Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

October 20, 2009

The Painted Area Looks at Over-Unders

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 12:28 pm

In an annual tradition, M.Haubs of The Painted Area looks at the Vegas lines and uses advanced statistics (including our own SCHOENE projections from Pro Basketball Prospectus 2009-10) to pick out the best bets among them (an exercise strictly for academic purposes, naturally). In the end, Haubs makes five picks, including taking the over on the Portland Trail Blazers.

POR OVER 52.5 (54 last season)
Last season, we took Portland over 44.5 after winning 41 in 2007-08, even though (John) Hollinger projected them for just 42. We just felt like this team wasn’t going to end up getting worse, and we make this pick on a similar rationale this season.

52.5 is a high number, but the Blazers won 54 last season as the second-youngest team in the league. Further, Hollinger pointed out in his team forecast that – in terms of point differential plus the bad luck that Portland opponents shot .803 from the foul line, the highest opp. FT% in the 39 years the stat has been tracked – the Blazers actually performed like a 61-win team statistically.

We have concerns about how Andre Miller will fit, but we just can’t imagine a team so young getting worse. We love team depth, which Portland certainly has, in making these regular-season predictions. On top of that, we see Greg Oden making good strides this season. We just can’t imagine them not holding steady with last year’s win total, at the least.

The Meaning of Preseason Stats

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 12:17 pm

Since I’ve seen it pop up a couple of places, I figured I’d offer a link to the brief study I did last year looking at what preseason stats can tell us about how players will perform during the regular season. (Also included are links to some of the studies done on preseason team performance.) The conclusion: They mean more than you might think, but are limited by the small sample size, making shooting percentages potentially misleading.

The more interesting question might be this: Does preseason performance offer us any additional information? After all, if what we’re seeing is simply that better players play better no matter the circumstance, we already can identify these players based on their previous regular-season performance. To look at the matter this way, I created a regression seeking to predict 2007-08 regular-season performance from 2006-07 performance and 2007 preseason performance. Combining the two improves correlation slightly over 2006-07 performance alone, up to an r of .814. Looking at the coefficients on the two variables indicates that preseason Win% is about a fourth as useful as a predictor as Win% the previous season.

October 17, 2009

SCHOENE Spreadsheet Now Available

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:05 am

For just $4.95, you can download a customizable spreadsheet with SCHOENE’s fantasy projections for the 2009-10 season. Click here for details and to purchase.

October 16, 2009

The NCAA, secrecy, and habit

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 9:39 am

Here’s something you don’t see every day. It’s a complete transcript of Florida State‘s appearance before the NCAA Committee on Infractions on October 18, 2008.

It’s not the transcript’s content that’s interesting. (I trust. It’s nearly 700 pages and I haven’t read it.) On that day FSU president T.K. Wetherell apologized at length for his school’s employment of a “rogue tutor,” one who allegedly wrote papers for and gave answers to athletes on several Seminole teams, including men’s basketball and football. (Wow, “rogue” was really au courant in October 2008. Wonder why?)

No, what’s interesting is that hoi polloi like you and I get to read this at all. The transcript was pried away from the NCAA’s perpetually dark forest via a lawsuit brought by the Associated Press and other media organizations. This week the Florida District Court of Appeals upheld an earlier ruling saying the document was subject to the state of Florida’s open-document “sunshine” laws. The NCAA had tried to avoid this outcome by never actually giving the transcript to FSU, instead putting the massive pdf on a password-protected website for the school’s attorneys to look at.

I am wholly uninterested in the minutiae of public-document case law. What fascinates me is the NCAA’s reflexive and indeed primal craving at all times and in all cases for total secrecy. To hear the NCAA talk, this craving is merely procedural. “The enforcement process and indeed the normal course of our business relies on confidentiality to ensure compliance of NCAA rules,” says NCAA spokesman Bob Williams.

On some occasions this will undoubtedly be true, of course. But the NCAA hardly makes this determination on a case-by-case basis. If they did, it wouldn’t have taken a lawsuit by the Associated Press to produce the first-ever public release of such a document. No, the NCAA merely defaults to secrecy every time. This is not a determination made based on the particular contours of an individual case, but rather a pre-programmed craving embedded in the culture of the organization. I am on the record as stating that yelling at the goll-dern NCAA often represents the laziest and indeed hackiest kind of punditry imaginable. (It is punditry based not on the particular contours of an individual issue but rather on pre-programmed cravings embedded deep in the hack.) But in this case the hacks have a point: The NCAA needs more transparency.  

