It’s the dog days of August for NBA fans. The draft and free agency are over, and all there’s left to do is review the previous season while waiting for the new one to begin.
>Like many basketball junkies, I spend this time watching game film and reserching stats from last year. Here are a few of the more surprising statistics from last season, and what they mean going forward. All stats are courtesy of NBA.com. It’s important to note I was looking for surprises among the key players on each team, so I focused on players who played at least 30 minutes a game.
Khris Middleton was 14th in the NBA in Net Rating
Most people realized Khris Middleton had a great season last year, but were still surprised to see him sign a five-year, $70 million contract, and wondered if the Bucks overpaid.
Milwaukee undoubtedly noticed how important Middleton’s presence was on the floor last season, as he was 14th in Net Rating. The Bucks had serious issues when Middleton had to sit last season, as his ability to stretch the floor was vital to the team’s offensive success.
Joakim Noah was fifth in assist ratio and fourth in offensive rebounding percentage
Joakim Noah had a rather rough season after having offseason knee surgery, and his drop in play played a big part in the Bulls’ disappointing end to the season.
Yet, these stats show that Noah still has the smarts and ability to crash the offensive boards to be effective. Noah’s impressive passing ability didn’t disappear, as he was far and away the leader in assist ratio for big men playing big minutes. It was just that he lost the ability to make a shot anywhere on the court, and his defense wasn’t elite anymore.
If Noah can return to form a bit physically, he could have a bounce-back season. It may have seemed like nothing went right for Noah last year, but these statistics indicate there’s still some talent left in the big man.
DeMarre Carroll was sixth in eFG%
DeMarre Carroll’s decision to play in Toronto nets the Raptors one of the most efficient players in the league last season. Can he bring that efficiency to a team that lacked the ball movement of Atlanta last year?
Carroll was excellent at finishing plays in Atlanta and never forced shots. Toronto was a much more isolation-based team last year, and it’ll be interesting to see how well Carroll can maintain his efficiency in the new environment.
Conversely, how will Atlanta replace Carroll’s efficient looks? Everyone seems to be asking about Carroll’s replacement on defense, but his productivity on offense needs to replaced as well.
Dwyane Wade had the second-highest usage
The narrative about Dwyane Wade deferring more to his teammates last season while he was on the floor to conserve energy simply isn’t true.
Wade’s usage skyrocketed when he actually played last year. He trailed only Russell Westbrook in that category. With Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic both back, will Wade settle into a role where he lets others run the show some? Or will he continue to dominate the ball while he’s playing? It’ll certainly be an interesting thing to watch at the start of the season.
Gordon Hayward had the 10th-most fast break points
People who didn’t watch Utah last season probably heard plenty about the massive defensive improvements once Rudy Gobert stepped into the lineup.
What they probably don’t realize, however, is that the Jazz try to push the pace for easy buckets when they can. Quin Snyder has encouraged his team to try to get points before the defense can get set, and Gordon Hayward is extremely aggressive in transition.
When a smaller player picks him up coming down the court, Hayward takes it straight to the rim and uses his size to elevate shots over the defense. He’s also great at trailing the play in an odd-man rush and knocking down open threes.
Hayward is really fun to watch, and most NBA fans will realize this come 2015.