Statistics Rumors

Based on analytical projections, Russell has been compared to accomplished NBA players, including MVP runner-up James Harden. Among players drafted in the last 10 years, SPM sees Russell as having a similar floor/ceiling coming out of college as Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Jrue Holiday and Raymond Felton. As much as analytics love Russell, it is also important to recognize that SPM predicts a high probability of him being a bust. Among SPM’s top 25 projected players, Russell has the highest bust likelihood, at 40.9 percent.
The Warriors take full advantage of what I call ‘The Foundation Stats.’ Without them, all the glorified Hollywood-esque stats wouldn’t be possible. Within five feet, in the battle-zone of the paint, Golden State shot 62.9 percent (second highest total in the league, only behind the dunkfest of the Clippers) and scored 45.3 points per game. Points off turnovers – league leading 19.7 per game along with a transition efficiency rating of 1.159 points per possession. To say the least, turning defensive stops and turnovers into points was a huge factor to the Warriors offensive success.
But the bookies usually know best, and this series is no exception. The Economist is pleased to report that the Curious Case of the Disappearing Home-Court Advantage has been solved: what looked in January like a vanishing act worthy of Houdini now seems more akin to a brief unexcused absence. According to data provided by David Corby of Basketball-Reference.com, from 1979 to 2014 NBA teams won 62.2% of their regular-season games at home. From January 28th, the day that the first ESPN piece about the decline of home-court advantage appeared, until the end of the regular season on April 15th, home teams won…62.1% of their games (see chart, in which the 2014-15 season has been divided into pre- and post-publication segments). This whiplash-inducing regression to the mean has continued in the playoffs: through the first three rounds, hosts have won precisely 60% of the time. The deviation that was supposed to occur less than once every 1,000 trials by chance turned out to have absolute zero predictive power whatsoever.
But for all his opposition to the 3-pointer, Bird sees the appeal of Stephen Currys, Klay Thompsons and Kyle Korvers. “Back when I played, we just didn’t shoot it that much,” Bird says. “Now, hell, if you’re not firing up 30 3s, you’re not playing basketball.” As the gatekeeper of the NBA game, league president of basketball operations and former team executive Rod Thorn loves the way the game is tilting. “Some from my era think there are too many 3-pointers,” Thorn says. “But the game has changed, there’s no doubt about it. The fans love the game and the way it’s being played. From our perspective, we’re very happy with what we see.”
In Game 3, the Heat were blown out 94-75. Dexter Pittman, who started at center, was ejected in the first quarter. But Pittman was the decoy. Battier was the key. “I walked through the tunnel that night after Game 3 knowing that was how we were going to play, regardless of the score,” Spoelstra says. “I shut out all the noise. Everyone thought we couldn’t win that way, certainly not a title. I didn’t care.” Spoelstra didn’t budge. With Battier stretching the floor for James and Wade, the Heat blitzed the Pacers in Game 4. And Game 5. And Game 6. A month later, with Battier and Bosh each slinging 3s in the Finals against the Thunder, the Heat won the championship, their first of two in the Big Three era. That night, D’Antoni received a text message from Spoelstra. “This one’s for you,” it read. “We climbed the mountaintop.”
When D’Antoni took over as head coach in Phoenix, the average NBA team shot 14.9 3-pointers per game. By the time he left, the league average was 18.1. The rise of 21 percent, at the time, was the largest four-year increase since the 3-point line was shortened in late 1990s. But even though D’Antoni’s fingertips are all over today’s NBA, his Phoenix teams never did win a championship. Pitino had Jordan; D’Antoni had the Spurs, who ended the Suns’ playoff run three times in four years. “I’d like to blame Michael Jordan, too, but we didn’t play him,” D’Antoni laughs. “We played against the San Antonio Spurs — the three years that I thought we really had a shot to win it.”
That summer, Pitino took the head-coaching job at University of Kentucky, where he later won a national championship. His Knicks’ 3-point-attempts record would stand untouched until five seasons later, when the Houston Rockets won back-to-back titles in the mid-90s, in part by embracing the shortened 3-point line. “In the beginning, everybody thought I was a mad scientist,” Pitino says of his use of the 3-pointer. “In the end, everybody realized how potent a weapon it was.”
“It’s really funny,” Bird says, “I never even practiced 3-pointers. We might have thrown up only a couple of them. The only time I practiced them was right before the 3-point contest in 1988. Danny [Ainge] would get the rack out and we’d rebound and throw the ball back out and shoot some 3s. But we didn’t fire up 100 3s after every practice.” Despite winning the first three 3-point contests ever, the shot never grew on Bird. “I don’t know why I never liked it,” Bird says, “But I liked it only in certain situations.”
As John Hollinger wrote in 2009, there’s a new motto in today’s NBA: Live by the 3 or die. “Few stats correlate better with winning than 3-point attempts,” he wrote. “We all know if you don’t shoot the 3, you’re probably not going to win,” says Popovich, whose Spurs set an NBA Finals record for 3s last year. “Everybody in the league shoots the 3-point shot well and knows the importance. “I still hate it.”
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In dismantling the two-time champion Miami Heat in last year’s NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs fired up more 3-pointers (23.6 per game) than any championship team in league history and averaged more 3s than even the most 3-happy Phoenix Suns squad in the “Seven Seconds Or Less” era. But Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is hardly proud of it. “I can’t be stubborn,” he explains, “just because I personally don’t like it and think it mucks up the game.”