Thursday, May 1, 2014

The NBA “Swish Watch” -- Final 2013-14 Shooting Grades

“That’s the second-most-stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!”

Having taught secondary school for thirty years, I had ample occasion to offer that opinion – and not only to students.

From time to time, someone would inquire as to the gem of “wisdom” that sits atop this list.

Some 30 or so years ago, a highly-respected (in that neck of the woods) baseball umpire dismissed basketball as a “lousy game,” reasoning that “you can score 100 points and still lose.” Fortunately, I’d studied a little Latin so knew a non sequitur when I heard one.

A desire for faster-paced play and for more scoring induced NBA owners, at the urging of Danny Biasone of Syracuse, to introduce a shot-clock to their game almost 60 years ago.

Led by the Los Angeles Clippers at 107.9, 17 teams averaged over 100 points per game in 2013-14, six of whom failed to qualify for the post-season. Interestingly, the poorest scoring team in the league (at 93.7 points per game) earned home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Shooting Acumen

Here’s another puzzler for you – the best field goal shooting team (Miami, at .501) is not among the top ten scoring teams in the league. (They are, however, the highest scoring team in the Eastern Conference.)
Playing one-on-one down at the schoolyard, only field goal shooting matters. But shooting comes in three flavors in competitive ball: percentages cover overall field goal attempts, 3-point field goals and free throws.
Suppose we add up each team’s FG%, 3FG% and FT%, then rank the teams by this sum. We’ll discover that the Top Five by this little “metric” include all four participants in the past three NBA Finals. Defense, they say, wins championships – but ‘twould appear one must demonstrate some marksmanship, as well.

Scoring Ratios

College coaches were the first to become enamored of the possessions-based comparative analysis so common nowadays. Those high-scoring Clippers, not surprisingly, were No. 1 in both Points per Possession (PPP) and the less commonly-referenced Points per Shot (i.e. field goal attempt).

So the Clippers must be the best shooting team for 2013-14, right? Alas, the Clips’ 26th ranked free-throw shooting precludes such coronation.

The “Swish Watch”

To rank the teams, we’ll consider Shot SUM, Points per game, Points per shot and Points per possession. The teams are ranked from 1-30 in each category, and the rankings are added—low score wins, of course. (Playoff qualifiers in BOLD.)

No. 1 San Antonio Spurs (18)
PPG:  105.4 (6); Shot SUM:  1.668 (1); PPS:  1.262 (6); PPP:  1.074 (4)

No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder (19)
PPG:  106.2 (5); Shot SUM:  1.638 (3); PPS:  1.284 (4); PPP:  1.067 (7)

No. 3 Dallas Mavericks (20.5)
PPG:  104.8 (8); Shot SUM:  1.653 (2); PPS:  1.254 (8); PPP:  1.081 (2)

No. 4 Miami Heat (21.5)
PPG:  102.2 (12); Shot SUM:  1.625 (5); PPS:  1.336 (2); PPP:  1.081 (2)

No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers (24)
PPG:  106.7 (4); Shot SUM:  1.637 (4); PPS:  1.227 (11); PPP:  1.074 (4)

No. 6 Los Angeles Clippers (26)
PPG:  107.9 (1); Shot SUM:  1.556 (21); PPS:  1.309 (3); PPP:  1.083 (1)

No. 7 Phoenix Suns (32)
PPG:  105.2 (7); Shot SUM:  1.593 (10); PPS:  1.261 (7); PPP:  1.062 (8)

No. 7 Houston Rockets (32)
PPG:  107.7 (2); Shot SUM:  1.542 (24); PPS:  1.337 (1); PPP:  1.074 (4)

No. 9 Toronto Raptors (40)
PPG:  101.3 (13); Shot SUM:  1.599 (8); PPS:  1.236 (10); PPP:  1.049 (9)

No. 10 Minnesota Timberwolves (41.5)
PPG:  106.9 (3); Shot SUM:  1.563 (16); PPS:  1.222 (12); PPP:  1.046 (10)

No. 11 Golden State Warriors (44)
PPG:  104.3 (10); Shot SUM:  1.595 (9); PPS:  1.221 (13); PPP:  1.045 (12) 

No. 12 Atlanta Hawks (45)
PPG:  101.0 (15); Shot SUM:  1.602 (6); PPS:  1.238 (9); PPP:  1.026 (15)

No. 13 Brooklyn Nets (54)
PPG:  98.5 (21); Shot SUM:  1.581 (14); PPS:  1.264 (5); PPP:  1.034 (14)

No. 14 New Orleans Pelicans (54.5)
PPG:  99.7 (18); Shot SUM:  1.601 (7); PPS:  1.209 (16); PPP:  1.038 (13)

No. 15 Los Angeles Lakers (57)
PPG:  103.0 (11); Shot SUM:  1.588 (11); PPS:  1.209 (16); PPP:  1.024 (18)

No. 16 New York Knicks (61.5)
PPG:  98.6 (20); Shot SUM:  1.582 (12); PPS:  1.200 (19); PPP:  1.046 (10)

No. 17 Washington Wizards (67.5)
PPG:  100.7 (16); Shot SUM:  1.570 (15); PPS:  1.193 (20); PPP:  1.025 (16)

No. 18 Denver Nuggets (71.5)
PPG:  104.4 (9); Shot SUM:  1.531 (29); PPS:  1.215 (15); PPP:  1.024 (18)

No. 19 Indiana Pacers (76)
PPG:  96.7 (24); Shot SUM:  1.585 (12); PPS:  1.207 (18); PPP:  1.006 (22)

No. 20 Sacramento Kings (77)
PPG:  100.5 (17); Shot SUM:  1.539 (25); PPS:  1.218 (14); PPP:  1.019 (21)

No. 21 Memphis Grizzlies (84.5)
PPG:  96.1 (27); Shot SUM:  1.558 (19); PPS:  1.173 (22); PPP:  1.025 (16)

No. 22 Detroit Pistons (86.5)
PPG:  101.0 (14); Shot SUM:  1.438 (26); PPS:  1.163 (26); PPP:  1.020 (20)

No. 23 Orlando Magic (96)
PPG:  96.5 (25); Shot SUM:  1.561 (17); PPS:  1.167 (25); PPP:  0.986 (29)

No. 23 Cleveland Cavaliers (96)
PPG:  98.2 (22); Shot SUM:  1.544 (23); PPS:  1.158 (28); PPP:  1.005 (23)

No. 25 Charlotte Bobcats (98)
PPG:  96.9 (23); Shot SUM:  1.530 (30); PPS:  1.180 (21); PPP:  1.004 (24)

No. 26 Philadelphia 76ers (99)
PPG:  99.5 (19); Shot SUM:  1.457 (20); PPS:  1.141 (30); PPP:  0.960 (30)

No. 27 Chicago Bulls (100)
PPG:  93.7 (30); Shot SUM:  1.559 (18); PPS:  1.168 (24); PPP:  0.989 (28)

No. 28 Boston Celtics (104)
PPG:  96.2 (26); Shot SUM:  1.545 (22); PPS:  1.147 (29); PPP:  0.990 (27)

No. 29 Utah Jazz (105)
PPG:  95.0 (29); Shot SUM:  1.535 (28); PPS:  1.171 (23); PPP:  0.998 (25)

No. 30 Milwaukee Bucks (107.5)
PPG:  95.5 (28); Shot SUM:  1.538 (26); PPS:  1.162 (27); PPP:  0.994 (26)