Tag Archives: Kevin Love

Previewing the 2014-15 season with Adam Mares

My worst Kirby photoshop yet.

My worst Kirby photoshop yet.

With real basketball and cool things like televised games on the horizon, I exchanged a few e-mails with Adam Mares on what we’re most looking forward to this upcoming year. Adam is the creator of the NBA PhD program on Reddit, writes for Analytics Game, and in my opinion is underfollowed on Twitter. You can reach him there at @Adam_Mares.

Below is what he and I had to say about this upcoming season over the span of a few days:

Adam Mares (October 14, 2:17 PM):

Hey Matt! The NBA season is almost here! That means we don’t have to replace Kirby’s head with Carlos Boozer or Ty Lawson’s head with Peyton Manning. I mean, we still will, of course, we just won’t have to. We can start to watch and talk about actual basketball. And there is so much to look forward to this season. Like, hundreds of thousands of things that I am excited about.

I’ll get the obvious one out of the way first. Lebron is back in Cleveland! And he brought some friends with him too. It’s almost impossible for this Cavs team to disappoint, at least when it comes to entertainment. They’ve got the best basketball player on the planet, the most unique power forward in the game, a point guard with a ridiculous handle and the potential to be one of the game’s best, and enough outside shooting to fill a 3-point contest for all-star weekend. And yet I’m most excited about David Blatt. I’ve allowed myself to become convinced that he is a basketball messiah, sent to Cleveland to create the world’s greatest offense. And I say that having only seen a few press conferences, a couple of clips of his former teams in Europe, and some nice reviews from former players.

Blatt is like the hot foreign exchange student that shows up one day in your class. The one who has that thick accent and weird clothes, and yet somehow after seeing her you are convinced that you’ll never fall for an American girl again. They all pale in comparison to her and her glowing blonde hair and the way she says “mercy” after she sneezes. That’s David Blatt! He might just be another guy, but I’m convinced he’s the one!

Matt Femrite (October 14, 3:25 PM):

First off, I might’ve attended the wrong high school and college because there was no female Blatt that I know of. Then again, I may or may not have napped my way through those years. Cavs fans would’ve been wise to do the same the last four seasons, and Blatt (along with, you know, LeBron and everyone else acquired this off-season) is like that fresh cup of coffee or three to get back up and going again.

IT’S ONLY PRE-SEASON, BUT Cleveland’s offense looks like it will end up as the most efficient in the league, and it’s been super fun to watch so far with Blatt deserving a lot of credit. The weave in particular and the off-ball movement produces spacing that’s just unfair. Kevin Love‘s going to have more than a few nights like against the Heat where he quietly scores 25, and we’ll have the 12th straight year wondering if LeBron will flirt with a triple double because of all the open looks this offense will create. There’s a lot of lineups that produce a ton of spacing, and sometimes defense just doesn’t matter when Cleveland could snap a 10-2 run in a minute.

Back to Blatt, though. Seems fair to put him near the top of the Coach of the Year candidates. That award has some, well, interesting names receiving it over the last 15 or so years. Quite a few have been awarded after a surge in wins which Blatt is going to qualify for, but Stan Van Gundy (Detroit), Monty Williams (New Orleans), and Mike Budenholzer (Atlanta) are a few who could be in the running as well. Is Blatt your pre-season pick?

And I’ll lob (or outlet pass?! Or both, like a full-court alley-oop?!?!?!) another question to you: With Kevin Durant about to miss a good chunk of time, is LeBron the #1 and #2 MVP candidate or do you see anybody taking the #2 slot up to the New Year?

Adam (October 14, 4:31 PM):

Lebron has been my #1 MVP pick every year since about 2008 and I think the odds are strongly in his favor for this season, but I actually think his usage will go down this year even if his impact is as big as ever. He’ll also get some competition from Blake Griffin, the three-point specialist. I think people, myself included, tend to think of Blake as a finished product when really he’s 25! This will likely be the first year of his prime. It’s entirely possible that Blake makes a leap this year not just as a shooter, but as an all-around player. Durant could also be in the mix, especially if the Thunder struggle without him and his return helps bring them back to the top of the Western Conference. People’s memories are short and if he returns on Christmas most people won’t even remember that he missed games by the time votes are due in April.

