NBA Stats: 5 surprising stats featuring Durant, the Bulls, and more

Nov 8, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) drives to the basket against Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball (2) during the second half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 8, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) drives to the basket against Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball (2) during the second half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets shoots against Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz; NBA (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

We are 14 or so games into the season, and some of the noisiness from small sample sizes is starting to die down a bit. Here are five surprising stats that could help determine the league’s playoff future.

Surprising NBA stats: Derrick Rose is in the 95th percentile for point guard three-point accuracy

Per Cleaning The Glass, which excludes garbage time, Derrick Rose is currently shooting 43% from three on almost four shots per game, which is the highest rate per 36 minutes in his career. It’s not massive volume, but he did shoot 39% last year, as well, so it’s clear that he’s more comfortable shooting threes than he has been in the past.

New York’s starting lineup, featuring newly-added Kemba Walker at point guard, has struggled this season. Although Kemba has shot well, the Knicks’ starters have bled points. Rose isn’t known as a stopper, but he’s far better than Kemba. If he can provide some of the spacing that Walker does while also bringing significantly better defense and off-the-dribble juice, Thibs will not hesitate to ramp up Rose’s minutes.

Surprising NBA stats: Chicago has a top-five defense

Coming in, people expected Chicago’s offense to be potent, which it generally has been, and their defense to be an eyesore, which it emphatically has not been. The Bulls are currently fifth in defensive rating even after a tough stretch.

They ballhawk like crazy, forcing a metric ton of turnovers, and do a solid job of rebounding. Noted non-defenders Zach LaVine and Demar DeRozan have infiltrated passing lanes and played with increased defensive intensity. Even Nikola Vucevic, who has the hops of an earthworm, is out there playing with perfect verticality:

The Bulls’ off-ball awareness and rotations are something to behold, especially considering the personnel. Watch as they move in perfect synchronicity, like players on a foosball row:

This double-team on Paul George was executed to perfection. By the time he passes out, the Bulls have scrambled to cover all the options (Alex Caruso has defended like a man possessed this season and is a clear choice for an All-Defensive Team so far). Coach Billy Donovan has always been an underrated defensive maestro, and so far this season, he’s conducting every note in a perfect symphony.

Surprising NBA stats: Nikola Jokic is destroying everyone in advanced stats

A lot of the Most Valuable Player talk has been around Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. However, if you ask the analytics folks, the overwhelming favorite for MVP right now is Nikola Jokic.

It’s hard to find an advanced stat he’s NOT dominating. He leads the league in 538’s Wins Above Replacement, Basketball-Reference’s Win Shares and Box Plus/Minus, and Dunks & Threes’ Estimated Plus/Minus (a favorite stat of NBA front offices).

Without going too into the weeds, these are all stats that attempt to capture a player’s value in one number. Jokic is winning all of these so far this season by massive margins, thanks in no small part to his defense. If the Nuggets can maintain a top-four seed in the West despite not having Jamal Murray, he will be a major threat to become the 13th player to win back-to-back MVPs.

Surprising NBA stats: Utah is shooting just 33% from distance, but it might not matter

Every year, the Jazz do the same thing – bomb threes, clean the glass, play defense, rinse, and repeat (until the wheels inevitably fall off in the playoffs). This year, however, the Jazz are only shooting 33% from three – 27th in the league, per Cleaning The Glass. That’s atrocious!

Their offense must be doomed, right? Wrong. They are still second in the league in offensive rating thanks to tremendous rebounding, copious foul shots, and excellent finishing at the rim (hey there, Rudy Gobert!).

The Jazz shot 40% from three last year, so if they can get up to even league-average (~35%), this offense will maul teams. Jordan Clarkson and Donovan Mitchell, in particular, will be better, so there’s good reason to believe this Jazz offense could be flirting with historical efficiency by the season’s end.

Surprising NBA stats: Kevin Durant’s jumpers are most people’s dunks

Folks, Kevin Durant is currently shooting 70% on long twos, per Basketball-Reference. That’s insanity. I don’t have any deep insight to add here, except to remind everyone that this man tore his Achilles just two seasons ago, and it only made him stronger. Appreciate him while he’s here.