Take the Derrick Rose case at Memphis, for example. Though we remember that saga as revolving wholly around Rose’s disputed SAT score, a not insignificant portion of said case actually involved the free travel provided to Rose’s older brother, Reggie Rose, who was not a student and who at the time was 32 years old. What possible rationale other than habit can there be for acting like the travel provided to an adult non-student by a public university is a state secret?

Answer: None. At this point the NCAA is just in a secrecy groove. It’s fun. It makes what you do feel important. It smacks of black SUVs with tinted windows. But the truth is it’s very often totally unnecessary.

(Speaking of the brothers Rose, this 2007 article, now available only in an ugly cached version, is rather hilarious in light of more recent events. Features writers beware: Think before you post that puff piece.)

(HT: Dr. Saturday.) 

October 14, 2009

The Book is Here! Physically!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 11:49 pm

Those of you who have been waiting to purchase a print copy of Pro Basketball Prospectus 2009-10, wait no more. You can now buy a copy through I got the proof copy in the mail this afternoon, and it looks terrific. Vincent Verhei of Football Outsiders fame did a fantastic job of laying everything out, while Amanda Bonner did great work on the cover.

As a reminder, the printed book runs for $19.95 (plus shipping and handling), while you can download a PDF version for $9.95. For those of you wondering about availability on, that is coming but takes some time after the book is available on CreateSpace. PBP 2009-10 should be available on Amazon prior to opening night.

Chat Thursday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 9:15 pm

With a new season comes the return of Basketball Prospectus chats on I’ll be kicking things off for the 2009-10 season Thursday, chatting at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. If you can’t make it live, leave a question now about Pro Basketball Prospectus 2009-10, our SCHOENE projections, the latest NBA news and whatever else is on your mind (except the ALCS and the NLCS, since I am totally unqualified to discuss baseball on a baseball site).

Also, Andrew and Brian Kamenetzky of the L.A. Times Lakers blog invited me on their podcast for ESPN 710 L.A. to talk about the Lakers, other Western Conference foes and more. You can listen to that segment here.

October 13, 2009

Dean Oliver Profile

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:00 pm

Great story from Benjamin Hochman in the Denver Post on Dean Oliver’s influence on the Denver Nuggets as the team’s director of quantitative analysis. Oliver, whose role in the development of the APBRmetrics community cannot be overstated, works as usual not to give too much away. His story is better told by the others around him in Denver, led by enlightened VP of basketball operations Mark Warkentien.

“When I was growing up in L.A., the Rams’ coach, George Allen, hired the first special-teams coach, and he was ridiculed by old-school football coaches,” said Mark Warkentien, the Nuggets’ vice president of basketball operations. “Decades later, it became a huge part of the game. I think the quantitative analysis guys will go through a similar situation. I don’t think it will reach the level of a special-teams coach.

“But right now, it’s being scoffed at by old-school guys. We’ll look at it 20 years from now, it’ll be what you do — part of the deal.”

Oh, and also Carmelo Anthony:

“Oh, yeah, yeah, I know who you’re talking about. He’s George Karl‘s brains.”

It was funny when Oliver and I both worked for the Sonics to see how players interacted with him. I remember Robert Swift once asking what Oliver got on his SATs.

For more on Oliver’s path to the NBA, I would immodestly suggest this profile I wrote in 2005 as part of my “The Sonics Play Moneyball” series. Unfortunately, you’ll have to highlight the text to read it.

FreeDarko Reviews PBP

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 12:29 pm

Our first true review of Pro Basketball Prospectus 2009-10 is in, and naturally it centers on the conflict between the Continental and Analytic schools of philosophy. Friend of BP Bethlehem Shoals uses the philosophical battle lines and ultimate reconciliation as a metaphor for FreeDarko’s unique view of the game and how it and BP’s stats-leaning tendencies can complement each other.

Any well-organized, impeccably-researched guide to every team, every player, and every important theme for the coming season, is fine by me; in this respect, this book is absolutely indispensable, and has very nearly hamstrung me when it comes to writing to writing my own previews. But I don’t just respect PBP 2009-10, or find it a handy reference tool. It’s insistently readable, consistently eye-opening, and, from where I’m sitting, an invaluable ally in the project FD has sought to undertake from day one.

This is ground I briefly covered while reviewing FD’s own book, last fall’s The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac: Styles, Stats and Stars in Today’s Game. Because I handed it in at a busy time, my book review somehow fell through the cracks and never got posted. This has bothered me for a long time, but now I’ve got an excuse to post it here after the fold.


