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2010-11 Surprise Teams (11-22-2010 edition)

Posted by Neil Paine on November 22, 2010

Two weeks ago, I looked at the players who were under- and over-achieving the most so far this season. Today, I want to take the same concept and apply it to teams -- given the projected SPM performance levels of their players and the distribution of minutes to those players, which teams are currently playing better or worse than we would have expected?

Offense (all numbers denominated in points/100 possessions above or below average)

Year Team Off Proj-Off Diff-Off Year Team Off Proj-Off Diff-Off Year Team Off Proj-Off Diff-Off
2011 LAL 10.99 4.28 6.71 2011 WAS -4.52 -4.22 -0.30 2011 DET -1.33 1.17 -2.49
2011 OKC 1.74 -0.59 2.34 2011 SAC -1.76 -1.39 -0.38 2011 NOH 0.45 3.30 -2.85
2011 CHI 0.10 -2.21 2.31 2011 GSW -0.78 0.44 -1.23 2011 POR 1.80 4.80 -3.00
2011 ATL 4.28 2.19 2.09 2011 SAS 5.57 7.00 -1.43 2011 BOS 1.85 4.87 -3.02
2011 CHA -0.89 -2.76 1.87 2011 LAC -4.02 -2.36 -1.67 2011 DAL 0.34 3.55 -3.20
2011 TOR -1.07 -1.89 0.82 2011 NJN -2.36 -0.49 -1.87 2011 MEM -3.08 0.31 -3.39
2011 CLE -2.80 -3.53 0.73 2011 PHO 3.37 5.26 -1.89 2011 ORL -1.04 3.44 -4.47
2011 IND -0.15 -0.74 0.59 2011 PHI -4.19 -2.09 -2.10 2011 DEN 2.01 6.85 -4.84
2011 HOU 0.24 0.45 -0.20 2011 MIN -5.47 -3.17 -2.30 2011 MIA 5.21 10.82 -5.62
2011 NYK 1.88 2.09 -0.21 2011 UTA 0.38 2.83 -2.45 2011 MIL -7.19 0.43 -7.62

The Lakers are playing so well on offense right now that it's no surprise that they rank first, but OKC is an interesting team to be ranked 2nd, seeing as how many observers consider them a disappointment so far. However, their rise last year was so meteoric that a regression was to be expected (it's called the Plexiglas Principle); the fact that they have retained much of that improvement this year is actually to their credit. And at the other end of the spectrum, the Bucks have been horrific offensively, with all of their regulars except Brandon Jennings and Carlos Delfino playing far worse than expected. And the Heat, while good on offense, have not yet figured out how to harness the power of their talented core.

(See the full table of all players HERE.)

Defense

Year Team Def Proj-Def Diff-Def Year Team Def Proj-Def Diff-Def Year Team Def Proj-Def Diff-Def
2011 NOH 7.33 0.55 6.78 2011 TOR -1.64 -3.38 1.74 2011 POR -0.77 1.76 -2.53
2011 ORL 9.22 3.16 6.06 2011 SAS 4.40 2.91 1.49 2011 LAL 0.81 3.54 -2.73
2011 MIL 7.53 1.82 5.70 2011 NJN -1.36 -2.24 0.89 2011 MIN -3.94 -1.09 -2.84
2011 MIA 5.39 0.43 4.96 2011 MEM -0.25 -0.66 0.41 2011 CHA -0.39 2.73 -3.12
2011 IND 2.85 -0.76 3.61 2011 DET -3.36 -3.45 0.08 2011 HOU -2.79 0.66 -3.45
2011 PHI 0.88 -1.87 2.75 2011 UTA 0.53 1.40 -0.87 2011 CLE -2.40 1.12 -3.52
2011 DAL 4.01 1.70 2.31 2011 ATL -1.33 0.35 -1.68 2011 LAC -6.28 -2.70 -3.58
2011 DEN -0.73 -2.92 2.18 2011 NYK -2.89 -1.08 -1.81 2011 GSW -3.14 0.45 -3.59
2011 CHI 3.34 1.27 2.07 2011 SAC -3.20 -1.24 -1.96 2011 OKC -2.32 1.80 -4.12
2011 BOS 4.61 2.63 1.98 2011 WAS -2.89 -0.89 -2.00 2011 PHO -6.97 -2.68 -4.29