And what about the Unibrow? This promises to be a big season for him since his learning curve has been ridiculously steep. The Pelicans probably won’t make the playoffs in the loaded West, but how are teams going to score against Davis and Omer Asik? Anthony Davis reminds me of sci-fi movies when a robot slowly gains consciousness to the point where they can no longer be controlled. Or that movie Lawnmower Man! Anthony Davis is basically a basketball lawnmower man. Every game he is better than the last. Davis started last season as the 33rd ranked player on ESPN’s player rank. He finished last season as the fifth or sixth best player in the league. Where will he rank by the end of this season?

Matt (October 14, 6:09 PM):

Fair point on Durant. Game totals will impact voting for awards and All-NBA teams, but memories are indeed short and if anybody was going to win MVP on less than 70 games for the first time since Bill Walton in 1978, it would be Durant. It’s a steep hill to climb, having to surpass a few big names, two you mentioned in the Brow and Griffin, but also possibly splitting votes with Russell Westbrook. Voting history over the last 20 seasons, via Basketball-Reference, suggests Durant could place in the top 3 if he ends up playing around 60 games.

For the Brow and his age, history suggests a tough obstacle to climb into the top 5. 2006 LeBron, 1994 Shaquille O’Neal, 2010 Durant, and 1998 Tim Duncan are the only players to place in the top 5 voting and be 21 years or younger, which is where Davis is currently at. He’s just as freaky as each of those players, but making the playoffs like the rest of those guys would help a ton.

Regardless, it feels like this is the year Davis starts to terrify people for betting against him and the Pelicans. Like, Zach Lowe just took Serge Ibaka over him for Defensive Player of the Year? What does Pierre think of this? I also give it two months before Davis’ basketball-reference page looks like this:

borw

Adam (October 15, 12:09 PM):

Ha! I love it, although I doubt Lawnmower Man catches on. The brow is just too solid of nickname to be replaced. I think Ibaka as DPOY is as good a bet as any although there are plenty of challengers. Davis is certainly a contender for the award along with… Dwight Howard. The Rockets have become a punchline for the league, especially James Harden and his matador defense. They’re going to need 2009 Dwight back if they plan on being in the conversation this season and that means dominant on both sides, especially defensively.

Speaking of defense, how about the new look Charlotte Hornets? I am fully aboard the Steve Clifford bandwagon, I’m running for president of the Steve Clifford fan club, I’ve even ordered my Steve Clifford tiger beat pinups. Okay, maybe not that far but I am a believer. Have you seen the way his players talk bout him? And on top of that, in one year he turned Charlotte from the worst defensive-rated team in the league to the fifth best. Look at guys who had career years for them last year. Al Jefferson, Josh McRoberts, even Kemba Walker improved greatly as the season went on, averaging 5.4 assists in December, 6.3 in January, 7.3 in February, 7.5 in March and 8.5 in April. And now you add Lance to the mix? A guy that grew up competing against Kemba in NYC? I’ve got a feeling I’ll be watching a LOT of Hornets games this year on league pass. I know there are sexier picks out there, but I’m going with the Hornets as my pick for league pass team of the year!

Matt (October 15, 3:54 PM):

Charlotte’s new court gives them a few extra wins, no? I’m just glad the Bobcats are gone. It was mostly a forgettable 10 years and last season looked like it was going to fit in with the first nine, but yeah, it’s remarkable what Clifford has done with that defense.

We could see some really ugly scoring out East. The Bobcats, Magic, Pacers, 76ers, Celtics, and Bucks… I mean, 7 of the 9 worst offenses last season came out East. I’d like to see how they play against a team like Cleveland, just from how well Charlotte would defend the Cavs’ fast break and such. Are there any matchups you’d really want to see, no matter how weird? Let’s stick to regular season games for now since everyone’s going to play everyone at some point or another.

