2011 NBA Preview


The much anticipated 2010-11 NBA season is set to debut in just one week. All the marquee free agents have signed and several players returned from injury to participate in the preseason, but there are still many questions to be considered. In this weeks post, I will take a look at which rookies have performed well this preseason, compare 50 years worth of teams with multiple elite scorers, compile a list of the oldest NBA teams in NBA history, and, finally, display my season projections.

As I found in preparing for last week’s post, preseason player stats are tough to come by. The only site with historical player statistics that I could find was nba.com. Rather than try to apply another metric, I decided to use nba.com’s Efficiency as an estimator of value. Efficiency uses a simple formula that adds points for positive contributions such as scoring, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals and subtracts points for negative contributions such as missed shots and turnovers.

Efficiency is usually expressed per game. It may not be the most accurate indicator of player value, but it’s a decent estimator. If a player logs enough minutes, Efficiency per 48 is a more appropriate measure of performance than Efficiency per game, but with limited minutes available in the preseason, I decided to use Efficiency per game.

Rookie Preseason Statistics

The rookie leaders in regular season efficiency over the past five years have won rookie of the year three times and finished second twice. These same five players also led all NBA rookies in preseason efficiency three times, finishing 2nd and 4th the other years, respectively. (For this purpose, I excluded the missed rookie season of Blake Grffin and Greg Oden.) In the following table, I list regular season and preseason efficiency, draft pick and rookie of the year finish for the leaders in regular season rookie efficiency and the Rookie of the Year winners since 2005-06.

Top Rookie Efficiency Ranks

YearPlayerPreseason*Regular SeasonDraft Pick*ROY Finish
2010Tyreke Evans2141
2009Brook Lopez11102
2008Al Horford1132
2007Brandon Roy4161
2006Chris Paul1141
2009Derrick Rose8211
2008Kevin Durant3211

*excludes Blake Griffin in 2009-10 and Greg Oden in 2007-08.

The following table displays the top rookie efficiencies over the past six seasons. (2010 preseason statistics have been updated through Sunday, October 17th games.)

Rookies Preseason Stats

YearPlayerTeamEFFPickGPMPGPPGEFF48ROY Finish
2011Blake GriffinLAC24.51629.517.339.92
2010Blake GriffinLAC18.71728.113.732.01
2010DeJuan BlairSAS17.937717.713.948.34
2008Al HorfordATL173830.111.227.162
2011DeMarcus CousinsSAC16.65525.216.431.64
2011John WallWAS15.81635.516.221.5
2007Marcus WilliamsNJN15.8226281627
2009Brook LopezNJN15.510628.811.825.83
2007Rajon RondoBOS15.421829.211.125.1812
2011Jordan CrawfordATL1527434.816.820.77
2009Greg OdenPOR14.81623.811.530.13
2006Chris PaulNOK14.74626.79.21
2010Tyreke EvansSAC14.44731.415.121.951
2009Michael BeasleyMIA14.32724.616.427.897
2010Ty LawsonDEN14.118718.110.637.64
2009DeMarcus NelsonGSW13.8Undrafted621.39.530.78
2006Charlie VillanuevaTOR13.87630.5162
2010Taj GibsonCHI13.526828.412.422.875
2009Rudy FernandezPOR13.424529.41221.849
2011Evan TurnerPHI13.22532.81019.38
2010Jonny FlynnMIN13.16826.914.623.415
2009Mike TaylorLAC13.155823.912.426.55
2007Steve NovakHOU13.132724.612.125.65
2007Brandon RoyPOR12.96834.814.817.811
2010Stephen CurryGSW12.87828.41021.452
2009O.J. MayoMEM12.83829.615.420.582
2008Anthony RobersonDEN12.8Undrafted527.614.222.2
2006Channing FryeNYK12.7861911.25
2010DeMarre CarrollMEM12.627825.59.923.84
2008Kevin DurantSEA12.3263018.819.821
2011Jeremy EvansUTA12.255517.2834.39
2011Manny HarrisCLE12.2Undrafted519.69.829.92
2009Derrick RoseCHI12.11828.413.920.531
2008Luis ScolaHOU12.157725.19.623.353
2006Danny GrangerIND1217527.210.67
2009Marc GasolMEM11.948825.17.222.668
2007Paul MillsapUTA11.947817.47.932.586
2008Al ThorntonLAC11.814827.616.220.414
2006Andrew BogutMIL11.61727.47.93
2010Omri CasspiSAC11.32372111.725.77
2008Darius WashingtonSAS11.3Undrafted7219.325.81
2011Greg MonroeDET11.27627.2919.7
2006Nate RobinsonNYK11.22162510.2
2009Marreese SpeightsPHI11.116720.49.626.1
2007Tyrus ThomasCHI114819.49.4279
2007Shelden WilliamsATL115822.68.523.34
2009Roy HibbertIND10.9178199.227.74
2010Terrence WilliamsNJN10.911724.711.321.06
2007Rudy GayMEM10.98727.413.919.153
2009Kevin LoveMIN10.85821.28.524.346
2008Rodney StuckeyDET10.815825.612.120.02
2007Leon PoweBOS10.649514.46.234.35
2008Michael HarrisHOU10.5Undrafted213.5537.26
2009Luc Mbah a MouteMIL10.437830.48.116.37
2007Alexander JohnsonMEM10.445820.48.424.65
2009Mario ChalmersMIA10.334723.37.321.211
2009Eric GordonLAC10.37723.614.621.085
2006Sarunas JasikeviciusIND10.3Undrafted622.29.8
2010Brandon JenningsMIL10.21082610.919.053
2009Ryan AndersonNJN10.221613.58.836.01
2006Raymond FeltonCHA10.25625.7114
2011Timofey MozgovNYK10.2Undrafted518.28.426.6
2010Jeff TeagueATL10.119726.912.118.15
2008Aaron GrayCHI10.149717928.47
2008Joakim NoahCHI10.19723.17.621.02
2006Ryan GomesBOS10.150720.77.79
2006Joey GrahamTOR1016427.211
2011Nikola PekovicMIN9.731616.58.728

