Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

April 6, 2009

Ginobili’s Season Finished

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 8:58 pm

On a day when college hoops and baseball take center stage, the NBA quietly offered its own bit of shocking news this afternoon as reports trickled out that Manu Ginobili is out for the remainder of the season, including the playoffs, after a recurrence of pain in the right ankle that has troubled him all season and dating back to last year’s Olympics. The Spurs announced today that an MRI showed “increased narrow edema and stress fracture in his right distal fibula,” forcing Ginobili to be shut down.

The question then becomes what kind of a run San Antonio can mount without one of the big three stars who have carried the team. The Spurs currently lead the Southwest Division, but by just a half-game over Houston. Looking at a couple of different first-cut numbers for San Antonio sans Ginobili yields wildly different results. In games he has missed, the Spurs are 17-15 as compared to 32-12 with Ginobili in the lineup. However, with Ginobili actually on the court, the team has played little differently; his net plus-minus is a paltry +0.2 points per 100 possessions, per 82games.com.

I don’t think either extreme is a fair assessment of the situation. Using the same methodology I laid out in my column on inconsistency, we can look at San Antonio’s performance–adjusted for home/road and opponent quality–with and without Ginobili. By this measure, the Spurs are 4.0 points better than league average per game with Ginobili, +2.1 points without him. Over the course of a full season, that translates into a difference of about five wins, which seems reasonable if a little on the low side. San Antonio is still competitive without Ginobili, recording wins over Dallas, Portland and Houston during his most recent absence, but in a crowded West even a relatively small drop could mean everything. Comparing to pure point differential for the rest of the West, the Spurs with Ginobili are third behind the L.A. Lakers and Portland. The Ginobili-less team is seventh, ahead of only Dallas.

The good news for San Antonio is the schedule is favorable the rest of the way. Their three road games–Oklahoma City, Sacramento and Golden State–are very winnable even without Ginobili, with the matchups against playoff-bound teams (Portland, Utah and New Orleans) all at home. Entering today, Basketball-Reference’s simulator gave the Spurs a 69.4 percent chance of winning the Southwest with John Hollinger’s Playoff Odds estimating their chances at 60.4 percent. I’d still give San Antonio about 50-50 odds of winning the Southwest and slightly worse of taking a first-round playoff series, but what Ginobili’s injury definitely does is significantly hurt the Spurs’ ability to make another deep playoff run.

April 2, 2009

The Last Chat

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 8:46 am

It’s today at noon Eastern. Click here at the appointed hour to go live or do it ahead of time to submit your question in advance. The Final Four, this year’s late-arriving but nevertheless robust coaching carousel, the upcoming draft, early peeks at next year–it’s all fair game. Join us!

(Yes, for the last chat of the season it’s OK for an Unfiltered post to be limited to a shameless plug for a chat. Once a year is acceptable.)

April 1, 2009

Prospectus Hoops List: Week of March 29

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 10:36 am

Here are the top four reasons why this week’s Hoops List is again going straight to Unfiltered:

  1. The Missouri Tigers made the Elite 8!
  2. Baseball season is approaching fast.
  3. Realtors have kicked me out of my house about three times a day this week.
  4. The college coaching carousel took Mike Anderson for a spin, only to leave him in the same place (albeit quite a bit richer).

Alas, the window has closed to get a fully-realized list out this week. I just spent three hours updating NBAPET with the last nine days’ worth of NBA games, so at the very least, you’ll have the raw rankings. Next week, we’ll try again.

(Statistics through March 29)

Rank. (Last week) Team (Power rating) [Win pace / Pythagorean win pace / Preseason projecion ]

1. (1) Cleveland Cavaliers (66.3) [ 67 / 65 / 44 ]
Rankings: NET: 1; OFF: 4; DEF: 3; PACE: 25

2. (2) Boston Celtics (62.4) [ 61 / 62 / 63 ]
Rankings: NET: 2; OFF: 5; DEF: 1; PACE: 20

3. (3) Los Angeles Lakers (61.5) [ 65 / 60 / 49 ]
Rankings: NET: 4; OFF: 2; DEF: 6; PACE: 5

4. (4) Orlando Magic (60.1) [ 61 / 60 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 3; OFF: 6; DEF: 2; PACE: 12

5. (5) Portland Trail Blazers (52.3) [ 51 / 52 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 5; OFF: 3; DEF: 17; PACE: 29

