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Notes & Numbers: A deeper look into observations made from last week’s games

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This week we cover a range of topics from Nick Young’s shooting to Kevin Durant’s defensive prowess, taking a deeper dive into the numbers beneath it all.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Golden State Warriors
Let’s celebrate Kevin Durant and Nick Young’s achievements thus far!
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

#1. The shooting dichotomy of Swaggy P

I have to say Nick Young, aka “Swaggy P,” has for the most part lived up to my expectations so far this season. He’s given the Golden State Warriors a pretty decent scoring punch off of the bench and has been a reliable deep threat.

In the 26 games he’s played so far, he’s only had three really poor shooting instances (shooting sub-45% on four or more field goal attempts). Overall he’s experiencing career-bests with a 44.6 FG% and 59.6 EFG%, while knocking down 40% of his 3-pointers.

I imagine this was the type of production the front office was envisioning when signing Young this past offseason. However, as well as he has been slinging it from all over the field, he’s had a rough time at the free throw line this year, shooting only 66.7% from there.

Admittedly, it’s a really small sample size of only 21 attempts. But it’s interesting that he’s struggling with, what some believe to be the easiest shot in the sport, despite having the best shooting performance of his career. Then again, he is also currently shooting better being guarded tightly (with a defender 0-4 feet away) than on his open looks. I guess it’s all part of the enigma that is “Swaggy P.”

That being said, there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll start moving closer towards his career free throw shooting average of 83% as the season progresses. If for some odd reason he does maintain this pace for the year however, he would become one of only 16 players ever to average better than 40% from deep and less than 70% from the free throw line for a season.

#2. Kevin Durant for defensive honors

After Stephen Curry went down last week, there was some interest into how the Warriors would perform without him on the court. However much of the discussion pertained to the offensive hole that would be left behind in his absence.

In my opinion, the two games the Warriors played after Curry sprained his ankle were mostly won behind some staggering defense — a lot of which could be attributed to Kevin Durant.

It shouldn’t be surprising though, as Durant has actually been one of the most effective defenders in the league this year. He currently ranks 8th in the league in defensive shooting percentage difference, forcing opponents to shoot 7.6% worse from the field when he’s guarding them. If you limit this to only players who defend 10 or more shots per game, he ranks 2nd only behind Joel Embiid. On top of that, he’s averaging a career-best 2.1 blocks per game.

He’s thriving as a weak-side blocker in the Warriors’ defensive scheme, and finally getting some recognition as a true 2-way player. He’s always had the tools to be a stalwart defensive presence, but it looks like they’re finally being put into full use. Over the course of his 11 year career in the NBA, Durant has had 25 games of four or more blocks. Amazingly close to half of those (10 games) have come within his last two years with the Golden State Warriors.

Perhaps it is due to being surrounded by the defensive guru brain trust of Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Ron Adams. Maybe it’s the power of cupcakes. But Durant’s ongoing emergence as a force on that end of the court should make him a viable candidate for at least some NBA All-Defensive team honors this season should he maintain this pace.

#3. Klay Thompson keeps pacing for 50/40/90

Last week, Klay Thompson shot a blistering 55% from the field and 43% from 3-point range. He’s currently on pace to reach two out of the three benchmarks for a 50/40/90 (50 FG%, 40 3PT%, 90 FT%) season, a feat only accomplished by a handful of players ever.

Unfortunately, his free throw shooting has lingered behind at 87.5% this season and that wasn’t helped by him shooting 75% with foul shots last week. In his career, however, Thompson’s never shot better than 88% from the charity stripe and so that may strangely be the hardest part of the 50/40/90 season for him to fulfill.

What will be interesting to see is how Curry’s absence will affect his shooting in the upcoming weeks. In the games against Charlotte and Detroit, it was clear to see that opponents didn’t mind selling out fully on denying Thompson the ball and playing him ridiculously tight.

He had a good game against Charlotte, but most of his production came in the first half before Nicolas Batum began to suck up all the space between them two. Then in the Detroit game, Avery Bradley forced Thompson into the worse shooting game he had for the week.

To no surprise, Thompson has shot worse with Curry off the court this year, dropping from 54.3 FG%/51.3 3PT% to 46.7 FG%/40 3PT%. This makes sense due to the amount of attention Curry commands when he’s on the court, allowing his teammates to operate at a higher-level. Without Curry, Thompson may have to seek out more efficient ways to score.

I would love to see him try to get to the foul line more, something Steve Kerr and Mychal Thompson (Klay’s father) have spoken to him about. If teams continue to overplay him more with Curry out, it might serve him best to attack the basket with some backdoor cuts instead of his usual diet of jump shots. Perhaps that may even help net him more foul shot opportunities to break that 90% free throw benchmark, as well.

#4. The Looney loose jersey

Has anybody else noticed how the jersey of Kevon Looney always becomes undone a few possessions after he comes into a game?

It’s just an oddball observation I’ve made since last year. But it seems like every time the Warriors are coming down the court, he always stands out to me as the only player with an untucked jersey.

Then again, I guess it also happens with JaVale McGee. So perhaps it’s due to them doing more leaping around the court which would be a reasonable explanation for how their jerseys end up that way.

Mostly it just reminded me of how I used to try to wear my jersey back when I was younger and how my coaches would quickly force me to tuck it back in or face being subbed out. Let’s just say I feel validated now in my preference.

Sources

NBA.com

Basketball Reference