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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Time to Freak Out, Lakers Fans

When the Los Angeles Lakers lost Anthony Davis to an injury earlier this season, there was no cause to panic. They could bring him back fairly slowly, saving his health for the playoffs, because as long as they had LeBron James and a healthy Dennis Schroder, there was enough firepower to tread water in a crowded Western Conference. But now, with LeBron out for the next 3-5 weeks with an ankle injury and questions swirling about the 36-year-old’s durability in his 18th year in the league? Questions largely complicated by the fact of LeBron’s odometer showing 1,566 regular-season and playoff …

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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 Greatest Dynasties in NBA History

In celebration of their new sponsorship deal with the NBA, Mondelez International, makers of delicious junk food, decided to launch a line of Oreo cookies celebrating the NBA’s great dynasties. Featured on the cookies will be the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics, the Chicago Bulls, the Golden State Warriors, and…the Miami Heat. Excuse me, what? A Miami team that won just two titles in four years while being broadly regarded as responsible for the only two of LeBron James‘ six Finals losses that could be legitimately said to tarnish the legacy of a guy who otherwise has a claim …

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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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Can the Miami Heat Void Meyers Leonard’s Contract?

Meyers Leonard, the Ivan Drago lookalike center who has been in street clothes due to a shoulder injury and will miss the rest of the season, did the second-dumbest thing an NBA player can do, and now his team is at a decision point. I say “second-dumbest” because “getting caught on a hot mic using an anti-Semitic slur” is only slightly less dumb than the same scenario but using or implying the N-word—see Sterling comma Donald for the fallout of that particular error in judgment. But still, using a word guaranteed to offend not only Miami Heat owner Micky Arison …

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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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