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John Schuhmann


Surprising stats abound as season passes its midpoint

Posted Jan 20 2011 12:55PM

When five of the Wednesday's 13 games were completed, we officially reached the midway point of the season. It's been eventful, with plenty of noteworthy numbers on the league, team and individual level. Here's a roundup ...

Scoring Down

Last season, the league's scoring average reached 200 points per game for the first time in 15 years. This season, the average is down to 198.8 points per game with the dip due to both pace and efficiency. Pace is down from 95.1 possessions per 48 minutes last season to 94.8 this season. And efficiency is down from 104.9 points per 100 possessions to 104.0.


It's typical for efficiency to increase in the second half of the season. Last season at this time, it was only slightly ahead (104.1) of where we are now. But with pace down, it's unlikely the league will reach the 200-point mark for the second straight year.

Best (and Worst) Teams

For most of the season, the San Antonio Spurs were the best team in the standings, but not by the numbers.

The Miami Heat had a better point differential until their current four-game losing streak. Those four losses have put the Spurs on top statistically, with a differential of plus-9.4 points per 100 possessions -- the eighth-best mark of the last 20 seasons.

San Antonio is one of only three teams who rank in the top 10 both offensively and defensively. They have the No. 1 offense (109.6 points scored per 100 possessions) and the No. 7 defense (100.2 allowed). The two others are the Lakers (third and eighth) and Heat (fifth and third).

The Cleveland Cavaliers are easily the worst team in the league statistically, ranking last offensively and 29th defensively. They're getting outscored by 12.0 points per 100 possessions, which makes them the worst team since the 1997-98 Denver Nuggets -- who were outscored by 13.4 and finished 11-71. Last year's 12-win New Jersey Nets were outscored by 10.0 points per 100 possessions.

The Chicago Bulls are the most improved team and are 8.0 points per 100 possessions better than they were last season. They're followed by the New York Knicks (+5.6) and the Heat (+5.6).

Miami is the most improved team offensively, scoring 3.8 points more per 100 possessions than they did last season. Defensively, the New Orleans Hornets are most improved team, allowing 7.7 points fewer per 100 possessions.

No team has regressed as much as Cleveland on either end of the floor. After the Cavs, the Raptors have regressed most offensively (-4.7 points per 100 possessions), the Thunder have regressed most defensively (+3.5), and the Suns have regressed most overall (-7.4).

Best (and Worst) Five-Man Units

The best five-man unit (minimum of 100 minutes) won't be playing together anymore this season. Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler outscored their opponents by 24.6 points per 100 possessions in 257 minutes together before Butler injured his knee.

What's the next best unit in the league? Miami's original starting lineup of Carlos Arroyo, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony, who have outscored opponents by 22.3 points per 100 possessions in 175 minutes. After that group, the Boston Celtics have five of the next 11 best units.

Interestingly, the best of those is Nate Robinson, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O'Neal, which has been slightly better than their starting unit with Rajon Rondo at the point. In fact, the unit with Robinson instead of Rondo has been the best defensive unit in the league, allowing just 86.2 points per 100 possessions in 110 minutes.

The best offensive unit in the league has been Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Glen Davis and O'Neal. That unit has scored 119.9 points per 100 possessions in 158 minutes together.

Not surprisingly, the worst unit (minimum of 100 minutes), both offensively and overall, has been Cleveland's lineup of Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao. That unit played only 10 games and 111 minutes together, but was outscored by 25.4 points per 100 possessions, far more than any other unit thus far.

The worst unit on a good team has been the Knicks' Raymond Felton, Landry Fields, Danilo Gallinari, Amar'e Stoudemire and Ronny Turiaf, which has been outscored by 6.5 points per 100 possessions in 108 minutes.

The best unit on a below-.500 team has been the Grizzlies' Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Darrell Arthur and Marc Gasol, which has outscored its opponents by 14.7 points per 100 possessions in 124 minutes. Not far behind is a Bobcats' unit of D.J. Augustin, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Tyrus Thomas and Boris Diaw (+13.8 in 121 minutes).

Individual Success

The Mavs' recent swoon should help Dirk Nowitzki make his case for MVP. Dallas went 2-7 without Nowitzki and didn't recover until he got his legs back. The numbers from the season's first half make it clear that no player is more important to his team's success. The Mavs have been 22.4 points per 100 possessions better with Nowitzki on the floor than they've been with him on the bench.

That's the biggest on-off court differential in the league by far among players with a minimum of 350 minutes played. After Nowitzki are Steve Nash (+16.6), Paul Pierce (+16.0), LaMarcus Aldridge (+15.2) and Chris Paul (+14.6).

At the bottom of the list is Atlanta's Josh Powell. The Hawks have been 17.3 points per 100 possessions better with Powell on the bench than with him on the floor.

After Powell? Nowitzki's back-up, Shawn Marion, who also has an on-off court differential of -17.3. The Mavs are 4.5 points per 100 possessions worse than their opponents with Marion on the floor, as opposed to 12.8 points better when Marion is on the bench.

Offensively, Nash means the most to his team. The Suns score 16.6 points per 100 possessions more with Nash on the floor than they do with him on the bench. Defensively, the biggest difference-maker is Atlanta's Jason Collins. The Hawks allow 14.1 points per 100 possessions fewer with Collins on the floor.

All numbers are through Wednesday, Jan. 19 and were compiled with the help of the NBA and StatsCube.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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