The 2016-17 season is halfway done; here's what you need to know
Believe it or not, this NBA season is more than 50 percent over.
Of course, that's about the time that the rest of the sports world starts to pay attention to professional basketball. So whether you're a die-hard who's been on board since opening night or simply looking for something to fill the void after your favorite NFL team was eliminated from the playoffs, here's everything you need to know about the 2016-17 season, summed up in 15 stats, facts and numbers.
The number: NBA players are on pace to draw 867 technical fouls this season.
That would be 165 more than last season and 74 more than the year before. In fact, 2016-17 is on track to be the most technical-heavy season since 2012-13, when players were whistled for ... 867 technicals.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNoah Graham
We could have the worst playoff team of the past 30 seasons
The number: 34 wins.
There's a ridiculous dropoff from seventh place in the Western Conference (the Grizzlies, 25-18) to eighth (the Nuggets, 17-23). At this rate, Denver would make the postseason with 34 wins — the fewest for a playoff squad in a non-lockout season since 1987-88, when the San Antonio Spurs claimed the eighth seed with just 31 wins.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is joining Kareem-Abdul Jabbar in the record books
The numbers: At least 20.0 points, 5.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks per game.
Since the NBA-ABA merger, Abdul-Jabbar is the only player to average the above stat line for a full season — and he did it twice, in 1975-76 and 1978-79. Antetokounmpo currently averages 23.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.1 blocks per game, along with 1.8 steals.
Benny SieuBenny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis have an incredibly rare skill set
The numbers: Making at least one 3-pointer while blocking two shots per game.
Embiid and Porzingis aren't quite in the same rarefied air as Antetokounmpo with Kareem, but their skill set is the future of the NBA. The only other rotation players to match those numbers for a full season have been Serge Ibaka and Raef LaFrentz.
Neither of those names particularly jumps off the page; then again, neither of those players had the star power of Embiid and Porzingis. Couple this inside-outside game with their overall talent, and the rest of NBA is in trouble moving forward.
Bill StreicherBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Dirk Nowitzki's career is coming to an end
The number: Dirk is 11th in minutes played on the Mavs this season.
Injuries have limited the Big German for almost the entire 2016-17 season. He's never finished outside the top five in minutes played for Dallas in a full season, and there's still time for him to make his mark on the Mavs. Yet Nowitzki is leaving little doubt that next year will be his last in the Association.
Isaiah Thomas is the most prolific Celtic since Larry Bird
The number: 28.4 points per game
Only two Celtics have ever averaged more than 28.0 points per game for a full season: Larry Bird (twice, in 1984-85 and 1987-88) and John Havlicek (1970-71).
IT4 is on pace to surpass Paul Pierce's best scoring season by 1.6 points per game.
Greg M. CooperUSA TODAY Sports
Gregg Popovich replaced Tim Duncan with the Spurs' best offense ever
The number: 113.8 points per 100 possessions
That's the Spurs' offensive rating according to Basketball-Reference, which would be the most efficient offensive season in franchise history. Meanwhile, the Spurs are still a top five defense thanks to Kawhi Leonard and the ever-improving LaMarcus Aldridge.
James Harden is playing better than Steve Nash ever did
The number: 11.7 assists per game
Harden is dishing nearly a dozen dimes per game while also pouring in 28.7 points. At the height of his MVP powers, Nash averaged "only" 11.6 assists to go along with 18.6 points.
And at the halfway point of the season, there's little doubt Harden is the 2016-17 MVP.
Carmelo Anthony is having his worst offensive season ever in New York
The number: 19.3 PER
Player Efficiency Rating is far from a great stat, but it does a nice job of summing up a player's offensive contributions. Anthony's PER has fallen off in almost every successive season with the Knicks, from a height of 24.8 in 2013 to that sub-20.0 mark this year.
The main culprit? Nearly 60 percent of Anthony's shots this year come from outside of 16 feet, a 10 percentage point increase over the past four seasons.
LeBron James is absolutely on cruise control until the Finals
The number: 7.9 assists per 36 minutes
LeBron knows nothing matters this season until June, so he's not going to risk his body by driving down the lane over and over again. Instead, he's letting his younger teammates carry the load while he stands around dishing out the most assists per 36 minutes of his entire career.
That's not LeBron being unselfish. That's the King being smart.
Anthony GruppusoAnthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
The Raptors rely on isolation and free throws, which is a doomed strategy
The number: 21.1 free throws made per game
Most NBA observers point to Toronto's lack of 3-point shooting as its Achilles heel, but the Raptors are actually pretty accurate from downtown.
What might be a problem for Kyle Lowry & Co. is their reliance on free throws. The Raptors are No. 1 in the NBA in makes from the charity charity stripe, and they're 29th in the league in assists. That kind of predictable offense works in the regular season. When fouls become harder to come by in the playoffs, though, Toronto is going to be in trouble.
The NBA as a whole is making history across the board
The number: 3,280 3-point attempts
The Rockets average 40.0 3-point attempts per game; that's not a typo. At this rate, they would surpass the 2014-15 Rockets for the most 3-point attempts in a single season in NBA history by 600 shots. League-wide, teams are taking the most 3-point attempts per game ever, as well.
That's not the only history being made in 2016-17, though. The NBA is on pace for its best effective field goal percentage ever, the lowest league-wide turnover rate ever and the lowest offensive rebounding rate ever.
What does it all mean? More than ever, NBA teams are taking care of the ball, getting back on defense, and chucking 3-pointers because they realize how valuable those long-range shots really are.
The 2017 NBA Draft Lottery will be very, very interesting
The number: 29.6 percent chance at a top-three draft pick for the Lakers
After a hot start, Los Angeles is back in the NBA basement — and that might not be the worst thing in the world. The Lakers owe the 76ers their draft pick this summer unless it falls in the top three. And as of this writing, there's a 29.6 percent chance that Los Angeles will luck into such a pick.
And while we're here, we should note that the Celtics have a 25 percent chance of acquiring the No. 1 overall pick, thanks to their ability to swap draft picks with the NBA-worst Brooklyn Nets.
Getty ImagesHarry How
Russell Westbrook is still averaging a triple-double
The number: 30.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 10.3 assists per game.
There's nothing to say here, really; we just wanted to point out that 43 games into the season, Westbrook is still looking to join Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average a triple-double for a full season.
Draymond Green has the Warriors on pace for 70 wins
The number: 103.6 defensive rating
For all the focus on Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors offense, it's the Golden State defense that has impressed us the most this season.
KD has emerged as a fine rim-protector, but the Warriors' defense is really all about Green. Even after losing Andrew Bogut, this team managed to maintain its championship-level defense because Golden State's do-it-all forward is playing like the best defensive player in the NBA, including Kawhi Leonard.
If this isn't the year Green claims his first Defensive Player of the Year award, then there's something very wrong with the voting.