We are back with another season of statistics that have found a way to fly under the radar for the week that was in the NBA. No player is safe from these far reaching oddities, trends that you likely missed in the excitement of watching the games. On days with a full schedule, the top five stats are highlighted, and on days with fewer than five games, I’ll give you a stat from each game. One thing to remember: these stats are current on the day listed. That is, a trend can break as the week progresses, but for that moment in time, the numbers held true.
Without further adieu, the always interesting and never replicated Weekly Stat Pack.
Carlos Boozer torched the Miami Heat for 31 points and seven rebounds while connecting on 13 of his 18 field goal attempts. The veteran power forward broke a near eight year (14 games) string of consecutive games at Miami with at least as many rebounds as field goals made.
Lance Stephenson converted eight of his 12 shot attempts on his way to scoring 19 points to go along with his seven rebounds. While those numbers are nice off the bench, I’m more encouraged by his 5:1 assist to turnover ratio. It wasn’t until December 28th that Stephenson recorded his first such game last season.
Xavier Henry shocked the Clippers by pouring in 22 points in the Lakers upset victory. How surprising was the performance? The Kansas product scored 23 total points in the first month of last season. He only made one three pointer in that stretch last season but made three triples in this showdown.
Andrew Nicholson had a second consecutive nice night (13 points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes) but did not attempt a free throw for a seventh straight game (122 minutes played).
Jeff Green scored 25 points in a season opening loss to the Raptors, continuing a streak of high level scoring from the end of last season. In fact, over his last 18 games, Green has scored 359 points, just four fewer than Dirk Nowitzki.
The Timberwolves won for only the second time in seven career games in which Kevin Love has made at least three three pointers and ten free throws.
Kevin Durant made 22 free throws against the Utah Jazz, putting him on pace to make 1,804 freebies this season. There were 15 teams that didn’t attempt that many FT’s last year. Durant made only seven two point buckets on his way to 42 points, the same number of made two pointers that Carlos Boozer averaged last season (16.2 ppg).
Anthony Bennett started his NBA career in a very similar to how he started his final collegiate season. The first overall pick attempted more three pointers (three) than two’s (two), something the Cavaliers aren’t exactly counting on him to do. On the bright side, he did so in his first game at UNLV last season but didn’t do it another time all year long.
The New York Knicks were beaten by Derrick Rose with less than six seconds left, as the Bulls overcame being outscored by 18 points from downtown. The Knicks had won five of the last six games in which Carmelo Anthony attempted more three pointers than free throws. This trend reversing is something I expect to continue this year: The Andrea Bargnani Effect.
New year, new coach, same old Jamal Crawford. The gunner made the same number of field goals in 23 minutes of action as the rest of the bench and J.J. Redick (the player who starts at shooting guard over Crawford) did in 70 minutes.
For the second time in 2013, Kyrie Irving has missed at least ten fields and picked up at least three personal fouls. He didn’t do it once in 2011 or 2012.
Six Orlando Magic players tallied double digit point totals in a convincing win over the Pelicans. They scored 94 points tonight, not bad for a group of players that averaged a total 44.9 points for their NBA careers entering this season.
The Milwaukee Bucks had as many starters reach double figures in points as they had reserves not reach ten points (one). Zaza Pachuila reached double digits on free throw makes alone, not exactly a common stat line for a player who was averaging just 2.1 FTM during his career coming into this season.
For the seventh time in his last nine games, James Harden recorded at least half of his points from 3PM and FTM.
Ricky Rubio broke a streak of 13 straight double doubles in which he attempted at least ten shots from the field. Before he rattled off those 13 double doubles with ten-plus shots, four of his previous six double doubles were of the single digit FGA variety. I don’t know if he’d be a great one-on-one player, but he can be (and for my money, is going to be) the point guard on a playoff level NBA team as early as this season.
The “defensive minded” Memphis Grizzlies have either scored or allowed an opponent to score 100-plus points in every game this season. Surprisingly enough, this is the fifth straight season in which there has been a 100 point performance in at least three of the Grizzlies first five games.
