The End of the Hiatus: NBA Stats Takeaways

In our previous article, we explored how injuries may (or may not) impact the restart of the NBA season. Today, we will take a look at some important offensive and defensive statistics to assess each team’s chances of advancing deep into this season’s unusual finish. This post will highlight teams that got off to fast starts earlier this season—as well as teams that did not—in order to predict those that may have a leg up as the season restarts later this month. It is important for teams to quickly acclimate to their new bubble environment, as each team will only have eight games to improve their playoff position.

Teams that start slowly on the offensive side of the ball typically do not turn things around later in the season. As a result, many of these teams are not in playoff contention toward the end of the season. In the context of this season, these teams are unlikely to have been invited into the Orlando bubble to make a run at the playoffs. However, some quality teams have—in fact—turned around from their rough starts this year.

Teams with the slowest offensive starts this season from October 22nd until December 1st (~20 games). Note ▲ will denote a team that’s invited to the playoffs in Orlando.

First, we look at Points Per Game (PPG).

RankTeamPoints Per Game
30Orlando101.1
29New York101.4
28Sacramento104.2
27Cleveland104.7
26Charlotte105.5
25Chicago106
24Utah106.6
23Denver106.7
22Detroit106.9
21Golden State107.3

How about Offensive Efficiency?

RankTeamOffensive Efficiency
30Atlanta1.004 
29Orlando1.004
28Chicago1.004
27New York1.004
26Memphis1.014
25Golden State1.021
24Cleveland1.023 
23Sacramento1.029
22Utah1.031
21Charlotte1.032

Finally, how about the average score margin?

RankTeamAverage Score Margin
30Atlanta-11.3 
29Golden State-9.1
28Memphis-8.7
27Charlotte-8.6
26New York-7.7 
25Cleveland-7.4
24New Orleans-4.4 
23Chicago-4.2 
22Sacramento-3.3
21San Antonio-2.8

In terms of points per game, these teams include Orlando, Sacramento, Utah, and Denver. Some of these teams, however, are usually known for playing a slow-tempo style of basketball predicated on a half-court offense. This stylistic approach typically forces fewer possessions per game. In terms of offensive efficiency, the invited teams who fared in the bottom 10 for the first 20 games were Utah, Sacramento, Orlando, and Memphis. Utah especially got off to a very slow start in many offensive statistics, possibly due to the new additions of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic. However, by the time play stopped, Utah had improved to sixth in offensive efficiency. Of the 22 teams invited to Orlando, three were in the bottom 10 in average scoring margin for the first 20 games. These three teams are Memphis, Sacramento, and San Antonio. Since then, Memphis and San Antonio have moved out of the bottom 10, while Sacramento remains.

Teams with the slowest defensive starts this season from October 22nd until December 1st (~20 games)

RankTeamOpponent PPG
30Washington121.1
29New Orleans119.5
28Atlanta119.1
27Memphis117.6
26Golden State116.4
25Portland114.7
24Houston114.5
23Minnesota114.4
22San Antonio114.3
21Charlotte114

How about the opponent’s shooting percentage?

RankTeamOpponent FG%
30Charlotte49.1% 
29Washington48.9%
28Cleveland48.2%
27Golden State48.0% 
26New Orleans47.5%
25Atlanta47.4% 
24San Antonio47.2%
23Detroit47.1%
22Sacramento46.9%
21Phoenix46.6%

How about the opponent’s turnovers per game?

RankTeamOpponent Turnovers/Game
30San Antonio49.1%
29Dallas48.9%
28Cleveland48.2%
27Utah48.0%
26Portland47.5%
25Brooklyn47.4%
24Detroit47.2%
23Memphis47.1%
22Orlando46.9%
21Denver46.6%

Surprisingly, many of the teams that were invited to compete in Orlando suffered rough defensive starts. Washington, New Orleans, Memphis, Portland, Houston, and San Antonio all fell in the bottom 10 in opponent points per game at the beginning of the season. Every team but Memphis still remains within the bottom 10. In terms of opponent shooting percentage, Washington, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Sacramento were all among the worst in the league. In the first 20 games of the season, San Antonio, Dallas, Utah, Portland, Brooklyn, Memphis, Orlando, and Denver were all amongst the worst in the league at forcing turnovers.  It may be safe to say that today—in a league that favors offense—less of a defensive effort is required to win games.

Teams with the fastest offensive starts this season from October 22nd until December 1st (~20 games). Note that ■ denotes a team not invited to the playoffs in Orlando.

So, who had the best points per game?

RankTeamPPG
1Houston120.3 
2Milwaukee120.2 
3Washington118.5
4Dallas118.0 
5New Orleans115.1 
6Phoenix114.7 
7Minnesota114.1 ■
8LA Clippers113.7 
9Portland113.6 
10La Lakers112.8 

How about offensive efficiency?

RankTeamOffensive Efficiency
1Dallas1.131
2Houston1.101
3LA Clippers1.100
4Milwaukee1.096
5LA Lakers1.095
6Utah1.094
7Boston1.093
8Miami1.093
9Denver1.090
10Portland1.089

How about the average scoring margin?

RankTeamAverage Scoring Margin
1Milwaukee+10.8
2LA Lakers+9.3
3Toronto+8.5
4Dallas+7.7
5Miami+6.4
6La Clippers+6.2
7Boston+6.1
8Houston+5.8
9Indiana+5.0
10Denver+4.9

Teams with the fastest defensive starts this season from October 22nd until December 1st (~20 games)

So, we begin with opponent PPG.

RankTeamOpponent PPG
1Denver101.8
2Orlando102.3
3LA Lakers103.5
4Toronto103.8
5Utah103.9
6Philadelphia104.2
7Boston104.5
8Indiana104.6
9Miami105.1
10LA Clippers107.5

Now, we look at opponent FG%.

RankTeamOpponent FG%
1Toronto40.8%
2Milwaukee42.1%
3LA Clippers42.7%
4Denver42.8%
5Utah43.0%
6Boston43.1%
7LA Lakers43.5%
8Miami43.9%
9Portland44.0%
10Indiana44.0%

And, finally, there is the opponent’s turnovers per game.

RankTeamOpponent Turnovers Per Game
1Chicago18.5 ■
2LA Lakers17.2
3Miami17.0
4Phoenix16.7
5Boston16.7
6Atlanta16.5 ■
7Toronto16.1
8New Orleans16.1
9Washington16.1
10Houston16.1

It is definitely not a surprise that the teams that had the fastest starts this season are also the ones which currently are the top seeded teams. The Los Angeles teams, Boston, Milwaukee, Toronto, Miami, and Indiana appear bound for success in Orlando. Based on the offensive and defensive statistics highlighted above, these seven teams will likely get off to red hot starts, while one will likely win this year’s Finals.

Despite this intriguing information, it should be noted that the landscape of the league is much different than even last season. Some of the NBA’s biggest stars have switched teams recently, which likely negatively impacted team chemistry toward the beginning of the season. Star players Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Chris Paul, and Anthony Davis all switched teams prior to this NBA season. Also, due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus in the middle of the season, this year has been extremely atypical. Many teams’ roster compositions are drastically different from the beginning of the season, as many players are injured and/or decided to opt out of the restart. With that said, some team chemistry—while weakened—has already been formed. Finally, there will be no home court advantage during this year’s playoffs, as all games will be played on the neutral Disney courts. This could certainly impact teams that historically have a great home court advantage, like the Denver Nuggets (because of the high altitude of their arena), as well as teams who have extreme home/road splits this year like the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat. This will certainly be a unique end to the NBA season, as teams are playing for very high stakes within a short period of time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *