Top Shooting Teams of the NBA's Returning 22: Part II
Last week we shared the first half of the ten best shooting teams of those returning to complete the 2020 season. Using solely shooting accuracy based on their pre-shutdown season field goal and free-throw percentage, here are the top five.
#5 Oklahoma City Thunder
At the time of the shut down, the Oklahoma City Thunder had set their sites on soon becoming a top-four West contender. They currently hold the longest winning streak in the Western Conference and they’re coming in at number #5 on our list hitting 47.1% of their shots and 77.5% of their free-throws. Coming off of a wave of momentum, fans are eager to see if the Thunder can pick up where they left off.
#4 Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz have had an interesting season which includes losing one of their top scorers, Bojan Bogdanovic, to wrist surgery. The loss of Bogdanovic will definitely leave a mark in the postseason. Bojan was dominating with shooting 44.7% from the field and 90.3% from the free-throw line. Although we are unsure of how they might pull it together to make the playoffs, they’re currently in line at #4 with a 47.5% field goal average and a 77.2% free-throw average.
#3 Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks are a top contender coming from the east partly due to the team’s shooting success (47.7% FG and 74.2% FT). Although Milwaukee's quest for 70 wins was cut short due to suspended play for COVID-19, the Bucks were still leading the NBA in victories this season. Top all-star, Khris Middleton, was averaging 2.4 three pointers per game and had scored a total of 133 threes so far this season. The big question for the Bucks will be: can they pick up the momentum they dropped at the doors of COVID-19? It’s been reported that Middleton and leading MVP potential, Giannis Antetokounmpo, did not have access to a hoop during their quarantine, so picking up where they left off might prove to be difficult for the Milwaulkee Bucks.
#2 Indiana Pacers
Many people expected the Pacers to struggle for a long time after losing Paul George in 2017, but they have yet to miss the playoffs since George left. They were sitting in fifth in the Eastern Conference before COVID-19, and while the new format may make it difficult for the Pacers to make the playoffs, but if the past few seasons have told us anything about the Pacers, it’s that they always find a way to get into the playoffs comfortably. While the Pacers do not have a singular dominant player on their team, the combination of Domantas Sabonis and T.J. Warren has kept opposing teams on their toes not knowing who to stop. Warren is averaging 18.7 PPG and Sabonis is averaging 18.5 PPG. Sabonis has been the Pacers surprise stand out player this year, leading the team in FG% (with players who average more than 15 minutes per game) while also being the team’s leader in rebounds per game and second in assists per game. His career numbers continue to rise as he is proving himself to be one of the league’s most underrated players.
#1 Los Angeles Lakers
Leading the charge is the Los Angeles Lakers with the top shooting average in the league. Prior to the shutdown, they were hitting a remarkable 48.5% of their field goal attempts. The Lakers have been just as, if not more, dominant than people expected them to be. Led by Anthony Davis and LeBron James, the Lakers have absolutely dominated teams this season. One surprising statistic about the Lakers season has been their defensive dominance compared to their offensive dominance. While they score the seventh most points per game of any team in the NBA, they also allow the third least amount of points. That has been crucial to their season considering the only other player on their team that is averaging double-digit points per game is Kyle Kuzma, and he is only averaging 12.5 PPG. The acquisition of Anthony Davis in the off season has proved to be exactly what LeBron James needed to have a winning team again, and it might be exactly what he needed to produce a championship-winning team again. The Lakers are considered heavy favorites going into the playoffs because of how complete their team is.
Shooting only contributes a portion of a team’s total success, especially during the playoffs. Rebounding, defensive performance and coaching are a few of the other infinite variables that ultimately affect the outcomes of each game. But, if the modern era of basketball has taught us anything, it’s that accurate shooting can make quite a difference down the stretch. It will be interesting to see if this unconventional time off has had a significant effect on accuracy.