By Jim Turvey
Statistics have always been a key part of sports. Hallowed numbers like a .300 batting average, 3,000 hits, or 500 home runs rule baseball, while incredible numbers like Wilt’s 1961-62 season averages of 50.4 points per game and 25.7 rebounds per game, or Wilt’s 100-point game (really anything Wilt did statistically), Jose Caulderon shooting 98.1 percent from the line in 2008-09, or even Rasheed Wallace’s 41 technicals in 2000-01 stick out in basketball’s history.
The last year or so, however, has seen a huge boom in the publication of something of the most advanced statistics any sport has to offer. Player stats and team stats have continued to evolve to the point that statistics that seemed revolutionary just a few years ago (such as player +/-) now seem outdated, and have been improved upon.
One of the biggest areas in which statistics have changed is player tracking. Nba.com has by far the most in-depth statistics page of any professional sports league, and can easily eat up hours of any basketball fan’s day.
Let’s take a look at some statistics (both new and old) relevant to the Warriors’ season so far:
Offensive Rating: 13th; Defensive Rating: 4th
While many “SportsCenter” fans (those that just watch Warriors’ highlights while eating their Captain Crunch in the morning) think of the Warriors as an offensive juggernaut, it is actually the defense that has played better so far this year. This is not a new trend as Mark Jackson has prioritized defense since his arrival in Oakland. Players like Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala, and even the improving defense of Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes have made the Warriors defense a top-5 unit this season.
Rebound Percentage: 3rd; Defensive Rebound Percentage: 2nd; Offensive Rebound Percentage: 14th
The Warriors have hit the glass hard so far this season, especially on the defensive glass. David Lee and Andrew Bogut are two of the most consistently great rebounders, but the Warriors have also received solid rebounding numbers from Steph Curry (4.6 rebounds per game), Harrison Barnes (4.0), Andre Iguodala (4.3), Jermaine O’Neal (4.5), and Draymond Green (4.4). How important is rebounding? Of the top eight teams in the league in rebounding percentage, only one of them (the Marc Gasol-less Grizzlies) are out of the playoffs at the moment.
Turnover Ratio: 30th; Pace: 4th
While part of the Warriors’ struggles with turnovers so far this season can be attributed to the quick pace at which they play, but this is certainly not the sole reason, as the 2nd fastest team in the NBA (the Minnesota Timberwolves) are also 3rd in turnover ratio (note that by 30th I mean the Warriors average the most turnovers, while 3rd means the Timberwolves averages the third least turnovers per game). Steph Curry has been the main culprit as he sometimes gets a little too flashy. He seems to be a victim of his own incredible talent sometimes, as he attempts passes that only he could make (in particular those one-handed lefty cross-court zingers), but are even difficult for Curry. When they work they are top ten plays, but when they don’t they can certainly lead to turnovers.
Andre Iguodala: 3rd in True Shooting Percentage (among players with 750 minutes)
Iguodala has been shooting lights out when healthy this season, thriving on the smaller role that allows him to only take shots he likes. He trails only Kyle Korver (who only chucks threes, which are true shooting percentage gold), and LeBron James (Jesus Christ, he’s unreal) in true shooting percentage. While Iguodala is likely to cool off a bit, he undoubtedly has thrived in the Warriors’ system.
Klay Thompson: 1st in Distance Traveled
It was news earlier this week when Klay Thompson became the first player in the NBA this season to top 100 miles traveled. He has more than a three mile lead on the second place Monta Ellis, and it’s clear that the Warriors love running their guards. Steph Curry is also in the top ten with 92.9 miles, and when it comes to distance traveled per game, Curry is actually above Thompson. Mark Jackson has clearly implemented a system that runs his two outstanding shooting guards off screen after screen in order to get them open looks.
Andrew Bogut: 4th in Opponent Field Goal Percentage at Rim (among players with 20 games played, at least 20 minutes per game, and at least 4 field goal attempts against per game)
The parameters of the above statistic may seem a little ridiculous, like calling David Lee the best power forward who went to Florida, grew up in Missouri, is 30 years old, white, and playing on the West Coast, but the parameters are actually necessary. The minutes and games played are simply to weed out the players relying on a tiny sample size, and the four field goal attempt minimum eliminates guards from the equation. So, among big men, only seven (and take a look at the list, it’s a virtual who’s who of defensive big men) have played better defense at the rim than Bogut. Also impressive is the fact that, of the 68 players qualified under the previous parameters, David Lee is in the top half of that group, allowing opponents to shoot 48.9 percent at the rim – not elite, but very solid, and better than players such as Anderson Varejao, Shawn Marion, and incredibly even DeAndre Jordan.
We’ll end by paying homage once more to the Warriors’ amazing backcourt. Both Thompson and Curry know their role in the Warriors’ system, and that is part of why the pair have had such great success working with each other, and not having any chemistry issues so far. With Iguodala back, and David Lee beginning to heat up, things are looking great for the Warriors.