This yr’s NBA Christmas Day slate options 10 teams — some are title contenders, some are playoff teams and a few are the Knicks.

Let’s discover every squad and take a look at to establish a number of issues that assist exemplify their seasons up to now.

Bucks 109 | Knicks 95

The Bucks are the most improved crew in the NBA, and they’re a pleasure to watch. It is no secret why. Let’s dive proper in with the craziest stat of the yr:

Giannis is a dunking machine. It is superior to watch. It would not be loopy to say Giannis is the most dominant inside scorer in the recreation proper now; it might be an understatement.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo spins round his defender and drives the lane for a one-handed dunk in the second quarter.

However dunking it down the chimney is simply the begin. Here is one other pair of stats to chew on:

  • Antetokounmpo leads the NBA in complete scoring shut to the basket. He has made 259 discipline targets inside Eight ft, greater than anybody else in the NBA.

  • Here is the place it will get wild: He additionally leads the NBA in effectivity on this zone. Up to now 39 gamers have tried a minimum of 200 photographs inside Eight ft. Of that group, Giannis additionally stands at the high by changing an unimaginable 72 p.c of his makes an attempt in that space.

The final participant to be each the most prolific and environment friendly inside scorer in the NBA was LeBron James. Earlier than him, it was prime Shaquille O’Neal.

Basketball could be a fairly easy recreation. Anytime a single participant leads the league in each shut-vary manufacturing and shut-vary effectivity, it is a secure wager that he is an MVP candidate.

And Giannis’ big season is translating to crew success. Milwaukee is all the manner up to first in web ranking after rating 20th final season. Head coach Mike Budenholzer is a Coach of the Yr candidate partly due to his recent offensive ways. Milwaukee instantly has the greatest shot choice in the NBA.

The NBA has the final vacation reward with 5 star-studded matchups on Christmas Day:

• Christmas Day schedule
Harden matches Westbrook’s 30-point milestone
• Knicks hope Christmas matinees are over
• Grasp Time: Jayson Tatum goes purchasing
• LeBron’s $765 million empire in L.A.
• Inside P.J. Tucker’s sneaker assortment
• The Bucks are nice and Giannis is brooding
• KD-Dray rift not going to break the Warriors
• Expensive Santa: An NBA wishlist for 2019

All the Knicks need for Christmas is a lottery decide and a excessive-profile free agent. Thanks to their putrid play, they’re properly on their manner to the lottery. Nevertheless, this race to the backside would possibly harm their case when it comes to luring somebody nearly as good as Kevin Durant, who appears to like championships and can need to encompass himself with one thing resembling a purposeful basketball crew.

Santalytics Claus has this Knicks squad on the naughty checklist. It ranks 26th in web ranking whereas trotting out one among the worst defenses in the NBA. Donner and Blitzen would defend the rim higher than these dudes.

On offense, it is no higher. It would not be in the Christmas spirit to say the Knicks cannot shoot … so let’s simply say they cannot make any photographs. They rank 29th in efficient discipline objective share (eFG%) and have a handful of the least environment friendly rotation gamers in the league, led by Tim Hardaway Jr.

There are 35 NBA gamers averaging a minimum of 15 FGA per recreation, however of that group, no one has a worse capturing share than THJ, who’s changing simply 39.6 p.c of his photographs and spreads his vacation smear all over the courtroom.

To be truthful to Hardaway, he is being requested to do manner an excessive amount of, partly as a result of his teammates haven’t got a lot to provide. His numbers could be higher in a decrease-utilization function. His present stank stage says extra about his surroundings and outlandish offensive burden than it does about his personal talents.

New York owes Hardaway $18 million subsequent season. If the Knicks are going to appeal to an enormous-time free agent and construct a authentic crew for 2019-20, Hardaway and the remainder of this roster will want to begin trying like strong lengthy-time period choices or plus commerce items. Proper now, the Knicks are simply attracting pingpong balls.

Rockets 113 | Thunder 109

The Thunder have re-established themselves as contenders. They’re 21-11 and rank fourth in the NBA in web ranking. How are they doing it? These dudes are the greatest protection in the NBA.

They’re straight-up porch pirates on protection, stealing the whole lot in sight. OKC is averaging over 10 steals per recreation, with Russell Westbrook and Paul George every grabbing two per recreation on their very own. The Thunder pressure extra turnovers than any crew in the NBA and lead the NBA in factors off turnovers.

Generally protection is the greatest offense. In OKC, that is actually the case, as a result of the offense type of stinks proper now, rating 19th thanks to a basic lack of ability to shoot.

The Thunder rank 29th in three-level effectivity. Here is why: Westbrook is the worst three-level shooter in the league. Up to now this season, 133 gamers have tried a minimum of 100 3s. Of that group, Westbrook ranks lifeless final by changing a ghastly 23.6 p.c of his triples.