6. (8) Denver Nuggets (52.2) [ 53 / 49 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 9; OFF: 8; DEF: 10; PACE: 6

7. (7) San Antonio Spurs (52.0) [ 53 / 52 / 55 ]
Rankings: NET: 6; OFF: 13; DEF: 5; PACE: 27

8. (6) Houston Rockets (51.9) [ 53 / 52 / 61 ]
Rankings: NET: 7; OFF: 16; DEF: 4; PACE: 19

9. (10) Utah Jazz (50.2) [ 51 / 51 / 50 ]
Rankings: NET: 8; OFF: 7; DEF: 9; PACE: 10

10. (9) New Orleans Hornets (49.0) [ 51 / 47 / 45 ]
Rankings: NET: 10; OFF: 11; DEF: 8; PACE: 28

11. (11) Atlanta Hawks (47.6) [ 47 / 46 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 12; OFF: 10; DEF: 12; PACE: 24

12. (12) Dallas Mavericks (46.4) [ 48 / 44 / 51 ]
Rankings: NET: 13; OFF: 9; DEF: 15; PACE: 15

13. (13) Phoenix Suns (45.4) [ 44 / 45 / 49 ]
Rankings: NET: 11; OFF: 1; DEF: 23; PACE: 4

14. (14) Miami Heat (42.7) [ 43 / 41 / 35 ]
Rankings: NET: 15; OFF: 17; DEF: 13; PACE: 21

15. (15) Philadelphia 76ers (41.7) [ 42 / 42 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 14; OFF: 19; DEF: 11; PACE: 18

16. (17) Chicago Bulls (40.1) [ 39 / 39 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 17; OFF: 18; DEF: 18; PACE: 9

17. (16) Detroit Pistons (39.6) [ 40 / 39 / 55 ]
Rankings: NET: 16; OFF: 22; DEF: 16; PACE: 30

18. (19) Charlotte Bobcats (36.6) [ 37 / 38 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 18; OFF: 27; DEF: 7; PACE: 26

19. (20) Indiana Pacers (36.0) [ 34 / 36 / 41 ]
Rankings: NET: 20; OFF: 20; DEF: 19; PACE: 3

20. (18) Milwaukee Bucks (35.8) [ 34 / 36 / 31 ]
Rankings: NET: 19; OFF: 23; DEF: 14; PACE: 11

21. (21) New Jersey Nets (33.9) [ 33 / 33 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 22; OFF: 14; DEF: 24; PACE: 22

22. (22) New York Knicks (33.0) [ 32 / 34 / 33 ]
Rankings: NET: 23; OFF: 15; DEF: 25; PACE: 2

23. (23) Toronto Raptors (32.7) [ 31 / 32 / 42 ]
Rankings: NET: 21; OFF: 21; DEF: 21; PACE: 16

24. (24) Golden State Warriors (29.3) [ 28 / 31 / 35 ]
Rankings: NET: 24; OFF: 12; DEF: 28; PACE: 1

25. (25) Minnesota Timberwolves (26.2) [ 23 / 27 / 26 ]
Rankings: NET: 25; OFF: 24; DEF: 27; PACE: 14

26. (26) Oklahoma City Thunder (23.0) [ 22 / 25 / 23 ]
Rankings: NET: 26; OFF: 30; DEF: 20; PACE: 8

27. (27) Memphis Grizzlies (21.6) [ 20 / 23 / 19 ]
Rankings: NET: 27; OFF: 28; DEF: 22; PACE: 23

28. (28) Los Angeles Clippers (19.8) [ 19 / 18 / 33 ]
Rankings: NET: 29; OFF: 29; DEF: 26; PACE: 13

29. (29) Washington Wizards (19.1) [ 18 / 20 / 32 ]
Rankings: NET: 30; OFF: 26; DEF: 29; PACE: 17

30. (30) Sacramento Kings (18.7) [ 18 / 20 / 39 ]
Rankings: NET: 28; OFF: 25; DEF: 30; PACE: 7

Definitions:

NBAPET = stands for National Basketball Association Projection, Evaluation and Tracking = A database and system of metrics for analyzing professional basketball.

gRATE = a one-game metric that measures a player’s offensive and defensive contribution and expresses it as a net point total. The sum of a team’s gRATE figures for a game will equal its actual point differential for that game.

