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Randy Hollis: Utah native creates new NBA productivity formula

Published: Sunday, July 28 2013 3:55 p.m. MDT

In this Oct. 9, 2010, file photo, Miami Heat's LeBron James throws powder into the air prior to the team's NBA preseason basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio.

Eric Gay, AP

Many years ago, television and radio commercials told us that "Ford has a better idea."

Well, when it comes to gauging the productivity of professional basketball players, there's a bright, insightful guy out there named Sotero Muniz who firmly believes he's got a better idea, too.

Muniz, 81, is a Utah native who graduated from the University of Utah, spent a lengthy career working for the U.S. Forest Service and now resides in Polson, Mont.

And, for the last dozen years or so, he's been busy perfecting a complex mathematical formula and methodology he calls "Basketball Productivity Ratings" — BPRs for short — that he feels could revolutionize the way NBA players are viewed and valued.

Muniz was prompted to begin looking into a way to measure players' productivity several years ago, when he was watching an NBA game on TV and saw a coach make a substitution which, in Muniz's mind, made little or no sense.

"Why is he putting that guy in?" Muniz recalls wondering at the time.

Certainly there must be a way to evaluate a player's performance, he thought, which could aid coaches in knowing which players they would want on the floor in certain situations, thus providing a more rational substitution pattern and a logical way to determine and divvy up players' minutes.

Thus, BPRs were born.

Since then, Sotero has relentlessly worked toward developing his BPR brainchild into a full-blown statistical analysis of players' productivity based not only on their offensive contributions, but on incorporating non-scoring plays — blocked shots, rebounds, assists, steals and turnovers — into an impressive process by which players can be ranked and compared.

In a nutshell, and to try and simplify things, BPRs are divided into offensive and defensive categories. Offensively, players are credited for each 2-point field goal, 3-point field goal, free throw and assist they make. They are also assessed a penalty of sorts, a "negative productivity" valuation system, for each turnover they commit, as well as for each free throw that they miss. Defensively, they are also credited for each rebound, blocked shot and steal. In Muniz's BPR format, all rebounds are considered a defensive play because they deny the opposing team an offensive possession.

"Nobody in the game has quantified and classified every play, both offensively and defensively, before," Muniz said. "BPRs look at every single play made, at every single game for every single minute played.

"All of these plays can determine the outcome of a game, and the turnover is the most damaging play in basketball.

"In looking at his players, a coach knows what their strengths and weaknesses are, and he can work with each player based on what his weaknesses are and try to improve them," Muniz said. "I also see it as a motivational tool for players. I want to get this into the game and I think it would help improve the game. I'm doing the game a favor — that's my goal. It's for the game."

In Sotero's system, blocked shots are given more value, for example, than rebounds, because there are statistically far fewer blocked shots in a game than there are rebounds.

"There are fewer blocked shots made across the NBA consistently than any of the other non-scoring plays," Muniz said. "If there are more steals made than blocked shots, then a blocked shot must be more difficult.

"There are more rebounds made than any other non-scoring play in the game. Commentators commonly focus on rebounds, but there are far more of them in a game than there are blocked shots or steals."

Muniz thus ranked basketball's non-scoring plays from most difficult to least difficult and assigned numerical values that he defines as parity constants which, when multiplied by the number of plays, are converted into productivity points.

"BPRs are also a measure of skill," Muniz said, "because skill and productivity are inseparable."

Hence, Muniz theorizes, a blocked shot is more difficult and thus requires more skill than a rebound. Likewise, he figures a 3-point shot requires more skill than a 2-point shot, which in turn requires more skill than a free throw.

At present, he has applied for a patent for his BPRs and it is pending.

In looking over his findings myself, it certainly appears that NBA executives would find useful applications in his analysis. Not only would it have immediate in-game applications, but BPRs could also be used in evaluating possible trades, the acquisition of free agents, and in helping determine players' salaries.

Indeed, it would certainly be well worth a look, because when it comes to basketball players' productivity, Sotero Muniz may actually have a better idea.

And if you're interested, well, I've got his contact information.

rhollis@deseretnews.com

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