One Team, One Stat

One Team, One Stat: Miami in Transition


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Miami Heat

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 Miami Heat, who picked up the pace with a new point guard.

The stat

20151017_mia_pace_incr

The context

20151017_mia_basicsThe Heat ranked in the bottom 10 in pace after the All-Star break, but they came a long way from ranking dead last before it.

The obvious catalyst for the pace increase was Goran Dragic, who was acquired at the trade deadline. Dragic ranked fourth in the league in fast break points and third in shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock last season.

Those shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock are much more valuable (worth an extra point per every five shots) than ones that come later.

20151015_sac_shot_clock

Dragic helped the Heat get more of those first-six-seconds shots than they did before he arrived, and he helped them make more of them too.

20151017_mia_first6

In just 26 games with the Heat, Dragic ranked third on the team with 115 fast break points last season, more than Mario Chalmers accumulated in 80 games. Before Dragic could play any of those 26 games, the Heat lost Chris Bosh for the rest of the season. But their offense didn’t fall off at all after the break.

20151017_mia_before-after

While the Heat increased the pace and didn’t fall off at all offensively, Dragic’s old team – the Phoenix Suns, who also lost Isaiah Thomaswent in the opposite direction. No team decreased its pace (-1.5 possessions per 48 minutes) and no team fell off more offensively (-8.8 points scored per 100 possessions) after the break than the Suns did.

With Dragic and Bosh playing together for the first time, the Heat could be one of the league’s most improved teams, especially offensively. Not only should Dragic and Bosh be a potent pick-and-pop combination, but the point guard will push the pace and get them more shots early in the clock.

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: Offensive Regression in Phoenix


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Phoenix Suns

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 Phoenix Suns, who took a big step backward after making some trades at the deadline.

The stat

20151017_phx_offrtg_drop

The context

20151017_phx_basicsGoing from seventh in offensive efficiency before the break to 28th after it (finishing 14th for the season) is a hard fall.

It was the trades of both Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas that precipitated the drop-off. Before the break, the Suns scored 106.3 points per 100 possessions with one or both of the lefty point guards on the floor. And they had at least one of them on the floor for 92 percent of their minutes. So when they were both traded, there was a big void in the Phoenix backcourt.

20151017_phx_pre-break

Thomas went to Boston and gave the Celtics’ offense a lift. They had scored 101.0 points per 100 possessions before the break, but scored 109.2 with Thomas on the floor after it. Dragic increased the pace in Miami and helped the Heat offense sustain it’s pre-break level, despite the loss of Chris Bosh.

Meanwhile, the Suns didn’t get as many opportunities in transition, turned the ball over more, and shot much worse, especially from 3-point range.

20151017_phx_before-after

Phoenix got Brandon Knight from Milwaukee at the deadline, but he played just 11 games after that, dealing with a couple of different leg injuries. And the offense wasn’t very good (99.4 points scored per 100 possessions) in the limited minutes (just 235) when Knight and Eric Bledsoe shared the floor.

The Suns added some shooting this summer, but Devin Booker is a rookie and Mirza Teletovic shot just 32 percent from 3-point range before missing the last three months of last season.

Tyson Chandler‘s rolls to the rim will open things up on the perimeter and Alex Len should see more improvement in his third season.

But the Suns are basically starting from scratch. And they have to hope that last season’s regression was more about them going through changes than it was about what they lost.

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: Bricks In Charlotte


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Charlotte Hornets

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 Charlotte Hornets, who were the worst at what matters most.

The stat

20151016_cha_low_efg

The context

20151016_cha_basicsShooting is the most important part of NBA basketball, and the Hornets were the worst shooting team in the league. From a straight make-or-miss perspective (FG%), the Hornets shot better than the Philadelphia 76ers. But the Sixers took a lot more 3s and, therefore, registered more points per shot.

The Hornets ranked 26th in regard to what percentage of their shots came from the restricted area and 24th in regard to what percentage of their shots came from 3-point range. That’s bad, because those are the best places on the floor to shoot from.

And to compound the problem of their shot selection, the Hornets were the first team since we started tracking shot locations in 1996-97 to rank last in both 3-point percentage and field goal percentage in the restricted area.

20151016_cha_shot_loc

Marvin Williams was the only Hornet to shoot at least 100 3-pointers at or above the league average percentage (35.0 percent), and he barely eclipsed it at 35.8 percent. The other seven Hornets to attempt at least 100 combined to shoot 358-for-1,188 (30.1 percent) from beyond the arc.

And of the six Hornets to attempt at least 150 shots in the restricted area, four ranked in the bottom quarter of the league in percentage. Among them was 7-footer Cody Zeller.

