Data Crunchers Look to Quantify Chemistry in N.B.A.

Deron Williams and Chris Paul seemed set to leave their teams, and were caught up in the annual frenzy of speculation about where they would fit best.

According to a statistical analysis of 4,718 N.B.A. games that looked to determine how well teams played together, both the New Orleans Hornets, who employed Paul, and the Utah Jazz, who employed Williams, would have been better if the teams had simply traded their star players for each other.

Or at least that was the conclusion reached in a paper called “N.B.A. Chemistry” that will be presented at the M.I.T. Sloan Sports Analytics Conference later this week. About 2 percent of potential trades in which teams exchanged starting players would improve both teams, the paper found.

The Sloan conference has become the premier event for those who like to combine their rebounds with regression analyses to find new insights into sports. “N.B.A. Chemistry” is a finalist in the conference’s research contest. And while the prototypical stat geek is a baseball fan, more than half of the papers to be presented at the conference deal with the N.B.A.