Biggest Statistical Anomalies in NBA This Season
The NBA box score is an array of numbers. Some mean a lot. Some don't. But all can help inform what is happening across the league if you know where to look.
So far this season, several stats stand out as representative of larger trends.
In recent years, the game has begun to prioritize defense, efficiency and three-point shooting, and the following statistics highlight just how far along we are in this transition.
Washington Wizards Defense: Fifth Best Defensive Rating
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In terms of record, there are only two teams (the Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic) worse than the Washington Wizards. But when it comes to defense, there are only four teams better.
The oldest sports adage is that "defense wins championships."
That certainly doesn't apply in this case, but teams can only score 102.2 points per 100 possessions on the Wizards, compared to a league average of 105.6.
That doesn't put Washington in a class with the Indiana Pacers or Memphis Grizzlies, the two best defenses in the NBA this season, but it does have the Wizards right there with the Chicago Bulls and in front of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Add this to the fact that they are shooting a scorching 40.1 percent from three-point range since John Wall returned, according to Kyle Weidie of Truth About It on February 26, and this team certainly has something to look forward to next year.
No matter what else happens, if Washington can play great defense and make three-pointers next year, it should at least double its win total.
Stephen Curry: 87.5 Percent Shooting
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Earlier this week, Stephen Curry drilled 11 three-pointers on his way to 54 points in Madison Square Garden. It was the most any player has scored this season, eclipsing Kevin Durant's 52 on January 18.
His 18-of-28 shooting, including 11-of-13 from long range, gave him an effective field goal percentage (shooting percentage adjusted to account for three-pointers being worth more) of 83.9 percent.
This was the second-highest total this year for any player in the NBA who has attempted 20 or more shots in a game, according to ESPN.
Who shot better?
Why, it was Steph Curry—the night before.
Against the Indiana Pacers, he made 14 of 20 shots, including 7-of-10 behind the arc, to finish with an eFG of 87.5 percent.
Even odder still, his team lost both games.
San Antonio Spurs: The Worst Offensive Rebounding Team
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If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. This is an idiom that is presumed to be followed—quite literally—by all good offenses: If you miss, follow your shot and go for the offensive rebound.
We hear about second-chance points all the time and how they can be key to scoring at a high rate.
But for the San Antonio Spurs?
They don't need no stinking offensive rebounds.
The Spurs grab their own misses just 20.1 percent of the time, according to Basketball-Reference, giving them the worst rate in the entire NBA.
League average is 26.7 percent. The disparity may not jump out as glaring, but it is; we're talking about the difference between getting an offensive board once every five misses versus doing so more than once out of every four.
In a league where possessions are increasingly valued, that is significant.
In some ways, however, it isn't shocking that the Spurs have put together the league's seventh-best offense despite never grabbing their own misses.
The Miami Heat, for example, are the fourth-worst offensive rebounding team but have the league's second-best offense. The Boston Celtics also never prioritize grabbing their own misses, instead choosing to rotate players back to fortify their transition defense.
Really, offensive rebounding often comes down more to strategy than skill.
Still, it is surprising to see the Spurs in dead last—if even for no other reason than that that spot has been reserved for the Celtics for the past two seasons.
LeBron James: The Streak
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It certainly doesn't have the cache of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, but LeBron James went on a historic run of his own this season.
From February 3 to February 12, LeBron scored at least 30 points and shot 60 percent or better from the field in every game he played. Before James, Moses Malone and Adrian Dantley were the only players in NBA history to meet those requirements for five games in a row, according to Fox Sports.
During his run, LeBron set a record by doing it six straight games.
He had this to say after he set the mark, according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press.
"I'm at a loss for words," James said. "Like I say over and over, I know the history of the game. I know how many unbelievable players who came through the ranks, who paved the way for me and my teammates.
"And for me to be in the record books by myself with such a stat — any stat — it's big-time."
While the round numbers of 30 and 60 are nice, this streak was more of a slight bump than a feat that came out of nowhere.
Because LeBron has shot 50 percent or higher in 20 of his past 21 games. During this stretch, which dates back to January 12, James is averaging 29.2 ppg on 61.5 percent shooting.
It's not quite 30/60—but just barely.
New York Knicks: All-Time Three-Point Shooting Record
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Only five teams in NBA history have ever made more than 10 three-pointers per game, according to Basketball-Reference.
This year, both the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks are on pace to do so, and if New York maintains its current rate, it will finish the season with an all-time record 10.9 made threes per night.
There is a downside, however.
To make so many threes every game, both the Knicks and Rockets have to take a ton of them. New York launches 29.1 per game while Houston puts ups 28.6.
None of the other teams on the list—or any in NBA history, for that matter, according to Basketball-Reference—have taken so many shots from behind the arc.
Houston probably has some other issues—notably, the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs—that will prevent it from making a deep playoff run no matter how it plays.
But for New York, this postseason will be an all-time test case for the adage "live by the three, die by the three."