It’s that special time of the season, once again, where we take a look at the useful information that is NBA.com’s stat-tool: SportVU.
As you’ve seen in previous articles on the subject, SportVU can break down everything from percentages on catch-and-shoot jumpers and pull-ups, to the amount of touches a player gets per game. As a result, we have captured some intriguing stats that have told us who are some of the league’s best and worst drivers, the best passer in the league not named Chris Paul, and a championship-contender that’s chock full of rotation players that are constantly on the move.
We take a look at five of more of these stats in yet another thought-provoking installment of interesting stats from SportVU… in a playoff-run edition.
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LeBron‘s the league’s best driver, Russell Westbrook is one of its worst
Despite recent “struggles”, LeBron James could end the 2013-14 season with the best restricted area field goal percentage in NBA history.
Not even the league’s most prolific post players have been able to match the 80 percent LeBron is shooting at the rim. On 428 attempts, LeBron has been unequivocally automatic near the rim compared to other dominant post scorers and imposing figures in Dwight Howard (73 percent on 426 attempts) and DeAndre Jordan (71 percent on 338 attempts).
Even with a free throw rate that’s well below his career-averages, LeBron has been able to finish around the rim with a proficiency that has never been seen before. On drives alone, he leads the league in field goal percentage at 64 percent. The player closest to matching that percentage is Kevin Durant at 59 percent. However, he’s doing so on a full drive per game less than LeBron. Dwyane Wade is shooting 53 percent on 6.7 drive attempts per game, a shade below LeBron’s average of 6.9.
As for the worst, there are a few names you may not have expected. Among those who attempt at least five drives per game, no player has a worst field goal percentage on drives than Brandon Jennings, whose 34 percent conversion rate on drives is by far the worst. Dion Waiters and Michael Carter-Williams are also shooting below 40 percent, but those can at least be predicted. What you may not have envisioned was Russell Westbrook being the league’s second-worst finisher on drives, shooting less than 35 percent on nearly seven attempts per game.
What could have led to this odd development? Russell’s athleticism may still be seen in flashes–ask Kent Bazemore–but he still may not be able to sustain it for over 40 minutes as he’s become accustomed to doing, prior to the knee injury he suffered in last year’s postseason.
Overall, Westbrook is a 58 percent finisher at the rim on 191 attempts this season. He was a 61 percent finisher last year on 612 attempts, as well as the year before on 489 attempts. Ricky Rubio and Raymond Felton have superior field goal percentages than Russell Westbrook on drives. That’s a sentence I never pictured myself writing.
Damian Lillard also surprises with a 40.3 percent conversion rate, but that number has actually significant increased since the All-Star break.
Is Andre Drummond the league’s best rebounder?
At 25-40, the Detroit Pistons are as disappointing as we thought they would be prior to the start of the season. We knew this would come, despite the team having signed Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith in the offseason.
What it’s led to is a disregard for efficiency. Jennings and Smith take low-percentage jumpers and miss them, while taking time and possessions away from Greg Monroe, whose field goal attempts has dropped from 13.1 in the 2012-13 season to 11.7 this year. His PER is the lowest it’s been in his four-year career.
But there’s still reason to be encouraged if you’re a Pistons fan. Because even though Smith and Jennings have taken this team and swept fundamentals under the rug, Andre Drummond, the team’s starting center, is going to end up becoming a perennial All-Star.
Perhaps if the Pistons were respectable, the 20-year-old Drummond would have made it. With averages of 13.1 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, Drummond is one of 12 players in the league averaging a double-double in points and rebounds. He’s third in the league in rebounds per, but leads by a wide margin in offensive rebounds per.
At 5.3 offensive boards per contest, Drummond is averaging 1.3 more offensive rebounds per than second place, tied between Nikola Pekovic and DeAndre Jordan. It helps when your team is 29th in three-point percentage, missing over 12 attempts on nearly 19 attempts on a game-by-game basis, leading to plenty of offensive rebounding chances for Andre.
He’s also second in the league in the percentage of rebounds he grabs per chance, nabbing 69 percent of the 18.5 rebounding chances he gets per game. Only DeAndre Jordan has a higher percentage at 71.5 percent.
It’s in the contested rebounding percentage, however, where Drummond really shines. With 46.3 percent of his rebounds classified as contested, Andre nearly stands alone. Serge Ibaka comes close at 45.1 percent, but is doing so on only 14.3 chances, while Anthony Davis is at 43.6 percent on 16.1 chances. Robin Lopez actually has 51.3 percent of his rebounds classified as contested, but is only grabbing 54.3 percent of the rebounds he has a chance at.
Drummond may not be the league’s best rebounder, yet, but he’s right up there with the likes of Jordan, Dwight Howard and Kevin Love. His size, strength, athleticism and committment to getting rebounds has him already among the league’s best, even though he can’t even legally buy a drink, yet.
Spurs players are fast (Mills, Green, Parker, Joseph, Belinelli, Leonard all within top 25 in average speed)
We’re nearing the end of the season, meaning that we’re first starting to take notice that the San Antonio Spurs are, once again, arguably the league’s best team and a favorite to make the Finals out West.
With the sixth most efficient offense and the fifth most efficient defense, the Spurs are only one of two teams in the NBA to be ranked in the top six in offensive and defensive efficiency. They’ve done this with the same approach they’ve taken in the past few seasons where they give significant rest to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
Even Tony Parker has been succeptible to sitting out. He’s played in 55 of San Antonio’s 64 games this year, yet the team currently stands an NBA-best 50-16. The ten-game winning streak they’ve been riding has vaulted them to the top of the West, but it still says something that even with Parker, Duncan, Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard missing extended team, they’re still the best team in an extremely competitive conference.
