The NBA is Back…but is the Level of Play Back?

After weeks of filling in the gaps in the posting schedule with some NBA history and a lot of waiting around, the “Whole New Game” relaunch of the coronavirus-delayed 2019-20 season started up last Thursday. And looking at the box scores, one of two things happened. Either the league’s offensive explosion never missed a beat…or the defensive level of play dipped to the level of an All-Star Game. There are some interesting theories kicking around the NBA Twitterverse about what’s going on—J.E. Skeets pointed out that referees are calling the games tighter because without the crowd noise to drown out …

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The Greatest Offensive Teams in NBA History

The second most-popular post in the history of this site, according to my analytics, is “The Greatest Defensive Teams in NBA History”, where I took a look at Defensive Rating relative to league average to crown teams like the Jeff Van Gundy-coached Knicks, glory-days Spurs, and the 2008 Celtics as owners of the greatest defensive seasons of all-time. More recently, the subject came up on Twitter about where the championship-winning Warriors in recent years or the Mike D’Antoni-coached Rockets rank among the greatest offensive seasons in NBA history. Sure, those guys keep shattering records year in and year out for …

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Just How Bad Was the 1940s NBA?

We take for granted the high-flying, athletic, 3-pointers-from-the-logo NBA of today, where fast-paced, efficient offenses lead to a game seemingly every night where the teams combine to score 250 points, whether it’s a 126-124 “whoever has it last wins” squeaker or a 149-101 blowout. But nearly 75 years ago, when the fledgling Basketball Association of America launched as a way to fill indoor arenas in between hockey games and before anyone could even imagine an entire nation of people going utterly stir crazy cooped up in the house with no sports to watch on TV, the quality of play was…atrocious? …

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James Harden is a “Thirsty Scorer.” What is a Thirsty Scorer?

On ESPN Thursday morning, Max Kellerman referred to the Rockets’ James Harden as “the thirstiest scorer, but not the best scorer.” The quip set NBA Twitter on fire—Kellerman wasn’t the first to use the term, but he has certainly at least for the moment popularized it—but what it didn’t do was explain just what the heck a thirsty scorer is and what separates one from a great scorer. Fortunately, we can invoke Sheed’s Law around here—ball don’t lie—and devise a stat which we’ll call Thirst Points to separate efficient scoring (there are plenty of stats for that) from pure, selfish, …

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Statistical Test: How Well Does Net Rating Correlate With Wins?

There is a maxim that this site lives by, and most of you who follow me on Twitter (@RealFoxD) know what I’m about to say: “Great teams win big and lose close.” Which, in layman’s terms, ultimately reduces to the fact that the higher a team’s point differential over the course of a season, the more games they win. It makes logical, intuitive, downright obvious sense. But the bigger question at work here is “just how much is, say, an extra point per game worth over the course of an 82-game season?” Since this site’s inception, I’ve used an assumption …

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How Well Do the Indiana Pacers Force Other Teams Into Bad Shots?

On Sunday in this space, I introduced the D’Antoni Index, a stat that combines three hallmarks of efficient basketball—3-pointers, shots near the rim, and free throws—into one handy stat that can be compared team to team and game to game against either a team itself (do they improve during the season?) or against the league (by using league average as the “index” part of the stat’s name.) The worst team in the league for D’Antoni Index is, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, the Indiana Pacers, one reason the #FireNate chants echo across Twitter every time the Pacers lose a …

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The D’Antoni Index: A Simple Statistical Test for NBA Coach Quality

We have spoken before in this space about Scott-Hollins Syndrome, the affliction (named for Byron Scott and Lionel Hollins) whereby a coach can destroy his team’s chances at a championship through nothing more than failing to adopt modern NBA offensive principles. If your team shoots lots of midrange jumpers, never attacks the rim, and shoots about as many threes as NBA teams did before 1979 (I hope to the gods you don’t need this joke explained to you), then it is your duty and obligation as a fan to call your local sports talk radio station, go on Twitter, and …

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Small Sample Sizes Make the Best NBA Statistics

Is there anything better than gross overreaction to a hot start in any sport? Two or three games into a season, when the Law of Averages Police have not yet been called in to restore order, a guy who had a big game or two still has gaudy counting stats, a team that smashed their opening-night opponent has the kind of net rating that you’d expect from a team that wins 250 games in an 82-game season, and fans start dreaming of horrifically unsustainable statistical runs that nonetheless pop off the page. Don’t believe me? Consider the following! If Trae …

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How Not to Build a 60-win NBA Team

A maxim in NBA team-building holds that you can’t win an NBA championship without a superstar, and it’s certainly true that every title team since Magic Johnson and Larry Bird featured at least one Hall of Fame player and usually at least two solid Hall of Famers and a third guy who if he wasn’t a Hall of Famer had a fine argument. There are exceptions—Stephen Curry might end up the only Hall of Famer off the 2015 Warriors depending on what Hall voters think of the career of Andre Iguodala. It’s hard to see Kyrie Irving actually ending up …

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NBA Best And Worst Contracts Part VI: Pacific Division

As we wrap up our look at NBA contracts, a few things—good and bad—about Wiggins Factor as a stat start to come through in the analysis. In one case, it’s a sins-of-the-father argument… This really should say ‘the Wolves HAD one of the worst front offices in the league’. None of those bad contracts were signed by the current regime. — Jake Paynting (@jakepaynting) August 23, 2019 It’s going to take the new front office awhile to take out the trash. And in another case, it’s an example of Stewart’s Maxim: “It’s not funny anymore when it’s your guy.” @RealFoxD …

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