Beyond the Arc – The First Edition

Welcome to the Dojo’s Beyond the Arc, a place for all things NBA, with a statistical spin. What a start to the season. As the season is two weeks deep, there are already some news worth noting. If you guessed that Russell Westbrook would miss only 2 games instead of 4-6 weeks, give yourself a pat on the back. If you guessed that the Philadelphia Sixers would take down the Heat on opening night, and Michael Carter-Williams would nearly get a QUADRUPLE-DOUBLE in his rookie debut, give yourself a day off. Historical Check: He was later named Player of the Week in the NBA, the second rookie ever to win the honors in his opening week and first since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 1992. Is it weird to start talking about Phoenix (5-2) looking more complete than Denver (2-4)? Why is Derrick Rose among the league leaders in turnovers? Regardless, here are some player and team trends so far.

Usage Percentage and Player Efficiency Rating: Derrick Rose’s turnover issues uncovered

First let’s not forget Derrick Rose hasn’t played competitive basketball in more than a year. He needs time to adjust but more on that in a minute. Here are some statistical reasons why he’s turning the ball over so much. Two big themes for future articles are Usage Percentage (USG%) and Player Efficiency Rating (PER). Simply put, USG% helps us analyze how many of a team’s total possessions a given player uses while he is in the game. PER accounts for the positive achievements (such as made field goals, made free throws, blocks, steals) and negative achievements (turnovers, missed shots, personal fouls) a player has throughout the game. The league average is 15. Take a look at an example to understand this more…

USG% Leaders (minimum of 6 games)

  1. 36.0 — DeMarcus Cousins, SAC
  2. 31.8 — Rudy Gay, TOR
  3. 31.0 — Kevin Durant, OKC
  4. 30.6 — Derrick Rose, CHI
  5. 29.9 — Ramon Sessions, CHA

The glaring fact here is that their respective teams heavily rely upon these players. To shed light on these numbers more, we use PER.

PER Leaders (minimum 6 games)

  1. 29.6 — Anthony Davis, NOP
  2. 29.2 — Kevin Love, MIN
  3. 28.8 — Kevin Durant, OKC
  4. 28.5 — Chris Paul, LAC
  5. 27.8 — DeMarcus Cousins, SAC

When you see these two numbers together, you can notice how they show overall player efficiency. Kevin Durant is the best example of this because he has a high USG%, meaning a high percentage of the Thunder’s total possessions in one game go through him. Noticing the fact that he ranks third in the league in PER, we can use these two factors as an indication of how efficient he is, given the high number of possessions he gets…having a high USG% and equally high PER means you’re very efficient. The same cannot be said for Derrick Rose, who ranks fourth in USG% (30.6). When you look at his PER though, things change. He ranks well out of the top 100, with a subpar 6.7…that’s not like the D-Rose we all know, who during his MVP season had a 23.5 PER. Turnovers are the hot topic, and per game, he averages 4.2 TO. Per 36 minutes, he averages 4.8. Using stats based off of 36 minutes will usually be higher depending on the particular category. When you reflect a player’s stats off of a closer interval, say 36 minutes, it helps to show individual’s performance and takes into account when someone is sitting on the bench and the fact that no one’s averages are based on them playing every minute. His PER is brought down because of his turnovers and his USG% tells us that the ball is going through him A LOT, inevitably leading to more turnovers. He will have to figure out how to pass more effectively but when you see those high turnover numbers it shouldn’t be that surprising anymore. After all, he carries the ball up the court almost every possession. Rose will get back into the swing of things; he is just trying to get some of the rust out. If he continues to jump and then pass in mid air to someone, the Bulls are doomed.

The Suns and the Sixers:

Well I’ll be honest I didn’t expect the Suns or the 76ers to hold the 3 and 5 spot in their respected conferences. It is early for the Suns but a nice combo of Eric Bledsoe (26.6 USG% and 25.4 PER) and Markieff Morris (21.4 USG% and 27.5 PER) has gone a long way in terms of their 5-2 start. The leagues top 5 leaders in Margin of Victory (MOV) begin with the Pacers, then Spurs, Warriors, Timberwolves, and the Heat. These all seem pretty self-explanatory but can you guess the number six holder? If it was obvious enough, the Phoenix Suns do with an MOV of 4.29. Up next, Brooklyn comes to town and then they have a back to back with the Sacramento Kings, on the horizon…November 25th, a date with the Heat in Miami. We’ll soon see what this team is made of.

