The Most Underachieving Teams in NBA History

In our last piece, we took a look at the most overachieving teams in NBA history—that is, the teams whose regular-season records most exceeded the record you’d expect them to post given their point differential. But what about the flip side of that? What about teams that did great on the aggregate scoreboard but lost far more games than the stats say they should have? We’re going to look at that today. Some of these teams missed the playoffs when they should’ve gotten in. Others had a lower seed and a tougher road. And still others got a better draft …

Read More

The Most Overachieving Teams in NBA History

In every team sport where points (or goals) are counted to determine a winner, there is a strong correlation between point differential and won-lost record. Indeed, two major sports—baseball and basketball—have developed mathematical formulas to predict with startling accuracy the overall record of a team in any given year. And indeed, when that ledger gets too far out of balance, it is often a sign that a team is about to sharply regress toward its expected record, all other things being equal (that is, they didn’t punt on the season at the trade deadline after a below-expectation start, for example.) …

Read More

Which Defensive Stats Matter Most in the NBA in 2021?

The Milwaukee Bucks have built a 27-14 record on three defensive pillars. One, don’t let the other team get good looks. The Bucks are ninth in opponents’ eFG% despite being 20th in opponents’ 3PT%. They’re forcing opponents into bad two-point shots and stand fourth in that metric. Even though teams shoot well and often from three, it’s offset by their inability to get to the rim and get an easy two. Two, limit the other team to one shot. Milwaukee is tied with the Orlando Magic for the best defensive rebounding percentage in the league. And three, defend without fouling; …

Read More

The NBA Eastern Conference Was Bad in 2020. It’s Getting Worse in 2021.

Almost exactly one year ago (on February 24, 2020), this site took a look at the Eastern Conference and noted that the last time a 7 seed had a losing record before it happened again with the 35-37 Brooklyn Nets was when the Boston Celtics went 40-42 in 2015. The Orlando Magic finished 33-40, which prorated to 82 games is a 37-45 record, itself the worst record by a playoff team since the Indiana Pacers won 37 games in 2011 and grabbed the 8 seed. Even worse, the ninth-best winning percentage in the East in 2020 was the 23-42 (.354) …

Read More

In Search of the “League Average” NBA Player (Part 3: VORP)

In the previous two iterations of this series, we took a look at PER and WS/48 in an effort to determine what constitutes a “league average” NBA player—that is, a guy who is basically a 41-41 team over 82 games (man, remember 82-game seasons? Such nostalgia) distilled into one player across one season. Today, we take a few steps back and consider not just the VORP per 82 games of the guys we’ve considered so far, a cross-section of players from the 2019 and 2020 seasons who had league-average PER (between 14.8 and 15.2) or WS/48 (between .095 and .105) …

Read More

The NBA’s Hot Garbage Media Ruins the Sport

Today is Valentine’s Day, and with the steaming hot smell of breakups accompanying some petty BS argument between partners in a relationship wafting up from the frozen tundra of a brutal 2021 winter and your columnist too snowed in by the greater Seattle area’s complete failure to understand the concept of “winter storm awareness” to get businesses back up and running and with COVID and the American vaccine response a complete failure so egregious that it makes the owners and front office of the Minnesota Timberwolves (6-20! Jesus, guys, get it together!) look like a triumph of leadership to make …

Read More

In Search of the “League Average” NBA Player (Part 2: WS/48)

Last week, we looked at PER to try and figure out just what constitutes a “league average” NBA player. Since that stat is normalized to 15 every season, it gave us a cross-section of players across positions and even perceived talent levels (any time you have Brook Lopez, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier on the same list, that’s a wide swath to cut.) But Tatum especially is nothing even resembling “league average”. He’s become the breakout star on a Celtics team that has made three of the last four Eastern Conference finals. Hardly “league average”. So let’s try a stat …

Read More

In Search of the “League Average” NBA Player (Part 1: PER)

One of the core conceits of advanced stats is that they tend to be normalized to some kind of league average. Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is built so that league average, every year, is exactly 15. In theory, the average for Win Shares per 48 minutes should be .100, since a team that has 0.1 WS per position per game will get half a win—half a win plus half a loss equals a 41-41 record over 82 games. Value Over Replacement Player is a different animal; a “replacement player” isn’t the same thing as a league-average player. It’s meant to …

Read More

An Open Letter to #NBATwitter

Since the dawn of my basketball writing journey in 2015, I’ve relied heavily on social media in general and Twitter in particular to drive content decisions, engage with fans, and watch the culture of basketball unfold in order to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on. In particular, every friend I have in Indiana, I met on Twitter—even though I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, heart-on-my-sleeve Pacers fan through and through, as readers of this site learn time and again every Tuesday, my only actual connection to the Hoosier State is a girl from Elkhart I was sweet on for …

Read More

First-Mover Advantage: Why Basketball Games Don’t End 2-0

Consider the following two equal-but-opposite scenarios in sports. On one end, you have a penalty kick in top-flight, World Cup or elite European club league soccer. The offense, as in the guy who’s about to kick the ball, knows exactly where he intends to put the ball, can do so with a nearly pinpoint degree of accuracy as he’s practiced these kicks for hours on top of hours, and as a result has almost all the control over the ensuing result. The goalkeeper is nearly helpless; at best he can try to guess where the ball is going, leap at …

Read More