NBA's most athletic team: Nuggets

Advanced metrics illustrate that Denver's sky-high athleticism gives it an edge

Updated: March 20, 2013, 1:19 PM ET
By Bradford Doolittle | ESPN Insider
Kenneth FariedLayne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty ImagesKenneth Faried and the high-flying Nuggets are the most athletic team in the NBA, per ATH metrics.

We keep looking for reasons the Denver Nuggets can't win the West this season. After Denver extended its win streak to 13 in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, maybe it's time that we started looking for reasons the Nuggets can win their conference. Here's one: From top to bottom, the Nuggets are the most athletic team in the NBA.

Athleticism in a dictionary sense is a descriptive term that normally describes things like speed, quickness and jumping ability. Those physical qualities are measurable, too, and scouting websites have published and archived that kind of data for NBA prospects for several years. But that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about what I refer to as "applied athleticism." In a nutshell, I don't want to know a player's vertical leap. I want to know how well he translates his hops into measurable basketball production like rebounds and blocked shots.

The end result is "ATH," a statistical measure that attempts to quantify each player's production in categories that are most associated with athleticism. I've found it to be useful for things like translating how a player's statistics might change when going from one professional league to another, or from college to the pros, or from a smaller role to a bigger one. By weighting each player's ATH rating by minutes played, we can also calculate the metric for teams. No team ranks higher than the Nuggets this season, and few have in the past (see the chart at the bottom).