Back in the days of yore before SportVU video tracking data was available to fans, like September, I was doing a series on shot creation and getting to the rim. That series, like most of my others, was done with an eye toward creating a sort of Expected Value model for all sorts of different actions on the court.
Now with SportVU data available that vague aspiration is both closer at hand and further away. First, the league has only released a small portion of the data being collected by SportVU. Opting, I suspect, for the bits they think will be of the most general interest not the most analytic benefit for bloggers.
Still it is new data and, generally, speaking more data is a good thing. But, new data presents the analytical challenge of re-sorting through the wheat and the chaff, to find what is actually useful and how it is useful.
Not too surprisingly, my pre-SportVU look, using the suddenly defunct HoopData, found that players tended to fall into two groups in terms of getting shots at the rim — cutters and drivers. The drivers tended to be ‘Shot Creators’ overall in terms of getting unassisted two point shots. There was not, however, a big difference in the number of attempts at the rim based on the two groups.
The new SportVU data brings the Drive part of the equation into better focus. The NBA defines drives as any touch that starts at least twenty feet from the basket and is dribbled within 10 feet of the basket, excluding fast breaks. As of this morning there have been 4,315 drives in the NBA this year. One of the more interesting stats tracked is the inclusion of ‘Team points per drive,’ which includes points coming from assists either in interior passing or kick outs. (Not sure if it includes Kobe assists, which is actually important as I have estimated that the offensive team is 8% to 10% more likely to get the rebound on a shot at the rim than attempts from further out). It also appears to include points from free throws generated by drives (I am inferring this from all if the players with one drive and one point),
Below are some of the aggregates for Drives, via NBA.com:
||Total Player PTS on Drives
||Average Player PTS on Drives
||Average Team PTS on Drives
||Player Pt Pct
Interesting bits being that, Driving is only an efficient play because of the ability to get teammates involved and so far this year only 59% of the points coming from Drives to the hoop are scored by the Driving player.
Even more interesting is the variation between players that have accumulated a decent number of drives so far, where we can start to see their tendencies. Using 30 drives as my minimum, there are 51 that meet that number. Here are a couple of the standouts:
Not looking to pass: Evan Turner with 85.1% of the points from his drives belonging to Evan Turner, get that money Evan.
Not looking to score: Deron Williams with 19.8% of the points from his drives going to his teammates. (Also not that able to score with a field goal percentage of 27.3%)
Not Able to Score: Deron Williams generating only 0.194 points per drive for himself. Play pass until he proves otherwise folks.
Not Able to be Stopped: Evan Turner with 1.26 points per drive, you deserve that money Evan!
Just Stop: Norris Cole, whose drives are generating 0.75 points per drive for the Heat so far this year.
More, please: Kyle Lowry, generating 1.57 points per drive for his team. Also, beats the opportunity cost is low on that team.
Most Likely to Drive: Monta Ball, baby, with 11.4 edging out Jeremy Lin (Get out of the way Omer and Dwight).
And here’s the leaderboard to date based on team points per drive:
||FG% on Drives
||PTS Per 48 Min on Drives
||Player Pts Per Drive
||Team Pts Per Drive
|Kyle Lowry (TOR)
|Evan Turner (PHI)
|Will Bynum (DET)
|Ty Lawson (DEN)
|Chandler Parsons (HOU)
|Paul George (IND)
|Brandon Jennings (DET)
|Eric Gordon (NOP)
|James Harden (HOU)
|Jeff Green (BOS)
|Gordon Hayward (UTA)
Needless to say, these are smaller sample sizes, leads will change. It’s also a little early to tell what these stats mean in terms of added understanding of the game. At some point we will be able to get a better read on who is successful at using drives in their offense and how much that is aiding their teams.
This year, for the first time, Hickory-High will be tackling the challenging of crafting season previews for all thirty NBA teams. Beginning today we’ll be rolling out these previews, one each day, leading up to Opening Night. This was a task of considerable size and complexity and it required the help of every member of our staff. The only guidelines given were that each writer approach team by staying true to their own style and the result is season previews of a difference sort. We hope you enjoy!
