Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

One Team, One Stat: Three Efficient Scorers In OKC

VIDEO: OKC shines in true shooting percentage

From Media Day until opening night,’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Finally, we look at the Oklahoma City Thunder, who led the league in point differential, but couldn’t overcome Russell Westbrook‘s knee injury in the playoffs..

The basics
OKC Rank
W-L 60-22 2
Pace 95.9 10
OffRtg 110.2 2
DefRtg 99.2 4
NetRtg +11.0 1

The stat

3 - Players the Thunder had in the top 7 in true shooting percentage (minimum 500 FGA).

TS% = PTS / (2* (FGA + (0.44*FTA))).

The context

No. 1 – Kevin Durant: 64.7 percent

Durant led the league in true shooting percentage despite taking the fifth most shots in the league. LeBron James was the only player to also rank in the top 25 in both field goal attempts and true shooting percentage.

James was the better shooter from the field, but Durant was the more efficient scorer because of his ability to get to the free throw line (215 more times than James) and shoot 90 percent on all those freebies. He was the 11th player in NBA history to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the line, and had the highest true shooting percentage (thanks to the highest free throw rate) of the 11.

No. 5 – Serge Ibaka: 61.2 percent
Ibaka was one of two players (Chris Bosh was the other) who ranked in the top 10 in field goal percentage from both the restricted area and mid-range (where he led the league).

No. 7 – Kevin Martin: 60.8 percent
Martin is somewhat of a rare breed: a great 3-point shooter (he ranked 10th last season) who gets to the free throw line quite a bit. And he converted those free throws at the fourth-highest rate in the league.

Highest true shooting percentage, 2012-13

Kevin Durant 731 1,433 51.0% 139 334 41.6% 679 750 90.5% 55.9% 64.7%
LeBron James 765 1,354 56.5% 103 254 40.6% 403 535 75.3% 60.3% 64.0%
Kyle Korver 277 601 46.1% 189 414 45.7% 67 78 85.9% 61.8% 63.7%
Jose Calderon 312 635 49.1% 130 282 46.1% 72 80 90.0% 59.4% 61.6%
Serge Ibaka 446 778 57.3% 20 57 35.1% 143 191 74.9% 58.6% 61.2%
Tiago Splitter 315 563 56.0% 0 2 .0% 208 285 73.0% 56.0% 60.9%
Kevin Martin 350 778 45.0% 158 371 42.6% 219 246 89.0% 55.1% 60.8%
Carl Landry 325 602 54.0% 1 3 33.3% 223 273 81.7% 54.1% 60.5%
Martell Webster 281 636 44.2% 139 329 42.2% 168 198 84.8% 55.1% 60.1%
Danny Green 297 663 44.8% 177 413 42.9% 67 79 84.8% 58.1% 60.0%

Take those three guys and a guy who can put defenses on their heels like Russell Westbrook, and you’re going to have a very efficient offense. OKC ranked second in offensive efficiency last season, just a hair behind the Heat, who were the best shooting team (in terms of effective field goal percentage) in NBA history.

How much Martin’s departure will hurt? Yes, he was the third scorer on the Thunder, but Martin played 391 minutes without either Durant or Westbrook on the floor last season. Durant played just 44 minutes* without either Martin or Westbrook, and Westbrook played just 26 minutes without either Durant or Martin.

*He could top that in the Thunder’s first game in Utah on Wednesday.

The Thunder held their own (both offensively and defensively) in those minutes that Martin was on the floor without the two All-Stars. And don’t assume that it was mostly garbage time; 239 of the 391 minutes came before the fourth quarter.

Thunder efficiency, 2012-13

On the floor MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Durant + Martin + Westbrook 1,073 117.5 103.2 +14.3 +301
Durant + Westbrook, no Martin 1,546 108.4 97.2 +11.2 +311
Durant + Martin, no Westbrook 456 110.8 99.4 +11.4 +77
Martin + Westbrook, no Durant 216 106.5 100.9 +5.7 +5
Martin by himself 391 104.7 97.1 +7.7 +55
Durant by himself 44 121.3 81.6 +39.8 +32
Westbrook by himself 26 120.5 78.7 +41.8 +17

Stars win championships, but depth gets you through the regular season grind. The Thunder will need to figure out where their second-unit offense is going to come from.

Once Westbrook returns, Thunder coach Scott Brooks can stagger the minutes of his two stars, so that one or the other is always on the floor with the second unit.

Until Westbrook returns, Durant is going to have to carry a bigger load. That could mean that he averaged 35 points a game for the first month, but it also could mean that both his and the Thunder’s efficiency takes a hit.

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 Heat Were Historically Clutch

VIDEO: Heat excelled in the clutch last season
From Media Day until opening night,’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Miami Heat, who are looking for a third straight championship.