October 9, 2009

Giving the WNBA a Second Look

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 4:00 pm

This post is long overdue. In fact, for many of you, it probably comes too late. The deciding Game 5 of the WNBA Finals is tonight (9:00 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2), and my plan to extend the series to best-of-nine has thus far fallen on deaf ears. You might have plans on a Friday night, or you might be watching the baseball playoffs. If not, the matchup between the Indiana Fever and the Phoenix Mercury is well worth the look. This series has been riveting for hard-core WNBA fans like myself as well as newcomers to the women’s game. While I may be biased as an employee of a WNBA team, here’s a sampling of what some other NBA analysts (and friends of BP) have had to say about the WNBA this season.

The WNBA: Much Better Than You Think – Bethlehem Shoals, The Baseline

As far as I can tell, WNBA players can’t jump, run or throw their weight around like their male counterparts. And they do play a more technically adept game. But they are also seriously skilled, in ways that college (amateur) athletes are not, for simple reasons of arithmetic. Both guards handle the ball and run the offense; big men—er, women—post up all over the place, regularly pass off the ball, and reliably hit jumpers like it’s expected of them; everyone cuts like crazy, keeping up a level of activity that at some point is bound to outstrip or shed the coach’s instructions.It’s less a diminished version of the NBA than a mutant strain of it, not unlike various incarnations of Nellieball or D’Antoni Land. It might be even a more sophisticated form of basketball than either the NBA status quo or men’s college ball, which it pretty much makes a mockery of when it comes to both style and content. I don’t know enough about European ball to draw that analogy with confidence, but there might be a family resemblance there.

SLAM Adventures: The WNBA – John Krolik,

But all in all, given the eye-popping ability of the stars, the beauty of watching chalkboard basketball work, and how much fun it is to watch these women play the game, I couldn’t recommend the WNBA more highly as something to tide over die-hards until the regular season begins.

The WNBA? I Think You Should – Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie

It turns out that the WNBA is awesome.

You’ll have to excuse me for sounding like a blithering idiot, because I am a blithering idiot when it comes to this league. Not only am I lacking in the knowledge department, but it turns out I’ve wasted quite a few summers not paying attention to this league.

Not that I regret not staying inside when it was 80 degrees and sunny, but I still should have been watching more games. Because, as we’ve seen in this year’s WNBA Finals, this league is frightfully entertaining.

The Finals matchup between the Mercury and the Fever is a classic contrast of strengths. Phoenix possesses the league’s best offense, one that in context is as good (and as fast) as anything the Suns have done over the last five years. Meanwhile, Indiana offers a stifling top-ranked defense akin to the 1990s Sonics (and understandably so; Fever assistant Gary Kloppenburg is the son of longtime Sonics assistant Bob Kloppenburg, who invented the SOS Pressure Defense). Game 1 went to overtime, and Game 3 was decided at the buzzer; expect tonight’s finale to be as competitive and intense.

I understand the WNBA isn’t for everyone, so this isn’t a hard sell. What these columns we’ve seen all year long reinforce, however, is that the level of play has improved immensely–especially in a series with as much talent as is on the floor during the Finals. If you wrote the WNBA off years ago, now is the time to take another look.

Shameless plug: Here’s my preview of the Finals (predicting Phoenix in five games) as well as game-by-game coverage along the lines of my Playoff Prospectus reports.

October 8, 2009

The Book is Here! The Book is Here!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 6:55 pm

OK, unlike Navin Johnson in The Jerk, you can’t hold it in your hands quite yet. Nonetheless, we could not be more thrilled to announce that the Pro Basketball Prospectus 2009-10 is on sale now in .PDF form. You can purchase the .PDF for download for $9.95, while the print version–which should be available via CreateSpace within the next few days–will run $19.95 (plus shipping and handling).

Either format will offer 370 pages chock full of insightful NBA statistics and unique analysis you won’t find anywhere else. For a better idea of what the book offers, check out our Pro Basketball Prospectus 2009-10 page, which includes a sample team essay (for the Houston Rockets) and sample player comments (for the Oklahoma City Thunder).

In addition to what was mentioned in the introduction to the book, we’re happy to report a few fun surprises. Rockets GM Daryl Morey was kind enough to write the foreword (also available as a sample). Also, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus/Football Outsiders fame contributed a great breakdown of microfracture knee surgery. Other essays include Brian Doolittle on fantasy players to watch (aided by SCHOENE’s projections), Bradford Doolittle on the NBA’s economic situation and Kevin Pelton on how adjusting the enforcement of hand-checking rules has changed the way the NBA game is played.

To purchase the .PDF, you’ll be directed to the Baseball Prospectus store. If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to quickly and effortlessly sign up for a BP basic (free) account, which will come in handy down the road. In addition to downloading now, you’ll be able to return to that link if we publish an updated version.

Please direct any questions about the book, or any typos you find while reading, to

Thanks and happy reading!

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