One Team, One Stat

One Team, One Stat: Not Top 10


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Cleveland Cavaliers, who got by with some bad defense.

The stat

20151027_cle_lowest_def

The context

20151027_cle_basicsHistory tells us that defense is a little more important than offense if you want to compete for and win a championship.

Of *the last 38 champs, six ranked outside the top 10 in offensive efficiency, while only three ranked outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency. And in **the last 13 years, when a better offensive team has faced a better defensive team in the playoffs, the better defensive team has won 66 (56 percent) of the 118 series.

* Since the league starting counting turnovers in 1977.
** Since the first round went to seven games

The numbers aren’t overwhelming, but they back up the idea that defense wins championships.

Still, a top-10 ranking on both ends of the floor is a good qualifier for a team’s ability to contend for a championship. Last season’s Cavs were terrific on offense, but ranked in the top 10 in defensive efficiency in only one calendar month, the one that was broken up by the All-Star break.

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For the season, the Cavs were below average in regard to defending shots, forcing turnovers, and keeping their opponents off the offensive glass.

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Cleveland did improve defensively after trading for Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert in January, but ranked only 12th from the time Shumpert returned from his shoulder injury.

The Cleveland defense improved again in the playoffs, but that was partly due to the injuries to Kevin Love (who played in just 3 1/2 of their 20 games) and Kyrie Irving (12 1/2). David Blatt had to lean on more defensive-minded personnel and his team had no choice but to play ugly.

In the regular season, the Cavs had the league’s best offense against top-5 defenses. They only lost two playoff games on their way to The Finals and don’t seem to have a legit challenger in the Eastern Conference again this year. The Cavs still have the best player in the world and the league’s GMs picked them to win the championship.

But we’ve yet to see this team play at an elite level on both ends of the floor at the same time. Even if they’re eventually healthy this season, there’s room for improvement, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

One Team, One Stat: Winning With Pace


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Golden State Warriors

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Golden State Warriors, who won with pace.

The stat

20151027_gsw_champs_pace

The context

20151027_gsw_basicsThe league started counting turnovers in 1977. And over the next 37 years, only one team ranked in the top five in pace in the regular season and went on to win the championship. That was the 1982 Lakers, who ranked fifth out of just 23 teams.

Typically, fast pace is not associated with good defense. From the 1996-97 season through 2013-14 (a span of 18 years), only four teams ranked in the top five in both pace and defensive efficiency. And there was an eight-year stretch (from ’03-04 through ’10-11) when no teams ranked in the top five in both.

Last season, the Warriors became the first team to rank first in both pace and defensive efficiency since 1978 Phoenix Suns. They got 18.4 percent of their shots (third highest rate in the league) and allowed their opponents to get only 12.8 percent of their shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock.

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League-wide, those shots in the first six seconds of the clock yielded an effective field goal percentage of 60.5 percent, while shots that come later in the clock yielded an effective field goal percentage of 48.0 percent.

The Warriors have multiple impact defenders on the perimeter and inside. And when they get stops, they have lethal guards who will take advantage of opportunities in transition. Both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson ranked in the top eight in in fast break points per game last season.

Statistically, the Warriors were the best championship team since Michael Jordan‘s Bulls, having played at an elite level on both ends of the floor. And they changed a lot of people’s minds about the possibility of winning at a fast pace.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

One Team, One Stat: 3-point Game


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Houston Rockets

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Houston Rockets, who let ’em fly from deep.

The stat

20151026_hou_3pa

The context

20151026_hou_basicsAs the league looks to increase pace and create space, the Rockets are at the head of the pack.

According to Synergy, 19 percent of the Rockets’ possessions were in transition, the highest rate in the league. According to SportVU, only the Suns and Warriors took more shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock than Houston.

And the Rockets took less than 11 percent of their total shots from mid-range, the lowest rate we’ve ever seen. Over the last three years, the Rockets have basically eliminated inefficient shots from their offense.

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That offense still didn’t rank in the top 10, though, because only two teams had a worse turnover rate than the Rockets. There may have been too much of a burden on James Harden, who accounted for almost half of Houston’s 3-pointers via his own shots and assists.

Harden was the first player in NBA history to make 200 3s and assist on 200 3s in the same season.

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Harden will have some of the playmaking burden taken off his shoulders by new point guard Ty Lawson, who ranked third, behind Harden and Chris Paul, with 225 assists on 3-pointers last year.

Lawson should be a good fit with the Rockets, who could be the first team to make 1,000 3s in a season.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

One Team, One Stat: The Hawks are open


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Atlanta Hawks

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Atlanta Hawks, who were open often.