Across the country, Philly is making there own noise. Michael Carter-Williams is boasting an incredible 17.4 ppg, 7.9 apg, 5.4 apg, and 2.6 spg. His shot selection can always improve, considering he is shooting 38% from the field, but he’s a rookie and there are great early signs. Evan Turner is starting to play like the 2nd overall pick in the 2010 draft. Turning in a nice 23.0 ppg, 63 rpg, 3.1 apg, and 20.2 PER through eight games. After winning their first 3, the 76ers have lost four of five. Hopefully, they have a little early season energy to stay competitive, but in a loaded draft next year, is winning games good? That’s a shot to the Celtics who made me extremely happy when they lost their four first games. They then succeeded to upset me by going on a four game win streak. If they get into the playoffs I’m paying anyone who e-mails me a question five bucks…this better not happen.

The Pacers are for real:

How real? Well to start their defense only allows 84.5 ppg. Then there is this quote from Roy Hibbert

“Everybody has to sacrifice something… It’s somebody different every night. I don’t expect to have 20-point nights all the time.”

When you play unselfishly and have that sort of mentality, you’re going to win games. We’ll be watching, Indiana, don’t forget you’re entering the spotlight now. By the way, Paul George’s stat line through eight games: 24.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.6 apg, 29.7 USG%, and 25.9 PER… a prime example of how to show up to start the season.

Dojo Power Rankings Top 10 (through 2 weeks and not reflecting any games from Nov 12th and on):

1. 8-0 Indiana Pacers (Paul George an easy favorite for best performance thus far. Roy Hibbert is dominating the defensive side as well, already with 35 blocks – 4.38 bpg)

2. 7-1 San Antonio Spurs (Classic Popovich. Working the deep bench and resting the vets…makes me like my finals pick more and more)

3. 4-3 Miami Heat (We haven’t seen the high intensity, lockdown defense for a whole game, they’ll save that for the playoffs but a lackadaisical start for LeBron’s standards. Still when they’re called upon late in games the Heat will show up to play…fun fact: the Lakers third go round to win three in a row saw them start 11-19, don’t fret Miami)

4. 5-1 Oklahoma City Thunder (It’s like the injury never happened…)

5. 5-3 Minnesota Timberwolves (Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love are tearing it up…the health factor is big with this team but you can easily put them ahead of OKC or Miami right now…very scary team to face)

6. 5-3 Los Angeles Clippers (Chris Paul is the best player in Los Angeles. Yes, I said it)

7. 5-3 Houston Rockets (Hack-a-Dwight is back!!! More on this to come)

8. 4-3 Golden State Warriors (I really wish I took the under of 10 games before “Stephen Curry” and “ankle injury” was mentioned in a headline…luckily it was minor. They’re one of the fastest teams up and down the court in the league and they sure are entertaining)

9. 5-2 Portland Trailblazers (What do you make of a team that has loses to Phoenix and Houston but a big win against San Antonio?)

10. 4-3 Atlanta Hawks (My first thought wasn’t about the Hawks season, it was about how it took SEVEN Western Conference teams before we mentioned a THIRD Eastern Conference team…yikes…they’ve beaten 4 teams with a combined record of 10-19 – Toronto, Sacramento, Orlando, and Charlotte – the quality of the Eastern Conference everyone! Obviously, SAC is in the West)

Teams Looking In:

-Detroit Pistons: I’m just waiting for the Jennings-Smith-Monroe-Drummond core to click and mesh. They’ll be in this group eventually.

-Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose can’t struggle with turnovers forever…….right?

-Phoenix Suns: How long can the party last? I’m guessing another two weeks before the schedule starts to eat them up. I love being proven wrong though.

Teams Falling Out:

-Atlanta Hawks: Yes, I’m staring at you Atlanta. Their next six games, NYK, PHI, @NYK, @MIA, DET, @DET. I say they go 3-3.

-Portland Trailblazers: Remember there is only so much space in the Western Conference. Eventually teams like Detroit or Chicago will pull through in the East and one of these teams will have to fall out of the top 10.

***Best Hustle Play through 2 weeks***

Kawhi Leonard getting better with each possession. Great unselfish play.

Kawhi Leonard’s supreme hustle play

***Best Display of Fundamentals***

I’m a sucker for post moves but honesty I’m speechless. I didn’t know Andrew Bynum had it in him…especially over Noah.

Bynum’s got moves

***Hack-a-Dwight Special***

This is what happens when you foul Dwight Howard late in the game…

Stay tuned for Part II in the coming weeks and continue to enjoy.



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