The Great Portland Trail Blazers Postmortem 2021

The Portland Trail Blazers have been an object of fascination for this here site ever since they got off to a spectacular 28-18 start despite at that point in the season having a negative Net Rating from having gotten their butts kicked by 20 points or more on seven separate occasions while having just two wins of that margin to their name. They seemed to spit in the face of the logic that great teams win big and lose close, and at the time I predicted that it would come back to bite them hard in the playoffs. And sure …

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In Search of the WNBA Goat Part 3: The Winner!

Welcome, the small and dedicated subset of you who care about my thoughts about women’s basketball. When last we left off, we’d narrowed down the WNBA GOAT debate to two names, one with an impressive advanced stat profile across a long career, the other the face of a championship franchise without a men’s team to divide the city’s attention. The former is Tamika Catchings, longtime Indiana Fever stalwart and 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. The latter is Lauren Jackson, who if nothing else has on lock the greatest-of-all-time moniker in her native Australia. Let’s put them together for a …

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In Search of the WNBA GOAT (Part 2: WS/40)

Trying to rank the greatest men in NBA history by Win Shares produces an interesting magic number of sorts. Every NBA player who has at least 125 career Win Shares is either in the Hall of Fame already or will be once he is eligible—the list of those latter guys includes LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, Pau Gasol, James Harden, Dwight Howard, and Vince Carter. Nobody in WNBA history has 125 career Win Shares. The seasons are only 34 games long, after all, but there’s still a Mendoza Line of sorts. If we assume that Diana Taurasi …

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In Search of the WNBA GOAT (Part 1: Rings and Counting Stats)

The men’s NBA has a pretty well-settled debate on who its true greatest of the great are, the players who go beyond the Hall of Fame and onto discussions of a would-be Mount Rushmore. If you’re the type to count rings, Bill Russell is (and will quite possibly always be) the greatest. Nobody is ever winning 11 championships again. Even LeBron James reaching Russell’s 12 career NBA Finals will be tainted by “Russell went 11-1 and James went (if he wins them all from here out) however many-and-6.” If you want to deal in counting stats, until someone scores their …

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1992: The Glorious Apex of Horace Grant

There have, at points in NBA history, been seasons where a good-but-not-great player came out of absolute nowhere to reach such lofty heights that, when they regressed back to their natural talent level, lapsed into history as one of those seasons that becomes a gee-whiz moment like “wait, he did WHAT?” Josh Smith did it in 2010, finishing fourth in the league in VORP in the only season he hit more than half of his shots before shooting his way out of the NBA entirely. Brandon Roy did it a year before—he was always very good during his brief but …

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Russell Westbrook Keeps Breaking Advanced Stats

Remember 2017? When Russell Westbrook snookered everyone into thinking he was historically great by averaging a triple-double over the course of a season for the first time since Oscar Robertson did it 55 years before? And remember when those of us in the media lost our minds and gave him the MVP award? Well, he’s spent the past four years making us all look like idiots, and in 2021, he is once again averaging a triple-double—this will be the fourth time in his career he’s managed the feat if he keeps it up—and making the kind of people who still …

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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 …

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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.) …

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The Portland Trail Blazers: 2021’s Best Bad NBA Team

The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 133-85 on April 3, running their record to 30-19, sixth in the stacked Western Conference. They also ran their season Net Rating above the zero point, a place they’ve found themselves only rarely during the season. The previous two remarks, on paper, would seem to contradict each other. After all, one of the most powerful predictive factors in a team’s season record is their point differential, whether it’s per game or per 100 possessions—since the Blazers play at a 98.3 pace, those two numbers are close enough to tell the same …

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Want to Win NBA Games? Make Your Shots. It’s That Simple.

A couple of weeks back, we took a look at the defensive factors that lead to the greatest difference between good NBA teams and bad NBA teams. To the surprise of perhaps nobody, holding the other team’s eFG% down was the single greatest predictor of whether a team was going to be any good. But the team that at the time—before the Utah Jazz went on a six-game run in which all of their opponents ended up looking like YMCA chuckers and in the process seized a sizeable advantage in the stat—led the league in opponent’s eFG% had a losing …

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