Something has been missing this NBA season, and that’s jump ball statistics. Updating wins and losses and separating open tips from tie-ups no longer felt meaningful, despite the stats themselves already being meaningless, after we lost two jump ball legends in Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. But the show must go on. Every game still begins with an opening tip, and they still appear in play-by-play data. After 75 games from each team, it’s time to move forward.
Below are the updated stats that go back to 1997, but you can view the entire dashboard here which includes jump balls in overtimes, the least pointless of the bunch. I labeled tie-ups as live jump balls, but hopefully everything else is self-explanatory. The introduction to these totals last season should still be a good explainer. There was also a series of interesting tidbits if you’re into that sort of thing.
Here’s what immediately stuck out when viewing results not just from this season, but over the last two decades.
Drummond’s jump ball (and rebounding) success were covered extensively by Tom Haberstroh during the previous postseason, and the Pistons center continued where he left off. At 73-14, It doesn’t take strong filters to realize the season Drummond’s having, at least with jump balls. His win percentage of 84 has been this year’s best, minimum 10 contests, and he’s now second when looking at career win rates since 1997.
However, most of Drummond’s jump balls have been opening tips, where he’s 66-14 this season. His 82.5 percent win rate leads everyone this season by at least 11 percent, but it was also good enough to squeak into first place when looking at success on opening tips over entire careers:
If Drummond plays and starts every game the rest of the season, he has at least five jump balls left to contest. Winning all of them would put him in first place in career win percentage, and remains the leader in specifically opening tips if he wins four.
The longest losing streak since 1997 belongs to Dino Radja with 23, but it could be longer since it started in 1997, the first season with play-by-play data. Regardless, that streak is currently contested by Frank Kaminsky and Dirk Nowitzki. There are upsides to starting each of them at center, but winning jump balls isn’t one of them. Kaminsky is currently 0-15 this season after going 1-9 record during his rookie campaign. He holds the highest current losing streak at 20, but likely won’t add or snap it as long as Cody Zeller’s in the starting lineup.
Nowitzki currently holds a losing streak of 17 and a 4-33 record overall. Kaminsky’s win rate would be the worst in a season since 1997, minimum 15 jump balls, but double the filter to 30 and Nowitzki would fall below David Lee’s 8-39 and Luis Scola’s 17-77 records in 2010. On a positive note, Nowitzki won the only jump ball he contested in an overtime.
Lastly, David Lee came into this season with a losing streak of 17 that started in the 2011-12 season, but it snapped at 18 after defeating Jonas Valanciunas. Beno Udrih still sits at 15 straight losses. Both streaks, along with the highest winning and losing streaks over the last two decades, have been written about here.
When looking at 10 jump balls or more, Andrew Wiggins is second in winning percentage at 80, 8-2 with a half-dozen games to go. Meanwhile, now with a career win rate of 71 percent, Giannis Antetokounmpo is fourth in win percentage, minimum 50 contests. It’s not the largest sample over multiple years, but now he’s special for yet another season, even if this one’s weird.
Antetokounmpo’s record reminded me of Vince Carter, who unfortunately has no recorded jump balls this season. The Grizzlies wing is 15th in win percentage, but doesn’t seem likely to move up any further.
Nurkic fever started right from the opening tip. Well, sort of. The Blazers center arrived with a record of 10-19 and started 1-6 with Portland, but over the next four weeks he went 17-2. The injury is unfortunate for several far more important reasons, but it’s still a turnaround worth noting here.
There’s plenty to look at and note, but of course these are still raw totals and percentages. Maybe things change a bit if we adjust for opponents like Justin Willard did last season, but that’s outside of my capabilities.
As a reminder, while these jump ball stats are as of Apr. 3, up-to-date stats can be found here.