However, man, Paul George is freaking superior proper now. George has rocketed to the high of the good checklist by boasting profession highs in PPG, RPG, APG, SPG, PER and TS%. Try his shot chart and you’ll inform he loves the proper aspect of the flooring, the place he’s far more lively and environment friendly.

Here is a loopy stat: The Brooklyn Nets rank second in the NBA with 94 unassisted 3s. James Harden has 110 by himself.

Here is one other one: League-large, over 80 p.c of triples contain assists, however solely 12 p.c of Harden’s do. Sure, Harden leads the NBA in made 3s and factors per recreation, however it’s how he does it that is so wonderful. Luka Doncic (67) and LeBron James (54) are the solely different gamers to try a minimum of 50 step-again 3s thus far this season, per Second Spectrum information. Harden already has 189.

He does issues his personal manner. Other than the free throw, his favourite shot on the flooring is at the high of the arc, the place he hits most of these step-backs.

The Rockets are enjoying nice on offense, however after dominating the common season final season, they appear to be on an intergalactic mission to malaise. They’ve dropped from first in web ranking in 2017-18 to 15th now.

Final season, Houston ranked seventh in defensive effectivity. The crew is down to 26th now. The departures of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute broken this fragile defensive success. These guys supplied Houston with good and versatile veterans on the perimeter. Of their absence, the Rockets are counting on a gaggle of unproven wings, and it is exhibiting up all over the stat sheet.

Defensive 4 components

2017-18 Rank 2018-19 Rank
eFG% 13 24
Free throw fee 6 26
TOV share 11 10
DREB share four 29

It isn’t arduous to discover unhealthy indicators. Houston’s opponents are capturing a lot better, getting to the line much more usually and grabbing offensive rebounds at greater charges. This Rockets squad will go solely so far as the protection, and with Chris Paul on the shelf with a hamstring damage, the query marks on that finish of the courtroom are solely getting larger.

Man, if solely you can mix the Houston offense and OKC protection, you’d have a fairly good crew. Simply think about Harden and Westbrook on the similar squad.

Philadelphia 76ers

Celtics 121 | 76ers 114

Ben Simmons is one among the quirkiest stars in the NBA. Not solely is he a 6-foot-10, lefty level guard, however he is obtained a wild shot profile. Per Second Spectrum information, Simmons’ common shot distance this season is 5 ft, which is the shortest amongst all guards in the NBA.

Simmons hasn’t transformed a discipline objective past 14 ft this season. In a league wherein level guards now shoot about 40 p.c of their makes an attempt from three-level vary, one among the greatest younger level guards in the NBA is at present zero-for-zero from downtown, and 79 p.c of his discipline targets have come on dunks or layups.

Regardless, since buying Jimmy Butler in a November blockbuster, Simmons and the Sixers are on a roll. Earlier than the deal, Philly ranked 19th in the NBA in web ranking and 21st in offensive effectivity. These are the statistical markers of a lottery crew. However since the deal Philly is 13-6, rating seventh in web ranking and third in offense.

These are contender numbers, and the 76ers are nonetheless simply getting a really feel for these new rotations. They will make one other transfer to add depth. With an Japanese Convention that is up for grabs, a visit to the Finals is ready for the crew that places it all collectively. Why not Philly?

Boston arguably has the most at stake on Christmas, coming in as seemingly the fifth-greatest crew in the East. That makes the Celtics one among the most disappointing teams in the league up to now. They’re loaded with depth and expertise, but they stand four.5 video games behind the convention-main Toronto Raptors.

At their worst, the Celts look passive and disconnected. They do not coalesce into something greater than the sum of their elements. They accept pull-ups and fadeaways an excessive amount of whereas getting to the rim and to the line too hardly ever. They rank 28th in the NBA in each factors in the paint and free throws tried. They’ve to get extra aggressive.

Nevertheless, there’s room for optimism. After all, it is solely December, and since adjusting their beginning lineup in mid-November, the Celtics appear to be a distinct animal (a minimum of on the stat sheet).

Brad Stevens eliminated Gordon Hayward (9-10 as a starter) and Jaylen Brown (9-11) from the beginning group and changed them with Marcus Good (Eight-three as a starter) and Marcus Morris (10-2). Morris, particularly, has been superior, making 43 p.c of his 3s whereas setting profession highs in numerous key metrics.

The transfer sparked Boston, particularly on offense. Simply take a look at these earlier than and after numbers:

Earlier than/after lineup change

NET RTG (RK) ORTG (RK) TS% (RK)
Earlier than Nov. 18 2.6 (11) 103.9 (27) 53.5 (27)
Since Nov. 18 9.9 (1) 115.6 (1) 58.2 (four)

However these spectacular statistical upticks aren’t precisely translating to world domination on the courtroom. The Celtics are simply 10-6 on this stretch, and people latest indicators have rather a lot to do with a comparatively straightforward schedule.

