Good to Great: How the Best Teams in the NBA Can Get Better
The best teams in the NBA have begun to separate themselves from the pack. And with the fall of the Golden State Warriors dynasty, there’s plenty of space at the top of the basketball mountain.
From Long Beach to Cream City, from H-Town to Bean Town, there are some seriously good clubs in the Association this season. But what can they do to get even better? (Stats via NBA.com)
A few of your favorite teams may not have made the following list. Chalk that up to an incomplete on the report card.
The Indiana Pacers, for example, are awaiting the return of a key star player in Victor Oladipo. The Heat, Raptors, and Mavericks seem quite poised to swing a big trade, and are thus a move away from being a more complete, assessable thought.
Boston Celtics - Find more consistent offense
The Boston Celtics are winning games behind strong defense and a democratic offense. Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown have shared scoring responsibilities, while the rest of the roster has done well in support.
When things are clicking for the C’s, the offense can be reasonably potent. In wins, the team is posting a reasonable 114.9 points per game. In losses, though, that number drops to 99.0.
Five Celtics players are averaging double-digits scoring marks. The team has the tools to score in bunches. Doing this more consistently will take the pressure of the club’s defense and come in handy when Boston’s schedule gets tougher.
Denver Nuggets - Pick up the pace
Maybe it’s the team’s buxom big man. Maybe it’s the thin Denver air. Maybe it’s by design. But either way, the Nuggets are dead last in pace.
Denver excels in points scored in the paint, but isn’t getting much in transition. A low and slow offense can work in the NBA, but with the explosion of scoring we’ve seen this year, there are nights where getting out and running is critical.
Houston Rockets - Get big
The Rockets may be scoring (approximately) a gazillion points on a given night, but the team still has some glaring issues. Houston has particularly struggled on the glass.
Sometimes this is by design; teams leak out on defense to stop the fast break. This isn’t the case in H-Town, as Houston is currently giving up the most opponent fast break points in the Association.
Tyson Chandler is averaging just 9.1 minutes per game, meaning that after Clint Capella, the Rockets are getting next to nothing in terms of big men in reserve. This problem will likely linger for Houston.
Milwaukee Bucks - Hit your threes
The Bucks are third in three-point attempts per game, but are just 20th in three-point percentage. The high-volume model doesn’t work well when you’re not connecting on shots at a high clip.
Giannis Antetonkoumpo, Eric Bledsoe, and Brook Lopez in particular are shooting rather poorly from deep. (Bledsoe and Lopez have regressed considerably from last season, but Giannis is technically having a career-year from deep.)
It’s not all doom and gloom from deep for the Bucks. George Hill is shooting a blistering 52.5 percent from three on 3.2 attempts per game. And Milwaukee does have a few other players who can light it up on any given night.
The Bucks are second in points per game at the time of this writing. If this club ups its collective three point shooting, look out.
Los Angeles Lakers - Win a few more big games
At the time of this writing, LA is riding high after a road victory against the Utah Jazz. This marked just the fifth time the 19-3 Lakers beat a team with a winning record this season. The club’s three losses, meanwhile, have come against the Clippers, Raptors, and Mavericks.
For a team led by LeBron James and bursting at the seams with veteran talent, the regular season is more of a formality than anything. All eyes are on the postseason in Tinseltown. Still, this is a relatively new and cumbrous group, and a few hard-fought victories will be necessary for establishing the right formula come springtime.
The Lakers’ schedule in December and through January will be significantly more challenging. LA’s 85.7 winning percentage will likely take a bit of a hit.
Los Angeles Clippers - Pass the ball
Like the Lakers, the Clippers will mostly use the regular season as a trial period to make sense of some of the team’s newcomers. In that time, head coach Doc Rivers may consider encouraging a more pass-happy offense.
Just 56.5 percent of LAC’s scored baskets come off of assists. That’s the 25th lowest mark in the league. A healthy portion of threes are coming off of assists, but it’s two-point field goals that are largely the result of individual effort.
For a team with quick guards, dominating wings, and athletic bigs, this could be alleviated. Lobs passes and backdoor cuts could become a bigger part of the Clippers offense, which will take some of the pressure off of singular shot creation.
Philadelphia 76ers - Gel
The 76ers are playing excellent defense thus far this season. And at times, the potency potential has been off the charts. There is, though, something that doesn’t yet quite pass the smell test in Philly.
An early three-game losing streak has the Sixers lower in the standings than was expected, but the season is young. Still, Philadelphia has two competing issues. First, there isn’t much the team does exceptionally well. They score and pass and rebound effectively, but there isn’t anything outstanding.
At the same time, however, the 76ers are making careless errors. They foul too often, and commit far too many turnovers. The screws will tighten with time, but coaching questions have lingered in Philadelphia for a while.