We crunched the stats: Here are the most watchable NBA games of 2019/20

What do you watch when there aren’t any live NBA games during a pandemic? Old NBA games, of course.

We're not referring to classic games from the archives either, but rather the best games of this season that you may have missed or are worth re-watching. There are plenty of articles on the internet suggesting games that are worth watching, but what are the most watchable games?

After analysing data for every game over the past two seasons, a “Game Watchability Score” (aka GWS) was implemented, to determine how watchable any given NBA game is based on various statistical measures from the box score and play by play data.

GWS is a proprietary algorithm that weighs impressive statistical achievements by individual players and close games over blowouts. The higher the GWS, the more watchable the game.

Usually, I use the GWS to help me determine which is the best game of the day and then I’ll watch it on NBA League Pass later that night. Now that the season has been postponed (and it's unclear if it will resume this year), all of us definitely miss watching the best athletes in the world on a regular basis.

Here are the most watchable NBA games of 2019/20, as ranked by GWS.

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The highest-rated game actually featured Australian Boomer legend Patty Mills in a double overtime classic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaMdmpZ_9Dk

The sixth highest rated game had a brief Thon Maker cameo, plus he had a stand out game with 18 points in the 15th highest rated game of the season.

Aron Baynes stood strong in the 17th highest rated game, when the Phoenix Suns played the Denver Nuggets in October last year. Joe Ingles filled up the box score in the 26th highest rated game when his Utah Jazz played against the New Orleans Pelicans, and Mills made another appearance in an overtime game for the 27th highest rated game.

Surprisingly, there is no sight of Ben Simmons in the top 50 rated games, however this is likely due to the fact that his best game of the season was in a win over the Nets that wasn’t really that close until the end. In fact, he had the 12th highest fantasy rating this season in that game (based on the CBS Head-to-Head Fantasy Scoring system), and 8 of the top 10 by an Aussie:

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Some other interesting ways of evaluating the most watchable games of the season include tracking the total number of dunks per game, triple doubles per game, and whether any players achieved an OSCAR* (inspired by Oscar Robertson and based on the article by Martin Johnson).

An "OSCAR" is awarded when a player scores at least 25 points, 9 assists, 9 rebounds, and shoots at least 47% from the field. I have also added an additional category called "OSCAR+", which also requires the player to collect at least 5 stocks (i.e. combined steals and blocks, c/- Bill Simmons).

Note: Our Aussie juggernaut Ben Simmons had a total of six triple doubles, including 2 OSCAR+’s!

Here is a breakdown of the top 10 games of the season according to various categories:

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There were some amazing individual performances over the course of the season. Included were 90 games with at least one triple double, 53 games with at least one OSCAR, and 6 games with an OSCAR+, and there are many incredible games that should provide hours of entertainment for those of us starved for NBA action while in various states of lockdown. An interesting, but kind of obvious observation, is that the games with the most dunks were the Rookie/Sophomore World vs USA game, and of course the All-Star game. At least the All-Star game was close at the end.

One favourite statistic to track is a “Five by Five”, i.e. a score of at least 5 in 5 different statistical categories. Unfortunately, no player has achieved the feat this season, however two players went bonkers last year and were able to achieve this rare statistical combination:

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Nurkic had a monster night but got injured later in the season and hasn’t suited up since, and Anthony Davis was on the New Orleans Pelicans back then and had been ripping it up for the Los Angeles Lakers this season.

The Chicago Bulls have had a down year (or three), so finding interesting games to watch led me down the path of developing the Game Watchability Score. I hope this helps others out there in finding fun games to watch during these unprecedented times. You can also drill down on every game of the past two seasons at analyticz.net.

Stay safe and enjoy the games!

Luke Harris

Data Analytics Consultant

NBL/NBA fan since 1987 (Sydney Kings & Chicago Bulls)

Find Luke on Twitter at @skywalka or on his website at analyticz.net