Archive for the ‘NBA Outside Stuff’ Category

NBA Rookie Point Guard Ranking

January 27, 2010

A commenter asked me to evaluate who was having the better season to date, Stephen Curry of Golden State or Brandon Jennings of Milwaukee.

It turns out each of their performances are virtually dead even by Marginal Win Score standards.

I went ahead and did an entire chart ranking the rookie point guards.  Ty Lawson of Denver is having the best season, followed in a distant second by Sacramento’s SG/PG Tyreke Evans.  Consult the Pages column on the right if you don’t understand the chart.  I’ll have more analysis when I get some time (which I don’t have now).


The other bad All-Star selection

January 22, 2010

Everyone’s so obsessed with the ridiculous selection of Allen Iverson to the NBA All-Star game they are missing the other completely unjustified selection, C Amare Stoudamire of Phoenix.  He has no business being anywhere near All-Star Weekend.

Stoudamire once was a very productive player.  That was pre-knee surgery.  Now he’s just a good player, but no longer an All-Star.  I found five centers in the Western Conference who, by MWS48 and Win Contribution Index (see the Pages for explanation) are having much better seasons.  Here is the chart illustrating my point. (I realize Tim Duncan made the team as a power forward, but that is yet another farce.  He hasn’t played a minute at power forward all season).

As you can see from the chart, there are at least 3 legitimate All-Star centers playing in the West.  Pau Gasol is having a tremendous year (despite his occasional inability to finish strong around the basket), and Marcus Camby… well, I should just save my breath.  If people haven’t recognized his value after a decade of work, they never will.

But I’d defend his selection to the team with vigor.  I can’t say the same about Iverson or Stoudamire.

I’ll have more evaluations of the All-Star selections coming up.

Charlie Bell an All-Star? Interesting theory

January 21, 2010

Milwaukee Bucks fans will be happy (or shocked) to find out the team has an All-Star on its roster.  If it weren’t for the title to this post, I bet most of you who watch games wouldn’t be able to guess who it is in a million years.

According to “Adjusted +/-“, Bucks G Charlie Bell is amongst the four top performing guards in the NBA’s Eastern Conference and therefore deserving  of a spot on the NBA All-Star game roster.

This will come as a complete surprise to anyone who’s watched him play, or indeed looked at his accomplishments on the basketball floor.  Let’s see, he’s a well below average shooter, a below average rebounder, a below average passer, and he’s below average at producing steals.  I will credit his defense as a bit above average, and I will mention that he does a good job protecting the ball, but is that enough to make the All-Star team?

I think Adjusted +/- qualifies as interesting information, but it can’t be taken seriously as  a performance statistic when its results are so random, inconsistent, and frankly ridiculous.

NBA Power Ranking (by Relative Winning %)

January 20, 2010

I have completed another of my objective NBA Power Rankings using the “Relative Winning Percentage” formula.

RWP compares each NBA team’s pythagorean* winning percentage at home and its pythagorean winning percentage on the road to the rest of the NBA’s pythagorean winning percentage against the same home schedule and the rest of the NBA’s pythagorean winning percentage against the same road schedule.  Each team is then ranked according to the average of the two comparisons plus .500%.  That is what I call its “Relative Winning Percentage”.

Sidebar on what the term “Pythagroean” means as used in RWP (explained by

W Pyth
Pythagorean Wins; the formula is G * (Tm PTS14 / (Tm PTS14 + Opp PTS14)). The formula was obtained by fitting a logistic regression model with log(Tm PTS / Opp PTS) as the explanatory variable. Using this formula for all BAA, NBA, and ABA seasons, the root mean-square error (rmse) is 3.14 wins. Using an exponent of 16.5 (a common choice), the rmse is 3.48 wins.  Why do I use this instead of just using straight winning percentage?  I want to eliminate luck to the greatest extent possible.  I’m trying to measure relative strength, not fortuity.

RWP Example:

Using Pythagorean numbers, NBA home teams beat Team X’s home opponents .673% of the time, whereas Team X beats them .796% of the time.  NBA road teams beat Team X’s road opponents .348% of the time, whereas Team X beats them .262% of the time.  Then Team X’s Relative Winning Percentage would be .518%.  Calculation: (.123 – .086)/2 + .500).

RWP is meant to be a simple and reliable method of judging the objective  strength of each team regardless of opponent or location.  It splits each team’s home and away calculations and weights them evenly to favor teams with more balanced strength.