Adjusted winning percentage (AWP) = ((home wins x 0.6)+(road wins x 1.4)) / (((home wins x 0.6)+(road wins x 1.4)) + ((home losses x .1.4)+(road losses x 0.6)))

LUCK = the difference between a team’s 82-game win pace and its 82-game Pythagorean win pace.

Opponents winning percentage (OWP) = aggregate percentage of games won for each team’s opponents, based on the number of times the team has faced that opponent.

Pythagorean winning percentage (PYTH) = uses the basketball-reference formula of Games x (Points scored^14) / ((Points scored^14) + (Points allowed^14))

Power rating = (((PYTH + AWP)/2)*(OWP/.500)) x 82

WP82 = wins produced per 82 games, adjusted for playing time

WP3K = wins produced per 3,000 minutes

RANKINGS: NET = net efficiency ratio; OFF – offensive efficiency; DEF – defensive efficiency; PACE: average possessions per game

Chat Tomorrow, PLUS Pontiac’s Game Changes

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 8:43 am

Join me tomorrow at noon Eastern for the live chat thing. Click here tomorrow to go live or do it now and submit your question in advance. All topics welcomed! Though that obscure happening known as the Final Four would seem to be a rather timely object of interest.

And because I believe no Unfiltered post should be limited to a shameless plug for a chat, please accept the following observation regarding the strange times in which we live, and the even stranger spectacle which we are about to behold this weekend in Detroit.

If you wanted to list the companies that have been advertising most frequently during the tournament, here’s a serviceable shorthand: DiGiorno, Enterprise, The Hartford, Lowe’s, and State Farm. Those are NCAA “Corporate Partners.” (Though, actually, I’m not sure I’ve seen a lot of DiGiorno ads during the games. Am I missing something? Drop me a line.)

One step up from corporate partner status is “Corporate Champion.” There are just three corporate champions: AT&T (think of the dad traveling for business and taking pics of his cute little girl’s stuffed animal), Coca-Cola (all those Coke Zero ads), and Pontiac.

Pontiac. Has there been an ad for an actual Pontiac car during the tournament? (Again, drop me a line.) Yes, I know Pontiac is a GM brand and, yes, I have noticed that Howie Long’s unfailingly smug visage is now permanently imprinted on each retina courtesy of GM. 

Which raises a point. I might be a trifle tired of the weird and even borderline disturbing Buffalo Wild Wings ad, but say this for B-Dubs: In this case there is no direct causal link between my annoyance and my tax dollar. 

Now, I understand that for GM or any other car company to survive they have to move the product off the lot, and to do that they have to tell customers about their new “Total Confidence” plan, wherein car buyers who lose their jobs will be taken care of. Fine. I don’t object to paid advertising from a company with (ponder this figure) $177 billion in liabilities per se, I’m just suffering from Howie Long fatigue.

The plan that the Obama administration unveiled this week to save GM and Chrysler would divide both companies into “good” and “bad” components. The good parts would, under this plan, be restructured to the administration’s satisfaction and then, presumably, would live to see another day. Bad parts, conversely, would enter the bankruptcy motel, where companies check in but they don’t check out. So far I’m seeing Chevrolet, Cadillac, and GMC listed as “good.” On the other hand I’m seeing Hummer, Saturn, and, yes, Pontiac branded as “bad.”

Savor those spots you see this weekend announcing the Pontiac Game-Changing Play. They may be going the way of Billy Packer.   

Five Thoughts: Portland-Utah

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 4:53 am

1. The Wave
I am a confirmed hater of The Wave. To me, there’s no better sign that a crowd of fans at a sporting event is bored because the action on the floor or field is so dull. That said, I must give credit to the fans at the Rose Garden for turning The Wave into a symbolic act marking the latest blowout victory by their Portland Trail Blazers. The Wave first appeared early in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s 125-104 dispatching of the visiting Utah Jazz, marking my second straight Blazers game with The Wave dating back to its debut March 1 against San Antonio. I also caught The Wave on TV last Thursday when Portland smacked Phoenix.

That the Rose Garden has been filled with The Wave so frequently lately is a sign of the Blazers’ dominance at home. While they stumbled last Monday against Philadelphia, Portland has pasted a number of Western Conference contenders in the last month, a list that also includes a victory over the L.A. Lakers on March 9 that was, so far as I can tell, Wave-free. The Blazers are now 31-7 at home, outscoring opponents by a robust 9.4 points per game. The odds are against their earning home-court advantage, but if they do Portland will become a very difficult first-round out because the team plays so well at the Rose Garden.

