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cdash
11-19-2010, 02:19 PM
John Hollinger posted his PER Diem column today about why Indiana's odds to make the playoffs are greater than Oklahoma City's odds. I know people around here hate Hollinger, but like positive information about the team better, so here goes:

http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/insider/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&page=PERDiem-101119


If you could pick only one of them, which do you think is more likely to make the playoffs: Indiana or Oklahoma City?

Seems obvious, doesn't it? The Pacers are a fairly uninteresting collection of B-list talent and haven't made the postseason since the last time Tony Parker was single, while the Thunder entered the season as the darlings of the league and boast two All-Star-caliber perimeter players in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. At 7-4 against the Pacers' 5-5, Oklahoma City also has a better record. The Thunder, it seems, are the obvious choice.

Not so fast.

Play out the season based on the results of games to date, adjust for the massive disparity in strength between the two conferences, and you reach a surprising conclusion: Indy's odds of qualifying for the playoffs appear to be significantly better than the Thunder's.

That's the result of our simulation of the rest of the season using the Playoff Odds tool, which launches for 2010-11 today. The method, if you'll recall, is that we play out the rest of the season 5,000 times and tabulate the results, using the current Power Rankings as our base to set the odds of any individual game.

We also allow for home-court advantage, and this early in the season we use a "regression to the mean" component; that way we tend to avoid overrating a team based on a particularly hot or cold start. (If we didn't do this, we'd find ourselves saying things like, "Based on its 10-0 start, Team X appears likely to win 75 games.")

Of course, there will always be factors for which the computerized method can't compensate. Portland, for instance, projects to have a 70.5 percent chance of making the postseason, but that's based on a Power Ranking largely built with Brandon Roy in the lineup. If he can't participate in their final 69 games, one presumes the Blazers' odds diminish substantially.

Here's another common occurrence that throws people when they look at the playoff odds: Often, a conference will have more than eight teams -- or fewer than eight teams -- with better than a 50 percent chance of making the playoffs. This is perfectly logical mathematically -- in fact, you could have all 15 teams in the conference with better than 50 percent odds, since if the games were completely random, each team's odds would be 53.3 percent. As long as the percentages add up to 800 in each conference and no single team has more than 100, any split of the odds among the 15 teams is kosher.

Thus, the current situation we have in the East, where only seven teams project as likely to make the playoffs. This doesn't mean that the East will have only seven playoff teams (although I'd heartily support such a resolution), but rather that the probability of attaining the last spot is split nearly evenly among several fairly awful teams.

As for the Pacers and Thunder? Here's how the Playoff Odds see it: Thanks to the Pacers' easier schedule in the Eastern Conference, the Pacers and Thunder project to finish the season with identical 41-41 records. And since the projected playoff cut-line is at 37 wins in the East but 44 wins in the West, that translates into much better postseason odds for the Pacers.

Indy qualified for the postseason in 67.4 percent of our simulations, with the No. 7 seed its most likely landing spot. Oklahoma City? The Thunder made it only 43.2 percent of the time, with ninth place their most frequent endpoint. Even if a team projected to finish ahead of them (such as Portland) falls off the pace, the Thunder have to hold off three other challengers in Houston, Memphis and Golden State, all of whom project to win at least 38 games.

In contrast, the three teams projected to share No. 9 in the East -- Toronto, Detroit and New York -- average only 34 wins in our simulations. So the Pacers have a great deal more wiggle room than the Thunder.

We see this happen every season in the two conferences, when Western Conference teams enter the lottery and not the playoffs because they have the bad luck to play in the West instead of the East. This doesn't mean Indiana is a better team. Although the current Power Rankings would make Indiana a slight favorite on a neutral court, that's unlikely to hold up all season. But the Pacers don't need to be better; in fact, they can be substantially worse, because they're in a much easier neighborhood.

So, as strange as it sounds, the Pacers are in a much better position to make the playoffs than the more celebrated Thunder squad, based on how they've played to date.

A few more questions on the Playoff Odds:

Why so conservative?