The basics
MIA Rank
W-L 66-16 1
Pace 93.0 23
OffRtg 110.3 1
DefRtg 100.5 7
NetRtg +9.9 2

The stat

1 - Rank of the Heat in both clutch offense and clutch defense last season.

Clutch = Last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with a score differential of five points or less.

The context

Miami is the first team to pull off that feat since we could start tracking clutch stats in 1996-97. And it helped them go 32-8 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, after going 22-20 in such games in 2010-11 and 18-11 in 2011-12. Since 1996-97, the only team that’s been better in close games was the 2006-07 Mavs, who were 32-6 when the game was within five points in the last five minutes.

The Heat finished second in point differential (which is why there’s still one more team to look at in this series), but finished six games better than the Oklahoma City Thunder, because they were much better than OKC (21-16) in those close games. Even when they were winning 27 straight, Miami had to do a lot of work late. Fourteen of those 27 games were within five points in the last five minutes.

LeBron James led the league with 50 clutch-time assists, 16 more than any other player, which came with only nine clutch-time turnovers. Chris Bosh, meanwhile, shot an incredible 27-for-35 (77.1 percent) on clutch-time field goals, easily the best mark in the league among players who took more than a few shots. Ray Allen tied for the league lead with 15 clutch threes and Dwyane Wade shot a solid 50 percent in the clutch.

Across the league, effective field goal percentage went from 49.6 percent overall to 45.0 percent in the clutch. But Miami’s mark barely dipped from 55.2 percent overall (the best mark in NBA history) to 54.7 percent, a mark which would have ranked fifth all-time.

They also cut down on their turnovers and were a better offensive rebounding team in the clutch. On the other end of the floor, they went from the seventh worst defensive rebounding team overall to the second best defensive rebounding team in the clutch.

It’s good to be great in key moments, and the Heat obviously needed it in the postseason. They were 5-4 in games within five points in the last five minutes in the playoffs, but that, of course, included the last two games of The Finals.

You could certainly argue that building late-game habits and confidence helped the Heat win their second championship. But you could also argue that there’s no way they’re winning 80 percent of their close games again. As important as it is to have the best player in the world and great shooters around him, there’s some randomness to clutch stats.

And not only is that 32-8 mark likely unsustainable, but so might be that all-time best, effective field goal percentage mark of 55.2 percent. And for those two reasons, it’s fair to assume that Miami will take a step back from last year’s 66 wins.

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

LeBron: The Evolution Of His Game

Editor’s note: As the NBA embarks this week on a new season, Miami Heat superstar LeBron James stands as the league’s most iconic figure. In Part Two of a three-part series on James and his place in the league, we take a look at how James’ on-court game has changed since he burst onto the scene straight out of high school in 2003 and how his early failures shaped the player he is today. 

In Part One (Sunday), we looked at the people who have helped shape James into an international marketing force and a difference-maker for at-risk kids in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. In Part Three (Tuesday), we’ll weigh in on where James stands in the greatest-of-all-time argument.

VIDEO: The LeBron Series — Growing Up

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – May 31, 2007 was the day LeBron James seemingly put it all together. In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals in Detroit, James scored 29 of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ final 30 points in a double-OT victory that helped the franchise and its star reach The Finals for the first time.

As usual, James was nearly impossible to stop when he got into the paint. And no Piston defender was able to stay in front of him without help. But the difference on that night was that his jumper was falling. There was a ridiculous, pull-up 23-footer from the right wing to tie the scorein the final minute of regulation. There was an even crazier three in front of the Pistons’ bench to tie it with 1:15 to go in the second overtime.

The Pistons — one of the best defensive teams in the league — were helpless.

“It was very Jordanesque,” Detroit’s Chauncey Billups said afterward. “That kid was on fire, it was crazy. He put on an unbelievable display out there. It’s probably the best I have seen against us ever in the playoffs.”

James was 22 at the time. That performance was six years ago. And in the six years since, that basketball prodigy has evolved into a much different and much better player.

The evolution has not been a straight path. While his game has expanded and improved year by year, there have been hiccups along the way. And everything has come under the intense scrutiny that comes with being dubbed as “The Chosen One” in high school.

From star to MVP

With his combination of size, skill and athleticism, James was ready to be a star from the time he was drafted at the age of 18. He lived up to the hype right away, becoming the third rookie in NBA history — Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan were the first two — to average more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. And he did it with little variety in his game.

That night in Detroit, at the end of his fourth season in the league, all of James’ offense in the final 16 minutes originated from the top of the key. There was a single give-and-go through Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the high post, but everything else was James dribbling on the perimeter and either getting to the basket or pulling up for a jumper. Only one of his 18 baskets in that game came off an assist.

