Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Russell Westbrook among players leading NBA in weird, quirky, surprising stats

The NBA has been at the forefront of advanced analytics as much as any major professional sport, and it’s left us with a bevy of intricate and esoteric minutiae to peruse at our leisure. With many fans around the globe confined to their homes for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus pandemic, suddenly more time has opened up to dig into the most specific of numbers.

Last week we took a look at 10 NBA players putting up historic seasons before the hiatus, and now we’ll delve into some of the more quirky, surprising and downright baffling stats from the 2019-20 season. If it happens during an NBA game, chances are there’s a stat for it, and we’ve highlighted several of the more interesting categories. Here we go.

*All stats from and Synergy Sports Technology

Charges drawn (total)

Anyone who watched February’s All-Star game quickly became acquainted with Lowry’s penchant for seeking out and drawing offensive fouls, so it’s not a surprise to see his name at the top of the list. Harrell doesn’t seem like a typical charge-drawer, but with his lack of shot-blocking as an undersized center, it makes sense that he’s adept at beating penetrators to the spot and getting into perfect position. Wagner is by far the biggest shock of the group — not only because he’s not yet a big name in NBA circles, but also because of his staggering lack of minutes compared to the others atop this list.

Due to injuries, the second-year center has played over 1,000 fewer minutes than Lowry and Harrell this season, giving Wagner a whopping 1.36 charges drawn per 36 minutes — compared to 0.6 from Lowry and Harrell. It’s safe to say Wagner has supplanted Ersan Ilyasova as the league’s charge-drawing maestro. Now please enjoy this glorious 55-second supercut of Mo Wagner taking charges this season (we strongly recommend turning the volume up for maximum entertainment).

Consecutive games with at least one turnover (active streaks)

OK, you caught me. I just included this stat so to highlight Westbrook’s unfathomable achievement of 300 consecutive games with at least one turnover. Nobody’s active streak is even in the same stratosphere, and the closest player since 1983-84 (as far back as the streak search goes) is Westbrook’s very own teammate James Harden, whose streak of 239 games with a turnover came to an end this past December in a 115-109 win over the Suns (side note: Harden went 3-of-17 from the 3-point line that game). Westbrook’s turnover madness gets even more uncanny, however, when you realize that he also has a streak of 179 games that ended the game before his current streak started. So that means Westbrook has committed at least one turnover in 479 of his last 480 games. He’s an incredible player so this is just one of those weird stats, but it’s pretty unfathomable.

Deflections (per game)

Sometimes stats are misleading, but this one seems to fall right in line with the eye test. The leaders in deflections, in addition to the top three, include names like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Marcus Smart and Robert Covington — generally considered to be some of the best and most active defenders in the league.

Seconds per touch

*minimum 60 touches per game

Harden draws significant criticism for supposedly ruining the game and boring fans by holding the ball for the duration of the shot clock before finally deciding to shoot or pass, however the stats prove that theory doesn’t exactly hold weight. As you can see, Young and Lillard actually hold the ball longer than Harden, on average, and Young even averages more dribbles per touch. The addition of Russell Westbrook and Houston’s increased pace this season have clearly been factors, as last year Harden led the league by far with 6.37 seconds per touch.

Distance traveled (per game)

It should come as no surprise that the players who run the most per game are all shooting guards who consistently work off of screens. Not only that, but they also spend a lot of time chasing opposing shooting guards around screens on the other end, which adds up to a serious workout every game. Watch how much distance McCollum covers on this typical Blazers possession, with Booker chasing him most of the way.

Average speed (miles per hour)

It’s not always how far you travel — sometimes it’s how fast — and Murray has a sizeable lead on the rest of the league in that department. The third-year guard uses his long legs and speed to get around the court faster than any player in the NBA on offense (5.12 miles per hour), and moves quickly on the defensive end as well (4.23 MPH) as he chases some of the league’s fastest players at both guard positions.

Passes made (per game)

You’d expect facilitators like Jokic (essentially the Nuggets’ point guard in the half court) and Simmons (the 76ers’ actual point guard) to move the ball quite a bit during the game — they’re both among the league leaders in assists. However, Sabonis might come as a bit of a shock, making more passes per game than playmakers like LeBron James and Lonzo Ball. Sabonis is third on the Pacers in assists, but consistently initiates their offense either at the top of the key or in the post through dribble hand-offs, which means he’s passing the ball quite a bit.

Late-shot clock scoring (less than four seconds remaining)

*minimum 100 possessions

  • Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets: 1.019 points per possession
  • Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: 1.015 PPP
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 1.008 PPP

The shot clock is ticking down to zero and your team needs a bucket — who do you trust? If you’re the Nuggets, Wizards or Thunder, you have some very capable hands to direct the ball toward. Jokic is shooting 51.1 percent with the shot clock at four seconds or fewer, which leads the league, and Beal isn’t far behind at 49.9 percent. The fact that Gilgeous-Alexander performs so well in these situations speaks to the poise and control with which the second-year guard plays, and it shows his ability to create his own shot with supreme knowledge of the clock.

Loose Balls Recovered (per game)

This one was a bit surprising, as you might not expect All-Stars and MVP contenders to be hitting the floor with such regularity, but that’s part of what makes them great. An interesting note is that Antetokounmpo recovers over twice as many loose balls on the offensive end than on defense, with nobody else in the top 20 coming close to that ratio.

Percentage of defensive loose balls recovered

*minimum one loose ball recovered per game

Paul is often referred to as a bulldog, and this is part of the reason why — when the future Hall of Famer goes for a loose ball, he gets it more frequently than any other player in the league. It’s no surprise that Harris and Dunn, two long, hustling wings, are also quick to the ball when it’s up for grabs. Notably, LeBron James is sixth on the list, grabbing 61.3 percent of defensive loose balls he goes for.

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