One Team, One Stat

One Team, One Stat: A Historical Jump


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Milwaukee Bucks

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 Milwaukee Bucks, who made a jump not seen in 17 years.

The stat

20151022_mil_def_impr

The context

20151022_mil_basicsThe only team in the last 38 years that improved as much defensively as last season’s Bucks was the Spurs when they drafted Tim Duncan and got David Robinson back from injury.

The Bucks didn’t add any impact defenders like that. Two-thirds of their minutes were played by guys that were on the roster the season before, with Jerryd Bayless and Jared Dudley being the newcomers that played the most.

But they did change their coach. Jason Kidd and assistant Sean Sweeney introduced a scheme that was aggressive on the perimeter and on the strong side of the floor, knowing the Bucks had the quickness and length to recover to opponents left open on the weak side.

The Bucks’ defensive improvement actually started in transition, where they allowed the fewest points in the league. According to SportVU, Milwaukee allowed the fewest shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock and the most in the last six seconds.

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The Bucks now need a decent offense to go along with their top-5 defense. Free agent addition Greg Monroe is a good fit and will give them a boost inside.

But they need to complement him with better outside shooting. Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo were two of the 10 worst shooters from outside the paint last season.

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Antetokounmpo has started three of his four preseason games at the four, with Jabari Parker still working his way back from ACL surgery. Antetokounmpo at the four allows the Bucks to put another shooter on the floor, while also making them quicker defensively.

Last year’s numbers like him there too.

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If Monroe, Parker and John Henson are all healthy, Antetokounmpo probably won’t see as much playing time at the four this season. But it’s a look that Kidd can go to when he wants to get super athletic on defense.

Even with the addition of Monroe, that’s still the end of the floor where the Bucks will win games.

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: Triple-Threat


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Portland Trail Blazers

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 Portland Trail Blazers, who still have a guy who can make defenses pay.

The stat

20151022_por_pnr_pts

The context

20151022_por_basicsAmong high-usage ball-handlers, Damian Lillard wasn’t the best shooter or most likely to shoot, but he took a lot more 3-pointers off of pick-and-rolls than any other player.

According to SportVU (different data from that above), Lillard led the league with 207 3-point attempts as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. Next on the list was Stephen Curry with 135. Lillard only shot 32 percent on those 3-point attempts, but because 3 > 2, they were worth more than his twos (45 percent) and he was the highest scoring pick-and-roll ball-handler in the league.

Like Curry and Kyrie Irving, Lillard is a triple-threat when he comes off a screen, with the ability to pull-up, get to the basket, or make a pass. He ranked second in the league in 3-point attempts and fourth among guards in shots in the restricted area.

In a league where more teams are going toward a conservative pick-and-roll scheme with big men hanging back in the paint on pick-and-rolls, scoring/shooting point guards like Curry, Irving and Lillard will alter a defensive game plan.

Of course, Lillard is the only player left from a starting lineup that played more minutes than any other lineup over the last two seasons.

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The Blazers will obviously take a big step backward on both ends of the floor with the departures of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews. But they’ll look space the floor for Lillard, a guy who will still cause problems for a lot of opposing defenses.

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: Drop-off in Dallas


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Dallas Mavericks

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 Dallas Mavericks, who couldn’t sustain the league’s best offense after making a big trade.

The stat

20151021_dal_netrtg_drop

The context

20151021_dal_basicsThe Mavs’ regression actually began with the Rajon Rondo trade in December, a risky deal that clearly didn’t work out. They had the league’s best offense, by a pretty wide margin, at that point. In fact, at 10.1 points per 100 possessions better than the league average, the Mavs had the best offense of the last 38 years.

And it was on offense where they fell off the most once Rondo arrived. They scored almost 10 fewer points per 100 possessions after the trade than they did before it, regressing on that end of the floor in each of the “four factors” of efficiency (shooting, rebounding, turnovers and free throw rate).

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Rondo’s inability to shoot hurt the Mavs’ spacing. Rondo (33.9 percent) shot a better percentage than Jameer Nelson (33.1 percent) with the Mavs. But because Nelson (sent to Boston in that December trade) took a lot more 3-pointers, he was a more effective shooter and floor-spacer.

