Season Predictions – Part 1 of 3

Sorry I’ve been away for a few days.  Amazingly, the internet still seems to be humming along without a steady stream of content from Well, my fans — and, more broadly, the people in charge of the internet — can rest comfortably, knowing that there will be a bunch of postings over the next few days.

It’s about time to crank up the data analyzer machine, to generate predictions for the NBA season.  Before I flip the switch, a few words to remind you how the data gets analyzed…

The first step I utilize when comparing teams is a pure talent analysis. Too often, people look at a team and say “Wow, they have him, and him, and him, and him,” and think they’re talking about a good team.  Even the Pistons look like they have a couple of good players when you look at them in isolation. But, when you step back and compare the talent level on their roster to the talent level on a mediocre high school team, ahem, I mean to the talent level on other NBA rosters, you realize that they just aren’t good.

So, when I compare teams, my first step largely consists of deciding which teams have the players who are most likely to be All-Stars.  For those who missed that posting, click here.

Determining which players are most likely to be All-Stars does not, alone, predict which five or six teams will be the league’s best, or even which eight from each conference are likely to make the playoffs. But, it does enable us to eliminate some teams from serious contention.

Then we can dig a bit deeper. Once I have eliminated the teams that do not have the talent to compete for a playoff spot, I think it makes sense to evaluate the remaining teams according to a number of factors.  Basically, when evaluating a team’s offense, the idea is to get a sense of which teams can put pressure on a defense a variety of ways.  So, the data analyzer asks the following questions:

1. Does the team have a point guard who creates good shots for his teammates?
2. Does the team have good outside shooting?
3. Does the team have players who can create their own shots from the wing?
4. Does the team have players who can create their own shot from the post?

Defense is a bit harder to evaluate, because the main question is whether the players are good at guarding their men.  Even though I’m a dork who blogs about basketball, I don’t have nearly enough time on my hands to formulate an opinion about each player in the league’s ability to guard their men.  So, I generally ask two questions when analyzing a team’s defense:

5. Does it have a PG who can pressure the ball, and a big man who intimidates in the paint?

6. Does it rebound well?

At that point, we’re almost done.  Only two questions remain.  One is whether the team has good depth.  For each of these seven factors, the pertinent question is whether the team is above average. Under my system, if the answer is yes, the team gets a point. If the answer is no, the team does not.

After those factors are all considered, there is one last factor: does the team have a superstar player or a coach with a proven track record of success? Up to three points can be awarded for this factor, and very few teams will get all three of those points.

Even after I tally up the points, I use some discretion. When I look at the point totals, I will probably switch things up a bit, and, where there are ties, discretion needs to be applied to rank the teams with the same number of points. So, the points don’t tell me everything, but they provide a useful starting point.

Point totals will be revealed for each of the conferences over the next two days, I hope you’ll check back.

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