5 NBA Stats to Know Through Week 14
No NBA team wants to deal with injuries to key players in the middle of the season, but just about every organization is forced to at some point. However, that does open up opportunities for other contributors to come to the forefront, which has happened in Los Angeles.
As the Association continues preparing for the All-Star game, here are five stats you should keep in mind with another week of action ahead.
Tyler Johnson Leads the NBA With 10.8 Minutes per Game in the 4th Quarter
The Miami Heat are having a dreadful year, currently sitting at 14-30 and only ahead of the lowly Brooklyn Nets. Any sign of good news is a welcome sight in South Beach, and Tyler Johnson’s fourth quarter play may be the best news of all.
When Johnson signed his $50 million extension this past summer, it was questionable as to whether he was worth the investment. His late-game play is part of the proof that he may be ready for the bright lights. Leading the NBA in minutes played in the fourth quarter, Johnson has responded when being asked to end games for the Heat.
Here's how some of his per-game averages stack up against last season's production.
Along with this progression and big presence in the fourth quarter, Johnson's absence has also been felt by Miami, as they're 1-13 in games when he's sidelined.
Pat Riley took a gamble on him, and his play this year shows again why Riley seems to be one leg up on the rest of the NBA.
James Harden leads the NBA in Points Created From Assists per Game
The performances of Russell Westbrook and James Harden this year are proving to be quite historic. Even as the NBA’s assist leader, it is hard to fathom that Harden is creating 28.1 points per game on assists alone.
Part of this astounding number is the number of three-point shots the Houston Rockets take and make per game. The team currently leads the league in three-point attempts (40.0 per game), three-point makes per game (17.4), and they currently sit ninth with a conversion rate of 36.7%
The other staggering number that stands out is 4.0, which is the number of points created by assists per game Harden leads John Wall by. Compared to last year, Harden is still out-pacing the league -- only Rajon Rondo and his 27.1 points created is within four points of Harden’s gaudy totals.
A stat like this stands out at this point in the year, but it will become even more relevant later on when MVP voting begins and the small differences between Harden and Westbrook are more scrutinized. If Houston's superstar maintains this pace and Westbrook averages a triple-double, it may be impossible to decide who is more deserving of the MVP award.
Jamal Crawford Has a 24.8% Usage Rate Without Blake Griffin and Chris Paul
When any team loses their top two offensive players, others need to pick their game up. That's the case with the Los Angeles Clippers.
With the emergence of Rivers and Felton, Crawford's 11.4 points per game and 38.4% shooting from the floor are among the worst of his pro career.
The one advantage Crawford does have on the other Clippers guards is he's the scoring guard coming off the bench and only has to fight Marreese Speights for shots on the second unit.
It will be interesting to see how head coach Doc Rivers changes the lineup when Griffin returns, as he has moved to a three-guard starting lineup with Rivers, Felton and J.J. Redick. It seems likely that Griffin slides into the starting lineup and Rivers would team up with Crawford to provide a little more scoring punch off the bench.
Regardless of the lineups, the 16-year vet will certainly be counted on to steady the waters and keep the Clippers in the playoff hunt.
Elfrid Payton's Shooting Percentage Has Skyrocketed Over the Last 2 Weeks
Through two NBA seasons, Elfrid Payton was averaging under 10.0 points per game while shooting a disturbing 42.5% and 43.6% from the floor. This season started off in a similar way, as the Orlando Magic point guard shot 41.7% in October and 44.1% in November.
However, after an early-season benching, Payton has responded in a huge way with a shooting percentage of 50.5% over the last two weeks. That boost has been needed with the injuries to Evan Fournier, and most recently, Jodie Meeks, who provided much of the scoring from the Magic backcourt.
The only real issue that has remained for Payton is his outside touch -- he's still a sub-30% shooting from beyond the arc. Even in a small sample size, new coach Frank Vogel has to be pleased with the progress of this third-year guard.
The Denver Nuggets Have 2 of the Top 5 Highest Scoring 5-Man Units Over the Past 8 Games
The start of the Denver Nuggets' season certainly did not go as planned for head coach Mike Malone. He tinkered with a lineup by surrounding both of his young big men, Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic, with shooters. It was obvious this wasn't going to be effective just a few games in.
Malone’s next step was to use Nurkic alone and insert veteran Wilson Chandler into the lineup, which yielded a small amount of success, but nothing that could push Denver over the top.
Things finally started to fall in place when Jokic was inserted into the starting lineup with Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Danilo Gallinari and Chandler. In the 27 minutes they have been on the floor over the past few weeks, the team has scored 42 points, putting them with the likes of the Golden State Warriors starting unit.
However, this is not even the best lineup Denver has produced. The quintet of Mudiay, Jameer Nelson, Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Jokic had a monster 63 points in just 20.1 minutes played the last time they were on the floor.
The one concern for this team has been inconsistency. Harris has injury concerns and players such as Faried and Chandler haven't consistently performed at their peak level.
The positive for Malone is Denver has built a deep roster with many capable options, and the young Jokic appears to be on the verge of a monster second half.