20151016_cha_restricted

The Hornets will be a better team just by losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (to injury) and Lance Stephenson, who combined to shoot 32 percent from outside the paint last season. Stephenson was the worst jump shooter in the league and Kidd-Gilchrist didn’t take a single 3-pointer.

Note: Kidd-Gilchrist will still be missed tremendously. He’s one of the best young defenders in the league and he was basically the only Hornet that looked to run the floor last season.

New addition Nicolas Batum had a down year from beyond the arc last season, but has been one of the league’s best finishers at the rim over the last two years.

20151016_cha_rest_players

Spencer Hawes and Frank Kaminsky give the Hornets shooting on the frontline, but Hawes shot 31 percent from beyond the arc last season and Kaminsky is a rookie. And Charlotte’s ability to improve offensively could depend on Jeremy Lamb, who takes Kidd-Gilchrist’s place in the rotation.

Lamb didn’t play much in Oklahoma City last season, but was in the rotation two years ago and shot a solid 35.6 percent from 3-point range. Of course, he probably won’t be as open in Charlotte as he was playing next to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

In their 11 seasons, the Hornets have never ranked higher than 23rd in offensive efficiency. If they hope to be better than that this year, they’ll have to shoot better, both inside and out.

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: Move It, Denver


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Denver Nuggets

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 go to Denver, where the ball stuck.

The stat

20151016_den_passes

The context

20151016_den_basicsThere’s no correlation between passes per possession and offensive efficiency. There are bad offenses that move the ball a lot and good offenses that don’t.

The Nuggets ranked in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency for the first time in 12 years last season. But that was mostly about how poorly they shot than how infrequently they passed.

Denver had an effective field goal percentage of 43.8 percent from outside the paint, a mark which ranked 26th in the league. They ranked 12th in 3-point attempts, but 28th in 3-point percentage.

Talent, especially when it comes to putting the ball in the basket, is ultimately more important than teamwork.

But the Nuggets were more efficient on possessions in which they made four or more passes (107 points per 100) than they were when they made three or less (102). And last year’s Golden State Warriors are an example of a team that improved its offense (from 12th in offensive efficiency ’13-14 to 2nd in ’14-15) by moving the ball more (from 2.46 to 3.16 passes per possession).

Like last year’s Warriors, this year’s Nuggets have a new coach who will change the way they play. They also have a new point guard.

Ty Lawson wasn’t necessarily to blame for the Nuggets’ lack of ball movement last season. But he ranked fourth in the league in time of possession, led the Nuggets in that category by a wide margin, and accounted for almost half (48.1 percent) of the points the Nuggets scored while he was on his floor via his own points and assists.

Emmanuel Mudiay has playmaking skills, but might not dominate the ball as much as Lawson did. Jameer Nelson will have a bigger role than he did last season and be willing to get off the ball.

The health of Danilo Gallinari and the potential of the Nuggets’ young big men are more reasons for optimism. And it couldn’t hurt if they pass the ball more than they did 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: A History of Bad Transition Defense in Sacramento


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Sacramento Kings

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 Sacramento Kings, who can improve their defense in one obvious manner.

The stat

20151015_sac_fbp

The context

20151015_sac_basicsSo, in three of the last four seasons, the Kings have allowed the most fast break points in the league. And in 2010-11, they allowed the second most. Sacramento has ranked in the bottom 10 in regard to allowing fast break points in each of the last seven seasons.

The first six seconds of the shot clock are the most important for the defense, because that’s when the opponent shoots best (by a wide margin). League-wide, effective field goal percentage drops more than 10 percentage points after the first six seconds of the shot clock. So if you can just get back and stop the initial push up the floor, you’ve done a large part of the work you need to do to get a stop.

20151015_sac_shot_clock

Good defense starts in transition, and the Kings haven’t had a good defense in a long, long time. They’ve been the league’s worst defensive team over the last 10 years and they haven’t ranked any better than 20th in defensive efficiency in the last nine.

20151015_sac_last_10

Kings head coach George Karl had top 10 defenses in Denver (in three of his eight full seasons there) and Seattle (in all six of his full seasons there). But the Kings allowed more fast break points per game under Karl last season than they did under Mike Malone or Tyrone Corbin.

20151015_sac_coaches

Now, Karl gets a fresh start, a little more talent, and a full training camp, in which transition defense should be a priority. The Kings may have to sacrifice offensive rebounds. They’ve been a top-10 offensive rebounding team in five of the six years, but there is a small correlation between how many offensive boards a team grabs and how many fast break points it gives up.

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: Looking for Defense Up Front in Orlando


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Orlando Magic

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 Orlando Magic, who are hoping to play some defense under new coach Scott Skiles.