For the second straight offseason, the Brooklyn Nets have made an unexpected splash that has rippled through the waters of the NBA. Last year, we saw GM Billy King trade for Joe Johnson with the Nets moving to Brooklyn and needing a marquee ticket-seller, I mean basketball player, to accompany the team’s transition. This year, the Nets traded for two post-prime Hall of Famers in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, as well as pulling off possibly the steal of free agency, signing Andrei Kirilenko to a third of what he was being offered elsewhere. Oh, and they made a former player of theirs with no coaching/basketball operations/analysis experience their head coach.
Busy summer, huh? As great as this team looks on paper – with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez on top of their newest additions – there are questions to be answered as to how this team will live up to the hype and where exactly their peak is.
First – How far can talent alone take this Nets squad?
Even the most experienced experts can’t picture exactly how effective a coaching staff Jason Kidd and his army of 300 assistants will be. Kidd’s yet to have a non-player basketball experience so under the worst-case scenario that he and his coaching staff don’t do a solid enough job. it’s up to the talent on it’s own. Luckily for the Nets, they have a damn good amount of it. Now the threat of injury is apparent, with Brook Lopez being the only player in their projected starting lineup of Williams-Johnson-Pierce-Garnett-Lopez who is under 29 years of age. But let’s set injuries aside, for now.
Deron Williams’ TS% was at a ‘meh’ 54.2% clip before the All-Star break when he struggled with injuries, but leaped to an astounding 62.2% post-ASB. If his past injuries don’t linger and he stays healthy, Williams is well overdue for a strong year in a Nets uniform. Joe Johnson is the odd man out, with no clear-cut role in this system and little to offer the team that they don’t have elsewhere. Johnson was a freak in close games last year, shooting 66% on tries in the final 2 minutes of a game within 3 points, but disappointed nearly everywhere else. Johnson’s below-average PER mark of 14.1 demonstrated his ineffectiveness scoring the ball, and even with improved spacing this year it’s hard to imagine a big jump in efficiency.
Pierce is a mixed bag, with conventional knowledge and regression in his statistics telling us his career is quite close to it’s eclipse. However, ‘The Truth’ continues finding a way to make himself very useful – Pierce’s TS% was at a 3-year low last year, but his REB% and AST% were career highs. Pierce has said he’s content with being a “glorified role player” and this truly is a great descriptor of how he could be most helpful to Brooklyn. Kevin Garnett’s mid-range jumper, low-post precision and intangibles don’t age, so expect a lot of the same from this former Celtic in those aspects. As for his defensive impact, well we’ll get to that later. Brook Lopez is arguably the Nets’ most intriguing piece, being their lone young prospect and only player getting significant minutes who still has yet (as far as we know) to reach his ceiling. Lopez has improved his defense dramatically from his rookie campaign, last year being his largest leap forward. With Garnett paired alongside him, we can expect this to continue, adding on to an already impressive offensive repertoire.
Off the bench, we have the steal-of-the-summer in Kirilenko filling the sixth man role as a tremendous defender and well-rounded player altogether. Filling out the pine are a decent if not an average cast of characters – Jason Terry, Reggie Evans, Andray Blatche, Alan Anderson and Shaun Livingston, who has impressed in the preseason.
So we take a look at this roster construction and can easily come to the conclusion that, yes, this roster is flooded with talent. Enough to be a contender if the coaching aspect doesn’t work out well? No, not at all. The team doesn’t have an elite superstar to carry them, meaning it’ll take a team effort and brilliant coaching to make that happen. But don’t mistake this team for the Pacers, who have five well-above average defenders starting for them and one of the best coaches in the league, not to mention a system that’s already been cemented. All this being said assuming injuries aren’t a factor. There is also talk of a potential power struggle between the players and coaching staff, but I don’t really see this as a possibility. Moving on.
