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NBA AM: Looking At The Numbers

With roughly 20 percent of the regular season in the books, let’s take a look at some of the numbers and who is doing better than expected… Some players in the D-League are playing really well, are they primed for a call-up?

Steve Kyler

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Looking At The Numbers: The NBA, in partnership with SportVU, installed motion tracking cameras into every NBA venue last year and began producing a wide range of player tracking type stats. With SportVu coming into its second year of being widely used in the NBA, some of the data that can be extracted becomes interesting, especially when you are valuating how well specific players are doing.

While there is wealth of new data to comb through, here is a look at some of the leaders in various areas.

Touches and Possessions

Player GP Touches per game PTS Per Touch PTS Per 1/2 Court Touch
Chris Paul 16 99.9 0.183 0.2
Reggie Jackson 14 97.4 0.200 0.2
Kemba Walker 18 96.2 0.146 0.2
Rajon Rondo 13 96 0.097 0.1
John Wall 15 95.1 0.190 0.2
Deron Williams 15 91 0.196 0.2
Michael Carter-Williams 9 90.7 0.162 0.2
Darren Collison 14 90.4 0.175 0.2
Tony Wroten 15 89.7 0.199 0.2
Damian Lillard 17 85.6 0.232 0.3
Donald Sloan 17 85.4 0.136 0.2
LeBron James 15 85.3 0.292 0.3
Blake Griffin 16 84.9 0.266 0.4
Mike Conley 17 84.5 0.193 0.2
Kyle Lowry 17 84.1 0.228 0.3

The touches and possession data is interesting, especially as it pertains to point guards. Clippers guard Chris Paul leads all players in touches with 99.9 touches per game. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Reggie Jackson comes in second with 97.4 touches per game.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Kevin Mart is the most productive players with 40 or more touches per games, scoring .501 points per touch. Golden State’s Klay Thompson comes in second with .455 points per touch.

In terms of halfcourt touches, which are the most valuable possessions in basketball, New Orleans big man Anthony Davis leads the league with .700 points per halfcourt touch, among those players with 40 or more touches in a game. Martin comes in second with .600, while Charlotte big man Al Jefferson is tied with him.

Minnesota’s Shabazz Muhammad makes an appearance in the halfcourt stats; he doesn’t receive a ton of touches – 17.3 touches per game, but he is scoring .700 points per halfcourt touch at .554 per touch overall, which is among the best for players with 15 or fewer touches per game.

Passing

Player GP AST per game Passes per game Assist opportunities Points created
Chris Paul 16 9.6 78.9 18.6 21.6
Ty Lawson 15 10 57.7 19.8 23.6
Rajon Rondo 13 10.5 78 21 24.5
John Wall 15 9.1 69.1 17.9 21.4
Stephen Curry 16 7.8 56.4 13.9 17.7
Damian Lillard 17 6.8 63.6 13.2 15.9
Kyle Lowry 17 6.6 61.4 11.9 15.5
Mike Conley 17 6.4 64.5 12.3 13.9
LeBron James 15 7.2 57.5 12.8 16.5
Jeff Teague 15 7.2 55.6 14.4 17.1
Brandon Knight 18 5.9 54.4 11.6 13.2
James Harden 16 6.6 50.2 13.8 16.6
Reggie Jackson 14 7.5 68.6 16.7 16.8
Eric Bledsoe 18 5.7 45.3 10.3 13.5
Kemba Walker 18 5.7 74.2 11.5 13.1

A lot is made about playmakers in the NBA, with a lot of attention being paid to raw assist data. SportsVu allows you to see a little deeper into the assist stats.

Boston’s Rajon Rondo leads the league in assists with 10.5 per game. Denver’s Ty Lawson comes in second with 10 assists per game, while Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio comes in third with 10 assists per games, but with only five games played.

Chris Paul leads all players in passes per game with 78.9, Rajon Rondo comes in second with 78 passes per contest and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker holds down third place with 74.2 passes.

One of the better passing stats is the Assist Opportunities stat – which is defined as passes where a teammate attempts a shot. Rondo leads the league with 21 assist opportunities per game, giving him a converted assist average of 50 percent, meaning 50 percent of Rondo’s attempted assists are converted.

