By: Matty Cheng and Danny Blumenthal
82. The Utah Jazz had 82.9 field goal attempts per game, which was second-lowest in the league. However, 9 of the bottom 10 teams in field goal attempts per game made the playoffs.
81. As a team, the Golden State Warriors converted 81.5% of their free throws, best in the league and 10% better than the worst team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
80. The Chicago Bulls sneakily grabbed 80.6% of defensive rebounds, second highest in the league. The addition of rookie center Wendell Carter could further enhance this strength.
79. The average NBA player stands 79 inches tall (6’ 7”) and weighs about 220 pounds. While average height hasn’t changed much in recent years, the average weight has fallen about 3 pounds since 2013. Maybe they should call it Skinny-ball instead of small-ball.
78. Carmelo Anthony has played 1,054 games in his career, including 78 last season. He has started every single one of those 1,054 games. Will he be willing to adjust to a smaller role with the Houston Rockets?
77. LeBron James made 857 shots last year, 77 more than the closest player (Anthony Davis – 780). His total was almost twice as large as the next-best Cavalier, Jordan Clarkson, who finished 48th in the NBA with 430 made field goals.
76. John Wall spent 76% of his time on the floor standing still or walking last season, second most in the league. Like other stars, he conserves energy when not running at a blistering pace.
75. The Charlotte Hornets only assisted on 75.6% of their three point field goals, fourth lowest in the league. Without an excellent spot-up three point shooter, the Hornets might have to increase their assist rate to free up easier shots if they want a shot at the playoffs.
74. Despite Andre Drummond’s massive improvement in free throw percentage (up to 60.5% last year from 38.6% in the 2016-17 season), the Detroit Pistons still only converted 74.5% of their shots at the line (sixth lowest in the league).
73. The Oklahoma City Thunder are paying a $73 million luxury tax, highest in league.
72. On March 13, 2018, the Orlando Magic had the lowest scoring output of any team game last season with 72 points. Who will earn that distinction this year?
71. Tim Hardaway is entering the second year of his massive 4-year, $71 million deal. If the New York Knicks want to be more competitive, they better hope Hardaway improves upon his career low 31.7% from 3.
70. The Golden State Warriors led the league in field goal percentage for shots 0-3 feet away from the basket at 70.8%. Their finals opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers, were right behind them at 70.6%. In fact, 12 of the top 16 teams in field goal percentage 0-3 feet away from the basket were playoff teams.
69. Isaiah Thomas stands only 69 inches tall, shortest in the NBA. While the height gap between point guards and centers has decreased 21% from the 1990’s, to an average difference of 8.3 inches (according to 538), Thomas still remains an outlier among point guards. He has a lot to prove this season after taking a 1-year, $6 million contract with the Denver Nuggets.
68. Karl-Anthony Towns led the NBA with 68 double-doubles last season.
67. Reggie Jackson has missed 67 games over the last two seasons. Will this be the year he stays healthy and leads the Pistons to the playoffs?
66. The Philadelphia 76ers had the second highest assist rate last year at 66%.
65. The Houston Rockets led the league with 65 wins last season
64. DeAndre Jordan had the second highest field goal percentage at 64.5% last year. Will his success continue when playing with the young Dallas Mavericks?
63. While the Suns 21-61 record was the worst in the NBA last year, they actually exceeded the win total one would expect from their point spread. The Suns’ Pythagorean win-loss record pegged them for 63 losses last year.
62. Dwane Casey will turn 62 on April 17, 2019, and is the oldest coach in the Eastern Conference. http://harvardsportsanalysis.org/2017/02/nba-coaches-are-getting-older-what-does-it-mean-for-teams-part-1/ Can the Pistons gift him a postseason berth to celebrate?
61. The Memphis Grizzlies lost a game by 61 points last season (sixth worst blowout in NBA history). They must hope rookie Jaren Jackson will help them avoid those embarrassing blowouts.
60. The Los Angeles Lakers have been to the playoffs 60 times in 70 seasons, most in NBA history. After missing the postseason 5 straight years, they hope LeBron James can lead them back.
59. Last year, the Raptors finished with a franchise high 59 wins, but still floundered in the playoffs (again). They responded with a very turbulent offseason, firing Coach of the Year Dwane Casey. They also traded Demar Derozan, the franchise leader in points and games, for Kawhi Leonard. How will they perform this season?
58. The Portland Trail Blazers had the worst shooting percentage in the restricted area last season at 58.1%.
57. When shooting mid-range jumpers early in the shot clock, the Washington Wizards shot 57%, second highest in the league.
56. Anthony Davis had 56 more blocks than any other player last season. That’s the same as the gap between 2nd place (Clint Capela) and 25th place (Mason Plumlee).
