NBA Rankings Midseason blowout

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.
-P. J. O’Rourke

Did you miss me? I missed you too. We’ve been busy in the lab for the past few weeks. Some of what we came up with you’ve seen (The MVP Equation), some of it you should have seen (team charts via the NBA Geek) and some of it you won’t be seeing quite yet (Hint: March is around the corner).

The important bit is that we’ve hit the halfway point of the season. In view of that, I’m blowing it out and giving you all the numbers and tables you can handle.

Let’s start with everyone’s point margin adjusted for homecourt advantage and opponent.


You’ll note that the table has a running total by time period (season, last 30, last 25, last 20, last 15, last 10, last 5, and last 2). This is meant to showcase the ebbs and flows of each team as the season goes along. It does however get more informative if I:

  • Turn it into a win % using my own special formula.
  • Color code for also rans (<44 wins), playoff teams (44-51 wins), contenders (52 -59 wins) and Champ Level teams (>60 wins).



The Top three teams in the West continue to be the Spurs, Clippers and Thunder. However, the continued absence of Chris Paul with a mystery knee ailment could completely swing the balance of power.

Miami seems to be through playing with fools and is laying down some wood out East. They’re currently playing their best ball of the season.

New York had been on a skid but something interesting happened. Amare seems to have come to life out in New York.


I did mention we were in the lab :-)


Houston and Denver are also playing top tier ball as well out West. Those West playoffs are going to be crazy.

Let’s take this to the next level. Let’s talk rankings.

Schedule strength as always, comes first:


The Hornets, Rockets, and Warriors have faced the roughest schedule (all out West for some reason). The Bulls, Pistons, Hawks and Pacers have faced the easiest schedule (all out East for some reason).

How’s it look for the rest of the season?


Again, I did simulate every game for the rest of the season to do that table. You may notice that I added what the delta is for schedule strength in win percentage before and after.

  • The Hornets can’t catch a break and stay with the toughest schedule. Portland and the Kings also see a significant increase in difficulty.
  • Denver and Utah continue to see a significant softening of their schedule. The Pacers, Hawks and Pistons get some help from the league office as well (and the Raptors in the Pistons case).

Let’s talk rankings.

The Rankings as of 1/30/13

The game data is courtesy of Basketball Reference.

The rankings are built by working out the following numbers:

  • Point Margin per Game: (Pts scored by team) – (Pts scored by opponent) / games played
  • Home court Point Margin per Game: Point Margin per game due to the schedule and homecourt advantage.
  • Adjusted Point Margin per Game: (Point Margin per Game) – (Home court Point Margin per Game). Schedule independent point margin (neutral site at sea level)
  • Adjusted Opponent Point Margin: The average Point Margin per Game of a teams opponents.
  • Real Point Margin (RPM): (Point Margin per Game) – (Home court Point Margin per Game) + (Adjusted Opponent Point Margin). Expected Point Margin at a neutral site against perfectly average opposition. This is the Number I use to rank. Please note that I added the RPM for the last ten games to give me a more real time weighed estimate.
  • Neutral Site Win % : A win projection using the real point margin and the relationship between point margin and win% (RPM/31 + .500 is a quick shorthand but not quite right, we gotta have some secrets)

As always, keep in mind that this is a guess (buyer beware) at the relative strengths of teams based on the data of the season to date with some weighing put in for more recent games. A more accurate projection would account for injuries and incorporate what we know of player historical performance. We will address this in a, say it with me, future post before the playoffs.


And for the League:


Ladies and gentlemen, we have movement at the top! Let’s do some notes:

  • While the West is still very, very strong with 3 of the 4 top teams in the league in a dead heat, Miami has come back to form and moved back into that top contender tier. If I had to guess, San Antonio gets the top seed out West but it’s all coming down to health and luck in the end.
  • Those Rockets continue to make some real noise in the pack out west. Their youth and their improvement as the season goes along is going to continue to bear watching.
  • Chicago is lurking (two words : Jimmy Butler) and so is Derrick Rose. Let’s keep an eye out shall we? The possible Stat Revival in New York also bears watching. Bulls/Knicks in Round 2? Seems inevitable.
  • The rest of the East so far is horrid. The records are more than a bit inflated. What is intriguing is the possible turnaround of a few teams via trade (Pistons) or return from injury (Sixers, Wizards) while others collapse to the lottery (Raptors and, it kills me to type this, Celtics). I actually think the Pistons are the best bet to improve dramatically in the second half, particularly if Drummond can overcome his tragic case of drafted-too-low-itis and stay on the court.
  • There is still the possibility of one or more crazy trade out there. In fact let me make it easy for you Danny.
  • The Lakers are sitting at 9th overall and seventh in the West. They needed Minnesota, Utah and Portland to falter. Minnesota is most likely the victim of Eduardo the injury fairy taking a transfer from Portland. Portland is about to be victimized by the league office. Utah just got clowned by the Rockets. Throw in some significant economic incentives and I feel the Lakers are almost a dead lock to get the eight seed.

Let’s show you the full season simulation now. You’ll note that I did the sim based on the full season, the last ten games and the average of the two.


And as always that brings us to current projections sorted as minimum, average and maximum projected wins. The table also shows the numbers from the preseason projection and whether that number was low, high or in range based on the current status of the league.


18 of the 30 projections are in line with the preseason numbers. For the lows, we have Chicago (who seem to have found a real gem in Butler), Indiana (Stephenson is a surprise), Brooklyn (Brook Lopez learning how to rebound), Detroit (and Drummond overcoming CWPMS — Coach Won’t Play Me Syndrome), the West top three (and the continued underestimated level of suck in the East), and Golden State (David Lee with the two year recovery from zombification). As for the highs, we have Philly (Bynum and the Bowling hijinks), Minnesota and New Orleans featured in injurypalooza 2012-13 as for Toronto? Well, get to know Bryan Colangelo.

As noted earlier, the Lakers are lurking around that last spot in the West and need some real luck to make it in. If it were any other team, I wouldn’t like their odds. I just don’t think the Angel of Stern is going to Kobe take an early vacation at this point.

Playoff odds anyone?


Before the season, I picked San Antonio over Miami in the finals. I see no reason to change my mind.


P.S. Again as a bonus, Here’s a table presented without explanation or context:


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