The Movers this week

This week’s RWP Power Rankings are remarkably consistent with the rankings I did on January4th.  Cleveland maintains the NBA’s highest RWP, with Boston supplanting Atlanta in the number two spot.  The largest rise belongs  to the Utah Jazz, which moved up five spots to number 8.  The Sacramento Kings (18 to 22) and the Dallas Mavericks (8 to 12) tied for the largest drop.

One other note.  When you consider the fact that somewhere around 29% of all games (about 24 games) are decided by luck rather than strength, and that a team ought to win half of those games, then the New Jersey Nets could be one of the worst teams in history.  Its RWP of .126% would translate into 10 wins, less than the amount of wins a team should be able to fall ass backwards into (12).  That’s monumentally bad.

Here are the results.  I listed each team’s previous ranking in parenthesis.

NBA POWER RANKING (by Relative Winning %)

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (1)____________________(.678%)

2. Boston Celtics (3)________________________(.676%)

3. Atlanta Hawks (2)_______________________(.666%)

4. Los Angeles Lakers (4)____________________(.657%)

5. Orlando Magic (5)_______________________(.653%)

6. San Antonio Spurs (6)____________________(.639%)

7. Denver Nuggets (7)______________________(.626%)

8. Utah Jazz (13)___________________________(.599%)

9. Oklahoma City Thunder (10)________________(.597%)

10.  Portland Trailblazers (12)_________________(.590%)

11. Phoenix Suns (9)________________________(.586%)

12. Dallas Mavericks (8)______________________(.572%)

13. Houston Rockets (11)_____________________(.537%)

14. Miami Heat (14)_________________________(.521%)

15. Charlotte Bobcats (16)____________________(.510%)

16. Memphis Grizzlies (15)____________________(.504%)

17. Toronto Raptors (17)_____________________(.492%)

18. Milwaukee Bucks (19)___________________(.462%)

19. New Orleans Hornets (20)__________________(.441%)

20. New York Knicks (21)_____________________(.437%)

21. Los Angeles Clippers (22)__________________(.410%)

22. Sacramento Kings (18)____________________(.406%)

23. Chicago Bulls (27)_______________________(.405%)

24. Philadelphia 76ers (26)___________________(.403%)

25. Washington Wizards (25)_ ________________(.383%)

26. Detroit Pistons (23)_____________________(.373%)

27. Golden State Warriors (24)_______________(.368%)

28. Indiana Pacers (28)_____________________(.332%)

29. Minnesota Timberwolves (29)_____________(.215%)

30. New Jersey Nets (30)____________________(.164%)

Ranking NBA teams by “Effective Height”

January 15, 2010

Last night the Chicago Bulls pulled off what looked like a stunning upset over the Boston Celtics.  First, I might dispute that.

Any team that starts Brian Scalbrine and gives significant minutes to Baby Davis is in a huge hole to begin with.  Why Doc Rivers is loath to use the more productive Shelden Williams is probably the same reason my friend Richard Hendrix is languishing in Spain (and he is my friend!  I’m going to post the nice note he sent me.  Remember on Bucks Diary when I was promoting his cause so vigorously people started making fun of me?  Apparently he read those posts!).

Anyway, the reason I think Chicago won is they dominated the Celtics with their superior “height”.  On any night the Bulls are amongest the most “effective height” blessed teams in the NBA.  When you match them against a Celtic lineup with Garnett and Wallace replaced by the two clowns mentioned above, the Bulls were dominant.

Ever since Naismith told the janitor to mount the peach baskets up on the railing instead of placing them on the ground, he set in train the natural selection for height, or more specifically “length”, and jumping ability in the sport of basketball (I would argue he also relegated it to niche sport as well.  I’ll get into it another day but my theory is that basketball would be the national pastime going away if it weren’t for the “freakish” nature of its participants.  The broad public will simply never relate to a sport dominated by athletes on the basis of one specific characteristic.  That’s why steroids is such an emotional issue in baseball and ignored in other sports.  People, rightly or wrongly, view baseball as a sport that can be played by anyone and thus divining advantage through chemical strengh is anathema.)

But sometimes its hard to accurately guage how “tall” a team is because head height can be deceptive and can be overcome in some instances by leaping ability.  So what we want to know is a team’s “effective height”.

Ken Pomeroy, the college basketball analyst, has determined that three statistics explain “effective height” the best, here listed in order of importance:  Block percentage, 2 point defense, and effective field goal percentage.