In the converted assists department Cavalier forward LeBron James leads the way with 56.3 percent of his assist opportunities being converted. Rubio comes in second with 56.2 percent. Golden State’s Steph Curry is third at 56.1 percent and Minnesota’s Mo Williams is next, with 53.6 percent of his assist opportunities connected on.

In the points created by assists department, Rondo again sits atop the leader board with 24.5 points created by assists per game. Rubio comes in second with 24.2 points. Denver’s Ty Lawson comes in third with 23.6 points.

Outside of some of the obvious leaders, Detroit’s Josh Smith creates the most points off assists for those players with 10 or fewer assist opportunities – notching 12.5 points per game off of assists. Charlotte’s Lance Stephenson comes in second in the under ten assists opportunities per game category, logging 12.3 points per game off of assists. Miami’s Mario Chalmers comes in third with 11.8 points.

Defense

Player GP STL per game BLK per game Opp FGP
Anthony Davis 15 2.1 3 52.00%
Roy Hibbert 13 0.2 2.8 38.50%
DeAndre Jordan 16 1 2.2 45.60%
Andrew Bogut 16 0.8 2.1 39.70%
Serge Ibaka 17 0.2 1.9 44.90%
Tim Duncan 15 0.9 2.1 41.20%
Larry Sanders 17 1.1 1.8 48.00%
Robin Lopez 17 0.4 1.8 47.20%
Pau Gasol 14 0.6 2.1 45.90%
Brandan Wright 18 0.6 1.6 44.00%
Josh Smith 17 1.1 1.6 49.10%
Tyson Chandler 18 0.6 1.5 50.30%
Andre Drummond 17 0.6 1.6 47.10%
Samuel Dalembert 18 0.3 1.4 38.90%
Marc Gasol 17 1.2 1.5 48.80%

Defense has always been the hardest aspect of basketball to quantify. It’s mainly always been about rebounding and blocked shots, with steals sprinkled in. With SportsVU, we can now determine the opposition’s field goal percentage, especially at the rim, which brings a new element to the discussion.

For players who log more than 15 minutes per game, and face more than five attempts at the rim per game, Orlando’s Kyle O’Quinn leads the league with 37.5 percent allowed at the rim. Indiana’s Roy Hibbert comes in second with 38.5 percent allowed at the rim, while New York’s Samuel Dalembert comes in third at 38.9 percent.

Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng is posting some of the worst percentages in this category, allowing 61.1 percent at the rim. New Orleans sharp shooter Ryan Anderson comes in second allowing 60.9 percent and Cleveland’s Kevin Love comes in third at 60.6 percent.

Among the qualified defenders, Chicago’s Pau Gasol sees the most at the rim attempts with 11.2 opposition attempts at the rim per game, but is allowing just 45.9 percent. Houston’s Terrence Jones comes in second with 11 attempts at the rim per game and is allowing just 54.5 percent, but that’s a bit deceiving because he’s only played in four games. Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez comes in third with 10.3 at the rim attempts, allowing 54.5 percent as well.

»In Related: Who Still Has Cap Salary Space? How About Cap Exceptions?

Checking In On The D-League: While a few guys have already received a call-up from the D-League, there are several other names to watch as NBA teams continue to look for ways to improve.

Rank Player PTS FG% 3FG% REB AST STL BLK
1 Brady Heslip (RNO) 34.8 54.20% 60.00% 1.2 0.6 2.2 0
2 Earl Clark (RGV) 28.8 45.20% 31.40% 7.3 2 1 3.3
3 Manny Harris (LAD) 27.6 50.70% 44.40% 5.7 2.7 1.3 0.1
4 Damien Wilkins (IWA) 24.3 50.70% 18.20% 8.3 6 1.5 0.3
5 Seth Curry (ERI) 24.2 51.20% 51.40% 5.2 2.8 0.8 0
6 Elijah Millsap (BAK) 22.6 39.80% 25.00% 10.1 6.4 2.7 0.3
7 Alex Kirk (CTN) 21.8 49.30% 0.00% 8.8 1.3 0.8 1.5
8 Jarell Eddie (AUS) 21.6 51.50% 55.00% 5 1.8 1.2 0.4
9 Adonis Thomas (GRD) 21.5 47.60% 35.90% 4.2 1.5 1.2 0.2
9 Patrick Christopher (IWA) 21.5 53.80% 44.40% 3.5 3.3 0.5 0
11 Joe Alexander (SCW) 21.4 52.80% 0.00% 8.6 0.9 0.7 1.4
12 Kevin Murphy (IDA) 21.3 45.60% 23.50% 4.7 5.5 1.2 0.3
13 Elliot Williams (SCW) 20.7 44.70% 42.90% 4.4 6.7 0.6 0
14 Joel Wright (IDA) 20.7 64.90% 0.00% 8.8 2 1.7 0.8
15 Ra’shad James (RNO) 20.3 41.70% 28.60% 4.5 2.5 1.8 0