You'll notice that no teams project to win 60 games and only five project to win more than 50. This results from two phenomena. First, the regression-to-the-mean component mentioned above is a factor. It will become less of one as the season goes on, but for now it retains a healthy skepticism that any team is as good (or bad) as we've seen so far.

Second, however, is an important trend that I haven't seen folks account for: The bottom-feeders have become a lot better, and those wins have to come from somewhere. Last season New Jersey and Minnesota combined to win 27 games between them, and five other teams lost at least 55 games.

This year? Only four teams project to lose more than 50, and none appear headed anywhere near the abysmal orbit the Nets and Wolves occupied a year ago. The worst projected records belong to Minnesota and Sacramento, both at 24-58; that's twice as many games as the Nets won in 2009-10.

We're likely to see some movement toward the poles as the year goes on and the regression-to-the-mean component fades away, but it still stands to reason that the standings will be more compressed than those of other recent seasons. It's difficult to have a bunch of 60-win teams unless there are some equally awful teams to offset them at the bottom.

How do the Heat project so well?

Miami is "just" 7-4, but the Heat own the league's best Power Ranking thanks to what is far and away the NBA's best scoring margin. Additionally, based on Power Rankings, Miami has already played two of the three toughest games on its schedule (at Boston, at New Orleans).

In their final 71 games, based on current Power Rankings, they have two toss-ups (at Boston, at Lakers) and will be favored in the other 69. That's how we arrive at Miami going 51-20 the rest of the way and landing a game ahead of Boston for the East's top seed.

New Orleans ahead of the Lakers?

The Hornets have placed extremely well in the early going, but naturally we should be skeptical about whether they can keep it up.

While New Orleans projects to beat out the Lakers for the West's top seed by two games, in this case what the computer doesn't know may be of crucial importance: Namely, that L.A. has been playing without Andrew Bynum, and its defense has suffered as a result. I still expect the Lakers to be the West's No. 1 seed when all is said and done.

Of more interest, perhaps, is the striation we're seeing in the West. Only New Orleans and San Antonio have established themselves as potential foils for L.A. After that is a morass of five teams projected to win 44-48 games, followed by early disappointments like Oklahoma City, Houston and (arguably) Memphis. The West remains the deeper, better conference, but at the top the East may be more powerful.

Who are the mortal locks?

You'll see some teams listed with odds at 100 percent, which obviously conveys a greater deal of certainty than you might think since we're still in the first month of the season.

Two notes on those situations: First, a team can miss the playoffs in up to two of the 5,000 simulations and still show up as "100.0" because we round to the first decimal.

Second, we run 5,000 simulations ... not a million. There are any number of ways a team like, say, Miami, could miss the playoffs, but most of them appear to be unlikely in the extreme. So we can't say, definitely, that the Heat are 100 percent certain to make the postseason until they've mathematically clinched. We can say, however, that they're within rounding-error distance.

Thus far we have only three cases where a team's playoff odds are better than 99.5 percent: Boston, Miami and New Orleans are the lucky trio who can feel free to start printing playoff tickets. Boston can take comfort in a top-four seed, too, as the Celtics have a 99.6 percent shot to win the Atlantic Division (The Celtics project to win it by 23 games and be the division's only playoff team).

On the other hand, three teams are basically out of it already. In the West, the Clippers, Kings and Timberwolves appear to have virtually no chance at the postseason, with a combined 0.6 percent probability that any of them make it.

That may seem especially harsh with the Kings (3-7), given that a Houston team with a worse record still shows a 35.2 percent probability. But Sacramento has played the league's easiest schedule thus far -- their opponents have a .374 opponent winning percentage when not playing the Kings -- and played six of its 10 games at home. Houston, in contrast, has played one of the NBA's toughest slates.

The Kings sit at 28th in the Power Rankings after a miserable home loss to Team Mozgov on Wednesday and would likely need to get well over .500 to make the postseason. Thus, the piddling 0.2 percent chance this morning's Playoff Odds give them seems entirely appropriate.

Unclebuck
11-19-2010, 02:23 PM
I just disagree with his overall approach.

