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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: Are The Kings Destined For The Playoffs?

As the season starts up again after the All-Star Break, Jordan Hicks looks into the Sacramento Kings and what it will take for them to end their playoff drought.

Jordan Hicks

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Sacramento Kings fans should be incredibly happy regardless of how this season ends.

For the first time in what seems like forever they have a promising young team that is not only winning games, but maintaining a certain form of consistency doing so. With the foundation of youthful stars like De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Marvin Bagley III, how can Kings faithful not be hyper-optimistic?

The Kings are geared for success over the course of the next few years, but could their time come sooner than that? Do they actually have a shot at making the playoffs this season? The trade deadline acquisitions of Harrison Barnes and Alec Burks, two vets that can make an instant impact, make it seem like they believe their time is now.

Breaking things down, the question becomes – what actually needs to happen for the Kings to make the playoffs this season? The simple answer is to win games.

What have they been doing thus far to put more ticks in the W column? Shooting the three efficiently jumps out. They are currently fourth in the league in three-point percentage at 37.7 percent. While this number is oddly similar to last season’s percentage, they are shooting about seven more threes per game.

Sacramento is also playing incredibly quick basketball. They are second in the league in pace (the number of possessions per 48 minutes). Some could argue that this doesn’t always translate into a positive outcome, but for Sacramento it does. They are leading the NBA in fastbreak points at 21.7 points per game and are sixth in the league at points in the paint. Their defense is translating into offense as well, as they are second in the league at points off turnovers.

While their strengths are definitely elite, they clearly have weaknesses, too. They sit in 18th for both offensive and defensive rating, good for a -1.2 net rating. They are an abysmal 28th in free throw shooting.

Apart from Willie Cauley-Stein – who likely isn’t a major part of their future – they lack an elite rim protector. This leaves their defense prone to giving up more points in the paint. They are currently 26th in the league at opponent points in the paint. The lack of rim protection clearly correlates with their inability to grab defensive boards. They are tied for last in the league at opponent second-chance points.

One would assume that if the Kings simply tighten up their defensive focus that they would be able to close out strong and make the playoffs. They are currently ninth in the West, only one-and-a-half games behind the Clippers who just traded away their best player in Tobias Harris and two-and-a-half games behind the Spurs, who are somehow putting together a strong season despite losing Kawhi Leonard via trade and Dejounte Murray to injury.

As the season gets deeper, however, the Kings won’t be the only team tightening things up for a final playoff push. Every other team will likely be doing the same thing. While the Kings are just a small shot from the playoffs, both the Lakers and Timberwolves are nipping at their heels as well.

The Warriors, Nuggets and Thunder have done enough to separate themselves from the pack, to a degree at least. So that essentially leaves eight teams fighting for the remaining five slots. You can likely write off the Clippers, as they traded away their star player for future assets, and quite possibly the Timberwolves, as they may not have enough depth on their roster. This leaves the Kings and Lakers. If history has taught us anything, it’s that LeBron James likes to play in the postseason.

Sacramento has 24 games left to play this season. Their next two are at Oklahoma City and Minnesota. If they can somehow manage to squeak out one win in that stretch that will keep them above .500 and still fighting for a spot. After that stretch, 11 of their final 22 games are against teams projected to make the playoffs. Apart from two games against the Knicks, one against the Suns, and one against the Cavaliers, none of the remaining 11 games not against playoff teams will be “gimmes.”

Their final three are away against Utah, home against New Orleans and away against Portland. For sure they will be battling with two (and potentially three) of those teams for playoff positioning.

As far as the Lakers – who after their head-to-head win Thursday are a game behind Sacramento and two games out of the playoffs – their schedule isn’t much easier. 15 of their final 24 games are against projected playoff teams. That victory over Sacramento at Staples could actually end up being incredibly important for who makes the playoffs and who loses out.

Whether or not the Kings make the playoffs is anyone’s guess. If Fox and Hield play elite ball to close out the season, that will definitely increase their chances. Strong play from deadline acquisitions Burks and Barnes will also play a huge role in the Kings’ final push.

