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NBA PM: The Joy of Stats

Does momentum exist? Which teams are the best at comebacks? We have fun statistics to answer all these questions and more…

Joel Brigham

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Fifty years ago, NBA teams could not have cared less about statistical trends, especially those of an advanced nature. But in our more modern understanding of the game of basketball and the myriad numbers that come with that modern game, we now know that looking at statistics is an integral part of running a successful team. Every organization in the league has employees whose job is to look at and consider all these numbers and how they might be used to improve the quality of a team.

Sometimes, though, statistics can be flat-out fun. David Beaudoin, a statistics professor at Laval University in Quebec City, Canada, has spent months pouring over data to find the answers to what are some really interesting questions. His analysis considers the last fourteen NBA seasons (not including the current one) to determine things like which teams have been the most “clutch” over time, and whether league parity has increased or decreased since the turn of the century. The questions are important ones, and the answers are both fascinating and even downright entertaining in some instances.

Who Are the Most and Least “Clutch” Teams?

Everybody loves a close game, mostly because of the drama that is associated with the moment, but is there really as much drama as we think? According to the numbers, there are some teams that are significantly better during tight games, and in looking at the data from the last 14 years, it probably won’t come as a huge surprise which teams were best at owning the moment.

In games where the margin of victory ended up being three points or fewer, or if the game went into overtime, the San Antonio Spurs have the best winning percentage of any team in the league at 62.0 percent. The Dallas Mavericks (57.6 percent) and L.A. Lakers (56.2 percent) round out the top three. But the fourth-best “clutch” winning percentage in the league is a bit surprising: the New Orleans Pelicans/Hornets (55.8 percent).

The least effective teams in tight games include the Minnesota Timberwolves (40.7 percent), Toronto Raptors (42.9 percent) and New York Knicks (43.7 percent).

To find the real surprises in this analysis, however, it was necessary to compare these “clutch” win percentages against actual overall team winning percentages. When doing that. Charlotte (+10.6 percent), Brooklyn/New Jersey (+10.0 percent) and New Orleans (+9.1 percent) were the teams that were actually better in tight games than their record would suggest. The Phoenix Suns (-9.0 percent), Golden State Warriors (-6.4 percent) and Indiana Pacers (-5.0 percent) were actually worse in close games than their regular season record.

Also, in the last 14 years, only one team, the 2013-2014 San Antonio Spurs, has won all of its “close” games in a season, while only the 2015-2016 Philadelphia 76ers have ever gone an entire season without winning a single close game. Those, officially, are the most and least clutch teams of the millennium so far.

Which Teams Have Made the Most Comebacks?

The team that scores the first points in the game doesn’t always win the game, naturally. Basketball is a game of back-and-forth, and deficits don’t necessarily mean that a team is buried. Take the San Antonio Spurs’ recent 28-point comeback against the Sacramento Kings, for example. No team is ever completely out of the woods until the final horn sounds.

Some teams though, including the Spurs, are more adept at comebacks than others. In fact, all three Texas teams hold the top spots on the list of organizations with the most comebacks over the last 14 seasons.

Naturally, San Antonio has been the best, and their ability to comeback is frankly staggering. When trailing after the first quarter, all NBA teams have a comeback proportion between 24 percent and 48.1 percent. San Antonio, however, approaches a 59 percent probability of winning when trailing after one period.

Understandably, the number of wins when trailing after three quarters decreases considerably. The Spurs are still the top team in this regard, with a comeback percentage of 27.7 percent when trailing heading into the final period, but only nine teams consistently win 20 percent or more of games when they’re trailing after three: San Antonio, Dallas, Cleveland, Portland, Houston, Miami, Boston, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago.

Cleveland, ranked 10th and 16th in comeback percentage after one quarter and two quarters, respectively, jumps to third overall when trailing after three quarters. There’s a good chance that LeBron James and Kyrie Irving have something to do with that.

Has League Parity Increased or Decreased?

