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Top-10 Overall Despite Being Below-Average in Three of the Four Factors

Posted by Neil Paine on March 3, 2011

While I'm en route to Boston for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, here's a neat question SI's Zach Lowe had regarding the Memphis Grizzlies' defense:

"Memphis has emerged as a top-10 defensive team despite being good at only one of the four factors--forcing turnovers, which they do extremely well. They rank below the league average in eFG (barely below the avg), DRB rate (horrible) and FT/FGA (somewhere in between). I have a feeling it's unusual for a team to rank in the top-10 overall while ranking below the league average in 3 of the 4 defensive factors, but perhaps it's not as unusual as I think it might be."

It is very unusual, in fact. Since 1974, the first year we can compute the Factors, just eleven defenses (including Memphis) have ranked in the top 10 despite being below-average in 3 of 4 Factors. And if we expand it to include either offense or defense, the list contains only 27 teams:

Year Team Type Rtg Rk efg% <avg tov% <avg rb% <avg ftr <avg
1974 Philadelphia 76ers Defense 99.0 10 46.8 17.6 66.7 21.0
1975 Portland Trail Blazers Defense 97.7 6 45.0 16.0 69.6 22.8
1976 Phoenix Suns Defense 97.9 7 46.8 17.3 69.1 22.9
1976 Chicago Bulls Defense 98.0 9 46.7 15.8 74.6 23.2
1978 Atlanta Hawks Defense 99.8 6 47.4 19.9 67.0 32.9
1984 Milwaukee Bucks Defense 103.6 2 45.9 14.7 65.6 26.6
1986 Denver Nuggets Defense 105.9 9 49.5 16.9 64.1 26.6
1989 New York Knickerbockers Defense 107.5 10 50.4 16.7 65.1 24.9
2004 Toronto Raptors Defense 100.4 7 44.9 14.1 70.1 24.1
2009 Utah Jazz Defense 107.3 10 50.5 15.0 72.7 26.2
2011 Memphis Grizzlies Defense 104.8 8 49.8 15.7 71.9 23.3
1976 Cleveland Cavaliers Offense 99.5 3 45.4 13.5 29.9 17.5
1977 Kansas City Kings Offense 100.5 8 46.0 15.4 30.9 22.1
1977 Detroit Pistons Offense 100.3 9 48.3 16.6 30.7 18.5
1977 New York Knickerbockers Offense 100.1 10 48.6 16.6 26.4 21.1
1978 New York Knickerbockers Offense 101.7 9 48.8 16.7 31.0 21.4
1980 Los Angeles Lakers Offense 109.5 1 53.0 16.5 32.6 22.0
1980 Cleveland Cavaliers Offense 106.7 6 47.6 13.2 33.1 21.2
1984 Phoenix Suns Offense 108.9 10 51.4 15.1 31.4 23.2
1987 Denver Nuggets Offense 109.3 8 47.8 11.8 32.2 24.8
1988 Denver Nuggets Offense 110.1 8 48.6 11.7 29.7 23.1
1992 Milwaukee Bucks Offense 108.8 10 48.6 14.2 35.9 22.1
1993 Houston Rockets Offense 109.6 6 51.5 14.5 30.0 23.5
1995 Houston Rockets Offense 109.7 7 52.9 15.0 26.9 23.2
1997 Houston Rockets Offense 108.8 7 52.0 15.6 28.4 23.2
1999 Houston Rockets Offense 105.4 5 50.6 15.8 27.8 22.8
2008 Phoenix Suns Offense 113.3 2 55.1 13.4 22.4 22.8

I'll let Zach provide the commentary, so go check out his post at SI's Point Forward blog.

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4 Responses to “Top-10 Overall Despite Being Below-Average in Three of the Four Factors”

  1. AHL Says:

    Heh, score 1 for the FTRate Sucks crowd =D

  2. AYC Says:

    Hah! Several of Hakeem's teams appear on the offensive list... interesting. It appears the eFG% numbers matter the most

  3. AYC Says:

    For the purpose of sorting, it would be better if we had two separate tables for O and D

  4. AYC Says:

    "It appears the eFG% numbers matter the most"

    For Offense... Turnover % seems to matter the most for Defense