Update on the NBA “luck factor” and the unlucky Bucks

My Running “Luck” Experiment

A couple of days ago on “Bucks Diary” I did a post in which I used dirty, filthy math and a bit of logical reasoning to try to pinpoint the exact “luck factor” in  NBA games.  Basically by “luck” I meant the number of games that are won by the weaker team.  At the time I wrote the post I estimated that luck factor to be between 67% and 71% (for the decade my dirty math suggested around 71%, for the last five years, around 67%).

In order to kind of test that hypothesis a little further, I’ve been doing a little non-scientific experiment.  I’ve been tracking the daily “win probabilities” posted on Basketball-Reference.com and comparing them to NBA game results to see how often the supposed “stronger” team prevailed.

So far, in the 43 games where Basketball-Reference.com has declared one team to have a higher win probability than another (I think the Phoenix-Portland game was 50%-50% so I threw that game out), the “stronger” team has prevailed only 30 times.

That comes out to 69.7%.  This is not, obviously, the “best evidence”, nor is it anything near conclusive proof, but it certainly doesn’t hurt my theory.

I will keep the tally running and keep you posted on the results.

Is the Bucks “unluckiness” really “luckiness”??

I know unluckiness is not a recognized English word, but either the Milwaukee Bucks are a very “unlucky” team or a very “lucky” team.  Here’s what I mean.

If you watched the game last night on ESPN rather than the Bucks Television Network you may have noticed a graphic they showed that illustrated the number of close games the Bucks have lost this season (I watched ESPN because I like listening to the way Hubie Brown talks.  He starts every single point he makes with either “Look, ___” or “Okay,___”.).  The Bucks seem to be very unlucky.  Those kind of close game outcomes are supposed to even out.

But they don’t for the Bucks.  And last season, according to “Pythagorean Wins” (basically the number of wins you should have had based on point differential) the Bucks were 4 or so games “unlucky” as well.

But were they unlucky to lose, or lucky to be so close?  Pythagorean,  as  I  pointed out, would say “unlucky to lose”.  But “Marginal Win Score”, the metric I use in most of my basketball analysis (see the page I posted for an explanation of it), has in both seasons predicted the Bucks wins much more closely.  So it would say “lucky to be close”.

Why?  And what is going on here?  That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

Upcoming Posts

I will have a Win Chart analysis of the Chicago Bulls struggles (Point Guard Derrick Rose… among many other Bulls… is playing really horribly) along with a fresh NBA power ranking later today.

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3 Responses to “Update on the NBA “luck factor” and the unlucky Bucks”

  1. Blake Says:


    Why the hell is Charlie Bell guarding Kobe and LeBron?? What happened the Mbah a Moute!?

    I swear if Bell is on Tyreke Evans tonight I’m gonna be pissed.

    • tywill33 Says:


      My main man, you found me!! And, btw — get the fuck out of my brain, because your thoughts were EXACTLY my thoughts! Why wasn’t Moute on Kobe late?? When did Charlie Bell become our defensive ace?

      Also, why does Andrew Bogut wimp out whenever he meets a physical center?? I need to do a post on that.

  2. Blake Says:

    Not only is Bell just an above average defender but he’s 6’3″…how tall is LeBron, 6’8″? What was Skiles thinking? Mbah a Moute helped hold LeBron to 13 last time we played (or something like that). Bell shouldn’t have been on him especially after Kobe dismantled him in the 4th and OT. I just don’t get it.

    And Bogut has really been horrible these past 2 games, foul trouble held him out when we really needed him. And then when we played the Lakers, he’s out practically the whole game, Skiles brings him in with a few minutes left to play and how does Andrew repay the team? He gets an offensive rebound but is stripped of the ball with a minute to go when we were up by 4. I was pissed to say the least.

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