James’ shooting and efficiency
Season EFG% TS%
2003-04 43.8% 48.8%
2004-05 50.4% 55.4%
2005-06 51.5% 56.8%
2006-07 50.7% 55.2%
2007-08 51.8% 56.8%
2008-09 53.0% 59.1%
2009-10 54.5% 60.4%
2010-11 54.1% 59.4%
2011-12 55.4% 60.5%
2012-13 60.3% 64.0%
Career 52.4% 57.5%
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5*3PM))/FGA
TS% = PTS/(2*(FGA + (0.44*FTA)))

That was the kind of player he was. He attacked from the outside in.

“We tried to post him up at times,” says then Cavs assistant Michael Malone, “and sometimes he would, sometimes he wouldn’t.”

For opponents, the No. 1 priority was preventing James from getting into transition. If they could do that, the next step was keeping him out of the paint and making him a jump shooter. From his second year on, he was one of the best finishers in the league, shooting about 70 percent in the restricted area.

That accounts to 1.4 points a shot. Comparatively, his jumpers, even when accounting for the extra point he got when he made a three, were worth just 0.8 points. So defenders sagged off of him, went under the screen, and played the odds. Complicating things for defenders, though, was that he’s been a willing and competent passer since the day he entered the league.

“I tried to make him think,” says Shane Battier of his days guarding a younger James. “If he was instinctual, there’s not much I can do.”

The hiring of Mike Brown as coach in James’ third season helped him become a better defensive player. But though he was unstoppable at times and the most complete player among the league’s top stars, his numbers didn’t change much from his second season through his fifth. It was in his last two years with the Cavs when James really established himself as the best player in the world, becoming a better shooter and more efficient scorer.

He got into the paint more, got to the line more, and his jumper started to improve. And with a better supporting cast for their star, the Cavs jumped from 19th in offensive efficiency (in both 2006-07 and ’07-08) to fourth (in both ’08-09 and ’09-10). They held the league’s best record each year and James earned his first two MVP awards.

VIDEO: James claims MVP in 2009-10

Expanding his game in Miami

VIDEO: LeBron makes his famous ‘Decision’

James’ move to South Florida not only gave him two All-Star teammates but a coach who would finally get him to step out of his comfort zone. In that first season in Miami, coach Erik Spoelstra used pie charts to show James and Dwyane Wade that they needed to add more variety to their offense.

James in the post, last 5 seasons
Season Reg. season Playoffs
2008-09 5.3% 6.8%
2009-10 6.4% 6.3%
2010-11 8.0% 8.3%
2011-12 13.9% 15.3%
2012-13 11.9% 16.0%
% of total possessions, according to
Synergy Sports Technology

Though Wade clearly had to make bigger sacrifices, James saw his usage rate go down. He learned to play off the ball a little and even dabbled with a post game. His standard field goal percentage hit a career high of 51 percent in 2010-11, though his effective field goal percentage and efficiency took a dip because he shot fewer free throws and 3-pointers.

It was Season 2 in Miami that brought the biggest change in James’ game and, ultimately, his first championship.

“When we lost to Dallas,” Spoelstra says, “he put in a lot of time that summer, really to help us establish a back-to-the-basket post-up game.”

James began to work out of the post a lot more than he ever had and reduced his 3-point attempts. In The Finals against Oklahoma City, he shot just 7-for-38 from outside the paint, but he destroyed the Thunder inside.

And it was in that playoff run that Spoelstra and the Heat turned to the idea of positionless basketball. Thanks in part to an injury to Chris Bosh, they used more one-big lineups, with James essentially playing both power forward and point guard at the same time.

Last season, with Ray Allen adding more shooting to the rotation, the Heat assumed a full-time identity.

“Their situation has evolved where he has become the lead guy,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle says of James. “[In 2011], they didn’t have all that stuff sorted out and so we took advantage of that, and they’ve adjusted brilliantly since.”

James is the primary attacker, of course, but he has also become a pretty good shooter. After making fewer than 33 percent of his 3-pointers in his first eight seasons, he shot 36.2 percent from beyond the arc in 2011-12 and then 40.6 percent last season.

“The scouting report used to be he would lose faith in his jumper,” Battier says. “That’s no longer the case. That’s the biggest difference, but that’s a huge difference. It changes the way you have to guard him.”

“That doesn’t happen by accident,” adds Spoelstra. “That doesn’t happen by you getting your reps in games. That was a lot of repetitions before and after practice, and in sessions on his own.”

With his own shooting improvements and all the space he was creating for his teammates, the Heat became the best shooting team in NBA history last season, registering an effective field goal percentage of 55.2 percent.

The priorities when defending James are basically the same as they always have been. Defenders still don’t want to see him in the open court, and they still need to keep him out of the paint. According to SportVU data, the Heat scored 1.67 points per James drive* last season. The league averaged just 1.03 points per possession. (*Drive = Any touch that starts at least 20 feet of the basket and is dribbled within 10 feet of the basket.)