Adam (October 15, 5:49 PM):

There are soooooo many match ups I want to see! Cavs vs Bulls will be the ultimate Offense vs. Defense matchup. Cavs vs. Wizards has rivalries at every position — Kyrie/Wall, Dion/Beal, Lebron/Pierce, Varajao/Nene. Any matchup between ATL, CHA, TOR, BKN, and WAS will be fun since I think they will all be neck and neck in the standings. How about GSW vs NYK? Will the garden give Steve Kerr an earful for leaving Phil at the alter? In Texas, I love that Cuban and Morey are beefing. I fully support a front office beef. I wish there were more. I want a Steve Ballmer/Paul Allen feud.

how

vs. Utah

Then there’s the Lakers and their rivalry with logic and progress. Seriously, I am pretty neutral when it comes to all things Lakers but I have to admit that I am kind of looking forward to seeing just how bad this team will be. It’s not just the age or lack of talent on D, it’s what they seem to want to represent: A return to some idealized version of old school basketball. I hope we see more nights where the Lakers stick to their guns and shoot 70 mid range jumpers and go 0-3 from behind the arc. Nothing will demonstrate more perfectly just how much the game has changed.

Then there are the rookie matchups. We’re gonna get Wiggins vs. Parker, Smart vs. Exum, Randle vs. Noel. Nurkic in Denver is looking like a rebounding machine. This rookie class is going to be a story in and of itself. Which of the rooks are you most excited to see and who do you think finishes with the ROY?

Matt (October 15, 7:15 PM):

Totally agree with why the Lakers should continue what they’re doing. They’re going to be something of a time machine, possibly surpassing the KG-led Wolves as the least “Moreyball” squad since shots have been tracked on NBA.com. FUN TIMES.

Jabari Parker should be the favorite for Rookie of the Year, and looking at Bovada’s Sportsbook he’s the clear leader with Andrew Wiggins, Nerlens Noel, Julius Randle, and Doug McDermott (!!!) rounding out the top 5. I’m most looking forward to Wiggins, though, partly because he’s on the local Timberwolves but with Zach Lavine and Ricky Rubio he should also ease the rebuilding process. Orlando’s rookies Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton have a lot of intrigue, too.

Like you said, there are quite a few fun rookie matchups, and it’s going to be a fun storyline both early on and hopefully during the last 20 games or so when the season can get stale.

Just for the heck of it since awards keep popping up, who do you have for each?

Adam (October 16, 2:33 PM):

I’ll stick with Lebron at MVP; it’s the only real choice. I’m really tempted to go with Wiggins for ROY. A LOT of people I really respect are down on Wiggins but I love his game and think he’ll have a more immediate impact than most. Clifford at COY for all of the reasons I already mentioned. I’ll go with Taj Gibson as 6th man of the year. This award typically goes to high volume scorers like Crawford but I think Taj is in a great spot now with Pau taking over the starting 4 duties. I think he’ll be more useful and more efficient behind Pau and will even get to play the 4 alongside Pau in some lineups. Also, the Bulls will be good and they need an award to show for it.

I think Steven Adams wins most improved. This might finally be the year Brooks realizes that the Thunder are better without Perkins on the court and I love what I’ve seen out of Adams. He fits that roster perfectly. Defensive player of the year award will be a tricky one. I could see Dwight stealing this one if Houston can become a better defensive team, which I suspect they will replacing Parsons with Ariza. I could be waaaaaay off on this one but I think Dwight has one of his best seasons ever this year and that starts with his defensive impact. Executive of the year will go to Lebron James. How can it not? He created a super team in a city that used to be free agency poison. The league will hand it over to David Griffin but we know who really deserves it.

Are you seeing what I’m seeing?  And lastly, who do you see bringing home the title?

Matt (October 16 4:25 PM):

MVP: LeBron James, but I can see Jon Leuer giving him a run.

ROY: Jabari Parker. I just see him as getting the most bulk stats and he has nobody to split votes with unlike, say, the Orlando Magic with Payton and Gordon.

Most Improved: Anthony Bennett should be the favorite for this, but it’s such a weird award. Like, Kobe could be in the running. Adams is a fun pick, maybe Reggie Jackson too. Is it bad if I don’t know?

[Throws dart at board.]

Cole Aldrich?

