Analytics Rumors

Kuzma can provide some degree of playmaking along with his scoring chops. He’s the only player on the Lakers aside from their stars who’s a dual threat, but his assists are way down from last year — 1.7 assists per 100 possessions vs. 3.6 last season — as Davis and Rajon Rondo have dominated the ball in the second-unit lineups that Kuzma often plays in. His ability to score without occupying the ball is a tremendous asset for a superstar-driven team, but the Lakers have taken that to an unproductive extreme as Kuzma can go several minutes without a touch. That makes it very difficult for a scorer to establish a rhythm.
On Saturday night, Harden dropped 60 points on the Atlanta Hawks in less than three quarters of play. It was another virtuoso performance by the world’s greatest offensive basketball player. Through 19 games, Harden is averaging an incredible 38.9 points per game and, barring injury, he’s on pace to win his third consecutive scoring title, something only MJ and Kevin Durant have done in the 3-point era. But the most stunning thing about Harden isn’t his numbers — it’s his style. He’s a rarity in pro basketball, regularly inventing new fundamentals. We haven’t seen scoring numbers this big since a 23-year-old Jordan put up 37.1 PPG. Before that, the only comparison was Wilt Chamberlain’s prime in the early 1960s. And Harden thrives much like Chamberlain did — in the kinds of isolated one-on-one matchups that were supposed to be dead by now.
Harden’s isolation volume and efficiency are both tops in the league. Over 50% of Harden’s points stem from isos. None of the league’s 11 other 25 PPG scorers are even approaching 30%. While most other teams in the NBA frown upon hero ball as an inefficient strategy reserved only for necessary moments, the Rockets have reached the opposite conclusion simply because they have Harden. He is an offense unto himself, and the numbers are startling.
Many observers, including myself from time to time, have derided the monotonous aesthetic of Rockets basketball. Critics argue there’s too much dribbling and not enough passing. The whole thing is gimmicky, predictable and tiresome. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sees some hypocrisy there. “Nobody was mad when Kareem was getting it dozens of times per game,” Morey told ESPN.
Despite awesome scoring totals, Harden’s percentages from the field aren’t as dominant as other great scorers. He converts his shots at average rates, but that’s deceptive because he hedges on efficiency by only shooting in the best spots. And he achieves a massive subsidy by getting to the line more than anyone else in the NBA. Harden is the savviest foul-hunting guard this league has ever seen. He’s led the NBA in made free throws in each of the past five seasons, but he’s taking it to new heights this season. The dude is going to the line 14.4 times per game, and over 12 of his nearly 39 points per night are coming at the charity stripe.
When Ball shares the court with Holiday this season, the Pelicans are getting outscored by 12.4 points per 100 possessions. That’s really, really bad. Conversely, when Ball is on the court and Holiday is on the bench, the Pelicans are registering a plus-2.1 net rating. Even Ball’s individual numbers are better when he plays without Holiday. Ball is shooting 37 percent from the floor when he plays with Holiday and 46 percent when he doesn’t. He’s averaging 6.5 assists and 4.1 turnovers per 36 minutes with Holiday on the floor. When Holiday is out of the game, Ball’s numbers go up to 9.5 assists and 1.8 turnovers per 36 minutes.
Rim protection is the start of Holmes’ contribution. He averages 1.4 blocks per game this year but the effect of his pogo-stick energy in the paint goes beyond that. That’s true of all his traditional stats. Holmes is averaging 11.3 points, which ranks 30th among centers. His 8.2 rebounds rank 24th. While the mark of a good modern center may be the ability to stretch the floor with 3-point attempts, Holmes has yet to attempt one this year and has not shot a 3 since March 2018. Those stats only scratch the surface of Holmes’ impact on the Kings.