With the groove we've been in there's been some speculation about how good we really are, or could be. I've even heard some people use the "P" word. I know we just talked about the limitations of statistics, but a quick note to highlight the best and worst in that vein could be illuminating to the overall discussion of the team's achievement and potential.
What's not to like figuratively...
Two stats stand out in the plus column. The first wouldn't be that great for any other team, but for the Blazers it's a big step forward and a big reason we're succeeding (relatively). Last season we finished the worst rebounding team in the league by far. Not only did we get the fewest rebounds per game of any team in the league (37.7) we had an amazing -4.7 rebounding differential. To put that in perspective, Phoenix doesn't give two toots about rebounding--purposely conceding the battle before the game even starts--and they only had a -4.1 differential. This year we get those same 37.7 boards per game. That's a side-effect of trying to slow down the tempo and play in the halfcourt. But we only allow 37.1 rebounds, for a differential of +0.6. Not earth-shaking to be sure, but still a major improvement. Not getting obliterated on the glass every night has allowed us to stay in plenty of games we otherwise would have fallen out of.
The second major positive stat is our 45.3% overall field goal percentage. That ranks us solidly in the middle of the league (17th) and is also an improvement over last year's 44.5% clip. That shows that we're getting more of the right people taking more of the right shots. If we could just add a touch of fast-breaking for some easy buckets that percentage would rise even more. For a team that doesn't run at all to shoot that well is a pretty nice accomplishment.
What's not to like literally...
One stat that stands out strongly to the negative is our 47.7% field goal percentage allowed. You can fake points allowed by controlling tempo, but field goal percentage allowed is almost always truly indicative of your defensive prowess. And right now we rank solidly among the Milwaukees, Philadelphias, Memphises, and Seattles of the world. That it's 2.4% more than we, ourselves, shoot only makes it worse. Almost every good team in the league is on the opposite side of the chart from us and unless this stat picks up it's going to be awfully hard to string together consistent wins.
Another stat that bodes even worse is our -4.2 point differential. We've talked about this before...teams usually play up or down to that differential in the end. If you do see a team with a poor differential sneak into the playoffs they almost always get cut off at the knees. Similarly if you see a team with that differential with a decent record, there's a pretty good chance it's a paper record and that by the time the season finishes they will look worse than Kevin Federline's résumé. A third of the season is starting to be enough time to legitimately establish this stat. I'm not saying I don't respect the record or the wins we have, nor (obviously) that I hope we falter, but if you were looking at this from a detached point of view, you'd say that we're riding a pretty precarious 11-14, and the safe bet would be that our percentage would be lower by the end of the year.