5 NBA Stats to Know Through Week 2
With two weeks completed in the NBA season, sample sizes are beginning to level out, and we are starting to see how teams and players will be playing this year.
Kawhi Leonard has a usage rate of 33.0%
In the NBA today, a usage rate of 33.0% for a franchise player is certainly not out of the ordinary. Kawhi Leonard’s current usage only puts him eighth in the NBA, per Basketball-Reference, right in line with the likes of John Wall, James Harden, and Carmelo Anthony.
However, the San Antonio Spurs do not typically operate the same way as the rest of the NBA does.
Now in the 18th season with coach Gregg Popovich, the Spurs have only had one player in the Popovich era, Tony Parker in the 2008-2009 season, who has boasted a usage rate over 30.0%. That is incredible considering surefire Hall of Famer Tim Duncan never reached that number in his time with the team. This speaks volumes to the style of basketball the Spurs play and the reliance on team basketball versus individual players.
Although it is just a seven-game sample size, Leonard’s usage figures to stay above the 30.0% mark throughout the season, as the only other player with a usage rate over 25.0% this year is big man LaMarcus Aldridge. Also furthering this point is the fact that the other three typical starters for San Antonio are Parker, Pau Gasol, and Kyle Anderson, who have only posted usage rates of 13.9%, 19.6%, and 7.3% respectively.
Assuming he keeps up his current level of play, it seems likely that he will push the limit of how much the Spurs put on one player to perform offensively. The return of Danny Green to the lineup within the next few weeks should eat into Leonard’s usage a touch, but do not expect Leonard to slow down any time soon.
The Houston Rockets current pace is 96.9, ranking 16th in the NBA
Coming into the season, the prospect of having Mike D’Antoni guide an offense led by James Harden with the shooting of Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon made fantasy owners drool. Prior to this season, D’Antoni had never coached a full season in the NBA and seen his team fall below eighth in pace, which measures the number of possessions a team gets per 48 minutes.
The peak of his offense was certainly in Phoenix where his teams were ranked second, third, first, and first in his four full seasons in the desert. Those teams were paced by MVP Steve Nash. Harden, currently leading the NBA in assists at 12.3 per game, has taken that role while also coming in fourth in scoring at 31.5 points per game.
One thing to note is the Houston Rockets' early schedule, which has seen them play only two of six games against teams in the top half of the league in pace. Also, it is important to look at the numbers and their historical reference. This year Houston’s pace is 96.9 which is middle of the pack. In D’Antoni’s first season in Phoenix, the Suns led the league in pace at just 95.9. This shows how much that his style has changed the way the NBA works.
Between the schedule and the team working in a new system, expect the Rockets to end up in the top 10 in pace, but do not be shocked if they are not a top five team chasing the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors.
Marc Gasol, Dwyane Wade, and Brook Lopez have 26 combined three-pointers
As the pace stats have shown, the NBA is undoubtedly a run-and-gun league. Naturally, people look to the Warriors' trio of Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry as the model, but the more stunning fact is the emergence of veterans who have been career non-shooters into deep threats.
Coming into this season Marc Gasol was always seen as a solid shooting big man with a career field goal rate of 50.1%. However, he was limited from the outside with just 12 three-pointers made in his first eight seasons on just 66 attempts. This season, the Memphis Grizzlies' big man has made the three-point shot part of his arsenal with 9 triples on 24 shots, which is a respectable 37.5% rate.
In an even bigger way, Brook Lopez has revolutionized his game for a struggling Brooklyn Nets squad. Prior to this season, he had only attempted 31 three-pointers and only made 3. This year he has already hoisted 21 shots from beyond the arc and made a respectable 7 of them. This is quite the reversal of fortunes from his first six seasons, during which he made exactly zero three-pointers.
Unlike Lopez and Gasol, Dwyane Wade has certainly made a few three-pointers in his time in the NBA, but in his storied 13-year career, he only has three years with more than 30 three-pointers made. Much of that is due with his anemic 28.7% career rate from three. That has seen a spike this year to 47.6% on his 3.5 attempts per game.
The one common denominator that these players share is the move to a new coach and system. It is pretty evident that Kenny Atkinson in Brooklyn, David Fizdale for the Memphis Grizzlies, and Fred Hoiberg for the Chicago Bulls have made their aging stars know they have the green light to shoot.
At their current pace Gasol would make 123, Lopez 114.8, and Wade 136 threes on the year. Of course those players will not play all 82 games, but if they ended at those totals, they would all have been top 12 in the NBA for the 1992-1993 NBA season. That is a reminder of how much the NBA has shifted in 25 years.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are -48 in the third quarter this season
Coming in the season, the Minnesota Timberwolves were the new “it” team. Featuring young stars Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine as well as new coach Tom Thibodeau, they were expected to crawl out of the cellar and into the playoffs. However, that has taken an early detour as the team has started a miserable 1-4 with their lone win coming over a Memphis team missing Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.
Most, if not all of their losses, can be directly related to their -48 differential coming out of the halftime break. Outside of their win against Memphis, the Wolves have lost each third quarter by at least 10 points, which has led to huge fourth-quarter deficits. It should be assumed that this is simply young talent learning a new system, but results have shown that the team is not adjusting well at halftime.
Despite the poor start, Minnesota does have some positives to draw from, as they currently sit at 11th in numberFire’s nERD rankings. That ranking is helped by an offensive efficiency of 106.8, which is good for 11th, and an improving defensive efficiency that currently sits at 16th in the NBA. If the team can figure out how to come out of the locker room effectively, a long winning streak could be on the horizon.
Harrison Barnes is leading the NBA at 38.5 minutes per game
When the Dallas Mavericks signed Harrison Barnes to a max deal in the summer, many people questioned the move. The former Golden State Warrior was a mere role player for the two-time Western Conference champions. In Dallas, he has been given an expanded role and has taken advantage, averaging 20.8 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Barnes has been forced into a bigger role in large part because of the glut of injuries in Dallas to the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams, and Andrew Bogut, which has caused the team to be creative with their lineups.
Not only is his usage up nearly 8% from last year, but all last season, Barnes only had two games in which he shot more than 15 times. This season, he has already topped 15 shots three times. His best attribute in Golden State was his efficiency, as he was over 50% from the floor during both of his last two years with the Warriors.
This season, he has bumped that even further to 53.1% from the floor. With increased usage, it will be interesting to track over the course of the year to see if he can maintain that level of production. As it currently stands, Mark Cuban is happy to prove those who thought Barnes was overpaid wrong.