Second – How much of a defensive impact can Kevin Garnett have? Garnett is going to be the Nets’ defensive anchor and their best chance of being a top-10 defensive team. Many cite Garnett’s influence on the Celtics’ defense last year, with a pretty telling number: the Celtics gave up 8.4 fewer points per 100 possessions with Garnett on the floor compared to him on the bench. That’s huge, no doubt about it. However, KG the Net may not be able to have that large of an effect on the defense this year. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, he won’t be playing the center position as he did in Boston. Lopez will undoubtedly play the center, moving Garnett back to the four – and in today’s NBA, further from the paint where he is at his most helpful. Lopez is incapable of guarding perimeter oriented fours, so this duty will go to Garnett, thus limiting his interior presence. This can be undone by subbing out Brook Lopez of course, but that is a mighty cost over any decent stretch of time and there’s no denying that.
Secondly, coach Kidd has made it known that he plans to limit Garnett’s game time and possibly even having him sit out the second games of back-to-backs. Now nothing was set in stone from the sound of Kidd’s comments, but it’s clear – despite Garnett’s noted disapproval – that Jason is planning to do what he can to keep KG fresh for the Playoffs. Garnett can’t do much for the Nets defense sitting on the bench or playing 20 minutes a night, but playing him often brings an increased risk of injury.
With these two things in mind, expecting Garnett to revolutionize Brooklyn’s defense is far-fetched. Brooklyn will surely improve on that end but it’s hard to see them being an elite team on defense when their anchor can’t maximize his ability to bolster the team on that end.
Finally – How does this team stack up to the NBA’s best such as Miami or Oklahoma City?
Well, to me, there are too many question marks and ‘what if’s’ for Brooklyn that other contenders simply don’t have. Unlike Miami, Oklahoma City, Indiana, Chicago, Memphis and San Antonio – the Nets have a brand new team top to bottom, with a brand new system to turn into a winner. That alone is a scary idea, and let’s not forget that Miami didn’t even finish the job in their first year with three of the best players on the planet, nor last year’s Lakers who, well, you know. And those teams didn’t employ first-time head coaches with no experience outside of playing the game.
The Nets also have a lot more injury concerns than other contenders, as much as I find this point rather rocky. But, it’s hard to turn a blind eye to Brooklyn’s defensive anchor being 37 years old and their two youngest starters battling injuries since they first donned a Nets uniform. The lack of the best, second best, third best, etc. player in the league is another weak point to me, with having one transcendent athlete being as pivotal as it is in today’s NBA.
I see Brooklyn having an up-and-down season, with talent alone earning them at the very least a top four or five seed. Come the postseason, if the team hasn’t figured itself out yet it’s hard to see them making the Conference Finals. If they do click however, I can see them challenging but ultimately falling in the ECF or, if they get lucky, the NBA Finals.
The Nets were a stagnant, inconsistent, and plainly poor ball club last season. A coaching change early on brought little change in strategy and a first-round Playoff defeat to the shell of a Finals contender. What’s happened in Brooklyn since then? A lot.
Former Nets star himself Jason Kidd was hired as their new head coach. With no prior experience as a coach on any level, the move seemed like much more of a publicity stunt than a basketball move, especially with all of the much more qualified candidates available at the time. After being introduced, Kidd’s earned himself some criticism with saying he wants Gerald Wallace to be a point-forward, following that up with a technical foul in a Summer League game. Still, a recent quote hinted good things could come out of Kidd in Brooklyn, when he addressed a serious issue in the Nets’ offensive approach:
“We are going to try to not iso, we are going to get more team-oriented on the offensive and defensive end.”
This is a very, very smart move by the new head coach of the Nets and a necessary step in improving a defense which struggled last year and will likely do worse this season.
The Nets offense ranked 9th in the league last season, but was blatantly exposed by the elite defense of the Chicago Bulls in round one of the postseason. Their isolation-heavy system bent on the scoring of former All-Stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson as well as current All-Star Brook Lopez proved incapable of scoring at a strong enough rate to escape a first-round exit.
