The Stars may shape destiny, but those Stripes can cost you a ballgame

Here are some early, 3-week rankings from NBA 2019-20. [All data reflects play through Monday, Nov. 11.]

Monty Williams’s Phoenix Suns seem to be the surprise of the opening weeks, along with Erik Spoelstra’s typically streaky Miami Heat. The Suns stand No. 1 in FG% (.475) but average nearly four fewer FTA’s per game than their opponents, while Miami’s pesky defense ranks first in 3FG% and second in opposition TO%.
Free-Throw Efficiency

The Indiana Pacers missed 31 FT’s in their first 10 games, their 3.10 misses per game the fewest in the league – but their opponents take 5.20 more foul shots than they do every game, the fourth-worst differential in the circuit.

On the other hand, Houston’s +7.00 FTA differential is the highest, but they rank No. 24 in per-game misses with 7.10.

The poster boys for NBA Free-throw Shooting most FOUL would be the 76ers, who take three fewer attempts but manage over seven-and-a-half more misses each night, ranking No. 28 and No. 23 respectively. (Atlanta and New Orleans also live in both these Bottom Ten’s.)

The only team in both Top Ten’s? Cleveland, No. 2 in per-game attempts (+6.33) and No. 8 in per-game misses (4.89).

The Crème de la Crème

Here are three Top Ten’s for ya, covering (a) the “Flow” of play, as measured by the differential in “Empty Possessions”; (b) differential in “Striping”; and (c) the sum of those two measurements.

(Re calculation: Empty Possessions are missed FG’s plus TO’s minus OR’s … and Stripes are successful 3FG’s minus missed FT’s. Stripes are then divided by two so the Stripe Factor can represent conversions, not points. The given data is per-game.)

Stops of Opponent -- Stripe Factor -- Combined Score

Milwaukee +6.30 -- Phoenix +2.56 -- Milwaukee +5.85
LA Lakers +4.67 -- Portland +1.50 -- Phoenix +4.95
Boston +3.33 -- Toronto +1.40 -- LA Lakers +4.45
Indiana +3.30 -- Washington +1.13 -- Boston +4.44
LA Clippers +3.30 -- Boston +.1.11 -- Toronto +3.50
Miami +2.67 -- Philadelphia +1.00 -- Miami + 3.45
Phoenix +2.56 -- Utah +0.95 -- Utah +3.35
Utah +2.40 -- Miami +0.78 -- Indiana +3.30
Toronto +2.10 -- Denver +0.72 -- LA Clippers +1.65
Oklahoma City +1.20 -- Dallas +0.70 -- Oklahoma City +1.40

Abacus Revelation for the Road

This is my Top Ten for the first three weeks of NBA 2019-20. (I’ll reveal the criteria as we go along, for those who may be curious as to my method. For now, I’ll just say it’s strictly number-based … in other words, no subjectivity or hometown bias.)

1. Boston (8-1)
2. Milwaukee (7-3)
3. Miami (6-3)
4. Phoenix (6-3)
5. LA Lakers (7-2)
6. Philadelphia (6-3)
7. Indiana (6-4)
8. Utah (7-3)
9. Denver (7-2)
10. Toronto (7-3)