Chicago and LA Look to Move On, but Dallas Might Surprise

Now that we know that the Memphis Grizzlies are the greatest team ever, there probably isn’t any point to discussing the rest of the teams who are still participating in the 2011 NBA playoffs.  But just in case Memphis falters… here are the four teams that begin playing in the second round on Monday.

Chicago vs. Atlanta

First we have Chicago and Atlanta.  The Bulls finished the regular season with the second best efficiency differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency) in the NBA (the Heat led the NBA with a 7.96 mark).  Chicago’s mark of 7.81 was actually the 5th best mark in franchise history.  Only the following Chicago teams bested what we saw in 2010-11.

  • 1995-96: 13.00
  • 1996-97: 11.61
  • 1991-92: 10.64
  • 1990-91: 9.20

All of these teams led the NBA in efficiency differential.  And all of these teams won an NBA title.

The Atlanta Hawks have not had the same level of success in the playoffs.  And entering the 2011 playoffs, it didn’t look like that would change.  The Hawks’ differential was -0.89, the second worst mark of any playoff team (only the Pacers had a lower mark).  When we look at franchise history since 1973-74 (the first year we can calculate efficiency differential), we see 18 different Atlanta teams that posted a higher differential than the Hawks team seen in 2010-11.  None of these 18 teams ever made it out of the second round of the playoffs.  Will Atlanta’s team make it to the Conference Finals this year?

When we look at efficiency differential, that seems unlikely. The Bulls are much better than the Hawks.  Furthermore, Chicago has home court advantage.

On Sunday, though, I noted we need to look past efficiency differential in the regular season and consider which players are actually playing in the post-season. When we take that step with respect to this series, though, our story stays the same.

The following table reports Wins Produced for each player in the regular season.  It also reports what each player’s Wins Produced would be in the regular season given the allocation of minutes and positions in the playoffs.

When we consider these two allocations, we see that although Chicago and Atlanta both look better in the playoffs, the gap between these two teams is still quite large.  Consequently, I am looking for Chicago to win this series in five games.

LA Lakers vs. Dallas

It is a somewhat different story when we consider the last second round match-up.  Regular season efficiency differential suggests the Lakers should be the clear favorite.  The Lakers mark of 6.48 led the Western Conference while the Mavericks mark of 4.53 was bested by seven other teams in the NBA playoffs.

When we turn to how minutes are allocated in the playoffs, though, this series looks much closer.

The above table reveals that given the regular season performance of the Lakers’ players and the minutes allocated in the post-season, the Lakers look like a 64.7 win team (the key is the additional minutes given to Andrew Bynum).  The Mavericks, though, now look like a 62.5 win team.  The primary keys for Dallas are the additions of Peja Stojakovic and the additional minutes given to Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler.

These changes close the gap between the Lakers and Mavericks.  But LA still has home court advantage.  And they are slightly better.  So I am picking the Lakers to win in seven.

Even More from Arturo

For those who want even more playoff coverage, let me point you to Arturo’s Amazing Stats.  Arturo Galletti had developed a more extensive playoff model.  As he noted on Sunday, this model did quite well forecasting the first round of the playoffs (it even had Memphis winning against San Antonio).   If his numbers were in the TrueHoop Smackdown, these numbers would currently be tied for first.  In other words, his more extensive model is currently ahead of my simple model.  Of course, the difference is only four points (and let’s remember, I already won this contest before, so I am clearly resting on my past accomplishments :)

Beyond detailing these amazing numbers, Arturo’s post also notes the following about the Magic-Hawks series: How do you outscore your opponent by almost two points a game with the best player on the court and still lose a series? Ask the Magic, they just did it.

Here is another question from the Magic series:  Should Orlando change their roster in response to these six games?  I am not asking if they should make changes based on the regular season.  Should the playoffs factors into their decision-making?  I think teams often react too strongly to the small samples we see in the playoffs.  And although I think Orlando might consider some changes, it isn’t their experience in the playoffs that should motivate these moves.  Sometime this summer I will offer a more detailed post on the Magic.

– DJ

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