COY: Clifford’s a fun pick, but he may have missed his chance as this award is usually given to teams with big improvements in regular season win total. I’ll lean on Blatt.

6th man: Taj Gibson is a nice pick. Probably should’ve won it last year. I’ve wanted to modify who qualifies for this award, but that’s a post for another time.

DPOY: I’ll go with the Brow because I don’t want to upset Pierre.

GM: Heh, LeBron is a solid choice. This award will go to somebody in Cleveland.

As for which team survives the gauntlet that is the playoffs, I like the Spurs to repeat. It’s so close, but I like whoever gets that 1-seed out West. It’s a disaster to fall to #3 which OKC, another decent choice to title, might be placed.

It’s just so hard for a new trio to win it all, and while I always thought the ’08 Celtics were going to win a championship, them winning it all looks more impressive each day. The ’11 Heat ran over teams on the way to their first Finals appearance, but even they fell short in the end. For Cleveland this year, sure, the players will probably be disappointed if they don’t title, but to me that’s more than okay. If we learned anything from the SSOS Suns or the early-2000s Kings it’s that teams with great, super-fun offenses have lasting power.

What about you?!

Adam (October 16, 10:43 PM):

I have absolutely no reason to pick against the Spurs. They perfected basketball last year. Their finals performance was a work of art. They made a team that featured one of the best 10 players of all time look like a J.V. And yet, my gut tells me it won’t be them this year. My gut is telling me that Lebron and the Heat made it to the finals in Year One with Carlos Arroyo running point! Lebron learned the hardest lesson of his life that season, and I think he’ll take those lessons with him into this season. There are so many questions surrounding that team, but I take Lebron at his word this time around, that he’s ready to accept the challenge.

My head tells me there are a half dozen teams that could give the Cavs trouble. Chicago, San Antonio, OKC, the Clippers. But my gut tells me this will be Lebron’s season. My gut and my head are usually in sync but on this one I have to pick a side. I think we get a pantheon year out of Lebron.

It’s something of a transition period in the league. It’ll be a fast, short one. The Heatles era is over. The Pacers era might be over, at least the one we’ve come to know over the last few years. The David Stern era is over. As is the Donald Sterling era. The Spurs era might never truly be over, but it’s entirely possible that the dynasty is coming to a close. Kobe’s era is also a flicker. KG and Paul Pierce are on their last legs. Steve Nash, Vince Carter, and perhaps even Dirk Nowitzki are all writing their final chapter. But new, bright and exciting chapters are being written. One in Cleveland. Another in New Orleans. Another, in a sense, in Clipperland. And in Minnesota, Boston, Milwaukee, and so many other cities the new book is being written. This will indeed be a season of new beginnings.

Matt (October 17, 2:18 AM):

Could a contender please sacrifice 10 projected wins and trade for Kevin Garnett already? Is there a bizarro trade Cleveland can pull off to get him there? Regardless of what happens, I’m going to soak in the final days of his career and potentially the last from so many other stars of the late-90s, early-2000s. They’re my childhood and last major rooting interests around the league. That’s not to say the players of this era are dull or anything. They’re absolutely not and this is a golden age for basketball, but my fandom with most players, much like my rooting interest in the Timberwolves, comes and goes.

I very much agree that this season brings new beginnings and the excitement it could provide down the road will make for some great discussions, but right now the careers winding down mean a little more to me. The league is going to continue to soar when they’re gone, but like those before them we shouldn’t forget who helped pave the way. The nostalgic side of me sees this season as one of endings.

Looking at the NBA’s 2015 non-conference schedule

Last week’s release of the NBA’s 2014-15 season schedule marks the return of the non-conference posts. Maybe we’ll find something that gives one conference a scheduling edge over the other in their non-conference matchups. For the East, that would be nice.

As a reminder, 450 non-conference games are played each season, basically taking the number of teams (30) divided by those in each conference (15). The matchups last season were historic in several ways, one being that the West outscored the East by 4.09 points per game, the highest ever point differential in the last 17 seasons, according to NBA.com. The 2014 West nearly finished with the highest winning percentage in non-conference play, but fell just short of the mark set in 2004 at 63.33 percent.

