2011 NBA Preview: The Set Up

With a week to go before the NBA season starts, a time for a season preview, or at least the start of one seems natural.  So, did anything happen since the Lakers beat the CelticsAnything?  This season portends to be the most fascinating in recent memory, with the Sisterhood of the Traveling Gym Shorts thing taking place in Miami, Boston cleverly loading up on a two year run before having a real chance to start over again, Oklahoma City and Portland maybe well positioned to rise, and the Lakers still the cream of the West.  Like last year, we do the rankings again, though a couple small changes.

  • The Strength of Schedule is simplified.  It is simply an aggregation of a team’s opponent’s adjusted scoring margin against other teams.  So the Lakers SoS increased to 2nd in the league, while the Timberwolves slipped from #1 to #3.  This way strength of schedule does not include double counting.
  • The second degree strength of schedule (opponents’ opponents) is gone.  Ultimately it did not explain enough.

So how does the methodology work?

  1. We are looking for the best true scoring margin – normalized for pace, and normalized for fouling.  The fundamental job is to score and prevent scoring.  This is what it measures.
  2. Points are points.  Possessions is the number of field goal attempts plus 0.44 times number of free throw attempts (slightly less than 2 shots per trip to the line due to effect of and-1s) plus turnovers (wasted possessions) less offensive rebounds (saving possessions).
  3. Points/possession are calculated for each team, what they score, and what they allow.  However, the team’s defensive points allowed replaces FTs against with the league FT% times FTAs allowed.  Thus, we remove the luck of an opponent who can’t shoot foul shots.
  4. The points per possession are inflated using the league average number of possessions per game.  So we then get a “real offense” indicator, how many points a team scores in a league average paced game.
  5. We assume a 3.5 point home court, so the road team gets 3.5 points times the percentage of road games they have played to date.
  6. The team rating then becomes Real Offense – Real Defense + 3.5*RoadPct + Strength of Schedule Rating

Superimposing this slightly tweaked methodology on last year’s final numbers, how are we starting this season?

Rank Team W L Off Def Road SOS Rating
1 Magic 59 23 104.631 (2) 96.214 (1) 1.75 1.77 (15) 11.937
2 Cavaliers 61 21 104.39 (3) 97.272 (8) 1.75 1.709 (20) 10.577
3 Suns 54 28 107.908 (1) 102.168 (19) 1.75 1.658 (25) 9.148
4 Spurs 50 32 102.717 (9) 97.59 (9) 1.75 1.934 (7) 8.811
5 Jazz 53 29 103.122 (8) 98.527 (10) 1.75 1.957 (5) 8.301
6 Thunder 50 32 101.459 (11) 97.188 (7) 1.75 1.87 (9) 7.89
7 Lakers 57 25 101.152 (13) 97.091 (5) 1.75 2.028 (2) 7.84
8 Hawks 53 29 104.132 (4) 100.085 (15) 1.75 1.785 (13) 7.582
9 Celtics 50 32 101.165 (12) 97.178 (6) 1.75 1.675 (24) 7.412
10 Nuggets 53 29 103.777 (6) 100.105 (16) 1.75 1.961 (4) 7.383
11 Blazers 50 32 103.569 (7) 99.894 (13) 1.75 1.69 (21) 7.115
12 Mavericks 55 27 102.457 (10) 98.973 (12) 1.75 1.719 (18) 6.953
13 Heat 47 35 100.305 (18) 96.849 (4) 1.75 1.607 (27) 6.814
14 Bobcats 44 38 97.408 (24) 96.389 (2) 1.75 1.722 (17) 4.491
15 Bucks 46 36 97.553 (23) 96.462 (3) 1.75 1.517 (29) 4.358
16 Rockets 42 40 100.13 (19) 100.907 (17) 1.75 2.144 (1) 3.117
17 Raptors 40 42 103.869 (5) 104.906 (30) 1.75 1.712 (19) 2.425
18 Bulls 41 41 96.563 (28) 98.573 (11) 1.75 1.782 (14) 1.522
19 Hornets 37 45 100.59 (16) 102.895 (22) 1.75 1.861 (10) 1.307
20 Grizzlies 40 42 100.398 (17) 102.932 (23) 1.75 1.854 (12) 1.07
21 Pacers 32 50 97.062 (26) 99.996 (14) 1.75 1.581 (28) 0.397
22 Warriors 26 56 100.65 (14) 104.321 (28) 1.75 1.921 (8) 0.001
23 Kings 25 57 98.103 (22) 102.032 (18) 1.75 1.949 (6) -0.23
24 Knicks 29 53 100.646 (15) 104.386 (29) 1.75 1.42 (30) -0.57
25 Sixers 27 55 99.066 (20) 103.097 (24) 1.75 1.614 (26) -0.667
26 Wizards 26 56 97.101 (25) 102.302 (20) 1.75 1.681 (22) -1.77
27 Clippers 29 53 96.693 (27) 102.357 (21) 1.75 1.855 (11) -2.059
28 Pistons 27 55 98.198 (21) 104.067 (26) 1.75 1.733 (16) -2.386
29 Timberwolves 15 67 94.652 (29) 104.233 (27) 1.75 1.962 (3) -5.868
30 Nets 12 70 94.115 (30) 103.745 (25) 1.75 1.679 (23) -6.201

In a way, Orlando has been the most undersold team of the offseason.  With Miami’s offseason maneuverings and Boston’s big name bench pickups, Orlando’s quiet offseason left them lying in the weeds.  The way Boston squashed them in the Eastern Conference finals leaves an impression that the facts do not support.  The Magic at the end of last season were kicking the living crap out of opponents – the most complete team in basketball.  However, they have one flaw – if a team can single cover Dwight Howard, the Magic become very ordinary.  However, very few teams can do that – and teams that cannot open up everything Orlando can do.

But I digress, we’ll use last year’s ending table to start previewing teams.  The first six teams – in another post.

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