The Scientific NBA Rankings (1 to 180): 30 to 16 to 1 and an early preview.

“Here we are, Born to be kings,
We’re the princes of the universe,
Here we belong, Fighting to survive,
In a world with the darkest powers,” -Queen “Princes of the Universe”

30 to 16 to 1 or the Half Baked Notion.

If you ever learn something new from me let it be this. What wins in the regular season is not necessarily what gets you the big trophy.

What’s the difference? Minute allocation and how the production of a team’s roster is  affected by that allocation. We continuously hear terms like playoff rotation and playoff minutes thrown around come playoff time. The funny thing is that when we use math and science to take a take a look at the data we find that the conventional wisdom has some truth to it .If we look at 2000 to 2010 numbers:

  • The best two players accounted for 55% of a teams wins in the 2010 Playoffs.
  • The top three players are just below the pareto threshold
  • The next three (4,5,6th man) account for the rest of the positive win contribution about equally.
  • After that everybody else actually hurt teams in the playoffs.

The half baked notion tells us that a good deep team filled with average and above average players will get you in the playoffs but to get far in the playoffs you need your wins to be concentrated in your Top 6.

If only someone had been ranking all the players in the NBA. Based on a very good idea by ESPN, we decided to do our very own Wages of Wins version (see here for Part 1 and Part 2)

Being who we are however, we decided to be super robust in our method and criteria for evaluating players (it has a touch of personality too, as it’s based on my opinions). My criteria is as follows:

  • Rank every player based on eight categories:
    • Totals for: Wins Produced, Point Margin (from Points over Par), Wins Produced from Offensive stats, Wins Produced from defensive stats. This rewards the players that were the most valuable in total for their teams
    • Per minute numbers for :Wins Produced, Point Margin (from Points over Par), Wins Produced from Offensive stats, Wins Produced from defensive stats. This rewards the players that were the most productive regardless of playing time or injury. The one caveat is that a 400 minute minimum has been imposed for all players.
  • Using those eight ranks, average the player ranking in each category and rank players based on who had the best average ranking. This will give you a ranking on players based on their all around performance.

The first two parts of the rank dealt with the roster fillers and also rans.

It’s time for the payoff because once we know the player’s rank and depth we can use it to compare teams (because trust me when I say this, talent is not evenly distributed). The best teams will of course be those loaded with top picks.

Damn it all….

First we have the players:

Now we get the teams:

The Heat are unsurprisingly the most top heavy team followed by a second group with Nuggets, Grizzlies, Spurs ,Raptors and Jazz. We will get back to this in a bit.

First let’s lay out those top 6 in more visually appealing format:

Now I could spend a lot of time on the players or I could provide you with all the data (NBA Rank data) and focus on projecting all the teams.

Without rookies of course.

Let’s start with expanding that initial team chart. (Editor’s Note: Had to fix this too.)

Now here I assigned points based on specific ranks for each roster as follows:

  • 6 pts for top 30 players
  • 5 for 31-60
  • 4 for 61-90
  • 3 for 91-120
  • 2 for 121-150
  • 1 for 151-180
  • -1 for 181-330
  • -2 for 331 and up

We still see a similar grouping at the top. The problem is then that this assumes a degree of rationality in minute allocation (i.e. the best players get the minutes). We know by now this is not really the case.

And thus we come to the full roster sans rookie projection (posted for those of you who don’t mind zooming):

(Editor’s note: I had an error in the minute algorithm allocation initially. It has been corrected. I’ve at least got that on some of the coaches out there. Carry on.)

Now that projects out each team based on the current rosters, three year performance, player age and player’s actual minutes per game. For each team the result looks like so:

Now I did three base projections: straight from 2012 numbers, from average of last three years and from the average of the last three years incorporating the age model. The Heat continue to be unsurprising at the top of the Rankings. The rest of the rankings line up with my belief that this will be a very surprising year. Some notes in particular:

  • The Heat are the class of the East.
  • Melo for MVP is looking like a very distinct possibility. The Knicks as long as they stay healthy, and don’t bring back Patrick Ewing, should be the class of their division.
  • The East top 3 looks to be the Heat, Knicks and Bulls. Everyone else has a great deal of variability in their rosters. The Celts, Raptors and Hawks all look to contend for that 4th spot but all have ifs on their rosters.
  • The Nets and Raptors are one injury away from contending (Apologies in advance to Bargniani and Lopez)
  • The Pacers and Wizards are suffering from the fact that the models can’t make up their minds on Hibbert and Nene.
  • The West will be wild. Three different models project three different teams to be the one seed (Nuggets, OKC and Clippers).
  • The Nuggets are really,really good. They should easily be in the top 4 dogfight with OKC, San Antonio and the Clipps (barring acts of George Karl of course).
  • The Lakers roster after their top 3 (Howard, Gasol and Nash) is not good at all. They are not currently built for the regular season and it should show. The best case scenario for them is a two seed but they would have to have extreme injury luck for that to happen.
  • The Twolves (who are getting absolutely no vegas love) and the Grizzlies round out the top 7 playoff teams in the West.
  • The Mavs and Suns are most definitely not playoff teams.

Now I just have to add in all those rookies and euro league players before the season starts.

-Arturo

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