Below is a breakdown of point differential, wins and losses, and win percentage in non-conference play since 1998. You can find the same chart in the last East vs. West post last season. All stats are from NBA.com:

It’s probably obvious, but the 450 non-conference games next season are not scheduled at a consistent frequency over the season nor do they all take place within designated weeks. Below is a chart of how many of these games take place in each of the 25 weeks.

2015 non-conf games

19 of those 25 have anywhere from 14-29 non-conference games and the ones that fall below that range are opening week, the week just before and after the all-star break, and the last three weeks of the season. On the other end, weeks 5&6 (11/24-12/7), 13&14 (1/19-2/1), and 20&21 (3/9-3/22) combine to take up over a third of the non-conference games. Those two-week stretches feature 50, 51, and 56 games, respectively.

And though each team has 15 home and road non-conference games, they don’t happen equally either. Below is a chart looking at how many more home games each conference plays versus the other each week. For example, on the first week (10/28-11/2) the West has five home non-conference games versus two for the East, which amounts to +3 in the chart.

2015 non-conf home and road games

The East will have more home games early on, but it will catch up to them as we head into 2015 when the West will have 30 of the 45 games from 12/30 to 1/11 at home. From 1/26 to 2/22, the East will have 10 more home games than the West, but then the West hits another home-heavy stretch from 3/9 to 3/22.

Rest is also a factor in quite a few non-conference games. 238 (52.9 percent) of the 450 matchups will feature teams playing on equal days of rest, with 191 featuring both the West and East team on a one-day breather. Below is a chart of the total games on equal rest and those that feature rest advantages:

2015 non-conference rest

 

The advantage of playing games on more rest than an opponent goes to the East, 108 to the West’s 104, but the West holds arguably the most important rest advantage: Games with rest vs squads on back-to-backs, 69 games to 65 but also a 60 to 49 edge in games at home vs squads on a back-to-back. An advantage for the East is having six more games where they’ll have more rest vs opponents coming off a one-day break, best when an opponent is in the middle of a stretch of four games in five nights or three in four.

Of course, not all back-to-backs are equal. A back-to-back combo of Philadelphia and Boston is less intimidating than 2/3 of the Texas Triangle. Then again, the Knicks went 2-1 through the Spurs, Rockets, and Mavericks. Injuries and mid-season trades also happen, though the latter not nearly as often as in the past.

Predictions for teams and conferences is pointless to me, but I still see a top-5 point differential for the West with the reason as simple as the West remaining lo-o-o-oaded. That prediction isn’t as bold as saying the West will record their best ever winning percentage versus the East, but like last year a ton would have to go wrong for that to have a chance of happening. For the sake of a great season and competitive balance, hopefully Derrick Rose and the Bulls stay healthy, Toronto picks up where they left off since trading Rudy Gay, Chris Bosh returns to a strong #1 option, Cleveland has a hell of a year with LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving, and the middle of the East wins a few more games than last season.

But we’re still over two months away from the regular season, which I struggle to accept. First hopeful thing comes first: Hopefully this off-season doesn’t last forever.

Adding to the unlikeliness of Corey Brewer’s 51 points

Shortly after Corey Brewer’s 51-point outing against the Houston Rockets, Ryan Feldman at ESPN Stats & Info published a post about if the Timberwolves wing is the most unlikely 50-point scorer ever.

Here are some cool tidbits from that column that I suggest giving a read:

What do Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Rick Barry and Corey Brewer have in common?

They’re the only players in NBA history with at least 50 points and six steals in a game (steals became official in 1973-74).

More:

Brewer is the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 50 points in a game without having previously scored 30 points in a game.

And lastly:

Brewer, in his seventh NBA season, is the most experienced player ever to score 50 points without having previously scored 30.

The only other players to score 50 before ever scoring 30 among players with at least two full seasons of NBA experience were Delk (fifth season in 2000-01) and Willie Burton (1994-95 season with the Philadelphia 76ers was his fifth season).

