For the past month I’ve been working my way through every team in the NBA Playoffs based on my half-baked notion about the difference between the Regular season in the NBA and the Playoffs. This post is meant to provide a guide to the series that I will update as I complete it (i’ll also add a link next to the free agent guide).
The Half Baked Notion
The first post I ever wrote for the Wages of Win network (and in fact the first post written for the network) was about my beloved Celtics and how people should not be surprised by their success against the Cavaliers (see here). One of the key points in the article was that bad minute allocation and inefficient use of resources doomed the Cavaliers. This led me to think about teams that were successful in the regular season but dramatic failures in the playoff which led to the Half-Baked Notion (full article here ).
The Half baked notion is this: what wins in the regular season is not necessarily what gets you the trophy. What’s the difference? Minute allocation & how wins produced are affected by that allocation. We continuously hear terms like playoff rotation & playoff minutes thrown around come playoff time. When we take a look at the data we’ll see that the pundits may just be right (hell has officially frozen over).
The half baked notion tells us that a good deep team filled with average and above average players will get you in the playoffs but to get far in the playoffs you need your wins to be concentrated in your Top 6.
If we look at 2010 numbers:
- The best two players accounted for 55% of a teams wins in the 2010 Playoffs.
- The top three players are just below the pareto threshold
- The next three (4,5,6th man) account for the rest of the positive win contribution about equally.
- After that everybody else actually hurt teams in the playoffs.
30 to 16 to 1
30 to 16. When looking at the NBA, we typically focus our energy on what happens in the regular season to turn thirty regular season teams into 16 playoff teams. This is perfectly understandable but I believe it misses the point somewhat.
16 to 1. The true goal of any NBA season is to turn thirty teams into one champion and based on the Half-Baked Notion what gets you from 30 to 16 is not what gets you from 16 to 1.
So with 30 to 16 to 1, I have been reviewing every team in the 2010 playoffs. The format looks at the best six players in the playoffs for each team, looks at how many wins their coach/injuries might have cost them and talk about their opportunities/drawbacks going forward (and if they’ve done anything in the off-season to address these).
The series goes from least productive to most productive team in the Playoffs (based on the table that follows now):
The series looks like this:
A Half Baked Notion about the difference between the Regular Season and the Playoffs (the original piece)
30 to 16 to 1: A Half Baked Review of the NBA Playoffs: Part 1 introducing the Series and the Bobcats
30 to 16 to 1:(Part Deux) An Inglorious Blaze: The Portland Trailblazers
30 to 16 to 1:(Part Three) The Powers To Be: The Bulls (The Second City) & The Heat (The Bad Guys)
30 to 16 to 1:(Parte Cuatro) The Future should have been Now: OKC(Playing it Safe in OKC) & Milwakee (Learning to Worry about that Deer)
30 to 16 to 1:(Part Five) Triple A Ball in Denver: The Denver Nuggets
30 to 16 to 1:(Part 6) Excel-Based Heroes :The Dallas Mavericks
30 to 16 to 1:(Part Seven) Gilding a Turd : The Atlanta Hawks
30 to 16 to 1:(Pt. 10 Rnd2): This is the End: The Cleveland Cavaliers
30 to 16 to 1: The Rising or Setting Sun? : The Phoenix Suns
Predicting the Playoffs:
So why should you care? Here’s a table based on the half baked numbers for the last five years for the top 4 teams :
For 2006 it had Dallas, Detroit & Phoenix as tight group at the top. Phoenix had bad injury luck the rest was fairly tight.
For 2007, It got them right.
For 2008, It liked San Antonio better than LA but San Antonio had that charter plane delay before game 1 (and the remarkable 20 point meltdown in game 1). Little hard to predict.
For 2009. Loved LA. It also loved Boston before the injuries. Cleveland failed monumentally.
For 2010. It got them right and Cleveland failed monumentally again.
You’ll note that every champ is at >.900 Cumulative WP48 for it’s top 6 in the playoffs (or on average .150 WP48 per player). So the Half-Baked theory may not be so half baked after all.