The Hornets' defensive resurgence represents an impressive -- and impossible to predict -- improvement. Even when New Orleans was at their best in 2008, their defense ranked 7th in the league and actually lagged behind their offense as the driving force for their success. This year, though? Almost all of their +7.8 efficiency differential is attributable to their dominating D. Meanwhile, Phoenix continues to underachieve on defense, despite the fact that they were not expected to be very good at that end, and we also see the primary reason the Thunder have disappointed so far.

(See the full table of all players HERE.)

Overall

Year Team Ovr Proj-Ovr Diff-Ovr Year Team Ovr Proj-Ovr Diff-Ovr Year Team Ovr Proj-Ovr Diff-Ovr
2011 CHI 3.44 -0.94 4.38 2011 DAL 4.35 5.25 -0.89 2011 DEN 1.28 3.94 -2.65
2011 IND 2.70 -1.50 4.20 2011 NJN -3.72 -2.74 -0.98 2011 CLE -5.20 -2.41 -2.79
2011 LAL 11.79 7.82 3.98 2011 BOS 6.46 7.50 -1.04 2011 MEM -3.33 -0.35 -2.98
2011 NOH 7.78 3.85 3.93 2011 CHA -1.28 -0.03 -1.25 2011 UTA 0.91 4.24 -3.33
2011 TOR -2.71 -5.27 2.56 2011 OKC -0.58 1.20 -1.78 2011 HOU -2.55 1.10 -3.65
2011 ORL 8.18 6.59 1.59 2011 MIL 0.33 2.25 -1.92 2011 GSW -3.92 0.90 -4.81
2011 PHI -3.31 -3.96 0.65 2011 NYK -1.01 1.00 -2.02 2011 MIN -9.41 -4.26 -5.15
2011 ATL 2.95 2.54 0.41 2011 WAS -7.41 -5.11 -2.30 2011 LAC -10.30 -5.06 -5.24
2011 SAS 9.97 9.91 0.06 2011 SAC -4.97 -2.63 -2.34 2011 POR 1.03 6.56 -5.53
2011 MIA 10.59 11.26 -0.66 2011 DET -4.69 -2.28 -2.41 2011 PHO -3.61 2.58 -6.18

The Chicago Bulls rank as the most surprising team for improving their offense and defense by +2 pts/100 possessions apiece vs. what was expected. Indy has also been a pleasant surprise, almost entirely because of their defense, and the Lakers are even better than expected despite a mediocre defensive showing, simply because their offense is out of this world. At the same time, the Suns have been terrible on defense and underachieving on offense, and the Blazers have had well-documented disappointments this year (mostly in the area of injuries).

(See the full table of all players HERE.)

It will be interesting to look back after the season at whether the same teams are at the top (and bottom) of these lists when everything is said and done.

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11 Responses to “2010-11 Surprise Teams (11-22-2010 edition)”

  1. Neil Paine Says:

    What's really interesting is that the Heat are basically who we thought they'd be (+10-ish efficiency differential), but instead of +10 offense and +0 defense, it's been +5 offense and +5 defense.

  2. Jared Ras Says:

    Is it right to net the offense and defense rather than using the absolute values? I'm a Bucks fan, and our defense has been better than expected and our offense (much) worse than expected. Netting the two, Milwaukee is at the middle of the pack, but using absolute values, they'd be the most surprising team for better or for worse.

