5 NBA Stats to Know Through Week 23
With most NBA teams having under 10 games remaining in the regular season, the league has split into two distinct groups; those with playoff dreams and those looking to secure a high draft pick.
The Cleveland Cavaliers certainly have a playoff spot locked up, but their struggling defense has allowed the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards to creep up on their hold of Eastern Conference's 1 seed.
Which NBA stats and trends are worth keeping an eye on with another week of action ahead?
The Cleveland Cavaliers Have a Defensive Rating of 113.1 Over the Last 10 Games
After winning the title last season, the Cavaliers have seemingly coasted this year. They currently sit in first place in the Eastern Conference, but have dropped to just a 7.4% chance to win the title, according to numberFire's power rankings.
Much of this has to do with the team’s putrid defense of late, which has produced a rating of 113.1 over the last 10 games, ahead of only the Los Angeles Lakers for worst in the league. Their defense, along with resting some players, has dropped them to just a 5-5 record over those 10 games and has put them in danger of losing their top seed come playoff time.
The main culprit of the defensive struggle in Cleveland could easily be pinned on Kyrie Irving, who has produced a terrible -1.99 defensive real plus minus. His poor defense has allowed several opposing point guards to dominate the Cavs. That includes John Wall, who had a monster 37-point and 11-assist performance against them on Saturday night.
Even if Cleveland does end up holding onto their current spot in the standings, they should be concerned about a defense that will have to face offensive studs like Wall, Isaiah Thomas and Kyle Lowry in the postseason.
Hassan Whiteside and Andre Drummond Have Defensive Rebound Rates Over 35%
Both Hassan Whiteside and Andre Drummond are known league-wide as dominant rebounders. They are the top two players with regard to rebounds per game (14.2 for Whiteside, 14.0 for Drummond), but their rebound rate on the defensive end is what's really impressive.
Whiteside currently sits with a 35.4% rate while Drummond boasts an even higher mark at 36.7%. Prior to this season, only four players had ever achieved this mark: Dennis Rodman, Kevin Love, Reggie Evans and Marcus Camby.
Jusuf Nurkic's 113.2 Offensive Rating Is Tops on the Blazers
Plumlee has always been known as a solid passer, as his 3.8 assists per game this season would suggest. However, in the 17 games since his arrival, Nurkic has pushed the offense to a new level and even leads the team with an offensive rating of 113.2.
Over the last 15 games, Nurkic has put up a solid 3.4 assists per game while shooting a respectable 49.7%. He's done a lot of his work via the pick-and-roll with Damian Lillard, which has freed up the Blazers star to bump his true shooting percentage to 63.9% during this span.
With the team going 7-3 over the last 10 games and getting into a tie for the last playoff spot, it is clear that the addition of Nurkic has been a huge success. If he pushes Portland into the playoffs, it would likely be at the expense of his former team, the Denver Nuggets, which would make the feat all that more enjoyable for the big man.
The Lakers, Suns and Knicks Are a Combined 5-25 Over Their Last 10 Games
The Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns are are fighting for a better chance at the top overall pick for this June's NBA Draft, as evidenced by their 5-25 combined record over the last 10 games.
This is especially relevant for the Lakers, who currently have a 55.7% chance to remain in the top three. The Suns are hot on the Lakers' heels, though, with just one more win on the season, but with a putrid 1-9 record over the last 10, they've actually picked up a game on the Lakers.
Meanwhile, in New York, the Knicks currently sit with the league's fourth-worst record and a 9.0% chance to get the top overall pick. That could increase dramatically if the team sneaks under the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic, whom they are currently tied with.
Only One Player Takes Over 5 shots Per Game From 15-19 feet
Today's NBA is dominated by the the three-point shot. This year, every single team has shot at least 1,500 threes, while Houston is on pace to shoot over 3,000.
This has effectively ended the once popular mid-range shot. In the 2001-02 season, there were 13 players who attempted more than five shots between 15 and 19 feet each night, led by Michael Jordan's 9.5.
But fast-forward to this year and DeMar DeRozan is the only player who attempts more than five shots from 15-19 feet. The lack of mid-range game should not be surprising since it's one of the least-efficient shots -- this is evidenced by the fact that none of the top-24 players in this category finds success at a 50% clip.