Anyone who's ever played hoops in gym class knows teams are built around five players: a point guard, a shooting guard, a small forward, power forward, and a center. According to Alagappan, however, these categories are overly simplistic.
Take the point guard: A guard, as defined in modern basketball parlance, is a smaller guy who handles the ball. But guards come in all sorts of sizes and skill sets. "For a team to say, 'I need a point guard,' and then take any point guard in the NBA and expect them to do well doesn't make sense," he says. "There really is a certain type of player that fits a certain type of team best."
His system breaks point guards into three categories: "elite two-way star ball handlers," players who run the court and specialize in scoring and defense, like Kobe Bryant; "elite passing three-point threats," like Derrick Rose; and "low scoring, ineffective ball handlers" (ouch), like the Cavaliers' Daniel Gibson. Other positions he's discovered (and named) include "low-scoring stretch big," tall guys who don't score much but have the ability to hit three-point shots; "three-point threat offensive middles," mid-height players good at shooting threes; and "passing stretch middles," mid-height players who have a good assist rate. For a team to excel, Alagappan says, their front office must understand which of these types of players perform best in their system.