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Sandro RADOVANOVI

University of Belgrade,

Faculty of Organizational Sciences, Serbia

sandro.radovanovic@gmail.com

Milan RADOJII

University of Belgrade,

Faculty of Organizational Sciences, Serbia

radojicic.milan@hotmail.com

Gordana SAVI

University of Belgrade,

Faculty of Organizational Sciences, Serbia

gordana.savic@fon.bg.ac.rs

Received: / Accepted:

tasks, since many relevant variables must be used. In this paper DEA is used to evaluate

NBA player efficiency, which is based on multiple inputs and outputs data. Evaluation

was done on 26 NBA player efficiency, who plays on guard position. This way efficiency

of each player is provided. But, if we want to generate efficiency for new player, DEA

would not be able to provide us answer without conducting DEA analysis again.

Therefore, for the purpose of the predicting efficiency of new player machine learning

algorithms are used. In this settings, DEA results are used as an input for learning

algorithms, which defines efficiency frontier function with high reliability. In this paper

linear regression, neural network and support vector machines are used to predict

2

S. Radovanovi, M. Radojii, G. Savi / Two-phased DEA-MLA approach for

predicting efficiency of NBA players

efficiency boundary. Results have shown that neural networks can predict efficiency with

less that 1% of error, linear regression with error less than 2%.

Keywords: Data envelopment analysis; efficiency analysis; predictive analytics; machine learning .

1. INTRODUCTION

Contemporary sports have a huge impact on the world economy, so more and

more attention is paid to the analysis of sports teams and athletes. Because of that it is

necessarily to determine their impact, not only on the field, but also on the economy and

society as a whole. In the field of sports analytics, clubs from the United States of

America (like the Boston Red Sox) and clubs from Europe (like AC Milan) are making

biggest progress (Schumaker et al., 2010).

Sports analytics is considered primarily as a statistical analysis (t-test, 2 test,

ANOVA, descriptive statistics etc.), analysis of efficiency and more recently sports data

mining. Usually, events on field, like number of shots on goal, number of passes in 90

minutes of football game or number of homeruns in baseball, are being analyzed in order

to improve team results and identifying weaknesses of opponents. However, with the

growth in popularity and the amount of funds invested in sport, sports analytics requires

more complex analysis. As stated in (Schumaker et al., 2010), forerunner of data analysis

in sports is Anatoly Zelentsov, who made a computer application which tests mental

stability, durability, memory, reaction time and coordination in football club Dynamo

Kiev in the mid 70's. That application was used to test young players, in order to

determine whether these players are able to play for the first team. The results were

surprisingly good, so that the Dynamo Kiev managed to win UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in

1975 and 1986. Efficiency analysis began with work by (Scully, 1974) on baseball and

(Zak et al., 1979) on basketball. After success in quantifying the relationship between

sport related inputs and sport success by aforementioned authors efficiency analysis

founded their application not only in basketball (Lee & Worthington, 2012; Hill & Jolly,

2012; Moreno & Lozano, 2014), but in many other sports like football (Ribeiro & Lima,

2012; Fernandez et al., 2012), baseball (Jane, 2012; Regan, 2012) or chess (Jeremic &

Radojicic, 2010).

Inspired by these and other works, the purpose of this paper is to provide a

comprehensive assessment of National Basketball Association (NBA) players efficiency.

Fortunately, research in sports analytics and sports economics has recently embraced

statistical and mathematical methods for the assessment of sport efficiency. Those new

methods are very important development as these theoretical and empirical relationships

are useful for management decision making process like hiring, play positions, minutes,

play combining and salaries. Further, many statistical algorithms, such as linear

regression and least median square regression, and machine learning algorithms, such as

neural networks and support vector machines, are used to predict efficiency boundary.

This approach allows us to predict relative efficiency of player which was not evaluated

in original DEA model. In other words, this approach allows prediction of relative

efficiency boundary using machine learning algorithms.