James can now attack opponents from the inside out, using his refined post game to bully himself to the rim or draw extra defenders and create open looks for his teammates. And when he does have the ball on the perimeter, he’s better able to punish defenses for sagging off.

“Those became pivotal shots in the San Antonio series,” Spoelstra says. “It was the only thing they would give us.”

The Spurs’ strategy of making James shoot from mid-range worked for much of the 2013 Finals. But the new James eventually came through, appropriately sealing Game 7 with a 19-foot jumper.

“I looked at all my regular season stats, all my playoff stats, and I was one of the best mid-range shooters in the game,” he said afterward. “I just told myself, ‘Don’t abandon what you’ve done all year. Don’t abandon now because they’re going under.’

” ‘Everything you’ve worked on, the repetition, the practices, the off-season training, no matter how big the stakes are, no matter what’s on the line, just go with it.’ And I was able to do that.”

VIDEO: LeBron , Heat hot early in Game 6 of 2013 Finals

Closing the deal

Improved post game? Championship No. 1.

Improved jumper? Championship No. 2.

Of course, James’ journey to the top of the mountain was not quite that simple, because he really was good enough to win championships in 2010 and 2011.

In his final year in Cleveland, the Cavs held a 2-1 series lead over the Celtics in the conference finals. But they blew it, with James shooting 18-for-53 (34 percent) over the last three games. In Game 5, his final home game in Cleveland, he shot 3-for-14 and acted like he’d much rather be somewhere else in the second half. Even if many doubted his championship mettle, that game was stunning.

In his first year in Miami, the killer instinct was there through the first three rounds, as James made several huge plays late in games against both the Celtics and Bulls. But then something changed in The Finals against Dallas.

He didn’t play terribly, but he played passively, more like a ball-distributing point guard than a 6-foot-8 freak of nature with the ability to take over games. In a six-game series, he got to the free-throw line a total of 20 times. Many wondered if he would forever be known as a superstar who couldn’t close the deal.

“I definitely didn’t play up to the potential I knew I was capable of playing at,” James said of the Dallas series in a recent interview with ESPN the Magazine’s Chris Broussard. “So you could make any assessment — I froze, I didn’t show up, I was late for my own funeral. You can make your own assessment. I can’t argue with nothing.”

Less than a year later, James was faced with another moment of truth, Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals in Boston with the Celtics leading the series 3-2. That night, five years after that memorable game in Detroit, he had another breakthrough.

There were no signs of passivity as James racked up 45 points (on 19-for-26 shooting), 15 rebounds and five assists, sending the series back to Miami.

That was the night things changed, perhaps forever. Six games later, LeBron James had his first championship.

What was the difference between that game in Boston and some of the others that came before it? Only James really knows.

“The best thing that happened to me last year was us losing The Finals and me playing the way I played,” he said the night he won his first title, “It humbled me. I knew what it was going to have to take, and I was going to have to change as a basketball player, and I was going to have to change as a person to get what I wanted.”

The development of his  game, the development of the Heat’s system and the shedding of whatever mental roadblock was holding him back in 2010 and 2011 all contributed to James going from the best player in the world to NBA champion.

Staying at the mountaintop won’t be much different from getting there. Every season is a new journey, and James almost took a step backward this past June. If Kawhi Leonard didn’t miss a free throw in a critical and series-changing Game 6 of The Finals, if Bosh didn’t get a key rebound, or if Allen didn’t hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history, the scrutiny would have been right back on James for the two ugly turnovers he committed in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

That’s sports. And that scrutiny is what comes with having the kind of talent that no one has ever seen before.

Now, we see what comes next.

“I want to be the greatest of all-time,” James said as he began his quest for championship No. 3. “I’m far away from it. But I see the light.”

VIDEO: James fuels Heat’s back-to-back title run

One Team, One Stat: New Lineup Helped Spurs Re-establish Defensive Identity

From Media Day until opening night,’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the San Antonio Spurs, who were seconds away from a fifth championship.

The basics
SAS Rank
W-L 58-24 3
Pace 96.4 6
OffRtg 105.9 7
DefRtg 99.2 3
NetRtg +6.8 3

The stat

87.7 - Points allowed per 100 possessions by the Spurs’ starting lineup – Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter – in 364 minutes together last season.

The context

That mark was the league’s best among 58 lineups that played at least 200 minutes together and was over 15 points per 100 possessions better than the league average.

After eight years of defensive regression and two straight seasons of being ranked 11th on that end of the floor, the Spurs improved to third in defensive efficiency last season. And as beautiful as their offense has been over the last few years, it was the defensive improvement that got them back to The Finals.

San Antonio ranked sixth defensively on Dec. 23, when Gregg Popovich went to this starting lineup permanently (or at least, in games in which guys weren’t injured or resting). So they already were improved, and they basically allowed the same number of points per 100 possessions after that point (99.1) as they did before it (99.3).