We all agree that Jonas Valanciunas looked great this offseason (Summer League MVP), but will the Raptors benefit from what figures to be an increased offensive workload? For the second time this season and the sixth time in seven such games, Toronto won when their big man totaled 7-9 points.
Carlos Boozer should be in every fantasy lineup for the first month of the season. Over his last 23 road games played in the first month of the season, Boozer is making almost nine field goals per game on 59.2% shooting. His 22 points on 9/16 shooting may sound like a strong outing, but it actually less efficient than the past data would have predicted.
Tim Duncan took 23 shots today in a 105-115 loss to the Portland Trailblazers, 49.4% more FGA than he averages over his career. The heavy workload is a surprise, but did you know that Duncan has attempted just 20 field goals on this exact date (November 2) over the last 12 years?
For the second time in his career, Steph Curry made at least as many three pointers as he missed total FGA in consecutive games. His Warriors, however, are only 1-3 in those games.
Paul Gasol made two big free throws to win the game against the Hawks, and while statistically speaking it wasn’t his best game, he has been very reliable this year with Dwight Howard out of the picture. For the seventh time in his last 13 games, Gasol has totaled at least 29 points + rebounds. He reached that plateau only four times in his first 44 games to start last season.
Every Detroit Piston that attempted a free throw shot a higher percentage from the field than from the stripe.
The comeback story of Shaun Livingston is a great one and I love to see him healthy, but his assist totals have been directly correlated to losing efforts. The Nets were blown out by the Magic in a game in which Livingston dished out seven assists, the sixth consecutive seven-plus assist game that his team has lost.
The Thunder welcomed back Russell Westbrook tonight, celebrating with a nice comeback win over the Phoenix Suns. It was their eighth win in the last ten games in which Westbrook missed all of his three point attempts (minimum one attempt).
Another day and another big early season performance for Kevin Love. Remember when he put 31 and 31 up on the Knicks in November of 2010? Since that point in time, Love is averaging 24.2 points and 14.9 rebounds in games played in the first month of the season (32 double doubles in 35 games).
Every year as the playoffs approach one thing is guaranteed.
A team or two always gets marked as “the team no one should want to face.” The teams normally fall into one of two categories.
First the young up and coming team that does something better than anyone else in the league. Think the Grizzlies of a few years ago, who excelled at the slowdown grind it out game because of an elite defense. Or this year’s Rockets who possess one of the most efficient and explosive offenses in the league.
The other category is the one the two teams being anointed as this years “don’t want to face” teams fall into. Veteran teams that fell below the seeds that many people expected them to before the season.
This year those teams are the Lakers and Celtics.
There is a problem with the labels this year though.
They just simply aren’t true.
These aren’t teams that were missing their best player for large chunks of the year but now have them back. These aren’t teams that are all of a sudden playing great basketball. In all reality, these aren’t even good teams.
In the end the Celtics and Lakers are who they are. They are bad teams, one who hung onto the seventh seed in the East because the Bucks forgot how to play basketball and lost to the Magic and Bobcats, and the other who plays tonight to determine their playoff fate.
Kobe Bryant is not about to come back from some midseason injury to save the Lakers. Ditto for Rajon Rondo and the Celtics.
A few weeks ago, Kevin Pelton of ESPN looked at the best contracts in the NBA by multiplying a player’s WARP (wins above replacement level) by the average amount that teams pay for each WARP. I’d like to approach this same problem from a different angle: namely, how much value are teams getting out of the salaries they pay their players? Instead of looking at WARP, I’ll focus on win shares, another metric of player value. While Pelton’s methodology assumes that the overall NBA salary market is priced correctly (therefore attaching a value to each WARP a team pays for), my method makes no assumptions about overall pricing accuracy and instead seeks to evaluate relative player salary and performance.
