Fun With SportVU: Defensive And Offensive Trends

by Max Rappaport
Sixers.com Writer
@MaxRappaport

We’re just over two months into the 2014-15 season, and now that the Sixers have amassed a 30-game sample, the tendencies and traits of this year’s squad are beginning to come into focus. Here are some of the more interesting trends that have emerged. 

Defense

• Last year, the Sixers ranked 27th in the league in defensive rating, allowing 107.5 points per 100 possessions. This season, they’ve improved to 13th, allowing 102.8 points per 100 possessions.

• In the month of December, the Sixers (99.9 defensive rating) are one of eight teams allowing fewer than 100 points per 100 possessions.

• In December, the Sixers are allowing teams to shoot 43.7% from the floor against them (seventh in the NBA).

• Making that feat more impressive is the fact that their defensive numbers have been so solid despite the fact that the Sixers commit 19.3 turnovers per 100 possessions, leading to a league-high 24.0 points per 100 possessions off of giveaways this season.

• Here’s a look at the Sixers’ opponent shot chart from December 2014 (hover over to see what it looked like in December 2013)

• Among players defending at least 8.0 shots at the rim per game, rookie Nerlens Noel ranks sixth in the NBA in opponent conversion rate on those shots (46.8 FG%). The five players ahead of him are Roy Hibbert, Serge Ibaka, Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, and Tim Duncan. 

Offense

• Despite posting the lowest offensive rating in the NBA (90.7 points per 100 possessions), there are encouraging trends on that end of the floor. According to head coach Brett Brown, the Sixers are near the top of the league in terms of expected points per shot, meaning that the team’s shot selection has been especially efficient. Here’s a look at how that’s developed over the past three seasons (courtesy of StatMuse.com):

• Relative newcomer Robert Covington has helped space the floor for Philadelphia. In the month of December, he’s second on the team in scoring behind Michael Carter-Williams, averaging 15.3 points per game on 41.7% from the floor and 42.9% from deep.

• On the year, Covington is tied for fifth in the league in catch-and-shoot threes made per game (2.0), averaging as many as Klay Thompson, Danny Green, and Trevor Ariza. Among players averaging 2.0 or more catch-and-shoot threes made per game, he’s second only to Kyle Korver in conversion rate (48.3%).

• Last season, the Sixers ranked 11th in passes per game (307.5). This year, they’ve increased that number to 327.8, good for fourth in the league behind the Jazz, Knicks, and Spurs.

• Michael Carter-Williams is tied with Dallas point guard Rajon Rondo for the league lead in passes per game, at 76.1, and ranks sixth in the league in assist opportunities created per game (16.8). An assist opportunity is defined as a pass that leads to a field goal attempt that, if made, would result in an assisted basket.

• Here’s a look at one of the prettiest examples of efficient ball movement so far this season (courtesy of stats.NBA.com), where unselfish play led to an open three for K.J. McDaniels on the left wing:

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