Using Point Differential To Project the 2018 NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference

(Click here for the Western Conference projections.) Roughly halfway through the 2017-18 season, we’ve seen a few surprises in the league, both good and bad. The Heat, Pistons, and Pacers have overachieved in the Eastern Conference, while Philly and Charlotte in particular have disappointed. Out West, the Thunder have fallen short of expectations, the bottom fell out on the Grizzlies, the Lakers remain a joke, and the Timberwolves find themselves on a 50-win pace by record. Part of this has been the unpredictability of any given NBA season; there are always surprises, often involving rookies who perform beyond anyone’s wildest expectations …

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Suck Faster: When Bad Teams Play Up-Tempo

Ask a casual NBA fan to guess which team plays at the fastest pace in the league and most of them would probably guess the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets, teams drilled in the principles of modern pace-and-space basketball, with Houston coached by the inimitable Mike D’Antoni, who might as well draw the two little arrows of the fast-forward symbol on the whiteboard during timeouts. This article originally appeared on January 25, 2017, and stats are as of that point in the 2016-17 season. They’re not bad guesses; the Warriors are second in pace (100.7, with all stats in …

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Just How Bad Are the Pacers Without Victor Oladipo?

The mere fact that the Indiana Pacers are 0-3 without Victor Oladipo in the lineup does not on its face tell us anything in particular; teams, even good teams, go on losing streaks. The Rockets just lost five in a row, after all, and they’re the third-best team in all of basketball by record, second if you go by the advanced point differential stats. Likewise, if Bojan Bogdanovic hadn’t gifted them a win, the Celtics would’ve suffered a three-game skid of their own right before Christmas. What we really want to measure in terms of Vic’s impact is just why …

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Why Are Great Rebounders On Bad Teams?

This may be a question that has an obvious answer. After all, if we ask “why are so many great rebounders on bad teams”, the knee-jerk answer is “because bad teams miss lots of shots, so there are more rebounds to be had.” Except that can’t be it…offensive rebounding percentage is at the lowest it’s been in history and it’s declining every year. The guys who lead the league are averaging a bunch of defensive rebounds. Let’s take a look at the league’s best rebounders, the teams they’re on, and try to draw a connection that ties them together. And …

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Who’s The NBA’s Second-Best Shooting Guard?

It goes without saying that James Harden is the best shooting guard in the NBA; even if you left aside the fact that he’s the runaway favorite for MVP, through games of Dec. 19, he’s leading the league in scoring, shooting the highest percentage (39.2) of his career from three-point range, dishing out nine assists a game, and guiding Houston to the league’s best record. But who’s second? Victor Oladipo? Klay Thompson? Bradley Beal? DeMar DeRozan? Jimmy Butler? The rookie Donovan Mitchell? Let’s consider the candidates… One Quick Elimination For starters, let’s just drop Mitchell. He’s good. Very good. Making …

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Can the Indiana Pacers Sneak Into the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals?

Even after a heartbreaking loss to the Celtics Monday night on a SEGABABA, the Indiana Pacers stand at 17-14, locked in a three-way tie for fifth in the East, and if they’d won that game against Boston, they’d be solidly in fourth. Not only do they have the record to play fifth-place ball, they’re also fifth in point differential; this team projects as a 45-win team on points and on record alike. They’re armed with the fourth-best conference record in case of tiebreakers, they’re 7-7 on the road, and they have the early favorite for Most Improved Player, a seemingly …

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Statistical Tests: How Important is the Turnover Battle?

There are certain basketball platitudes out there like “you have to control the glass” or “the team that gets more assists wins the game.” But in both cases, they’re either obvious (the team that got more assists probably made more shots and therefore scored more points) or questionable (if you got a bunch of offensive rebounds, it might just be because you couldn’t shoot the ball that night, so you scored fewer points, and you lost.) With players like James Harden and Russell Westbrook setting records for turnovers even as they’ve put up MVP-level seasons, and with some teams just …

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Victor Oladipo Belongs in the All-Star Game

With the Indiana Pacers sitting at 16-11 and fifth in the Eastern Conference fully a third into the NBA season, the idea that the team’s early 5-3 start was properly negated by the subsequent four-game losing streak has been pretty well established as rubbish, two winning streaks of four and five games speaking quite well to that as the team has won 11 of its last 15. And in the midst of all that, Victor Oladipo has emerged as a legitimate, no-bones-about-it All-Star. Of course, it helps that two of his would-be competitors at guard, John Wall and Isaiah Thomas, …

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“Great Teams Gut Out Close Wins in the NBA”: WRONG!

The NBA is a league where point differential is the single strongest predictor across an 82-game season of success and failure. 30 points is worth a win (give or take, and adjusted for pace, but it’s right around 30.) Which is to say, for every plus-one in point differential over a season, it’s good for about 2.7 wins. Every major advanced stat that deals with wins (from playoff-odds projections to Estimated Wins Added/WAR) is based on this principle. Which, in turn, creates a simple maxim. If you want to win lots of games, you need to win by big margins, …

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The Indiana Pacers Are Golden State Lite

It is a maxim here at Pace and Space that “great teams win big and lose close.” Basic point differential theory dictates that a team that “guts out close wins” isn’t a good team, nor are they particularly better per se than a team that goes 72-10 but goes 5-3 in games decided by three points (IE one possession or less). After all, the 2016 Grizzlies went 8-3 in one-possession games. Were they “grittier” than the ’96 Bulls? Of course not! And part of that is the fact that Chicago was blown out exactly once in that greatest-of-all-time season, a …

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