Wildest Stats from 1st Half of 2014-15 NBA Season
So long, first half of the 2014-15 NBA regular season. Farewell. Sayonara. Auf wiedersehen. Goodbye. It's been real and, dare I say, wild.
Money, superstars, Gregg Popovich sideline interviews, Atlanta Hawks bench celebrations, Quin Snyder's Darth Sidious impressions and, last though not least, statistics all contribute to making the NBA wonderfully crazy. There are other things, too, but we care about the statistics and the statistics alone here.
Stat lines that make your eyes pop. Single-game feats that incite gasps. Season-long accolades that make you want to bust out the Carlton Banks dance. Any achievement, individual or collective, that's downright gaudy is for us.
Gaudiness will be measured by the significance of every stat. The more unprecedented or unusual, the crazier it will be considered.
What follows aren't the only wild stats, by the way. They're just some of the wildest discovered during an hours-long trip down the NBA's statistical rabbit hole.
Worry not, though, numbers zealots. Yours truly laid down bread crumbs, followed them back and returned ferrying a bag of statistical goodies through which we will now plunder.
Meyers Leonard's Steve Nash Impression
How does that famous age-old adage go again? Oh, yeah: Meyers Leonard is the deadliest shooter alive.
With both Robin Lopez and Joel Freeland watching from the sidelines, Leonard has become a fixture within the Portland Trail Blazers' posh rotation of late. He's responded by averaging a career high in points (5.8) and rebounds (4.3) and flirting with a 50/40/90 shooting slash.
This is not a drill. Leonard is banging in 52.4 percent of his overall attempts, 44.4 percent of his three-pointers and 87.5 percent of his free throws.
Here's the definitive list of qualified players—minimum 20 appearances while playing 14 minutes per game—who have reached shooting immortality:
- Larry Bird (two times)
- Steve Nash (five times)
- Dirk Nowitzki
- Kevin Durant
- Reggie Miller
- Steve Kerr
- Jose Calderon
- Mark Price
- Kyle Korver
The 7'1" Leonard would become the tallest player in NBA history to register a 50/40/90 season if he's able to close the 2.5 percent chasm at the foul line. The caveat here, of course, is he's playing under 14 minutes per game and averaging fewer than five shots. None of the aforesaid players jacked up fewer than 5.9 (Kerr).
Still, Leonard's playing time has crept above 20 minutes over the last eight games, and he's been one of this season's low-key feel-good stories.
More importantly, we're morally obligated to acknowledge the most obscure 50/40/90 dalliances. I'm pretty sure it's one of the Ten Commandments or something.
Golden State's Grandeur
Most have the league-leading Golden State Warriors eventually slowing down. But while their half-season shenanigans may be unsustainable, there comes a point when we must consider the alternative.
That time is now.
At 33-6, the Warriors are on pace to be the second-winningest team in NBA history behind only the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. Wins and losses can be misleading, though. Using adjusted offensive efficiency (ORtng+) and adjusted defensive efficiency (DRtng+) is more reliable when comparing teams across history.
Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal previously explained the process:
Calculating these metrics isn't particularly troublesome: Just divide the league-average defensive rating from the year in question by the team's defensive rating and then multiply the result by 100 to achieve DRtng+. Similarly, ORtng+ is derived by dividing the team's offensive rating by the league average and then multiplying by 100.
These Warriors are not far behind.
The league average for offensive and defensive rating is 105.9. The Warriors' 111.7 offensive rating and 99.9 defensive rating gives them a TeamRtng+ of 105.74—the second-highest mark in league history behind only those Bulls once again.
So yeah, it is time to start entertaining the idea that these Warriors may, in fact, be this good.
James Harden: Scoring Machine
James Harden has been torturing opposing defenses all season, but on Jan. 19 against the Indiana Pacers, he was feeling particularly sadistic.
In 40 minutes of action, Harden tallied 45 points on just 18 shots. Just four other players (since 1985) have totaled at least 45 points on fewer than 19 field-goal attempts: Kevin Martin (2011), Rashard Lewis (2006), Gilbert Arenas (2006) and Adrian Dantley (1987).
Not one of those other four players dished out more than six assists in the same game. But because Harden is Harden, he hung 45 points on the Pacers' typically stingy defense while handing out seven dimes.
"He got going," Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale said afterward, per the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen. "The last couple minutes of that (third) quarter, he was on fire. The guy's had a special year."
Super special, even.
There has been no stopping Harden at all. Four players have ever averaged at least 27.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.5 steals for an entire campaign: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. Harden is on pace to become the fifth.
