Most teams are now 10-15 games into this young season and it’s officially time to examine the current NBA trends. It is early enough that these trends could still go sideways but also late enough for them to potentially be real. Here we will look at the first three weeks of the NBA season and determine if certain trends are sustainable or if they’re just flukes.
Through 15 games, the New York Knicks are 7-8, which is good for sixth in the Eastern Conference. That record is equivalent to 38 wins over a full 82-game season. If this holds it would only be the fifth time in the past 20 years that the Knicks won at least 46 percent of their games. It would also be the Knicks’ third time finishing as the sixth seed or better since 2002.
Young Knicks fans are not used to this kind of mediocre success. After all, the Knicks have been one of the worst teams of the 21st century. Even approaching .500 basketball is an accomplishment. But is this sustainable?
The Knicks have gotten here mostly by virtue of their defense, led by new head coach Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau has installed a defensive mindset and willingness to work hard. Through 15 games this has been largely successful. The Knicks are one of the league’s best defenses. They are boasting a 107 defensive rating, good for sixth in the league.
However, the Knicks have seriously struggled to find scoring anywhere outside of Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Immanuel Quickley. The offense is ranked in the bottom five and spacing remains to be an issue, especially with the prolonged absence of sharpshooter Alec Burks.
The Knicks early season hopes are relying on keeping up this top-10 defense, after being in the bottom 10 last season with virtually the same roster. Is Thibodeau truly that impactful? Is this sustainable?
Verdict: Not Sustainable
Through 14 games, the Los Angeles Clippers are shooting an absurd 44 percent from three-point territory on 35 attempts per game. In NBA history only one team has ever attempted over 30 triples per game while still shooting at least 40 percent from behind the arc; the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors. They had the two best shooters of all time in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and even they couldn’t shoot as well as the Clippers have so far.
The Clippers have five players shooting career bests from behind the arc including three that are making at least half their threes. These are insane numbers. In fact, no player has ever made at least 50 percent of their threes while taking 3.4 or more attempts per game. The answer is clear here.
Verdict: Not Sustainable
Since blocks were recorded in the 1973-74 season, only two players have ever had a block rate of at least 10 percent; Mitchell Robinson in 2019 and Manute Bol from 1986 to 1990. Now, Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner has joined the club, with a record-breaking 11.6 percent. Not only that, but Turner is also the first player since Dikembe Mutombo in 1996 to average at least four blocks per game.
Turner has been an elite rim protector since he came into the league. Out of all players with at least 300 blocked shots, he ranks 12th in block percentage. Turner has also led the league in blocks and block percentage once before in his young career. However, his shot-blocking has never been this elite before.
Despite the fact that his block percentage is record-breaking, Turner’s per-game averages have been matched and exceeded many times before. This trend may continue.
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