In the event that they lose in opposition to their rivals from Philly, that can imply 4 losses in 5 video games and an open door for the scrooges of Boston discuss radio to begin Grinching on Stevens, Kyrie Irving and the remainder of this group that we all anticipated to be higher.

Lakers 127 | Warriors 101

Via 33 video games, it is unclear simply how good this Lakers crew will change into, however one factor is for certain: They’re tremendous-quick. In actual fact, that is the quickest crew LeBron James has ever performed for.

Yr-by-yr tempo

Season Staff Tempo
2003 CLE 91.Eight
2004 CLE 90.Eight
2005 CLE 90.Eight
2006 CLE 91.6
2007 CLE 91.1
2008 CLE 89.6
2009 CLE 91.Eight
2010 MIA 91.7
2011 MIA 92.1
2012 MIA 91.1
2013 MIA 91.9
2014 CLE 93.2
2015 CLE 93.Eight
2016 CLE 96.7
2017 CLE 98.Eight
2018 LAL 104.zero

James is adjusting to the life in the quick lane. As he resurrects Showtime and a proud franchise, he additionally leads the NBA in quick-break factors. The Lakers rank second in the league in that class.

Whereas LeBron has clearly modified L.A., so has heart Tyson Chandler. The Lakers started the season 5-5, however they’re 15-Eight since touchdown Chandler in November.

Chandler has modified the tradition round the crew, significantly on protection. He is enjoying solely 20 MPG, however when he is on the market, the Lakers’ defensive effectivity is an unimaginable 99.6 factors allowed per 100 possessions. (No crew as a complete has a defensive ranking beneath 100.) That drops even additional to 97.5 in the 331 minutes wherein he and LeBron have performed collectively.

When the Lakers assembled this roster over the summer season, many people questioned how in the world these dudes might all match collectively. The reply seems to be taking form, and L.A. instantly appears like one among the strong playoff teams in a crowded West.

Possibly I ought to give attention to how the Warriors are type of meh proper now and rank solely seventh in the NBA in web ranking … however I do not need to do this. It is Christmas, and I would like to discuss Steph Curry and the way the biggest shooter this sport has ever seen is on tempo to have one among the greatest capturing seasons of his profession.

This dude is sq. in the center of his prime, and it is a reward to watch. Simply take a look at this nonsense:

Straight hearth.

Curry is in the center of his 10th season, and he is on tempo to set profession marks in 3P%, FT% and eFG%. You do not want any fancy stats to let you know he would possibly simply win one other MVP this season if he stays wholesome. The Dubs are 18-5 when Curry performs and 5-6 when he sits. Sadly for LeBron and the Lakeshow, Curry goes to play on this matchup.

Jazz 117 | Path Blazers 96

The Blazers have my vote as most enigmatic crew in the NBA. It is arduous to determine simply who they’re and the way good they is perhaps. That they had a terrific begin to the season, rating fourth in web ranking in October, however they rank 22nd in that key metric since Nov. 1 thanks largely to a struggling protection.

Portland’s star, Damian Lillard, is having one other nice offensive season. He ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring by placing up 27.1 PPG whereas recording his greatest yr ever from downtown. Dame is hitting practically 40 p.c of his 3s, all whereas launching virtually eight per recreation.

However as we noticed in the 2018 playoffs, it is going to take greater than Lillard to get this crew out of the first spherical.

Portland’s most definitely id is someplace in between that scorching begin and this inconsistent flip: Simply fantastic, after some defensive enchancment. The issue? The Blazers have been merely fantastic for some time now. Regardless that they’re tied for fourth in the West, it is arduous to see this group rising as a real contender and not using a massive transfer.

Let’s not mince phrases: The Donovan Mitchell regression is unhealthy, and it is hurting the Jazz.

Merely put, after an outstanding rookie marketing campaign and a promising playoff debut, Mitchell is slumping. His present numbers recommend he is a excessive-utilization, low-effectivity lead guard, and his shot chart shows a participant struggling to rating at common ranges each at the rim and from downtown.

There are 44 NBA gamers with a utilization above 25 p.c. Of that group, Mitchell ranks 40th in true capturing share. It is a significantly troubling marker for a second-yr participant many people pegged to make a leap. At the precise time once we anticipated upticks in effectivity, we’re seeing the reverse.

Whereas Mitchell’s capturing numbers are down throughout the board, his dip to the 15th percentile for his place from three (per Cleansing The Glass information) is the actual purple flag. His shot high quality on lengthy balls hasn’t modified a lot from final season, in accordance to Second Spectrum information. These appears simply aren’t falling.

The Jazz stay a strong defensive crew, however they’re going to want Mitchell to be higher than this in the event that they count on to get additional in the playoffs than they did final season. The remainder of the season ought to assist us discover out if Mitchell is definitely a greater shooter than what we have seen thus far.

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