Five Revelations from the New NBA D-League Stats Page
1. The NBA D-League has played at a ridiculously fast pace. In terms of the speed of the game, the NBA D-League has been NASCAR compared to the NBA's go-kart racing. Nine of the 17 NBA D-League teams have averaged more possessions per 48 minutes than the fastest NBA team (the Sixers) -- with the Vipers leading the way at a breakneck 112.13 possessions/48 minutes (compared to the Sixers' 102.43). This is not a new trend, either: 12 NBA D-League teams outpaced the NBA leader last season, and 10 the season before.
2. Santa Cruz could be the league's most exciting team. We now have the numbers to back up what we've been saying since the preseason: The Warriors lead the league with a 114.5 Offensive Rating (points per 100 possessions) -- better than the Heat's NBA-leading 109.4 thus far -- and a 1.47 assist-to-turnover ratio while generating the most shots from within five feet. Put simply, he Sea-Dubs play the most fundamentally sound, visually appealing brand of basketball of any NBA D-League team.
3. The Vipers take the Rockets' run-and-gun philosophy to the extreme. The stats page's shot chart feature was made for teams like RGV. Get this: The Vipers have attempted half of their shots from beyond the three-point line, and 36 percent in the restricted area -- so just 14 percent of their shots have come from the less efficient areas of the court. The Rockets, by comparison, have attempted 35 percent of their shots from three and 40 percent in the restricted area.
But perhaps the best gem the hub has uncovered so far is the great Troy Daniels. RGV's rookie shooting guard has launched 40 of his 47 shots from deep (including 26 from the wings and 11 from the corners) -- and just two midrange shots in three games thus far, as seen in the shot chart below. Combined with his ability to get to and convert from the line (10/11), Daniels is the most efficient offensive weapon in the NBA D-League, leading players who've played at least 30 minutes per game with a 75.2 true shooting percentage (field-goal percentage adjusted for the added value of threes and free throws; Wesley Matthews leads NBA starters at 68.9).
4. Richard Howell has been a star in the early going. The Stampede's bruising forward barely missed the cut for our last Prospect Watch based on his raw production, but it would be even harder to leave him off now that we can measure his impact in painstaking detail. Howell leads full-time starters in Player Impact Estimate (PIE), which measures a player's overall contributions to his team by factoring in the percent of game events that he achieved. The metric clearly works, as 10 of the top 12 PIE leaders are Top Prospects and/or former NBA players, and No. 1 Prospect Malcolm Thomas led the category after two games. Howell has also grabbed rebounds at a higher rate (20.4 REB%) than any other player (NBA leader Andre Drummond sits at 22.0%).
5. DeAndre Liggins has vastly improved his guard skills. Defense will always be Liggins' calling card, but he's shown real signs of development on the offensive end in four games this season. While his 6.8 assists per game are tied for fifth in the league, advanced stats reveal that he ranks second among full-time starters in assist percentage (the percent of his teammates' field goals that he assisted). With a stellar 33.8 AST% -- way up from his 19.7 mark in 2012-13 -- Liggins has outranked all of the league's point guards except for Rockets assignee Isaiah Canaan, even while maintaining roughly the same usage and turnover rates as last season.