I’d like to add onto those interesting stats, though, after looking through 50-point scorers dating back to the 1978 season. It seems like that’s the first year Basketball-Reference started adding usage rating, among other statistics to their player pages. Here’s what I found:

For seasons when a player has scored 50 points in one game, Brewer’s usage rating is comfortably in last place. Below are the bottom 10 out of 150:

In the last 10 games prior to his explosion versus Houston, Brewer was using 18 percent of the team’s possessions while on the floor. Adding his career night (32.6 usage) hikes that recent uptick to 20.

Brewer also holds the second-worst PER (bottom 10 here) of the 50-point club, one that increased .5 points overnight. He also squeaks into the bottom 20 percent when it comes to offensive rebound percentage, something that could aid in scoring. He’s also on the list of the 25 worst three-point shooting seasons ever, at least for players taking over 200 attempts, and a below-average free throw shooter at 72 percent. The Timberwolves were also without one-half of their “outlet mall” in Kevin Love while Brewer often makes up the receiving end of the fast break points.

None of these obstacles got in the way of Brewer, who scored 32 points in the restricted area alone while going 2-of-6 from three-point range. As for three throws, he was 73 percent but off 15 attempts, good for 11 points from the stripe.

It’s safe to say he’s one of the more unlikely 50-point scorers and hopefully those stats contribute to the discussion. Just for fun, I wanted to compare his shooting that game to his averages in his first 77 outings so I fiddled around with a variety of graphs I’ve recently used for the highest scorers and teams, among other related posts.

Below are his attempted and made shots per game. The last graph is Brewer’s first 77 games with the same axis used for his 51-point outing:

Brewer attempts together

Click to enlarge.

Lastly, points per location:

brewer points

Click to enlarge.

Edit: Percentage of points by location and shooting percentages can be found in those links. I just couldn’t help myself when it came to including yet another batch of those charts in a post. I should probably turn it down a notch.

As someone in Minnesota, though, this has been quite an entertaining last month or so of the season despite the Timberwolves either basically out of playoff contention or officially eliminated. They travel to Sacramento on Sunday where they’ll play former-teammate Derrick Williams, who always seems to show up to play them, but how Brewer will bounce back from 51 points (I still can’t believe it) will obviously be exciting as well. Given how he plays, it’s possible those were the happiest 51 points ever.

All stats are according to Basketball-Reference.com, save for the shooting charts. Those are according to NBA.com’s numbers.

Point distribution charts of the top 10 scorers

After experimenting with point distribution charts for teams and with J.R. Smith’s shooting explosion, I thought it’d be fun to apply the same ones for the top 10 players in points per game this season.

As usual, these graphs visualize points per game across six different locations on the floor: restricted area, in the paint (non-RA), mid-range, corner three, above the break three, and three throws. This time however, those graphs of the 10 players will also include the exact points per location below them and where that production ranks among the 480 players to log playing time this season. All of that is according to NBA.com.

Also, the axis for the 10 players will vary depending on the player, but at the very end of the post I’ll make a common one to show each of the 10 charts in a single GIF, sorted from the highest scorer to the lowest.

With all that said, here are the point distribution charts of those at or near the top in points per game:

1. Kevin Durant – 32.0 points per game

Kevin  Durant 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 7.71 (14th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.65 (21st)
  • Mid-range: 5.66 (8th)
  • Corner 3: 0.43 (209th)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.82 (4th)
  • Free throw: 8.69 (1st)

To get a feel for just how large Kevin Durant’s graph and others on this list really are, we can compare the league’s leading scorer to Kendrick Perkins’ graph because PERK:

durant perk

Click to enlarge.

Perk’s looks minuscule compared to Durant’s, who’s just an offensive shark and in the top 25 in every category except corner threes. It might also be worth noting that just behind Durant in points around the rim per game is none other than Tony Wroten, somehow at 7.62 points per game and good for 17th-best.

As for three-pointers, I’m not sure how common this is and how often it’s been noted before, but Durant shoots better on pull-up attempts (42 percent) than catch and shoot ones (38.7), according to SportVU. Weird, maybe?

