Happy Friday! We are 30% through the 2019-20 NBA season. Here are some things of note as we head into the Week 8 weekend.
Russell Westbrook’s jump shot remains broken. On shots from outside the paint this season, Westbrook has a field goal percentage of 29.4% and an effective field goal percentage of 35.3%. Both are the lowest marks of his career and, among 144 players who have taken at least 100 shots from outside the paint (not including shots from the backcourt), they rank 140th and *143rd.
|Minimum 100 FGA from outside the paint
Does not include backcourt shots
Through Dec. 12, 2019
While the Rockets have the league’s third-ranked offense, they’ve scored 11.7 more points per 100 possessions with Westbrook off the floor (120.0) than they have with him on the floor (108.3). In 346 minutes with James Harden on the floor without Westbrook, they’ve scored 121.0 per 100.
With Westbrook off the floor, the Rockets can obviously have a better 3-point shooter for Harden to pass to. Four of their other perimeter players — Eric Gordon, Ben McLemore, Austin Rivers and Thabo Sefolosha — have shot worse than the league average (35.6%) from 3-point range, but they’ve all been better than Westbrook (23.0%).
Still, when you look at the numbers of other players in the minutes that Harden has been on the floor with and without Westbrook, what stands out is the 3-point shooting of Danuel House and P.J. Tucker. With both Harden and Westbrook on the floor, those two have combined to shoot 46-for-127 (36%) from 3-point range. With only Harden on the floor, House and Tucker have combined to shoot 30-for-54 (56%) from beyond the arc.
Maybe Westbrook’s presence hurts the Rockets’ spacing and makes the others’ shots more contested, but probably not to the tune of 20 percentage points. So we can expect a reduction in that on-off differential going forward.
Westbrook doesn’t necessarily have to shoot from the outside to take advantage of the extra attention that opposing defenses have been paying to James Harden of late. A defense that doubles or bends toward Harden will have seams which Westbrook can attack.
And on a couple of late possessions against Sacramento on Monday, that’s exactly what he did.
Westbrook isn’t the best finisher at the rim, either. Only once in his career (last season) has he shot better than the league average in the restricted area. But his shots in the paint (at 55% this season) have been a lot more valuable than his shots from outside (1.10 vs. 0.71 points per attempt).
Over the last four games, Westbrook has taken 57% of his shots in the paint, up from 48% through his first 18 games. He’s obviously aware of how poorly he has shot from the outside, and maybe he’s making a conscious effort to get to the basket more.
Westbrook has yet to play in both games of a back-to-back and will likely miss one of the Rockets’ two games this weekend. They’re in Orlando Friday night (7 ET, League Pass) and home against the Pistons on Saturday (9 ET, League Pass). The Magic rank 4th in the (lowest) percentage of their opponents’ shots that have come from the restricted area (29.5%), while the Pistons rank 24th (35.0%), so having Westbrook sit the first game might be the better play.
Devonte’ Graham did it again. For the second time this season, the 6-foot-1 guard came up big in the closing seconds of a Hornets win in New York.
At Madison Square Garden last month, Graham hit a game-winning 3 with 2.1 seconds left to beat the Knicks. And at Barclays Center on Wednesday, the second-year guard drained two jumpers to turn a tie game into a five-point win.
The first of those two tied Graham for the league lead in buckets to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime. He already has as many 3-pointers to tie or take the lead in the final minute (he’s 2-for-4) as Kemba Walker had over his last two seasons with the Hornets (2-for-18).
|Marcus Morris Sr.||2||2||100.0%||2||2||100.0%|
|Through Dec. 12, 2019|
As a whole, the league has shot 97-for-270 (35.9%), including 43-for-131 (32.8%) on shots to tie or take the lead in the final minute.
Amazingly, though he’s played in just 11 of the Nets’ 24 games, Kyrie Irving (1-for-7) is tied with teammate Dinwiddie and Jimmy Butler (1-for-7) for the second most attempts to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth or OT. Seventeen of the Nets’ 24 games (and 10 of their 13 wins) have been within five points in the last five minutes and 12 of those 17 (and six of their wins) have been within three points in the final minute of the fourth quarter.
The Hornets are 11-16, hanging around in the East playoff race because of their success in close games. Nine of their 11 wins have been within three points in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Their 11 wins have come by an average of 4.6 points, and they already have as many wins by five points or fewer (seven) as they had last season. Their 16 losses, meanwhile, have come by an average of 14.4 points.
If you believe that second-year players can win the Kia Most Improved Award, then Graham might be your leading candidate.
After his 40-point performance in Brooklyn on Wednesday, he’s averaging 20.0 points and 7.6 assists per game, up from just 4.7 and 2.6 last season. Part of that is a huge increase in minutes (from 14.7 to 33.8), but Graham has also seen the league’s biggest jump in usage rate among players who played at least 500 minutes last season and have played at least 250 minutes this season.
Here are the top 12 in that regard, with Graham neither the only second-year player nor the only Hornet on the list …
|Minimum 250 minutes in 2018-19 & 500 minutes in 2019-20 (246 players)
Usg% = % of team’s possessions used (via FGA, TO & free throw trips) while on floor.
Through Dec. 12, 2019
Along with jump in usage rate, Graham has been more efficient. Among 212 players that attempted at least 200 shots last season and have attempted at least 100 this season, he’s seen the second biggest jump in true shooting percentage.
Here are the top 12 …
|TS% = PTS / (2 * (FGA + (0.44 * FTA)))
Minimum 200 FGA in 2018-19, 100 FGA in 2019-20
Through Dec. 12, 2019
Dennis Schroder is a little further down both of the above lists, with a jump in usage rate from 23.8% to 26.0% and a jump in true shooting percentage from 50.8% last season to 54.6%.
To the eyes, Schroder seems to be playing a little bit slower in his second season in Oklahoma City. And player tracking data from Second Spectrum matches what the eyes have seen. This season, Schroder has averaged 4.34 miles per hour on offense, down from 4.54 last season and 4.87 the season prior.
Playing slower and more in control seems to be working for Schroder. Both his field goal percentage in the pant (52.7%) and his effective field goal percentage on shots outside the paint (50.8%) are career-high marks.
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