5 NBA Stats to Know Through Week 8
Eight weeks have been completed, and the NBA season continues to march along as we work our way through the Christmas season.
The pinnacle, to date, will be this coming Friday, when we get to enjoy a five-game Christmas Day extravaganza.
As for the NBA, we have a Golden State Warrior situation happening in Milwaukee. Head coach Jason Kidd will be sidelined indefinitely after hip surgery, and Joe Prunty will take the reigns to see if he can execute a Luke Walton-like level of success for the team.
Here are five things to know, including the Bucks' early-season struggles, through week eight.
1. The Milwaukee Bucks rank 28th in Defensive Efficiency
The Milwaukee Bucks had a resurgence last season, finishing 41-41 and making the playoffs as the 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. This was also Jason Kidd’s first season at the helm of the Bucks and came on the heels of a disastrous 15-67 season.
This season, however, the Bucks are facing some turmoil. As mentioned above, they just lost their coach for a period of time, and they’ve stumbled out of the gate at 11-18. Last year, at this time, they were 14-15 and playing similar to how they finished. The poor performance so far may be attributable to the improved Eastern Conference. The top eight teams are winning 57% or more of their games. However, the Bucks should have improved this season after signing Greg Monroe to solidify their power forward position and returning the bulk of their team from last year. Monroe has been solid for the Bucks, averaging 15.8 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game while shooting over 52% from the field, but problems have persisted.
The most likely source of the Bucks problems probably lies with their defense. Per our team power rankings, the Bucks are 27th best team out of 30. However, their defense is a little bit worse as they are ranked 28th. That seems like a good starting point for improvement if this team is going to make a move towards the playoffs this season. There is some hope for Bucks fans in that they are the only team that has found a way to beat the Golden State Warriors.
2. The Chicago Bulls rank 27th in Offensive Efficiency
The Chicago Bulls are 15-11 to start the season, which is solid, but in the new and improved Eastern Conference, that mark is only good enough for sixth place. Last year, the Bulls won 50 games. This year they are only on pace to win approximately 46 games.
Unlike the Milwaukee Bucks, the Bulls problems are not on the defensive end of the court. They are still an elite defensive team, tied for second in Defensive Efficiency per our metrics. The problems are on offense, where the Bulls rank 27th in Offensive Efficiency (ahead of only the Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers).
The Bulls do average a relatively respectable amount of points per game, 101.4 (20th in the NBA). The big problem is that the Bulls are one of the worst shooting teams in the NBA, ranking 28th with a field goal percentage of 42.4% (ahead of only the Lakers and 76ers). Last year, they were 20th in the NBA in shooting (44.2%). It will be interesting to see how this offense (as bad as it is) performs during the playoffs where traditionally it only becomes harder to score.
3. Tobias Harris is the second leading scorer on the Orlando Magic at 14.4 points per game
Tobias Harris seems to be a player flying under the radar. He doesn't receive the same recognition as Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier, but he is still the second leading scorer on an Orlando Magic squad holding down the 8 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 16-12 record. In addition, Harris averages 7.3 rebounds per game, 1.9 assists per game and is making 1 three pointer per game. Per Yahoo, he is the 38th-ranked fantasy basketbal asset, based on his statistics so far this season.
In addition, he has a 5.8 nERD. nERD measures the total contribution a player makes during a season based on his efficiency and estimates how many games a league-average team would win with that player as a starter. Harris is just behind his teammate Vucevic (6.1) for the team nERD lead. Harris definitely seems like a solid building block for this young Orlando Magic team, which may be able to push their way into the playoffs this season.
4. The Houston Rockets have gone 10-4 over their last 14 games
You may recall that the Houston Rockets started the season 5-10 and shortly thereafter fired their head coach. The turnaround has been engineered by their new head coach, J.B. Bickerstaff. In addition, the success on the court has put the Rockets squarely back in the playoff conversation. Their overall record is 15-14, and that puts them in a tie for sixth place in the Western Conference.
We can attribute some of this turnaround to James Harden emerging from his early-season shooting woes, and some is attributable to Patrick Beverley taking the point guard position back from Ty Lawson. The Rockets overall, per our team power rankings, are now 20th. However, they have the 12th-most efficient offense and the 22nd-most efficient defense. It will be interesting to see whether they can make further defensive improvements and cling to a playoff spot.
5. Klay Thompson has averaged 5 made three-pointers per game in December
Klay Thompson has averaged 27 points per game -- including 5 three-pointers per game -- over seven games in December. In addition, he’s shooting over 50% from the field including over 47% from three-point range during that span.
On the season, Thompson is fifth in the NBA in three-pointers made and ninth in three-point shooting percentage. In fact, if Stephen Curry wasn’t on his team (number one and number five respectively in those same two categories), we’d probably be talking about Thompson a whole lot more. Thompson also has a 6.8 nERD, which is the 30th best out of all NBA players but only fourth best on his own team. Ultimately, the tremendous talent Thompson displays night after night is folded into the amazing performance of the Golden State Warriors as a team and their record of 26-1.
One final statistic for the week, which is pretty incredible, is that Curry and Thompson have made 211 three point field goals this season, which by itself would rank 23rd among NBA teams.