The remainder of the paper is structured as follow. Section 2 explains

methodology, and Section 3 finding and analysis. Section 3 is divided to ranking of NBA

3

S. Radovanovi, M. Radojii, G. Savi / Two-phased DEA-MLA approach for

predicting efficiency of NBA players

players by DEA and predicting and testing efficiency frontier. Section 4 concludes the

paper.

2. METHODOLOGY

A NBA players, which play at the guard position and had notable (in terms of

points, assists and other basketball measures) results in the season 2011/12, are

considered for the efficiency analysis in this paper. In the first phase, selected players are

considered as decision making units (DMUs) and comparative analyses of their

efficiency is performed by data envelopment analysis is used. In the second phase, DEA

results are used as a basis for predicting efficiency of new player via boundary form

learned by machine learning algorithm.

1978), is popular non-parametric method for relative efficiency evaluation. It allows

performance measurement of the decision making unit compared to achievement of the

other units in observing set (NBA players), which operate in similar circumstances,

produce the same outputs consuming the same inputs (homogeneity property). DEA has

been used for performance evaluation in the wide spread areas during the last 30 years,

from non-profit sector like education, power plants and hospitals evaluation (Savic et al.,

2012; Sueyoshi & Mika, 2013) to profit sector like banks, hotels and casinos evaluation

(Tsang & Chen, 2012; Savic et al., 2013; Jayaraman et al., 2013). In order to make

difference among efficient NBA players and allow their ranking, super-efficiency

measuring model proposed by (Andersen & Petersen, 1993) is used. Suppose that DMU j

(j = 1,, n) uses inputs x ij (i = 1,,m) to produce outputs y ij (r = 1,,s).

Input-oriented weighted version of Andersen-Petersens super-efficiency DEA model is

following:

s

( max ) hk = r y rk

r =1

s .t .

m

v i x ij=1

i=1 (1)

s m

r y rj v i x ij 0, j=1, , n , j k

r=1 i=1

r , r=1, , s

v i ,i=1, , m

4

S. Radovanovi, M. Radojii, G. Savi / Two-phased DEA-MLA approach for

predicting efficiency of NBA players

The optimal values of efficiency scores hk are obtained by solving the linear

model, n-times (once for each DMU in order to compare it with other DMUs). Efficiency

score hk is greater or equal to 1 for all efficient units and smaller than 1 for

inefficient units. In this way, ranking of units, according to their efficiency, is enabled

(Ray, 2004).

The NBA players database consists of eight indicators, from which two are

considered as input factors and six as output factors. The input indicators, for all players

used in analysis, are gross salary and minutes on the court. Outputs used in analysis are

number of points, number of assists, number of rebounds, number of steals, number of

turnovers and number of blocked shots which player made during regular season

2011/12. All data can be found on (National Basketball Association, 2013; ESPN, 2013).

Based on the correlation matrix show in Table 1 property of isotonicity is satisfied.

Points Assists Rebounds Steals Turnovers Blocks

Salary 0.540 0.006 0.361 0.092 0.062 0.100

Minutes 0.672 0.348 0.759 0.752 0.600 0.418

variable return to scale DEA model, because increasing an input does not result in

proportional increase of output. Input-oriented model is used because decision maker can

only influence inputs i.e. management of sport team can consider to lower gross salary

for next year or limit players playing time while they cannot affect number of points

scored. One of the most important factors, especially when variable return to scale is

supposed, by (Lovell & Rouse, 2003), is to control weight restrictions. Measurement of

super efficiency in variable return to scale, can cause unnatural solutions or even cause

that the model has no solution. To avoid that, assurance regions of type I and II were

introduced.

Salary

0,2 2 (2)

Points

Minutes

0,3 1 (3)

Salary

( Points + Assists + Turnovers ) - ( Rebounds +Steals+Blocks )=0 (4)

Steals

0,4 2 (5)

Turnovers

Modified super-efficiency DEA model (1)-(5) is used for efficiency evaluation

of NBA players considered as DMUs.

