NBA 2017-18 Season: Top 5 Teams in transition scoring

Lakers' Julius Randle
Lakers' Julius Randle
Achyut Dubey

When teams get out and run, trying to outpace the opposition on their way to a quick bucket, that's when transition offense begins to take shape in a basketball game.

It usually is initiated by a block or a rebound followed by a quick outlet pass, catching the opposing team off-guard. In all the cases possible, it upgrades the efficiency of the team on the offensive end of the floor.

Transition offense generates from a strong backline of defense which can stop the opposition in its path. Active hands on defense are a boon for the teams who like to run and capitalize on a turnover, and extract the most out of the fastbreak realm.

The following teams led the effort in fastbreak scoring for the league last season and were the most lethal to commit a turnover against. Let's take a look at the dynamics and versatility involved in making such a rhythmic(yet fast-paced at the same time) style of play successful.

#5 New Orleans Pelicans - 20.8 points per game

The Pelicans averaged 111.7 points per game as a team during the 2017-18 regular season.
The Pelicans averaged 111.7 points per game as a team during the 2017-18 regular season.

Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry preaches that fast break is all about consistent rhythm rather than just running all-out. All that matters for him is that the players run into their spacing straight out of transition.

Just like all the other experts of the game, Gentry knows in order to be able to have a high percentage transition offense, a competitive line of defense is a must. And having two of the best big men in the league protecting the rim would have helped his cause.

The New Orleans Pelicans had 19.4 possessions in transition per game(more often than all but three teams in the NBA.) during the last season and a transition frequency of 17.4%(5th most in the league), scoring 1.07 point per possession in transition.

Moreover, the presence of Jordan Crawford played a huge part as he averaged 3.4 fastbreak points per game last year. To put things into perspective, his fastbreak points per 36 minutes (5.2) was comparable with NBA stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James and John Wall.

#4 Cleveland Cavaliers - 21.3 points per game

Kevin Love, LeBron James & Dwyane Wade of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Kevin Love, LeBron James & Dwyane Wade of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cavaliers did a lot in transition and gathered a majority of their fastbreak points trying to outrun their opponents who were unable to run back for defense.

Although they are fourth in terms of transition points per game, their efficiency in transition(60.8%) is more than the #1 team on this list. This is partly due to the abundance of Love's full-court touchdown heaves to LeBron on the other end of the floor throughout the season.

Though their season was turbulent (to say the least), the LeBron-led Cavs were devastatingly efficient when they got out and ran. The defending Eastern Conference Champs conjured an impressive 18.9 transition possessions per game during the 2017-18 regular season.

It's true that they can possibly never be a running and gunning team like the Warriors (more so now that LeBron has left), but if they can ratchet up their defense for the upcoming season, they do have the legs to outrun a majority of their rivals in transition.

#3 Milwaukee Bucks - 22.8 points per game

Malcolm Brogdon, Giannis Antetokounmpo & Kris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks
Malcolm Brogdon, Giannis Antetokounmpo & Kris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks' entry might raise some eyebrows, knowing that the team lies near the bottom of the league, in terms of pace, courtesy Coach Jason Kidd.

Although the Milwaukee coach wasn't worried about pace, the team found itself ranked second in transition frequency last season, with 19.4% of their possessions coming in transition. Ironically, they are sandwiched in between the Lakers(19.5%) & the Warriors(18.6%), two of the most fast-paced teams in the league.

Another shocker of a start being that they ranked second in the league in regards to possessions in transition per game(20.5), trailing only the Lakers(22.1).

Armed with dynamic playmakers in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton, the Milwaukee Bucks have solidified themselves as one of the elite teams in transition across the league.

There's plenty to be said about the way they played in the past season, but the modus operandi in which they controlled fastbreak on both ends might well be something they would have worked to maintain.

#2 Golden State Warriors - 23.3 points per game

The Golden State Warriors' Go-to lineup.
The Golden State Warriors' Go-to lineup.

Warriors might have very well taken the first spot on this list, considering the negligible gap in transition points per game, between the 1st and 2nd in this domain.

As is the norm, the Warriors move the ball around more than any other team in the league. Midway through the regular season, seven Warriors (Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Zaza Pachulia, Andre Iguodala and Jordan Bell) had led the team in assists.

Moreover, they pulled down an average 35.1 rebounds per game last season, making the environment conducive for fastbreak plays straight off the rim. Although the stats suggest that the Warriors rack up fast-break points far more efficiently at home, their superhuman ability to relentlessly pile up points before defenses can blink transcends the arena factor.

The Dubs ran 18.6%(3rd highest in the league) of their offense in transition, facilitating an impressive 20.2(also 3rd highest in the league) transition possessions per game.

#1 Los Angeles Lakers - 23.4 points per game

The average age of the Lakers roster was 23.7 years last season.
The average age of the Lakers roster was 23.7 years last season.

One of the youngest rosters in the league last season, didn't act like its age in terms of mind-numbing transition offense.

Lakers had the most possessions in transition per game (22.1) in the 2017-18 season, and scored 1.06 point per such possession.

From Brandon Ingram to Kyle Kuzma to Julius Randle, everybody contributed to laying the foundation for solid defensive possessions which eventually turned into transition points. Running the floor is what the young LA legs do best, and so, if Lopez blocked a shot or grabbed a rebound, there was always a high chance that there'd be a recipient to that full-court pass on the other end.

That's what Coach Walton has always wanted, for his bigs to find a guard in order to drive transition once they grab a board.

While Ball constantly exploited the opposition's inability to get back on defense, Josh Hart and Julius Randle were just as valuable by starting and finishing multiple breaks. Starting center Brook Lopez was another vital factor.

The Lakers wouldn’t have gotten so many fast-break opportunities in the first place, had it not been for their competitive defense.

Edited by Abhinav Munshi


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