Russell Westbrook Keeps Breaking Advanced Stats

Remember 2017? When Russell Westbrook snookered everyone into thinking he was historically great by averaging a triple-double over the course of a season for the first time since Oscar Robertson did it 55 years before? And remember when those of us in the media lost our minds and gave him the MVP award? Well, he’s spent the past four years making us all look like idiots, and in 2021, he is once again averaging a triple-double—this will be the fourth time in his career he’s managed the feat if he keeps it up—and making the kind of people who still …

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The Most Underachieving Teams in NBA History

In our last piece, we took a look at the most overachieving teams in NBA history—that is, the teams whose regular-season records most exceeded the record you’d expect them to post given their point differential. But what about the flip side of that? What about teams that did great on the aggregate scoreboard but lost far more games than the stats say they should have? We’re going to look at that today. Some of these teams missed the playoffs when they should’ve gotten in. Others had a lower seed and a tougher road. And still others got a better draft …

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The Most Overachieving Teams in NBA History

In every team sport where points (or goals) are counted to determine a winner, there is a strong correlation between point differential and won-lost record. Indeed, two major sports—baseball and basketball—have developed mathematical formulas to predict with startling accuracy the overall record of a team in any given year. And indeed, when that ledger gets too far out of balance, it is often a sign that a team is about to sharply regress toward its expected record, all other things being equal (that is, they didn’t punt on the season at the trade deadline after a below-expectation start, for example.) …

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The Portland Trail Blazers: 2021’s Best Bad NBA Team

The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 133-85 on April 3, running their record to 30-19, sixth in the stacked Western Conference. They also ran their season Net Rating above the zero point, a place they’ve found themselves only rarely during the season. The previous two remarks, on paper, would seem to contradict each other. After all, one of the most powerful predictive factors in a team’s season record is their point differential, whether it’s per game or per 100 possessions—since the Blazers play at a 98.3 pace, those two numbers are close enough to tell the same …

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Want to Win NBA Games? Make Your Shots. It’s That Simple.

A couple of weeks back, we took a look at the defensive factors that lead to the greatest difference between good NBA teams and bad NBA teams. To the surprise of perhaps nobody, holding the other team’s eFG% down was the single greatest predictor of whether a team was going to be any good. But the team that at the time—before the Utah Jazz went on a six-game run in which all of their opponents ended up looking like YMCA chuckers and in the process seized a sizeable advantage in the stat—led the league in opponent’s eFG% had a losing …

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The Utah Jazz’s Net Rating Is On Crazy Pills Again

It is a maxim of this site that “great teams win big and lose close.” It is also a maxim in sports more generally that teams that handle their business against good teams in the regular season are the teams who are the actual favorites to win the title come playoff time. But sometimes, you get a stretch of games where one team so completely beats the ever-loving snot out of other teams everyone thinks are contenders that you start to think to yourself “wait, are we witnessing historical greatness here?” The Utah Jazz’s current six-game winning streak is shading …

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Which Defensive Stats Matter Most in the NBA in 2021?

The Milwaukee Bucks have built a 27-14 record on three defensive pillars. One, don’t let the other team get good looks. The Bucks are ninth in opponents’ eFG% despite being 20th in opponents’ 3PT%. They’re forcing opponents into bad two-point shots and stand fourth in that metric. Even though teams shoot well and often from three, it’s offset by their inability to get to the rim and get an easy two. Two, limit the other team to one shot. Milwaukee is tied with the Orlando Magic for the best defensive rebounding percentage in the league. And three, defend without fouling; …

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Donovan Mitchell’s 2-Point Problem

It is unusual for a guard who shoots over 38 percent from 3-point range to end up with an eFG% barely over the .500 mark, since by virtue of guards both shooting lots of threes and a 38 percent mark being itself good for a .570 eFG% by itself, you have to be a special kind of atrocious on 2-point shots to drag your eFG% down 70 points with barely over half of your overall shooting. Donovan Mitchell, who shoots 38.4 percent on a robust 3PAR of .432 but has just a .501 eFG% thanks to shooting 44.4 percent on …

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The 2021 Brooklyn Nets: Overrated or Underrated?

The Brooklyn Nets were supposed to self-destruct. With Kevin Durant‘s questionable health following a ruptured Achilles, an injury that has effectively claimed the career of all players 30 and older to suffer it before him, the Nets were supposed to have a reliability problem that would drag them down the way Durant missing all of the 2020 season dragged them down in the bubble. With Kyrie Irving and James Harden two of the biggest head cases in the league, they were supposed to be at each other’s throats in as much time as it took coach Steve Nash to try …

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The 2021 Minnesota Timberwolves: A Living Worst-Case Scenario

Remember the lead-up to the 2020 NBA draft, when people were openly questioning whether Anthony Edwards had the makeup mentally to be a contributor to a pro team and whether he cared enough about the game to be any good? Or remember the many, many times stat nerds with media mouthpieces pointed out that Ricky Rubio is one of the worst-shooting point guards of the past 40 years? Or maybe the chorus of voices who looked at his time with Andrew Wiggins as his best teammate as a sign that the career of Karl-Anthony Towns was going nowhere fast? Or …

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