We measured team chemistry in the NBA. Unsurprisingly, Boogie is a bum

After talking about team chemistry forever, we finally put our science where our mouth is and developed a team chemistry monitoring system, the Team Chemistry Index (TCI). The TCI allows us to assess an individual player’s, as well as an overall team’s, level of chemistry. We created the TCI, which is a proprietary observational measure, by combining existing methods, measures, and team chemistry research. 

With an NBA team’s backing, we conducted a test of the TCI by observing NBA the Sacramento Kings and Cleveland Cavaliers (among a few other teams) games through TV broadcasts. Given the recent blockbuster trade that sent Demarcus Cousins to New Orleans, we thought we’d divulge our findings on what the TCI told us about this controversial player.


Briefly, before we get to Boogie, a primer on the TCI. The aim of the TCI is to allow us to dive into players’ psyches; it can also aid teams in predicting future performance, increasing insight into current players, and helping evaluate trades. Three components comprise each player’s overall TCI score:

Overall TCI r
epresents a player’s individual contribution to team chemistry; it ranges from 0 (absolutely no chemistry) to 100 (extreme levels of chemistry). The emotive metrics (communication, support, and intensity) are weighted sub-scales of the TCI, and allow for a more detailed look at the dynamics of player behavior. We computed TCI scores using more than 5,000 total independent observations of player behavior in the first two months of the 2016-2017 NBA regular season. 


This probably isn’t shocking, but Boogie didn’t score particularly well on our TCI measure. Storming off into the stands, pouting with referees, and quarreling with almost everyone really didn’t agree with our measures of team support or intensity.

Boogie had a high communication  score — he was chatty. However, this may have been of a product of his team: at least in the early going, the Kings were a very chatty team; they had talkative, high TCI veterans on the roster: Ty Lawson, Matt Barnes, and Garrett Temple. We might expect Boogie to be less communicative on teams with other less communicative players, which certainly won’t help his team chemistry.


To provide a comparison for Boogie’s low score, let’s take a look at the TCI of another superstar, Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving. Kyrie is one the most well-balanced player we’ve observed; he is an exemplar of a team player. Even as an all-star, Kyrie takes pride in his performance as a teammate. Whether he’s on the court or on the sidelines, Kyrie’s energy is directed toward his team. Indeed, Kyrie is like oxygen — essential to his team’s survival, and loves to bond with other elements.

It remains to be seen how Boogie fits in with New Orleans, and perhaps most centrally, Anthony Davis. With stories like this coming out already, our results seem likely to hold: Much like kryptonite, Cousins doesn’t bond well.

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