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Numbers notebook:
KD was the real MVP

POSTED: Nov 7, 2014 4:06 PM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann


Kevin Durant brought a lot of value to the Thunder beyond his league-leading and highly efficient 32.0 points per game.

The new season brought a lot of new SportVU numbers to It's a little early to draw many conclusions from this season's numbers, but it's not too late to look back at last season. And one new set of numbers just confirms one major award from 2013-14.

For an intro or refresher on what SportVU is and does, go here.

Defense has always been difficult to quantify. But SportVU is making it easier. And it's helping us understand that Kevin Durant is more than just a great offensive player.

In the Player Tracking section of player pages, the Defense Dashboard shows how opponents shot when being defended by that player. And a look at Durant's '13-14 data shows that opponents shot poorly against him from every distance. The MVP's Net DFG%, which compares how players shot against him vs. their normal field-goal percentage, was a negative both close to the basket and far from it.

Overall, opposing shooters shot 6.5 percent worse against Durant than they did normally. That's pretty good defense. In fact, it's the best Net DFG% of the 123 players who logged at least 2,000 minutes last season.

Lowest net defended field goal percentage, 2013-14
Kevin Durant 350 909 38.5% 45.0% -6.5%
Roy Hibbert 478 1,126 42.5% 47.8% -5.3%
David West 304 739 41.1% 46.3% -5.1%
Paul George 397 984 40.3% 45.0% -4.7%
Robin Lopez 563 1,301 43.3% 47.8% -4.5%
Mike Dunleavy 270 678 39.8% 44.0% -4.2%
Taj Gibson 407 975 41.7% 45.9% -4.1%
Joakim Noah 543 1,248 43.5% 47.1% -3.6%
David Lee 391 895 43.7% 47.3% -3.6%
Tim Duncan 431 962 44.8% 48.2% -3.4%
Minimum 2,000 minutes played
DFGM = Defended shots made
DFGA = Defended shots attempted
DFG% = Field goal percentage on defended shots
FG% = Usual field goal percentage of shooter
Net DFG% = FG% - DFG%

A few notable perimeter defenders -- Tony Allen, Kawhi Leonard and Shaun Livingston -- didn't play 2,000 minutes. Leonard (-5.2 percent in 1,923 minutes) would have ranked third on the above list, Allen (-3.5 percent in 1,278 minutes) would have ranked just ahead of Duncan, and Livingston (-3.3 percent in 1,974 minutes) would have ranked just behind Duncan. Durant would still be No. 1.

There's a lot more to defense than contesting shots. But the most important of the four factors of efficiency on either end of the floor is effective field goal percentage. Making shots is the biggest key to a good offense, and making your opponent miss shots is the biggest key to defense. See below for the other three.

Durant brought a lot of value to the Thunder beyond his league-leading and highly efficient 32.0 points per game. He was an elite player on both ends of the floor.

In the past, we might look at OKC's defensive efficiency with Durant on and off the court and note that it was better when he sat. We might also understand that the Thunder were mostly defending the opponent's reserves in those minutes.

SportVU now gives us a clearer picture.

Without Durant this year, not only are the Thunder struggling to score, but they're also struggling to get stops. Through Thursday, OKC ranks 28th in offensive efficiency and 24th in defensive efficiency.

From the most to a lot more

The Houston Rockets attempted 33.0 percent of their shots from 3-point range last season, a rate which led the league and ranks seventh all-time. But the Rockets were just getting started. This season, no team has increased the percentage of their shots from 3-point range than the Rockets have.

Through six games, Houston has attempted 42.6 percent of their shots from 3-point range, an increase of 9.6 percent. The next biggest increase belongs to the Indiana Pacers (8.5 percent), with Chris Copeland leading the league in 3-point attempts (43) through Thursday.

Biggest increase in 3PA% (3PA/FGA)
Team 2013-14 Rank 2014-15 Rank Increase
Houston 33.0% 1 42.6% 1 9.6%
Indiana 23.5% 23 31.9% 5 8.5%
Utah 23.7% 20 31.3% 6 7.6%
Chicago 22.2% 25 28.8% 12 6.7%
L.A. Clippers 29.1% 9 33.3% 2 4.2%

New coaches, bad shots

Byron Scott, Derek Fisher and Flip Saunders have taken their teams in the opposite direction ...

Biggest decrease in 3PA% (3PA/FGA)
Team 2013-14 Rank 2014-15 Rank Decrease
L.A. Lakers 29.1% 7 17.3% 29 -11.9%
New York 30.2% 3 19.9% 25 -10.4%
Minnesota 24.5% 19 15.1% 30 -9.4%
Washington 24.6% 18 20.1% 24 -4.6%
Sacramento 21.8% 28 17.4% 28 -4.4%

Not only are the Lakers, Knicks and Wolves taking a low percentage of their shots from behind the arc, but they're all also taking a low percentage of their shots from the restricted area. So they're shooting a lot of bad 2-pointers.

