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Thread: Mapping NBA teams

  1. #1

    Default Mapping NBA teams

    Tom Ziller from SBNation built this nice chart. Personally I love this way of visualizing this offense/defense data:

    The data from games in the last 3 days isn't included.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Ziller
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    * Brief explainer: team offense, measured by offensive efficiency (or points per possession), is oriented on the x axis, with better offensive teams toward the right and worse offensive teams toward the left. Team defense is oriented on the y axis, with better defensive teams toward the top and worse defensive teams toward the bottom. As such, good offense-good defense teams can be found in the top right quadrant. Bad offense-bad defense teams are in the bottom left. The graph includes stats up through Friday's action.

    * If you look at the graph structurally, and create tiers, you'll notice that four teams -- the Heat, Celtics, Spurs and Lakers -- stand out. Just behind them are the Mavericks, Magic and Jazz. The Hawks, who happen to be really balanced but not spectacular on either end, are begging for admission, but sadly do not belong in the club. The Bulls, Hornets and Pacers aren't far away from the second tier.
    The rest of his analysis is worth reading too:


    I added some lines to build some easy to visualized clusters and tiers:

    Tier 1 - Legit Contenders: Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, San Antonio

    Boston and Miami are very similar teams - Boston slightly better defensively, Miami more efficient offensively. Miami's quality defensively is a testament to how underrated LeBron James is as a defender.

    Los Angeles will improve defensively once Bynum is back but has taken advantage of an easy schedule to be crazy good offensively. Their positioning on the chart makes them look like the former D'Antoni's Suns teams.

    The Spurs look a lot like the Suns too, as strange as that may seem. Graphically, San Antonio belongs here. However, I'm not ready to consider the Spurs a real contender. I think that their big man rotation leaves them permeable to high-quality offenses. They lack size and speed inside - the quicker guys are small, the bigger ones are slow and they still have the small and slow variety. Not enough versatility there, not a single elite pick'n'roll defender, a guy who can check on the Fryes of the world and make them pay on the other end. I think they need Splitter to step up and start seeing some minutes, he's exactly the type of player they need in that rotation. If Splitter keeps under-performing (or glued to the bench), they look like a team built to rack up regular season wins.


    Tier 2 - Outside Contenders - Orlando, Dallas, San Antonio, Utah

    I don't think Utah has a fair chance to win the title. Not enough quality on the wings, offensively or defensively. Not enough inside defense. Too reliant on Williams to construct offense. Not enough bench. Not enough rebounding. A solid playoff team but barring trades they won't win 3 playoff series in a row.

    I don't put Dallas on the tier 1 because I'm not sure Beaubois can be the 2nd dynamic go-to scorer they need. Theoretically, he's a great fit. Can defend PGs and play SG offensively along Kidd. Great pick'n'roll option. Can play on or off the ball. Without him performing at a relatively high level - or a trade -, I doubt they have enough offense. Carlisle will keep playing the likes of Barea huge minutes because he desperately needs baskets.... and that type of player doesn't belong in the rotation of a championship team. I like how they match up with the Lakers though.

    Orlando keeps the same problems they had last season. No shot-creators from the perimeter. Howard's supporting cast is easy to shut down for a quality defense. They're good enough to stay hot shooting the ball for 2 or 3 series, so who knows, but it's extremely doubtful.


    Tier 3 - Playoff teams - New York, Denver, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Portland, Philadelphia, Chicago, Indiana, New Orleans

    Chicago and Oklahoma are the best of these teams and the ones capable of making a playoff run.

    The others have solid to good chances of making the playoffs. Philadelphia is surprisingly good. Their interior defense is terrible - Brand, Hawes - one of the worst overall defenders in the league, Noccioni, Speights... and they're still average defensively. Their perimeter defense is stellar. Offensively they improved a lot with the introduction of a shooter like Meeks.

    I'm starting to have doubts about Portland. Brandon Roy is looking horrible. If he's going to play like this, they need a revolution in their style of play. They can't keep depending on him to create half-court offense for their role-players. They need to speed up the tempo to allow Miller, Batum, Fernandez, Matthews to flourish (it also fits their bigs better) and probably bring him off the bench and reduce his minutes.

    Special cases (red circles) - Milwaukee and Phoenix - They're like one another bizarro twin: elite defense with awful offense and vice-versa. I expect the Bucks to make the playoffs - I think their offense will eventually improve (not a lot, Skiles is coaching them) and they're capable of keeping this level of defense (actually, they'll improve it as far as Bogut starts playing regularly); things look worse for the Suns - a lot will depend on how soon Lopez returns and his level of play. They need him to be a big factor in order to pump their defense to minimally acceptable levels.


    Tier 4 - Borderline playoff teams - Charlotte, Memphis, Toronto, Houston

    Teams with a small chance of making the playoffs. Houston depends mostly on Yao. If they manage to get him healthy at least for the 2nd half of the season, they'll be there. The Bobcats defense is disappointing; ditto for Memphis offense.


    Tier 5 - Lottery teams - New Jersey, Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit, Minnesota, Sacramento, Golden State

    All of them picked in the top-8 in last season's draft too (some of them have been in the lottery for years). I can see a couple of them catching fire and going for a middle 30s record.


    Tier 6 - Bad lottery teams - Cleveland and Washington

    Very flawed teams that will struggle immensely to get to 30 wins.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Mapping NBA teams

    Interesting graphic. I'd be interested in knowing i) the stability of "locations" throughout the season, and ii) historical examples of teams that moved significantly toward the upper right between, say, the first half of the season and the second half.

    In other words, if every team in the league agreed that it is desirable to move toward the upper right, is such movement more likely accomplished through a mid-season trade or an adjustment in coaching decision-making? (I think I know what most PDers' answer is regarding the Pacers.)
    Last edited by DrFife; 12-15-2010 at 06:09 PM.

  4. #3
    Running with the Big Boys BillS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mapping NBA teams

    I love that chart, not least because it goes against the conventional wisdom that the Pacers big problem is defense.

    I even heard someone on Dakich's show today state that the defense in the last two games was horrible, when both times the opponents were held well below their scoring average.

    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
    Or throw in a first-round pick and flip it for a max-level point guard...

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    Member Eleazar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mapping NBA teams

    Unless you are including eyeball test, then I don't see how Dallas shouldn't be included as top tier if only judging by this map. The distance from point 4, 4 (the best possible point) is very close to the same distance as the Lakers if not slightly closer. Also based on this map the Pacers are virtually a tie with Atlanta for the best of the third tier.

    Anyways I think this forms a pretty accurate placement of how good teams are, within a certain amount of error and exceptions. To me it gives a much better representation than W-L records, although I do not believe that Miami is the best in the league.

  7. #5
    This season is for Travis ECKrueger's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mapping NBA teams

    Pretty cool graphic, and I can't argue with where we are.

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