2. Taking Advantage of the Jazz
Over the course of his coaching career, Nate McMillan has made no secret of his admiration for Utah’s Jerry Sloan. McMillan’s Sonics were rivals with the Jazz during his playing days, facing them three times in a span of four postseasons during the 1990s. McMillan has talked about Sloan so much that when I asked him to talk about the Utah coach before the Jazz’s last visit to Rose Garden, he said he’d resolved not to speak on the subject any more.

As a result of McMillan’s respect for Sloan, he always has his teams ready to play Utah–sometimes to the point where it becomes a detriment. This time, McMillan and his coaching staff delivered a masterstroke of a gameplan that took advantage of the Jazz’s style of play. Most notably, the Blazers caught Utah overplaying screens defensively. At least four times, Portland wings Nicolas Batum and Brandon Roy prepared to come off of downscreens to apparently catch the ball on the perimeter. Instead, when their Jazz defender started to lean that direction, they reversed course and went to the cup, leading to a pair of Roy layups and two Batum alley-oop finishes.

3. Emerging Batum
Let’s talk a little more about Batum, the Blazers’ 20-year-old rookie by way of France. When Batum claimed the starting small forward role in game two, the assumption in these quarters and elsewhere was that the role would either be ceremonial (with Batum playing merely the start of the first and third quarters) or short-lived. Not only has Batum held on to the job, he’s emerged as a key stabilizer for Portland as the team’s best perimeter defender and a developing perimeter shooter.

On this night, Batum was outstanding, hitting threes and running the floor on offense while being very active defensively. He finished with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Batum was a big reason why the Blazers’ starting lineup was so effective. With Steve Blake-Roy-Batum-LaMarcus AldridgeJoel Przybilla on the floor, Portland outscored Utah by 25 points in about 24 minutes of action. That fivesome has developed into a truly strong unit that complements each other nicely and is outscoring opponents by 14.5 points per 48 minutes. Based on that, McMillan could stand to use the group together more often to close out games.

4. Defending the Stars
Tonight’s biggest test for Portland was defending Jazz point guard Deron Williams. Point guards with dribble penetration have given the Blazers fits all season, which wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that four of Portland’s five most likely first-round opponents feature All-Star-caliber point guards (Denver’s Chauncey Billups, New Orleans’ Chris Paul, San Antonio’s Tony Parker and Williams, with Houston as the lone exception). The Blazers did a tidy job of defending Williams on this evening. He finished with a quiet 16 points on 4-of-13 shooting and had just one stretch where he was a major factor in the game, that coming when Utah cut into Portland’s lead in the second quarter. Roy spent a fair amount of time on Williams and did a good job of staying in front of him.

On the other end, Roy is equally problematic for the Jazz. He finished with 25 points, 13 of them in the first quarter, and scored in the flow of the offense. Roy never forced the action and instead looked for his teammates, handing out 11 assists. Utah tried a variety of defenders on Roy, most notably Ronnie Brewer or Andrei Kirilenko, but never really found an answer. If I’m not mistaken, for one possession the Jazz even ran a box-and-one defense, which Roy calmly exploited by setting up a teammate for his 10th assist of the night. Add in Aldridge’s 26 points, Batum’s play and contributions from the rest of the lineups and Portland scored 125 points in about 88 possessions playing without sixth man Rudy Fernandez (sidelined by back spasms). That’s, um, really good.

5. Frustration Mounts
With the Jazz frustrated by the inability to stop the Blazers all night long, tempers flared in the third quarter. After Przybilla drew a charge on Carlos Boozer, the two big men exchanged pleasantries at halfcourt, drawing a crowd and double technical fouls. Even after referees stepped in, the two would not stop chirping at each other, and both were ejected.

Later in the third, Roy wrapped up Kyle Korver and fouled him hard in transition. Sloan was incensed Roy was not called for a flagrant foul and apparently said the magic word, drawing a quick ejection. With his team down big, Sloan might have wanted an early exit.

One minor thing worth noting from the Roy foul: Sensing the tension of the situation, Jazz assistant coach Scott Layden immediately jumped up to ensure none of his players left the bench to draw an automatic suspension. I’m not sure if that’s a role Layden has been assigned or simply his heads-up thinking, but had a Phoenix Suns assistant done the same thing in the 2007 Playoffs, the whole course of NBA history might be entirely different.

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