But having a lineup that consistently holds opponents under 90 points per 100 possessions is a great way to start games. The new Spurs starters did just about everything well defensively.

Spurs starters defensive comparison

Lineups/league DefRtg Opp2PT% Opp3PT% DREB% OppTOV% OppFTA/FGA
New starters 87.7 42.6% 32.8% 80.9% 13.8% .148
All Spurs lineups 99.2 46.6% 35.3% 74.9% 15.3% .235
League avg. 103.1 48.3% 35.9% 73.5% 15.3% .270

OppTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions

The lineup didn’t force a lot of turnovers, but it defended shots at a rate that would have led the league, rebounded at a rate that would have led the league (by far), and kept opponents off the free throw line at a rate that would have led the league (by far).

Among 67 players 6-10 and taller who logged at least 1,000 minutes last season, Duncan (2.03) averaged the fourth fewest fouls per 36 minutes. Splitter (2.90) was also below that group’s average of 3.38. Roy Hibbert, aka “Mr. Verticality,” averaged 4.43.

The playoffs brought new challenges, however. After Splitter sprained his ankle in the first round, he returned for Game 2 of the conference semifinals and that Spurs lineup struggled to defend the hot-shooting, small-ball Warriors.

But San Antonio survived that series and the lineup went on to allow the Grizzlies and Heat to score a paltry 78.0 points per 100 possessions over the next eight games. Here are some defensive possessions from those two series…

Spurs playoff efficiency with Parker, Green, Leonard,
Duncan and Splitter on the floor

Opponent GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
L.A. Lakers 3 40 99.8 95.9 +3.9 +5
Golden State 4 43 96.5 110.3 -13.8 -10
Memphis 4 51 98.6 80.8 +17.8 +16
Miami 4 33 93.1 73.9 +19.3 +12
Total 15 167 97.3 90.9 +6.4 +23

The defense wasn’t enough to convince Popovich to keep the band together though. He inserted Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup for Game 5 of The Finals, a moved that helped Ginobili play his best game of the postseason and helped the Spurs get to within one win of their fifth championship. Splitter played just 23 minutes over the final three games, almost entirely as Duncan’s back-up.

Playoff series are small sample sizes and certain matchups can take what was a great lineup in the regular season and render it useless. And though that lineup defended well all year, it did struggle offensively in the postseason. The Spurs’ offense was much more efficient with an additional shooter on the floor.

But this lineup will be back on the floor to start this season. While the big three is a year older, Green (26), Leonard (22), and Splitter (28) have proven that they can pick up some of the slack. More importantly, the Spurs have reestablished themselves as a top-five defense.

If they stay relatively healthy this season, the best defensive lineup in the league could be on the floor for a lot more than 386 minutes. And that can make up for any offensive slippage.

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: Starting Clips Didn’t Defend The Arc

From Media Day until opening night,’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Los Angeles Clippers, who have as bright a season outlook as they’ve ever have.

The basics
LAC Rank
W-L 56-26 t-5
Pace 93.6 19
OffRtg 107.7 4
DefRtg 101.0 9
NetRtg +6.7 4

The stat

41.6 percent - Clippers opponent 3-point percentage with Willie Green and Caron Butler on the floor together last season.

The context

That 3-point defense would have ranked last in the league by far, almost three percentage points worse than the Bobcats. But with neither Green nor Butler on the floor, Clippers opponents shot just 33.3 percent from 3-point range, a mark that would have ranked second in the league, only behind the Pacers.

As the starting wings, Green and Butler were defending better shooters (and better shot creators) than their second-unit teammates. But 41.6 percent is pretty awful and overall, the Clips ranked 26th in 3-point defense, a number that held them back from being as good as they could have been. Their opponents shot a remarkable 45.4 percent from 3-point range in their 26 losses.

Clippers opponent 3-point shooting

On floor Opp3PM Opp3PA Opp3PT%
Butler + Green 151 363 41.6%
1 of the 2 210 521 40.3%
At least 1 361 884 40.8%
Neither 266 798 33.3%
Total 627 1,682 37.3%

The Clippers basically had two different teams last season, a starting lineup that was great offensively and a bench that was much better defensively. Green and Butler weren’t the only defensive questions with the starters, of course. The first unit (with Green starting 60 games and Chauncey Billups starting 22) was below average as a whole, and the need for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to improve on that end was addressed in this space early last month. Without the bench bigs they had last season, the Clippers need their starting frontline to improve defensively if they’re going to contend for a championship.