At a basic level, my goal is to quantitatively evaluate the best and worst contracts in the NBA. To do so, I construct a simple metric that I call the “value ratio.” This is defined as: (Player Salary/Median Salary)/(Player Win Share/Median Win Share). In effect, I am comparing the amount over (or under) which a player is being paid vs. the median NBA player with that player’s production over (or under) that of a median player. Comparing salaries and win shares with median values serves as a way of normalizing these metrics and making them more readily comparable to each other. A simple way to think about this metric is the following: if the ratio is less than 1, the player is undervalued; if the ratio is greater than one, the player is overvalued; if the ratio equals one, the player is properly valued. In short, the most valuable players will be those with the smallest value ratios.
Data and Methodology
Win shares is a measure of player value that represents the number of wins that a player contributes to his team. For any given season, the sum of the win shares of all the players on a team should be close to the actual total wins of that team (more on how win shares are calculated can be found here). Instead of looking at win shares from this season alone, I used a three-year average of win-share data, where available (rookies for example, would have only one year of data). This serves to avoid penalizing players having an off-year compared with their historical production—for example, looking at one year’s win shares data might show that someone like Pau Gasol is severely overvalued. In reality, however, a 7-foot big man posting all-star levels of production throughout his career is probably worth $19mm per season. Using an average of win shares data over a three-year time frame provides a more reliable measure of player productivity. In this post, I use win share data from Basketball Reference.
Instead of only looking at current year salary, I took an annual average of a team’s current and future salary commitments to each player. This is again a smoothing technique that accounts for the fact that a player’s current salary is not necessarily a good reflection of his future salary. James Harden, for example, is being paid only $6mm this season but is due nearly $80mm over the next five seasons. Taking an average of a team’s future salary commitments gives a better picture of how teams value players in the long-run. For the purposes of this exercise, I assume that all team and player options are picked up, all unguaranteed years will be fulfilled, all qualifying offers are extended, and no early termination options are exercised. All salary data is courtesy of ShamSports.
I also set a minutes-threshold to define a smaller subset of NBA players. This helps to exclude players like Derrick Rose who have been devastated by injury this season as well as those who haven’t played enough for their statistics to have meaning. On average, NBA teams have played roughly 50 games so far: at 48 minutes per game, that’s 2,400 available minutes per player. I set the minutes-threshold at 500, which incorporates most rotation players in the league and gives us a sample of 285 players to work with.
For this week’s Stat Study, I decided to look at average FGA, FTA, and 3PA in an effort to forecast winners. After each of the 54 games had been played this week, I charted every matchup and jotted down which team averaged more FTA, FGA, and 3PA to see if there was a constant link between any of them to the winner.
I posed the question of which statistic (FTA, FGA, or 3PA) would predict winners at the highest rate to the Twitter-verse. The team who entered the week averaging more FTA was the runaway favorite (58.8% of the vote) followed by 3PA (29.4%) and then FGA (11.8%). As it turns out the social media world had the right train of thought, but teams who averaged more 3PA won the week with a mark of 29-25, just edging out the team leading in FTA (28-26). David Vertsberger (@_Verts) nailed it this week as he projected that teams who live and die by the three pointer would ultimately prevail based on the premise that they get more points per shot made. He was banking on a big week from the Knicks, and it was their two wins that swung the scale for the week.
Ironically enough, the greatest predictor of victory was the team who averaged fewer FGA this the week (30-24). The Heat and Thunder, who both went 4-0 this week, proved that it is quality over quantity when it comes to shot selection, as they attempt the fewest shots per game in the league.
What’s on the books for next week? I’m going with an extended study this week, as it will carry through the All Star Break and include games played this week and next. What do you want to know? How can we enlighten the basketball public? Don’t be shy and get your tweets out to me (@unSOPable23) before midnight on Monday night and I’ll get the wheels in motion.
That being said, here are 35 stats that you may have missed from the past week.
Thanks to Utah Jazz fan, Taylor Berthelson (@utahmankiyi), this week’s study was devoted to determining the importance of the first quarter to the game result. I used years of data to determine that winning teams typically performed well in the first quarter earlier this week, but it doesn’t hurt to add some 2012-2013 statistics to prove the trend true for this season.
