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.

NBA Power Rankings – End of October

Intro

With October in the books we bring you another NBA power ranking. The goal of our power ranking is to rank teams against one another based on how they are actually performing, not based on potential or star-power. We are still working on a new and improved model but for this month’s rankings we will use the same scoring-power model that was used for the pre-season rankings (Click HERE to see pre-season rankings and model).

This month, we have much better data since we are no longer relying on pre-season statistics for rookies. We also have a much better idea of player roles and how much playing time rookies and new acquisitions will be given.

MovementOctober 2018 Rankings

Some of the teams that had the biggest movement from the pre-season rankings to now include Boston (Down 19), Sacramento (Up 13), Knicks (Down 19), Portland (Up 12), Miami (Up 12), Los Angeles – LAL (Up 12), and Houston (Down 15).

Spotlights

It has been an interesting start to the NBA season to say the least. With this model, teams that score more points per game are usually much better off. This leads to some error for teams like the Celtics who are playing relatively well and just aren’t putting up the huge scoring totals that other teams have this season. On the other hand, this model shows very encouraging signs for teams like New Orleans, Sacramento and the Lakers who could end up doing well if they continue to score, and play at their current production levels.

Nuggets fans should be feeling extremely optimistic about their team this season. The Nuggets rank 19th in scoring in the league this year they have moved to the 3rd in the power ranking. If they can rank this high on a model that favors teams who score more it shows that they can compete against the best teams in the NBA. They are able to make up for their lower scoring and win games by relying on their defensive efforts and hustle stats. This is a well-rounded, cohesive team that showing no signs of slowing down.

New Orleans is another organization that has fans excited this year and with good reason. They came out of the gate hot beating Houston and dropping 149 points against Sacramento. The Pelicans are showing high scoring ability, but as the season has played out they have struggled against top level competition. They have lost to the Raptors, Nuggets, and Warriors already this year. Even though they are playing well, it looks like they still may be a season or two away from being true championship contenders.

One last team I want to comment on is the Milwaukee Bucks. The “Fear the Deer” movement is coming on strong as well as the team itself which has started the 2018-19 season with seven straight wins. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are bringing in just shy of 50 points per game and they have knocked off some pretty good competition this year (including a 15-point win over the Raptors). The next big test for the Bucks is coming up on the 8th of November where they take on the Golden State Warriors. If they do beat the Warriors, we may have to recognize the Greek Freak and his squad as a serious threat to the reigning champs.

Pre-Season Power Rankings

The 2018-19 NBA season is finally here! In celebration of the tonight’s season opener  between Philadelphia and Boston I have created a homemade power ranking model (if you are just interested in the results, begin reading after Figure 1).

Process:

  1. Created a dataset representing the 2018-19 rosters.
    1. Data was collected from the previous season of play (2016-17 season used for Brandon Knight and Gordon Hayward) for returning players and preseason data was used for all rookies.
      1. Previous season data from basketballreference.com
      2. Pre-season data from foxsports.com
    2. Rookies were included if they played 4 or more preseason games in an attempt to only include players that will likely see significant playing time.
  2. Scaled the Data
    1. To get expected production statistics all teams players minutes per game were summed. Individual minutes per game were then divided by the team sum to get their expected playing time share (as a percentage) on their new roster.
    2. Each player’s individual statistics (ORB, DRB, etc.) were then divided by their minutes per game to get a stat per minute value.
    3. Finally, we set 240 minutes of playing time as the number of minutes each team will have (5 positions with 48 minutes of playing time each). I then calculated the new expected minutes per game by multiplying 240 by their expected playing time share from 2a.
    4. The data was then scaled to represent each player’s expected statistic outputs for the 2018-19 season by multiplying each individual’s per minute statistics by the expected minutes per game calculated in 2c.
  3. Scored the Results.
    1. Team points per game was the starting point for each team. Extra points were then added for other statistics based on how we would expect them to impact scoring (in the future I would like to use regression analysis to determine more meaningful coefficients in the following scale).
Scoring Scale Updated
Figure 1 – Scoring Scale for Extra Points

It is important to remember that this model isn’t intended to show where your favorite team will end up in the end of season standings. The goal of the model is to represent how good the teams are relative to each other. Some factors that could influence the end of season standings could be injuries, defensive ability, or difficulty of the teams’ schedule.

Don’t get to excited if your team isn’t where you expect it to be though. Rookie impact could be misleading due to the small preseason sample size, and teams like the Pelicans who have made major personnel changes will have to show that they can coexist and maintain their previous year’s production levels before we start saying they will compete with Golden State and Houston.

Final Rankings Updated
Figure 2 – Power Rankings

New York Knicks (Rank 8):

I have to say that New York’s acquisition of Trey Burke and waiving of Joakim Noah do not even come close to convincing me they will be a top 10 team this season.  The drafting of Kevin Knox is exciting, and he is a great prospect, but still not enough to launch the Knicks to the 8th best team in the league.

Orlando Magic (Rank 12):

Orlando is another team that I believe may have landed higher than they deserved. They did make very important moves this offseason re-signing Aaron Gordon and drafting Mo Bamba, but it doesn’t really offer the immediate impact needed to justify the 12th spot in the rankings. They are getting better, but still have a long way to go before being considered a top tier team.

Looking at the other end of the spectrum there are a handful of teams that appear to have unjustly fallen to low ranks.

Los Angeles Lakers (Rank 18):

Let’s start with the Los Angeles Lakers. Any team that manages to bring in LeBron James is easily expected to be a top contender. LeBron has proven time and time again that he alone can carry undeserving teams and players to the finals (If you’re not convinced just ask James Jones). Now, LeBron is surrounded by a plethora of young talent and is playing some of the best basketball of his career. Watch out for the Lakers this season.

Philadelphia 76ers (Rank 15):

Philadelphia is a team I would expect to earn a top 10 ranking as well. Reigning Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are a force to be reckoned with on their own. With a healthy Markelle Fultz and other strong complementary pieces, the sixers have every right to be optimistic as this young team continues to grow.

Portland Trailblazers (Rank 21):

The last team I want to comment on that was clearly ranked lower than expected is Portland. Overall their core remained intact this offseason. If anything, the team saw a bit of improvement replacing Ed Davis with Jusuf Nurkic. They also brought in Seth Curry who has proven he can be an effective off the bench scorer when given the opportunity (48.1% Field goal percentage and 42.5% 3-point percentage in last active season). The problem with the Blazers is that they have been in this stage for too long. They aren’t good enough to win a championship, but they are good enough to avoid top draft picks. If the Blazers don’t make a serious move to go to the next level they will be stuck as an above average team until Lillard and McCollum decide to split.

Overall the model shows some interesting information. There are a handful of teams that just seem to be out of place and I will be looking for ways to improve rankings in the future. However, I do believe a lot of these rankings aren’t far off and could be revealing of some up and coming teams this season.