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Fun With Quarter-Season Performances

Posted by Neil Paine on September 27, 2010

As part of Friday's post about the 2011 Heat's possible '07 Patriots connection, I had to run a little query splitting up every team's per-game point differential by each quarter of their season, and I thought we could make some use of that data today as well. To win 60+ games in today's NBA, a team needs to win 73% of its games, and that typically requires an average PPG differential of +7. This doesn't necessarily mean they played like a +7 team all season long, though -- if we break the season down into fourths (including playoffs), we find that only six teams in NBA history have ever played like a +7 team at every stage of the campaign:

Year Team 1stQ 2ndQ 3rdQ 4thQ
1971 Milwaukee Bucks 11.67 14.83 15.08 8.75
1972 Los Angeles Lakers 13.04 12.50 8.13 9.88
1972 Milwaukee Bucks 13.43 11.74 9.61 7.75
1987 Los Angeles Lakers 8.96 10.08 9.04 10.64
1991 Chicago Bulls 8.21 7.16 13.08 9.68
1996 Chicago Bulls 10.24 12.24 13.08 12.20

Even for a 60-win-caliber team, it's tough to maintain that level all season, especially given the fact that playoff games drag your 4th quarter differential down with their pesky increased opponent strength. Here's how the 60-win teams of recent vintage did it:

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Posted in Analysis, Data Dump, History | 7 Comments »

Will the 2011 Heat Emulate the 2007 Patriots?

Posted by Neil Paine on September 24, 2010

Sorry to go on a 2011 Miami Heat bender here, but BBR Blog reader Nick had an intriguing comment in response to yesterday's post about a possible weakness of the LeBron James/Dwyane Wade tandem:

"Trying to compare the Heat to anything that has ever come before is an exercise in futility. You have the best player in the league, who happens to LOVE to pass teamed up with the second-or-third best player, who also is pretty fond of passing to the open man. They may both have had similar styles, but they ended up in those styles due to their teams' set-ups. How LeBron will act now that he can people to pass to who are good in their own right cannot be predicted with the information we have.

There's never been anything like it before. Every Heat game is going to be worth watching, especially against the crappy teams, because you don't know what sort of thing they'll bring out when they're way ahead. It wouldn't surprise me if they have regular season games where Miller shoots 20 3s and scores 30+ points, just because they think it'd be fun to do. This Heat team goes way beyond special into the realm of surreal."

That reminded me of a Chase Stuart post at PFR in October 2007:

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Posted in Analysis, Non-Basketball, Offseason, Season Preview | 22 Comments »

More on Perimeter Players & Free Throw Rates

Posted by Neil Paine on September 23, 2010

Last Friday, I posted about teams that formed as potent a slashing combo as the new LeBron James-Dwyane Wade duo in Miami, and found that in an incredibly small sample of similar cases (3, to be exact), at least one -- if not both -- of the players had to change their playing style to accommodate their new circumstance. A lot of people asked about the general effect of the new team member on the offense, though, so today I wanted to quickly follow up and look at whether the driving tendency of the added player correlated to the amount of offensive improvement the team saw.

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Posted in Analysis, History, Statgeekery | 11 Comments »

Layups: Former Track Stars Turned Pro in Other Sports

Posted by Neil Paine on September 22, 2010

Although it's barely pertinent from a basketball perspective (Willie Sojourner, Fred Sheffield, and Walt Davis -- who apparently was a world-record-holding Olympic high jumper before his rather mediocre NBA career -- are the only hoops names on the list), Heimo Elonen has compiled a neat list of pro football, basketball, and baseball players who were track and field stars before pursuing a career in a different sport (as you might expect, lots of NFL players turn up here). All in all, it's an interesting piece of research if you're a sports fan.

Posted in Layups, Non-Basketball | 1 Comment »

Basketball League of Amazing Benchwarmers (BLAB): End of Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Neil Paine on September 22, 2010

Hey, remember the Basketball League of Amazing Benchwarmers? If not, go back and check out these posts (I'll wait):

Basketball League of Amazing Benchwarmers (BLAB) Setup
Basketball League of Amazing Benchwarmers (BLAB): Regular Season, Stage 1
Basketball League of Amazing Benchwarmers (BLAB): Regular Season, Stage 2

Finished? Awesome. In short, the basic premise of BLAB came from a post about random Facebook groups devoted to 1980s-era journeymen, then one thing led to another, and next you know I'm putting together a sim league with teams comprised entirely of memorable but below-average players from the recent past. Now, after a quick 4-month hiatus, BLAB is back and ready to conclude its first (and, you gotta think, only) season.