5

S. Radovanovi, M. Radojii, G. Savi / Two-phased DEA-MLA approach for

predicting efficiency of NBA players

Phase II Predictive analytics

learning, and data mining that analyse current and historical facts to make predictions

about future, or otherwise unknown, events. It deals with extracting information from

data and using it to predict trends and behaviour patterns. Predictive analytics can refer

on predictive, descriptive or decision modelling. Thus, DEA can be considered as

descriptive, but not a predictive model since it evaluates comparative efficiency within

observed set. New analyses should be performed in order to evaluate efficiency of a new

DMU.

Regression and machine learning techniques can be used as predictive analytics

techniques. Machine learning was originally employed to develop techniques to enable

computers to learn, but today it includes a number of advanced methods for regression

and classification (Mitchel, 1997). In certain applications it is sufficient to directly

predict the dependent variable without focusing on the underlying relationships between

variables. In other cases, the underlying relationships can be very complex and the

mathematical form of the dependencies unknown. For such cases, machine learning

techniques emulate human cognition and learn from training examples to predict future

events. Different techniques such as can be used for machine learning. In this research

we used linear regression, least median square regression, isotonic regression, 5-nearest

neighbours, Gaussian process with radial basis function (RBF) kernel, support vector

machines for regression with dot kernel and neural network models, using RapidMiner

software (Mierswa et. al., 2006).

In this study, special attention is given to support vector regression (SVR)

(Drucker et al., 1996), which has been widely applied in the field of regression and

approximation. The objective is to learn an unknown function based on a training set of

N input-output pairs in a black box modelling approach. DEA also evaluates efficiency

frontier considering input-output process as a black box. But, the approximation

performance of SVR lies on the training data and kernel function. A kernel is called

admissible support vector kernel (SV kernel) if the Mercers condition is satisfied (Zhang

et al., 2010). Mercers condition is one of popular methods to validate whether a

prospective kernel is a positive definite function since any SV kernel should be capable

of corresponding to a dot product in high dimensional feature space. Kernel function is

regarded as a significant trick which benefits the computation of dot products in feature

space using simple function defined on pairs of input patterns. All the SVR algorithms

aim at minimizing an upper bound of the generalization error through maximizing the

margin between the separating hyperplane and the data, which is based on the structural

risk minimization principle. The main idea is to train a model which minimizes a general

risk function.

For the purpose of our study we used DEA efficiency results and try to predict

efficiency on a new DMU by training data set and predicting the shape of the efficiency

frontier. A hybrid approach which combines DEA, rough set and support vector machines

is used in (Yeh et. al., 2010) for predicting of business failure. DEA and machine learning

are also used for clustering and determining stepwise path for improving efficiency of

each inefficient system integration project (Hong et al., 1999).

6

S. Radovanovi, M. Radojii, G. Savi / Two-phased DEA-MLA approach for

predicting efficiency of NBA players

3. FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS

In order to obtain the DEA results, software EMS 1.3 is used (Scheel, 2000) for

academic purposes. For the analysis we have chosen 26 players and data are taken from

the official statistics of National Basketball Association 2013 (ESPN, 2013).

Based on the results of the efficiency analysis ten out of 24 players are efficient

(Table 2). Player with the highest efficiency score is John Wall with score of 115.30%.

On second place is Russell Westbrook with 114.26%. O.J. Mayo, James Harden and Mo

Williams are close to the efficiency frontier, while Jason Terry, Kobe Bryant and Joe

Johnson are extremely inefficient.