Overall, the current group of rookies has played pretty well, but Blake Griffin clearly is a notch above the rest. I was initially concerned that his injured knee would hamper his explosiveness, but now I think his biggest worry should be re-injuring himself from one of his reckless plays. (I only saw him play once this preseason, but he fell very dangerously a couple times when he was trying to make low probability plays.)

There were many players who arguably exceeded exceptions in the preseason and went on to exceed them in the regular season such as Blair, Rondo, Horford, Robin Lopez, Paul, Evans, Brook Lopez, Lawson and Villanueva. Of course, other such as Marcus Williams and DeMarcus Nelson exceeded expectations in the preseason, but their value in the regular season never matched up. I’ll be interested to see how Jordan Crawford pans out. (Yes, the same guy who is probably more known for dunking on Lebron.)

The Spurs two most significant rookie acquisitions have yet to impress. The Spurs’ first round pick in 2010, James Anderson, has struggled in limited minutes with an Efficiency of 5.2 in 18.8 MPG. Hopefully, he can improve throughout the season. Tiago Splitter has yet to see action in any preseason games.

Big 3 Scorers

Much has been made of Miami’s Big Three. I wouldn’t hesitate to call this the most significant off-season move(s) of all time. Wade and Lebron are both very good passers, but since those two and Bosh have all been significant scorers, many question how they will be able to share the rock without limiting effectiveness, and justifiably so. In order to look at other top heavy teams and teams who acquired big scorers, I selected the top 15 teams sorted by the percentage of team points last year for each team’s big 3. “Similar Player Mins LY” represents the percentage of player minutes that were similar last year to the measured year. Teams with low figures had significant turnover. The average team has a percentage around 60%. I included last year’s and the current year’s winning percentage.

Big 3's - Teams Sorted by Highest Percentage of Team Points Last Year

TeamYearLY Pts/TmPts Big 3Similar Player Mins LYW%LY Tm W%

With short term memory, it might be easy to forget the hype surrounding the 2003-04 Lakers, who acquired Karl Malone and Gary Payton. With Kobe and Shaq already accounting for a high percentage of the teams points, the addition of Malone put them above the Miami’s big 3 in the above table. A couple teams such as Wilt’s 1962-63 Warriors and the 2006-07 Wizards simply relied on existing stars to an extreme extent. Others such as the 2003-04 Dallas Mavericks and 2006-07 Nuggets brought in high usage players (Antawn Jamison, Antoine Walker and Allen Iverson).

On this list of 14, the average team wins 49 games, but only one (the 1983 76ers) has won the championship. The thing that really sets the Heat apart from the rest of this group is the efficiency of their stars. The Usage Rates of Bosh, Wade and James nearly add up to 100% over the past two years and their combined offensive ratings exceed 115. The Usage rates pretty much need to decrease by definition, but the Offensive Ratings will increase as these players will now share the heavy workload of low percentage shots. In addition, each can expect to be recipients of much easier scores now that defenses are unable to focus on them with the same intensity as before.

If we expect the Usage rates to fall to 80% and the Offensive Ratings to increase to 120 and each player to play 36 MPG, the remaining players would only need a combined Offensive Rating of 109 to break that all time team single season record. League average has been 108 over the past 2 years.