  3. Neil Paine Says:

    That's an interesting take -- even if the overall efficiency diff. wasn't much of a surprise, the fact that they got there by being so unexpectedly extreme on offense and defense is a big surprise. By that measure, we get:

    Year Team Lg Abs(Off) Abs(Def) Tot
    2011 MIL NBA 7.62 5.70 13.32
    2011 MIA NBA 5.62 4.96 10.57
    2011 ORL NBA 4.47 6.06 10.54
    2011 NOH NBA 2.85 6.78 9.62
    2011 LAL NBA 6.71 2.73 9.44
    2011 DEN NBA 4.84 2.18 7.02
    2011 OKC NBA 2.34 4.12 6.45
    2011 PHO NBA 1.89 4.29 6.18
    2011 POR NBA 3.00 2.53 5.53
    2011 DAL NBA 3.20 2.31 5.51
    2011 LAC NBA 1.67 3.58 5.24
    2011 MIN NBA 2.30 2.84 5.15
    2011 BOS NBA 3.02 1.98 5.00
    2011 CHA NBA 1.87 3.12 4.99
    2011 PHI NBA 2.10 2.75 4.85
    2011 GSW NBA 1.23 3.59 4.81
    2011 CHI NBA 2.31 2.07 4.38
    2011 CLE NBA 0.73 3.52 4.25
    2011 IND NBA 0.59 3.61 4.20
    2011 MEM NBA 3.39 0.41 3.81
    2011 ATL NBA 2.09 1.68 3.77
    2011 HOU NBA 0.20 3.45 3.65
    2011 UTA NBA 2.45 0.87 3.33
    2011 SAS NBA 1.43 1.49 2.92
    2011 NJN NBA 1.87 0.89 2.75
    2011 DET NBA 2.49 0.08 2.58
    2011 TOR NBA 0.82 1.74 2.56
    2011 SAC NBA 0.38 1.96 2.34
    2011 WAS NBA 0.30 2.00 2.30
    2011 NYK NBA 0.21 1.81 2.02
  4. dsong Says:

    "They were who we thought they were!"

    In all seriousness, I'm pleasantly surprised with the Lakers' performance so far. New Orleans and San Antonio have been the other big surprises.

    Let's see if any of the three teams can continue the dream pace. Unlikely, but one can always hope.

  5. Jay Says:

    As a Laker fan, all I can say is don't hold your breath for them to keep up the pace. The schedule turns for the worse in a few weeks and you can't possibly expect their offense to keep up this kind of overachieving pace. You can make the argument that they haven't played a single quality team for the year yet. That's pretty incredible. I think it's still too early to even know if the team is any good yet.

  6. dsong Says:

    I'll definitely take the 12-2 start and wouldn't discount their chances of getting home court advantage. If all goes well, it could be a 60+ win season... and perhaps a three-peat.

    The season is young but it's always better to start off on the right foot.

  7. Greyberger Says:

    The West as a whole has underperformed (rather high) projections. You predicted 4 West teams to have a negative margin, and Dsmok's predictions said 5, but I don't see how that can be possible without the East getting totally destroyed in games against the West.

    Anyway thanks to injuries (Houston) and just plain slackin' (OKC) it's hard to tell the conferences apart. At least without looking at that (already) one-sided conference vs conference record.

  8. Marty Says:

    This is great information Neil. It does surprise me to see OKC outperforming the offensive expectation and the Pacers beating the overall expectation by a good number.

    But probably most interesting is a case like the Warriors, who are -1.23 off the offense projection and -3.59 off the defense projection, yet they've outperformed in the win column. Could it be because three of their six losses were absolute blowouts?

  9. Ryan. Says:

    For anybody who reads my posts here, you know I'm not an antagonizer of the stat game. But in the case of the Heat, the numbers are completely deceptive. The team looks absolutely terrible, especially offensively, and if they continue this trend of playing majority of the game with no offensive schemes and no off-ball movement, they will get slaughtered when it comes time to flip the switch.

    Watching them play the Pacers today has been like poking hot needles through your f*cking eyes. It's unbearable.

  10. dsong Says:

    I concede that I was totally off about the Heat. If they keep playing like this, Spoelstra will soon develop that Jim Mora face and start shouting, "Playoffs?!"

    Even given their flaws and injuries, I didn't think Miami would be rolled by Indiana at home even with a 38-15 FT advantage.

    Lebron needs to play like the legend he is in order for this team to win even 55 games.

  11. storyofgreats Says:

    76-6 is not impossible.Dwyer and Paine are the best.Lebron>Kobe.
    End of story.
    Thanks.