The NBA is all about analytics and the league as a whole has every reason to be.
The league arguably has more talent now than ever and several franchises have opted to hoard it. Finding ways to compete at a high level still requires landing marquee players, but coaches and front offices also need to get a little creative.
That can mean using analytics to draft better, improve the way they scour free agency and also coach smarter. Assessing player value is part of that and a great way to do that, regardless of your approach to the NBA, is to pay attention to efficiency ratings.
Whether you’re trying to learn how to bet on basketball, attempting to master daily fantasy sports or just want to know which players make positive or negative impacts, this is a great stat to refer to.
Usually, people only look at these ratings when it comes to a team’s production, but when you do it with a player you can start to point out which players are truly making a positive impact and, well, which ones are not.
NBA Net Rating specifically helps with this. Offensive and defensive efficiency ratings do a good job of assessing a player’s impact per 100 possessions on either end of the floor, but a player’s Net Rating (the difference between the two) is arguably a fantastic indicator of his overall presence.
It’s not that difficult to pour through the data these efficiency ratings hand us, but it’s absolutely interesting to look at the results. You can flip the perspective to look at which players are hurting their teams, but I’d prefer to praise some of the more positive impacts. Here are five that stand out right now:
Danny Green (16.9)
Green leads the way here, as he’s always been known as a strong on-ball and help defender, but he’s tops in Net Rating due to his offensive impact this season.
That’s understandably a testament to the Toronto Raptors as a whole. Toronto does have Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry in the starting five with Green and the team itself ranks third in offensive efficiency.
Obviously Green impacts that, but he also benefits from who he’s playing with and the system Toronto runs. That being said, nobody sees his team score more points (118.2) per 100 offensive possessions and Green happens to be chipping in nearly 10 points per game while hitting 41% of his long balls.
If you’re worried if Green’s Net Rating is affected more by his team’s positive offensive production than his defensive ability, don’t be. Toronto is still only allowing 101 points per 100 possession when he’s on the floor.
Pascal Siakam (13.5)
Siakam is another example of just how good Toronto is this year. Truth be told, I could list some other Raptors in here as well. I won’t saturate this post with that much Toronto love, but it should be pretty clear that they’re quite good.
Believe it or not, Siakam coming out of basically nowhere to blast off this year is a pretty big reason why. He’s not too far behind Danny Green when you consider his offensive impact (115.7 Offensive Rating), and Toronto only gives up one more point per 100 possessions when you compare him to Green.
The defensive slip is negligible and there’s no way in telling it’s actually because of Siakam. Based on his solid work on the glass and his active hands (1.1 steals per game), I tend to believe he’s nothing but an asset on both ends of the floor. NBA Net Rating would agree.
Steve Adams (12)
The Oklahoma City Thunder are the most efficient defense in the entire NBA and their star center is a huge reason why.
Everyone knows Adams can clean the glass (10 rebounds per game and third in offensive rebounding) and block shots (0.9 per game), but his overall impact is enhanced by his improved play on the offensive side of the ball.
He’s jumped three full points in his scoring average this year and has remained an extremely efficient two-way presence for this team. All of that is good for the league’s 27th best Net Rating, which shows just how valuable he is to a rising Thunder squad.
Always known for his defense, Adams is absolutely living up to his reputation there, but now he’s also a major asset offensively. Needless to say, anytime Adams is out on the floor for the Thunder, teams aren’t exciting to be going up against them.
Stephen Curry (11.7)
Curry is the exact opposite of Steven Adams, as he’s not known for his defense and most would suggest he’s a massive liability at that end of the floor.
Perhaps it’s a testament to Golden State’s team defense (they rank 11th in defensive efficiency) that he has such a solid Net Rating. With long, athletic defenders all around him, it’s understandable that it’d be easy to hide Curry on one of their opponent’s weaker offensive players most nights.
That’s true in some regards, but the Warriors are only allowing 103 points per game per 100 possession when Curry is on the floor. Considering the speed the Dubs run at and today’s modern game, that’s far from terrible.
Of course, this is largely a reflection of Curry’s elite presence on offense, where he can create for himself and others, as well as effectively pull up from anywhere on the floor.
You can see that based on Golden State’s 115 points per 100 possessions with Curry on the floor and everyone has seen the MVP-type production he’s been putting up this year.
But Curry lighting up defenses isn’t shocking. What’s surprising is how awesome he’s been offensively and how he hasn’t hurt the Warriors on the other end.
Paul George (11.4)
Lastly, I’ll go back to the Thunder to pay some respect to the year PG-13 is having. I remember recently I was looking at NBA MVP odds and he wasn’t even given any. Blasphemy, I say!
In all seriousness, George is not the main guy people usually think of when it comes to elite defense and even offensively in OKC, Russell Westbrook is the alpha dog in that town.
Not anymore, seemingly. George has elevated his game so far in the 2018-19 NBA season and you can see that by his solid Net Rating.
The Thunder are putting up 111 points per 100 possession with PG-13 on the court, while their defense (99 points allowed) is flat out elite. Again, in touching on Adams, everyone should know by now the Thunder are great defensively.
However, George is clearly the driving force behind it when you look at his Net Rating. Adams is a bit higher with the overall rating right now, but it’s not by much and George has Westbrook beat on the defensive end.
When they talk about elite two-way players, George is the type of player being discussed. Oklahoma City and Toronto are lucky to have two or more players like this and it’s led their teams to be two of the more balanced units in all of basketball.
The crazy part is this is just five players with some of the best Net Ratings right now. You can dig deeper to find more impressive numbers and it will only show you how and why teams are as good as they are this year.