A Statistical Look At What Went Wrong In 2014-15


The Philadelphia 76ers season was a disappointment last year. I should tell you something you don’t know yet, right? With Joel Embiid missing the whole year, the Sixers only tallied up 18 wins, a game worse than last year, and also their worst season since 1996. This speaks a lot to how monumentally bad the season was. Let’s take a deeper look though, and see just how bad it was, and just how much the statistics speak to how things can be improved.

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First off, let’s look at the offensive rating, but before we go there, let’s talk about what exactly an offensive rating is. For some of us, that’s a foreign term that we couldn’t describe (including me prior to writing this post), but we still know that a higher number in this context is better.

Offensive ratings for a team is calculated by the amount of points scored during every 100 possessions. As noted by Basketball-Reference.com, it was developed by Dean Oliver, who was the author of Basketball On Paper.

So, if we calculate it, the maximum possible offensive rating a team could get would be around 300 (assuming no and-ones are put through on three point shots), due to all of these possessions being three pointers. The likelihood of this is incredibly small, and borderline impossible, but that gives us an idea of the standard of offensive rating.

So, what was the Sixers’ offensive rating last season? Not good, that’s for sure. They had a 95.5, which was actually last in the league last season. To put that in a perspective of last season, the Golden State Warriors (league champions) offensive rating was above 111.

Basketball-Reference also gives us a nice look at comparing the offensive rating to the rest of the league with their relative offensive rating statistics. The Warriors had a healthy jump on the league’s standards, with a relative offensive rating of 6.0, while the Sixers were noticeably very bad at -10.1.

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Now, talking about a monumentally bad season, I was curious to see just who bad this offensive rating was compared to the Sixers and their historically good franchise.

The last time the Sixers saw an offensive rating this bad, was the 1973-74 season, when they had an offensive rating of just 93.1, -4.6 relative to the rest of the league. Yes, that was last in the league as far as offensive rating in ‘74, as well.

This stat is riveting on its own, but becomes extremely mysterious once we look at the pace statistic. The Sixers’ pace last year was rated at sixth in the league. Again, let’s just refresh ourselves of what these mumbo-jumbo statistic terms actually mean.

Although it’s composed of a statistical formula, pace, at its core, is the number of possessions a team has every 48 minutes (length of a game). Obviously, you want to be holding the ball for longer, because that gives your opponent less opportunities to score.

The Sixers’ 2014-15 pace was 95.7, which put them at 6th out of the 30 teams in the NBA. Their relative pace was a 1.8, meaning they had a leg-up on the league average. You would think this would set them up nicely, since they held the ball longer than their opponents, typically.

Now, a poor offensive rating makes it clear why a team would not win games throughout the course of a year. If you’re getting outscored by an average of over 10 points every 100 possessions, no doubt, you’re going to lose a lot of games. But when this poor offensive rating goes along with a fast pace, it really shows us a negative side of the game. This means the Sixers are holding the ball a lot, but being incredibly ineffective with it.

Sure, keeping the ball in your possession is great, but if you can’t capitalize on that by scoring, does it help? Not much.

Luckily on the other side of the ball, things weren’t as drastically bad. The Sixers were 13th in the league as far as defensive pace (which is just offensive pace of their opponents). They were, however, 20th in points allowed per game, which isn’t fantastic.

In my opinion, it’s clear that the defense isn’t the problem. Sure, the stats show that the Sixers are largely mediocre on the defensive, but the stats scream clear cut issues on the offensive side of the ball. Having a good pace, but a bad offensive rating is one of the worst things a basketball team could produce statistically.

I’m hoping to see a swing in things, and hoping to see the Sixers keep their pace quick, and keep that number up high. However, while keeping this up, they must make more out of every single possession, and bring that offensive rating up.

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