This will follow the same format as my last update, drawing heavily on the work of John Hollinger.
Portland continues to plod along, playing the fewest possessions per game in the league, 89.1 (up from 88.6 last update). For reference, the median pace is 93.7, so Blazer games are about 6% slower than the average game. Keep in mind that offensive rebounds are not considered a new possession, so Portland's strong presence on the O-boards makes them appear even slower than they actually are.
Portland is 2nd in the NBA in points scored per 100 possessions at 110.1 (up from 109.6 last update). The Lakers are leading the league at 111.3 points per 100 possessions and the Cavs are 3rd. The worst offensive teams so far have been Sacramento, Washington, Charlotte, OKC, Memphis and (dead last) the Clippers. The median efficiency is 104.7. I know some people complain that our offense is ugly, based too much on isos, etc. but the results continue to be strong, despite that awful TO plagued offensive stinker vs. GSW last night.
Portland continues to struggle defensively. The Blazers have allowed 105.9 points/100 possessions (106.0 last update), good for
198th 18th (that was a typo, not an attempt to be funny) in the league according to Hollinger. Knickerblogger.net uses a different method to determine the number of possessions, and that leads them to conclude Portland is even worse-- the 20th best defensive team in the league. The best defensive teams thus far have been the Celtics, Magic, Cavs, Sixers and Spurs, though my two sources don't quite agree on the order. The worst defenses are Minnesota, New York, Golden State, Washington and Sacramento.
Looking a Bit Deeper at Offense- Why are the Blazers Having Success?
Offensive efficiency can come from 4 different areas: shooting a high effective fg percentage, getting a lot of offensive rebounds, not turning the ball over and getting to the foul line. Portland does a decent job taking care of the ball-- the Blazers have the 9th fewest turnovers in the league on a per possession basis (just recently we had the 4th lowest turnover rate-- that GSW game was ugly. Hopefully getting Blake back will help). The Blazers also have the league's best offensive rebound rate, which has really helped our efficiency. In terms of shooting the ball, the Blazers are doing more "living by the 3" than "dying by the 3 " but that has been less true of late The Blazers are 8th in effective field goal % (improved from 9th in the last update), which takes the value of 3s into account. In True Shooting %, which takes FTs into account, Portland is also 8th (up from 11th in the last update). The Blazers continue to be above average in every area of offensive basketball. The biggest key to Portland's offensive efficiency, though, is getting a lot of 2nd chances via excellent work on the offensive boards.
Looking a Bit Deeper at Defense- Why are the Blazers Struggling?
Defensive Efficiency can be broken down into the same 4 categories as offensive efficiency. Portland does an average job of forcing turnovers-- the Blazers force the 12th most turnovers per possession in the league. Not bad. The Blazers also do a decent job on the defensive glass-- 8th in the league (I really feel we could be in the top couple in the league here with better work from our forwards and guards-- Joel and Greg do their job).
The real problem with the Blazer D is that we allow teams to shoot lights out-- the Blazers are 21st in effective field goal % defense (50.6)-- that's Warriors level bad, folks. Finally, we allow our opponents to get to the line quite a bit-- we are the 19th best team in preventing opponent FTs. We're also, yet again, last in the league in Free Throw Defense.
Hollinger Player Stats
A quick look at the PER rating, a solid metric for evaluating offense, but in my opinion one that fails to penalize inefficient shooting enough and can't evaluate defense.
PG: Blake is 21st among PGs (easily having his best season PER-wis) and Sergio is 47th. Bayless is 54th. So far, the top PGs are Paul, Harris, Parker, Nelson and Williams, with Terry and Billups just outside the top 5. We could really use Blake back-- not as much as the Mikes make it seem, but he would defintetely have helped these last few weeks.
SG: Roy is the 3rd rated SG (behind Wade and Kobe) and 8th overall player. He was an allstar no brainer. Rudy is the #19 rated SG-- this has been dropping. I think its clear Rudy is experiencing the "rookie wall" to some degree. Hopefully he finds at least a little downtime to rest this weekend.
SF: Batum is 43rd among SFs (he was in the top 15 well into November) and Outlaw is 25th. The top SFs in PER are James, Granger, Durant, Kirilenko and B. Wright. I have no idea why Golden State never plays Wright (even when he's healthy). I bet someone trades for him and he becomes good, just not with the Warriors.
PF: Aldridge is the #14 rated PF (44th overall player). He's a bit ahead his PER from last year. You all know what I think about this so I won't rehash it. For the record, Amare is the #31 overall player after being #3 overall last year. The Top PFs by PER are Duncan, Boozer, Nowitzki, Bosh and Gasol. KG is 6th.
C: Oden's PER has been trending up of late, despite the bad NO/Dal/OKC road trip. He's 2nd among rookies (behind Philly's Speights) and 12th among Centers with a 17.87 PER. Foul trouble really is the only thing keeping him from being right up there with the ROY leaders. Joel's fallen all the way to 24th among Centers. Its hard to tell how much of his recent offensive struggles are injured wrist related and how much is just regression to his career norms.
Summary: The Blazers continue to put up strong offensive numbers and poor defensive numbers. Overall, the Blazers find themselves in a decent position. Hollinger has the Blazers 7th in his power rankings, as does Jeff Sagarin. Hollinger gives the Blazers a 97.5% chance at the playoffs (and projects 50 wins and a 4th place finish in the West for Portland)... coolstandings.com has that number at 97.3% (also projecting 50 wins). The first three games after the break are at home. It would be great (and doable) to get all three before we head on the road to Houston, San Antonio and Minnesota. Both Hollinger and Coolstandings believe the Suns will win 45-46 games so there is a legitamite chance that going .500 after the break would be enough for Portland to sneak into the 8 seed with 47 wins. The Jazz are currently projected to win ~46 but they are going to get AK and Boozer back, so I'd say they still have a shot at 50.