That there have been seven different organizations win the NBA championship in the last nine years suggests that league parity isn’t a problem, but data trends suggest that there actually has been a decrease in parity over the course of the last 14 years. In other words, it’s only getting easier for the good teams and harder for the bad ones, and despite all these different champions, the playing field isn’t as even as it some would hope.

The number of teams with a record around .500 in a given season has been decreasing, specifically over the last nine seasons. From 2002 through 2007, league parity actually appeared to be on the rise, a conclusion that can be drawn by considering that, earlier on in the study, there were more teams around .500 and fewer teams with very good or very bad records.

In the more recent NBA past, that has changed. Furthermore, the study claims that a decrease in parity would suggest fewer comebacks, since more teams matching up more evenly would experience closer games, but average comeback percentages have been decreasing steadily over the past nine seasons. Fewer teams are coming back to win games, which suggests that those exciting, close games are happening less often.

The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer, but that passes the eye test, as well. Fans have complained about parity for years now, and the numbers suggest they may have a legitimate gripe.

Does “Momentum” Really Exist in Games?

The last question is a great one because every sports fan has watched a game and seen momentum shift right in the middle of a game. After trailing, a player or two will get hot and knock down a handful of shots in a row. The home crowd gets into it, and before we know it, it’s like we’re watching a completely different game. That switch flips on and off several times in just about every game played in the NBA.

But do the numbers suggest that momentum actually is a real thing?

Of course it is, but it may be contained to a single quarter. Coaches call timeouts to shut down a run for a reason, and the longer, more official breaks in action really do seem to shut down any momentum a team may experience in a quarter.

In looking at the halftime scores, the idea would be that if a home team outscored its opponents by six or more points in the most recent quarter, they’d have the momentum in the game. However, the numbers suggest that the home team actually wins more often when the road team had that measure of momentum in the 2nd quarter.

In other words, momentum is a thing, but it may not have the outcome on winning that we think it does, especially if those runs happen earlier on in the game.

*****

Chances are very good that the data from the 2016-2017 season would alter some of these findings somewhat, but as only 1/15th of the number pool they likely wouldn’t change the overall trends. Parity is decreasing, momentum doesn’t matter, and the San Antonio Spurs are awesome in yet another measurable way. We have stats to thank for all that.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Jaylen Hands Makes Good Showing at the NBA Combine

Jaylen Hands made a good showing at the NBA Combine by displaying his offensive skills and defensive intensity.

Jesse Blancarte

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UCLA has produced a few of the NBA’s top point guards over the last decade or so, including Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday. Jrue’s younger brother, Aaron Holiday, has declared for this year’s draft and is projected by several NBA insiders to be selected with a first-round pick (likely in the 20-30 range). But Aaron Holiday isn’t the only UCLA point guard who may end up taking his talents to the NBA this offseason. Jaylen Hands, who is still just 19 years old and finished his freshman season, has also entered his name into this year’s draft.

While Hands has entered his name into the draft and participated in the NBA Combine, he has not hired an agent, which preserves his ability to return to college (Hands has until June 11 to make a final decision). Considering Hands’ young age and raw skill set, he isn’t projected by many insiders to hear his name called on draft night. But he certainly helped his cause in the Combine, showcasing his offensive talents, the muscle he has added to his slight frame since the end of his freshman season and aggressiveness on defense.

Basketball Insiders spoke with Hands at the Combine about his development, going through the pre-draft process, competing against familiar faces and more.

“It’s crazy, it’s crazy because when we were younger, they said the exact thing: ‘You guys are going to see each other forever.’” Hands said when asked about competing against many of the same players over the years and now at the Combine. “And you don’t really believe what they’re saying. But now you go through high school, you’re a senior, All-Star activities and you go to the Combine, you see the same people. It’s crazy.”