Taylor estimated that 60% of teams that win the first quarter win the game, and he was pretty darn accurate. For this study I didn’t count games that were tied after one quarter, so the sample size was 45 games (four games were not counted). Teams that were leading after the first 12 minutes won 29 times (0.644 winning percentage), with seven of those teams either drawing even or losing the remaining 36 minutes. For the week as a whole, the 45 teams that lead after one quarter of action went on to win the remainder of the game by an average of 1.03 points. There were two outliers in this week’s set of data, but they essentially offset one another. The Pistons beat the Bucks by nine points in the first quarter but lost the game by 27 points (-36 points) while the Rockets beat the Jazz by six in the first quarter on their way to a 45 point win in Utah (+39 points).
Thus, the hypothesis stands. The 2012-2013 season seems to be trending in the same direction as seasons past where the first quarter holds a stronger correlation to success than any other quarter.
Taylor took me up on my offer to break down a stat of his choosing and verified a belief that he had. Now it’s your turn. Have a stat that you’re curious about? Or maybe you did something real well back in the day and want to see if that skill set would have an impact on an NBA team. Whatever the case may be, your insight is important to us here at Hickory-high. What would you like me to dive deeper into over the next seven days?
If you need help thinking of odd stats and trends, here are 35 of the best from last week.
This week I thought I’d take a look at the shot taking/making of offenses “at the rim” and behind the arc. Theoretically, offenses work hard to get a good look from one of these spots on very possession, and I was curious which had a greater impact on the game. My hypothesis was that winning teams would have the consistent edge “at the rim” while the three point shooting would be something of a crapshoot, an indication that a team can live/die by the long ball. I also wanted to see where the winning team gained the largest advantage on a per game basis. My thought here was that this study would prove that while three point shooting can win games, pounding the ball in the paint is the way to have consistent success in the NBA.
For the most part, my train of thought was on the money. Winning teams shot 69.3% “at the rim” and 39.0% from distance during the 54 game week while the losing teams shot 63.1% and 34.0% respectively. What surprised me about the results were the shots attempted at each location per game. The winning team averaged 25.5 field goal attempts at the rim while the losing team averaged 25.2. The results for three point attempts were nearly as symmetrical, with the winning team shooting 19.7 per game as opposed to 18.8 from the losing team.
For the week as a whole, the winning team outscored the losing team by an average of 3.6 points “at the rim” and 3.9 points from distance. There were a few outliers (the Bucks made 14 triples and 13 shots at the rim in a loss to the Cavs and the Knicks connected on a mere eight from point blank and 16 from distance in a win against the Hawks), but for the most part the data was pretty consistent. Teams that made 10+ three pointers won 60% of the time and teams that made 20+ shots at the rim proved victorious 75% of the time. My conclusion is that if you’re a good three point shooting team, let it fly, but if you’re an elite interior team, you will have more long term success.
Let your voice be heard and tweet me (@unSOPable23) your stat of choice for this week’s #StatStudy. You’ve got nothing to lose. This is your chance to uncover NBA data, don’t miss out! With that being said, here are the stats to amaze from the week that was in the Association.
Slim pickings this week. For some reason TNT isn’t broadcasting the Thursday games.
That leaves the ESPN games on Friday. I think the Bulls-Heat game will be great, but I couldn’t resist picking the Los Angeles-Los Angeles matchup.
There has been a lot of talk about how the Nets moving to Brooklyn created a great intra-city rivalry, but the Knicks and the Nets have done battle for a long time, with each side experiencing periods of superiority. But in Los Angeles, I don’t think the Clippers have ever been better than the Lakers, except for right now.
One of the great storylines of the season will be whether the Clippers can stay better. They won the first matchup in November.
The Lakers lean on Dwight Howard for a lot, despite his bad back. He’s the anchor of a defense that has a lot of holes and he’s been the second option on offense while Steve Nash sat out with injuries and while Pau Gasol continues to adjust to Mike D’Antoni’s system. While Kobe Bryant probably finds Howard’s constant joking to be grating, he must appreciate how Howard covers up his failings on defense. Still, it’s obvious Howard isn’t back to the player he was during the 2010-11 season, before he became the most wishy-washy person in the league. The Clippers kept him pretty quiet in their first game against the Lakers, especially on the glass, where he only recorded one offensive rebound.