The idea of an offensive-focused team seemed reasonable on paper, with Williams and Johnson known for their scoring and Lopez a center who’s growing into one of the best at his position. Only, Deron Williams shot 44% from the field, Johnson 42% and Lopez – shooting 52% – played just 30 minutes a night and was benched in many fourth quarters. The best creator of offense on the rest of the team was Andray Blatche, and that tells you all you need to know about how the Nets’ hastily compiled roster and offensive system turned into a disappointing inaugural season in Brooklyn.
The Nets ranked fourth in possessions ending in an isolation in the league per mySynergySports, and shot just 43% on those possessions. With Kidd promising to move away from these looks and towards a much more unified offensive attack following the trade for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Brooklyn’s in a perfect position to switch up their approach for the better. Here are some suggestions:
Deron WIlliams Post-Ups
Williams is one of the bulkiest point guards in the league, with the speed to match his strength. This athletic edge was hardly taken advantage of last year though, with Williams looking to create out of the post just 83 times per Synergy Sports. His performance warrants more time down low, with him scoring 0.99 points per possession on the block with just a 10.8% turnover rate. A point guard posting up is also a huge rarity in the NBA, making it a tough adjustment for opposing squads.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett went to this play oftentimes in close contests as members of the Boston Celtics and there were few times when it didn’t end in a score. Garnett’s mid-range touch will forever be a part of him, hell he’ll probably drain one right before falling on his death bed. Pierce is as crafty at getting to the basket or creating his own shot in general as he was back in 2008, even if his athleticism isn’t there. He scored 0.90 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball handler and Garnett scored 0.98 as a screener last season per Synergy. The two, in tandem with Lopez, Johnson and Williams waiting for their man to help, would mean an easy score for Brooklyn in the majority of occasions.
Joe Johnson Off-Ball
Johnson was an offensive liability with the ball in his hands outside of the final minutes of a close contest last season, shooting 44% and under out of isolation, pick-and-roll and post-up plays last year. However, as an outside threat waiting for the pass he was lethal. Although it’s not a familiar approach to his offense, Johnson molding his game towards being more of an off-ball threat would not only make him a more efficient scorer but would also spread the floor for his teammates, similar to what the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony did this past year. Johnson scored 1.02 PPP as a spot-up shooter and 1.09 as an off-screen gunner, but isolation attempts dominated his offensive arsenal last season.
Experimenting with Lineups
Last season’s Brooklyn Nets’ had one lineup with a NetRTG of +16.0 and another with a NetRTG of +18.3. These lineups combined saw 130 minutes of game time, just a fifth of the minutes their most popular lineup saw, which had a NetRTG of +4.4. Sure the sample size is on the short size, but what’s to say these lineups wouldn’t have been better options for Brooklyn? Especially the one with the +18.3 NetRTG, Williams-Bogans-Johnson-Wallace-Lopez, which saw not a minute of playing time in the playoffs. Kind of unacceptable, having a team who’s offense is one of the more stagnant of the league but also are stagnant in looking for more effective ones. This season, putting an emphasis on finding lineups that kick ass and sticking to them until they don’t work while always trying something new but not silly should be something coach Kidd focuses on if he doesn’t want his team to be as predictable as the Nets of 2013 were.
Jason Kidd has made his mark early in his tenure as Brooklyn’s head coach with his words, but watching him turn these words into action will be a whole other challenge. Anybody can talk the talk, but walking the walk is what makes teams successful.
The Memphis Grizzlies are playing as good a brand of basketball as any of the eight teams left in the NBA playoffs, with the emergence of Mike Conley
being a big reason why. But when Tony Allen
, following an emotional road victory in which Conley led the way (26 points, ten rebounds, and nine assists), declared that his floor general was “one of the top five point guards in the league,” it smelled a lot like an overreaction. As an elite perimeter defender, I value Allen’s opinion on this matter, but the conversation regarding Conley and the top five point guards in the Association is a short one: he’s not there right now.
