Posts Tagged ‘Numbers Game’

Steve Nash is Mr. Perfect

The Phoenix Suns’ season is spiraling downward, with the six-player trade they made on Dec. 18 failing to light a spark. The Suns are 2-5 since the deal and just 3-9 going back to Dec. 7.

As usual, defense and rebounding are issues No. 1 and 1a in Phoenix. The team ranks dead last in both defensive efficiency, allowing 109.9 points per 100 possessions, and rebounding percentage, grabbing just 47 percent of available boards.

Offensively, the Suns are doing just fine. Though this may be the first season since 2000-01 that a Steve Nash team doesn’t have the most efficient offense in the league, the Suns’ are still in pretty good shape on that end of the floor. They currently rank third offensively, scoring 108.6 points per 100 possessions.

Nash is doing his part (at least offensively). He’s shooting better than he did last season and he’s averaging 13.0 assists per 40 minutes.

Nash will need to shoot a little better from beyond the arc to record his fourth straight 50/40/90 season (50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the line), but he’s still one of the league’s best shooters.

The latest evidence of that is Nash’s second perfect game of the season. In Sunday’s loss to the Kings, Nash made all eight shots he took from the field (including two from 3-point range) and both of his free throws.

Perfect shooting games aren’t all that uncommon. Fourteen times this season, a player has taken at least five shots from the field and not missed from the field or the line.

But Nash is the only one to have done it twice. In a Dec. 5 win over the Wizards, Nash hit all eight of his shots from the field (one from 3-point range) and all three of his free throws. Just for good measure, he had 17 assists in the game, too.

In the shot clock era (1954-55 to present), only once before has a player pulled off two perfect shooting games (with at least eight field goal attempts) in the same season. That was Tyson Chandler, playing for the Hornets in 2007-08. Chandler was 8-for-8 from the field (without a free throw) in a Dec. 17 loss in Portland and 8-for-8 from the field and 2-for-2 from the line in an April 11 loss to the Lakers (in L.A.) that season.

More “perfect game” numbers…

  • Chandler grabbed 19 rebounds in that game in Portland. That’s the most rebounds by anyone shooting a perfect game (minimum of eight field goal attempts), going back to the 1986-87 season.
  • Nash had 17 assists in the Dec. 5 game and 12 on Sunday. The only other player to dish out double-digit assists in a perfect shooting game (min. 8 FGA, going back to 1986-87) was Jeff Hornacek, who had 15 assists for the Suns while shooting 8-for-8 from the field in a win over the Cavs on Feb. 25, 1988.
  • The most total makes (from the field and the line) without a miss in the shot clock era is 19, a mark held by three different people. Kelly Tripucka was 8-for-8 from the field and 11-for-11 from the line for Utah in a loss at Denver on March 11, 1987. Charles Barkley was 10-for-10 from the field and 9-for-9 from the line for the Sixers in a win over the Spurs on March 24, 1989. And Buck Williams was 5-for-5 from the field and 14-for-14 from the line for the Blazers in a loss in Phoenix on April 21, 1991.
  • Pau Gasol came just short of that mark earlier this season. Gasol was 10-for-10 from the field and 8-for-8 from the line in the Lakers’ win over the Warriors on Nov. 21.
  • Of course, the most famous perfect game belongs to Christian Laettner, who shot 10-for-10 from the field and 10-for-10 from the line in Duke’s regional final win over Kentucky in 1992 at the Spectrum. The last shot was the incredible buzzer-beating game-winner off a full-court baseball pass from Grant Hill, current teammate of Nash. And the circle is complete.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

An Early Look at Most Improved

Through Monday, the NBA season is exactly 25 percent done. The quarter pole is a great time to evaluate a lot of things, but here we’re going to look at early candidates for the Most Improved Player award.

There isn’t clear criteria for the award, as indicated by the 13 different players who received first-place votes last season. Personally, I thought that Kevin Durant, who went from non-All-Star to MVP candidate, was the only choice, but only 17 of the 123 voters agreed with me.

Statistically, there are a few different ways you can compare performance from one year to the next. And I’ll probably explore all of them by the end of the season. But for now, since it’s still early, I’ll keep it simple.

To see whose production has taken the biggest jump from last season to this one, I looked at efficiency per game. Efficiency is a stat that’s been used here on NBA.com for a while now, and it’s fairly simple to understand. You just add up a player’s positive stats (points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks) and subtract turnovers and missed shots (both from the field and from the line). So the formula is this:

Pts. + Reb. + Ast. + Stl. + Blk. – Turn. – (FGA-FGM) – (FTA-FTM)

Here are the season leaders, and here are the most improved players, according to efficiency per game…

Most Improved: Efficiency per Game
Player Team 2009-10 2010-11 Diff.
D.J. Augustin CHA 6.0 16.2 10.2
Reggie Evans TOR 4.9 14.3 9.5
JaVale McGee WAS 8.6 17.1 8.5
Kevin Love MIN 19.7 27.0 7.4
Paul Millsap UTA 15.6 22.7 7.1
Russell Westbrook OKC 18.1 25.1 7.1
Raymond Felton NYK 14.8 21.5 6.8
Tyson Chandler DAL 10.3 17.0 6.6
Daniel Gibson CLE 6.0 12.6 6.6
Jrue Holiday PHI 9.4 16.0 6.5

D.J. Augustin probably isn’t one of the first guys you think of when it comes to Most Improved. But he’s clearly a step ahead of the field (especially since Reggie Evans is out for two months with a broken foot), having stepped into Raymond Felton‘s role as the starting point guard in Charlotte.

None of the other names on the list are real surprises.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the 10 players who have regressed most in terms of efficiency per game…

Most Regressed: Efficiency per Game
Player Team 2009-10 2010-11 Diff.
David Lee GSW 27.0 18.8 -8.2
Reggie Williams GSW 16.2 8.0 -8.2
Brendan Haywood DAL 16.1 7.6 -8.5
Erick Dampier MIA 12.2 3.7 -8.5
LeBron James MIA 32.4 23.8 -8.6
Corey Maggette MIL 18.6 9.3 -9.2
Jermaine O’Neal BOS 15.8 6.6 -9.3
Anthony Randolph NYK 14.3 3.2 -11.1
Earl Barron PHX 17.0 2.7 -14.3
Troy Murphy NJN 20.5 6.1 -14.4

The name that stands out here, of course, is LeBron James. We all knew that his statistical production would fall off, but maybe not this much. People talked about him averaging a triple-double with the Heat, but his rebounds have gone down from 7.3 to 5.7 per game, and his assists have gone down from 8.6 to 7.3.

Last year, James led the league in efficiency at 32.4 per game, which was more than four points better than the next player on the list, Durant at 28.0. It’s obviously not easy maintaining those numbers when you’ve got to share the ball with two other All-Stars.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.