BOSTON – No matter how talent-rich or talent-deprived a team in the NBA is, they all talk about wanting to play with more pace.
Pace is defined as the number of possessions a team has per 48 minutes of play.
While pace is important, having a lot of shots at scoring doesn’t necessarily make for a good offensive team or a successful one.
The NBA is a copycat league, which is in part why there’s a high level of importance placed on playing with great pace.
But what teams have discovered is that in the process of trying to play with great pace, more important is finding a pace that best suits your team.
That’s why a team like the Golden State Warriors can win a title with a high pace, while the following year a team like Cleveland can win it all and be among the league’s worst in terms of their pace.
Seeing the past two NBA champions succeed with two varying levels of pace, makes one wonder just how valuable is it when it comes to being a component of a title contender?
Based on the last decade of NBA champions, having a high pace is far from being a prerequisite for winning an NBA title.
In fact, Golden State’s title run in 2015 was the only team in the last decade to win an NBA title AND lead the league in pace in the same season.
Only two teams (Golden State in 2015 and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009) finished in the top 10 in pace in their title run.
Conversely, three teams (Cleveland last year; Miami in 2013 and San Antonio in 2007) finished in the bottom-10 in pace en route to winning championships.
And closer to home, Boston’s 2008 run towards Banner 17 featured a Celtics team that had a pace of 93.30, which ranked 19th in the NBA.
That’s why fans shouldn’t be overly alarmed about the Celtics now playing with a slower pace than they did a year ago.
This season, Boston’s pace is 98.89, which ranks 18th in the NBA compared to last season when they had a pace of 101.15, which ranked third in the NBA.
Meanwhile the Spurs who routinely finish near the bottom of the league in pace but remain a perennial title contender, are currently 27th in the NBA with a pace of 95.46 which isn’t that far off the pace of the Cleveland Cavaliers (95.48) when they won a title last spring.
And when you look at the squads that play with a high pace, those at the top rank among the worst teams in the NBA in terms of wins.
Six of the top 10 teams in pace have losing records, which includes the league’s top two in pace, Brooklyn (104.53) and Phoenix (104.32), which have a combined record of 9-21.