15 Interesting Stats From the First Week of NBA Action
We're officially one week into the NBA season, which is exactly around the time when everyone starts to overreact to a sample size which is still pretty darn small.
The Cleveland Cavaliers lost at home to the New York Knicks? There will be no banner in Cleveland this year!
The Sacramento Kings are 3-1? Maybe they're this year's Phoenix Suns!
The Miami Heat are 3-0? LeBron who?
The Lakers are 0-4?
...ok, they're actually bad. More on that in a minute.
Regardless of whether or not any of these statistics stick or if they all inevitably regress to some kind of mean, for now they're just really interesting to look at. Here are some of the numbers that stand out the most from the first week of NBA action that was.
That's very unlikely to hold, but it would be the highest rate we've ever registered in 15 years of data, beating LeBron's 2008-09 of 30.1 and Kevin Durant's MVP-winning 27.0 from 2013-14. That's what averaging 27.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.8 assists can do for you, if you also shoot 94.4% from the line on 13.5 attempts per game. Harden's offensive rating is a ridiculous 129 so far, but the 97 defensive rating might be even more shocking, considering his reputation for being the laxest of defenders.
The team nERD of the Houston Rockets through those four games.
They sit atop of our NBA Team Power Rankings after a 4-0 start that has placed them fifth in offensive efficiency (112.4) and fourth in defensive efficiency (97.9). A case could be made for Harden as one of the best offensive players in the NBA, while Dwight Howard is clearly one of the best from a defensive perspective. Combine those two with a slew of excellent role players, and you might have a team that too many people are sleeping on as a championship contender (they currently hold our 4th-best championship odds at 11.1%).
That said, it's probably worth mentioning that their first four games were against the Lakers, Jazz, Celtics, and Sixers (all bottom-eight teams in our Power Rankings). We'll see how they handle their first real challenge against the Miami Heat this evening.
The net rating (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency) of the Golden State Warriors through three games.
The Dubs currently lead the league in defensive efficiency at 89.9 points allowed per 100 possessions. Combine that with a serviceable 105.1 offensive rating, and you've got a net rating that is almost double the Spurs' league-leading 8.1 from last year. Again, small sample size but impressive nonetheless. Steve Kerr clearly has this team meaning business on the defensive end so far this season, and that should be an interesting storyline going forward. There were only 6 games last season when an opponent was able to hold the Portland Trail Blazers to 90 or fewer points, and the Warriors were the first to do it this year.
The pace of the Golden State Warriors in possessions per 48 minutes through three games.
The Warriors are not only the best defensive team so far - they're also the fastest. They currently lead the NBA in fast-break points per game as well with 23.0 per contest. To say this team will be fun to watch this season might already be in the lead for understatement of the year.
Klay Thompson's league-leading scoring average.
Sorry, this will be the last part where I drool over the Warriors' start to the season, but Klay has looked every bit worth that new contract so far. He scored 19, 41, and 29 in his first three games this year, while shooting 53.7% from the floor, 45.5% from long range, and 91.3% from the charity stripe (for a true shooting percentage of 69.4%). He's also got the third-best nERD in the league at 25.4. There's a regression coming, but he's definitely making a statement straight out of the gates to all those who thought the Warriors were nuts for keeping him instead of trading for Kevin Love this summer.
The average margin of defeat for the Los Angeles Lakers through four games.
We knew the Lakers would be bad this season, but not this bad. Granted, starting the schedule with games against the Rockets, Suns, Clippers, and Warriors (all teams in the top five of our Power Rankings so far) is a tough draw, but the Lakers look listless out there. They currently have the worst nERD (17.4) and net rating (-19.6) in the NBA, and both of those marks are worse than the Sixers from both this season and last. Yeesh.
Kobe Bryant's usage rate through four games.
The Lakers might stink, but at least Kobe's getting his, right? Well, the 24.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per contest sure do look nice, but the 41.2% shooting from the field on 21.3 attempts, the 25.0% success rate from long range, and the 3.3 turnovers per contest certainly do not. That abomination of efficiency has resulted in a nERD of -15.5, the 7th-worst of every player who has played a minute of NBA action this season. To make matters worse, the Lakers have a -31.0 net rating when Kobe’s on the floor and +4.2 when he’s off. That's...something.
The Dallas Mavericks' league-leading effective field goal percentage.
They also lead the Association in true shooting percentage at 60.5% and offensive rating at 120.0. Defensive stops might be hard to come by for the new-look Mavs this season (28th-ranked defensive rating of 112.7), but they should be able to run plenty of teams out of the gym by outscoring them.
Brandan Wright's field goal percentage after four games.
Wright has always been a killer of advanced analytics, and he's up to his old tricks again. It may only be the result of making 16 of 18 shot attempts, but that's still enough to qualify him as the league leader in field goal percentage and true shooting percentage (90.1%!) in the early going. He's also got a player efficiency rating of 33.4, an offensive rating of 189, and a nERD of 19.7 (the 8th-best in the league). Now that's what we call efficient.
Average free throw attempts per game for the Toronto Raptors through three contests.
The Raptors were one free throw attempt off tying their franchise record on Saturday, tossing 48 freebies against the Orlando Magic. They only reached the 40 mark once all last season and are now averaging exactly that per game, with both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry taking over 10 each per contest. That's a pace they're not likely to maintain, but the added aggressiveness in getting to the line bodes well for a team that has posted the league's fourth-best offensive rating (113.3) through the first week of action.
Chris Paul's assist-to-turnover ratio.
After four games, CP3 has dished out 40 assists and only turned the ball over three times. That 13.3 ratio blows his career-best 4.57 clean out of the water and would also qualify as the best since John Paxson's 5.48 from the 1991-92 season for the Chicago Bulls. There's no way it manages to stay that high, but it's impressive all the same. The Clippers and Paul look locked in as bona fide contenders this year, coming in as our third best team in terms of championship chances at 11.8%.
Anthony Davis' second-chance points per game on 6.0 offensive rebounds.
Trevor Ariza's effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot jumpers through four games.
Yikes. Ariza seems to be settling in nicely in his new/old home in Houston, hitting J's at this ridiculous rate on 6.3 catch-and-shoot field goal attempts per game. Those are all three-point attempts too, in case you're wondering. That's what happens when you get to hang out in the corner during James Harden drives and Dwight Howard post-ups. Chandler who?
Joe Johnson's effective field goal percentage on 6.0 pull-up jumpers per game.
If Ariza is the early king of catch-and-shoot J's, "Iso-Joe" has turned back the clock to be the prince of pull-ups. He may have received some flack for being chosen as an All-Star over guys like Kyle Lowry, Lance Stephenson, and Al Jefferson last year, but the early returns on his 2014-15 suggest he may vie for a spot again. Through 3 games, he's averaging 22.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists, while shooting 50.0% from the field and 46.7% from long range. Regression is all but certain, but the flashes of his mid-aught Atlanta days have been fun to watch.
If you're looking for a reason why the Grizzlies are off to a hot 4-0 start to 2014-15, this stat might be the culprit. Gasol is allowing only 39.6% on a robust 12.0 shots faced per game, while Z-Bo has allowed a paltry 18.2% on 5.5. The Grizzlies are only allowing 41.6% as a team overall, trailing only the Pacers (34.8%) and Bulls (41.2%). Sick.