End of November Power Rankings

For the end of November power ranking I will be using a new more accurate model. This model is based off of regression analysis where the following factors were used to predict winning percentages: three-point percentage, two-point percentage, free-throw percentage, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, steals, blocks, turnovers, personal fouls, and points against. Other stats were considered and tested such as assists and were later removed due to autocorrelation issues.

In this model, two-point and three-point percentage are the strongest predictors of win percentage by far. The model has a correlation coefficient of 0.90 which means that it has a very strong linear relationship. The adjusted R square value is a .71 which means that seventy one percent of teams win percentages are explained by the independent variables previously listed. This does represent a relatively strong fit but there is still room to improve in the future.

Final RankingsModel details aside, here are the results. The Milwaukee Bucks lead by Giannis Antetokounmpo have earned the top spot in the rankings. I don’t think that they will finish as the best team in the NBA and they probably aren’t there right now, but with their excellent 58.8 percent two-point percentage and 36.1 percent three-point percentage it is no surprise they earned a high ranking in the current model.

The most underachieving team in the NBA right now, in my opinion, is the Washington Wizards. With names like John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter on their roster expectations were high for this team. They have consistently been a playoff caliber team in the East of the last five seasons and were one game shy of 50 wins since the 1979-80 season. The team is likely to be separated soon as all current starters are on the trading block.

Another team I want to comment on is the Detroit Pistons. In ESPNs last power ranking the Pistons made it into the top ten. As much as I want to see the Pistons do well, I’m skeptical as to how long they can keep this level of success. Blake Griffin seems to be the shining point of the teams offense, while the teams overall shooting percentages are average at best. They are still in the bottom three in the league in three-point percentage with a coach who has them taking the sixth most three-point attempts per game. Despite the shooting struggles, the team is off to a great start and could be a few pieces away from becoming a true threat in the east. Carmelo Anthony, Bradley Beal, and JR Smith could all be potential assets if they come at the right price.

Lastly, I want to talk about a few teams that I believe have the best chance of jumping into the top ten before the new year. The Lakers are my first choice here. LeBron and company seem to finally be showing signs of meshing and James has shown he is still capable of putting up the numbers he did in his finals runs with the Cavs. Expect the Lakers to continue to improve as their chemistry grows.

The honorable mention for most likely to hit the top ten before the new year goes to the Philadelphia Seventy Sixers. I loved the move they made to get Jimmy Butler especially because the players they had to give away were mostly role players and can be replaced with signings and draft picks in the future. Butler, Embiid, and Simmons seem to be getting along just fine and should easily make the jump to the top ten very soon as well as move towards the top of the Eastern Conference by the end of the season.

The Warriors Boogie

DeMarcus Cousins has progressed through his rehab with little to no setbacks and is expected to take the court for the first time as a Golden State Warrior shortly after Christmas. Prior to the season, the Warriors’ signing of Cousins had the NBA community in an uproar. Warriors fans were thrilled and others were giving up on their favorite team before the season even started. It’s safe to say that the other teams still have hope as the Warriors have fought through injuries and drama, landing them in the second spot in the West with a 15 and 7 overall record.

With a starting lineup boasting four current NBA stars, there have been lots of questions about what DeMarcus Cousins’ role will be in the lineup. To try and understand Cousins’ role and effectiveness with his new team, I decided to take a look at other players who have gone through serious ACL injuries. For this analysis, I decided to compare player stats from the year of their injury to their first and second seasons back playing after recovering (seasons only counted if the players played 20 games or more). The stats I chose to look at for this analysis were field goal percentage, assists, rebounds, and turnovers. Some of the main stats we see such as steals and blocks were not included because they typically have a small year to year variance and it would be hard to attribute minor changes to the injury.

DeMarcus Cousins Golden State Warmups
DeMarcus Cousins in Golden State Warmups: Photo Credit Sportingnews.com

With the use of Kaggle.com, I was able to acquire a dataset of all NBA injuries between 2010 and 2018. From there I sorted through the data to leave only the players with torn Achilles/ACL injuries. With these filters applied only 38 players remained. Of those 38 players, 9 stopped playing directly after the injury or only attempted one more season (these players were removed from the dataset for lack of relevance). 5 players are currently recovering or haven’t played at least two seasons of 20 games or more since their ACL injury so they were removed from the dataset as well. This left me with 24 players with recent Achilles tears to examine.

In most cases, players returning from serious injuries are eased back into action. For that reason, I chose to take player stats per 36 minutes of playing time so decreased minutes per game wouldn’t skew player efficiency. A common mistake sports analysts seem to make is looking at totals without thinking about why they are the way they are.

When the dataset was finally put together, it lead me to some surprising findings. Regardless of player age we see that players do seem to take a step backwards in their first season back from a serious ACL injury. In the second year, there are still less productive stat lines, but many players start getting back to their output prior to injury. The most surprising observation had to be how close the post injury hustle stats were to their pre-injury output. In most cases, assists and rebounds dropped less than one per game in the averages.

Field goal percentage is a different story. All but four of the 24 players in the study dropped in overall field goal percentage their first year back and for the most part the drops were significant. Even in the second year back we see almost half of the players shooting worse than they were prior to injury.

Achillies Injury Stats
Red areas show stats that are under players production levels prior to ACL injury. 

Shooting appears to the area most significantly affected by ACL injuries and for that reason I think DeMarcus Cousins will actually do well in the Golden State. In fact, this may have been the ideal place for him to land this season. The Warriors certainly have enough scoring and outside shooting. If Cousins comes back and starts shooting like Andre Drummond from the three-point line, he can still be a beneficial part of the Warriors starting lineup. No offense to Jordan Bell, Damian Jones and Jonas Jerebko, but DeMarcus Cousins brings something to the team that the Warriors haven’t had in the splash brother’s era. He is a dominant NBA center and a powerful offensive presence under the basket. Even if Cousins isn’t playing at the level he was prior to injury, he will still be a more effective scorer in the paint than the Warriors’ current options and he will likely be a better defender, rebounder, and passer.

Cousins may have found the best place to get back up to speed. He won’t be forced into a lead offensive role he isn’t ready to take on and he will be a valuable addition to a team that just might bring home a third straight NBA Championship.