That is largely because of Blake Griffin, who along with DeAndre Jordan has become an effective paint defender. Griffin has the lowest defensive rating of his career. That is admittedly a noisy stat, but he has also displayed a penchant for stealing the ball that wasn’t there last year. In the playoffs, Vinny Del Negro would bench Griffin in the fourth quarter because of his defensive deficiencies. I don’t think he would do that now. Couple his defensive improvement with his usual excellent work on offense, and you have one of the most promising players in the league reaching his potential in his third year. There’s a great line in the Nicolas Cage movie ‘The Weather Man’ about how as you get older, the possibilities of who you can be—an astronaut, a famous actor, a basketball star—dwindle down to one. Blake Griffin is forcefully keeping his chances of being an all-time great alive with his play.
What to Watch For
As I mentioned before, the Clippers did a good job keeping Dwight Howard off the offensive glass in their first meeting. They haven’t done such a good job since. Meanwhile, attacking the glass has been one of the Lakers’ greatest strengths on offense. It makes sense. The Lakers are a big team. Howard has been a big part of their success rebounding, but Jordan Hill has also been a prolific offensive rebounder off the bench. The Lakers squander a lot of opportunities with turnovers, but they also get a lot of them back on the boards. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have to remember to box out.
Speaking of turnovers, no team forces more of more of them than the Clippers. Eric Bledsoe and Chris Paul lead the league in steal percentage, and Matt Barnes is in 12th. No other team has three players in the top 20, and Blake Griffin has pretty good hands on defense too. Turnovers are the Lakers’ biggest weakness on offense. You can blame the fact that Chris Duhon has been running the offense, but Steve Nash is turnover-prone too. He’s been great since coming back, but this is a very bad matchup for him.
I’m also interested in hearing the crowd. The Clippers, who are the “home team” on Friday, have actually outpaced the Lakers in attendance over the first 30 games. Will they have a real home court advantage?
Why Else Should I Watch?
Lobs on lobs on lobs on lobs
How to Watch
ESPN, 10:30 p.m. eastern time
League Pass Bonus Game
Brooklyn Nets at Oklahoma City Thunder, Wednesday, 8 p.m. eastern time. P.J. Carlesimo has had a nice start as interim coach, but this week the Nets have matchups with the Spurs and this game agains the Thunder. I think he would be overjoyed with a split.
Last Thursday I put up a post unveiling a new way of evaluating shot selection. The system is called Expected Points Per Shot, and it uses the expected point value of shots from different locations to calculate an expected per shot average for each player. We know that three-pointers on average are more valuable than long two-pointers. We also know exactly how much more valuable on average; 0.280 points per shot. Using that kind of information we can grade each player’s shot selection by how many points they should score on average per shot. That post also has a handy Tableau visualization that lets you play around and explore.
Putting together the original post took so much time that I didn’t have much chance for analysis before putting it up. I promised I would dig into the numbers, so I’m back today with a few interesting observations.
One of the most striking things to rise to the surface of that work was how valuable free throw attempts are. I included free throws as a component of my points per shot numbers, using the standard modifier of 0.44, multiplied by free throw attempts to calculate the number of possessions that ended with a trip to the free throw line. I did the same to include points from made free throws. Although this is an estimate, it allows shooting fouls to be included on a level playing field with other kinds of shots. The expected value of a free throw attempt is 0.759 points (the league average FT% over the past few seasons). That means that the expected value of a trip to the free throw line is 1.518 points (0.759+0.759), much higher than the expected value of a shot attempt at the rim (1.208) or a three-point attempt (1.081).
This realization is particularly important in the context of all the Hack-A-Howard hoopla from the past few weeks. At this point Dwight Howard is shooting 47.7% from the free throw line this season. That means that on any given trip to the free throw line there is a 27.4% chance he scores no points, a 22.8% chance he scores two points and a 49.8% chance he scores one point. In a tight game, with the expiring game clock as a limiting factor it often makes sense for teams to play those odds. But over the course of many, many possessions those odds are not as strikingly stacked against the Lakers.
