push the pace in the frontcourt. To determine the top lineup, we used the Offensive Pace stat, which is the number of possessions per 40 minutes for a player.

Guard: Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) (Offensive Pace- 81.5)
Guard: Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) (80.5)
Forward: Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) (82.3)
Forward: Simeone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx) (81.5)
Center: Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury) (82.8)

It’s no surprise why the Minnesota Lynx  are dominating the WNBA.

Gotta Grab That Ball

Players are going to miss shots, so who will be there for the US Men’s team when an opponent (or their own player) bricks that open three-pointer? We used the rebounding percentage statistic, which calculates the percentage of the available rebounds a player grabbed while on the floor. Once again, we broke it up by guards, forwards, and a center, which meant DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus Cousins, who had the highest rebounding percentage on the team, could not be in the same lineup.

Guard: Paul George (Rebounding Percentage- 10.9)
Guard: Kevin Durant  (12.4)
Forward: Draymond Green (14.7)
Forward: Carmelo Anthony  (12.0)
Center: DeAndre Jordan (22.2)

While analytics aren’t a perfect science, opposing teams may not stand a chance as it relates to second shots, or defensive rebounds, as this group grabs an astonishing 72.2% of available rebounds while on the floor.

The Total Package

You always want the players who contribute the most to your team’s bottom line on the court at all times. We used the statistic net rating, which is the difference in team points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions, to find the top 5 women’s players that should be on the court. Incidentally, the centers had some of the highest net ratings on the team, so Brittany Griner was forced to come off the bench in this scenario.

Guard: Sue Bird (Net Rating- 2.5)
Guard: Lindsay Whalen  (11.9)
Forward: Maya Moore (19.9)
Forward: Breanna Stewart  (2.7)
Center: Sylvia Fowles (12.8)

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