Kobe Bryant and the Philadelphia 76ers sit at the forefront of ugly stats to start the NBA season.
Amid the inconceivable dominance from reigning MVP Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, a bounce-back campaign from Indiana Pacers star Paul George, and rookie big man Kristaps Porzingis making New York Knicks fans giddy with optimism, a more morose plot thickens.
While Curry, George and Porzingis impress with their play, others on the opposite end of the spectrum continue to flounder at or near the bottom of league leaderboards. So instead of singing the praises of the league’s best, the PointAfter team set out to find the worst of the worst in this week’s iteration of Data Dimes.
Note: All stats referenced in this article are accurate as of Dec. 9, prior to games played.
When accounting for both shooting percentage and volume of attempts, nobody in the NBA trumps Kobe Bryant’s incompetent scoring. The future Hall of Famer converts a league-worst 30.6% of his field goals—dead last among qualified players. Bryant’s legs are channeling a 20-year-old automobile with more than 200,000 miles on the odometer. Or, in this case, more than 55,000 total minutes played. Bryant’s mileage and injury history are both evident variables holding him back during his farewell tour.
Emmanuel Mudiay of the Denver Nuggets makes a similarly low amount of his shots, but he doesn’t take nearly as many as Bryant. And, importantly, Mudiay is a rookie. It’s totally understandable that a 19-year-old with no professional experience would experience some (in this case, many) growing pains.
Derrick Rose falls somewhere in the middle of this three-player spectrum. Though he has an extensive injury history (much like Bryant), he’s neither in his late 30s nor inexperienced.
Rose is 19-for-70 since returning from sprained ankle. "Once I catch that rhythm, it's going to be scary," Rose said.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 3, 2015
He has a PER below 10 and is cashing in on just 35.5% of his shots thus far. The artist formerly known as D-Rose believes he’ll be great when he gets his groove back, but it’s been four years.
How do you make a 50% free-throw shooter look adequate? You shoot worse than 40% from said charity stripe.
That’s exactly what big men Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan have done during the season’s early stages. And, no surprise, they’re both in the top five for total free throws attempted, as opponents opt to hack them and rely on the hulking centers’ propensity to miss more than 60% of their tries.
In other aspects of the game, though, Drummond and Jordan have been quite exceptional. For instance, they currently sit No. 1 and 2, respectively, in rebounding.
Each guy makes a living cleaning the glass (on both defense and offense), but they’re both liabilities in crunch time due to their inability to make freebies at the line. Perhaps it’s time for these 6’11” centers to channel Rick Barry and at least try shooting granny style. Sure, they’ll look silly, but making less than 40% of one’s free throws isn’t a good look, either.
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Russell Westbrook continues to be brilliant for the Oklahoma City Thunder—averaging 26.4 points, 9.9 assists and 7.4 rebounds per contest—but he also leads the league by turning the ball over 5.1 times per game.
If sustained throughout the remainder of the campaign, Westbrook would become the second player in NBA history to average five or more turnovers in a season—Bryant averaged 5.7 in 2013–14, but he only played in six games.
When you’re on pace to become the league’s first qualified player ever to average at least five turnovers per game, well, that’s not good. According to Basketball Reference, 63 of Westbrook’s turnovers have occurred via bad pass, 28 by losing the ball and 17 categorized as other (offensive fouls, traveling, stepping out of bounds, etc.).
Because OKC’s point guard establishes himself as such an asset in other areas, the turnovers aren’t as much of a net negative as they appear on paper. Of course, even when accounting for Westbrook’s talents, his trend of increased turnover averages over the past three seasons isn’t ideal.
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Ben Leibowitz is a writer for PointAfter, part of the Graphiq network, a data aggregation and visualization website that’s collected all the information about Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook 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 players, NBA teams and thousands of other topics.
It’s impossible to write anything connected to the ugliest NBA stats of the season without mentioning the hapless Philadelphia 76ers. Though they avoided sole ownership of the worst record ever to start a season by defeating the lowly Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 1, the Sixers wallow with a league-worst 1–21 record.
With an offensive rating of 91.3, Philly scores more than five points per 100 possessions fewer than the 29th-ranked Lakers. The anemic offense, however, is only a small sample of the team’s problems.
Philadelphia ranks No. 20 in defensive rating, last in rebound rate, tied for No. 29 in true shooting percentage, No. 23 in three-point percentage, last in point differential and so much more.
General manager and president of basketball operations Sam Hinkie has encouraged fans to “trust the process” as the 76ers continue to lose games at a staggering rate. Now, Hall of Famer Jerry Colangelo has been added to the mix, which might signal the end to Hinkie’s disastrous reign over the franchise.
The organization is an absolute mess, but with Colangelo, perhaps there’s now a dim light casting a hopeful glow at the end of Philadelphia’s cavernous tunnel.