55. Despite the Portland Trail Blazers’ porous perimeter defense, opponents only shot 55% at the basket, lowest mark in the league.
54. Rookie Jayson Tatum had an effective field goal percentage of 54.5% when taking between three and six dribbles. He was not far off from Steph Curry’s 55.4 effective field goal percentage for the same shots.
53. This season will be the Chicago Bulls’ 53rd in the NBA, and the team’s 6 titles are third-most ever. While the Bulls’ storied history has helped them lead the league in attendance each of the last nine years, will their fans be willing to sit through another rebuilding season?
52. Two years removed from a 10-72 season, the Philadelphia 76ers won 52 games last year. It was the most in franchise history since Allen Iverson took a 56-win team to the NBA Finals in 2001.
51. Harrison Barnes only ranks in the 51st percentile for assists, so far not living up to the playmaker role the Dallas Mavericks envisioned when signing him to a max contract from Golden State.
50. The Sacramento Kings have won fewer than 50% of their games in each of the last 12 seasons and have had a top-10 draft pick every year since 2008. Can Marvin Bagley III lead the Kings to a respectable record this year?
49. The Portland Trail Blazers assisted only 49.6% of their makes, lowest in the league.
48. Last year, the Phoenix Suns earned the dubious distinction of the worst loss of any opening night game with a 48 point drubbing.
47. The Minnesota Timberwolves won 47 games last season, just edging out the Denver Nuggets for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The Washington Wizards only needed 43 wins to earn the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
46. The Indiana Pacers’ Darren Collison led the league in three point field goal percentage at 46.8%.
45. Jimmy Butler has logged twenty-six games of playing 45 minutes or more since the 2013-14 season, most in the NBA and eleven more than second place (LeBron James).
44. Joe Ingles of the Utah Jazz shot 44% from the three point line. He was one of eleven shooters who shot above 40% from three while taking over five attempts from three.
43. While the Houston Rockets are averse to shooting mid-range jumpers, when they did they were extremely effective, converting on 43% of them (second highest in league last year).
42. Donte DiVincenzo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Josh Okogie of the Minnesota Timberwolves each recorded the highest max vertical of this draft class at 42 inches. Who will they posterize first?
41. Opponents only averaged 41.6 points in the paint against the Philadelphia 76ers, which was the lowest in the league last year. If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, look for the 76ers stout paint defense to continue.
40. At age 40, Dirk Nowitzki will play his twenty-first season with the Dallas Mavericks, the most any player has played for one franchise in NBA history.
39. Despite talk of the Milwaukee Bucks’ immense length, they only grabbed 39.8 rebounds per game, worst in the league last year.
38. The Dallas Mavericks have been in the NBA for 38 seasons, and the team has been almost perfectly average during that time. Dallas has won 10 more games than it has lost, and recorded a 50.2% winning percentage.
37. Harvard alumni Jeremy Lin has played only 37 games over the last two seasons. He claims that his goal this year is to stay healthy. If he can stay on the court, he can be a spark off the bench behind rookie Trae Young.
36. Players from 36 different colleges were selected in the 2018 NBA Draft. Villanova, Duke, and Kentucky had the most players chosen, with 4 for each.
35. The Brooklyn Nets took 35.7 three point attempts per game last season (second highest in the league).
34. Each of the last 8 Clippers to wear the #34 jersey have left the team after 2 or fewer seasons. Will Tobias Harris reverse the trend and stay with the Clippers long-term?
33. 33% of GMs (according this year’s GM survey) believe Steven Adams is the toughest player in the NBA.
32. Compared to last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have 32 fewer nationally televised games. That’s the LeBron effect.
31. The Oklahoma City Thunder had two of the worst free throw shooters in the league last year, with Josh Huestis shooting 30% and Andre Roberson clocking in at 31.6%. Hopefully, Roberson worked on his free throws during his injury rehab.
30. Lonzo Ball shot 30.5% on threes in his rookie season. Ball has reportedly gained strength in the offseason and reduced the sideways swing in his unique shot, potentially setting him up for a three point shooting percentage closer to his college three point percentage (41.2%)
29. After Rudy Gobert returned from injury, the Utah Jazz won 29 of its final 35 games, and then beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs. The Jazz could contend for a top seed and even a title this season.
28. Charlotte has had an NBA team for 28 years, but never won a division title. Is this the year Kemba Walker and company finally break through?
27. The highest net rating of any 5 players last season (minimum 150 minutes) was 27.5, featuring the Utah Jazz’s Ricky Rubio, Jae Crowder, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, and Donovan Mitchell.