Ran

DMU Score Rank DMU Score

k

115.30

1 John Wall 14 Tyreke Evans 94.23%

%

114.26

2 Russell Westbrook 15 Danny Granger 91.11%

%

108.95

3 Dwayne Wade 16 Andre Iguodala 90.45%

%

107.23

4 Derrick Rose 17 Carmelo Anthony 88.24%

%

104.72

5 Rajon Rondo 18 Tony Parker 84.57%

%

104.24

6 Ray Allen 19 Rudy Gay 83.99%

%

102.23

7 Kyrie Irving 20 Ben Gordon 83.33%

%

101.78

8 Kevin Durant 21 Monta Ellis 82.68%

%

101.55

9 LeBron James 22 Paul Pierce 82.21%

%

100.47

10 Chris Paul 23 Deron Williams 80.81%

%

11 O.J. Mayo 99.49% 24 Jason Terry 78.06%

12 James Harden 98.52% 25 Kobe Bryant 74.59%

13 Mo Williams 97.18% 26 Joe Johnson 71.73%

For each inefficient unit, DEA identifies the corresponding set of efficient units

which make a reference group for that inefficient unit. This group consists of units that

are optimal with its optimal weights (Ray, 2004).

Authors (Radovanovic et at, 2013) have shown that DEA results are correlated

with results of the other official ranking methods when salary is included. They also

7

S. Radovanovi, M. Radojii, G. Savi / Two-phased DEA-MLA approach for

predicting efficiency of NBA players

concluded that DEA can be a good method to measure NBA players efficiency because

it includes one more dimension, which is very important in economic sense - salary. It

can be now concluded that DEA can change way on looking to players efficiency.

model must be carried out again. If there are too much DMU or if we want to compare

whether player would be efficient on different group of DMU, it could be time

consuming. Therefore, the efficiency frontier can be predicted using a regression models

and the efficiency index for new player can be derived without conducting mathematical

model again. In this research several regression algorithm were tested: default model

(which always return average, and this model is used as benchmark model), linear

regression, least median square regression, isotonic regression, 5-nearest neighbours,

Gaussian process with RBF kernel, support vector machines for regression with dot

kernel and neural network.

Linear regression used M5 Prime feature selection technique which selects the

attribute with the smallest standardized coefficient, removes it and performs

regression analysis. If the result improve Akaike information criterion (AIC), the

attribute is dropped. This is repeated until no attribute is dropped anymore.

Gaussian process used radial basis function to generate maximum of 200 kernels.

Support vector machines for regression used dot kernel and had complexity

parameter with value zero.

Neural network used learning rate 0.3 and momentum 0.2 with 8 neurons in hidden

layer.

Experiment was conducted on super-efficiency model and in order to achieve

better results new features were constructed. Those are simple efficiency, which present

ratio of sum of outputs and sum of inputs, output per dollar and output per minute. All of

these features can be calculated from single player and therefore does not require any

further action from user. Training and testing of models are done in RapidMiner software

(Mierswa et. al, 2006) using leave one out validation, which means that training of model

is done on 25 players and tested on one player (since 26 players are used in this research).

This process is repeated 26 times, so each player was used exactly once as test. Finally,

average performance for player is reported as result.

A mean absolute error was used as a performance measure and results of

performances of different learning algorithms are given in Table 3. For each performance,

measured in mean absolute error, standard deviation is given. If average efficiency is

used to predict player efficiency average error of prediction will be 10.4%. The best

performance was obtained with neural network where mean absolute error was 0.007,

which means that error of prediction was less than one percent. For the further analyses

we will show the results of linear regression as a second best and support vector machine

which uses similar propositions as DEA.

8

S. Radovanovi, M. Radojii, G. Savi / Two-phased DEA-MLA approach for

predicting efficiency of NBA players

Algorithm Mean absolute error

Default model 0.104 +/- 0.067

Linear regression 0.019 +/- 0.013

Least median square regression 0.028 +/- 0.039

Isotonic regression 0.070 +/- 0.043

5-NN 0.062 +/- 0.050

Gaussian process 0.054 +/- 0.033

RBF Network 0.075 +/- 0.048

SVR 0.027 +/- 0.042

Neural network 0.007 +/- 0.006

are shown in the following figures.

to generate human understandable model with weight vector over attribute space. With

given problem linear regression generated model given below:

Assists + 0.354 * Rebounds + 0.367 * Steals + 0.172 * Blocks + 0.434 * 1/Turnovers

-0.464 * Point per minute + 0.311 * Points per dollar + 0.634

With this equation for calculation of player efficiency decision maker can see

which attributes influence more or which attributes does not influence efficiency at all.