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Posted in Insane ideas, Just For Fun, Win Shares | 4 Comments »

Best Offensive and Defensive Coaches

Posted by Neil Paine on September 21, 2010

When I posted last month about the all-time players who played for the best offensive and defensive teams in NBA history, there was a common theme among a number of the names at the top of each list: namely, they all played for a certain coach, or under a certain scheme. It only makes sense, then, to do the same study for coaches, and determine the guys who have called the shots for the top offenses and defenses of all time (or at least, since 1951).

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Posted in Analysis, Coaches, History, Statgeekery | 14 Comments »

Layups: Apparently Hipsters Love Classic NBA Jerseys, Too

Posted by Neil Paine on September 20, 2010

In case you missed it, Sunday's New York Times featured a fashion & style story relevant to the basketball set, an Adam Wilson piece centering on 20-something hipsters whose outfits of choice include the jerseys of 1990s-era NBA players. A few of the players paid homage to on the streets of NYC:  Mark Price, Ed O'Bannon, Glen Rice, Isaiah Rider, Jerry Stackhouse, and Michael Jordan (#45 variety, naturally).

Of course, no discussion of ironic vintage NBA apparel would be complete without also acknowledging the legendary Straight Cash Homey Dot Net, who for more than three years has been posting a collection of the most ridiculous jerseys in captivity. The majority of the people in their photos lack the self-awareness about jersey selection that the East Village hipsters have, but then again, when you're sporting an Isaac Austin jersey, does the level of irony with which you wear it really matter?

Posted in Just For Fun, Layups, Uniforms | 9 Comments »

Hard-Driving New Teammates

Posted by Neil Paine on September 17, 2010

One common observation about the new-look Miami Heat goes something like this:

  • Dwyane Wade is a great perimeter player who makes his living attacking the basket. He's unstoppable when he drives into the lane, but not as good when you force him to shoot a jump shot.
  • LeBron James is also a great perimeter player who makes his living attacking the basket. He, too, is unstoppable when he drives into the lane, but not as good when you force him to shoot a jump shot.
  • Won't this redundancy in skills make the Heat easier to defend?

If only we could quantify this dilemma, find similar situations in the past where two hard-driving teammates joined forces, and see if their offenses were as potent as expected...

Oh, wait, we can.

Enter good old Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA). Because the majority of fouls are assessed on interior shooting attempts and/or aggressive offensive plays, FTR is actually a pretty good indicator of where a player likes to operate from on offense. Players like Glen Rice and Dennis Scott were known for their low FTRs because they took a ton of perimeter jumpers, shots on which a foul would land you in the serious doghouse. And at the other end of the spectrum there's Reggie Evans, whose legendary FTRs tell the story of a player who rarely attempts a shot outside of point-blank range. Obviously there are some players who are exceptions to this rule, but the majority of players' inside-outside tendencies can be described simply by looking at FTA/FGA.

So that should be the starting point in examining the issue of hard-driving teammates. The next step is to compare everyone's FTR to some universal standard, and to do that I borrowed this method from PFR's Doug Drinen. I don't want to bore you with the details, but it basically compares everyone to the league average; 100 is average, numbers greater than 100 mean the player attacks the rim more than the average player, and numbers under 100 mean the player is less aggressive than the average player. The theory is that if we just look at these "FTR Index" numbers for perimeter players (PG, SG, SF), we can find players who drove to the basket the most, which best describes LeBron and D-Wade's playing style.

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Posted in Analysis, History, Season Preview, Statgeekery | 19 Comments »

Layups: The Answer to China?

Posted by Sean Forman on September 15, 2010 Iverson to China Possible?

"We're very astonished, to say the least, that not one team has contacted us with any interest," Moore told AP. "I just don't understand it. What has Allen Iverson done to not warrant interest in him?"

File this under, The Player is Always the Last to Know.

Posted in Layups | 7 Comments »

Layups: Artis Gilmore Has a Blog

Posted by Neil Paine on September 14, 2010

If you're a longtime reader of this blog, you know that Artis Gilmore is always the answer to at least one of our recurring questions: "Who is the very best (eligible) basketball player in history that isn't in the Hall of Fame?" In fact, sometimes it seems like we should just retire #6 on that Keltner List questionnaire, because it doesn't matter which player we're looking at... unless you're Artis Gilmore, the answer is "no". Gilmore owns #6.

And thanks to a hat-tip-worthy link by TrueHoop, I learned today that the A-Train has a blog, where he gives his perspective on various basketball topics (including an offer last week to help Greg Oden with his game). I was also pleasantly surprised to see a number of guest posts lobbying for Gilmore to be in the HoF, which we couldn't be more in favor of here at BBR.

So here's to our old favorite Artis Gilmore, one of the great centers of all-time and a player who, with the 6th-most combined ABA/NBA Win Shares of all time, desperately needs to be enshrined in Springfield.

Posted in Hall of Fame, Just For Fun, Layups | 28 Comments »