26. The Wizards averaged only 26.5 three pointers per game last season, 23rd in the NBA (average of 29). However, the Wizards ranked 4th-best in three point percentage, at 37.5%. Head coach Scott Brooks ran a three point contest on the first day of training camp, so look for Washington to improve its output from deep as they hope to contend in a more open East.
25. Rajon Rondo had a season-best 25 assists in one game last season. How will his passing prowess mesh with similarly gifted passers LeBron James and Lonzo Ball on the new look Lakers?
24. The Charlotte Hornets let opponents grab 24.4% of available offensive rebounds, highest in the league. The problem could get even worse with the departure of Dwight Howard.
23. Carmelo Anthony had a career low 23.2% usage rate last season, which could dip even further as he teams up with James Harden and Chris Paul.
22. The New York Knicks averaged 22.5 midrange attempts per game last season, most in the league.
21. Anthony Davis converted a single game high of 21 free throws last season. Getting freebies like this could propel him to the front of the MVP conversation.
20. In the annual GM survey, 20% of GMs picked Jamal Murray to have a breakout season. Perhaps he can capture the Most Improved Player award as Victor Oladipo did last year.
19. The Golden State Warriors led the league with 19.3 fast break points per game. To dethrone the champs, teams will have to limit their fast break opportunities.
18. The Denver Nuggets let opponents get 18.7 points off their turnovers, highest in the league. Their defense might need to improve to make the playoffs in a competitive Western Conference.
17. Terry Rozier of the Boston Celtics increased his PER (player efficiency rating) to 17.3 in the playoffs last year (compared to 15.1 in regular season) in Kyrie Irving’s absence. Rozier’s role will certainly be reduced as Kyrie returns from injury, but he could still have a huge impact off the bench.
16. Dwyane Wade will return for a final sweet 16th season.
15. The Phoenix Suns had an abysmal assist ratio of 15.1% (second lowest in the league) last year, which might not improve as their point guard situation remains the same.
14. Combined, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan averaged 14 mid-range jumpers per game last season. The Spurs may dominate the less popular mid-range this season.
13. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson had the highest net rating of a starting backcourt last season at 13.2.
12. The Dallas Mavericks had the lowest turnover percentage at 12.5% last season. Could Luka Donic’s fancy, but also reckless passing increase that turnover percentage?
11. The Sacramento Kings have $11 million in cap space, currently the largest free space in the NBA. They could take a midseason salary dump in exchange for draft picks.
10. The Spurs have had a top-10 scoring defense each of the last 5 seasons, including 2 years as the #1 defense in the league. How will they adapt to the losses of Kawhi Leonard and Dejounte Murray?
9. There are 9 new head coaches. Can Toronto’s Nick Nurse take a 59-win team to a championship, joining Steve Kerr as a head coach who won the championship in his first season?
8. Vegas gives the LeBron James and the Lakers 8/1 odds to win the championship, which is the lowest odds a LeBron-led team has been given to start the season in the last decade.
7. The Miami Heat are paying 7 different players $10 million or more this season, the most in the NBA.
6. Dirk Nowitzki needs only 6 more games played to move into fourth place all-time. By the end of the season, Nowitzki could also pass John Stockton for third place, as he only needs to play 34 more games to make the Jazz legend fade away.
5. With the addition of Demarcus Cousins, the Golden State Warriors have 5 players who were All-Stars last year. It’s the first time in NBA history a team has 5 players who were All-Stars the previous year.
4. Kyrie Irving had a career high 4.0 value over replacement player last season, a testament to his improving defense. Can he lead the Celtics to a championship and become the best player in the world as he desires?
3. The Washington Wizards technically have a Big 3 of max contract players: John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter. However, the group has never even reached the Eastern Conference Finals. This offseason, the Wizards brought in Dwight Howard, who has a reputation of creating locker room strife. The Wizards hope that Howard plays like the great center that Wall has repeatedly requested, but if not, turmoil in the nation’s capital would not be a new story.
2. Russell Westbrook has averaged a triple double for an entire season each of the last 2 years. Oscar Robertson is the only other player to average a triple double for an entire season even once. Last year, Westbrook also added highest scoring triple double (57 points) to his list of impressive feats.
1. The Los Angeles Lakers have only 1 player that was All-Star last season: LeBron James. Will another Laker join LeBron in the All-Star game this season? The Lakers only have 1 of the Ball boys to start the season – will Gelo join his brother Lonzo this year? The Lakers are #1 in appearances on national television. Adding the greatest player in the world to one of the most storied franchises will likely make the Lakers the #1 talked about team. Can LeBron add 1 more championship to his throne?
Editor’s Note: If you have any questions for Matty or Danny about this article, please feel free to reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Also, share your season facts with us on Twitter @Harvard_Sports.