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These are facts. Interpret them however you want.
Matthew Berry, a sports-famous fantasy football expert, used to do a column called “100 Facts” before each season. In it, he presents the titular 100 facts about football, stripped of context, cherry-picked to tell a short story he found interesting.
His takeaway, if I may paraphrase a much better writer, was that facts are simply opinions loosely grounded in reality. Every fact you ever see, on a TV broadcast, on Twitter, in your Whatsapp group chats, is meant to sway you just a little bit towards a particular viewpoint. It’s up to you, the audience, to absorb these as you will. This is true even — especially — beyond sports.
Perhaps you take facts at face value, prisoner to the narrow confines of the fact-sayer’s viewpoint, only able to see through a keyhole in the door the tiny sliver of “reality” they’re portraying. That’s OK most of the time, but you better be very, very confident in the source. Remember: volume is not the same as veracity. Perhaps you face facts with a curiosity to learn more: other facts that make up contextual knowledge, like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.
Sports is no different than any other realm (we are still talking about sports, right?). There really isn’t such a thing as “cherry-picking” anyway. We’re not machines; we can’t absorb every bit of info to come to some grand Truth. But some people provide more pieces of the puzzle than others — those are the ones you want to keep around.
Below I’ve compiled a list of facts about several players and teams. They are explicitly cherry-picked to tell a short story that I find interesting. I hope you do as well.
Stats are from Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.
Philadelphia’s Matisse Thybulle led the league in deflections per 36 minutes last season.
Thybulle played 25.5 minutes per game in the regular season.
Thybulle shot 31% from three during that time; half of his shot attempts were long balls.
Thybulle averaged 15.2 minutes per game in the playoffs.
Three years ago, Trail Blazer Anfernee Simons was in the 2nd percentile for defensive Estimated Plus/Minus, which attempts to summarize defensive impact in one number.
Two years ago, he was in the 1st percentile (he was the third-worst defender in basketball, by this metric).
Last season, he “improved” to the 9th percentile.
Last season, Simons also averaged 17 points per game and shot over 40% from three on a high volume of difficult, often off-the-dribble shots.
Anfernee Simons just signed a 4-year, $100 million extension to keep him in Portland for some time.
The Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 23.9 drives per game last season, most in the league.
The Thunder’s starting five were woeful from the three-point line last season: none of the team’s starters shot above league-average from deep.
The Thunder just drafted seven-footer Chet Holmgren, who shot 42.1% from three in Summer League on solid volume.
The Los Angeles Clippers will pay an estimated $145 million in luxury tax during the 2022-2023 season.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have played 80 regular season games together over the last three seasons.
The Warriors will pay an estimated $147 million in luxury tax during the 2022-2023 season.
The Warriors won the 2022 NBA Championship.
After trading Derrick White and Dejounte Murray for draft picks, the Spurs’ current projected starting point guard next season is Tre Jones.
Jones averaged 16 minutes per game last year, his second season, and shot 19.6% from three.
The Spurs have only tanked once in the last 25 years, and it resulted in Tim Duncan.
After being traded from Sacramento to Indiana, the Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton averaged 17.5 points and nearly 10 assists per game, with excellent efficiency and decent defense.
Indiana went 6-20 in the 26 games Haliburton played for them.
The Brooklyn Nets still have Durant and Kyrie, for now, and added Royce O’Neale and TJ Warren this offseason.
Warren hit more than 40% of his threes in his last two full seasons and is a career 15.5 points per game scorer.
Warren has played 0, 4, 67, and 43 games in his last four seasons.
The Phoenix Suns were an astonishing 33-9 in clutch games (defined as a game being within five points in the last five minutes of a match) during the regular season and 3-1 in the playoffs.
The Phoenix Suns lost four games to the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the playoffs where the margin was never closer than six points in the fourth quarter (the last two games by a combined 60 points).