Reddit user johnjones55 posted an interesting topic on r/nba today in which he devised a statistical program that would determine a player's true position using only his box-score rate statistics, such as true shooting percentage, assist percentage, and usage rate. He then ran the program on the top 125 players in minutes this season. The program took a player's statistics, plugged them into an essentially self-derived formula for what each position looks like, and determined the "chance" that a player was each of the distinct five positions.
As he often does when it comes to position-related discussions, Giannis Antetokounmpo made the machine mad. Giannis is still listed, perhaps by default, as a shooting guard in many big statistical databases, like ESPN and Basketball-Reference. But when the program looked at his stats, it said there was a 65% chance that he was actually a power forward. What's more, the program basically thought if he wasn't a power forward, then he was obviously a center, giving him a 35% chance of being listed there. The computer thought there was only a 0.01% chance that Giannis might be considered anything else.
Granted, the computer was working at a disadvantage. It was programmed to be "dumb" so as to not be biased by prior notions of what each position looks like (or spontaneously decide to exterminate humanity). Slotting players into distinct positions doesn't carry much importance these days. Declaring that a given position can only do specific things is often outright frowned up. But in picking the top players by minutes, it got a pretty big sample size of statistical blueprints to work with, as those players are all generally relied upon to do similar things from game to game. And in PositionBot 3000's defense, Giannis has often looked like his best self while playing the nominal PF spot. He can create mismatches on offense with his speed and athleticism, while his tremendous length makes him a capable defender near the basket and a devastating weakside shot-blocker.
According to 82games.com, Giannis' most common position this year has been SF, though that only accounts for 35% of his playing time, with PF next at 15%. According to 82games, the Bucks have outscored their opponents by 3.1 and 1.3 points respectively per 48 minutes with Giannis playing those positions.
Some other players of note:
- Brandon Knight: Listed as a PG/SG, Computer says 99% PG. Brandon is thrilled, would like to tell us all "Told ya so."
- Khris Middleton: Listed as PF (still?), Computer says he might be anything except center, but most likely a SF.
- Michael Carter-Williams: Listed at PG, Computers says 100.00% PG. Had he been listed as anything else it might have decided to conquer humanity anyway.