How Pace Obscures How Well Blazers Play Offense

The Portland Trail Blazers, on the surface, aren't an intimidating offensive team. They average just 96.3 points per game, just 22nd in the league, with LaMarcus Aldridge leading the way individually with 22.3 points, and five other players in double-figure scoring. At 16.3 points per game, Wesley Matthews is the second-leading scorer on the team. (Stats from before the weekend action.)

Yet any team that faces the Trail Blazers knows better; they don't have a 39-29 record for nothing. Indeed, Portland's a better team than its per-game scoring average would have you believe, and it's a function of the glacial pace at which the team plays.

Pace measures how many possessions a given team uses, on average, per game. And because the Blazers bring up the rear in possessions--roughly 88.2 per game--their raw offensive numbers don't look impressive. But look deeper, by looking at their output on a per-possession basis, and you'll see their potency. Only 10 teams score more, on a per-possession basis, than Portland, but 21 teams score more per game.

This chart (click to enlarge) illustrates the differences between per-game and per-possession scoring:

As you can see, both metrics agree on the league's best offensive team (Denver) and worst (Milwaukee), but there are some irregularities in between once we adjust for pace. The Minnesota Timberwolves, for instance, rank eighth in per-game scoring, but just 23rd in points per 100 possessions. Portland and Minnesota have the highest distortion factor between the two metrics, which is why they stand out in particular as teams traditional points per game under- and overrates, respectively.

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