Data Viz Done Right

December 16, 2019

#MakeoverMonday: How much better is the Spurs defense than the rest of the NBA?

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Three weeks to go in Makeover Monday 2019. This week, I chose a fun data set (NBA stats) and a really good visualization by FiveThirtyEight.


Credit: FiveThirtyEight

What works well?

  • The title and subtitle give you an immediate sense of what the chart is about and the story it will tell.
  • Coloring the bars above and below the league average different colors
  • Using bars, so that you can compare the length of them instead of a line that would show trends.
  • Really nice annotations
  • Shading the background to draw attention to a set of seasons
  • Minimal axis labels
  • Clean design

What could be improved?

  • Why does better go down? That's not very intuitive.
  • The shading might give the impression that the coach ended where the shading ends, but Popovich is still the coach.
  • It looks strange the 1980 and 2000 are offset, but 2020 isn't.

What I did

  • Instead of comparing to the league average, I decided to compare the Spurs to the team of the user's choosing.
  • Instead of using variance to the league average as the metric, I used defensive rating.
  • I liked how the original had two colors for better or worse, so I followed that theme. My color for Spurs is always black since that's their team color.
  • I included a note in the tooltip to clarify that a lower score is better.
  • I wanted the Spurs going upwards if they are better, despite the axis being negative as it goes up.

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