NBA by the Numbers
There are tons of statistics out there, and they can be difficult to wrap your head around at times. Basketball has, at least to some degree, moved beyond the simple statistics of points, assists, and rebounds per game. Now, coaches, general managers, and even fans are taking advantage of metric statistics to get a better idea of what players’ true value is, and what is actually going on down there on the court.
The problem is, what do these stats really mean and how much stock should we put in these numbers as opposed to the “eye test,” or what we see with our own eyes? Well, that’s where we come in. We’ll examine some of the more impressive, lowly, or even surprising numbers every two weeks in an attempt to sort out just what those numbers mean and whether we can expect those trends to continue. So let’s start breaking own the digits. (Note: all stats are accurate through Friday night’s games)
(16.0 points, 3.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 2.2 steals per 36 minutes)
Quick, whose stat line is that (adjusted to be per 36 minutes)? Not too bad for a rookie coming off the bench for his team, is it? That line belongs to none other than Norris Cole, who has surprised people with how well he complements the Big 3 in Miami. Mario Chalmers is the starter, but Cole has been turning heads since he first stepped on the court. Still, he’s a rookie and it can be chalked up to beginners luck and teams not having a scouting report on him yet. However, I don’t think we should be expecting it to change anytime soon, as teams won’t be able to focus on Cole too much as, you know, they have to focus primarily on James, Wade, and Bosh. He’s been playing 24.8 minutes per game (just about 2 more than starter Chalmers) and you can expect him to continue to get lots of minutes.
Dwight Howard: 25.9 Rebound Rate, 17.5 Rebounds per game
Through the first four games, Howard is averaging his least amount of points since his “sophomore” year in the league amid constant trade speculation. That hasn’t stopped him from remaining committed to rebounding the basketball. He is leading the league with 17.5 rebounds per contest, which is very impressive. However, what impresses me most is his rebound rate of 25.9%. For those of you unfamiliar with rebound rate, it’s an estimate of the percentage of available rebounds a player grabs while on the court. So a 25.9 rebound rate means that Howard is coming own with every fourth missed shot, which is absolutely incredible. On the defensive end he comes up with just under 40% of the missed shots. Howard has been a rebound machine since he first entered the league, never averaging single digit rebounds per game, but he’s been fantastic on the boards this year even by his standards. The question remains, can he keep it up? Four games is an awfully small sample size, but Howard has been a rebounding machine for years now and so yes, Howard will continue to rack up the boards, but the rate will most likely go down a little bit, but not a lot.
Atlanta: allowing a mere 83.7 point per game
If the Los Angeles Clippers are Lob City, the Atlanta Hawks are Defense City, right? I mean, they’re allowing a league best 83.7 points per game to their opponents. It’s not only because they’re slowing it down either, as they are also putting up the fourth most points in the league on their end. Their pace is towards the bottom of the league, but it’s not low enough to justify such defensive numbers. The best perimeter defender on the roster, Kirk Hinrich, hasn’t played either, so they will be improved defensively upon his arrival. Unfortunately if you’re a Hawks fan, don’t get your hopes up that they will be this good on D all season. Let’s look at their opponents in their first three games. They played the Nets (minus Brook Lopez, of course), the Washington Wizards, and the Nets again. We’ll find out for sure just how good they are on defense this Monday when they take on division rival the Miami HEAT, who are averaging a conference high 104.8 points per contest and feature two of the toughest matchups in the league. Will Atlanta’s defense be good this season? Probably so, but it won’t be as dominating as it has been over their first three games.
Spurs Minutes Management
If the average fan was asked to supply one adjective with which to describe the Spurs, I’m guessing the most common response would be “old.” With a core build around Tim Duncan (age 35) and Manu Ginobili (age 34) they are viewed as a team that was in need of some fresh legs, especially after being bounced from the playoffs by Memphis last year. It just seems like Ginobili, Duncan and Tony Parker have been together forever, and Richard Jefferson has a lot of miles on him for a 31 year old. So Gregg Popovich, one of the premier coaches in the association and best minutes massagers in the game, has been looking to save the legs of his veterans for the postseason. Being able to keep his stars fresh in a season like this one will take some careful planning, because every game takes on added importance in a shorter season. So in an effort to do that early in the season, he’s really limited his starters’ minutes. Nobody on the team is averaging more than 29 minutes per contest, with Parker and Jefferson coming in at exactly 29 per game. Ginobili lags behind them at 26.3 and Duncan is playing a career low 20.7, which is almost eight fewer minutes per game than his previous career low set last season. Let’s face it, Duncan is getting up there in age, and Ginobili has taken a beating during his career (he didn’t earn the nickname el contusion for no reason) and Popovich has never hesitated to rest his players so this trend of limited minutes for the Spurs players will likely continue throughout the season. I imagine their minutes will go up a little bit, but nothing too drastic because the team knows that it needs Parker, Duncan and Ginobili fresh for the postseason if they’re going to make one last run towards the championship.