Hands has a notable skill set but is a raw prospect that many believe would be better served spending another year in college. While Hands needs to continue filling out his frame, he did register decent measurements at the Combine in relation to a top guard prospect – Trae Young of Oklahoma. Hands weighed in at 1.2 lbs heavier than Young, and outmatched Young in height (with and without shoes), standing reach and wingspan. Ironically, Hands has the smallest hands of all players that participated in the Combine. While these measurements don’t mean that he is currently a comparable prospect to Young, they could address some concerns about his current physical profile and how it may ultimately translate to the NBA.

Hands proved himself to be a confident and aggressive player in his freshman season at UCLA – something that he believes has led to misconceptions about his game.

“I’m not a point guard,” Hands said when asked about what misconceptions people have about his game.

I wouldn’t say it’s common, like it’s the main thing. But I’ve heard that I shoot first or something like that. I just feel like I attack a lot. I think I attack a lot and I’m of size to being a [two guard], so I think some people get it misconstrued. I just think I’m attack first, set my teammates up, get what I get.”

Hands is clearly aware of the common perceptions and current shortcomings in his game, which is why he is working hard to improve his overall skill set and is testing the NBA waters to get feedback from teams.

“Before I came here, just being more steady working on my shot, making good reads out of the pick and roll, finishing.” Hands said when asked about what parts of his game he was working on before coming to the Combine.

Hands was asked to clarify what he believes is his best strength at this point. Hands didn’t hesitate and pointed toward his ability to make plays off the dribble.

“My best strength is getting in the paint. So I get in the paint and make plays,” Hands said.

Hands is also clearly aware of UCLA’s history of producing quality point guards and has a chance to one day develop into a quality guard at the NBA level. However, with Holiday heading to the NBA and no major competition for the starting point guard position at UCLA next season, it may benefit Hands to hold off on turning pro for at least another year.

Whether he stays at UCLA or commits to this year’s draft, there’s no doubt that Hands is going to keep pushing to develop into a quality NBA player.

“I want to be the best player I can in the league,” Hands said. “That’s my goal.”

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 2018 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 5/22/18

The final 2018 NBA Draft order is set and Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler offers up his latest 60-pick NBA Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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Lots of Draft Movement

With the draft order now set for the 2018 NBA Draft, there is some sense of how the draft might play out.

The buzz coming out of the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago is that a number of picks could be had in trade include all three of the top selections. Word is the initial asking price is very high and more of an indication to the San Antonio Spurs that if they do want to part with disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard, they are open for business.

It’s also worth noting that there is a growing sense that both the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawk may be far higher on some of the domestic bigs in the draft more so than euro sensation Luka Dončić. Both teams are expected to take a long look at Dončić, so their views on him could change as we get closer to the draft, but for now, Dončić may go lower.

Here is the latest 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft, reflecting the final draft order and the latest buzz, rumors, and intel from in and around the NBA:

Dates To Know:

The NCAA requires all players wishing to maintain their college eligibility, without penalty, to withdraw from the NBA Draft by 11:59 pm on May 30. That is an NCAA mandated date, not related to anything involving the NBA, and that notice must be delivered in writing.

The NBA’s draft withdrawal date is June 11 by 5:00 pm ET. The NBA’s date allows a prospect to remain NBA draft eligible for future NBA drafts and is not related to any NCAA rule or date. There are ways for college players that did not accept benefits to return to college. However, they may be subject to NCAA penalties.

The 2018 NBA Draft is June 21.

The Pick Swaps:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections. This pick will convey.

The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the final NBA standings.

The Phoenix Suns were owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick would only convey if the Bucks pick landed between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the final NBA standings did not convey. The Suns will now receive the Bucks 2019 first-round pick assuming it falls between the fourth and 16th pick.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey to Atlanta based on the final NBA standings.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey based on the final NBA standings.

The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick was top-five protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick was lottery protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects – http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

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, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, @mike_yaffe, @MattJohnNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA Daily: Shamet Comfortable With Steady Self Going Into Draft

With a natural feel for the game, Wichita State guard Landry Shamet has more than enough of a chance to carve his own path of success in the NBA.