Since linear regression firstly used M5 Prime feature selection techniques in order to

eliminate highly collinear attributes simple efficiency is not selected as important

attribute.

9

S. Radovanovi, M. Radojii, G. Savi / Two-phased DEA-MLA approach for

predicting efficiency of NBA players

Obviously (see Figure 2), support vector machine does not show as good results

as linear regression (there is a bigger difference between actual scores and prediction).

Like linear regression, support vector machines gives weights from which attribute

importance can be obtained (Table 4).

Stat

Stat Per Simple

Salary Minutes Points Assists Rebounds Steals Blocks 1/Turnovers Per

Dollar Efficiency

Minute

-0.034 -0.098 0.073 0.041 0.027 0.019 0.057 0.067 -0.021 -0.011 0.086

10

S. Radovanovi, M. Radojii, G. Savi / Two-phased DEA-MLA approach for

predicting efficiency of NBA players

As a mean absolute error has shown, neural networks define the best fitting

efficiency frontier on the whole dataset, which is clear from the Figure 3.

In order to further evaluate results, we repeated analyses by splitting data set:

70% has used as training data and rest (30%) of dataset has used for testing. It is worth to

notice that local random seed with value 1992 was used in order to get repeatable results.

Validation results are shown in Table 5.

SVR 0.079 +/- 0.065

Neural network 0.055 +/- 0.059

Obviously the best results on the smaller dataset are obtained by liner regression

(mean absolute error is 4.4%). It means that this method shows the highest level of

robustness. Eventually, we can conclude that DEA results can be used as basis for

learning the frontier and predicting the efficiency using a machine learning algorithms

such as linear regression, neural networks and support vector machines for regression.

4. CONCLUSION

This paper, in first phase, employs a DEA to evaluate the efficiency of NBA

players in regular season 2011/2012. In the second phase machine learning techniques are

used to predict efficiency frontier. Using the data available from NBA.com and available

source of NBA salaries we had an opportunity to examine efficiency in non-traditional

way. We were able to perform the ranking by Anderson-Peterson model. In that way we

11

S. Radovanovi, M. Radojii, G. Savi / Two-phased DEA-MLA approach for

predicting efficiency of NBA players

included salary in calculation of efficiency, which is very important for making decisions

on, among other things, hiring, play positions and salaries.

Afterwards, we used machine learning algorithms such as linear regression,

support vector machine or neural networks, to predict efficiency of a new DMU

(players). In this way, we tried to overcome the weakness of DEA. Namely, DEA is good

to estimate the relative efficiency of a DMU, but in order to evaluate efficiency of new

DMU, we need to develop and solve new DEA model. In this paper, we have shown on

the example of 26 NBA players, that DEA efficiency indexes can be used for learning

of models by various machine learning algorithms. Results obtained by neural network

are very reliable with the expected absolute mean error around 0.7%. We also have

shown that results of linear regression algorithm better fits for the smaller data set.

Expected absolute error for the testing 30% of dataset was lowest (4.4%). This paper uses

machine learning (regression) algorithms as a good method for efficiency frontier

prediction.

As a part of future work we plan to perform other types of relative efficiency

evaluation such as distance based analysis (DBA). Further, efficiency boundary for this

efficiency can be, like in this paper, predicted using machine learning algorithms. Also,

we plan compare results gathered with DEA and DBA. One way for improvement of this

is to consider player efficiency over time.

Additionally, we want to evaluate efficiency on team level, like in paper

(Aizemberg et al., 2014). In this paper cross efficiency of team are evaluated over several

seasons. Adding machine learning algorithms we can predict efficiency of team or player

in following years.

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