NBA Coast-to-Coast (12/6/17)

By Frank Brank @realfrankbrank

In a new weekly article, NBA Coast-to-Coast, we'll begin breaking down trends in play and interesting tidbits in the NBA as they relate to team rankings, sports betting, and overall style of play. We may cover anything from recent trends in line movement to coaching rotations that may affect the outcome of games. In this week's segment, we'll look at the Philadelphia 76ers' defense and Rudy Gobert's impact for the Jazz defense.

The Most Underrated Unit
Defense will be the theme this week as we look into the 76ers' defenese as the most underrated unit in the NBA. First and foremost, let's look at individual players' dRPM (defensive real plus-minus) and where they rank this season among all NBA players:

Robert Covington +2.66 (10th)
Joel Embiid +2.62 (11th)
Ben Simmons +2.39 (15th)
Amir Johnson 1.98 (23rd)

Philly has built its own big three this season by standing out on defense. Covington, Embiid, and Simmons all rank in the top fifteen players on defense this season. Those three players are currently 26, 23, and 21 years old, respectively.

The 76ers have not only been impressive from an individual aspect, but their team defensive stats are approaching top of the NBA levels in many categories. From a team perspective this season, 76ers' opponents have a 49.7 eFG% (4th overall), 43.9 FG% (2nd), 33.4 3P%, and just 20.8 assists per 100 possessions (4th). If there is one weakness, Philadelphia commits the most fouls in the NBA. If there is one improvement to be made, it's committing fouls less frequently, providing fewer free points to oppoents.

Rudy Gobert's Return
Rudy Gobert missed eleven games for the Utah Jazz before returning this week. Gobert's impact on an NBA game is almost entirely seen on defense, but he's one of the most, if not the most, influential defensive players in the NBA. Our projections indicate that Gobert is projected to play at +4.4 dRPM for the rest of the season, only trailing Draymond Green's +4.5 dRPM projection at the moment.

When looking at on/off team statistics for Rudy Gobert and betting lines, we can assess Gobert's impact on a single NBA game. Over the last three seasons, the Utah Jazz have seen opponents have a +3.13 point boost in offensive rating when Gobert is off the court, along with +2.4 eFG% and +2.0% boost in total rebounds.

Currently, the Jazz have the top rated team defense in our rankings as Gobert has returned. With their rotations without Gobert, the Jazz only rank sixth overall. The betting market, as the standard for player and/or team impact, has shown vast swings in games Gobert has been an active participant.

In the 14 games in which Gobert has been expected to play this season, the average Jazz total is 198.4 points. In the 11 games that he's missed, Utah's average total sky rockets to 204.6 points. Now, that can be relative to pace and efficiency of the actual opponents Utah has faced in the games Gobert has played or not played; thus, we can dig deeper into our own model to find Gobert's true impact as most would expect it to be less than six points.

In our own model, against the average team, Gobert is worth about four points to the total for an NBA game. In fact, in Rudy Gobert's first game back from injury against Washington, the total moved downward more than four points from the opening number.