That being said, he safely resides in the next tier of point guard and is more than capable of heading a championship level team. I hardly have the NBA experience of Allen, but as a reasonably efficient high school point guard in my day (Kyle Soppe, the pAssman), here are my PG rankings with a regular season Conley (25 years old) related tidbit for each. It is important to note that these rankings are for next season. This isn’t a “you’re starting a franchise now and need a point guard” list, but rather a snap shot as to where we stand at the PG position for the 2014 regular season.
1. Chris Paul (28 years old) – Regardless of where he plays, he is simply the gold standard when it comes to properly running an offense. The six time All-Star and four time All-NBA Defensive team member has a career 4.03 assist to turnover ratio, 25.2% better than Conley’ best season.
2. Russell Westbrook (24 years old) – The explosive leader of the Thunder has the ability to do things athletically than Conley simply will never be capable of. Westbrook’s shot selection is as criticized as anybody’s, but his FG% over the last two seasons (44.7%) is better than any season Conley has ever produced in the NBA.
3. Kyrie Irving (21 years old) – The general public seems to have forgotten just how special (brief reminder) this former Blue Devil is just because he isn’t still playing. He’s a high level athlete that has playmaking abilities and instincts than cannot be taught. Since leaving college, Irving has scored 1.25 points per FGA while Conley has averaged 1.20 over the same stretch.
4. Stephen Curry (25 years old) – Yes, I’m buying this postseason breakout to a greater degree than that of Conley. We all know that Curry has arguably the sweetest stroke we’ve ever seen, but he is far from a one trick pony. In fact, the baby-faced Curry has muscled up for 30% more rebounds than Conley over his career and holds the edge in steals per game.
5. Derrick Rose (24 years old) – Say what you will about this season, but Rose at full health is as tough a cover a there is in the league. His size and athleticism demand the attention of the opposing team’s best defender (players like Tony Allen), thus creating mismatches for his teammates. All you have to do is look at his 2010-2011 season to realize that his ceiling is significantly greater than that of Conley. In Rose’s MVP campaign he scored 2,026 points, a 70 point edge over Conley’s total number of points scored in the last two seasons combined. Scoring is his greatest attribute, but he does average 23.6% more assists per game over his career than the Grizzlies’ guard.
OK, so that settles the debate over the top five point guards in the league today. Conley has been excellent this postseason and is developing into a very good point guard, but he simply isn’t in the class of the five listed above. I’d listen to an argument at placing him anywhere in this next tier of PG’s, but I’ve got him sandwiched between Holiday and Williams.
6. Rajon Rondo (27 years old) – It is entirely possible that Conley is playing at a top-five level (based on his hot streak and the rash of injuries among the PG’s ranked above him), but that wasn’t the quote. Rondo is the best table setter in the league (149 more assists than Conley over the past two season despite playing 51 fewer games) and among the best defensive options at the point. Those qualities are well known, but did you know that since Conley entered the NBA in 2007-2008, Rondo actually averages more FGM per game (5.02 to 4.60)?
7. Tony Parker (30 years old) – The elder statesmen of this strong crop of point guards will turn 31 in less than a week, but Parker is showing more signs of improvement than decline. His experience is a factor that cannot be measured statistically, so let’s stick with some numbers. As a five-star recruit, Conley was part of a loaded Ohio State team that lost in the national championship. During that season, Conley shot 51.8% from the field against comparatively inferior competition for the most part. Parker has shot a higher percentage from the field than that in two of the last three seasons.
8. Ty Lawson (25 years old) – His choice in headband style may be declining, but every other statistic is on the uptick for this road runner. In each season of his budding career, Lawson has increased his point, assist, and steal totals. His extreme speed is an advantage he holds over nearly every point guard in the league, making the fact that he owns a better career 3P% than Conley icing on the cake. I trust Lawson’s ability to penetrate/create a bit more and believe that he is a slightly tougher matchup on the perimeter.