Onto number two in points per game:

2. Carmelo Anthony – 27.5 points per game

Carmelo  Anthony 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 5.04 (76th)
  • Paint non-RA:  1.20 (tied-108th)
  • Mid-range:  8.77 (3rd)
  • Corner 3: 0.52 (182nd)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.08 (9th)
  • Free throw: 5.92 (7th)

One of the more unusual charts I’ve looked at, Anthony gets a respectable share of points around the rim but he’s in the middle of the pack when compared with the top 10 in points per game. Ahead of him across the league are the likes of Timofey Mozgod, Alec Burks, and Tobias Harris. Melo also gets very little points from the corner three, but that’s common for high scorers with range.

As for the above the break threes, Anthony’s one of five on this list to crack the top 10 in points from that area of the floor. He also feasts at the line, another common theme with the top scorers.

What makes Anthony’s chart so odd is the mid-range game. This is the first chart where I’ve noticed both a great deal of points in the high-efficiency zones of the floor and the dead zones. Durant’s is like that, but not to the extent of Melo’s.

3. LeBron James – 27.0 points per game

LeBron  James PPL

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 12.00 (1st)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.73 (60th)
  • Mid-range: 3.20 (68th)
  • Corner 3: 0.92 (108th)
  • Above the Break 3: 3.52 (57th)
  • Free throw: 5.64 (8th)

Confirmed: LeBron James feasts around the rim. He made me change the range on his chart to a max of 12 points per location, though a couple other players eventually did the same thing so whatever. His graph is a good example of an efficient one, though, and how it should show quite a few points on the left side. In fact, out of the top 10 scorers, James is the second-most Moreyball-like of the top 10 scorers in that 81.75 percent of his points come around the rim, from three, or from the stripe.

You might be able to guess who’s in first place on that list. Third place in that mentioned stat is…

4. Kevin Love – 25.8 points per game

Kevin  Love PPL 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 6.73 (26th)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.89 (47th)
  • Mid-range:  3.35 (59th)
  • Corner 3: 0.69 (144th)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.61 (6th)
  • Free throw: 6.51 (3rd)

Love’s the first player on this list to not lead or be near the top in averages from one of the first three shot locations. In terms of non-point guards in this list (eight players), he averages the least amount of points from those first few spots but still gets a decent amount from around the rim.

Love’s graph is the prototypical efficient kind anyway, confirming how he scores nearly 80 percent of his points either around the rim, from three, or from the stripe. The king of efficiency among this group goes to the league’s fifth-leading scorer, however:

5. James Harden – 25.3 points per game

James  Harden PPL 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 6.17 (37th)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.54 (tied-70th)
  • Mid-range: 2.51 (89th)
  • Corner 3: 0.51 (185th)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.77 (5th)
  • Free throw: 7.76 (2nd)

Nearly 85 percent of Harden’s points come from the spots that generate the most points per attempt, though he’s still in the top 100 in each of the least-efficient locations. He’s also the only player besides Durant to be in the top five in points from both above the break threes and free throws per game, though Kevin Love narrowly misses out on joining that club too.

6. Blake Griffin – 24.1 points per game

Blake  Griffin 12 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 11.46 (2nd)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.87 (tied-49th)
  • Mid-range: 4.33 (23rd)
  • Corner 3: 0.27 (240th)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.15 (tied-301st)
  • Free throw:  6.00 (6th)

Just how many of Griffin’s points from the non-restricted area part of the paint are from either dunks or near-dunks that turned into double-pump layups? Regardless, we have our first near-triangular chart and the second player to score over 10 points per game from a single shot location. There’s also a smidge of blue crossing over the three-point areas thanks to whatever plays were drawn up to get Griffin a score from there.

7. Stephen Curry – 23.5 points per game

Stephen  Curry 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 3.38 (137th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  1.38 (86th)
  • Mid-range:  5.11 (13th)
  • Corner 3: 1.34 (63rd)
  • Above the Break 3: 8.43 (1st)
  • Free throw: 3.88 (31st)

Arguably the most unusual chart, in my opinion. Curry feasts from outside the paint, one of the stats worth noting being that he averages over one more point per game from the above the break three than third-place Damian LillardRyan Anderson is in second-place at 7.8 but…sigh.