With the expected value of each of Howard’s free throw attempt being 0.477, a trip to the free throw line has an expected value of 0.954 points (0.477+0.477). That’s more points than the Washington Wizards average per possession this season and within .02 points per possession of the offenses of the Cavaliers, Pacers and Magic. That says a lot about the offensive futility of those four teams, but it also puts Howard’s struggles into a much more rational and reasonable context. Sending Howard to the free throw line may be a smart play in a close game because a team can guarantee a particular scenario where the outcome is somewhat in their favor. But looking at the entire season this is nowhere near the worst case scenario for the Lakers’ offense.
There are plenty of offensive outcomes for the Lakers which net fewer points on average than two free throws for Howard – for example any shot by Steve Blake (0.937 points per shot this season) or Pau Gasol (0.828 points per shot this season) or even Kobe Bryant in certain cases. Over the last two years Kobe has attempted 106 shots from beyond 10ft. with less than five minutes left in the game and neither side ahead by more than five. On those shots he has scored 78 points, or an average of 0.736 points per shot. Any defense familiar with those numbers and given a choice would be much smarter to choose a Kobe jumpshot in a close game than sending Howard to the line. The problem is that the defense is not given an equal choice between two scenarios. They are given the choice between sending Howard to the line and facing the unknown. That could be the relatively beneficial scenario of Kobe forcing a long jumpshot, or it could be a Gasol dunk, a three-pointer for Metta World Peace or sending Kobe to the line. In terms of efficiency, Howard shooting two free throws is actually somewhere in the middle of the Lakers’ menu of offensive outcomes. But it is one the defense can essentially pick and guarantee the odds. Therein lies the advantage.
Shot Selection As A Mechanism For Improvement
The Knicks’ offense has been one of the biggest surprises this year. They currently have the second best ORtg. in the league and the fifth best eFG% at 51.8%. This is a pretty impressive performance for a team that has featured big minutes for J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, all who have career FG%s below 43.0%. One of the big driving forces for their offensive improvement has been their shot selection.
The three most efficient shooting options we’ve found are trips to the free throw line, shots at the rim and three-pointers. By my calculation 69.8% of the Knicks scoring opportunities have come from those three scenarios. Last season that number was just 58.6%. This improved shot selection has come from nearly the entire team. The Knicks have 9 players who have played at least 200 minutes this season. 6 of those 9 have an Expected Points Per Shot value of 0.950 or greater and everyone except Rasheed Wallace and Ronnie Brewer is actually outperforming their XPPS, scoring more points per shot than expected. Simply, the Knicks are making shots because they’re taking the right shots.
The Miami Heat are another team which is really using the talents of their players in an efficient shot selection array. The image below shows the placement of Heat players’ who have played more than 200 minutes, taken from last week’s visualization.
The Heat’s three highest usage players, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James all have relatively inefficient shot selections, with XPPS marks below 0.900. We can attribute this to the fact that none of the three is a prolific three-point shooter and all rely heavily on mid-range jumpshots, which have a lower expected value. However, each player is scoring at an actual per shot rate much higher than their expected rate. In fact, Bosh and LeBron both average over 1.00 points per shot. All three players shoot at average or better rates on those mid-range jumpers, and also generally outperform the league average at the rim and at the free throw line.
Having your three central players capable of such efficiency levels, without needing to have high-value offensive opportunities created for them, also has a terrific trickle down effect. The three marks along the top of that image represent Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and Shane Battier. As complements to Wade, Bosh and LeBron each of those three is able to focus on very efficient shot selections, primarily three-pointers. Each is a very good shooter already, and the defensive attention given to the Big Three just makes it even easier for Allen, Lewis and Battier to outperform expectations. Each is averaging at least 1.100 points per shot.
There is still some more work to be done with these numbers. I’m hoping to keep them updated on a fairly regular basis throughout the season, and I’d also like to put some of the numbers together for teams as opposed to just individuals. Hopefully that work will be coming soon. If there’s anything else you’d like to see, or somewhere else you’d like me to take the numbers, just ask!