Like previously mentioned, Kings’ fans should be happy either way. This is the brightest the team’s future has been in well over a decade.

But the Kings likely won’t settle for “promising” or “up-and-coming.” They want success now, and making the playoffs will give them the reward that they’ve been working so hard for.

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How The NBA Became The Most Betting-Friendly League In American Sports

Basketball Insiders

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The NBA has become synonymous with betting conversations during the Adam Silver era, with the league frequently being at the forefront of those discussions. Compared to the other professional sports leagues in the United States, the NBA has not only appeared to be the most progressive with regard to the topic, but it has also looked like the league that is the most likely to get further involved in the industry.

Of course, the league has placed a focus on sports betting, given that they have a vested interest in the continued legalization of that. They have mentioned that they would like a cut of NBA wagers placed, with the industry’s growth in the United States being something that the league could see improving the bottom-line.

Whether or not the NBA gets a piece of the action from a financial perspective, it is still surprising to see a major professional sports league in the United States willing to entertain the conversation at all. By comparison, the NFL has been largely afraid to discuss sports betting, while Major League Baseball has banned its all-time leading hitter for life for gambling-related offenses.

And it isn’t as if the NBA is only interested in gambling in the context of betting on NBA games. The league has relationships in the daily fantasy sports industry as well, with visibility for brands in that space seen in NBA arenas as well. And the NBA-subsidized WNBA is also a part of this betting-friendly basketball landscape, most notably in the form of a team named after a casino.

The Connecticut Sun is that team, as they play in the home of a popular casino in their area. Both the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury play in a venue named after a casino as well. And it is the casino industry that the NBA may conceivably expand into as their relationships in the betting industry appear to be growing in both quality and quantity. With the growth of online casinos, it isn’t impossible to envision the NBA encouraging its fans to compare the best casino bonuses to increase its market share in this growing industry.

Of course, with the betting renaissance that is going on in the United States at this time, the league is making sure that everyone knows that its integrity is not to be questioned. The league has made clear that they are going to ramp up the enforcement of its betting policies, to make sure that players aren’t compromising the game’s integrity. That move by the league is a smart one, as it makes sure that fans know that there is no reason to question the sport even if the league embraces betting.

The NBA is seeing progress across the sport, from its on-court evolution that prioritizes ball movement and long-range shooting, to its off-court stances on betting. Unlike the other major American sports, that willingness to evolve is part of what has caused the popularity of the NBA to skyrocket in recent years.

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NBA Daily: Three-Point Champion is Just a Regular Joe

Joe Harris had his league-wide coming out at All-Star weekend when he shocked fans across the globe in upsetting three-point shootout favorite-Steph Curry.

Drew Maresca

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Joe Harris’ fortunes and those of the Brooklyn Nets appear to be traveling on the same trajectory. Harris’ personality and approach embody the softer side of the Brooklyn Nets’ team persona: he is loyal, hardworking and humble. And while Jared Dudley and DeMarre Carroll provide veteran leadership and Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson offer personality, Harris provides a grounded approachability.

No one would blame him, though, if he develops a small ego. After all, Harris just received his formal introduction to the world, having won the NBA’s three-point championship last weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s hard to deny that his star is rising.

And yet, Harris seems unaware that his status is rising.

“To be honest, I am solid in my role. That’s what I’m about,” Harris told Basketball Insiders before the Nets’ January 25 game against the Knicks. “I’m pretty realistic with where I view myself as a player. And I have the self-awareness to realize that I’m not a star player in this league by any means. I mean, I’m good in my role and I’m trying to take that to another level and be as complete as I can in my niche role that I have.”

While Harris’ comments could be misinterpreted as a humble brag, they shouldn’t be. He is simply a hard-working player who perhaps doesn’t quite realize everything he adds to his team. But let’s be clear, Harris’ presence absolutely improves the Nets’ play.

Harris boasts the second-best three-point percentage in the NBA (.471) through the first four months of the season; he trails only Victor Olapido and J.J. Reddick for top three-point percentage of all 48 players who have at least 10 “clutch” attempts from long-range and he’s ranked tenth in points per clutch possession (1.379).

