The NBA Offseason List part 4: The Last Dress Rehersal

“No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength”-Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

We are about two months away from the first basket taken in anger. This is the time when everyone goes crazy with predictions.

Everyone believes they have a magic formula or a special insight that allows them to predict the future accurately. We forget exactly how hard that is. So many things can change and go wrong.

Boston was supposed to repeat in 2009 or if not it was going to be the Lebron Show but then KG got hurt and Mike Brown lost his playoff mind. 2010 was definitely going to be Lebron’s time but again Mike Brown.

The Heat were going to own 2011 but then a funny thing happened with the Wages of Wins no title all stars.

2012 actually was the year of Miami.

2013 I missed by the barest of margins.

People will remember this and tend to discount predictions. They’re missing the point.

Image courtesy of xkcd.com

It’s the margins that matter. We build the models to understand the possible outcomes with the understanding that the further we are from the outcome the more variability exists in the result. However this gives us a frame of reference and a context to judge the actions of different teams and to compare expectations with results.

And seriously people, I had Spurs over Miami in six before the season and they rolled out the damn trophy with a minute left in game six.

So without further ado,  the final part of my offseason breakdown for the upcoming 2013-14 season (see parts 1, 2, 3 and the interactive version) . Next time around it’ll be the full prediction package.

We start with the Contract List:

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That’s the up-to-date (as of 12:01 AM EST, 8/26/13 per Wikipedia and Yahoo) list of all players, signed and unsigned. Players are sorted by team and expected wins over the next five years. For background, I’m going to walk you through everything.

  • Player Vitals: simple enough; name, old team, new team, position over last three years, age right now, minutes per game (this is the projection for next season) and Wins Produced per 48 minutes for the last three years.
  • Projected Wins: using the player’s age, minutes per game, Wins Produced per 48 for the last three years and the Age Model, I project the player’s expected Wins Produced for each of the next five years. The big enhancement here is that I went through the minute rotations in more detail and I used raw productivity to account for size in the projection.
  • Market Value: I then estimate the value of those wins using the data from Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ and general math (see here or here for a nice illustration of the method). Basically I work out the BRI (basketball Related income), divide it by two (player share) and then divide it by 30 teams and 41 wins. I take that value, multiply it by the Wins Produced by the player, and I get the player’s market value.
  • Win Delta is meant as an objective measure of the value of the contract. Simply put it’s the difference between the wins paid for by the player’s contract and the actual wins expected from the player. Win Delta Rank is then a measure of the contracts with the best and worst surplus wins.

Got it? Here’s the data as an excel file:

List v5

Try not to play with it where your boss will catch you.

Let’s do a quick grading of every teams’ offseason. To do this I will work out the projected Wins per 48 for all resigned or added talent and the return on salary for all those same player. I will then work out the percentiles for both and rank the teams. The answer in a table looks like so:

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By this measure, The Clippers, Heat, Hawks, Spurs and Mavs had easily the best offseasons. The Heat are actually sneaky good since I’m assuming league average performance from Oden. Houston brought in the best per minute wins but paid market value for them (but we will see in a bit that this was the right move).

The bottom of this list is intriguing with the Lakers having a historically terrible offseason. Boston and Phoenix are not surprises at the bottom (and neither are the Knicks for longtime Wages of Wins fans) but the supposedly well run Thunder and Pacers really went backwards in the offseason.

What does it all mean in terms of win projections? Here’s where an even more involved early season win projection comes in. I went all out this time. I’m giving you actual wins for last year, wins produced for last year, projected wins using the minute projections based on last years numbers, the average of the last three years, the best of the last three years and a win projection using size and a margin of error considering age and ranges of performance over the last three years giving you a bad,nominal and good projection. It looks like so:

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Let’s review Top to bottom:

  • I am standing up and giving Daryl Morey a slow clap right now. He’s done everything possible to bring another banner to Houston in the next five years.
  • The Clippers look to continue to lay their claim to the second largest market in the league. I’m not a fan of their new coach (more on this later) but their in the contender conversation.
  • San Antonio and Miami remain San Antonio and Miami. Greg Oden is the biggest X-Factor of the season. If he’s even 50% of his potential, Miami is a lock for a fourth finals appearance in a row.
  • The Thunder keep making it easy for their competition. They went for a sure thing for a title to maybe being the Hawks of the West. Good job.
  • Memphis did some interesting things in the offseason. They brought in a Euro player (Nick Calathes) who just happened to win the Eurocup mvp and Mike Miller. Both have real upside over my current projection.
  • Detroit joins Chicago and Atlanta in the race for the two seed in the East. The Pistons need to get a full season of Drummond. The Bulls need a full season of Rose. The Hawks are the Hawks.
  • The Cavs could be good. Does anyone actually trust Bynum though?
  • The Mavs are a real dark horse in the West. Look, I see what Mark is trying to do. If they can keep their olders players healthy, if Dirk is Dirk, if Blair or Monta can be redeemed playing with a great coach on a smart team, if any of these hit, this team can be a contender.
  • Utah will surprise people. Teams with effective young bigs playing at altitude tend to do that. Denver will be fighting them for the right to get killed by the one seed.
  • Philly, Boston and Toronto could be decent. The big question is will they want to? I think Philly and Boston tank and Toronto surprises. Particularly if Gay’s eye surgery makes a difference.
  • Indiana, Minnesota, Golden State and Brooklyn are the high variability teams. If Golden State and Minnesota are healthy they could move way up. Indiana’s roster got worse and needs their players to be continue with last year’s career years. Brooklyn needs Lopez not to regress, Deron to be decent and not crappy (that’s 50/50) and their very old stars to stay healthy. I think Indy and the Nets will be helped by the tankapaloza in the East while the Warriors and Wolves will be killed in the Western bloodbath.
  • As for the rest? Tanking for Wiggins.
  • By the way, franchise record for losses for the Lakers in LA is 52. Just saying :-)

Rockets/Heat or Spurs/Heat should be your default Finals picks everyone.

-Arturo

 

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