Suddenly, we are a quarter of the way through the season. It’s been weird.
The Knicks have looked much better than the Heat in their two meetings, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant have murdered Father Time, and Andray Blatche is a relevant player after 20 games. It’s not an insignificant sample size, but I wouldn’t be surprised if none of these trends held.
Every matchup seems so meaningful this early, and for teams like the Lakers and Knicks, the upheaval seems to never end. Two of the most scrutinized teams in basketball meet in Madison Square Garden this week, and it’s my game of the week.
Kobe Bryant has been in the NBA for nearly 20 years, logging more than 43,000 minutes and 30,000 points. He should be in the twilight of his career. And yet, he’s playing better than ever. As usual, he has taken it upon himself to shoulder the scoring load for the Lakers, and he has delivered at what would be his most efficient clip yet. But with Steve Nash out, he has also put in time as a distributor. With Iman Shumpert still recovering from knee surgery, the Knicks will probably ask Ronnie Brewer and J.R. Smith to tame the Mamba. They’ll have their hands full -Kobe loves playing in the Garden.
Tyson Chandler has been a ravenous beast in his last few games. Chandler makes the most of a very limited skill set on offense. Though his effective range on offense is about five feet away from the basket, he’s still one of the most effective roll men in the league. He’s also the Knicks’ best rebounder, especially on offense, and their most important defender, allowing New York to leave Jason Kidd on the floor for extended stretches. After putting on a clinic in offensive efficiency last year, Chandler’s field goal percentage is even higher this year. He will be mainly be occupied Thursday with corralling Dwight Howard, in an increasingly rare matchup of great centers. Chandler has been a step slower on defense this year, but it looks like he is in for another terrific year.
What to Watch For
The Lakers are the most prolific team in the league when it comes to getting to the line. Sounds great, right? The problem is, Dwight Howard accounts for about a third of their free throw attempts and they are not among his many talents. The Knicks’ aren’t a particularly foul-prone team, and they certainly don’t want Tyson Chandler sitting any more than they can help, but it will be interesting if they will ask some of the guys on the far end of the bench to use their fouls on Howard. While the Knicks shoot threes like a Mike D’Antoni team, they don’t run like one, and sending Howard to the line is an easy way to slow the game down. If you haven’t heard the phrase “Ball don’t lie” before, this game may be a good introduction.
A big reason the Knicks have been so successful is that they consistently win the turnover battle. They take care of the ball better than anyone else in the league, and they force turnovers at a pretty good clip, too. The Lakers are just the opposite. They cough the ball up a lot, and they don’t get a lot of takeaways. One or both of those things will have to change if the Lakers are going to win.
A third thing to look for is the size matchup. The Knicks have been playing Carmelo Anthony at the four, and it will be interesting to see whether Mike D’Antoni assigns Metta World Peace or Pau Gasol, if healthy, to defend him.
Why Else Should I Watch?
To see how much jawing takes place between Kobe Bryant and Spike Lee. And of course, to see America’s Sweetheart, Rasheed Wallace.
TNT, 8 p.m. eastern time
League Pass Bonus Game
Memphis Grizzlies at Utah Jazz, Saturday, 9 p.m. eastern time. The Jazz have been surprisingly decent, and how often do you get to see two big teams match up?
There is no rest for the Fantasy Nomad or the good people over at RotoInfo. The fantasy season never ends and they work tirelessly to keep the best fantasy basketball content coming on a regular basis. This weekend, I was invited to join Michael Pichan (@FantasyNomad) on his podcast, and we discussed the good, the bad, and the ugly approaching the quarter mark in the NBA season. Wondering what to do with Dwight Howard and his free throw struggles? Maybe you roster a few young studs and are wondering where their value is headed. What happens to Pau Gasol’s fantasy value if he is dealt? Who has earned the nickname “The Big Frustration”? Those questions, and many more, are answered in this podcast. And if we didn’t touch on a pressing question for your specific team, tweet him (@FantasyNomad) or myself (@unSOPable23) or check out RotoInfo for the most up to date information on every player in the NBA.