Alex Konkel over at Sports Skeptic pointed me at Grantland’s recent post on the Houston Rockets. The thesis of Zach Lowe’s Odyssey? The Rockets only take smart shots. Ian Levy over at Hickory-High and his great Expected Points Per Shot (XPPS) tells the same story but with a single image.
Ian’s collected the last thirteen years of NBA shooting data. XPPS tells us how many points we’d expect an average team to score taking a given shot selection. (PPS is the actual number of points they scored per shot) While the Rockets may not be the best teams in how well they’ve scored, they are far and away the best team in team in taking smart shots — right behind them for the record are the Melo-less Nuggets. Remember that myth that Melo drove our offense?
Let’s also give some perspective, the only teams doing better in terms of actual scoring this season? The Thunder, the Spurs and the Heat. While I love James Harden, I know there’s still a talent gap between the Rockets and those elite squads (but with $20 million in cap space coming up for the Rockets, will that be true next year?)
To reiterate, the Rockets are the smartest team in the league when it comes to shot selection. It’s not even close! The Rockets are in the 99.999 percentile this year in regards to their shot selection (pretty much perfect) It doesn’t matter how you slice it, the Rockets are having a historical season and they’re doing it by playing smart.