Ranking the NBA’s 5 Best and Worst Offenses Halfway Through 2017-18
Championship odds come courtesy of TopBet. 14. As always, please recheck these lines before deciding on a wager, as they’re subject to shift following each night’s games. Rankings are determined by looking at the NBA’s offensive rating metric—points scored per 100 possessions.
Five Best Offenses
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (+550)
Offensive Rating: 110.2
That the Cleveland Cavaliers don’t rank better than fifth is almost a disappointment—but only because their defense is so bad. They’re 29th in points allowed per 100 possessions. That renders them a fantastic over bet, yet at the same time, it also means a fifth-ranked offense isn’t good enough.
On the bright side, their most-used lineup, which features Kevin Love at center and Jose Calderon at point guard, scores like the best team in the league—and then some. Though that rating declines when subbing out Calderon for Isaiah Thomas, it should technically improve with him in the long run.
And then, of course, there’s the simple fact this Cavs squad still has LeBron James, who, despite a recent slump, is turning in one of his most efficient offensive performances ever.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves (+6000)
Offensive Rating: 110.4
The Minnesota Timberwolves are defying logic. They shouldn’t be here, at No. 4, in front of the Cavaliers.
They don’t shoot enough three-pointers, for starters. They’re 28th in three-point attempt rate. Conversely, they’re sixth in long-mid-range frequency, which ranks among the least efficient shot in basketball.
How do they finish in fourth then? Well, they’re opportunistic in transition, and no team is averaging more points per possession after forcing a steal. Jimmy Butler has also proved to be a free-throw machine in crunch time, which drums up their appeal quite a bit. They’ll need to improve their shot profile overall at some point, but they have the offensive talent necessary to stick here.
3. Toronto Raptors
Offensive Rating: 110.9
Woo boy, are the Toronto Raptors dangerous on the offensive end. Not only have they elevated their pace and three-point attempts, but they’ve unleashed the superstar version of DeMar DeRozan.
The All-Star 2-guard—who’s playing a lot more 3 these days—is running twice as many pick-and-rolls per game as Kyle Lowry, who used to be his crutch. On top of that, during the time DeRozan has spent on the floor without Lowry this season, the Raptors are scoring more than 110 points per 100 possessions—another top-tier mark.
Get used to them hovering, convincingly, inside the top five. They’re not going anywhere.
2. Houston Rockets (+300)
Offensive Rating: 112.6
Many have flirted with the idea that the Houston Rockets could end up with the NBA’s most dangerous offense. While it looks like they’ll fall a little short, the notion is hardly crazy.
After all, on the rare occasions, they’ve been at full strength, the Rockets have been blitzing opponents. Consider this: In the 368 minutes James Harden and Chris Paul have shared the court, they’re pumping in nearly 119 points per 100 possessions—which would rank first on the offensive rating scale by more than six full points.
1. Golden State Warriors (-225)
Offensive Rating: 113.6
Most saw this coming. At the very least, if you were told the Rockets wouldn’t have the league’s best offense, you knew the Golden State Warriors would be responsible for their displacement.
The reigning NBA champions have battled some awkward shooting issues. Kevin Durant saw his efficiency drop a little bit while Stephen Curry recovered from an ankle injury, while neither Draymond Green nor Andre Iguodala are shooting close to a league-average clip from deep.
But the Warriors still have the NBA’s best true shooting percentage—combined measured of two-point, three-point and free-throw efficiency—by a comfortable margin, and they’ve been absolute fire whenever Curry is on the floor, scoring more than 120 points per 100 possessions.
Five Worst Offenses
26. Memphis Grizzlies (+50000)
Offensive Rating: 102.8
There was technically a tie for the fifth-worst offense in the NBA between the Brooklyn Nets and Memphis Grizzlies. We’re giving Brooklyn the benefit of the doubt over Memphis, because its shot profile and pace combination is much better.
Plus, the Grizzlies, unlike the Nets, have a star option. Even with Mike Conley nursing Achilles issues, they have Marc Gasol as a hub. The Nets, meanwhile, are missing both Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell, who were billed as their two best players entering this year. And finally, Brooklyn is scoring like a top-10 attack whenever Spencer Dinwiddie is running point.
The Grizzlies don’t have a similar feel-good story right now. Tyreke Evans has been balling, but he’s the extent of their success. Gasol has been a major disappointment, and the team isn’t shooting enough threes in the aftermath of head coach David Fizdale’s firing.
27. Phoenix Suns (+200000)
Offensive Rating: 102.8
Have the Phoenix Suns shown signs of offensive improvement at times? Absolutely. But we cannot expect much more than this from a team that doesn’t have a real point guard option after trading Eric Bledsoe and releasing Mike James.
Devin Booker is a more than serviceable passer as a 2-guard. His efficiency has improved right along with his volume, and he’s honed his skills when running the pick-and-roll—all good things. But he’s not surrounded by nearly enough shooting, particularly in the frontcourt, and T.J. Warren is the only one of his teammates also capable of creating his own shot.
Expect the Suns to remain mostly anemic on the efficiency scale all year—even while they play at the NBA’s third-fastest pace.
28. Chicago Bulls (+50000)
Offensive Rating: 101.2
If there’s any outfit in the bottom five that can play itself outside the doldrums, it would be the Chicago Bulls.
In the 20 games since Nikola Mirotic made his season debut, they’re 15th in points scored per 100 possessions—pleasantly mediocre. Pairing him with rookie Lauri Markkanen and/or Bobby Portis has given way to more regular explosions, and Kris Dunn’s improvement as a pick-and-roll distributor cannot go unnoticed.
With Zach LaVine now back in the fold after recovering from a torn ACL, the Bulls are a team that could play themselves into good over-bet territory by year’s end. And that’s even if they wind up dealing Mirotic by the Feb. 8 deadline.
29. Los Angeles Lakers (+50000)
Offensive Rating: 101.1
Don’t hold your breath for the Los Angeles Lakers’ offense to improve.
Sure, they could become more efficient in transition, where they rank 29th in points scored per possession. But their half-court machine—which also ranks 29th in points scored per possession—figures to remain under a permanent strain.
Rookies Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, along with sophomore Brandon Ingram, are all given free reign on the more glamorous end. And whenever a team depends on that much youth, it’ll more likely than not live inside the bottom three for an entire year.
30. Sacramento Kings (+200000)
Offensive Rating: 100.2
The Sacramento Kings are going to finish with the NBA’s worst offense this season. Go ahead and write that down.
There’s just no clear path for this team to do anything else. Their mishmash of veterans and youngsters has made for a wildly inconsistent rotation. Head coach Dave Joerger has given 400 or more minutes of total court time to 12 different players, and he doesn’t have this team shooting threes; the Kings are 29th in three-point-attempts.
Short of a midseason detonation from two to three kiddies, Sacramento will remain here, in last place on the offensive ladder, through the end of the schedule.
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