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Who plays the best transition defense in the NBA?

Some NBA teams like to push the ball and get out on the break. Others prefer to slow it down and run their offense in the half court. Transition offense is one of the things that establishes the identity of an NBA team, and most fans know which teams are deadly in an up-tempo game and which ones prefer a more methodical pace.

However, almost nobody knows which teams are effective at stopping their opponents from scoring the ball on the break. On the APBRmetrics message board,’s John Schuhmann took a stab at finding a formula to measure transition defense on a team level. Here’s what he did and found:

I came up with a little calculation to measure transition defense...

Opponents fast break points (per 100 poss.) - Own turnovers (per 100 poss.)

Not exactly the most precise way to look at it, but it provides some interesting results...

Best Teams (through Tuesday’s games)

1. Boston (-4.7)

2. Orlando (-3.6)

3. Oklahoma City (-3.5)

4. Charlotte (-2.9)

5. LA Clippers (-2.6)


30. Atlanta (+4.7)

29. Toronto (+3.5)

28. Golden State (+2.5)

27. New Jersey (+2.4)

26. Memphis (+2.3)

It’s a rough metric, but there are definitely some interesting findings there, especially at the very top and bottom. You wouldn’t think that Boston, with all of its aging veterans, would be great chasing fast teams up and down the court, but they’re easily the best team in the NBA at it -- I expect that Rajon Rondo’s ability to to run down players and passes in the open court has a lot to do with why Boston is so successful at defending the break. Meanwhile, Atlanta has some great athletes on their frontline, but they get absolutely torched by smaller teams. If Atlanta and Boston meet in the playoffs, Boston may be the team trying to push the pace against the Atlanta.