Speed
11-19-2010, 02:28 PM
Chad Ford was asked yesterday in his chat, who he thought would be the surprise teams in each conference this year. He picked the Suns and Pacers.

Gamble1
11-19-2010, 02:35 PM
I just disagree with his overall approach.
Well ya it doesn't take into account injuries and things of that nature.

Not to mention a bad coach.;) I kid.

Trophy
11-19-2010, 02:38 PM
I'm not doubting it.

We just need to be consistent and play hard every night and give Tyler and Brandon a lot of minutes and the starting spots.

MyFavMartin
11-19-2010, 02:42 PM
I just disagree with his overall approach.

WWUBD?

Brad8888
11-19-2010, 02:59 PM
Computer simulations are interesting, but who knows what criteria are actually used?

Also, the GIGO factor has a lot to do with the accuracy of the simulations.

Barring significant injuries, a 41-41 result for OKC should require that they review what type of coaching staff they need to progress to the next level.

duke dynamite
11-19-2010, 03:03 PM
10 games in and nobody is saying the "T" word. I find that a big plus.

pacergod2
11-19-2010, 03:20 PM
10 games in and nobody is saying the "T" word. I find that a big plus.

"Troy"?

vnzla81
11-19-2010, 03:38 PM
Just wait because this is going to get ugly.

MyFavMartin
11-19-2010, 03:53 PM
Portland (Roy) and Denver (Melo) are projected to be playoff teams in the West, thus far, but could easily drop out and OKC and Houston are the next two teams.

rexnom
11-19-2010, 03:57 PM
I just disagree with his overall approach.
So I think statistical tools and quantitative models have gotten sophisticated enough where this is no longer enough of an objection.

So I'm going to push you.

Why do you disagree with his approach?

tfarks
11-19-2010, 04:01 PM
Because he was told there would be no math.

Scot Pollard
11-19-2010, 04:06 PM
i want playoffs

indiana deserves its pacers back in the playoffs

cordobes
11-19-2010, 08:55 PM
Computer simulations are interesting, but who knows what criteria are actually used?


http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/insider/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&page=Rankings-Intro&action=login&appRedirect=http%3a%2f%2finsider.espn.go.com%2fnba %2finsider%2fcolumns%2fstory%3fcolumnist%3dholling er_john%26page%3dRankings-Intro


RATING = (((SOS-0.5)/0.037)*0.67) + (((SOSL10-0.5)/0.037)*0.33) + 100 + (0.67*(MARG+(((ROAD-HOME)*3.5)/(GAMES))) + (0.33*(MARGL10+(((ROAD10-HOME10)*3.5)/(10)))))

SOS = Season win/loss percentage of team's opponents, expressed as a decimal (e.g., .500)

SOSL10 = Season win/loss percentage of team's last 10 opponents, expressed as a decimal (e.g., .500)

MARG = Team's average scoring margin

MARGL10 = Team's average scoring margin over the last 10 games

HOME = Team's home games

HOMEL10 = Team's home games over the last 10 games

ROAD = Team's road games

ROADL10 = Team's road games over the last 10 games

GAMES = Team's total games

For the playoff predictor (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&page=playoffpredictor-081119).

Shade
11-19-2010, 09:23 PM
So I think statistical tools and quantitative models have gotten sophisticated enough where this is no longer enough of an objection.

So I'm going to push you.

Why do you disagree with his approach?

Because numbers can't play defense?

daschysta
11-19-2010, 09:34 PM
But they can record what happens on defense.

Infinite MAN_force
11-30-2010, 04:22 PM
Current update on Playoff Odds.

Pacers now predicted to win 48 games and are the projected 5th seed. Squaring off with, you guessed it, The big three in South Beach for a first round playoff match up. It lists us as having a 94% chance of making the playoffs.

http://espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/playoffodds

I wonder how Hollinger will continue to excuse away how our "b-list" talent could be performing so well in his system.

binarysolo
11-30-2010, 04:36 PM
I wonder how Hollinger will continue to excuse away how our "b-list" talent could be performing so well in his system.