How have they done it? You can go on for days spieling about veteran leadership and elite shooters, but in this instance we’re going to look at the player movement that has San Antonio at a level no other team can compete with.
Among the top 25 players in average speed, only counting players that have played in at least 40 games, the San Antonio Spurs have three players within the top five, four in the top 15, and six in the top 30.
Patty Mills, Tony Parker’s backup, leads the league in average speed at 4.7 miles per hour. Cory Joseph, another backup guard, is second at 4.6, while Danny Green is tied with Joseph for second. Parker is only a few spots behind at 4.5. Leonard and Matt Bonner (!) are averaging 4.4 miles per hour when they’re on the floor. While the Spurs have three players within the top five in average speed, there’s only one other team in the NBA (the Chicago Bulls) that has two players (Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy) in the top ten.
Consider it a testament to how any member of the Spurs rotation is willing to commit to Gregg Popovich‘s system of sustained success. A team that has players constantly moving is generally going to win a lot of games based on effort alone. The Bulls, for example, have seen success, despite not having Derrick Rose and trading Luol Deng, because it’s effort-based. The same goes for the Spurs, only they can boast the talent, defenders and shooters that can will a team to a title run year-after-year.
Only Chris Paul creates more points off assists than Kendall Marshall
As we all expected, Chris Paul generates more offense than any other player in this league in terms of passing. At only 35 minutes per game and in only 47 games, Paul is unequivocally creating more points off assists than any other player in the league, generating a staggering 25 points per game off his passing ability alone. However, it’s who’s second that really surprises fans of the game. It’s not the athletic slasher John Wall, nor is it the creative passing of Ricky Rubio. Not even Ty Lawson being on his own island and being able to do as he pleases with the Denver offense is second.
No, that honor belongs to Kendall Marshall, a point guard who started out the season getting waived by the Washington Wizards and then spent time in the D-League. Marshall, who has averaged 9.4 assists per game, 11.3 per 36 minutes, has been the most effective passer in the league not named Chris Paul.
In 38 games, 29 of which he started, Marshall has created 21.6 points off of his assists. That’s quite a feat for a floor general who is trotting out with the likes of Jodie Meeks and Wesley Johnson as consistent starters. Not even Rajon Rondo, who is in a bad situation of his own, is creating more points off his assists.
It certainly helps Marshall’s case that he’s on the league’s third-best three-point shooting team, despite the team ranking 22nd in offensive efficiency, but it’s even more of a help that he can see over the defense at 6-4.
He can thrive in any situation. As you’ll see in the video of Marshall recording 15 assists against the Utah Jazz, Marshall is as effective running pick-and-rolls with Pau Gasol as he is pushing the ball in the open court. His ability to get into the lane has made him one of the league’s tougher point guards to stop once he’s able to penetrate the initial line of defense.
Perhaps the most impressive part of those highlights, however, is Marshall’s vision. It’s impressive to see him find his bigs in the paint, but it’s incredible watching him whip a cross-court pass without giving the ball up.
As abysmal as this Laker season has been, Marshall has been one of the few bright spots, and it’ll be interesting to see what he’s learned under Steve Nash, as well as if he’ll be able to complement Kobe Bryant upon his return.
Roy Hibbert is no longer the league’s top defensive rim deterrent
Times are tough for the East’s best. However, while the Miami Heat wallow with inconsistency and questions based on their effort, the Indiana Pacers look like a team that’s going through the types of problems you address in December or January. Instead, it’s March and the Pacers are holding players-only meetings, getting blown out by at least 20 points in consecutive games, and barely skating by the likes of Boston, Milwaukee and Utah.
One of the reasons for Indiana’s recent tumultuous play has been their defense. After having a historically relevant defense for nearly the entire season, the Pacer defense has dropped considerably. Although they still rank No. 1 in the league in defensive efficiency, they’re also surrendering more points than you’re accustomed to.
They recently went through a three-game stretch where they gave up at least 100 points, making it only the second time it’s occurred all year. While they surrendered triple digits to the likes of Houston and Dallas, both with top ten offenses, they also gave up 109 to a Charlotte team that ranks 25th in offensive efficiency.
Indiana hasn’t defeated a team with a winning record since a February 7 win over Portland. If you include a loss to a Wolves team that’s been flirting with .500, then the Pacers are 0-5 against above-average teams since beating the Trail Blazers over a month ago. It’s not exactly the rhythm you want to get into with a month left until the playoffs begin.
While everyone is to blame, Roy Hibbert, who may still walk away with Defensive Player of the Year honors, has seen his impact on the defensive end decline. Compared to earlier this season when scoring on Indiana was one of the most difficult feats to accomplish, and Hibbert was holding opponents to sub-40 percent shooting at the rim.
Now that we’re nearing the playoffs, Hibbert is allowing 41.2 percent shooting at the rim, which is still incredibly impressive. However, it’s not uncomparable as it was early in the year. Now he has Robin Lopez and his 42.2 percent, as well as Serge Ibaka’s 44.5 percent, breathing down his neck.
Also, he’s not the league-leader in shooting percentage allowed at the rim. Although it’s a far smaller sample size, Bismack Biyombo has actually assumed the outright lead, holding opponents to 40.5 percent shooting at the rim. However, he’s facing 4.6 attempts at the rim, while Hibbert is taking on 10.2.
He’s also struggling on the scoring and rebounding front, as well. In the past six games, Hibbert has as many games scoring less than seven points than he does scoring better than ten. He has one game scoring over 20 points in the past month and has one double-digit rebounding output since February 12th.
That 20-point, 10-rebound game came on the same day, against arguably the league’s worst team in Milwaukee. Since then, he’s put together a two-point effort against Utah, a four-point effort against Charlotte, and a six-point effort against Boston where he was outscored by his backup, Andrew Bynum.
What do you think?
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