Mike Gallagher

NBA Fantasy Trends

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Stats: Dubs D & New Mr. Clutch

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

While things have gone as expected for the most part in these NBA playoffs, the way in which they’re going is interesting. We’ve always been talking about Kawhi Leonard’s offense and several other things that may have been overlooked until recently. Sure, the Warriors offense has been incredible, but it’s been their defense really stepping up. Why?


First off, they’re not giving up many close shots. In the first round, the Blazers only had 16.0 shots per game within 10 feet, and they also made just 46.0 percent on those. Both of those rank dead last for all playoff teams this postseason. The Warriors also kept the Jazz four percent lower on shooting within 10 feet compared to their season average. Against the Clippers in the playoffs, the Jazz made 66.2 percent of their shots within 10 feet, but the Warriors held them to 53.3 percent. So based on that, you could argue Draymond Green is a better rim protector than DeAndre Jordan -- that doesn't seem like a tough argument.


The NBA loves pick-and-roll scoring, but as you’d expect the Warriors are doing a great job in stopping that play. Their ability to switch everything has been the key. Sure, many have imitated, but nobody can match what they’re doing right now.


On PNR ball-handler scoring, they rank third in points per possession allowed, and they are also third in the playoffs in points per possession allowed to the roll man. Plus, they’re tied for first for the lowest frequency allowed on PNR roll man scoring.


Another asset to their defense has been limiting their opponents on cutting. They rank first in points per possession allowed on cuts and are above average in the frequency of that play. Both PNR and cutting defense are all about team defense, so it makes sense they'd thrive here. By the way, the Warriors rank first in frequency of plays as cuts to get them to a playoff-leading 16.1 points per game on that play. I loved this one from last night.


Coach Mike Brown has been pushing the right buttons so far with lineup combos. Sure, it helps to have the best team, but the significant lineups have all fared well. Here are the lineups with more than 10 minutes in the playoffs: 

Yeah, they’re all positive in net rating. You could even say the Mega Death Lineup is underperforming with the worst defensive rating of this group. Sure, all of these lineups being in the positive isn’t the most surprising news given their 8-0 record, but the Cavs No. 2 lineup in minutes is -9.6 in net rating and their starting unit is barely positive at just +1.7. Even though you could argue the Warriors will get a tougher opponent against the Rockets or Spurs, the Cavs do seem more beatable in the Conference Finals.


One last thing on the Warriors as a team, all this talk about the Warriors being boring is one of the laziest takes of all time. As Klay Thompson said last week, only boring people get bored. I’d bet the people who think this also thought the Spurs have a boring brand of basketball. Garbage take. It's always fun and exciting to watch greatness.


Editor’s Note: Introducing FanDuel Mixup, the newest way to play FanDuel Baseball. Smaller lineups, so you can draft your team on the go, plus fun themes every week! Play now.


Sticking with the Warriors, Kevin Durant’s game on Saturday was just crazy. Not only did he score 38, it was impressive how he got those. Here are some stats about it on his 15-of-26 shooting line:


Kevin Durant was 6-of-6 on fadeaway shots

He had 18 field goal attempts vs. tight defense

He had 12 field goal attempts with six-plus seconds of touch time (averaged 1.8 during the season)

He was unassisted 13 times

He had one kerfuffle


The degree of difficulty got me thinking about just how great he is as a scorer. He might be the best pure scorer ever and his 60.8 true shooting percentage over his career is just bonkers. Simply put, he might actually be underrated again.


A lot of people seem to think Kobe Bryant is the best pure scorer ever, but the numbers say otherwise. In fact, Kobe never had a season with a TS% greater than 58.0, but KD has cleared 58.0 TS% in each of his last eight seasons. Sure, the free throw shooting and 3-pointers help Durant a lot, but he is just so darn efficient.


To take it a step further, I wanted to dig in on the clutch stats on some of the best scorers we’ve seen. Sadly, the NBA only tracked clutch since 1997, so getting numbers on Michael Jordan and Larry Bird would be a tall, tall order. 


To briefly explain, clutch minutes are minutes during the last five minutes and the game within five points. That means there isn’t a massive sample size on the playoffs, so regular season stats are probably a better representation. 


Another thing of note is the overall league average during this past regular season was 55.1 TS%. However, in the clutch, the median player TS% from last season was 51.1, it was 51.5 two seasons ago (shoutout to Carmelo Anthony for being the median guy here), it was 50.0 three years ago (Allen Crabbe making that money!), and it was 50.0 again four years ago. That suggests defense tightens up in the clutch. 


