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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Examining the Lakers Without Anthony Davis

The Los Angeles Lakers found themselves without the services of their second and, arguably, third-best players in Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder during a stretch in which they lost four in a row and five out of six games to drop from 21-6 and nipping at the heels of the red-hot Utah Jazz (who are an astonishing 27-7 and look every bit like a Finals team) to 22-11 and at risk of falling below the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers to drop all the way into fourth place and a second-round matchup with that Jazz team. The moral of …

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The NBA Eastern Conference Was Bad in 2020. It’s Getting Worse in 2021.

Almost exactly one year ago (on February 24, 2020), this site took a look at the Eastern Conference and noted that the last time a 7 seed had a losing record before it happened again with the 35-37 Brooklyn Nets was when the Boston Celtics went 40-42 in 2015. The Orlando Magic finished 33-40, which prorated to 82 games is a 37-45 record, itself the worst record by a playoff team since the Indiana Pacers won 37 games in 2011 and grabbed the 8 seed. Even worse, the ninth-best winning percentage in the East in 2020 was the 23-42 (.354) …

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In Search of the “League Average” NBA Player (Part 3: VORP)

In the previous two iterations of this series, we took a look at PER and WS/48 in an effort to determine what constitutes a “league average” NBA player—that is, a guy who is basically a 41-41 team over 82 games (man, remember 82-game seasons? Such nostalgia) distilled into one player across one season. Today, we take a few steps back and consider not just the VORP per 82 games of the guys we’ve considered so far, a cross-section of players from the 2019 and 2020 seasons who had league-average PER (between 14.8 and 15.2) or WS/48 (between .095 and .105) …

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In Search of the “League Average” NBA Player (Part 2: WS/48)

Last week, we looked at PER to try and figure out just what constitutes a “league average” NBA player. Since that stat is normalized to 15 every season, it gave us a cross-section of players across positions and even perceived talent levels (any time you have Brook Lopez, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier on the same list, that’s a wide swath to cut.) But Tatum especially is nothing even resembling “league average”. He’s become the breakout star on a Celtics team that has made three of the last four Eastern Conference finals. Hardly “league average”. So let’s try a stat …

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In Search of the “League Average” NBA Player (Part 1: PER)

One of the core conceits of advanced stats is that they tend to be normalized to some kind of league average. Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is built so that league average, every year, is exactly 15. In theory, the average for Win Shares per 48 minutes should be .100, since a team that has 0.1 WS per position per game will get half a win—half a win plus half a loss equals a 41-41 record over 82 games. Value Over Replacement Player is a different animal; a “replacement player” isn’t the same thing as a league-average player. It’s meant to …

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