Based on those three criteria, weighted by me with block percentage being given the most weight, I “measured” each NBA team to see which had the most effective height.  Here are my results ranked from teams that play the “tallest” to teams that play the “smallest””:

NBA teams ranked by “Effective Height”

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (.642)

2. Chicago Bulls (.650)

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (.656)

4. Indiana Pacers (.670)

5. LA Clippers (.670)

6. Miami Heat (.670)

7. Dallas Mavericks (.670)

8. Boston Celtics (.685)

9. Orlando Magic (.688)

10. Atlanta Hawks (.700)

11. Philadelphia Sixers (.704)

12. Charlotte Bobcats (.706)

13. LA Lakers (.712)

14. Toronto Raptors (.721)

15. Washington Wizards (.722)

16. Denver Nuggets (.726)

17. San Antonio Spurs (.731)

18. Utah Jazz (.736)

19. New Jersey Nets (.747)

20. Portland Blazers (.748)

21. Sacramento Kings (.759)

23. Phoenix Suns (.765)

24. Milwaukee Bucks (.768)

25. Memphis Grizzlies (.780)

26. New York Knicks (.788)

27. Houston Rockets (.808)

28. New Orleans Hornets (.810)

29. Golden State Warriors (.813)

3o. Minnesota Timberwolves (.832)


I guess the only real surprise is the Los Angeles Lakers, who feature Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom.  They were hurt by the fact that they don’t block shots.  But as HoopData pointed out recently, that may simply be by choice.  The Lakers still do the best job of defending the rim, and it may be that they have been ordered not to swat at shots.  That’s actually an incredibly intelligent strategy (the risk of fouling usually far outweighs the potential benefit gained by shot blocking — basically because free throws are costly and not every blocked shot was going through the net).

The Bucks ranking points up the task before Scott Skiles.  He’s done an absolutely fabulous job molding his undertalented, undersized, underathletic, underskilled team in to something that doesn’t resemble absolute garbage.  Whatever the Bucks accomplish this season is due entirely to him and I’ll give the numbers to back that up in a subsequent post.

Footnote:  The note from PF Richard Hendrix:

“Thanks Man, I have read several of your blogs and I really appreciate your support. I’m playing this season in the Spanish ACB League and off to a pretty good start as far as my production is concerned. Hopefully NBA execs with read your Blog and give ya boy a chance! Again, thank you for the kind words and take care!”

NBA Road Team Rankings

January 5, 2010

This is the companion post to the two below it.  It is a ranking of the NBA’s best road teams according to each team’s demonstrated relative strength compared to the NBA road average against the same opposition.

NBA Road Team Rankings

1. Dallas Mavericks_________________(+.235)

2. Boston Celtics___________________(+.224)

3. Cleveland Cavaliers_______________(+.212)

4. LA Lakers_______________________(+.174)

5. Atlanta Hawks___________________(+.153)

6. San Antonio Spurs________________(+.131)

7. OKC Thunder____________________(+.127)

8. Orlando Magic___________________(+.111)

9. Portland Trailblazers_____________(+.096)

10. Miami Heat____________________(+.064)

11. Houston Rockets________________(+.055)

12. Denver Nuggets_________________(+.042)

13. Phoenix Suns___________________(+.018)

14. Utah Jazz______________________(+.003)

15. Philadelphia Sixers______________(-.006)

16. Memphis Grizzlies_______________(-.018)

17. LA Clippers____________________(-.031)

18. New York Knicks________________(-.064)

19. Toronto Raptors________________(-.064)

20. Sacramento Kings_______________(-.066)

21. Detroit Pistons__________________(-.083)

22. Washington Wizards______________(-.101)

23. Milwaukee Bucks________________(-.114)

24. New Orleans Hornets_____________(-.127)

25. Charlotte Bobcats_______________(-.137)

26. Golden State Warriors____________(-.163)

27. Chicago Bulls___________________(-.172)

28. Indiana Pacers_________________(-.185)

29. Minnesota Timberwolves________(-.241)

30. New Jersey Nets________________(-.259)

Ranking NBA’s best home teams

January 5, 2010

For whatever reason, even after you adjust for homecourt advantage, most NBA teams perform at different relative levels at home than they do on the road.

Here’s what I mean.  In basketball, homecourt advantage is an historical fact.  Almost all teams are better performers at home than on the road (Vegas, I think, automatically gives a home team 4 points right off the top).  I get that.  But even if you account for that, it seems that most teams are just different entities on the road than at home, sometimes better, sometimes worse.

Realizing this discrepancy, when I do my NBA Power Rankings, I now treat each team as two separate teams — a “Home Team” and a “Road Team” and average their strengths.

In this post and the post that follows I rank each version of each team, with this post featuring a ranking of home team strength and the next post featuring a ranking of road team strength.