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Rondo had had the highest turnover rate on the team and made just 19 free throws in 46 games with the Mavs. On top of the bad numbers, he had issues with coach Rick Carlisle.

The Mavs’ defense did improve after the trade. In fact, Dallas ranked fifth in defensive efficiency for about a 10-week period between Dec. 20 and Feb. 24. But they couldn’t sustain that level against some tougher opponents down the stretch.

The Mavs will be a different team, especially offensively, this year. Monta Ellis‘ attacks and Tyson Chandler‘s rolls to the rim will be missed.

But Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews will provide much better spacing around Dirk Nowitzki. The pair attempted 312 more 3-pointers than Ellis and Rondo did last season, even though they played 20 fewer games. The Mavs can also run their offense through Matthews in the post.

Of course, neither Matthews (recovering from a torn Achilles) nor Williams (calf injury) has played in the preseason. Health is the biggest question for the Mavs.

If his team is whole, Carlisle will have some new tools to work with, a fresh start, and a chance to put last year’s regression in the rear-view mirror.

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: A Boost from Isaiah


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Boston Celtics

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 Boston Celtics, who got an offensive boost with a deadline trade.

The stat

20151021_bos_it_on-off

The context

20151021_bos_basicsAfter the Celtics acquired him in a deadline trade, the difference between their offense with and without Isaiah Thomas on the floor was like the difference between having a top-3 offense or a bottom-10 offense.

A bottom-10 offense is what the Celtics had before the All-Star break. Brad Stevens is a good coach who did his best to create pace and space within the Celtics’ offense. But the team lacked any kind of go-to guy to create things on his own.

Thomas became that guy when he arrived. He played just 26 minutes per night off the bench, but he gave the offense a big lift when he entered the game. The Celtics didn’t shoot that much better when he was on the floor, but he helped them cut down on turnovers and get to the line much more frequently.

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Thomas was almost solely responsible for the free-throw-rate increase. Among players who logged at least 1,000 minutes last season, he ranked fourth in made free throws per 36 minutes. And his FTM/36 was much higher with the Celtics (7.8) than it was in Phoenix (5.6).

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The Celtics haven’t had a league average offense since the 2009-10 season. They still lack perimeter shooting, but David Lee‘s playmaking at power forward should give them a lift on that end of the floor.

A full season (and a few more minutes per game) from Thomas would help even more.

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: Nets Not That Good


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Brooklyn Nets

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 Brooklyn Nets, who weren’t nearly as good as their record said they were.

The stat

20151020_bkn_expw_diff

The context

20151020_bkn_basics“Expected” wins are based on point differential. If a team has scored the same number of points as its opponents, it has an expected record of .500. An expected winning record comes from a positive point differential and an “expected” losing record comes from a negative point differential.

The Nets were not only the only playoff team that was outscored by its opponents last season, they were outscored by an amazing 236 points over 82 games. And at 38-44, they won the eighth place tiebreaker with the Indiana Pacers, who were a plus-23 for the season, with 42 expected wins, 11 more than the Nets.

How does a team win a lot more games than its point differential says it should? Well, the Nets went 15-9 in games decided by five points or less and 8-17 in games decided by 15 points or more.

Bottom line: The Nets weren’t nearly good as their record said they were.

And they were even worse, with the numbers of both a bottom-5 offense and a bottom-5 defense, when Deron Williams wasn’t in the game.

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Williams had maybe the worst season of his career, but his team was still much better with him on the floor than off it. Extend those numbers over a full season, and the Nets without Williams had the point differential of a 23-59 team (worse than the Orlando Magic). Back-up Jarrett Jack had, by a wide margin, the worst plus-minus among players on playoff teams. He had an assist/turnover ratio of less than 2.0 and shot an amazing 5-for-53 (9.4 percent) on pull-up 3-pointers.

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Williams is gone and Jack is now the starting point guard in Brooklyn. Unfortunately for the Nets, they don’t have their Draft pick next summer, so there’s no benefit to falling into the Lottery.

But last year’s numbers, along with Williams’ departure, portend a big drop-off in the win column. And there hasn’t been anything we’ve seen in the preseason to contradict that.

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: Too Many Layups


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: New Orleans Pelicans

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 New Orleans Pelicans, who couldn’t protect the rim.

