Unlocked … 2012 NBA Season Report #1

So, let me get this straight.  We are trying to squeeze in 66 games in 4 months, instead of the normal 82 games in 6 – all of this with a two week training camp and offseason?  And the basketball was going to be good?  Ummm … ok.  Yeah, the Christmas games between New York and Boston and the Lakers and the Bulls were false alarms apparently – as we have had some really crappy basketball to start the year.  How crappy?  Well, last year overall we were averaging 1.045 points per possession.  Right now, the number is 0.998.  Put simply, was was 27th a year ago is 15th right now – yeeah.  So if you thought the points have dropped off (with the pace staying the same), you’re right.  Even if we just compare the first 125 games of the league season (how many games have been played to date), last season we had 1.033 points per possession.  1.033 this year would place you at 8th in the league.  Compare some other stats across the last two season’s first 125 games:

  • Turnover Rate: Last Year: 15.9% of possessions, This Year: 15.9%
  • TS%: Last Year: 54%, This Year: 52%
  • Shots per possession: Last Year: 0.98, This Year: 0.96.

Basically the game has slowed, down – teams are shooting less efficiently, and getting fewer looks at the basket.  It is tempting to salute defense, but this early in the season – one thinks that it is more shoddy play than high quality defending.

That said, despite the hide your eyes bad level of offensive play, and the way too aggressive schedule – the league is starting to unfold.  The latest rankings are in a permanent home this year, so hopefully you can skip right to the good stuff without reading all this jibberish.  However, if you are reading this – might as well get some observations out of the way:

  1. Yes, that is right, the Sixers start out at #1.  You get through a five game road trip to start the season with just two losses and have a +15 normalized scoring margin?  You’re doing something right.  As we know, Doug Collins – the Al Dunlap of NBA Coaches – took this merry band of misfits into a playoff team a year ago, and with almost no personnel changes – what is this?  The Sixers have the league’s top offense AND league’s top defense, and the way they have done both is a study in contrasts.  On offense, it has been a possession based strategy – the Sixers turn the ball over less than anybody, and have ended up 2nd in the league in shots per possession.  Take a pretty good 6th in TS%, and you have a team that is scoring at a very high level.  On defense, they have struggled taking the ball away or preventing offensive rebounds.  This could cause a problem down the road, but their top ranked TS% defense has held up its end of the bargain.  They have been very strong in all phases of ball shooting defense – tops in FG defense, tops in fewest FTs allowed, tops in fewest three point looks.
  2. The Heat of course were the favorites entering, and have done nothing to dissuade those bullish about them.  One obvious thing the Heat have changes tactically is getting out and running.  Their pace has risen from 21st to tops in the league – and so have the points, as they are still a good offensive team.   The pace increase has come from obviously their own priorities, but also their league leading turnover forcing defense – lot of chances to get into the open floor.  That said, there are some things to clean up – in particular trouble defending the 3 and fouling too much.  But the Heat are the league’s best TS%, and it is hard to say a whole lot bad about them.  The win at Atlanta with a skeleton crew and no James or Wade was particularly impressive.
  3. On the other end of the spectrum is the local entry, the Washington Wizards.  They are the league’s worst offense – by 4 points over 29th place.  To put it another way, the difference between 29 and 30 is larger than the difference between #29 and #25.  The Wizards badness on offense is a bit of a surprise with one of the league’s best offensive coaches in Flip Saunders and the Point Guard of the Future in John Wall.  However, John Wall has just been a dreadful shooter, and the Wizards in general do not seem to be getting good shots.  They are bad at shooting in general, and shoot two many contested two pointers – consider they are 29th in three point rate and 24th in FT attempts.  The Wizards have a knack for avoiding all high efficiency scoring – and as a result they are 30th in the league with a thud in TS%.

As far as the rankings through the games of 1/8/12?

  1. Sixers (5-2)
  2. Blazers (6-2)
  3. Heat (8-1)
  4. Nuggets (6-3)
  5. Bulls (7-2)
  6. Hawks (6-3)
  7. Clippers (4-2)
  8. Suns (4-4)
  9. Lakers (6-4)
  10. Thunder (8-2)
  11. Timberwolves (3-5)
  12. Spurs (6-3)
  13. Jazz (5-3)
  14. Pacers (6-2)
  15. Raptors (3-5)
  16. Mavericks (4-5)
  17. Magic (6-3)
  18. Hornets (3-6)
  19. Rockets (2-6)
  20. Celtics (4-4)
  21. Cavaliers (4-4)
  22. Warriors (2-6)
  23. Bucks (2-6)
  24. Grizzlies (3-5)
  25. Knicks (4-4)
  26. Bobcats (2-6)
  27. Pistons (2-6)
  28. Kings (3-6)
  29. Nets (2-7)
  30. Wizards (0-8)

Anyway, hopefully the season report will be a semi-regular feature.  Even still, the rankings will be updated at least once a week.

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