The stat

20151026_atl_pct_uncont

The context

20151026_atl_basicsThe Hawks ranked in the top three in effective field goal percentage on both contested (second, 43.6 percent) and uncontested jumpers (third, 52.9 percent). They were a great shooting team, whether there was a defender in the vicinity of the shooter or not.

But they took almost 1,500 more open jumpers than contested ones, which is a very good thing.

League-wide, open jumpers resulted in an effective field goal percentage of more than 10 percentage points better than jumpers with a defender within four feet of the shooter.

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The Hawks don’t have a guy who creates open shots by himself; none of their starters ranked in the top 40 in *usage rate. Reserve Dennis Schroder (27.4 percent) ranked 21st (among players that played at least 1,000 minutes) and starter Jeff Teague (25.0 percent) ranked 41st.

* Usage rate = Percentage of his team’s possessions that a player uses when he’s on the floor.

But the Hawks’ ball movement was among the best in the league. They ranked fourth in passes per possession, third in secondary assists, and first in assist rate.

The loss of DeMarre Carroll will hurt the offense. Carroll, who left for Toronto, was the Hawks’ second best shooter on open jumpers last season.

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Kent Bazemore will be asked to continue his solid shooting at a higher volume. And when the Hawks need more defense at the wing, opponents will leave Thabo Sefolosha alone on the other end of the floor.

If every perimeter player on the floor isn’t respected, the Hawks’ best shooters may have a harder time getting open.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

One Team, One Stat: Nothing Behind CP3


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Los Angeles Clippers

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Los Angeles Clippers, who suffered a huge drop-off when their best player sat down.

The stat

20151025_lac_on-off_diff

The context

20151025_lac_basicsThe difference between the Clippers with Chris Paul on the floor and him on the bench was mostly on offense. L.A. led the league in offensive efficiency by scoring 109.8 points per 100 possessions for the season and scored 115.1 when Paul was running the show.

But when Paul sat, the Clips scored just 95.6 points per 100 possessions, a number that was better than only that of the Philadelphia 76ers last season. And the Sixers had the worst offense of the last 12 years.

The difference was in all of the “four factors” of efficiency. The Clippers shot worse, rebounded worse, turned the ball often more often, and got to the line less often when Paul was off the floor.

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DeAndre Jordan, fourth on the list above, did most of the work on the glass. Jordan and Blake Griffin got to the line a combined 898 times.

All five of the Clippers starters were in the top 12 of on-off NetRtg differential. J.J. Redick (12.8) was eighth, Matt Barnes (12.3) was 10th, and Griffin (11.7) was 12th.

Jordan was on the floor for about 90 percent of Paul’s minutes last season. Barnes, Griffin and Redick were each on the floor for about 75 percent of Paul’s minutes. The point guard’s on-off differential was a group effort, both among the starters and among the Clippers’ awful bench.

As a result, Doc Rivers played his starters together for 1,217 minutes, 302 more than any other lineup in the league. It can certainly be argued that all those minutes played a role in the Clippers’ collapse in the conference semifinals.

The Clippers have survived without Paul in the past. In 2013-14, with the offense running through Griffin, L.A. went 12-6 and scored more than 112 points per 100 possessions during Paul’s 18-game absence in the middle of the season.

But there’s no question about who runs the show when the Clips are healthy. They were outscored by 18.4 points per 100 possessions with Jordan on the floor and Paul off it and by 5.4 points per 100 possessions with Griffin on the floor and Paul off it.

Paul has long been a great playmaker with a low turnover rate. But over the last few years, he’s also turned into one of the league’s best shooters off the dribble. Among players who attempted at least 200 pull-up jumpers, he ranked second (behind Beno Udrih) in field goal percentage and third in effective field goal percentage.

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The Clippers acquired Austin Rivers in January to try to help their bench. But Paul’s on-off numbers were even more extreme late in the season. After the All-Star break, the Clippers outscored their opponents by 16.4 points per 100 possessions with Paul on the floor and were outscored by 14.3 (scoring a paltry 89.2) with him on the bench.

The hope in Clipperland is that Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson can keep the Clippers’ offense from falling off a cliff when their starters sit down. But for that to happen, Stephenson in particular would have to play a lot differently than he did last season.

The Clippers still have the best floor general in the league, and they still have questions on their bench. It seems like this is a make-or-break year for the team’s core, and success may depend on whether or not Paul is again near the top of this list.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

One Team, One Stat: The Thibs Effect


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Chicago Bulls

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Chicago Bulls, who continued to do one thing really well defensively.

