The Portland Trail Blazers are 15 games into the 2015-16 NBA season, carrying a 6-9 record. Let's take an early look at their statistical rank and production in several key categories.
The Trail Blazers run an efficient offense, no small feat after this summer's complete roster overhaul. This year's team doesn't rank as highly as last year's talented, veteran squad but Portland's numbers show a coach sticking to his philosophy: smart shots coming from the correct players at the right spot on the floor. Ranking 13th in three-point percentage (and, not shown, 8th in three-point attempts per game) confirms this. No matter who's on the floor, the team is going to play Blazers basketball.
The shortcomings of this approach are also evident. In a flow offense based on unselfish ball movement, assists should be higher. The Blazers are passing the ball, just not hitting enough shots. Then again, Portland's best offense centers around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Who needs assists when the ball-handlers can score?
More serious are the lack of points in the paint, fast break points, offensive rebounds, and free throws. Those comprise the four easiest scoring avenues in the game. This isn't a middle-aged team anymore. The Blazers are athletic. They should be able to run out and, if not pound in the halfcourt because of size, at least slice towards the hoop with agility through a lane opened by movement and the threat of guard scoring. That isn't happening enough. They aren't creating enough easy buckets, drawing enough fouls, or sticking back enough offensive rebounds.
Three things stand out here:
1. Ranking 2nd in fast break points allowed is expected because of Portland's style of play, but it does show their commitment to team defense. Ranking 6th in three point percentage is even better...though some of that may be opponent-dependent at this early stage. Still, they're trying.
2. Despite the effort, there aren't enough good numbers here. It's low-mediocre soup with a couple of spicy meatballs. We can say the glass is half-full compared to expectations, but it's also half-empty measuring by results.
3. Again, where's the athleticism? The Blazers get back, but how about rebounding dominance, blocks (17th-19th, not shown), steals (29th ranking, not shown) and forced turnovers? Ranking 20th in defensive efficiency and 13th in field goal percentage allowed isn't enough to justify a lack of aggression from this spring-loaded lineup.
What the Blazers are doing, they're doing well...or as well as can be expected. They might not be doing enough yet. They're smart and efficient, but they haven't yet converted those qualities into the power and production necessary to intimidate opponents and win games. "By the Numbers" doesn't just describe the contents of this article, but Portland's approach. It'll be interesting to see how they've developed (or not) at the 30-game mark. Will they find another gear or will we see more of the same?