Ahhh…Welcome to March!
We’ve officially entered the best three months of the year mostly thanks to basketball, warmer weather, and my birthday. From now until the finals are over begins a wonderful stretch of basketball cherished by many and dreaded by girlfriends/wives. I love it. Enjoy.
Since last week we spent most of our time on a couple of main issues, I thought we’d go back to quick hitters in order to cover more of what’s been going on in the NBA! Let’s dive in!
Isaiah Thomas has had an incredible offensive year, and he rightly has received praise specifically for his 4th quarter performances. In the 4th quarter this year, he’s scoring 10.3 points (1st in the NBA) on 47% shooting, and 39.2% from three. He’s also second in scoring in the final 5 minutes when the game is within 5 points either way. (Also known as ESPN’s clutch rating you can view here). Outside of the 4th, he’s got per game averages of 29.6 points (2nd in the NBA) and 6.2 assists shooting 46% from the field and 38% from three (take note that his percentages go up in the 4th).
For awhile, he was getting MVP talk, and although I think that’s cooled off some, he’s in a lot of NBA writer’s top 5 lists. I have one pretty major problem with that.
ESPN has 453 players ranked in it’s Real Plus-Minus stat, or RPM. RPM is your usual +/- except it takes into consideration the other players you’re playing with as a way to make the number more specific to you. There’s an offensive RPM and a defensive RPM and they come together to form one net stat. It’s not perfect, but it’s one of the closest ways we’ve come to singling out an individual defender and filing it down to one number.
Out of 453 players, Isaiah Thomas is 453rd in Defensive RPM at -4.46.
It’s worth noting that he’s still got a positive net rating (1.57) in thanks to his offensive RPM (6.03) which is good for 4th in the league. It’s also worth noting that the other top offensive performers: James Harden (1st at 6.94), Russell Westbrook (2nd at 6.28) and Stephen Curry (3rd at 6.05), all have negative defensive ratings. But their net ratings all rank in the top 11 of the NBA, whereas Isaiah is chilling at 69th (nice).
He’s a really great player. And he’s super important to that Celtics team because no one else can score as consistently or as impressively as he does. He’s just not an MVP candidate.
Moving on to the second most important topic this week….
Jimmer Fredette is in the China league playoffs! He had a hell of a year this year, scoring 37.3 points a game throwing up an impressive 11.4 threes a game and connecting on 40% of them. Just a few weeks ago, he put up 73 points in a losing effort for his team the Shanghai Dongfang. I have to say. Signing up to play for the Dongfang’s is a bold maneuver, but I trust that Jimmer knows what he’s doing. I’d like to tell you their mascot is a Dongfang, but it’s actually a shark.
Blake Griffin’s numbers since February: 25.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 6.1 apg shooting 50.2% from the floor and 44% from three (2.1 attempts).
Since January 16 these are the top 5 records in the NBA:
- Miami Heat 17-3
- Washington Wizards 16-4
- San Antonio Spurs 15-4
- Golden State Warriors 16-5
- Boston Celtics 14-7
Since I just did it twice, let me briefly explain the pitfalls and use of cherry picking stats and stat ranges. Anytime you see a stat that uses a range to define it, it’s important to recognize what’s happening. For example, I just gave you “since February” as a range for Blake because he came back from injury late January and if you account for a couple games back of shaking off rust, his numbers look best since the beginning of February.
I chose that date range for a reason. It best highlighted the point I was trying to make for Blake. This is important to recognize because I’m literally altering dates to make my point look better. I’m not the only one who does this and it’s something you need to consider every time you see some ESPN stat with a defining range.
And it doesn’t end with date ranges, ESPN is especially notorious for giving you a “this is the first time A, B and C have happened since 1922”. I think most of the time people brush these off as being irrelevant, which, most of the time is true. But since they are coming up with the stat themselves, they can tweak each variable until it ends up more impressive and shows what they want it to. Read this short kenpom article about how “clutch” Maryland has been.
HOWEVER, it does not make that stat meaningless. For my date ranges, I’m trying to make a point and I’m absolutely going to tweak things to make the best point I can, but that doesn’t make my point worthless. So to use my other example, when I tell you that the Heat are an incredible 17-3 since January 16, I gave you that range because the Heat’s 12 game win streak began on January 16. I altered that stat to make them look better, but it’s still a very impressive, relevant stat.
Jahlil Okafor is bad. Like really bad. I mentioned defensive RPM with Isaiah at the top… Okafor is sitting at #401 in DRPM at -1.7. But that’s expected, right? He’s an offensive player, right? He’s #448th in ORPM at -4.04. “Good god” you’re probably thinking…what does that make him in overall, net RPM???
Last. It makes him last.
It would be easy to say “well, he’s on a pretty bad team that gets blown out a lot”. The next lowest 76er in net RPM that plays more than 15 minutes a game is almost 100 spots higher than Jahlil, Gerald Henderson at #366.
Monday night, playing against Golden State, he put up the following stat-line: 4 points, 3 rebounds, 7 turnovers and 5 fouls all in just 16 minutes of play.
Need more proof? Watch this stunning defensive performance from last night.
Jusuf Nurkic seems to be really enjoying his change of scenery. In Denver, he posted averages of 8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.3 apg and 1.4 b+s a game. In 5 games with Portland so far, he’s putting up 14 points, 8.6 boards, 3.8 assists and 3.6 blocks + steals a game. He’s also averaging about 13 more minutes a game, but he’s doing more with those minutes than he did when Denver occasionally gave him a look. From his awesome nickname, the Bosnian Beast, you would think the mountains would have suited him, but I guess he’s more of a bike lanes kinda guy.
I think it’s safe to finally say this….Bradley Beal is healthy! And playing really well! Beal is putting up 22.6 ppg, shooting 48% from the field and 39.6% from three while chucking 7.3 a game (8th in the league). And the Wizards are humming. I really wish Kyle Lowry hadn’t gotten hurt because the East playoffs were really shaping up to be something. They still might be…Cleveland has more competition this year than they’ve had in the past few, although that’s not saying much. And really, I fully expect Cleveland to be in the finals again, it just may be a little tougher this year (and hopefully more entertaining?).
Finally, I know I’ve thrown a lot of stat lines at you tonight, but allow me just one more. I don’t think I’ve mentioned Kawhi Leonard all year but he and the Spurs are pretty use to that. Just in case you didn’t know, he’s only putting up 26, 6 and 3 a game on 48.7/38.4/89.4 shooing splits (flirting probably just out of reach of putting up a 50/40/90 season).