Power Ranking Every NBA Team's Defense

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Power Ranking Every NBA Team's Defense
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Statistics in the NBA have come a long way. Leading the way in changing the way we understand the game is the notion of pace. Some teams play at a faster pace than others.

Offense and defense shouldn't be measured by round numbers but rather by points per possession, or to make it more recognizable in a way we used to are seeing, points per 100 possessions.

Some teams play a faster pace pace than others. While they may give up more points per game, they might actually get stops a higher percentage of the time. That's why advanced stats look at things like "defensive rating" which is the representation of points surrendered per 100 possessions. 

Still even that presents a problem. Sometimes defense generates offense and that's something not represented by defensive rating. 

Just as defenses score points in football, in essence, even though it's the same group of players, defenses produce scoring in basketball too. Whether it's off a steal, a forced turnover, or even a defensive rebound, teams will score transition points. 

So the question is how do you figure how much difference that makes? 

Well first, I looked at average points in transition per game, then I adjusted that for the pace of the team to normalize it to fast break points per 100 possessions. 

To simply take that whole number and factor it would be misleading though. Since every stop ends a possession and therefore results in another one, some of those points would have been scored regardless of transition or not.  

The question is how many extra points were scored in transition. To do that I used Synergy's data to determine the difference between transition points per play on offense and  the average points per play on offense.

In other words if a team scores 0.90 points per play on average but 1.15 points per play in transition, then their .25 points per play difference, or 22 percent of their transition points, are a result of their defense. The rest their normal offense would have gotten anyway. 

That gave me a number I called Defensive Points in Transition, which I then subtracted from the Defensive Rating to account for the points the defense generated. 

This did make a significant difference to some teams. Some went up quite a bit in the rankings because they are more adept at creating points in transition, others were hurt. Just in case you're wondering, the Denver Nuggets lead the NBA in points generated by their defense with 5.88. 

On the other end the worst team is the Toronto Raptors, who generate just 0.26 points per game with their defense. 

Here is where all 30 defenses rank when you take into account transition points scored. 

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