The NBA’s Early Season Statistical Anomalies
One of the NBA’s greater early season joys is that of small-sample-size-induced-statistics. As team’s continue to move towards a critical mass of data, aggregate levels of production swing wildly with each game, and when a string of good or bad performances occur in succession, the results can be endearingly absurd.
With no team having played more than three games, now is the perfect time to revel in such anomalies. We’ve outlined nine of them for you below.
The Portland Trail Blazers are the best team of all time
After back-to-back blowout wins against the Suns and Pacers respectively, the Blazers now sport the league’s best net rating. If Portland’s efficiency were to hold, and the team continued to outscore opponents by 30.3 points per 100 possessions, they would finish the year with the highest single season net rating of any team in the history of the NBA, and they would do so by a considerable margin.
Paul George is an unabashed three point shooter
PG13 has never been one to shy away from shooting triples, but in his very first game with the Thunder he took his willingness to fire away to new levels. He is currently averaging 13.0 three-point attempts per game, a mark that would be the most ever in a single season.
For what it’s worth, this may just be an inevitability of modern basketball. If the season ended today, 12 of the 15 highest three-point attempt rates of all-time would have occurred within the last three years. It’s not that crazy to think players will continue to pull the trigger from beyond the arc at unprecedented rates.
The L.A. Clippers have the best defense in NBA history
The Clippers’ current defensive efficiency rating stands at 86.1 points allowed per 100 possessions, more than five points better than the Washington Bullets’ all-time mark of 91.3, set in 1975. Who knew a team with Milos Teodosic, Lou Williams, and Danilo Gallinari could keep opponents from scoring so well?
The Brooklyn Nets have the worst defense in NBA history
Way on the opposite end of the defensive spectrum are the Brooklyn Nets, who have given up 118.3 points per 100 possessions across their first two tilts. That’s 3.7 points more than the all-time worst rate of 118.3- a dubious distinction held by the 1990–91 Denver Nuggets.
Andre Drummond, free throw master
Andre Drummond has been the most miserable free throw shooter alive for the past half decade. Honestly, most players in the league could probably shoot a better percentage from the strip with their eyes closed, or at least they could have in years prior.
Now, two games into the season, Drummond’s free throw percentage is an unimaginably robust 100.0. This might be the biggest anomaly of them all. Going from the worst free throw shooter ever to the best is no joke. Seriously, we even made a graph to illustrate how crazy a jump that would represent.
DeAndre Jordan is an historic rebounder
DeAndre Jordan has always been a very good rebounder, but he was particularly good in the Clippers opening night victory. His current RPG rate of 24.0, however improbably, wouldn’t actually rate out as the greatest of all time, but it would land him ninth on the list of single season performances.
As an interesting aside, 18 of the 20 best individual rebounding seasons, including all of the years that rank ahead of Jordan’s current mark, belong to either Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell (two go to Nate Thurmond). That’s not bad company to keep.
Honorable mention to Hassan Whiteside for averaging 22.0 boards per game to date himself.
Giannis is unstoppable
Giannis Antetokounmpo is leading the league in scoring at 35.5 points per game, a mark that would rank as the ninth best of all-time. In the history of the NBA, only Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Elgin Baylor, Rick Barry, and Kobe Bryant have ever surpassed the 35.0 plateau for an entire season.
Draymond Green can’t score enough to average a triple double
Points are almost always included as one of the statistical categories in a triple double. They’re typically easier to come by than anything else, but that hasn’t been the case for Draymond Green this year. He’s averaging 9.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 11.0 assists per game (per NBA.com).
Sure it’s a wonky stat line that only exists because Green played just a portion of the Warrior’s first game, but theorizing about how he might be perceived as a player, should it hold for a full season, is fascinating. Would it challenge the general opinion on the importance of recording triple doubles in a way that Russell Westbrook’s MVP campaign simply wasn’t able to?
Joel Embiid has played in all of the Sixers’ games
Joel Embiid may be on a minutes restriction (which he’s not a fan of), but he’s played in 100 percent of the Philadelphia 76ers games this year. Compare that to his career average entering the season of 12.6 percent, and things are looking pretty good.
Embiid hasn’t played all that great individually, but the Sixers are still 11.5 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court. It’s good to have JoJo back in our lives. Let’s hope this is one of the anomalies that proves to be real.
This piece was written by High Off The Glass creator, contributor, and editor in chief Greg Cassoli. He has an unhealthy obsession with NBA basketball.