We're a week-and-a-half into the season, which means we're also in the heart of small sample sizes. For those unfamiliar with the disease of small sample sizes, it's simple: players and teams create a trend over a limited amount of games. Some of these trends can be sustainable, some of them are not.
A small sample can be anywhere from one game to even a year, depending on the context of the argument, debate or judgement being made. And because small sample sizes carry such a wide range of measurement, we all fall into the small sample size crutch. It's inevitable.
For "This Week in Small Sample Sizes," we'll take a look at some of the Cleveland Cavaliers' trends, stats and observations over the past week (or few games) and analyze them in two ways: what they mean in that sample size and the sustainability for the rest of the year. We'll break it down into three different categories: player, team and lineup numbers.
With that being said, let's get ready to overreact!
Kevin Love: where's the three-ball?
The number: 14-of-47 from three (29.8 percent)
Small sample size says: "He is no longer a good three-point shooter! He needs to be in the post like we've said all along!"
This is the beauty of small samples; the numbers lack any sort of context. Yes, Love has struggled behind the arc and yes, Love needs to be in the post more. Both of those can be agreed by looking at this number. However, when we dig a little deeper, a two things standout.
First, there hasn't been a defender within at least four feet on 39 of 44 of those attempts, which means he's getting the looks that both he and the Cavs want. He's currently shooting 30.8 percent on those 39 attempts. Shooting that poor on that amount of space for him (he's shot 38.6 percent on those attempts in the past two seasons) is well below average for him. The law averages would suggest that this number will rise.
The second thing is the injury he suffered in last year's playoffs. Coming off of a surgery to his his shooting shoulder, it was expected that his shot would struggle to begin the season as he shakes some rust off, and could still be the case. On some of the shots he's been missing, few of them have been way off. I would be surprised if his shot didn't get better as the season goes along.
Sustainability: Moderately Low
The defensive juggernaut Cavs?
The number: 96.1 defensive rating (8th best in the league)
Sample size says: "Who said we would still struggle on defense?"
Consider this: during last year's buzzsaw run by the Cavs after the trades and LeBron James's return from a two-week absence, their defensive rating only ranked 14th (their offense, however, was methodical) in that stretch and was five points higher than their current defensive rating. That logically means the Cavs shouldn't have to worry about their defense, right?
Well, no really. The defense has improved from last year, both from an individual standpoint and a team standpoint. LeBron James has been ultra-aggressive on that end, Love is giving an effort at affecting shots and Tristan Thompson continues to grow as a rim protector. That alone should be positive going forward for the Cavs as a really good defensive team.
Yet, similar to every small sample size, there is context that still needs to be put in place. These are the offensive rating of each team they've played, in order: 23rd, 29th, 10th, 28th, 11th, 28th, 24th. The Cavs are certainly better than they were on defense a year ago, but how much?
It's hard to make that judgment considering the teams they've faced. It'll be interesting to see how they fare once they face a very good offensive team.
Lineup alert: Delly-Mo-LeBron-Love-TT
The number: 70.9 net rating when these five play together
Small sample says: "PLAY DELLY MORE!!!!!"
My favorite aspect of small sample sizes are the lineups, simply because of the outrageous numbers (like this one) that stand out. Only three five-man lineups for the Cavs have played at least 25 minutes, and the other two are light years behind this unit.
Apparently good things happen when you play Matthew Dellavedova. And people aren't shy to let you know that.
Very High Moderately High Low