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What a Difference a Year Makes: A Shift in NBA Leaders

What a difference a year makes. Jessica Camerato looks at the many changes in the NBA since last season.

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This time last year, Mike Budenholzer was navigating his way through his first go-around as an NBA head coach and Steve Kerr was in the broadcast booth. This week, they were named coaches of the Eastern and Western Conference All-Star teams, respectively, demonstrating how much can change over the course of a season.

The success of the Atlanta Hawks (35-8) and Golden State Warriors (34-6) are examples of the many changes in the league. From the emergence of new playoff teams to the struggles of annual contenders to the surge of developing talent, the 2014-15 season already has seen its share of changes a month before the trade deadline.

Take a look at who is standing out now and some of the many ways the league looks differently from the end of last season.

Best Team Records

Eastern Conference
2014-15: Atlanta Hawks
2013-14: Indiana Pacers

Injuries. They can change the direction of a team in a matter of seconds. Last season, the Pacers thrived behind the star power of Paul George. But after breaking his leg this summer during a Team USA scrimmage, their hopes of a title run were dashed. The Pacers are 15-29, 20.5 games back from the first spot they held last year. The Hawks are also familiar with the injury bug. This season they lost Al Horford for the year in late December and stumbled to the eighth spot. With the team running at full strength, they are dominating the East.

Western Conference
2014-15: Golden State Warriors
2013-14: San Antonio Spurs

Last year, the Warriors finished 51-31, a strong record but still sixth in the ultra-competitive conference. The West belonged to the Spurs, the veteran powerhouse that defied age to capture it all. This season the Warriors are using its young stars to run through the league, rising to the top behind Stephen Curry, 26, and Klay Thompson, 24.

Most Points Per Game (Team)
2014-15: Golden State Warriors (110.7)
2013-14: Los Angeles Clippers (107.9)

The Warriors are averaging the most points in the NBA while accomplishing the largest differential (+11.7) and shooting a league-best 48.7 percent from the field. Last season they averaged 104.3 points with a +4.8 differential, shooting 46.2 percent. The Clippers, who led the lead in scoring last season, are currently ranked fourth with 106.7 points.

Fewest Opponent Points Per Game
2014-15: Atlanta Hawks (96.1)
2013-14: Chicago Bulls (91.8)

The Hawks have clamped down on defense, holding their opponents to 96.1 points from 101.5. The Bulls, who limited their competition to under 92 points per game last year, are allowing 99.7 this season.

Most Rebounds Per Game (Team)
2014-15: Oklahoma City Thunder (46.9)
2013-14: Portland Trail Blazers (46.4)

In spite of battling the injuries of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder are leading the NBA with 46.9 rebounds per game (44.7 last season). Steven Adams is grabbing 7.3 boards, up from 4.1. Last season’s leaders, the Trail Blazers, are ranked third with 45.7, down less than one rebound per game.

Assists Per Game (Team)
2014-15: Golden State Warriors (27.1)
2013-14: San Antonio Spurs (25.2)

With a dynamic backcourt, the Warriors have increased their assists from 23.3 to 27.1 assists this season. The Spurs’ assists have only dropped slightly to 24.6 per game, but a big enough drop for them to be ranked sixth in the league.

Points Per Game
2014-15: James Harden (27.2 points)
2013-14: Kevin Durant (32.0 points)

The reigning MVP was sidelined by injuries this season, opening the door for others to emerge as the league’s offensive leader. Harden’s scoring has increased from 25.4 points last season (fifth), while Durant is averaging 25.5 points.

Assists Per Game
2014-15: John Wall (10.0)
2013-14: Chris Paul (10.7)

Chris Paul was the only player to average more than 10 dimes per game last season. Wall’s dishing production has increased from 8.8 assists to 10.0 this year, while Paul has dropped slightly to 9.6.

Three-Point Percentage Per Game
2014-15: Kyle Korver (53.5%)
2013-14: Kyle Korver (47.2%)

At this point in his career, Korver’s domination behind the arc is no surprise. This season, however, he is knocking down shots at an improved rate of 53.5 percent (and could make history, as Alex Kennedy recently wrote). What is noteworthy about the category is Rasual Butler’s surge into second place, shooting 46.3 percent on the Washington Wizards from 41.9 percent on the Indiana Pacers.

Jessica Camerato is a bilingual reporter who has been covering the NBA since 2006. She has also covered MLB, NHL and MLS. A graduate of Quinnipiac University, Jessica is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association and the Association for Women in Sports Media.

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