5 NBA Stats to Know Through Week 3
Believe it or not, we’re through three weeks of the NBA season.
We are really seeing some surprising developments in the league at this point.
The Houston Rockets look average as of right now with a 4-6 record. They rank a dismal 25th in our power rankings, which we discuss a little bit more below. We also continue to see that nothing is easy right now for the New Orleans Pelicans, who -- despite getting their first win last week -- are still just 1-9, and the Memphis Grizzlies look a little punchy at just 5-6 right now and are 29th in our power rankings (also known as next to last).
Individually, there were not really any crazy performances last week, but we’ve seen LeBron James continue his march on history to start the season. James is basically matching his career numbers with 27 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game and 6.4 assists per game, and he is the only NBA player to ever average over 27 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists per game to this point in his career.
Still, here are five things to know about the past week in NBA action.
1. Golden State Warriors are looking historically good at 11-0 to start the season
The best NBA record at the start of a season is held by the Rockets' 1993-94 team when they started 15-0. Right now, it seems like the Warriors have a great shot to eclipse that record. They are maintaining a points per game differential of plus-16.3, which is approximately 6 more than the next NBA team.
The Warriors' team nERD is 98.1, which is intended to be predictive of the team’s ultimate winning percentage, based on efficiency. We, of course, can’t seriously think that their overall winning percentage is going to end up being that high.
Plus, the Warriors have a tough week coming up with the Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls all on the schedule. Yet, even if they don't match the Rockets' record, we could start to imagine the Warriors giving the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record of 72-10 a challenge.
2. The San Antonio Spurs have the third best record in the NBA at 7-2
The San Antonio Spurs have hit the ground running this season and look very much like an NBA title contender. Yet, it doesn’t feel as if we are appreciating how well they're actually playing. This may be because of the Warriors, as discussed above, who appear to be from another planet at this point in the season. However, the Spurs are second in the league in points per game differential (plus-10.5), leading the league in field goal percentage (48.5%), leading the league in Total Rebound Percentage (54.2%), and are third in Effective Field Goal Percentage (52.2%).
In terms of nERD, the Spurs are a fantastic team as they are ranked third and projected to win 50 games. The Spurs display tremendous team depth each night with 11 players averaging double-figure minutes per game and five players averaging double-figure points. They seem like a sleeping giant (even though they are so good) with a chance to just get better as they continue to acclimate to their new key addition: LaMarcus Aldridge.
3. Joe Johnson is shooting 32.5% from the field
Joe Johnson is 34 years old and in his 15th season in the NBA. He is a seven-time NBA All-Star with a career shooting percentage of 44.2% from the field including 37% from three-point range. This year, from a shooting perspective, it appears that the wheels have fallen off with Johnson. He’s shooting 32.5% from the field and 19.4% from three-point range. The overall result is Johnson averaging 10.8 points per game, which is way below his career average of 17.2 and wholly unacceptable for the player that's probably the second best offensive option on the Brooklyn Nets behind Brook Lopez.
The potential light at the end of the tunnel is that Johnson shot 43.5% from the field last year and, because he’s still shooting a high percentage from the free throw line (over 88%), maybe there’s an opportunity for him to bring his field goal percentage back up by the end of this season. You might consider Johnson a fantasy buy-low candidate if you think his shooting percentage will come around because he's second on the Nets in assists per game and contributing almost five rebounds per game.
4. Jae Crowder is leading the NBA in steals per game at 3.1
Jae Crowder is not someone that you necessarily think of as a key cog for the Boston Celtics, yet he is averaging 30.7 minutes per game, is the only player to start all nine of the Celtics games, and is contributing across multiple categories with 10.2 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game and 1.8 assists per game. He also has a nERD ranking of 2.2. Individual nERD scores represent the total contribution a player makes throughout the season based on efficiency and estimates how many games above or below .500 a leage average team would win with that player -- Crowder -- as a starter.
Crowder’s average minutes are way up versus his career average of 18 minutes per game, but this probably should have been expected because he signed a five-year, $35 million contract in the offseason with the Celtics. They clearly value his play. Crowder is also someone that you might be able to pick up for your fantasy basketball team as he’s still only 65% owned in Yahoo fantasy basketball leagues.
5. The Houston Rockets are 4-6 and would miss the playoffs if they started today.
The Houston Rockets look like a bad team right now. They are 4-6 and are tied for 10th place in the Western Conference. They have the fifth worst points per game differential (minus-6.9) in the NBA and don’t look like the team that won 56 games last year while finishing first in the Southwest Division. This year they are 29th in Defensive Efficiency, and their overall team team power ranking is 25th with a nERD of 29.7.
There is some reason for hope as the Rockets are still dealing with injuries to players such as Donatas Motiejunas, and Terrence Jones only recently returned from injury. Plus, they are acclimating to a new point guard in Ty Lawson, and James Harden just doesn’t seem completely right yet as he's shooting 37.1% from the field (well below his career average of 44.1%). The biggest improvement, however, will have to come on the defensive end if they’re going to start winning consistently. The Rockets missing the playoffs would be a huge story, but Rockets fans can take comfort that we still calculate their chances of making the playoffs at 75.6%, the 11th-best odds in the NBA and the 6th-best in the Western Conference.