9. Jrue Holiday (22 years old) – It is easy to forget just how young the 76ers leader is, especially when you consider the increasing maturity of his game. This past season saw Holiday tally 17.7 points and 8.0 assists on a nightly basis, numbers that may define the ceiling for Conley. When comparing Holiday’s 2012 season totals with the totals from when Conley was 22 years old (424 more points and 200 more assists), it is clear that Holiday is on the fast track to ascend to the top of this second tier. After a strong campaign in his first season as the 76ers go-to player, Holiday proved more than capable, a quality that is hard to find in players (especially point guards) his age.
10. Deron Williams (28 years old) – It feels like DWill was atop this list not very long ago, and while he has dropped off a bit, he still deserves to be considered a strong option. He has developed a lethal outside game (169 3PM this season, three more than Conley over the last two seasons), allowing him to stretch defenses and thus create single coverage situations in the paint. Williams has a higher scoring upside than Conley but lacks general consistency on both ends to still be considered with the best PG’s in the league.
This list doesn’t include Damian Lillard (need to see more), Ricky Rubio (my favorite player, but he’s a poor man’s Rondo at this point), or whoever you consider to be the point guard in Milwaukee (inefficient and lacking the ability to lead a team).
What did I get wrong? Tony Allen has forgotten more today than I know about basketball, but is he too close to the situation to properly analyze where his teammate ranks? Or am I just off my rocker and failing to accept that Memphis is home to an elite point guard? I’d love to hear your thoughts (@unSOPable23) and see how you’d rank the top point guards in the NBA for 2014.
The Bulls missed out on a chance to finish the Nets at home in Game 6, and will now have to face a Game 7 in Brooklyn. Although they came up just short last night, they were the recipients of a sparkling and driven performance by Joakim Noah
. He finished with 14 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks and a steal in 43 minutes. Not bad for a guy struggling with plantar fasciitis. Although they weren’t quite enough, Noah made three huge plays down the stretch, ensuring that the game wasn’t decided until the final play.
In this first possession the Bulls trailed by two with a minute left, desperately needing a stop. The Nets run a side pick-and-roll with Joe Johnson and Andray Blatche. Johnson turns the corner easily and Carlos Boozer has to follow all the way across the lane to keep him from getting to the rim.
Boozer is now way out of position and as Johnson swings the ball back to Blatche, Noah is left to defend both him and Brook Lopez, who is hovering on the baseline.
Boozer takes his sweet time recovering to Lopez, and for almost four full seconds Noah gives Blatche just enough pause to hold off on shooting, while simultaneously cutting off any passing lane to Lopez. As Boozer gets back into position Noah switches out onto Blatche, keeping his feet on a pump fake.
The end result is a forced jumper up against the shot clock which Noah blocks easily:
A few seconds later the Bulls find themselves with the ball, down three. Their set begins with Marco Belinelli dribbling at the top of the key as Noah sets a pin-down screen for Nate Robinson on the wing.
Lopez comes way out to keep Robinson from turning the corner. Noah rolls down into the empty space on the right block, receiving the pass from Robinson as Blatche rotates over onto him. Because of the Bulls’ spacing there’s no one left to rotate onto Nazr Mohammed who makes a clean dive to the rim, receiving a beautiful wrap-around bounce pass from Noah.
Here’s the play in real time:
After a pair of free throws by Blatche and a missed three-pointer by Belinelli, the Bulls are still down three with just 6.3 seconds left. Any hope of stealing the games rests on being able to create a turnover off the inbounds play. Noah is ostensibly guarding the inbounder, but he actually positions himself off to the side, facing the court. As the ball goes in to Deron Williams, Noah sneaks up behind him along the baseline and reaches in for the tie-up.
Although Noah gets his hands on the jump-ball, the tap falls to Johnson and the comeback attempt falls short. The Bulls still have a chance to win this series, but if they don’t it won’t be because Joakim Noah couldn’t make plays when it mattered most.
This week I decided to take a look at the impact of free throws on the final outcome. Is getting to the line more important than taking advantage of the freebies when a team gets there?
