By: Zachariah Blott
The 2009-10 season is only one week old, so it’s way too early to look at any trends or statistics with a discerning eye, but it’s just so damn fun! Here are some numbers from this young season that you probably didn’t know.
– What do the Knicks’ Danilo Gallinari, the 76ers’ Louis Williams, the Rockets’ Trevor Ariza, the Clippers’ Chris Kaman, and the Wizards’ Andray Blatche have in common? I’ll give you a hint: it’s actually something good. They are all averaging over 20 ppg. The shooting Gallinari (6 of 12 from deep per game) was drafted for is happening, Williams’ speed benefits Philadelphia’s up-tempo pace (7th best 97.5 possessions per game), Ariza is shooting out of his mind (52.4% from 3), Kaman is receiving more touches with Griffin out and lots of court time (41 mpg), and Blatche is hitting an absurd 72% of his shots inside. Who’s most likely to stay above 20 for the entire 82? Without a doubt it’s Gallinari: he is a picture-perfect shooter whose 47% FG and 50% 3FG are both slightly above his rookie numbers, so it’s easy to see them remaining fairly intact on the run-and-gun Knicks.
– Why do draft pundits continue to value players with height (like Thabeet) over players with a history of production, like Denver rook Ty Lawson? Even with crazy quickness, 47% 3FG, and a fantastic 6.6-1.9 A/TO rate in college, teams didn’t want the UNC point guard because he’s only 5-11. The Nuggets happily took the 18th pick off of Minnesota’s hands on draft night and promptly made him Chauncey Billups’ backup. How’s the short but productive former-Tar Heel doing? Playing 22 minutes off the bench each game, Lawson is shooting 50% overall and 40% from deep. He also has 10 assists to only 2 turnovers, and he’s corralled at least 1 steal in each of his three games. Don’t forget he was the catalyst to Denver’s opening-night victory over Utah, scoring 7 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter while also dishing out 6 assists. And where would a potential draftee with Lawson’s quickness be selected if he was 4 inches taller, but was a streaky shooter at best and had a reputation for making poor decisions in the half-court? He’d be the #1 pick.
Ty Lawson photo credit: Icon SMI
– If I had to guess which rookie would make the best run at a triple-double, I’d probably be looking at Tyreke Evans (great build, some PG skills), Stephen Curry (can shoot, pass, and steal the rock), or DeJuan Blair (if you count offensive and defensive rebounds separately). I was way off. Brandon Jennings, the first-year player I consider the most overrated, went for a very Rajon Rondo-esque 17, 9, and 9 IN HIS FIRST NBA GAME. Could he actually do it? Those 9 boards will probably be a season-high, so I doubt it. I’m still putting my money on Evans as the rookie most likely to accomplish the feat.
-Which 6-11 forward/center who averaged only 4.2 ppg in 2008-09 is currently the league’s most dangerous 3-point weapon? Phoenix’s Channing Frye, that’s who. After languishing on Portland’s bench for the past two years (check out his blog, one of the best player blogs in the league), the Suns decided to add the quick center to their starting frontcourt for a measly $2 million. Their up-and-down pace plays right into Frye’s hands, especially since he’s always been a decent spot-up shooter. Now he’s able to hit wide-open 3’s on the fast break as defenses collapse into the paint, and no one is going to contest his outside shot anyway. The results are insane: he’s hitting the second-most 3’s per game (4.3) and connecting on the best percentage among the 50 players who attempt at least 4 per game (65%).
Five more statistical trends from the opening games, after the jump …
– It’s not too surprising that Blair is leading all rookies with 8.3 rpg even though he’s 6-7 and only plays 20 minutes a night. What fans probably don’t know is that Blair has a white clone over in Sacramento. Fellow first-year player Jon Brockman is also a fireplug of a power forward (6-7, 255), also averaging great rebounds per minute (4.7 in 12), and also shooting the ball well (63% to Blair’s 71%). Brockman is actually outperforming Blair in Blair’s specialty—the offensive glass—snagging 2.3 orpg to Blair’s 2.7, but in 8 minutes less clock per game.
-In case you missed it, LeBron James is not among the top10 scorers in the league. His shooting percentage is up where it always is (49%) and his 3-point shooting continues to improve (39%), but he’s only taking 17.5 shots per night, considerably less than the 21 he’s averaged over his first six seasons. His unselfishness is resulting in a career-high 8.8 apg, good for 5th in the NBA.
– Brandon Roy is averaging 27 ppg, but it’s sure not by being consistent. He’s the only player to have scored in the teens, 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s so far, putting up anywhere from 16 against the Thunder to 42 against the Rockets. Similarly, Al Harrington‘s scoring totals go 15, 17, 42, and Kobe Bryant has put up 20, 33, and 41. On the other end of the spectrum, Dwyane Wade has three games between 25 and 32, shooting 40-something percent on a steady 19 to 22 shots in each one.
– Toronto’s Jose Calderon must have a broken finger on his shooting hand that the Raptors aren’t reporting. Last year, the Spaniard shot 41% from behind the arc and an NBA record 98.1% from the charity stripe, missing only 3 of 154 freebies. This year he’s 1-7 from 3-point land and he’s already missed 4 free throws in 13 attempts. Soon he’ll be seeking out Dwight Howard for advice.
Jose Calderon Photo Credit: Icon SMI
-Most encouraging yet disappointing line: Memphis rookie Hasheem Thabeet, my daily pick for biggest bust in the 2009 Draft, grabbed 6 rebounds and blocked 4 shots in less than 12 minutes on Sunday against Denver’s loaded frontline. He also hit his only shot. Unfortunately, Thabeet didn’t put up better numbers because he fouled out after playing 11 minutes and 51 seconds.
As a bit of a Big East follower, I routinely told friends over the past year that Thabeet (UConn) would turn out to be just another Roy Hibbert (Georgetown): a big stiff who could block some shots. After Hibbert tore up the Orlando Summer League and has shown improvement so far this year (7.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg), it looks like the Grizzlies can only hope for that to be an accurate comparison some day.
Zachariah Blott is a dish best served cold.