Of the top D-League performers, Reno’s Brady Heslip looks to be the next domino to fall, although there have been reports that Rio Grande’s Earl Clark could be headed to the Lakers at some point in the next few days. LA Defenders guard Manny Harris continues to score in bunches, while Iowa’s Damien Wilkins, a long-time NBA veteran, continues to play strong.

Of the top 15 scorers in the D-League, only Cleveland’s Alex Kirk has his rights restricted since he is still a member of the Cavaliers and is simply on assignment. The rest of the top 15 are in essence unsigned free agents in the NBA and could be signed away by any NBA team that wants to ink them.

The Philadelphia 76ers scooped up Robert Covington from the D-League in exchange for a four-year NBA deal. Only $400,000 of his $1 million deal is guaranteed.

NBA teams can begin issuing 10-day contracts on January 5.

»In Related: Who Are The Top NBA Draft Prospects For The 2015 NBA Draft?

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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NBA Daily: Rich Cho Out As Charlotte Hornets GM

The Charlotte Hornets opted to not move forward with GM Rich Cho and are expected to pursue former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak.

Buddy Grizzard

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The fateful moment for Rich Cho came days after he was hired as GM of the Charlotte Hornets in June of 2011. With the NBA Draft coming just nine days later, Cho started work on a three-team trade that would land Charlotte a second top-10 pick to pair with its own ninth pick, which was used to draft franchise cornerstone Kemba Walker.

In that draft, Klay Thompson went 11th to the Golden State Warriors and Kawhi Leonard 15th to the Pacers. Of the 17 players selected after Bismack Biyombo, who went to the Hornets with the seventh pick, 12 are regular contributors on current NBA rosters. The Orlando Magic are currently outscored by 11.6 points per 100 possessions with Biyombo on court, a rotation-worst.

Today, Hornets owner Michael Jordan announced that Cho is out as Charlotte’s GM.

“Rich worked tirelessly on behalf of our team and instituted a number of management tools that have benefited our organization,” said Jordan in a press release. “We are deeply committed to our fans and to the city of Charlotte to provide a consistent winner on the court. The search will now begin for our next head of basketball operations who will help us achieve that goal.”

While the failure to obtain Thompson, Leonard or any of the numerous impact players in the 2011 draft will always mar Cho’s record, falling to the second pick in the 2012 NBA Draft will continue to haunt Charlotte. Despite a brutal 7-59 record in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, which set the record for lowest win percentage in an NBA season (.110), the New Orleans Pelicans won the right to the first overall pick and selected Anthony Davis.

The Hornets selected Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the second pick. Although the 2012 Draft wasn’t nearly as deep as 2011’s, the Hornets still left players like Bradley Beal (third) and Andre Drummond (ninth) on the board. Either would have been an outstanding compliment to Walker, who remains with the team despite rumors of his availability leading up the the trade deadline.

“I feel like I’m going to be in Charlotte,” said Walker at his All-Star media availability. “So that’s where I’m at, that’s where I’m playing. So I never really sat and thought about any other teams.”

Walker made his second All-Star appearance after Kristaps Porzingis suffered a season-ending ACL injury.

“I wish K.P. hadn’t gotten hurt,” said Walker. “Everybody hates to see guys go down, especially great players like him. But when I was able to get the call to replace him, it was a really good feeling.”

Another fateful moment in Cho’s tenure came during the 2015 NBA Draft. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Boston Celtics offered the 15th and 16th picks, a future protected first rounder from the Brooklyn Nets and a future first from either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves in exchange for the ninth pick, which Cho used to draft Frank Kaminsky.

“If it was such a no-brainer for us, why would another team want to do it,” Cho asked rhetorically in defense of the Kaminsky selection, according to Lowe.