During a 54 game sample, I recorded the free throws attempted and the free throw percentage for every team. Winning teams shot an average of 77.1% on 21.9 free throws per game while losing teams made 76% of their 21 free throws per game this week. That equates to less than one point per game gained by winning teams, hardly enough to call free throws a consistent deciding factor. In fact, on three of the seven days this past week, the losing teams totaled a higher FT% than the victors.
Are free throws overrated? We know that foul trouble can land a teams star player on the bench for an extended period of time, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Does it matter how a team scores? Obviously, you’d like to make your free throws (especially down the stretch), but statistically speaking, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation what so ever (for this week at least) between free throws (attempts or percentage) and team success.
With that knowledge gained, here are 35 stats from the past week in the Association.
For this week I decided to chart the importance of turning turnovers into points. In the 52 games this week, the winning team scored 18.12 points per game off of turnovers while losing teams managed just 14.02 points. That may not seem like much, but when you consider that 17.31% of the games this week either went to overtime or were decided by four or fewer points, the ability to score points off of turnovers is a game changer.
The victorious team averaged 1.23 points directly the result of a turnover, 13% greater than the rate at which losing teams converted turnovers into points. This week long study strengthened the common thought that forcing “live ball” turnovers is the best way to get easy buckets and win the game, especially for undermanned teams.
One more full week of the regular season which means one more chance to suggest a #StatStudy. Shoot me ideas @unSOPable23 and we can work out the details for the next seven days. Here are some stats you may have missed from the last seven days:
I looked at the national TV schedule this week, and it is rough, unless you’re a Miami fan. I guess the NBA wants to concede the national conversation to amateurs who play with an overly long shot clock. Fine.
It goes without saying that every Miami game is must-see as long as their streak is alive, but I wrote about them last week. So let’s focus on two mid-card teams, the Brooklyn Nets and the Portland Trailblazers.
Brooklyn has clinched a playoff spot, and is part of the scramble to delay getting knocked out by Miami. Portland is in the mix for the eighth seed in the West, along with Dallas, Utah and the Lakers, but has the worst chance to make it out of those teams.
But compared to one another, these two teams aren’t that far apart in terms of talent. If they reversed conferences, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Portland in Brooklyn’s position, and vice versa.
Brook Lopez is scoring well in the month of March. He’s averaging 20.3 points per game with a TS% of .619. The latter figure is almost 40 points better than his season average. His strong play comes as the Nets are nipping on the Knicks’ heels for the Atlantic division lead and heading for Lopez’s first playoff appearance. It’s hard to overstate how important he is to their chances. Though Deron Williams has rounded into form recently, he’s been their best player. Lopez has emerged as the first option on this Nets option, and rightfully so—he’s one of the best offensive players in the league, and he takes care of the ball. He’s still not a great rebounder, but playing next to Reggie Evans, he doesn’t need to be. On the downside, an Evans-Lopez front line will never anchor a great defense, but his career-high BLK% of 5.2 helps keep the Nets in the middle of the pack on that end.
J.J. Hickson hasn’t stuck with a team more than three years. He’ll be a free agent this summer, but his play has to have earned him more than a one-year deal. Hickson has improved dramatically as a rebounder, placing in the top five in the league in both offensive and defensive rebound percentage. He’s also become one of the more efficient scorers in the league, though he’s not a high usage player. He’s probably due a raise from the $4 million he made this year, but Hickson can help a team, whether it’s in Portland or not.
What to Watch For
Hickson will have his hands full on the glass against the Nets. Reggie Evans is the best offensive rebounder in the league, and Andray Blatche and Kris Humphries (if he gets any time) are solid rebounders as well. And though I said Brook Lopez isn’t a great rebounder, he’s improved at boarding on offense. The Trail Blazers are OK as a defensive rebounding team, but the Nets make a lot of teams look bad. Just look at when they played in November—Brooklyn grabbed 17 offensive rebounds.