Power of Thin Air and Rabid Fans

The strongest home team, relatively speaking, should be no surprise.  Its the Denver Nuggets.  I think they’ve been the strongest home team since they jumped over from the ABA.  The atmosphere in Colorado almost certainly has something to do with this advantage, but the rabid fan base also deserves a good deal of credit.

If you go back and look at the first post merger season, 1976-77, the Nuggets home/road disparity is almost unbelievable.  The Nuggets were a below average team on the road and a virtually unbeatable team at home.  That season the Nuggets only lost 5 games at home, and their first loss did not come until they lost a two point game to the defending world champion Celtics on the day after Christmas.  Prior to March 15th, the team lost only 3 home games by a total of 14 points and those losses were to the previous champion and that season’s two NBA Finalists.

What do the rankings mean?

The number after the team’s ranking indicates how many points the team’s home court pythagorean winning percentage is above or below the rest of the NBA’s pythagorean home court winning percentage against the very same home schedule.  For example, Denver’s  pythagorean home winning percentage is .847%.  Playing at home against the very same opponents, the rest of the NBA’s pythagorean winning percentage is just .604%.  Thus Denver’s home strength is (+.243).

The Schizo teams

Which teams stand out as the most schizophrenic?  (1) Dallas Mavericks: the Mavericks are the NBA’s best road team and just a middle of the pack home team.  Figure that one out.  (2) Charlotte Bobcats: Although Charlotte picked up a huge road victory last night in Cleveland, generally speaking they have been a terrific home team and a substandard road team. (3) Philadelphia Sixers:  This team I cannot figure out.  They are actually better in an absolute sense on the road than they are at home (so are the Clippers). (4) Boston Celtics:  Boston is an overpowering team on the road, and just a very good team at home.

NBA Home Team Power Rankings

1. Denver Nuggets_________________(+.243)

2. Phoenix Suns___________________(+.208)

3. Orlando Magic__________________(+.194)

4. Atlanta Hawks__________________(+.193)

5. San Antonio Spurs_______________(+.161)

6. LA Lakers_____________________(+.152)

7. Cleveland Cavaliers______________(+.140)

8. Boston Celtics___________________(+.109)

9. Charlotte Bobcats________________(+.103)

10. Utah Jazz______________________(+.100)

11. Houston Rockets________________(+.088)

12. OKC Thunder___________________(+.042)

13. Portland Trailblazers_____________(+.039)

14. Dallas Mavericks________________(+.003)

15. Memphis Grizzlies_______________(+.001)

16. Milwaukee Bucks________________(-.002)

17. Toronto Raptors________________(-.035)

18. Miami Heat____________________(-.037)

19. New Orleans Hornets_____________(-.038)

20. Sacramento Kings_______________(-.041)

21. Golden State Warriors____________(-.058)

22. Chicago Bulls___________________(-.110)

23. Indiana Pacers_________________(-.122)

24. Washington Wizards______________(-.131)

25. Detroit Pistons__________________(-.133)

26. New York Knicks________________(-.133)

27. LA Clippers____________________(-.171)

28. Philadelphia Sixers_______________(-.233)

29. Minnesota Timberwolves__________(-.297)

30. New Jersey Nets_________________(-.324)

NBA Power Ranking (by Relative Winning %)

January 5, 2010

I objectively power ranked the National Basketball Association using a comparative technique I call “Relative Winning Percentage”.

What is “Relative Winning Percentage”?

“Relative Winning Percentage” is a pretty simple calculation and its done like this.  First I split each team’s schedule into home and road games.  Then I compare each team’s pythagorean winning percentage at home to the rest of the NBA’s pythagorean winning percentage at home against the very same opponents.  Then I subract the team average from the NBA average to get the team’s comparative difference.  Next I do the exact same thing for the team’s road schedule.  Then I average the two differences and add .500% to that average to get the team’s “Relative Winning Percentage”.

Basically, Relative Winning Percentage tells you how each team’s performance compares to the performance of the rest of the NBA against the same schedule.  Thus it accounts for location and for strength of opponent.  The new twist is the home/road 50/50 split.  I decided to add that twist because I realized that even if you account for homecourt advantage many NBA teams simply perform at different levels at home than they do on the road.  Realizing that, I wanted to give equal weight to both because I think that doing so gives a truer picture of team strength and, more importantly, a team’s likely playoff performance.

