NBA Statistical Test: Can Team Basketball Be Measured?

There are two prevailing schools of thought among NBA commentators in today’s game. One holds that “you can’t win without a superstar”, pointing at guys like LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant as guys who put (admittedly very good) supporting casts on their shoulders and lifted them to championships. The other holds that “team basketball” is king and points to teams like the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs with a side order of teams like the 2004 Pistons and 2008 Celtics, less star-driven by one guy and more driven by a top-to-bottom team concept that wins with …

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How Good NBA Teams Lose And Bad Teams Win

There are, at present, three NBA teams that are indisputably good in the sense that they win at least 75 percent of the time, the bar a team needs to clear to go 62-20 or better; the Boston Celtics (18-3), Houston Rockets (15-4), and Golden State Warriors (15-5). There are also three teams in the Association that are so utterly putrid that they are on pace to win 20 games or fewer over an 82-game season; the 3-14 Chicago Bulls, 4-16 Atlanta Hawks, and 5-15 Dallas Mavericks. But if the best teams always won and the worst teams always lost, …

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Russell Westbrook vs. Magic Johnson: Who Was Better At Age 26?

Magic Johnson is the all-time leader in assists per game, having notched 11.2 per contest over a total of 13 seasons (counting an abortive comeback attempt in 1996.) He flirted with averaging a triple-double in the 1981-82 season, averaging 18.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 9.5 assists a game that year. Indeed, the popularization of the triple-double as a stat worth reporting in the basketball news was thanks largely to the need reporters had to find a way to properly glorify Magic’s versatility. Russell Westbrook will probably not be the all-time leader in anything by the time he retires except possibly …

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Triple 20: Examining The Impact of the NBA’s Big Three Concept

Ever since Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce joined forces ten years ago to win the 2008 title for the Boston Celtics, the maxim in the NBA has become that you need a Big Three (or, in Boston’s case, The Big Three Featuring Rajon Rondo) in order to have a chance of winning a title. While it took awhile for this to truly get off the ground, as the Lakers and Mavericks, who won the next three titles, were very clearly driven by a single superstar/decent cast paradigm with Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki, the idea truly flowered in …

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Is This NBA Player Any Good?: Emmanuel Mudiay

Emmanuel Mudiay has been a bête noire of mine for as long as he’s been in the league. My vicious “he’s a bust” rhetoric in 2015 about Mudiay’s -0.042 WS/48 season as a rookie is the reason Matt Moore of CBS blocked me on Twitter. Speaking of Twitter, everything you’re about to read is written with a big tip of the hat to Nuggets maven Rafael Torres, whose tweet started my brain’s gears moving and decided the subject of this week’s Is He Any Good: Mudiay is playing great so far this season and he’s continued it tonight. — Rafael …

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Why Assists Are A Useless NBA Stat

In a year where Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double while being only third in the league (behind James Harden and John Wall) in assists, yet at the same time putting up the highest assist percentage (as in percent of teammates’ baskets assisted while he’s on the floor) by a player not named John Stockton in NBA history, and while all three guys I just mentioned are on playoff teams, we need to ask and answer one simple question. Is ball movement really all it’s cracked up to be? As in, do assisted baskets have greater effect on wins than …

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Total Team Effort: Does Spreading the Scoring Lead to NBA Wins?

A staple of our NBA coverage has been an unofficial team stat called the Total Team Effort, defined as any game in which seven or more players score in double figures. The general assumption is that either the team distributed the ball well with the starters and made good use of the time they had their second unit in, or the game was a blowout and therefore the bench guys just got enough minutes for two of them to top the 10-point threshold. The NBA is also a star-driven league; you often hear stories like “Westbrook scores 50 as the …

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