The stat

20151015_orl_2-big_combos

The context

20151015_orl_basicsPower forward Channing Frye was brought to Orlando last season to give the Magic’s offense a lift. He didn’t really do that, and the defense was at its worst with him on the floor.

Center Nikola Vucevic is one of only *two players to average a double-double (in at least 50 games) in each of the last three seasons. But he’s been one of the league’s worst rim protectors over the last couple of years.

*Zach Randolph is the other.

In 2013-14, opponents shot 56.3 percent at the rim when Vucevic was there to defend it, according to SportVU. That mark ranked 60th among 64 players who defended at least five shots at the rim per game in at least 40 games.

Last season, opponents shot 53.7 percent at the rim when Vucevic was there to defend it, a mark that ranked 61st among 72 players who defended at least five shots at the rim per game in at least 40 games.

The Magic ranked 25th in defensive efficiency last season, and weren’t very good on that end of the floor whether they played with two bigs or one. They ranked in the bottom three in field goal percentage defense in the restricted area and at the 3-point line.

So the Magic hired Scott Skiles, who has a history of turning bad defenses into good ones. In seven of the nine seasons in which he has coached at least 60 games, Skiles’ teams have ranked in the top six in defensive efficiency.

20151015_orl_skiles

At his last stop, Skiles took a Milwaukee Bucks team that ranked last defensively in the year before he took over (2007-08) to above average in his first season and top-5 in his second.

Along the way, Skiles helped Andrew Bogut turn into one of best defensive anchors and rim protectors in the league. Bogut was about to turn 24 years old when Skiles became his coach.

Skiles’ new project will be Vucevic, who is about to turn 25, with a four-year contract extension kicking in this season. If the Magic are to improve defensively, it has to start up front.

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: Ugly O in Philly


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Philadelphia 76ers

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 Philadelphia 76ers, who had the worst offense we’ve seen in a long time.

The stat

20151014_phi_worst_off

The context

20151014_phi_basicsThe last team that was more than 10 points per 100 possessions worse than the league average was the 2002-03 Denver Nuggets, featuring Junior Harrington and Donnell Harvey. Last year’s Sixers rank as the fourth worst offense of the last *38 years, ahead of only those Nuggets (-11.8), the ’87-88 Clippers (-10.2), and the ’99-00 Bulls (-10.1).

*Since the league starting counting turnovers in 1977.

Anything less than a point per possession is bad offense. And Philly scored less than a point per possession in 61 of its 82 games. The Sixers had the league’s highest turnover rate and ranked 29th in effective field goal percentage.

The reason they ranked higher than the Charlotte Hornets in effective field goal percentage is because the Sixers took the right kinds of shots. Only the Houston Rockets took a higher percentage of their shots from the restricted area or 3-point range.

20151014_phi_rest_3pt

But the Sixers shot at a bottom-five rate from every area of the floor.

20151014_phi_shooting

The Sixers had three good 3-point shooters

20151014_phi_good_3pt

And they had several bad ones…

20151014_phi_bad_3pt

The Sixers had one of the league’s most improved defenses last season, rising from 27th in defensive efficiency (in ’13-14) to 13th. Given how many shots they missed and how many turnovers they committed, it’s rather remarkable how good they were defensively (top-10 as late as April 1). Maybe Brett Brown deserved a Coach of the Year vote or two.

The Philly offense did improve after the All-Star break, when Michael Carter-Williams took his poor shooting and 4.2 turnovers per game to Milwaukee. But even after the break, Philly was 7.2 points per 100 possessions below the league average in offensive efficiency, ranking 28th in effective field goal percentage and 27th in in turnover rate.

This year’s Sixers have no choice but to get better offensively. They were so bad last season that they could improve as much as last year’s Cavs did offensively (+6.4 points scored per 100 possessions) and still rank in the bottom five in offensive efficiency.

No. 3 pick Jahlil Okafor gives the Sixers’ offense a focal point. They still have Covington and Thompson. They added another shooter in Nik Stauskas, though he’ll need to be better than he was as a rookie (32.2 percent from 3-point range) in Sacramento.

There appears to be a big hole at point guard, but the guy filling that hole for now — Isaiah Canaan — is better for their offense than Carter Williams was. He had a much lower turnover rate than MCW last season and was the only player to shoot better than Stephen Curry on at least 100 pull-up 3-pointers.

A rookie, a second-year guy who didn’t shoot well as a rookie, and a undersized point guard aren’t a lot to count on. But the Sixers are obviously taking baby steps back toward relevance. They have a long way to go, but they have nowhere to go but up, especially on the offensive 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: Contested Lakers


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Los Angeles Lakers

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 Lakers, who don’t care for open shots.

The stat

20151014_lal_contested

The context

20151014_lal_basicsSportVU defines a contested jumper as “any jumper outside of 10 feet where a defender is within 4 feet of the shooter.” If there’s no defender within four feet, the shot is uncontested.