Portland does a good job of not fouling on defense. The Nets will challenge their ability to keep it up. Brook Lopez and Deron Williams are particularly adept at drawing contact, and Williams in particular is a good free throw shooter. The Nets combined to shoot 21 free throws against Portland in November, not a winning formula for Portland.
Why Else to Watch?
These are two good offensive teams, but neither plays at a fast pace. In fact, the Nets play at the slowest pace in the league. It’s either neat or horrifying to see them grind out points.
How to Watch
ESPN, Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. eastern
League Pass Bonus Game
Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs, 8:30 p.m. eastern. Starting Wednesday, the Spurs play Denver, the Clippers, Miami and then Memphis. If the Spurs are one of your league pass teams, you are a winner.
This week I decided to take a look at players who rebound, but also score. I charted the total points each team received from players grabbing at least five rebounds in an effort to determine if teams with high scoring rebounders won more often than not.
I figured that winning teams would have a higher average point total from qualifying players, but never did I imagine the difference being this drastic. During the 50 game week, winning teams received an average of 50.8 points from players notching at least five rebounds, a 31.6% advantage over losing teams.
Interestingly enough, the scoring output was more consistent from the losing team than it was the winning teams. The losers had a range of 65 points from their highest scoring game to their lowest (Toronto totaled 75 such points while the Celtics managed only 10) and the victors had a range of 91 points (the Thunder managed 97 points while the Wizards notched only 6). Oklahoma City’s production on Friday night (97 points from players with 5+ rebounds) out did 44.4% of the winning teams total points for the night.
The Miami Heat recorded the second (21 points) and third (22) lowest outputs by a winning team. If you subtract these two games from the study, the advantage for winning teams increases to 37.2%. But they were the exception, not the rule, when it came to elite teams in this study. Oklahoma City more represented the norm, as they tallied high point totals in losses and wins. The Thunder had the second most points scored by their leading rebounders (71) in defeat and recorded the highest total in a victory (97).
Just another step in my effort to understand the game of basketball. Do you have a question you’d like answered? I’ll run your statistical inquiry through the gauntlet for the next seven days and provide you with a bit of insight. Tweet me your ideas @unSOPable23.
With all of that being said, here are your 35 stats from the week that was in the NBA.
For this week’s #StatStudy
, basketball coach/guru @C1ayMitche11
questioned an offense predicated on launching three pointers and chasing down the loose ball was an effective strategy in the NBA. He estimated that 60% of teams that won the rebound battle and attempted more triples would win the game and that the number would rise to a 75% success rate if the team tallied more offensive rebounds and 3PA.
Our sample size this week was 54 games, but with a few tied totals, most of these totals are out of closer to 50 games. First, let’s take a look at rebounds and three point attempts as two separate entities. The team that had the most rebounds in a given game won 64.7% of the time while the team with the most 3PA won 55.1% of the time. Clay’s guess that 60% of teams that led in both categories would win was accurate, as 64.3% of such teams came out with a W. It is interesting, however, that teams who led in both were less likely to win than a team that led only in rebounding.
The results for offensive rebounding were even less conclusive. Exactly half of the teams that tracked down more of their own missed shots and attempted more three pointers won the game. The Knicks and Lakers combined for 36.4% of all such wins this week, while the Thunder went undefeated this week despite attempting fewer threes and grabbing fewer O-boards in each game. In general, teams that won both categories and won the game were often playoff teams that manhandled bottom feeders while teams that lost the game while winning the stat battle were also underdogs. The winning percentage is staggeringly low, but it proves that we have a top heavy NBA. The best teams are capable of winning regardless of the style of play, while the bad teams will struggle to win even if the ball is bouncing in their favor.
What’s next my statistical analysis? Should we evaluate bench play on playoff bound teams? Should be measure league wide scoring of home teams versus road teams? Any stat your heart desires, and I’ll work with you to form it into a #StatStudy. Tweet me @unSOPable23 your ideas and we will have a study chosen by Tuesday morning.
Here are this weeks 35 unique stats and trends.