That, my web-surfing friends, is the kind of special year he's having.
Kyle Korver's Can't-Miss Shooting Stroke
Kyle Korver does miss. It just doesn't happen very often.
Midway through the season, Korver is putting in 51.5 percent of his shots overall, 53.6 percent of his long balls and 92.2 percent of his freebies. Only one other player has recorded the elusive 50/50/90 slash before: Kerr (1995-96).
And Kerr's feat, while impressive, needs to come with an asterisk. It came at a time when the NBA shortened the three-point line to 22 feet. Now that it's back to 23.9 feet, Korver essentially stands on his own, provided his numbers hold.
To put it another way: He's on pace to have the greatest single-season shooting performance in NBA history.
Zach Dillard of Fox Sports South elaborates:
Among all players in NBA history to shoot 300 or more field goals in a single season, Kyle Korver's current 72.6 true shooting percentage, a measure of a player's overall shooting efficiency, would hold the No. 1 spot. It would be the top mark by a significant margin, too.
The only player within four percentage points to hoist more than a couple three-pointers—many of the most efficient shooters on the list are frontcourt players that do most of their work around the basket, like Wilt Chamberlain, Artis Gilmore and Tyson Chandler—was former Bullets sharpshooter Tim Legler in his own 1995-96 season.
It also bears mentioning that Korver has the opportunity to break the record for three-point efficiency, which is held by—you guessed it—Atlanta's sniper himself. His 53.6 percent conversion rate ties his record-razing display from 2009-10 when he was with the Utah Jazz.
Korver has already attempted more bombs (239) than he did all of that season (110), making this go at the history books all the more impressive. Even if he falls short or his efficiency tapers off, there's really no discrediting his numbers. They're incredible, and Korver shouldn't change a thing.
It's like Socrates always said: Just keep shooting, Kyle.
The DeMarcus Cousins Effect
If the Sacramento Kings were made up solely of players named DeMarcus Cousins, they would be a playoff team.
Championship contenders, too.
When he's not battling viral meningitis or sore ankles, he's devouring defenses and establishing himself as the NBA's most well-rounded center. His 23.9 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks per game jump off the page.
Sacramento's splits with and without him also jump off the page, karate-chopping you right in the jugular:
|Kings...||MP||Off. Rtg.||Rank||Def. Rtg.||Rank||Net Rtg.||Rank|
Basically, whenever Cousins steps off the floor, the Kings go from the Dallas Mavericks—who rank second in net rating—to worse than the seven-win Minnesota Timberwolves. It sort of makes you question where the lottery-bound Kings would be without him, knowing full well you don't want to hear the answer.
They would be that inconceivably bad.
Which, in turn, sort of makes you wonder if the unspoken MVP criteria needs to change. Because while players on losing teams never generate serious consideration, Cousins belongs in the conversation.
By the most literal definition, he should be a MVP front-runner.
Anthony Davis Has Superpowers
Anthony Davis has a tough time surprising us these days.
Average the highest number of win shares per 48 minutes for the same age group? Yawn.
Torch the Orlando Magic for 26 points, 17 rebounds, three steals and nine blocks? What else you—wait, what?
Davis wasted little time in reminding the basketball universe he is the hardwood deity that other hardwood deities worship. The above stat line is from the New Orleans Pelicans' season opener and remains significant only because it's freaking ridiculous.
Below is a list of other players who have gone for at least 25 points, 15 rebounds, three steals and nine blocks in a single game over the last 30 years:
- Hakeem Olajuwon
- Chris Webber
Webber was the most recent player to brutalize the box score in similar fashion—nearly 16 years ago, in February 1999, when Davis was presumably a six-year-old kindergartner already dunking on your standard 1,000-foot hoop.
Let this small taste of his present-day dominance leave no doubt to the contrary: Anthony Davis is an alien.
Stephen Curry Is the Best Cheat Code Ever
Housekeeping note: Stephen Curry is probably an alien, too.
Other explanations for his 2014-15 performance will be considered but inevitably rebuffed. That's how good he's been.
Just one player has ever averaged at least 23 points, eight assists, four rebounds and two steals for an entire season before. His name was Michael Jordan.
Curry is about to ensure he no longer stands alone.
Yes, that kind of good.
In the unlikely event you temporarily forgot how potent Curry has been this season, he went for 27 points and 11 assists in under 30 minutes against the Jazz on Jan. 13. Magic Johnson is the only other player to have done the same over the last 30 years.
And it's this gift that's helping Curry not only chase an NBA championship and MVP award, but Michael Jordan himself.