Zion’s first three games have been a whirlwind. Zion’s stats through those first three games have been insane! First, we got his seventeen straight points in game one. Then we got to see a more comfortable Zion put up an effortless fifteen points in his second game. Finally, we saw Zion notch his first 20-10 game against Boston en route to his first victory in the NBA.
The sample size is insanely small. However, the results are overwhelmingly positive. The guy isn’t even acclimated to the play speed of the NBA, and he is nearly unstoppable. Here’s what we have seen.
*All stats in this article were derived from NBA.com.(1/26/20) All lineup data is set with a minimum of 5 minutes on the floor. Advanced stats were sorted for players who played a minimum of 10 minutes per game.
Zion’s Stats Through Three Games
Per 100 Possessions
Zion’s Per 100 stats are astonishing for his first three games. I want to stress the small sample size again. He has only played 67 minutes. However, the stats are what they are. He ranks 4th in the NBA in scoring. Zion slots in as the 32nd best rebounder and the 9th best offensive rebounder. Even with the small sample size, those numbers might resemble something similar to what we might see from Zion long-term. Yet his 15th ranked field goal percentage might be sustainable, given his shot selection. As much as I hope he retains his 2nd ranked three-point percentage, we can expect that to normalize.
Zion’s offensive rating, 115.2, is positioned as the 14th best mark in the league. His defensive rating, 100.0, is the 21st best mark. There’s only one player in the league who can match or beat BOTH of those marks. His name is Dragan Bender, and he has only played 13.0mpg during seven games. In other words, Zion is putting up ELITE numbers in both metrics. For a super unfair comparison, Giannis Antetokounmpo has an offensive rating of 113.2 and a defensive rating of 98.3. The Bucks are an elite team. So it’s hard to get overly excited, especially after just three games. However, I should mention that Zion still isn’t playing at full speed. The rest of the league is in mid-season form. Zion is just crushing the competition as he works into shape.
Zion’s On/Off Stats
|ON/OFF||MIN||ORtg||DRtg||NETRtg||OREB%||DREB%||REB%||EFG%||TS%||PACE||PTS||OPP PTS||NET PTS|
Before we overreact to the stark difference between the team with Zion on the court versus off of it, we need to understand that his return has thrown a wrench in the rotations and the gameplan. Now that we have that covered, HOLY SHIT! Zion’s on/off stats through three games are eye-popping! For starters, the Pels get have gotten outscored by seventeen points when Zion is on the bench. On the flip side, they have outscored opponents by twenty-one points when he plays. When Zion has sat, the team’s offense takes a hit, and the defense nosedives beak first into a piling.
Zion being on the court has resulted in significant boosts to the teams EFG% and TS%. Furthermore, the team sees an increase of 5.6% to its offensive rebounding percentage, a 15.2% increase to its defensive rebounding percentage, and a 10.5% jump to its overall rebounding percentage. WOW! When a player gets thrown into the mix after being out for so long, you expect to see him weigh the team down initially. Zion is having the complete opposite effect when he plays. Also, don’t forget that the guy is a nineteen-year-old rookie. Even compared to the Pels numbers during Zion’s absence, he provides ample boosts to all of those same figures.
Zion’s Lineup Analysis
Now that we had fun diving into Zion’s impact on the floor let’s take a look at the lineups that Zion has been playing with. I am going to present which lineups he has spent the most time on the court with. Then, I’ll present which lineups have produced the best NETRtg.
Lineups W/ Most Minutes
|Jrue or Zo -BI-Zion-Favors||31||112.1||95.4||+16.7|
There are no real surprises here. Zion has spent most of his time on the court with the starting lineup. The results are, surprisingly, not bad. Even with Brandon Ingram being thrown for a loop with Zion’s return, the starters are still putting up elite numbers. Their rating rivals the starting lineups of some of the top teams in the league, such as the Bucks and Jazz. The other 5-Man lineup is the group that was on the floor during Zion’s seventeen point outburst against the Spurs. The rest of the data above is different subsets of the starting lineup. All of them have positive NETRtgs. This data also confirms what we have seen via the eye test with Zion and BI. Hopefully, that is something they figure out how to work going forward.
Lineups W/ Best Net Rating
|Frank-Hart or Moore-Zion||10||181.8||104.8||+77.1|
The same 5-man lineups show up again when looking at the best performing lineups. Those are the only two 5-man groups Zion has spent at least five minutes with on the court. That Spurs performance skews the rest of the lineups here. However, it is interesting that the lineup of Frank Jackson, E’Twaun Moore, Josh Hart, and Zion nearly maintained its offensive rating while dramatically improving its defensive rating in their only other stint on the floor. Overall, there is not a lot of hard data that can be derived from these lineups, given the small sample size. But it is fun to see which have been the most successful lineups.
What To Expect For Zion, Next?
As Zion sees more and more minutes, we can expect to see more steady lineups for the rookie. Aside from the starting lineup, we can expect to see more of Zion at center. The early returns have been pretty phenomenal. I also believe that more Zion at center is the key to getting Brandon Ingram back on track. A lineup with Ingram as the primary ball-handler flanked by Zion and three shooters could be deadly if you find the right mix. Likewise, a lineup of Zion, BI, Melli, Zo, and a 3&D guy like Hart could also be scary good. A stretch big, like Melli, might be the biggest beneficiary of Zion’s return. And, good perimeter defenders like Josh and Frank, who don’t need the ball on offense, might also see an uptick in playing time.
I’m sure Alvin Gentry will throw us all off with some wild lineups that aren’t even on our radar. One thing is for sure; every lineup with Zion is going to be must-see television.
Zion’s stats through three games are pretty video game worthy. I’ll be reassessing these stats and lineups as the year goes on, and we get more data. So expect updates! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more coverage on the Pelicans and Saints! Hold It!