The NBA Playoffs are almost upon us, marking the beginning of the end of my first season as a BasketBlogger. It’s a time for reflection, a time to take stock of lessons learned.
Aside from the obvious lesson — that I shouldn’t quit my day job — the main thing I’ve learned is that this game, while completely unpredictable on the college level, is actually very predictable on the pro level. It’s remarkable how little the standings change on a year-to-year basis.
Check out the current standings here, and the standings for the ends of each of the past three seasons here, here, and here. You generally see some movement in the rankings of the playoff teams, but the teams that go to the playoffs hardly change. In fact, seven teams have been to the playoffs each of the past four years (Cleveland, Orlando, Lakers, Dallas, Denver, Utah, and San Antonio). Six teams have not been to the playoffs in any of the past four years (Indiana, New York, Memphis, Clippers, Minnesota, and Sacramento). So, in a league with 30 teams, where 16 teams make the playoffs every year, 13 of those teams have not missed the playoffs in four years, and 13 of those teams have not made the playoffs in four years.
Maybe I’m just a dork with nothing better to do than think deep thoughts about basketball statistics, but I think that’s quite interesting. The system is not set up for that kind of year-to-year consistency; bad teams are rewarded with good draft picks, and free agents are able to leave to go to whatever team they want when their contracts are up (theoretically, the bad teams are the ones that can offer good money and lots of playing time). Other sports do not have type of consistency; in the NFL, it’s quite common for Super Bowl teams – even defending champions – to miss the playoffs the following season. Aside from the Colts, Patriots, and Chargers, there’s essentially a revolving door into and out of the NFL playoffs on a year-by-year basis.
This year-to-year stability leads to a number of hoopservations, which I’ll discuss over the next few days. I hope you’ll check back regularly, and jump into the discussion.