Lastly, true shooting does weigh in foul shooting. That means those intentional fouls when a team is up two with the ball should help. While some may say that could make the stat slightly misleading because most players will increase their TS% with free throw shooting, that seems like a bad take. Is that a negative or a positive? I mean, you want your guy knocking down clutch free throws, right? 


OK, let’s do this.


Let’s start with Kobe Bryant:  

Season TS% USG%
2015-16 51.9 46.6
2014-15 45.6 51.3
2013-14 47.0 58.6
2012-13 58.0 49.2
2011-12 51.9 43.1
2010-11 50.9 42.5
2009-10 58.1 45.7
2008-09 54.2 43.3
2007-08 54.9 38.1
2006-07 53.4 44.2
2005-06 46.0 45.7
2004-05 41.0 47.9
2003-04 53.3 44.0
2002-03 51.3 36.9
2001-02 39.4 37.6
2000-01 51.9 50.1
1999-00 48.5 31.6
1998-99 55.6 27.8
1997-98 43.2 27.5
1996-97 20.5 20.1

Good grief that’s a lot of usage. Also of note, he never hit 60 TS% in any year and he was below what looks like league average on clutch shooting in nine seasons. He’s still above average overall, but it’s hard to call him a clutch player based on this. He gets so many opportunities, so of course he’s going to have a lot of signature moments in the clutch.


So how about pure-scoring monster Kevin Durant in the clutch? 

Season TS% USG%
2016-17 49.4 25.6
2015-16 55.2 37.9
2014-15 61.7 47.0
2013-14 51.4 47.3
2012-13 56.1 44.8
2011-12 47.7 43.9
2010-11 54.4 36.5
2009-10 48.9 37.7
2008-09 51.0 37.1
2007-08 59.2 32.3

Nice. Not thrilling, but nice. KD also had some pretty high usage and he’s been a positive influence in the clutch more often than not. Although, he only hit his career 60.8 TS% just once, so basically his clutch minutes have pulled him down. His usage is also very high during his OKC years, which is kind of odd considering he played with Russell Westbrook, who just set the all-time record for usage rate at a ridiculous 40.8. KD can fill it up no matter what time it is.


Lastly, let’s take a look at the best player over the past decade: LeBron James. Considering so many people said things like “LeBron has no clutch gene” a few years ago, there are his postseason numbers here. Remember, there is going to be a very small sample on these, so keep in mind there shouldn’t be a strong correlation on those playoff stats. Most of those are only like a 10-15 minute span of playing time in the clutch. 


             ⬅️Regular Season, Playoffs ➡️

66.9 28.3                          2016-17 (only 3 mins->) 58.3 75.0
54.0 46.8                          2015-16 20.8 53.8
64.6 43.1                          2014-15 39.1 47.8
59.4 38.8                          2013-14 91.3 31.6
53.8 35.1                          2012-13 61.3 35.7
52.7 35.7                          2011-12 56.7 38.7
55.1 36.6                          2010-11 73.9 34.3
60.9 50.5                          2009-10 150(!) 14.7
64.3 49.3                          2008-09 75.2 59.8
61.2 41.8                          2007-08 32.2 50.0
53.4 42.2                          2006-07 72.4 47.9
58.3 35.9                          2005-06 64.7 58.8
44.9 35.4                          2004-05 N/A N/A
37.9 36.1                          2003-04 N/A N/A

Move over, Jerry West. There’s a new Mr. Clutch in town. LeBron was incredible in the clutch this regular season, ranking first in TS% among the 47 players with at least 15 games played in the clutch and a usage rate greater than 25. Ever since he made the playoffs, he’s been an above-average player on efficiency in the clutch during the regular season. James has also been elite with TS% in the mid-60s several times. His usage rate doesn’t really touch guys like Kobe, but don’t forget LeBron James is arguably the best passer of all time. 


Looking at the playoffs, he’s had a ton of big postseasons in the clutch while he’s still had a high usage rate. Even in his championship year in 2015-16, Bron's 20.8 TS% looks bad, but keep in mind that is just a 10-minute sample. That year, 2014-15 and the 2007-08 postseasons are the only three years he’s been below average. Plus, he’s been elite in seven postseasons. Basically, those folks who said LeBron isn’t clutch have no idea what they’re talking about.


These numbers are so good that you could even make a case he’s the best player ever. Yes, even over that crying-faced guy. By the way, MJ’s NBA.com page is so weird for it being this picture. 

As great as the Warriors are, they might have a tough time keeping LeBron from stopping them. This should be a fun ride even if it leads to the three-match in the NBA Finals.

Mike Gallagher has covered fantasy hoops for eight years and this season is his second with Rotoworld. You can find him on Twitter talking about a player's shots at the rim.

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