The stat

20151025_chi_rest_def

The context

20151025_chi_basicsFor the second time in Tom Thibodeau‘s five seasons as head coach, the Bulls were the best in the NBA at defending the easiest shots on the floor. League-wide, restricted-area shots yielded 1.20 points per attempt last season. Against the Bulls though, that number was just 1.12 points per shot.

Among 98 players who defended at least 250 shots at the rim last season, Taj Gibson (45.5 percent, ninth) and Pau Gasol (48.0 percent, 22nd) both ranked in the top 25 in opponent field goal percentage there.

The Bulls didn’t just defend shots at the rim well, they were also above average in regard to preventing them. And they were the best in the league at forcing mid-range shots (31 percent of their opponents’ shots came from between the paint and the 3-point line), the least efficient looks on the floor. That comes, in part, from being the best at keeping side pick-and-rolls from getting to the middle.

In all five of Thibodeau’s seasons in Chicago, his team ranked in the top five in effective field goal percentage defense. And keeping your opponents to a low effective field goal percentage is the most important thing you can do defensively.

But the Bulls fell out of the top five in overall defensive efficiency last season for the first time in Thibodeau’s tenure, because they ranked 29th in forcing turnovers and didn’t rebound as well as they had in the past.

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New coach Fred Hoiberg has put in a new offense and could go with a starting frontline of Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol for additional floor spacing. But while there’s potential for an improved offense, there’s also potential for more regression on defense. Mirotic ranked as one of 10 worst rim protectors among those 98 who defended at least 250 shots at the basket last season.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

One Team, One Stat: Inside the Arc


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Memphis Grizzlies

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Memphis Grizzlies, who continue to buck a trend.

The stat

20151024_mem_lowest_3pa

The context

20151024_mem_basics The NBA is shooting more and more 3-pointers every season, but the Grizzlies don’t seem to care. You can improve your offense by shooting better from 3-point range or by just shooting more 3s. But the Grizzlies have ranked in the bottom 12 in 3-point percentage each of the last eight seasons and in the bottom five in percentage of shots that were 3-pointers in each of the last seven.

Last season, Memphis only had four players with at least 100 3-point attempts: Mike Conley, Vince Carter, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green. Every other team had at least five and most teams (18 of the 30) had at least seven.

And though you could put together some floor-spacing lineups with all four of those guys together, the Grizzlies had more than two of them on the floor for just 723 total minutes, less than nine per game.

The lack of shooting has given Mike Conley and the Grizzlies’ bigs less space to operate on pick-and-rolls. Though both Conley and Marc Gasol are terrific playmakers, Memphis ranked 20th in points per possession on pick-and-rolls last season, according to SportVU.

The Grizzlies’ offense has improved over the last couple of years, but it was just average last season.

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The addition of Matt Barnes this summer gives the Grizzlies another guy who took more than 100 3s last season, as well as more flexibility at the forward positions and an ability to play small (with Barnes or Green at the four) more often.

That should make for a higher ceiling offensively. But for the Grizzlies to really join the rest of the league beyond the arc, they’d have to abandon their grit-and-grind identity embodied by Tony Allen, a shooting guard who can’t shoot, and Zach Randolph, an interior four man.

That identity has taken the Grizzlies to the league’s fifth best record over the last three seasons, and it’s likely to stay for at least another year.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

One Team, One Stat: Space in D.C.


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Washington Wizards

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Washington Wizards, who changed their identity in the postseason.

The stat

20151024_was_3pa_incr

The context

20151024_was_basicsThe Wizards were a different team in the playoffs than they were in the regular season. After his team ranked 19th in offensive efficiency in the regular season, Wizards coach Randy Wittman broke out a floor-spacing lineup that made the offense more potent in the playoffs.

Back-up bigs Kris Humphries and Kevin Seraphin had their roles reduced, while starters Nene and Marcin Gortat played fewer minutes together.

Small forward Otto Porter, who was out of the rotation just three weeks before the playoffs began, averaged more than 33 minutes over postseason games. In fact, Porter and Paul Pierce played more minutes together in the playoffs (147) than Nene and Gortat did (139).

The Wizards were at their best, outscoring their opponents by 10.8 points per 100 possessions, with Porter on the floor. They were a plus-32 in 69 minutes with John Wall, Bradley Beal, Porter and Pierce on the floor with one of the two starting bigs.

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The smaller lineup wasn’t just about shooting more 3s. It also provided more space for Wall and Beal to attack the basket. Both of the Washington guards drove more often in the playoffs than they did in the regular season.

