Unlocked … 2012 NBA Season Report #2

Well, since the last time we did this report, the league has crammed in another 116 games.  As we had pointed out then, the effects of the lockout and the accelerated offseason showed in some pretty shoddy basketball.  Well with more data, through 241 games the league PPP is still at 0.998, a far cry from last year’s 1.04.  Put another way, currently only 6 teams are above that number this season compared to 15 a year ago at this time.  Just like last week, we can see other metrics.

  • Turnover Rate: Last Year: 15.3% of possessions, This Year: 16.0%
  • TS%: Last Year: 54%, This Year: 52.1%
  • Shots per possession: Last Year: 0.962, This Year: 0.958.

With even two more weeks, the trends have been getting worse, instead of better.  The turnovers remain up, while the shooting is going down, and so the leaguewide scoring has gone down with it.  Just like we mentioned last time, it is tempting to attribute this to great defense – but given the lack of cohesion on so many rosters and the limited time together, it feels a lot like poor offense is much more to blame.  One place this might be evident is leaguewide foul shooting.  A year ago it was 76.4%, while this year it is down to 74.5%.  There is no reason for this to be the case other than guys just shooting poorly.  The league 3P% (35.6 to 34.0) has dipped as well.  So if you think that there have been a lot of low scoring, high turnover, poor shooting games – it’s not just you.

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. The Sixers hold the number one position again.  Granted, their losses to the Knicks and Heat do not give much confidence that this is the team’s true level.  However, they have clobbered the flotsam on their schedule.  120-89 over the Wizards, 112-85 over the Kings, etc etc.  This has led to that very lofty league’s #1 defensive ranking.  The Sixers are still excelling at preventing good looks, as their league best TS% allowed shows.  In particular, they continue to do a sensational job at limiting high value shots – leading the league in fewest three pointers allowed and 3rd in FT rate allowed.  That said, in the blowout loss to Miami, the Sixers allowed 54% shooting, 7 threes made in 89 possessions and 21 FTs, all much higher than their lofty levels, and all actually closer to last in the league than anything.  The Sixers seem to be above their heads, but the empirical case for them is still strong.
  2. This early in the season it is interesting to note teams whose rankings and record do not match.  A glaring case is the Indiana Pacers, whom the writer-sphere seems to think is a team to watch and whatever.  Certainly their depth is a virtue in this short season, and they have a number of good, close wins – last night at the Lakers most prominently.  The defense has been excellent, in particular leading the league in FG defense.  Without any other sensational fundamentals, their 41% FG allowed has carried them to the league’s 5th rated defense.  However, their scoring margin has not been that eye popping, mostly because of a gang which so far has not shot straight.  The 41% FG allowed is great.  The 41.9% FG of their own?  Yikes.  Fortunately, they have shot the three well (4th in the league and could stand to shoot it more) and have been one of the best teams in the league at converting at the foul line.  This has propped them up to 23rd in TS%, still not good, especially with the team being a pedestrian 26th in shots per possession.  The Pacers need to crank up the efficiency on that end of the floor.
  3. The big mover in a good way though has clearly been the Grizzlies – which is particularly surprising given the extended absence of Zach Randolph.  As you recall, last year’s late run sans Rudy Gay was driven by almost a 1976 style of play with very few three pointers and a maniacal attention to getting inside.  What is interesting is that much of their offensive style has not changed – actually they have kind of turned into the 2008-2010 Boston Celtics.  They are still not shooting the three (second from the bottom in threes per possession), they don’t get to the line much – but they shoot the twos very well, 4th in overall FG% and that has kept their TS% in the middle of the pack despite being only average at generating shots (16th – this is better tham the Celtics normally do since the Grizzlies actually crash the boards and limit turnovers).  The drop in shot generation and getting to the line has limited the offensive bonanza that their FG% would portend.  Z-Bo clearly helps in both areas.  Just as clearly, he doesn’t help play defense – and the Grizzlies have continued to be an elite turnover generating team – the Tony Allen Experience indeed – and that has been more than sufficient to offset any defensive rebounding help Z-Bo offered.  The Grizzlies were the best team in the league a season ago at preventing looks at the basket.  Now, that is not the case, but they have managed to stay a respectable 7th.

As far as the rankings through the games of 1/22/12? (Rankings from the first report – 1/8/12  – in parentheses):

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

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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