Cody scoured the archives of Minas Tirith–aka nba.com–to bring us the most scintillating statistical trends from this young season. Will Jokic continue to lead the league in assists? Maybe! Could Ben Simmons continue to lead the league in 3PT FG%? Maybe!
As of this writing, most teams have played 7 games. Obviously, that is plenty of time to draw sweeping generalizations about the state of the league. For example, if the playoffs started right now, the Knicks would be in and the Nets would be out. Clearly, the Knicks are the superior team and we all knew that going into this season anyway. I scoured the deep recesses of information available on nba.com and all of this is up to date as of Wednesday’s games.
I mentioned the standings at the top. The Orlando Magic are second in the East right now. And they’ve won all three of their road games while splitting 2-2 at home. Florida is one of the few places where you can actually have some fans. The conclusion is, of course, that Florida is a terrible hell hole. (I grew up in Florida, but you can still @ me if that means you’re following us on Twitter).
Houston would not be in the playoffs if they started today. Doesn’t it feel like they might want to shake it up? I don’t know what move is there for them, but it feels like something is there. Something big maybe. 😉
Let’s look at some individual statistics.
Zion Williamson is a star. He is also getting blocked at the highest rate in the league. Two things can be true at the same time. He’s getting 2.9 shots punched per game. He’s an attacking player who doesn’t shoot jump shots so that makes some sense. However, he’s not drawing a ton of fouls at just 5.7 per game. To put that in context, Giannis, another non-shooting rim-attacker, averages 0.7 blocks against him and 8.3 fouls drawn/game. So Zion has to figure out how to use his Hulk-ian frame to shield the defender when he takes it to the hoop.
Devin Booker is another star I expected to be performing better. Primarily in the pick and roll. Phoenix is number two in the West and Chris Paul has been a great addition. But on over six possessions per game, Booker is turning the ball over 34% of the time. Brad Beal, in contrast, is turning it over 13% of the time on 9.7 possessions per game. So Booker may be a lights out scorer, but he has some work to do as the pick and roll ball handler. On the other side of the ball in Phoenix, Mikal Bridges is playing quite well while guarding the pick and roll ball handler. He is holding them to an effective field goal percentage of 37.5%. That’s top in the league (eFG% takes into account the fact that threes are worth more than twos when calculating the field goal percentage).
Now I would like to introduce you to the fastest man in the NBA:
That is T.J. “McClutchell” McConnell. He has an average speed of 4.73 mph in the 16.7 minutes/game that he plays. He is the league leader for players playing at least 15 minutes. So he doesn’t play a ton, but when he’s in there, he’s running hard. If we up that to over 25 minutes a game—which is more like what a true starter would play—Tyler Herro of Miami and Zach LaVine of Chicago lead the way.
That was speed, yet what about distance? RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks is running 3.04 miles/game. That is a lot of miles. At that rate, If Barrett wanted to run to a better team, it would take him the equivalent of 31.8 games to run from Madison Square Garden to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. His average is .25 miles more than the next highest player (Darius Garland).
Speaking of a quarter mile, this next section is what I like to call the Fast and Furious Driving Team. I’m sure that the multi-billion dollar movie franchise will be taking note of this and sponsoring us very soon.
Fast and Furious Driving Team
Most Points: Luka Doncic – 14.7. He’s averaging that many points on 22.8 drives/game. You might be surprised to find out that that is also the most drives/game by a margin of 3. Basically, Luka Doncic is the Dom Toretto of this category.
Most Assists: It’s a Han and Giselle tie between Fred VanVleet and Donovan Mitchell with 2.3. VanVleet is doing it on 12 drives/game and Mitchell, 14. So I would give the nod to VanVleet. Also, VanVleet is so much fun to say. VanVleet. VannnnnVvvleeet.
Highest Field Goal Percentage: Joe Ingles – 73.3%. But Kyrie Irving is hitting 61.7% on way more drives than the Australian Assassin. So I think Irving gets the nod here. He’s always had an incredible ability to finish. I’d say it is his third-best skill behind his handle and his ability to alienate his teammates.
Most Turnovers: Devin Booker – 2.7. [See above section about his struggles.]
That has been the Fast and Furious Driving Team.
Nikola Jokic leads the league in the NBA’s PIE rating. That’s the Player Impact Estimate. His is 20, which narrowly edges out Luka Doncic’s 19.9. Before you ask, no, I don’t know what that statistic measures. Yes, I did google it, but it’s more fun to just not know. I do agree with it, whatever it is, since Jokic is absolutely crushing it. He is leading the league in assists! As a center! If that were to continue, it would be the first time since all the way back to… well, last year that a non-guard won the assist title. The caveat being that it was LeBron James who won last year and his position is nebulous. Before that, it was Wilt Chamberlain in 1968. Basically, Jokic is balling.
After all the hemming and hawing over Ben Simmons jumpshot throughout his young career, we can finally put it to rest. Simmons is leading the league in three-point shooting percentage for all players that have played over 100 minutes this season. He is shooting 100%.* If that continues, it would be one of the highest rates of all-time. Maybe the highest.
If we tweak the numbers and account for only players who have taken at least 45 attempts, Joe Harris leads the league at 51.1%.
Sticking with three-pointers for a moment, let’s look at unassisted three-point percentage. This number tells you what percentage of made threes a player has that does not come off of a pass from someone else. In essence, an unassisted shot is one that you create for yourself off the dribble. Luka is the leader in this category once we adjust for games played. 87.5 of Luka’s three-pointers are unassisted. Have I mentioned that he is the engine that makes that Dallas Mavericks team go? He leads the league in usage percentage too. Usage percentage is another stat that calculates blah blah blah. Luka is awesome.
Thus ends the statistics that caught my eye as I wandered the caverns of data. I will check in from time to time this season to see how these numbers progress. As always, thanks for the support, and have a great day.
*Ben Simmons is 1/1 from three-point land.