You, Readers, Are Predictable And I Love You All For It

Sometimes, due to the fact that Pace and Space is not my primary (or even secondary; if you’re seeing ads on this site, they’re not because I’ve tried to monetize it, so there shouldn’t be ads here and you can block them with my blessing) source of income, I get sidetracked from basketball and get a little behind on the news. Like, for example, Damian Lillard scoring 55 points in a 147-140 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 5 of the Portland Trail Blazers’ ongoing first-round playoff series Tuesday night. I did not twig to this because I checked …

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The COVID Vaccine and the NBA Feeling Like Itself Again

As this goes to press, my arm hurts like hell at the injection site where I got my second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine a couple of days ago. I woke up this morning feeling like I’d been hit by a car; that was apparently what the great random number generator that powers the universe rolled on the dice for me. But as I shook it off, I read a report in the New York Times that suggested that the US Centers for Disease Control is finally coming around to the idea that fully vaccinated people are safer than …

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1992: The Worst NBA All-Star Game

The sharp and complete transition between two eras in the NBA doesn’t happen often, and when it does, it’s downright jarring, like a major geopolitical shift after a war rather than a passing of the torch where the next generation asserts itself as the older generation declines. I don’t mean something like Michael Jordan‘s retirement in 1998 either. That was not ultimately an instant sea change. It was if you’re a Bulls fan, but legends drafted in the mid-80s still had their rivalries going—the Pacers and Knicks in the East, the Jazz, Rockets, Spurs, Trail Blazers, and Suns in the …

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The Greatest NBA Players Not in the Hall of Fame

There are currently 34 players in NBA history with at least 100 Win Shares who are not in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Of those, nine—in descending order, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony, and Russell Westbrook—are still active. It’s probably safe to say all nine will eventually end up in the Hall after they retire, and five (James, Paul, Durant, Harden, and Curry) are absolute locks to go in on the first ballot. Another eight—Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Vince Carter, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tyson Chandler, and …

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6 is the New 8: The Fight To Avoid the NBA 2021 Play-In Games

As this article goes to press on the evening of April 29, the NBA has on its hands a fascinating look into the wisdom of choosing a four-team play-in tournament to decide the final two playoff spots in this truncated 72-game season. In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat are tied for the sixth spot at 33-30. In the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks hold a half-game lead, 34-27 vs. 34-28, over the Portland Trail Blazers. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal; the big race would be 8 vs. 9 to determine who gets to either …

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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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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; …

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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) …

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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) …

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