That doesn’t take into account the size of the defender or if his arms were up, but season-long numbers present a clear difference between contested and uncontested shots.

League-wide, uncontested jumpers yielded an effective field goal percentage of almost 10 percentage points better than contested jumpers.

20151014_lal_cont_uncont

Kobe Bryant took more than 10 contested jumpers per game, which doesn’t seem possible.

Of course, it’s not good when you not only have the top guy in regard to the percentage of their jumpers that were contested, but No. 2 as well. And in addition to Bryant and Nick Young, the Lakers had two more guys — Jeremy Lin (44 percent) and Jordan Clarkson (43 percent) — in the top 30.

Even with Bryant and Young each missing at least 40 games, the Lakers led the league in contested jumpers by a wide margin.

20151014_lal_team_contested

And the Lakers took *846 more mid-range jumpers (at 0.74 points per attempt) than 3-pointers (at 1.03 points per attempt). As a result, they were a bottom-5 shooting team for the first time in more than 20 years and were 23rd in offensive efficiency, the lowest they’ve ranked in franchise history.

*Only the Wolves (+1,147) and Wizards (+990) had a greater differential between mid-range shots and threes. Only 13 of the 30 teams had a positive differential at all.

The Lakers have restructured their roster, and D’Angelo Russell looks like a point guard that will create lots of open shots for his teammates in time. But contested jumpers will still be a big part of their offense this season.

Bryant and Young are still around and new addition Lou Williams (46 percent) also ranked in the top 20 last season in regard to percentage of his jumpers that were contested. So he should fit right in!

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: No D in Minny


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Minnesota Timberwolves

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 Minnesota Timberwolves, who earned the No. 1 pick by playing the league’s worst defense.

The stat

20151013_min_opp_efg

The context

20151013_min_basicsShooting is the most important part of a good offense, and defending shots is the most important part of a good defense. The Wolves were the worst team at defending shots since the 3-point line was moved back (after three seasons at a uniform 22 feet) in 1997.

The Wolves’ defense ranked in the top 10 in opponent turnover rate and opponent free throw rate. But their success in those areas was trumped by how bad they were at keeping their opponents from missing shots…

… inside and on the perimeter. The Wolves ranked last in field goal percentage defense at the basket and 28th in 3-point defense.

To make things worse, Minnesota ranked last in defensive rebounding percentage. So when their opponents did miss shots, they allowed too many second chances.

Injuries, in particular to Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic, were a factor. The Wolves allowed just 100.7 points per 100 possessions in 382 minutes with Rubio and Pekovic on the floor together. Kevin Garnett might have made an impact on defense when he was acquired in February, but played just five games after that.

This year’s Wolves are going to be fun to watch. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are special talents who are just just 19 and 20 years old, respectively. Both could be great defenders some day, too.

But the Wolves are probably going to struggle defensively again this season. In fact, through three preseason games, Wolves opponents have an effective field goal percentage of 57.9 percent.

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: Mid-range Knicks


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: New York Knicks

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 York Knicks, who took the wrong shots in their first season running the Triangle.

The stat

20151013_nyk_mid-range

The context

20151013_nyk_basicsIn the 2012-13 season, the Knicks had a top-3 offense and won 54 games while setting an NBA record for 3-point attempts (since broken by last year’s Houston Rockets).

Two years later, the Knicks ran the Triangle offense, ranked 21st in 3-point attempts, and took 775 more mid-range shots than threes. They took more than three times as many mid-range shots as the Rockets last season.

Mid-range shots are worth 0.26 fewer points per attempt than 3-pointers. So, for every four mid-range jumpers that you turn into 3s, you score an extra point.

20151013_nyk_shot_values

The most valuable shots are those in the restircted area. And in the first season of the Triangle, the Knicks didn’t get enough of those either. The Knicks ranked last in both drives and shots in the restricted area.

More valuable than any shot from the field are trips to the line. And the Knicks ranked 27th in free throw rate. Their offense had no bite to it.

Of course, it was much, much better with Carmelo Anthony on the floor (scoring 105.1 points per 100 possessions) than it was with him off it (92.7). And Anthony missed 42 games.

But the Knicks actually took a greater percentage of their shots from mid-range when Anthony was on the floor (38.1 percent) than they did when he wasn’t (34.0 percent). And their free throw rate was about the same either way.

With a healthy Anthony and some added talent around him, the Knicks should be better on both ends of the floor than they were in the worst season in franchise history.

But there’s still a question of whether or not Phil Jackson‘s and Derek Fisher‘s offense can work in today’s NBA. Was last season’s shot selection about the Triangle offense or the players that ran it?

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