The stat

20151020_nop_opp_rest

The context

20151020_nop_basicsShots in the restricted area are the most valuable shots on the floor, worth 1.20 points per attempt, league-wide, last season. The numbers say that it’s more important to defend those shots than to prevent them, but there is a correlation between preventing them and overall defensive efficiency.

The Pelicans didn’t prevent them at all. And they were a bottom-10 defensive team, even after trading for center Omer Asik for the explicit purpose of helping them on that end of the floor. New Orleans (28, 25, 22) is one of three teams — Detroit (23, 26, 21) and Sacramento (29, 23, 27) are the others — that has ranked in the bottom 10 in defensive efficiency in each of the last three seasons.

When Asik and Anthony Davis were on the floor together last season, the Pelicans did a better job of protecting the basket, and their defense was at a top-10 level. But they played just 21 minutes per game together and when one or both was off the floor, the Pelicans’ defense fell off dramatically.

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Davis led the league in blocked shots (playing just 68 games), but whether he was playing power forward or center, the Pelicans’ defensive scheme often took him too far away from the basket. Blocking jump shots is cool, but defending layups is more important.

New coach Alvin Gentry will open up the Pelicans’ offense, which ranked ninth last season. But assistant coach Darren Erman, the guy in charge of improving the defense, may be the more important addition on the New Orleans bench.

Davis and the other New Orleans bigs won’t venture out as far when defending pick-and-rolls. In a Q & A in July, Gentry said that better defense will start with “better perimeter defense out front.”

If a new pick-and-roll scheme and improved dribble containment can result in better rim protection, the Pelicans could take another big step forward this 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: Much Russ


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Oklahoma City Thunder

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 Oklahoma City Thunder, who leaned heavily on their one healthy star.

The stat

20151019_okc_usage

The context

20151019_okc_basicsUsage rate measures the percentage of a team’s possessions a player uses when he’s on the court. And with Kevin Durant playing just 27 games, Russell Westbrook recorded the highest usage rate of the last nine seasons.

Via his points and assists, Westbrook accounted for 60.1 percent of the Thunder’s points when he was on the floor. That mark was much higher than that of Stephen Curry (52.3 percent), James Harden (54.4 percent) or LeBron James (53.5 percent).

When Durant did play, Westbrook’s usage rate went down, as you’d expect. But his efficiency went down too. Westbrook actually shot better and scored more efficiently when Durant wasn’t on the floor and when his usage rate was higher.

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And the Thunder offense was more efficient with only Westbrook in the game than when he shared the floor with Durant.

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Of course, the Thunder are better off with both of their stars healthy. And it must be noted that Durant is a key part of Oklahoma City’s defense, which ranked in the top 10 for three straight years before falling off last season.

But it will be interesting to see if new coach Billy Donovan staggers Durant’s and Westbrook’s minutes more than Scott Brooks did over the years. Over the last three seasons in which both players were healthy (2010-11 through ’12-13), Westbrook played a total of just 559 minutes (2.4 per game) without Durant.

He played almost three times as many minutes without Durant last season. And if he plays more minutes with the second unit this year, he has plenty of experience being the focus of the offense.

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: A New Identity


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Indiana Pacers

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 Indiana Pacers, who are going through an identity change.

The stat

20151019_ind_rest_def

The context

20151019_ind_basicsThe Pacers are the only team to rank in the top five in both defending and preventing the best shots on the floor over the last three seasons. And their rim protection was a big reason they’ve allowed the fewest points per 100 possessions (98.1) in that time.

Roy Hibbert was a big part of that league-best rim protection and that league-best defense. But great defense wasn’t enough for the Pacers the get out of the Eastern Conference these last three years. They’ve ranked first on that end of the floor, but 24th on offense, the most unbalanced team in the league.

Poor shooting and turnovers have been the Pacers’ biggest issues. They’ve ranked 25th in effective field goal percentage and 23rd in turnover rate over the last three years.

Among 56 players 6-10 or taller who attempted at least 1,000 shots over the last three years, Hibbert ranks last in effective field goal percentage. Considering his size (7-2), he’s been an awful finisher at the basket. He has improved from mid-range, but those shots aren’t worth much unless you shoot them extremely well.

