This week's edition of data dimes looks at how old faces are performing in new places.
Moving to a new place can be intimidating. Having to meet new people, adapt to different surroundings and carve a fresh niche is occasionally easier said than done. Sometimes everything works out for the better; in other cases, the change doesn’t work out at all.
The same principles can be applied to NBA players who, through free agency or trade, suit up with a new franchise from one season to the next. While 2015 free agents like DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Love and more ultimately remained with the same organization, others embraced a change of scenery.
The second installment of Data Dimes will look at the latter this week. With help from some PointAfter visualizations, we’ll see if players are fitting in well with their new organizations, struggling to find a rhythm, or sitting somewhere in between. (You can read last week’s iteration here.)
Note: All stats referenced in this article are accurate as of Nov. 11, prior to games played, unless otherwise noted.
Though this figure doesn’t crack the top 30 among qualified players, it remains significant because of who the stat is tied to. In this case, 1.13 represents the blocks per game new Milwaukee Bucks big man Greg Monroe is averaging through eight games played.
In his career to this point, Monroe has never averaged more than one swat per contest despite boasting a 6’11” frame. In fact, the most blocks he averaged in a single season was a lackluster 0.7 during his second year with Detroit.
Signing Monroe was a move meant to bring an interior scoring punch that would balance an offense dependent upon perimeter shooters and slashers (Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, etc.). And while the man they call “Moose” has been a huge asset in that regard—averaging a career-best 18 points per game—the unexpected defensive contributions have been quite the added bonus.
In Monroe’s first eight games with Milwaukee, Bucks opponents sport an offensive rating of 104.6 when he’s on the court and 117.2 when he’s not. That’s tied to the fact that other starters and great defenders like Middleton and the “Greek Freak” usually take a breather as well, but it’s still interesting to note in the early going.
If the Georgetown product continues to make a two-way impact—or at least isn’t a complete non-factor as a rim protector—the signing will be more than justified for the upstart Bucks.
Twenty-five is the amount of points Wesley Matthews scored Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers. It was by far the most he’s posted thus far in a Mavericks uniform, as his previous high was 13.
A number that would have defined him before the bounce-back performance was five, which represented two stats for Dallas’ new shooting guard: The amount of two-point field goals he’d made, and the amount of turnovers he’d committed.
In addition to making 5-of-20 two-point attempts to start the year, the 29-year-old veteran was shooting 35.7% from beyond the arc, 73.3% from the free throw line and 31.3% from the field overall. All of those marks were career lows for someone who had otherwise distinguished himself as an outstanding shooter.
• MORE NBA: Kobe Bryant headlines SI's All-Brick Layers Team
It had to be concerning to the Mavs that the new addition looked so uncomfortable after signing a four-year, $57 million deal in the offseason—which got bumped to $70 million when DeAndre Jordan reneged on his deal with Big D. Matthews’s PER entering Wednesday night’s game sat at 7.0—a career worst by a wide margin.
That efficiency rating also ranked Matthews No. 279 out of 314 qualified players.
Admittedly, it’s not entirely fair to point out the faults of a guy who is now nine months removed from tearing his Achilles—a devastating injury for a basketball player to suffer (cut to Kobe Bryant fans nodding dolefully). But Matthews had his best game of the young season last night against L.A. (25 points on 9-of-13 shooting to accompany six rebounds, three assists and a handful of smooth step-back jumpers).
Wesley Matthews has 25 points and is playing shutdown D on Chris Paul in crunch time.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) November 12, 2015
If the two-guard was just knocking off the rust following a long layoff, his hefty contract won’t look nearly as bad as it did through his first six games.
Eleven is the amount of triple doubles Rajon Rondo has recorded in his career while simultaneously amassing at least 15 assists. Dating back to the 1985–86 season, only Earvin “Magic” Johnson (21) and Jason Kidd (13) have more games with that stat line, per Basketball Reference. Two of the 11 for Rondo have occurred this season in a Kings jersey.
The most recent performance—a 14-point, 15-assist, 11-rebound outing against the Pistons—got Sacramento its second win of the season, snapping a six-game losing streak. It was also the second consecutive game in which Rondo played all 48 minutes. Over the past three contests, he’s sat out just four minutes total.
The overall package from Rondo in his move to the West Coast hasn’t been great. He continues to be a miserable shooter (18.8% from beyond the arc through his first eight games). That allows defenders—as SI’s Ben Golliver broke down in his “All-Brick Layers” article—to sag off of the point guard like wet cardboard.
It’s crushing the Kings’ offensive spacing, which is just a minor issue for a team with bigger problems, but if Rondo can impact games by setting up teammates for scores, rebounding, and defending, there’s a chance Sacramento can right the ship after a disastrous start.
Unless we’re talking about golf, negative numbers in sports tend not to be favorable. That’s the case here, as -15.4 represents Roy Hibbert’s net rating with the Lakers through the team’s first eight games. For as bad as Lakerland has been, that number is still ugly. Even Kobe Bryant—whose true shooting percentage of 44.4% ranks him 262nd out of 314 qualified players—has posted a net rating of -13.5 in his six starts.
Hibbert’s net rating is better than rookie D’Angelo Russell (-17.4) and Julius Randle (-17.7), but that’s not much of a consolation. A small silver lining is the skyscraping center’s ability to block shots.
His 2.75 blocks per game stat is a career high, but the Lakers’ collective team defense has been such a sieve that it hasn’t mattered all that much. The former Pacer can still bring value to a contender as a defensive anchor and competent rebounder (a la Andrew Bogut with Golden State). His fit on this cellar-dwelling Lakers team, however, is a curious one.
Many expect Bryon Scott’s coaching days to be numbered in L.A., but it’s time for the organization to fully embrace the youngsters and look toward the future.
More from Ben Leibowitz:
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