Statistics in the early part of a season are often negligible, seeing as how the sample size of games is too small, and it doesn’t give an accurate reading of how the team fares in a full 82-game calendar season.
It’s here, almost at the end of the stretch, where the statistics tend to matter a lot more in terms of reading a team’s strengths, weaknesses and strategies. These do one of two things – to give a more accurate reading than the win-loss record by analyzing the overall capabilities of the team, and to prepare against certain opponents in playoff matchups.
Here, I will take a look at where the Portland stacks up compared to its fellow Western Conference brethren in terms of offensive and defensive categories. Keep in mind, that these stats include all games played up until (not including) April 7, 2011.
Offensive Categories (Points/FG%/3FG%/FT%/Assists)
In terms of overall scoring output, Portland ranks 24th out of the 30 teams, scoring 96.37 per contest, but are 8th in points allowed, surrendering just 94.86 per game, for an overall difference of +1.51, making them 14th in the league in that category. It’s always a good sign when your team scores more points than it allows, and if the number allowed is below 100 points per game. Portland passes both categories, even though their offense tends to sputter on occasion, but that can mainly be attributed to the fewer possessions that the Trail Blazers enjoy compared to other teams, like New York or Phoenix. Not surprisingly, these teams also surrender a high amount of points per night (both allow over 105.5), proving that with high-octane offense comes a Swiss cheese defense.
In what can be best defined as a statistical abnormality, Portland scores more points than they allow – yet, they allow their opponents to shoot a higher percentage than they do. For the record, the Trail Blazers shoot 44.8% (24th in the league) from the field, while their opponents convert 46.8% (10th in the league) of their attempts. From three-point range, it’s a similar story – Portland makes 34.1% (24th in the league) of their threes, while allowing 36.5% (10th in the league) shooting from deep. The Trail Blazers do possess an advantage at the line, however being the 4th best team in the association in terms of success at the charity stripe, hitting 80.1% of their chances. In contrast, opponents hit 77.1% of their foul-line attempts, good for 9th in the league in that category.
Portland is an average team at best in terms of racking up assists, racking up 21.06 per game (16th in the league) while their opponents average 19.12 assists of their own (3rd in the league), meaning Portland loves to stifle the opponent’s passing game and disrupt the flow of their offence. They can boast a +1.94 assist differential, which puts them 7th in that category at successfully commanding the passing lanes. In addition, they are only one of 11 teams in the league that has a positive assist differential.
Defensive Categories (Rebounds/Blocks/Steals)
Portland is a team that does not grab very many rebounds, shocking given the fact that their frontcourt (Gerald Wallace, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby) love to crash the boards. Even Andre Miller has his own days where he grabs at least 5 or 6. Either way, Portland only pulls down 39.19 rebounds per game (28th in the league), while allowing their opponents to command 39.45 rebounds per game (3rd in the league). The differential is -0.26 in this category (17th in the league), which at first glance might seem mediocre, but in actuality isn’t all that bad. Portland doesn’t surrender many rebounds at all, and that can mostly be attributed to the all-important pace/possession factors. Had Portland run 5-10 more possessions per game, both numbers would almost certainly rise with the increase in opportunities.
The frontcourt for Portland has also slowly begun to rise up the ranks in terms of shot-blocking prowess, boosted by the addition of Gerald Wallace. The Trail Blazers block 4.39 shots per game, (22nd in the league) while having 4.10 of their own shots blocked (4th in the league), for a +0.29 shot blocking differential (10th in the league). This line pretty much reads that Portland assumes control inside the paint, and changes their opponents’ shots at a greater clip than they do.
Grabbing steals allows a team to collect free possessions without waiting for the opponent to attempt a shot, and the more steals a team grabs, the more chances they have to convert on the offensive end. This area of business is where Portland’s X-factor makes itself known, pilfering their opponents for 8.09 steals per contest (4th in the league), while being stolen from 6.90 times every game (8th in the league) for a very solid +1.19 differential (5th in the league). Portland is one of the league’s best in terms of collecting extra possessions rather than coughing them up, which denotes that the Trail Blazers will always be on the prowl to poke the ball away from their opponents.
Portland is a very awkward-looking team if you look at their overall statistics. They outscore their opponents by approximately 1.5 points per game, yet allow their opponents to shoot 2% better than they do from the field. They hit a good number of their free-throws, but don’t go to the line that often. They are good pace disruptors, although their own passing numbers don’t really stand out amongst the crowd. The Trail Blazers don’t control the boards as much as one would think, but aren’t outrebounded by much either. They do maintain paint control, but aren’t the best shot-blocking team out there. They are, however a great possession-grabbing team that clenches the opponent with some great individual defense.
Portland has a 45-33 record for a reason – they may not do everything exceptionally well, but they have their niches and skill-sets that compliment each other nicely to create a pressure-inducing, possession-slowing team that plays specifically to disrupt the opponent’s offensive rhythm, while challenging for more possessions of their own. And that’s the type of team that has the ability to cause nightmares in the post-season.