Oldest Teams

John Hollinger wonders when age will catch up to the Dallas Mavericks in his 2011 team preview. Spurs fans are well aware that their team isn’t exactly an up-and-coming, either. There were several years in which San Antonio has been among the oldest teams in the NBA, but admittedly, most of those veterans were role players. With that said, historically, older teams have done very well:

Oldest Teams


These teams won an average of 62.3% of their games, down from 64.7% the prior year. The decrease probably has something to do with the effects of age, but remember that both good and bad teams naturally tend to get closer to average.

Another factor of the high success of older teams is that older players seem to often retire with something left to contribute. In other cases, they may are more likely to be removed from a team because a younger players are considered a better investment. In theory, this effect should be lessened by teams utilizing the services of the NBA Developmental League.

Team Projections

Here are my projections for the 2011 NBA season.

2011 NBA Projections

Eastern ConferenceWestern Conference
TeamProjected WinsTeamProjected Wins
Miami69LA Lakers56
Atlanta44Oklahoma City48
Milwaukee41San Antonio48
Charlotte34New Orleans44
New York34Denver44
Indiana32LA Clippers34
New Jersey31Golden State32

The Miami Heat project to challenge 70 wins. I feel that Houston and Portland could improve on these win totals if Yao Ming and Greg Oden can make significant contributions. For Denver and any potential trading destinations, a Carmelo Anthony trade could also shake things up.

Many feel that Cleveland will sink to the depths of the league. While I feel this might have been the case last year, the addition of Antawn Jamison could go a long way (If his knees hold up.) He averaged over 21 points with good efficiency over the past 3 years with Washington. Mo Williams also averaged over 17 PPG with a 57% true shooting percentage (Pts/TSA/2). Remember, the Cavs still have quality role players in Anderson Varejao, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, J.J. Hickson, Daniel Gibson and have just added Ramon Sessions. I have them making the playoffs with only 35 wins in a top heavy Eastern Conference.

The Spurs have many variables that could potentially go either way. Other than the ages of Duncan and Ginobili, Parker has yet to show he can return to his form from 2009. George Hill and James Anderson have potential, but have struggled thus far in the preseason. Some are hopeful that Richard Jefferson will improve on last season’s contributions, but so far, his preseason numbers haven’t confirmed this suspicion. Perhaps the most reasonable source of potential improvement is Tiago Splitter. However, Splitter himself has yet to see any action in the preseason. With all accounted for, I have the Spurs likely to finish down 2 games from last year, at 48, with a 6th seed in the Western Conference playoff spot. Hopefully all the pieces will be clicking by then.

  • td4life

    @ Jim Henderson

    How do you guard a healthy Miami Heat? Sure, a team like LA can go to toe-to-toe and then destroy them at the other end in the paint. A team like Orlando or Houston (or SA) might be able to score on them just fine, but how do you guard them?

  • Jim Henderson

    October 24th, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    They’ll be a tough team to guard, especially if their shooters have a good year (Miller, House, Jones), but their lack of a low-post threat is a drawback. Miller’s absence will not help them during the 1st two months. We already know that Wade & James are extremely tough covers, and Bosh is no day in the park either. I’m not a coach, so I won’t bother to draw up a game plan for you on how to defend them, but it can be done well enough that this team should lose at least 17 games. But my points on this thread have nothing to do with the relative potency of the offensive fire-power of the Heat. In fact I’ve acknowledged they could very well win 60+ games their first year together. Nonetheless, I do feel that LA, Boston, & Orlando match up very well with them from both an offensive & defensive perspective, and they each have crucial advantages in intangibles over Miami, particularly when it comes to a late playoff/championship run. My whole point has been that I don’t believe the Heat are equipped to win 69+ games this year (an extreme win total that just two teams have ever done). I think that’s entirely unrealistic for all the reasons I’ve enumerated ad nauseum on this thread.

  • Bankshot21


    A team with arguably less talent won 72 games. What don’t you get? Rodman was new to the team so the team chemistry thing isn’t too great of an argument. It can happen is the basis of my stance. You can not dispute or refute that. As I stated there’s no formula to a special season like that. If Garnett, Pierce, and Allen can win 66 their 1st year together I don’t see it as an impossible feat for the better trio of Wade, James, and Bosh to win 3 more games in their 1st year.

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  • Jim Henderson

    October 25th, 2010 at 6:44 am


    A team with arguably less talent won 72 games. What don’t you get?”