Spencer Davies

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No matter what professional field a person wants to work in, there are multiple ways to show why they belong.

A positive attitude is everything, confidence goes a long way and honesty truly is the best policy.

Speaking with Wichita State product Landry Shamet this past week at the NBA Combine in Chicago, it’s clear that he has all three of those boxes checked off.

“It’s been great,” Shamet said of the event. “Just trying to absorb everything, soak everything up. It’s a big learning experience for sure. A lot of knowledge to be attained (at the Combine). With interviews and playing on the court, being coached by NBA guys, it’s been cool so far.”

During his three years with the Shockers, the 6-foot-4, 188-pound guard accomplished quite a few feats, but his junior season was arguably the most spectacular. Not only did Shamet lead his team in multiple ways, but he also topped out in four statistical categories in the American Athletic Conference—the school’s first year there after moving on from the Missouri Valley.

Shamet’s 166 assists (5.2 per game average) were the most in the AAC by far. In addition, his true shooting percentage (65.5) and three-point percentage (44.2) ranked number one among his peers.

From entering the program in 2015 to now, he feels that he’s grown dramatically as a player—but in what areas, specifically?

“I would say being a point guard honestly,” Shamet said. “I was recruited in as a two. But just kinda that leadership role, that accountability. Knowing that you’re gonna get a lot of scrutiny (after) a loss and you’re gonna be responsible for a win. Regardless of how the game goes, it’s your responsibility.”

Much of his development at Wichita State was courtesy of a hands-on approach with Gregg Marshall, one of the most revered head coaches in college basketball. Thanks to his guidance, Shamet feels ready, even in aspects outside of his offensive ability.

“On the defensive end, I feel comfortable with my positioning,” Shamet said. “Obviously, need to get better. You can always get better on the defensive end. That’s one thing I’ve been focusing on. Trying to get more athletic. Just be better defensively. He gave me the groundwork for sure. 100 percent.”

Shamet has kept in touch with Marshall throughout the entire pre-draft process. He was told to “smile and relax” in interviews and to be confident, which he’s certainly followed through with.

A similar message has come from Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, two former Shockers who have each made their mark at the professional level.

“Just be yourself, you know,” Shamet said of VanVleet’s pointers. “That’s really what it boils down to I think. He’s been great to have him in my corner—a guy like that who’s been through a lot of adversity on his way to the NBA, so I’m gonna listen to him 10 times out of 10.”

VanVleet’s career is already taking off with the Toronto Raptors as a part of their young and hungry bench. But with four more inches of height and a similar feel for the game, Shamet has more than enough of a chance to carve his own path of success in the NBA.

And it won’t require flash or making a daily highlight-reel to do so.

“I’d like to just say versatile,” Shamet said of his game. “Just try to stay solid. I don’t ever try to make spectacular plays all the time. Try to just do what I feel I can do—play multiple positions, both positions, on or off the ball. I’m comfortable at either spot, honestly. Whether it’s facilitating, scoring, whatever the case may be.

“I feel like I have a high IQ as well. Just a cerebral player. Not gonna ‘wow’ you with crossing people up and doing things that a lot of the guys in the limelight do all the time. But I feel like I’m a solid player. Pretty steady across the board.”

However, just because he rarely shows off on the court doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the ability to do it.

“I feel like I’m a little more athletic than I might get credit for,” Shamet said. “I think I’m a better athlete than I get credit for.”

Shamet is projected to go anywhere from the middle-to-late first round of the draft in June. Whoever lands the Kansas City native will be getting a tireless worker who does things the right way and is all about the team.

But for now, he’s soaking in everything he possibly can before that night comes.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Shamet candidly said. “I’m a 21-year-old kid, man I guess. So just trying to learn as much as I can, gain some knowledge, get good feedback—because at the end of the day, I’m not a perfect player. I know that.”

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