He will probably say something like "they are all playing better this year." what a ridiculous notion!

PaceBalls
11-30-2010, 04:54 PM
Current update on Playoff Odds.

Pacers now predicted to win 48 games and are the projected 5th seed. Squaring off with, you guessed it, The big three in South Beach for a first round playoff match up. It lists us as having a 94% chance of making the playoffs.

http://espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/playoffodds

I wonder how Hollinger will continue to excuse away how our "b-list" talent could be performing so well in his system.

It's how I imagine the perfect season for the Pacers... short of winning the title of course. But beating the Heat or giving them a really tough time in the playoffs would do so much for the excitement about the team. We would be filling Conseco again the next year.

pathil275
11-30-2010, 05:02 PM
The NBA is not math, players are not machines.
I only agree with the favorable schedule for Eastern Conference teams.

danman
11-30-2010, 09:44 PM
I like Hollinger's stuff. He puts a bit of thought into it, which is uncommon. That said, his system presumes that the team health thus far will be the same going forward. So... grain of salt and all that.

odeez
11-30-2010, 09:50 PM
I expect them to make the playoffs as well if the keep playing this way! I am still hopeful we can improve ourselves at the 4 with a trade at some point this season.

Hoop
11-30-2010, 10:00 PM
Although computer simulations and statistics are interesting and often pick correct outcomes, they can't gauge human emotion, inner drive, willpower, determination, ect. IMO the biggest factors in any sport next to talent.

Anthem
11-30-2010, 10:24 PM
I'd love to meet the Heat in the first round.

Heck, I'd love for us to be IN the first round.

Anthem
11-30-2010, 10:28 PM
Although computer simulations and statistics are interesting and often pick correct outcomes, they can't gauge human emotion, inner drive, willpower, determination, ect.
But players who have high drive will have it consistently, meaning that it's predictable. Hollinger's system can't tell the difference between a guy who gets 20ppg through grit or through excessive talent. He just knows that if you get 20ppg every night then you'll probably get 20ppg tomorrow.

DrFife
11-30-2010, 10:39 PM
I'd love to meet the Heat in the first round.

Heck, I'd love for us to be IN the first round.

Heck, I want us to HOST the Heat in the first round! :nunchuck:

PacerPenguins
11-30-2010, 10:41 PM
Heck, I want us to HOST the Heat in the first round! :nunchuck:

If we get the heat and beat them, well be so cocky and hopfully get to the ECF and then the Finals baby, lol:happydanc

BringJackBack
11-30-2010, 10:44 PM
I don't think that we would beat the Heat, but I do think that we are the second best matchup in the EC to the Heat behind Boston.

bulldog
11-30-2010, 10:48 PM
Although computer simulations and statistics are interesting and often pick correct outcomes, they can't gauge human emotion, inner drive, willpower, determination, ect. IMO the biggest factors in any sport next to talent.

Yes they can.

His model uses past results to predict future outcomes, so thats exactly what this computer model is gauging. Shots, wins, emotion, coaching, whatever happened on the court.

There's no magic here. The numbers are nothing special. They're just a tool for keeping track of what happened previously, and extrapolating that to the future. Now, extrapolation is always tricky, but its the same technique your brain uses. You say "I've seen Kobe play well, so he's probably gonna keep playing well," or "Kobe looks a lot like that guy Michael Jordan I used to watch, and guys like that tend to play well, so he's gonna win a lot of games."

This type of mathematical approach essentially does the same thing your brain does, but better. You don't watch all the games, you have biases (such as rooting for the Pacers), and your brain forgets stuff. Now, on many topics the human brain is better than even the best computer, but what your brain gains in complex algorithms for making decisions it loses in memory, bias, and incomplete information. As a casual sports fan, your brain's "basketball algorithms" probably aren't all the special, so ultimately the computers advantages probably outperform your own advantages. That doesn't apply to Phil Jackson.

In summary, the numbers are doing a similar thing to what your brain is doing, and they aren't perfect. But they probably are better than you.