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Other teams have seen a similar increase in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range. But of the last eight that saw a jump of at least six percentage points, only one really sustained it with a jump of at least that big from that regular season to the following one.

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But Wittman and Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld have seemingly embraced the idea of keeping the floor spaced for Wall and Beal. Pierce is gone, but the Wizards replaced him with Jared Dudley, another small-ball four. Porter is now the starting small forward, rookie Kelly Oubre Jr. is another wing who gives them some versatility, and Humphries has started shooting 3s.

In the preseason, Washington shot 28.9 percent of its shots from 3-point range, a higher rate than it did in last year’s playoffs. Pierce will be missed, but the Wizards could be one of the most improved offensive teams in the league. And if they can maintain a top-10 ranking on defense, they’ll have a shot at a 50-win season.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

One Team, One Stat: Efficient When He Gets the Chance


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Toronto Raptors

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Toronto Raptors and an efficient scorer who saw relatively few touches.

The stat

20151023_tor_ppfct

The context

20151023_tor_basicsAmong players who attempted at least 500 shots last season, Jonas Valanciunas ranked eighth in effective field goal percentage and 13th in free throw rate. The only other player to rank in the top 20 in both was DeAndre Jordan (first in both), but Valanciunas (78.6 percent) was a much better free throw shooter than Jordan (39.7 percent).

Another reason why Valanciunas is higher on the above list than Jordan is that he was less likely to pass the ball. While Jordan had 15 assists, potential assists or secondary assists per 100 frontcourt touches, Valanciunas had only nine.

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It’s hard to blame Valanciunas, because he didn’t touch the ball that much. He ranked 228th in the league in frontcourt touches last season, even though he played in 80 of the Raptors’ 82 games. Among starting centers, he ranked 25th in frontcourt touches per 36 minutes. He was one of the league’s most efficient scorers when he did touch the ball, but the Raptors’ guard-heavy offense was somehow worse when he was on the floor.

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The defense was also worse, which is easier to explain. Valanciunas’ slow feet in transition and on pick-and-roll coverage has consistently hurt his team’s ability to get stops. He ranked ninth on the team in fourth-quarter minutes, because coach Dwane Casey trusted his other bigs more.

The Raptors were the only team to go from the top 10 in defensive efficiency in 2013-14 to bottom 10 in ’14-15. The way to get back to the top 10 could include a quicker Valanciunas or just less of him on the court. It will definitely include a new scheme to keep pick-and-rolls on the side of the floor.

Offensively, Casey is looking for more ball movement and less reliance on his guards this season. That could lead to more opportunities for Valanciunas, though it will be hard for them to improve on an offense that ranked third in efficiency last season.

Valanciunas got a four-year contract extension this summer, but this is still a big season for the 23 year old’s development on both ends of the floor.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

One Team, One Stat: Iso-Aldridge


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: San Antonio Spurs

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the San Antonio Spurs, who will be integrating a different kind of player this season.

The stat

20151023_sas_isos

The context

20151023_sas_basicsAccording to SportVU, LaMarcus Aldridge ranked second in the league (behind James Harden) in isolations, with almost three times as much as anybody on the Spurs last season.

We know that the Spurs’ offense is built on passing, where the ball moves until it finds the open man and good shots are passed up for great ones. While the Spurs (3.58) were near the top of the league in passes per possession, the Blazers (2.98) were in the middle of the pack. Portland often got the ball to Aldridge in the mid-post and let him go to work one-on-one.

Aldridge’s shot chart doesn’t match that of his new team either. The Spurs aren’t exactly the Rockets in regard to limiting their mid-range shots, but they’ve been generally ahead of the curve in trying to find the most efficient shots on the floor. Aldridge, meanwhile, has led the league in mid-range shots for the last three seasons, taking 560 more than any other player in the league and more than twice as many as any Spur.

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Those Aldridge mid-range shots have been worth just 0.84 points per attempt, well below the league average (1.00). But that doesn’t mean that Aldridge isolations are bad offense. The Blazers scored more points per possession on Aldridge’s isolations (1.12) than the Spurs did on pick-and-roll possessions (1.07). He kept his turnovers low (just 25 on those 569 isos) and he was more likely to draw a foul on an isolation (17.6 fouls drawn per 100 isos) than Harden (17.0).

So while Aldridge will have to adjust to the Spurs, they will also have to adjust to him. And we can expect Gregg Popovich‘s offense to change a bit this season.

But hey, Popovich is the best coach in the game, according to 93 percent of the league’s general managers. And if he can successfully integrate Aldridge’s skills into the Spurs’ system, the Spurs could have a top-five offense for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions