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Notable numbers from around the NBA

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Two months into the season, let’s take a look at some trends around the league.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

We’re now almost two months into the NBA season and I like taking a look around this time at some notable numbers and trends that have emerged from the start of the year (all numbers prior to Wednesday’s games).

  • 29 players are averaging 12+ drives per game. Six of those players have a field goal percentage of 55% or better on those dozen drives: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, De’Aaron Fox, Maestro Dame Lillard, Kawhi Leonard, Zach LaVine, and Luka Doncic (#1 at 57.8 FG% on drives to the hoop).
  • Five of those 29 players are shooting less than 45% on their drives: Jimmy Butler, Malcolm Brogdon, Trae Young, Fred VanVleet, and Sergeant Russell Westbrook (last, with a 36.8 FG% on drives, the only player of those 29 with a sub-40 FG% when going to the hoop).
  • Sticking with Westbrook, he’s one of five players to average 30+ minutes per game and have a sub-50 True Shooting percentage: Robert “Bob” Covington, Blake (sigh) Griffin, Darius Bazley, Westbrook, and Isaac Okoro (the Cavaliers rookie).
  • Eight players who play 30+ MPG have a 65+ TS%: Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokic, Lauri Markkanen (this surprised me), Zion Williamson, Paul George, Joel Embiid, Steph Curry, and Brooklyn Joe Harris who tops the list with a 68.8 TS%, nearly two percentage points better than Curry’s 66.9 TS%. I guess playing with Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving has left Brooklyn Joe fairly wide open?
  • 26 players shoot 17 or more times a game. Of those players, three have a sub-42 FG%: Victor Oladipo, Westbrook, and Trae Young. Ice Trae’s offensive and defensive ratings are the best of his three-year career, he’s getting to the line more than he ever has and he’s making his free throws more than he ever has (88 FT% on 10+ FTs per game), but his efficiency seems off this season compared to last. He’s a third-year player with a lot of new faces around him, though, and I think this is natural for a young player. He’s still just 22 years old.
  • Out of all the players who average 24+ MPG (or, at least half the game), Mike Conley has the best plus-minus (!) at 11.5, followed by Kawhi at 10.4. You might be thinking to yourself, Damn, I hope the worst plus-minus isn’t Westbrook, too. Have no fear, it’s not the Sarge! It’s D’Angelo Russell, actually, who has a negative 9.9 plus-minus (gasp!). The Minnesota Timberwolves are dead wood right now: they have the worst record in the entire NBA, and their lead guard’s defense, while atrocious, is now at least also absent as DAR is on the shelf after having minor surgery on his knee. This is Russell’s sixth year. He should be better than this. Suffice it to say, the basketball in Minnesota is as cold as the winds in Texas right now. What a disaster for Big KAT.
  • Eight players average 10+ FGA and have a 56+ FG%: Zion is best at 61.5 FG% (WHOA), followed be mere mortals in the high 50s like Deandre Ayton, Jonas Valanciunas, Bam Adebayo, Nikola Jokic, Clint Capela, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and...BEN SIMMONS! Simmons has a better field goal percentage than his teammate, Joel Embiid, 56.2 FG% to 54.3 FG%. Let’s chill on the idea that Simmons and Embiid need to be broken up. If Simmons never develops a dependable J, fine, he won’t be a superstar. What he is RIGHT NOW, is one of the five best defenders in the entire NBA, and a guy who can credibly guard LeBron and Anthony Davis. Simmons and Embiid are a dynamic defensive duo, which may be the kryptonite for the Lakers’ supermen.
  • OG Anunoby returned to the court last night after missing the previous 12 or so games with an injury. I just want to point out that he, Nikola Vucevic, and Zach LaVine all have a 43.1 3PT%. Those three players are radically different from each other, and range from the front court to the wing to the back court, but all three hit threes like KD. The New NBA is in full effect.
  • DeMar DeRozan is averaging more assists per game than De’Aaron Fox, Kyle Lowry, Dr. John Wall, LaMelo Ball, and Steph Curry. Damn, DeMar. The DeChozan One’s line this season is 19 PPG, 5 RPG, and 6 APG, on 48% shooting. Who else is doing that? Joker, SGA, LeBron, and Harden; damn, DeMar, again.
  • Brandon Clarke, the sophomore PF for the Memphis Grizzlies, is averaging 13/5/1, with 1+ 3PA/game, and 2.1 FTA/game, with 49%/26%/66% shooting. Last year, he averaged 12/5/1 with 1+ 3PA, 1.9 FTA, with 61%/35%/75% shooting. This is what we call a sophomore slump, but I still like him long term. It will be interesting to see what roster decisions the Grizzlies make when Jaren Jackson, Jr., returns. Hopefully, Clarke keeps his minutes (ditto, SloMo Kyle Anderson).
  • Since January 1st, three teams are above .700 and three teams are below .300. The Utah Jazz have the best overall record in 2021 at 21-3, followed by the Lakers and the Clippers. The Wolves are worst, as we said, at 5-19, “bested” by the Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers, in second-worst and third-worst, respectively.
  • The Portland Trail Blazers have the fourth best record in 2021, despite their litany of absent players due to injury. Dame Time is now just Time. He’s once again carrying that entire goddamn team on his back. What an absolute beast of a basketballer.
  • James Harden is the only person in the NBA averaging 37+ MPG. Lol, the Beard for MVP, right?