    But that is one of my main points!! Titles and extremely HIGH win totals are as much about “intangibles” (coaching, experience playing together, leadership, character, chemistry, luck, etc……..) as they are about talent! As a result, some teams don’t win as much as expected with high talent, other teams win more than expected considering their talent. Often times it comes down to all the intangibles, which in many respects Miami is relatively weak in.

    “Rodman was new to the team so the team chemistry thing isn’t too great of an argument.”

    But he was a “perfect” fit as a player to compliment the superior leadership of the Bull’s dynamic duo, which had played 6 years together, and three championships under their belt. Miami does not compare to that situation one bit.

    “If Garnett, Pierce, and Allen can win 66 their 1st year together I don’t see it as an impossible feat for the better trio of Wade, James, and Bosh to win 3 more games in their 1st year.”

    First of all, there’s a big difference between winning 66 and 69 games: more than ten teams have done the former, just two have done the latter. Second, nobody is saying that it’s “impossible” for Miami to win 69+, just HIGHLY unlikely. What Boston did in 2008 was extremely unique, but they had some things on their side: (1) a much more experienced and accomplished coach; (2) three star players that were more mature in their leadership skills; (3) two pieces of budding young talent (Rondo, Perkins) at two key positions (PG, Center); (4) a stronger inside presence in the low post; and (5), the big three worked together for several hours a day for the whole month of September (which included 5×5 drills), played a full preseason together, and stayed healthy the whole year (Miami already has Miller out for 2+ months).

  • Bankshot21


    Who is to say that Bosh isn’t perfect for this team? That LeBron isn’t perfect? Spoelstra is the coach but I think its painfully obvious that Riley is at the helm of the ship and his experience and accomplishments far exceed those of Ainge, and Doc combined. Yes the aforemention 66 wins only occured 10 times but are you aware 3 of those 10 have come in the past 5 years? It’s obviously more achievable now than it was over the 1st 50+ years of the NBA’s existence. We can look at the league as a 60+ year league but that’s not an accurate way of assessing the more recent feats. We have had rule changes that will definitely alter results when factoring in seasons of yesteryear.

  • Jim Henderson

    October 26th, 2010 at 6:30 am

    This is what I said about Rodman joining the Bulls in 1995:

    “But he was a “perfect” fit as a player to compliment the superior leadership of the Bull’s dynamic duo….”

    It’s pretty obvious why Rodman was the “perfect” fit as a player going into that 1995-96 season: “he didn’t need or want the ball.” He was a perfect compliment because all he wanted to do was rebound & defend. You do realize there’s only ONE ball, right? Wade, James, & Bosh all need the ball to be most effective. That’s been their history. Now, can they make the necessary, significant adjustment to their games to mesh well enough to win an ungodly amount of games? I suppose that’s still an open question, but from a “team” basketball perspective they are far from a “perfect” fit going in to their first season together.

    “Spoelstra is the coach but I think its painfully obvious that Riley is at the helm of the ship and his experience and accomplishments far exceed those of Ainge, and Doc combined.”

    But it matters who THE COACH is! He’s the one that is managing the players and the games on a daily basis, not the GM. Would you rather have a coach with 2 years experience & R.C. Buford, or would you rather have Pop? Would you rather have Mitch Kupchak & a two-year coach, or would you prefer Phil Jackson?

    “Yes the aforemention 66 wins only occured 10 times but are you aware 3 of those 10 have come in the past 5 years? It’s obviously more achievable now than it was over the 1st 50+ years of the NBA’s existence.”

    No, you can’t with make that assertion. You can’t just look at a recent snapshot of NBA history, and compare it against the history as a whole and draw any firm conclusions. For example, three different teams won 66+ in three straight years between 1970 and 1973: Bucks 66 wins in 1970-71; Lakers 69 wins in 1971-72; and the Celtics 68 wins in 1972-73. Thus, it’s just as likely that we’ve just passed through a high-win total phase, and probably won’t see a 66+ win season for another few years at least because teams have gotten better at the bottom of the pack. They’ll be more “upsets” this year of the top teams.

    “We can look at the league as a 60+ year league but that’s not an accurate way of assessing the more recent feats. We have had rule changes that will definitely alter results when factoring in seasons of yesteryear.”

    Sure, it’s obvious that the league is dynamic and constantly evolving, but that doesn’t mean that it’s history is not instructive when evaluating its present or future. One obvious change that one should take into account when making present-day evaluations is that while the league has expanded considerably, so has its overall talent pool. And the rules make it so that the bottom teams rarely stay down for long (e.g., draft lottery) except sometimes for teams with poor management/ownership, as top young talent continues to replenish those in the bottom half of the standings. And the fact is teams near the bottom improving will have a dampening effect on extreme win-totals at the top.