He helps space the floor for teammates D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, who take advantage of his long-range acumen by attacking an often less congested pathway to the hoop — and drives account for 53.4 percent of the Nets’ points (third in the entire league).

It is no surprise then that the Nets are currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

“At the end of the day we’re just trying to go play good basketball.” Harris said. “The wins are a byproduct of that. It’s about staying locked into this process and how it’s gotten us here regardless of who is on the court.”

Harris’ dedication to the team and its process is becoming more unique each year as players hop from franchise to franchise more frequently than ever before. While Harris only joined the Nets in 2016, he was immediately seen as a key player by the Nets’ leadership, albeit one on a minimum deal – according to Kyle Wagner of the Daily News, Coach Kenny Atkinson saw a lot of Kyler Korver in his game and GM Sean Marks wanted him to study Danny Green.

And while Harris’ 2018-19 stats reflect similar production to the career highs of both of Korver and Green (13.2 points per game with an effective field goal percentage of .622 for Harris versus 14.4 points with an eFG% of .518 for Korver and 11.7 points with an eFG% of .566 for Green), at only 27 years old, he should only continue to improve.

A lot has changed in the two and a half seasons since Harris signed a free agent deal with the Nets, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his character.

“We had various deals that were shorter for more (money),” Harris said. “And some were longer and roughly the same, but this is where I wanted to be and I’m happy it ended up working out.”

Harris ultimately signed a two-year deal for approximately $16 million, which can be viewed as both cashing in, given where he was only two years ago (out of the league), and betting on himself, considering the short-term nature of the contract and his relative youth.

And what’s more, Harris will probably go down as a value signing for the Nets considering his versatility. After all, he is not merely a one-dimensional shooter. In fact, he is actually shooting slightly better than 60 percent on 3.2 attempts per game from the restricted area – which is better than All-Star teammate D’Angelo Russell (53 percent on 2.8 attempts). Further, Harris shoots a fair amount of his three-point attempts above the break, which is to say that he does not rely heavily on the shorter corner threes – which tend to be a more efficient means of scoring (1.16 vs. 1.05 points per possession league-wide from 1998-2018) as they are typically a spot where specialist players lurk awaiting an opening look.

The question is, how much more can we expect to see from Harris in the future? If you ask him, he’d probably undersell you on his ceiling and allude to steady progress that ultimately looks similar to what he’s done recently. But the only thing similar about Harris’ career production is that it has steadily improved – and that’s partially due to his process-oriented approach.

“We talked about it in the midst of the losing streak,” Harris said. “What are you going to change, what are you going to do (when you’re in a slump)? Not that we were going to do the exact same thing, but we felt like we were very process oriented. We felt like we were right there. Our whole thing was about being deliberate and doing it as consistently as possible.”

Harris sees the validity in repeating what works. And he’s figured that out, partially with the help of his teammates. Harris clearly values veteran input and team chemistry.

“You look at our team right now and we have really good veteran presences with Jared and DeMarre and Ed (Davis),” Harris said. “That’s the voice from the leadership standpoint. I’m learning from them just like DLo is. And all the other guys in the locker room are. They’re the guiding presence of what it is to be a professional and they keep everything even keel. They don’t go too low when things are tough, and they don’t let us get too high when things are going well.”

Harris is clearly a little uncomfortable taking credit for his team’s success, and he shies away from the spotlight a bit. He seems to prefer anonymity. But Harris should probably get used to the attention he’s received this season because it will only increase as his profile continues to rise as we enter the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

“He’s not just a shooter,” Atkinson told NBA.com last April. “He’s worked on his drive game, he’s worked on his finishing game. I think he’s worked on his defense. So just a complete player who fits how we want to play. He’s one of our most competitive players. Not a surprise watching, from the first day we had him, how locked in he was, how hungry he was. On top of it, he’s a top, top-ranked human being.”

So expect to see more of Joe Harris this April and beyond, but don’t be surprised by his humility. It’s one aspect about him that won’t change.

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