(Calculation Example:  The Bucks Pythagorean Home Winning % is .578%.  Playing the same home schedule, the rest of the NBA has a Pythagorean Home Winning % of .580%.  The Bucks Pythagorean Road Winning % is .319%.  Playing the same road schedule, the rest of the NBA has a Pythagorean Road Winning % of .433%.  Thus the Bucks are (-.002) at home and (-.114) on the road, which averages to (-.058).  Add .500 to that and you get the Bucks “Relative Winning Percentage” of  .442% ).

With that explanation, here is the NBA Power Ranking as of January 4, 2010.  In my next two posts I will rank each team separately according to home and road strength.

NBA POWER RANKING (using Relative Winning Percentage)

1. Cleveland Cavaliers__________(.676%)

2. Atlanta Hawks_______________(.673%)

3. Boston Celtics_______________(.666%)

4. LA Lakers___________________(.663%)

5. Orlando Magic_______________(.653%)

6. San Antonio Spurs____________(.649%)

7. Denver Nuggets______________(.642%)

8. Dallas Mavericks______________(.619%)

9. Phoenix Suns_________________(.613%)

10. Oklahoma City Thunder_______(.584%)

11. Houston Rockets______________(.571%)

12. Portland Trailblazers__________(.567%)

13. Utah Jazz_____________________(.552%)

14. Miami Heat___________________(.513%)

15. Memphis Grizzlies_____________(.491%)

16. Charlotte Bobcats_____________(.483%)

17. Toronto Raptors______________(.450%)

18. Sacramento Kings_____________(.446%)

19. Milwaukee Bucks______________(.442%)

20. New Orleans Hornets__________(.417%)

21. New York Knicks______________(.401%)

22. LA Clippers___________________(.399%)

23. Detroit Pistons________________(.392%)

24. Golden State Warriors__________(.389%)

25. Washington Wizards___________(.383%)

26. Philadelphia Sixers____________(.380%)

27. Chicago Bulls_________________(.359%)

28. Indiana Pacers________________(.346%)

29. Minnesota Timberwolves_______(.230%)

30. New Jersey Nets_______________(.208%)

Why the Chicago Bulls have declined

December 20, 2009

About three days before the season started, I was trying to guess how many wins the Chicago Bulls would end up with based upon the Marginal Win Score per 48 averages of their roster over the last two seasons.  I think I came up with around 38 wins.  Not even close.

But what’s gone wrong?  Who is underperforming?  I did a Win Chart of this season’s team to find out who was creating the team’s wins and losses.  The results were somewhat surprising.  You can see the 2009-10 Chicago Bulls Win Chart if you click here.

Derrick Rose playing brutal basketball

I would say the most surprising result I came up with concerned sophomore point guard Derrick Rose.  If you go to the above Win Chart and then click on the link in that Chart to last season’s Bulls Win Chart you will see that last season Rose was basically a .500 player.  Not bad at all for a rookie.  And since players normally progress substantially in their second seasons, I expected Rose to step up to the near elite level this season.  So far this season he has actually gone the other way, and he’s done so in dramatic fashion.  He is playing awful basketball.

But why?  Where has his game declined?  If you look at his “Production Page” on and compare it to the same from last season, its obvious.  Everything about Rose’s marginal production is basically the same except his marginal scoring efficiency.  That has really declined.

Last season Rose outscored his opponents by +3.0 points per 48, and he only needed 3.0 more scoring possessions per 48 to do so.  So his “scoring impact” was basically a wash for the Bulls.  This season, though, he is outscoring his opponent point guards by +4.4, but he now he requires 7.4 more scoring possessions per 48 to do so.  In Marginal Win Score terms that’s -3.0 divided by two which comes out to -1.50 per 48.  That’s damaging.  Unless he’s making up for it in other areas, which he isn’t, those kind of numbers from a significant minutes guy will lead to a lot of losses.

There are plenty of others who share some of the blame.  Noah’s production is down, Brad Miller’s production is down, and so is Kirk Hinrich’s.  Hinrich’s decline has been the steepest and the most surprising.  He’s usually pretty reliable.  Then you throw in the two rookies, and there you have a recipe for a bad team.

Luol Deng not at fault

The one player who cannot be blamed is Luol Deng.  He’s “progressed to the mean” if that’s a valid phrase.  Meaning, after a down season or two, he’s producing wins for the Bulls this season at almost exactly his career Player Win Average.

If you remember last summer I did a “Win Resume” for Deng and found that his career Player Win Average was .684%.  The last two seasons it had declined a bit to around the .500% level, but this season he’s got it back at .695%, and since he’s been able to stay healthy, he’s making one of his better Win Contributions (+0.181).