8. LaMarcus Aldridge – 23.3 points per game

LaMarcus  Aldridge 12 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 5.70 (53rd)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.15 (36th)
  • Mid-range:  10.96 (1st)
  • Corner 3: 0.00 (Meh, tied for last)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.13 (308th)
  • Free throw: 4.33 (21st)

Maybe worth noting, maybe not: It took until Aldridge to get to a player who hasn’t made a corner three this season.

And that mid-range game. Aldridge looks like the least-efficient of this bunch as over half of his points come from the dead zones of the floor. In fact, while he scores a whole two more points from mid-range than second-place Dirk Nowitki, he averages nearly six more possible points (25.94 total for LMA) from that area than second-place Carmelo Anthony (20.00) in that stat. Unfortunately, he can’t make every one of those attempts and average nearly 40 points per game. Shucks.

9. DeMar DeRozan – 22.7 points per game.

DeMar  DeRozan 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 4.29 (97th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.13 (tied-37th)
  • Mid-range:  7.42 (4th)
  • Corner 3: 1.46 (51st)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.91 (233rd)
  • Free throw: 6.50 (4th)

Among this list, DeRozan’s chart is my favorite just from the shape his points form.

But, like Aldridge, it’s a bit of a weird one. DeRozan sits comfortably in fourth place in mid-range points, but he only makes a shade under 40 percent of his attempts. He does score the most points per game from the corner three among this group, however, and gets a decent chunk from the free throw line as well, more than the likes of Melo, LeBron, and Paul George, among others.

10. DeMarcus Cousins – 22.4 points per game

DeMarcus  Cousins 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 9.62 (6th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.75 (16th)
  • Mid-range:  4.03 (36th)
  • Corner 3: 0.00 (somewhere in last place)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.00 (take more threes, Boogie!)
  • Free throw: 6.01 (5th)

The most triangular chart of the top 10 scorers, Boogie feasts in the paint, at the line and, um, sometimes from mid-range where me makes 41 percent of his attempts.

That triangle, though. It’s pretty neat, so there’s that.

Lastly, below is a GIF comparing each chart at once. It goes in the order of highest-scoring to the lowest:

Top 10 scorers on Make A Gif

All but Aldridge score at least half their points on locations in the center or left side of the graph. Harden’s chart seems to be the most efficient, though LeBron is just too effective around the rim. Regardless, it’s nice to see a variety of charts, especially the triangles. Don’t forget the triangles.

Any other thoughts are certainly welcome.

East vs. West Week 23: Counting down to the last of the 450 games

Another week, another updated week-by-week breakdown:

The most exciting non-conference game of the week had to go to Minnesota traveling to Miami and winning in double overtime, much of it thanks to Kevin Love’s ridiculous shot making and Ricky Rubio carving up a hyper Heat defense. LeBron James and Chris Bosh weren’t too bad for the Heat, though, among other players. Dwyane Wade didn’t play because of a lingering hamstring injury.

Houston also lost their last two non-conference games, falling to the Nets and Raptors. Aside from all but guaranteeing the Rockets the fourth seed in the West, it also meant that San Antonio clinches the best record against the East at 24-6 while the Lakers and Kings are tied for the worst at 12-18 each. Neither hold a candle to Milwaukee’s 3-27 record in non-conference play, however, and the Bucks, 76ers, Magic, Celtics, and Pistons are collectively 100 games under .500 against the West, a combined record of 24-124 with the 76ers and Pistons finishing up the season with Memphis and Oklahoma City, respectively.

Maybe that’ll lead to an uptick in the West’s point differential, which I also updated from last week’s post. It hardly changed, but probably worth noting where it ranks in non-conference play since 1997 anyway:

Lastly, here’s the 212,749,834,9a8,943,f92th reminder about the West’s possible record-breaking winning percentage: They’d have to finish their last five games 4-1 to tie 2004’s 63.3 winning percentage and win all five to break it.

Below are those final non-conference games this season:

The last three games look very winnable for the West while the first two are something of a toss-up. Maybe they’ll split? Miami and Minnesota will be playing the tail-end of back-to-backs, however, with the first games against Brooklyn and San Antonio, respectively. Not the easiest two consecutive games for either team, especially when Minnesota has been without Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, and about half the roster recently.

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