But the departure of Butler and less playing time for Green (as long as J.J. Redick is healthier this season than Billups was last season) should also help. Green often got caught on screens and Butler often got caught ball-watching or over-helping, as some of these plays, from games where the Magic and Lakers combined to shoot 11-for-16 from 3-point range with Green and Butler on the floor, show…

The Clippers defended the basket well. Their opponents attempted just 30.9 percent of their shots from the restricted area, the fifth lowest rate in the league. And their opponents shot 59.7 percent there, the 11th lowest rate in the league. They actually ranked second in defending 2-point shots and were a top 10 defense overall.

But they can get better by not fouling so much – they ranked 29th in opponent free throw rate – and defending the 3-point line better.

Phoenix opponents shot 37.2 percent from 3-point range with Jared Dudley on the floor last year (there’s some Michael Beasley influence in those numbers), and Orlando/Milwaukee opponents shot 34.6 percent with Redick on the floor. Doc Rivers‘ Celtics, meanwhile, ranked in the top five in 3-point defense each of the last six seasons. So a new scheme and more focus on that end could make a big difference.

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: Nuggets Own The Restricted Area

From Media Day until opening night,’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Denver Nuggets, who are moving in a new direction after their best regular season in 37 years.

The basics
DEN Rank
W-L 57-25 4
Pace 97.8 2
OffRtg 107.6 5
DefRtg 102.0 11
NetRtg +5.6 5

The stat

1,412 - Points by which the Nuggets outscored their opponents in the restricted area last season.

The context

No other team in the league outscored their opponents in the restricted area by half that amount. Next on the list were the Houston Rockets, who outscored their opponents by 626 points in the restricted area. And since shot-location data was first charted in 1996, the only team that has come close to the Nuggets’ mark was the 1997-98 Lakers, who outscored their opponents by 1,128 points in the restricted area.

Offensively, the Nuggets relentlessly attacked the basket. It started with their transition game, of course. They were off and running once they got the ball off a turnover, a rebound, or even a made bucket. They led the league in fast break points by a wide margin, and 1,210 (*73 percent) of their 1,652 fast break points came in the restricted area.

*For comparison, league-wide, 57 percent of fast break points came in the restricted area.

When the break was stopped, point guards Ty Lawson and Andre Miller still looked to get into the paint and make plays. Among guards, they ranked eighth and 19th in restricted area field goal attempts. Almost 60 percent of their assists came in the restricted area, with Miller leading the league with 328 restricted-area assists and Lawson ranking seventh with 260.

And the Nuggets didn’t stop with their first attempt at the basket. They led the league in both offensive rebounding percentage and second-chance points, with 840 (*65 percent) of their 1,295 second-chance points coming in the restricted area.

* For comparison, league-wide, 53 percent of second-chance points came in the restricted area, which is probably less than you would guess.

Of course, the Nuggets *couldn’t shoot very well, so they had little choice but to attack the basket. But for a team that doesn’t shoot very well to rank in the top five in offensive efficiency is pretty amazing.

* They ranked 23rd in effective field goal percentage from outside the paint and famously didn’t hit a shot from outside the paint until the final minute of a December loss in Portland.

The Nuggets took 45.7 percent of their shots from the restricted area, by far the highest rate in the league. And they made 63.1 percent of those shots, a mark which ranked sixth. No other team ranked in the top 10 in both the percentage of shots taken from the restricted area and field goal percentage there.

Highest percentage of shots from the restricted area

Team FGM FGA FG% Rank %FGA
Denver 2,016 3,194 63.1% 6 45.7%
Detroit 1,565 2,670 58.6% 24 40.2%
Houston 1,617 2,628 61.5% 11 38.7%
Minnesota 1,421 2,406 59.1% 19 35.9%
Milwaukee 1,432 2,530 56.6% 27 35.2%

Denver wasn’t just strong in the restricted area offensively. To outscore your opponents by 1,412 points, you have to be doing something right on the other end of the floor as well.

The Nuggets didn’t really prevent shots at the basket, but they defended them well, allowing their opponents to shoot just 56.2 percent in the restricted area, the second best mark in the league.

The following are some highlights from a December game in which the Nuggets outscored the Pacers (who ranked No. 1 in restricted-area defense) 48-18 at the basket. Denver shot 24-for-30 in the restricted area, while Indiana shot just 9-for-17.

While the Nuggets’ defense was better overall with Kosta Koufos on the floor, JaVale McGee was the team’s best rim protector. In fact, he was one of the league’s best, with opponents shooting just 52.8 percent in the restricted area with him on the floor.

McGee is back and now starting at center, so Denver opponents will continue to have a tough time converting at the rim. But the Nuggets won’t be as strong there themselves.

Only LeBron James was a better finisher at the rim than Andre Iguodala last season, and Iguodala has taken his dunks and layups to the Bay Area. Maybe more importantly, the architect of the Nuggets’ furious style is gone. And with Brian Shaw replacing George Karl on the bench, we should see a more traditional offensive attack in Denver.

