Posts Tagged ‘SRS’

When the playoffs roll around (April 16, 2011) NBA teams typically shorten their rotations and bank on core units to play heavy minutes. I thought it would be worth examining the top 5-man units in the league this year, since (in theory) they will be logging more minutes in the postseason than they have throughout the year.

From Basketball Value, here are the top 5-man units in the league this year with a minimum of 200 minutes played (OverallRtg is the net difference per 100 possessions, or Offensive Rating minus Defensive Rating):

From basketballvalue.com; Numbers through March 23, 2011

So, in a relatively small sample (257 minutes) Dallas boasts the league’s best – err, wait a second. Caron Butler is part of that league-best unit for the Mavs, and unofficially, he is out for the season. So that lineup has no relevance going into the postseason. Which makes the best lineup the Boston Celtics starting five with Shaquille O’Neal at center…only Shaq has been out with a mysterious achilles injury since February 2.

After all the trades and injuries, that list deserves some housekeeping. The above rankings also include multiple lineups from the same team, so let’s only look at each team’s top 5-man group so we can rank teams by their best lineup.

Here is what that new list looks like, filtering for lineups (1) that still exist and (2) played a minimum of 200 minutes:

From basketballvalue.com; Numbers through March 23, 2011

Some notable new lineups are missing after the active trading spree this year:

Upon seeing Indiana’s place on that list, one’s first reaction might be shock and an undesirable itch to refresh the browser and make sure it’s parsing correctly. Thanks to the wizardry of basketballvalue, we can see the teams this Pacers group has done damage against; There’s no cause for panic.

The Indiana unit has outscored opponents by 125 points, with 54% of that differential amassed in games against nine sub-.500 teams — Sacramento, Cleveland, Washington, Toronto, New Jersey, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Charlotte and Detroit — with a combined win percentage of .299. Reassuringly, it’s just Fool’s Gold.

Is This a Good Historical Predictor?

A quick cursory glance using the 20-20 vision of hindsight shows:

In 2010, the top lineups by this measure were:

  1. Dallas (18.8)
  2. Phoenix (16.6)
  3. Orlando (16.4)
  4. Portland (16.2)
  5. Milwaukee (14.3)
  6. Boston/LA Lakers (13.3)

Portland can be excused because of Brandon Roy’s injury. Dallas lost to San Antonio (9th last year), and the Suns surprised some people by pushing the Lakers to the brink for the WCF title. Boston, sporting the league’s 10th best SRS, knocked off Cleveland (12th last year). Milwaukee is a notable outlier. Then again, Utah was 3rd in SRS and had the 19th-ranked team by lineup – the Jazz were swept by LA in the second round.

In 2009, the top lineups were:

  1. Orlando (23.8)
  2. Cleveland (19.5)
  3. Portland (18.5)
  4. LA Lakers (18.1)
  5. Dallas (11.4)
  6. Boston (11.1)

Orlando made a “surprising” run to the Finals. Portland lost to Houston (8th), although Nic Batum only played 63 minutes in the series and he was part of their token lineup. Boston was missing Kevin Garnett. And the major outlier was Denver (19th), who knocked off Dallas in the second round. Again, Utah fared well in SRS (8th) but finished just 18th in 5-man unit rankings. The Jazz lost in five games to LA.

It looks like there is good predictive value — especially when compared to SRS — in looking at top 5-man units. Which means the Bulls might have to wait for a 7th championship banner. Food for thought with the playoffs on the horizon.

Read Full Post »

Just how bad are the Seattle Seahawks? Well, they’re probably the worst playoff team in NFL history.

Even at an embarrassing 7-9, the Seahawks are worse than their record would suggest. According to the Simple Rating System, the Seahawks were the third worst team in all of football. Jeff Sagarin’s ratings had them 29th after the regular season.

They are woeful by all offensive and defensive metrics as well. 29th in yards per play. 28th in total yards. 28th in 1st downs. 27th in yards allowed. Well, you get the idea.

Five of their seven victories came against San Francisco, Arizona (twice), Carolina and St. Louis. Combined record of those teams: 20-44. Even that number is misleading though, because 11 of those 20 wins came against each other — the four NFC West teams and Carolina — and only two of the 20 were against winning teams (San Diego and New Orleans). In other words, five of Seattle’s seven wins came against the other four worst teams in football.

To put into perspective just how bad Seattle is, here are the worst playoff teams by SRS in the 10 years since divisional realignment:

  1. 2004 Rams -6.0
  2. 2006 Seahawks -3.6
  3. 2004 Seahawks -2.9
  4. 2008 Cardinals -1.9*
  5. 2004 Vikings -1.7
  6. 2005 Bucs -1.0
  7. 2003 Panthers -0.9*
  8. 2008 Dolphins -0.5
  9. 2003 Cowboys -0.5
  10. 2009 Cardinals -0.3

*Reached Super Bowl

Half of those teams are from the NFC West, including the four worst. All of this tomfoolery is only made possible by the octet of divisions created by realignment. The fewer teams per division, the more mathematically likely it is to have a distribution in which a division winner is a really bad team. It’s darn near impossible to have 16 of the worst teams (of 32) in the NFC. It’s not that hard to have four of them reside in a single division.