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David West has been a solid mid-range shooter over the years, but hasn’t shot threes. So, the Pacers didn’t space the floor all that well and couldn’t keep up with the league’s best offenses.

Now, Hibbert and West are both gone and no team is looking to change its identity more than the Pacers.

The Pacers’ used their Lottery pick on a center – Myles Turner – who can shoot from the outside and will ask Paul George to play power forward (at least some of the time). They’re looking to space the floor as much as possible for the newly acquired Monta Ellis, who has ranked fourth in the league in total drives over the last two seasons.

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With Hibbert gone, the Pacers won’t have the rim protection they’ve had in the last three years. They may fall out of the top 10 in defensive efficiency for the first time in five years.

But their identity change should make them a more balanced team with a much higher ceiling on offense.

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: Reggie, Andre and Space to Operate


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Detroit Pistons

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 Detroit Pistons, who found something that works late in the season.

The stat

20151018_det_rj_ad

The context

20151018_det_basicsThe Pistons had the numbers of the league’s best offense and a top-10 defense when Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond were on the floor together without Greg Monroe.

Less than 500 minutes isn’t a big sample, but it likely influenced the Pistons’ decisions this summer. Monroe left for Milwaukee without a fight from Detroit and Stan Van Gundy put together a roster that probably won’t ever have two non-floor-spacing bigs on the floor at the same time.

Defensively, the Pistons were more mobile and active with just one true big man on the floor last season, forcing a lot more turnovers while not giving up anything on the glass.

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Offensively, with a floor-spacer at power forward, the court was more open for Jackson to attack. After averaging 8.3 drives per 36 minutes with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Jackson drove almost twice as often with just one big man on the floor in Detroit.

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Jackson’s teams scored 1.23 points per possession when he drove. That mark was even with that of LeBron James and ranked 15th among 65 players with at least 300 drives last season.

This summer, the Pistons replaced Monroe with Ersan Ilyasova, a floor-spacing power forward who has shot 40 percent from 3-point range over the last four years. Ilyasova will be a better complement to Jackson/Drummond pick-and-rolls than Monroe was.

Again, we’re looking at only 409 minutes of data and the Pistons obviously won’t be as good over a full season. But last year’s numbers are an indication that Jackson and Drummond operate better with more space and that Detroit could be one of the most improved teams in the league this 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: A New Defense in Utah


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Utah Jazz

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 Utah Jazz, who were a brand new team after the All-Star break.

The stat

20151018_uta_improvement

The context

20151018_uta_basicsAt 19-34, the Jazz were about even with the Kings before the break. At 19-10, they were about even with the Rockets after it.

The Jazz actually regressed offensively after the break, with an increase in turnovers being their biggest issue. But after ranking 27th in defensive efficiency before the break, they ranked first, by a wide margin, after it.

After All-Star, the difference between the No. 1 Jazz and the No. 2 Milwaukee Bucks (99.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) was greater than the difference between the Bucks and the 18th-ranked New Orleans Pelicans (102.8).

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The impetus for the improvement was one of the best examples of an addition-by-subtraction trade that we’ve seen in a long time. The Jazz didn’t receive any useful players in a three-team, deadline trade with Detroit and Oklahoma City. But they rid themselves of Enes Kanter, one of the league’s worst defenders.

The Jazz allowed 108 points per 100 possessions with Kanter on the floor before he was traded. For the season, opponents scored 111 points per 100 possessions when Kanter defended a pick-and-roll, according to SportVU. That was the worst mark among starting centers.

After the trade, Kanter was replaced in the Utah starting lineup by Rudy Gobert, the league’s best rim protector. Opponents shot 40.4 percent at the rim when Gobert was there to defend it, according to SportVU. That was the best mark among 100 players who defended at least four shots at the rim per game over 40 games.

Not only did the Jazz protect the rim better after the break, they defended the 3-point line better, rebounded better, and forced more turnovers.

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The question now is how well the Jazz can sustain their post-break success over 82 games. If they’re the team this year that they were after the break last season, the Western Conference is even better than we thought.

Utah will miss the length of Dante Exum (out for the season with a torn ACL) on the perimeter. The defense was much better with Exum on the floor than with Trey Burke on the floor last season.

But Gobert will be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and if the last two months of last season weren’t a fluke, the Jazz will be competing for a playoff spot in the West.

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