Denver has played at a quick pace in the preseason, but has attempted only 34 percent of their shots from the restricted area. Of course, they actually have have a couple of guys – Randy Foye and Nate Robinson – who can shoot threes pretty well. And that is just as important as getting shots at the basket.

So the Nuggets will likely have more balanced offense in terms of shot selection. And who knows when we’ll see another team outscore its opponents by so many points in the restricted area again.

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

New Standards For NBA League Leaders

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The NBA announced to its teams on Friday that it is tweaking the qualifications for league leaders in some statistical categories, starting this season.

Here’s a basic rundown…

Non-shooting categories (points per game, rebounds per game, etc.)

Old: A player must have played in 70 games or totaled a certain amount of points (1400), rebounds (800), assists (400), etc. That last part allowed Rajon Rondo to lead the league in assists per game last season, even though he played in just 38 games.

New: A player must play 70 percent of his team’s games (58) in order to be listed among the league leaders. The only exception to this rule will be if, at the end of the season, the player would have led the league in the category had he played the required number of games with his current category total.

Here’s a past example of the above exception: Gerald Wallace had 138 steals in 55 games (2.51 SPG) during the 2005-06 season. Wallace would have still led the league in steals because his average with 58 games (2.38 SPG) would have been greater than the 2.28 SPG of Brevin Knight, the leader among players who met the 58-game qualifier.

Rondo’s 420 assists last year would not have been enough. So call this “the Rondo Rule” if you wish.

Shooting percentage categories

Field-goal percentage leaders are determined the same way as they have been in the past. You need 300 made field goals (or 300/82 per team game if you’re calculating in-season) to qualify.

Free throw percentage leaders are also determined the same way as they have been in the past. You need 125 made free throws (or 125/82 per team game in-season) to qualify.

There is a change in how 3-point percentage leaders are determined. In the past, you needed just 55 made 3s (0.7 per team game) to qualify. Now, you need 82 (or one per team game in-season).

One Team, One Stat: Too Many Threes From The Knicks’ … Opponents

From Media Day until opening night,’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the New York Knicks, who are trying to stay near the top of the Eastern Conference.

The basics
NYK Rank
W-L 54-28 7
Pace 92.0 26
OffRtg 108.6 3
DefRtg 103.5 17
NetRtg +5.1 6

The stat

31.9 percent - Percentage of shots (from both teams) that were 3-pointers in Knicks games last season.

The context

The Knicks took 35.4 percent of their shots from 3-point range, the highest mark in NBA history. And Knicks opponents took 28.1 percent of their shots from 3-point range, the highest opponent mark in NBA history.

The Knicks’ own threes were a good thing, as they helped propel them to No. 3 in offensive efficiency. New York was at the forefront of a 3-point shooting revolution last season, with the league putting more value in floor spacing and that extra point you get for having your feet behind the arc. Over the last few seasons, it has become more important to be able to both shoot and defend 3-pointers.

The Knicks ranked 15th in opponent 3-point percentage, actually holding their opponents slightly under the league average of 35.9 percent. But volume was the issue.

Even at that less-than-league-average rate, those threes were worth a lot more (1.07 points per attempt) than a mid-range, two-point jumper against the Knicks (0.79). And New York was one of three teams to allow over 100 more 3-point attempts than mid-range attempts last season. The other two — Charlotte and New Orleans — ranked in the bottom three defensively.

More opponent 3PA than mid-range attempts

Team Opp M-R FGA Opp 3PA Diff.
Charlotte 1,653 1,847 194
New Orleans 1,513 1,688 175
New York 1,655 1,789 134
Denver 1,853 1,894 41
Miami 1,742 1,783 41

The Knicks’ issues with defending the 3-point line mostly stemmed from over-helping, both in the post and on pick-and-rolls. Too often, they got caught in positions where they didn’t have time to recover and run a shooter off the 3-point line. It was a stark contrast to how the Pacers defended the same kinds of plays, and we really saw it in the playoff series between the two teams.

We can see more of New York’s issues in these clips from a January game in which Brooklyn shot 12-for-24 from 3-point range at MSG …


The departed Chris Copeland, Jason Kidd and Steve Novak took 322 (36 percent) of the Knicks’ 3-pointers with them. It’s unclear if Andrea Bargnani, Beno Udrih and Metta World Peace will be able to replace that perimeter production and keep New York in the top five of offensive efficiency.

Either way, if the Knicks want to remain at the top of the Eastern Conference, how well they defend threes will be just as important as how well they shoot them.

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

Oden Returns, Dunks On First Touch


HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Greg Oden is not ready to step into the Miami Heat’s rotation. But he was ready to step on the floor for his first NBA action in 1,418 days. And there he was in New Orleans on Wednesday night, checking in with 5:15 to go in the second quarter.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra ran a play for Oden right away. The big man set a screen for Chris Bosh and dragged Bosh’s man Al-Farouq Aminu into the paint with him. Bosh hit Oden with an entry pass and the big man pivoted and threw down a strong, two-handed dunk, eliciting an emotional reaction from the Miami bench.