One Stat, One Play

In case you missed it Thursday, this week's edition of "One Stat, One Play" looked at the potential of the Dallas offense with the league's most prolific driver, it's best mid-range shooter, a strong roll man, and more skilled players around them...

Monta Ellis: One Stat - One Play's John Schuhmann takes a close look at how Monta Ellis' drives to the basket are opening up the Mavericks' array of offensive weapons.

The Mavs' offense didn't look so hot in Portland on Thursday, but it still leads the league in efficiency (OffRtg), scoring 112.5 points per 100 possessions.

The four factors

The four factors of efficiency were identified by Dean Oliver, now the director of player personnel and analytics for the Sacramento Kings, in his book "Basketball On Paper." As noted above, effective field-goal percentage is the most important of the four, but you rank high in the other three, you can make up for not shooting well (or not defending shots well).

Here are the teams at the top and bottom of the rankings in each of the four factors on each end of the floor, through Thursday.

Offense - Effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

1. Golden State - 56.5 percent - And this is with Stephen Curry shooting just 10-for-30 (33 percent) from 3-point range.

30. Detroit - 43.0 percent - Josh Smith has attempted (and missed) only seven threes, but he has shot just 35 percent from inside the arc. And most of his teammates have been just as bad.

Offense - Rebounding percentage (percentage of available offensive rebounds grabbed)

1. Boston - 34.8 percent - The Celtics ranked 30th in offensive rebounding percentage in their last three seasons under Doc Rivers, who shunned offensive boards in the name of transition defense. Brad Stevens clearly has different ideas. Last season, Boston ranked sixth at 27.4 percent.

30. Atlanta - 18.1 percent - This is the downside to having bigs - Paul Millsap, Al Horford and Pero Antic - who space the floor.

Offense - Turnover rate (turnovers per 100 possessions)

1. Toronto - 9.5 percent - Kyle Lowry has just two turnovers in 170 minutes of running the Raptors' offense, with 426 total touches, according to SportVU. That rate of 213 turnovers/touch is more than twice that of any other high usage player.

30. Golden State - 20.0 percent - This is the downside to moving the ball more. The more you pass it, the more likely you're likely to lose it. Though the Warriors rank No. 1 in shooting, they're in the bottom five in both offensive rebounding percentage and turnover rate, ranking seventh in overall offensive efficiency. Their shooting numbers are likely to come down, but if they can decrease their turnovers, they have a shot at ranking in the top five in efficiency on both ends of the floor.

Offense - Free-throw rate (FTA / FGA)

1. Sacramento - 0.521 - DeMarcus Cousins (49) and Rudy Gay (46) rank second and fourth in free throw attempts, respectively.

30. New York - 0.201 - The Triangle has produced a lot of jump shots, hardly any shots near the basket, and hardly any trips to the line.

Defense - Effective field-goal percentage

1. Chicago - 42.2 percent - Opponents have shot just 46 percent (32-for-69) at the rim when Pau Gasol has been there, 43 percent (10-for-23) when Taj Gibson has been there, and 27 percent (4-for-15) when Joakim Noah has been there. Yikes.

30. L.A. Lakers - 56.4 percent - It's no surprise that the Lakers' defense is a disaster (7.4 points per 100 possessions worse than any other team), but it has to be noted that they've played nothing but good Western Conference opponents through five games.

Defense - Rebounding percentage

1. Charlotte - 82.0 percent - The Bobcats are now the Hornets, but they're still the best defensive rebounding team in the league. Their starting lineup has grabbed 85.3 percent of available boards.

30. Dallas - 66.5 percent - The Mavs were a top-10 defensive rebounding team the last time they had Tyson Chandler, but they also had Shawn Marion, an excellent rebounder at either forward spot. Boston got them for 22 offensive boards and 25 second chance points on Monday.

Defense - Turnover rate

1. Toronto - 20.9 percent - They've committed the least and they've forced the most. The Raptors' opponents have committed more than twice as many turnovers (99) as they have (46).

30. Detroit - 11.9 percent - Point guards Brandon Jennings and D.J. Augustin have combined to register one steal in 199 total minutes, which is rather remarkable.

Defense - Free throw rate

1. Dallas - 0.230 - Mavs opponents have attempted less then 20 free throws in four of their five games. Despite this, they rank 29th in defensive efficiency.

30. Denver - 0.458 - Jusuf Nurkic has committed 15 fouls in just 39 minutes.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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