Years later, it’s evident that the Celtics dodged a bullet when both Charlotte and the Miami HEAT rebuffed its attempts to move up and draft Justise Winslow. The latter has not panned out while Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the players Boston subsequently obtained with Brooklyn’s picks, have developed into starters.

Chris Mannix of Yahoo! Sports reported in the first week of February that Charlotte may target former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak for a high-ranking role in the organization. Kupchak, like Jordan, is a former UNC star. Kupchak would join Jordan’s UNC teammate and Charlotte assistant GM Buzz Peterson.

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The G-League is a Path Back to the NBA

The G-League has become an avenue for several player types toward the NBA, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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When the NBA first instituted their development league, its main purpose was two-fold. The first was to give experience to young players who perhaps were not seeing regular playing time on their respective NBA teams. The second was to give undrafted players a chance at getting exposure and ultimately getting to the NBA.

With the growth in size and popularity of the development league, now known as the G-League, it’s begun to serve another purpose. It’s become a place for older veterans who have already tasted the NBA life to get back to the highest level of basketball that they once knew.

One player in particular who has a wealth of NBA experience is Terrence Jones. Jones is currently playing with the Santa Cruz Warriors, the G-League affiliate of the Golden State Warriors.

Jones was originally drafted by the Houston Rockets with the 18th overall pick in the 2012 draft. He was part of a vaunted class of Kentucky Wildcats that year, which included Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller. During his four years with the Rockets, he emerged as a dependable reserve and part-time starter. He averaged 9.5 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds.

“It was just a lot of excitement and a lot of joy, being part of the Houston Rockets was a lot of fun,” Jones told Basketball Insiders. “We had great memories and great seasons, a lot of up and downs, I just enjoyed the journey.”

Jones’ dealt with injuries his last two season in Houston, and when he was a free agent in the summer of 2016, the Rockets didn’t re-sign him. He was scooped by the New Orleans Pelicans, however, and he made an immediate impact for them. Prior to the trade deadline, he played in 51 games for the Pelicans, including 12 starts while putting up 11.5 points on 47.2 percent shooting, and 5.9 rebounds.

When the Pelicans acquired DeMarcus Cousins, however, they cut Jones. He didn’t stay unemployed for long, though, as he was signed by the Milwaukee Bucks to add depth for a playoff run. He was unable to crack the rotation, though, and the Bucks cut him as well before the playoff started. After a brief stint in China, he’s now back stateside and using the G-League to get back to the NBA.

“That’s the goal. Right now, I feel I’ve been playing pretty well and just trying to help my team get wins,” Jones told Basketball Insiders. “I think I can play multiple positions offensively and defensively. Whether that’s creating plays for myself or for others, I think I can help contribute on the offensive end.”

He’s been the second-leading scorer for Santa Cruz with 19.9 points per game. He’s pulling down 7.1 rebounds, and even dishing out 4.5 assists. In the G-League Challenge against the Mexican National Team at All-Star Weekend, he finished with eight points on 50.0 percent shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals. He’s definitely a name to watch for as NBA teams scour the market for 10-day contract possibilities.

Another player who’s had a taste of the NBA is Xavier Silas. Silas is currently with the Northern Arizona Suns, the affiliate of the Phoenix Suns. He went undrafted in 2011 and started his professional career in France. That only last a few months before he came back the United States and latched on with the Philadelphia 76ers.

He played sparingly with the 76ers and was ultimately cut before the start of the 2012-13 season. Since then, he’s played summer league with the Bucks, and been in two different training camps with the Washington Wizards.

“It was amazing, any time you get to go and play at the highest level, and I even got to play in the playoffs and play in the second round and even score, that was big,” Silas told Basketball Insiders. “It was a great time for me and that’s what I’m working towards getting back.”

While his professional career has taken him all across the globe from Israel to Argentina to Greece to Germany and even Ice Cube’s BIG3 league, he sees the G-League as being the one place that will get him back to where he wants to be.

He’s done well this season for Northern Arizona. He’s their third-leading scorer at 19.3 points per game and he’s one of their top three-point threats at 39.9 percent. At the All-Star Weekend G-League Challenge against the Mexican National Team, Silas had a team-high 13 points for Team USA including 3-5 shooting from three-point range.