(The obvious solution is to simply eliminate the automatic berth a division title provides. Unfortunately, the odds of Michael Vick playing for the Falcons again are greater than that ever happening.)

The scary part about Seattle is how much worse they are on the road. At home, they outscored opponents by 0.4 points per game. Away from Qwest, they were outscored by 12.2 points per game. That’s 0-16 Lions territory; Detroit was outscored by 15.6 per contest in 2008.

The win over New Orleans was borderline miraculous, but the Saints SRS was only slightly above average at 2.3, so we aren’t exactly talking Chaminade over Virginia here. Another win at Soldier this weekend would be a legitimate miracle.

Read Full Post »

Only a handful of MVP-level players have ever switched teams in the middle of their careers. Before this year, the biggest void left had been Moses Malone’s departure from Houston in 1982. That team completely fell apart in 1983 as Moses sauntered to fo fo fo. But then LeBron took his talents to South Beach. And it turns out, that might have been a pretty good decision. No pun intended.

Here are the largest drops in team SRS after the departure of a superstar:

  1. LeBron (Cavs) – 14.9
  2. Moses (Rockets) -10.7
  3. Shaq (Lakers) -6.7
  4. Shaq (Magic) -6.4
  5. Barkley (76ers) -4.0

That list only includes players changing teams mid-career. Look at the list if we include superstars who retired and simply left basketball, like Magic and Jordan. (OK, technically they both un-retired and are likely planning comebacks for 2012.)

  1. Jordan (Bulls) -15.8
  2. LeBron (Cavs) – 14.9
  3. Moses (Rockets) -10.7
  4. Magic (Lakers) -7.7
  5. Wilt (Lakers)  – 7.3*

*Jerry West also missed 51 games in 1974

Only the Bulls also lost Scottie Pippen. And Dennis Rodman. And Luc Longley. And Phil Jackson. After 35 games this year, Cleveland’s top-8 players in minutes are Parker, Varejao, Jamison, Gibson, Williams, Sessions, Hickson, Moon.

Last year, outside of James, the leaders in minutes were Williams, Parker, Varejao, Hickson, West, Z, Shaq, Gibson, Moon, Jamison,** with only the three players in red departing.

**Aqcuired via trade and has averaged 2 fewer minutes per game this year

That’s fairly strong roster continuity outside of James. And yet the decline in the Cavs is essentially unparalleled in NBA history. It’s even comparable to the deconstructed Bulls of 1999.

It’s not news that LeBron James has been really good for the last few years. What might surprise people is just how god-awful the team around him was.

Read Full Post »

One of the talking heads on ESPN – I can’t remember which, they all look the same at this point – noted that Michael Vick should be the MVP of the league over Tom Brady because of…wait for it…Matt Cassell.

Matt Cassell you say!?

Here is the argument: Cassell won 11 games in 2008 when Brady was injured. So how valuable can Brady be to the Patriots if they just kept on ticking with some backup quarterback?

It’s a reasonable place to start, but as I will explore in many future posts, evaluating an NFL quarterback is just about the hardest task in sports analysis. It’s a complex interaction of 11 offensive players and 11 defensive players and the two respective coordinators playing chess with those pieces. So I won’t be too dogmatic here.

But let’s look at this claim more closely. The 2008 Patriots had an offfensive SRS of 2.3 (11th in the league) against a weak schedule (-2.4). They scored 25.6 ppg and averaged 5.3 yards per play…which happened to be the league average.

This year’s Patriots have the second highest offensive SRS since the 2000 Rams Greatest Show on Turf (12.6), behind only Tom Brady’s 2007 Patriots (a record 15.9 OSRS).

Here’s how the 08 Patriots stack up against the 07 and 10 Patriots:

The New England personnel was similar from 07 to 08, but the results weren’t in the same stratosphere. And Cassell’s rushing attack in 08 netted 142 yards/game on 4.4 ypg. That’s better than Brady’s running game from the previous year, which yielded 115 yards per game on 4.1 yards per carry.

Comparing 08 to this year, Brady isn’t throwing to Randy Moss anymore, but to Deion Branch and two rookie tight ends. There is no Kevin Faulk. Two former practice players – BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead – comprise the backfield. And they’ve all been quite good, but it’s pretty hard to argue that they’re better than the 07 or 08 supporting cast.

The real kicker is that Cassell isn’t just some backup. He’s emerged as one of the better QB’s in the league this year, posting a 96.2 QB rating (fifth in the NFL after week 15) with 24 TDs. He’s even fifth on Peter King’s MVP ballot this week. So, at least by these standards, Brady’s offenses are That Much Better than what an elite QB did in the same organization.

Matt Cassell isn’t evidence for Michael Vick’s MVP candidacy.* He’s evidence for Tom Brady’s.

*The case for Vick: Philadelphia’s 7.8 Offensive SRS and the Eagles are 8-2 in his full games, averaging 31.6 ppg, 414.7 yards per game and 6.5 yards per play (!). The case against: 2-2 v Sagarin’s top 10 and he missed almost a quarter of the season, which means he’d have to be 33% more valuable than Brady to exceed his contributions.

Read Full Post »