A few possessions later, Oden made an impact defensively, stopping consecutive shots by Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis at the rim (though he didn’t get credit for either block). He played 3:59 and, most importantly, walked off the floor feeling fine.

“A mark of success for me,” Oden said back on media day, “is walking on to a court and walking off healthy. Being able to play in a game and just walk off the court healthy, no matter if it was one minute or two minutes. My dream is being able to play basketball, and if I can go out there and do it, run up and down and come off the court again healthy, that’s goal one. Goal two is going to my second game, going on the court and walking off.”

Just a week ago, Oden experienced swelling in his knee after a five-on-five scrimmage, so to see him playing Wednesday — even if it was preseason — was somewhat of a surprise. To see him dunk the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game since Dec. 5, 2009 was rather remarkable.

As a team, the Heat are healthy, with Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen up front. Dwyane Wade looks to be in great shape, Bosh has played well all preseason, and LeBron James is LeBron James. So, while it’s tempting to think about what he could add to a team that’s won two straight championships, there’s absolutely no need for Oden to be ready to start the season on Tuesday.

“We’re thinking big picture with this,” Spoelstra said about Oden’s progress last week. “We’re going to move very patiently.”

If we see Oden play meaningful minutes for the Heat, it probably won’t happen for a while. But this was a big step in his journey back to the NBA.

“I got a long ways to go,” Oden told FOX Sports’ Jason Jackson after the game, “but I’m just happy to be out there.”

One Team, One Stat: Pacers Defend It All

From Media Day until opening night,’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Indiana Pacers, who were one game away from reaching The Finals..

The basics
IND Rank
W-L 49-32 8
Pace 92.8 25
OffRtg 101.6 19
DefRtg 96.6 1
NetRtg +5.0 7

The stat

1st - Where the Pacers ranked in defending the restricted area, defending corner threes, and defending above-the-break threes.

The context

Those are the three most important areas of the floor, so yeah, the Pacers had the best defense in the league. The last team to lead the league in defending the restricted area and the 3-point line was the 2000-01 Spurs.

Roy Hibbert was largely responsible for the Pacers’ success at defending the rim. Indiana opponents shot just 50.4 percent in the restricted area with Hibbert on the floor, the lowest mark for any defender in the league who faced at least 500 restricted-area shots from opponents. Indy opponents shot 57.2 percent in the restricted area with Hibbert off the floor.

The general idea behind the Pacers’ defense is that, with Paul George sticking to the opponent’s best wing scorer (even through screens), Hibbert was able to stay home at the rim and the other guys were able to stay at home on shooters. Of course, that’s a lot more simple than it really is, and the Pacers do help off their man. They just don’t over-help and make the same communication mistakes that we saw in the Nets’ video last week.

Here are clips from Game 6 of the first round, where the Hawks shot just 9-for-19 from the restricted area and 3-for-19 from 3-point range…

The Pacers’ biggest issue last season was their bench. But their bench defended the 3-point line a lot better than their starters did. In the regular season at least, Indiana’s depth issues were all about offense.

Pacers’ efficiency and opponent 3-point shooting, regular season

Lineups MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/- Opp3PM Opp3PA Opp3PT%
Starters 1,218 108.6 96.5 +12.1 +284 136 376 36.2%
Other lineups 2,698 98.5 96.7 +1.8 +42 304 968 31.4%

A lot of that is the opposing lineups the bench was facing. The were facing other reserves who didn’t shoot as well or even create as many open shots. But that 36.2 percent from beyond the arc that the starters allowed would have ranked 19th in the league. And every player in the Pacers’ rotation had a on-court DefRtg of less than 99 points per 100 possessions. After Tony Allen (94.3), Gerald Green had the lowest on-court DefRtg (95.1) among players who logged at least 1,000 minutes last season.

The playoffs were a different story though…

Pacers’ efficiency and opponent 3-point shooting, playoffs

Lineups MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/- Opp3PM Opp3PA Opp3PT%
Starters 414 109.5 94.7 +14.8 +126 49 146 33.6%
Other lineups 502 94.5 107.4 -12.9 -123 85 231 36.8%

So the Pacers went shopping for a bench this summer. They said goodbye to D.J. Augustin, Green, Tyler Hansbrough and Sam Young, bringing in Chris Copeland, Luis Scola and C.J. Watson. The return of Danny Granger also boosts the second-unit offense, whether it’s Granger or Lance Stephenson coming off the bench.

The Pacers’ offense should definitely be better. But it will be interesting to see if the second-unit defense is as strong as it was last season. As both the Bulls and Pacers have shown over the last few years, ranking No. 1 defensively takes 10 guys.

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