It’s isn’t just what he brings on the court that Silas believes makes him an attractive candidate for an NBA team. At age 30, he’s one of the older guys in the G-League and one with a lot of basketball experience to be passed down to younger guys.

“I think it’s a little bit of leadership, definitely some shooting. I’m a vet now so I’m able to come in and help in that aspect as well. But everybody needs someone who can hit an open shot and I think I can bring that to a team,” Silas told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s the best place for anyone who’s trying to make that next step. We’re available and we’re right here, it’s just a call away.”

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NBA Daily: Lillard Playing For Something Bigger

Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has his eyes set on a bigger prize than just being an NBA All-Star.

Steve Kyler

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Playing For Something Bigger

The NBA All-Star Game is a spectacle.

By design, the game is meant to be a showcase, not just for the players selected to compete, but for the league and all of its partners, on and off the floor. It is easy to get caught up in how players selected actually play, but the reality is while most see the game as important for a lot of reasons, Portland Trail Blazer star Damian Lillard understands it has to be put into perspective.

“I don’t think it’s fair to expect people to go out there and treat it like they are playing for the team they’re under contract for,” Lillard explained this weekend.

“It’s the one time in an 82-game season plus playoffs, preseason and training camp that we actually get a break. It’s necessary to take a mental break, along with a physical break from what we do every day. There’s nothing wrong with that, so I don’t think it’s fair to ask guys to go out there and play like it’s for the Trail Blazers. My loyalty is to my team; I got to stay healthy for my team. I got to do what’s best for my team. Obviously, go out there [during All-Star] and not mess around too much and that’s how people get hurt and stuff like that. You got to go out there and play and have respect for the game, but I don’t think it’s necessary to go out there and go crazy like it’s a playoff game.”

Lillard notched 21 minutes in Sunday’s big game, going 9-for-14 from the field for 21 points for Team Stephen, a roster that included three Golden State Warriors players. Lillard believes that eventually, he’ll get the chance to share the weekend, his third, with teammate C. J. McCollum.

“Each year you see teams are getting two to three, Golden State got four this year,” Lillard said. “But you look at it and say ‘why is that happening’ and it has a lot to do with team success. Me and C.J. just have to take that challenge of making our team win more games. I think when we do that, we’ll be rewarded with both of us making it. If we really want to make that happen, then we’ll do whatever it takes to win more games.

“I feel like this season we’ve moved closer in that direction. In the past, we haven’t even been in the position to get one, because I did not make it the past two years. I think if we keep on improving we’ll eventually get to the point that we’re winning games and people will say ‘how are they doing this’ and then hopefully our names come up. Hopefully, one day, it’ll happen.”

Another issue that got addressed during the All-Star Weekend was the growing tensions between the NBA players and the NBA referees. Representatives from both sides met to address the gap developing on the court, something Lillard felt was necessary.

“We’re all human,” Lillard said. “As competitors, we want to win. If you feel like you got fouled, you want them to call the foul every time. I think sometimes as players, we forget how hard their job can be. At the pace we play, it’s hard to get every call, and then you got guys tricking the referees sometimes, we’re clever too. It’s a tough job for them. I think when we get caught up in our competitive nature, and we forget that they’re not just these robots with stripes, they are people too. You have got to think, as a man if someone comes screaming at you every three plays, you are going to react in your own way. Maybe you’re not going to make the next call; maybe I am going to stand my ground. It’s just something that I think will get better over time. I think both have to do a better job of understanding.”

With 24 games left to play in Lillard’s sixth NBA season, the desire to be more than a playoff team or an All-Star is coming more into focus for Lillard, something he reportedly expressed to Blazers management several weeks ago.

“There are guys that have this record and guys that have done these things, and I want to at least get myself the chance to compete for a championship,” Lillard said. “If I get there and we don’t win it, it happens. A lot of people had to go see about Michael Jordan, a lot of people had to go see about Shaq and Kobe. You know, those great teams, but I have a strong desire to at least give myself a chance to be there. Take a shot at it.”

With All-Star out of the way, the focus in the NBA will switch to the race to the playoffs. As things stand today Lillard and his Blazers hold the seventh seed in the West and are tied with Denver, and just a half of a game back from the five seed Oklahoma City Thunder.

If the Blazers are going to make noise this post season its going to be on the shoulder of Lillard, and based on what he said, it seems he’s up to the challenge.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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