Thursday November 5th, 2015

It’s tough to glean many lasting insights from the way-too-early stages of an NBA season. We know that the reigning champion Warriors are dominant, the Pelicans and Rockets are likely better than they’ve shown thus far, and the Nets, well, they probably aren’t.

So, the first iteration of Data Dimes—a weekly stats-driven column from the team at PointAfter—will look to the extremes. Since small sample size is an obvious factor this early on, we’ll highlight outlandish figures before things start trickling back down to some sense of normalcy. In subsequent installments throughout the 2015–16 season, we’ll dig through the data to discover compelling statistical insights.

Note: All stats referenced in this column are accurate as of Nov. 4, 2015, prior to games played on Wednesday night, unless otherwise noted.

• New season, same Warriors: Golden State outmatches L.A. Clippers 

407–​6

Stephen Curry may not be human. He might, in fact, be a three-point-shooting, ball-handling android from a distant galaxy. His confidence following an MVP and championship campaign can only be quantified with other outrageous analogies.

The point guard from Davidson has produced dynamite performances that would make his virtual self in NBA2K blush. We’ll try and cover all the bases, but first we’ll start with the 40–7–6 figure Curry posted in the season opener.

By scoring 40 points, dishing out seven dimes and grabbing six rebounds in the Oct. 27 opener against New Orleans, Curry became only the second player since the 1985–86 campaign to post a 40–7–6 in a season-opening game—joining Michael Jeffrey Jordan, who did so back in 1995, per Basketball Reference.

His 148 points scored through four games is second only to MJ in the last 40 years. He’s also scored 20 points in a single quarter on three separate occasions. Only one other player (Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum) out of the 388 other who have seen court time has posted a 20-point quarter. His PER after four games sits at a laughably inconceivable 50.5 (league average for the stat is 15) and his shooting efficiency across the board is difficult to comprehend.

Although Curry has garnered a vast swath of supporters pegging him as the best shooter ever, including two-time MVP Steve Nash, he has yet to join the elusive 50–40–90 club. The elite group includes players who shot at least 50% from the field, 40% from three-point territory and 90% from free throw line while qualifying for league leaderboards. Nash did it four times. Larry Bird did so twice. The others on the list are Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant.

Steph came close to joining those hyper-efficient scorers last season—he shot 44.3% from beyond the arc and 91.4% from the charity stripe—but he missed out by shooting 48.7% from the field. There are still a lot of games left to be played, but Curry is flirting with a 60–50–95 at the moment. Even if (when?) he cools off significantly, this should be the year he finally breaks into the 50–40–90 club.

8.5

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Curry’s successes is 20-year veteran Kobe Bryant. After the Lakers fell to 0–3 on the season, Bryant candidly told reporters, “I suck right now,” and pegged himself as the 200th-best player in the league. (Actually, if you measure by true shooting percentage, “The Black Mamba” ranks tied for 268th).

But since Bryant has already harped on his struggles, we’ll focus on a more eye-opening outlier: his three-point attempts.

• MORE NBA: LeBron: Kobe knows he doesn't suck

Through the first four games of the season, Bryant is launching 8.5 three-pointers per contest. That’s by far the most of his career—the next-closest was back in 2005–06 when he shot 6.5 per game. This is curious for three reasons:

1. Bryant is playing just 28 minutes per game, the fewest since his second year in the league.

2. Bryant is only converting 20.6% of his triples (7-of-34), so he has little reason to keep chucking them.

3. Bryon Scott, Lakerland’s head coach, infamously said last year that he doesn’t believe shooting three-pointers wins championships, a viewpoint ESPN’s Baxter Holmes shot down rather emphatically.

The barrage of threes isn’t exclusive to Kobe, though, as the Lakers are leading the league with 32 long-range attempts per game. That would rank second all-time if sustained throughout the season, just behind last year’s Rockets squad.

The problem is that the Lakers sit at No. 24 in the NBA in percentage from distance (28.1%). They have clearly changed their tune about threes since last season, but it doesn’t make sense for Bryant in particular to keep shooting them at the clip he has been.

19.5

By hauling in a Rodman-esque 19.5 rebounds per contest through Detroit’s first four matchups, Andre Drummond leads the league by a comfortable margin (a full six rebounds per game ahead of second-place DeAndre Jordan). He’s also the league leader in defensive rebounds, but where he truly separates himself from his peers is on the offensive glass.

With 30 total offensive boards in his four games played, Drummond not only grabs 38% of his total rebounds on offense, he also nearly doubles the next-best player in the category—Tyson Chandler, Enes Kanter and Zaza Pachulia are all tied for second with 16 offensive rebounds apiece.

Due to Drummond’s instincts and tenaciousness on the offensive boards, the Pistons lead the league in offensive rebounds per game (17.5) and rank No. 7 in second-chance points. With an effective field goal percentage of 42.8% (dead last in the league), Detroit clearly needs those additional opportunities to put the ball in the basket.

10.9

This figure represents the lowest team turnover percentage (an estimate of the number of turnovers committed per 100 plays) in NBA history.

Through four games, the Dallas Mavericks have a turnover percentage of 10.9%, which would tie them for the best ever with the 2011–12 Philadelphia 76ers and the 2002–03 Mavs.

That’s pretty remarkable even in a small sample size, provided that Dallas is leaning on washed-up veterans Deron Williams and Raymond Felton to run the point. The Mavericks have been hampered by injuries and have a dearth of explosive scorers, but at least they’re taking care of the basketball.

1

Okay, this one is admittedly silly, but too fun not to share.

One represents the amount of minutes 7’3” Atlanta Hawks center Walter “Edy” Tavares has played this season. In that one minute of court time, Tavares earned a PER of 69.92 (good for No. 2 in the league among all players) and a net rating—offensive rating minus defensive rating—of -146.8 (second-worst behind Wizards guard Garrett Temple among all players).

This is precisely why context is so important, and why small sample sizes can skew stats. Check back each week as we dive deeper into the season's most important numbers.

More from Ben Leibowitz:

The Most Lopsided NBA Finals Matchups in History

NFL Week 8: Fantasy’s Highest-Scoring and All-Bust Lineups

Each MLB Team’s Least Valuable Player from 2015

PointAfter is part of the Graphiq network, a data aggregation and visualization website that’s collected all the information about Stephen Curry and Kobe Bryant and put it all in one place so you don’t have to go searching for it. Join Graphiq to discover contextually-rich data visualizations spanning NBA playersNBA teams and thousands of other topics.

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