Sunday, October 28, 2007

League overview

I went and predicted results for every team in the league, and I'll share those predictions with you over the next few days (one day for the Eastern Conference, one day for the Western Conference). For now, I just wanted to share a few general thoughts I had about those predictions.

First, I made my predictions by thinking about each team, their finish last season, and the moves they made in the offseason, and then making an educated guess about how many games they would win. If someone is anal enough to go through and add up all the projected wins, that person will notice that I've predicted too many wins. Since one team needs to lose each game, the overall record of the league at the end of the regular season is always 1230-1230. My predictions give the league an overall record of 1251-1209 (626-604 Eastern Conference, 625-605 Western Conference). Clearly not actually possible. So sue me. It's the preseason--you're supposed to be overly optimistic for all the teams. (I was actually even more optimistic at first, but then I tried to adjust the numbers once I realized what I had done...and then I decided it wasn't worth the effort)

With that book-keeping out of the way, what insights do I think I gleaned from my look around the league?

1. The top teams are in the West. The top teams have been in the Western Conference for the last few years, so this observation wasn't exactly a revelation. This year I think the top five regular season teams will be in the West-- San Antonio, Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, and Utah. Those first four teams are the class of the league, and I think they'll all challenge the 60 win mark. While Utah is a step below, the Jazz are still as good as the top teams in the East over the course of the regular season (Chicago, Detroit, Boston).

2. Boston is the wild card. I don't expect Boston to be amazing over the course of the regular season because of the lack of depth, but the post-season will be a different story. Assuming the Big 3 (Garnett, Allen, Pierce) are healthy, they can play 40+ minutes a night in the post-season, making Boston's lack of depth a much less signficant factor. So don't judge Boston's title chances on their regular season record.

3. The top teams are in the West, but so are the worst teams. In predicting team records, I thought the top teams in the West would win close to 60 games while the worst teams in the West would win close to 20 games-- a 40 game spread. In the East, I thought the top teams would win close to 50 games while the worst teams would win close to 30 games-- a 20 game spread. Teams like Minnesota, Portland, Seattle, and the LA Clippers have no chance of even getting near the playoffs. In the East, I think Atlanta and Milwaukee are the only ones without a realistic chance of getting to the playoffs, and they'll still be closer than those teams from the West I just mentioned.

4. If you don't have a .500 record this season, you aren't getting into the playoffs. I think this year there are at least 10 teams in each conference that can legitimately claim a shot at having a .500 record. Maybe this is just a result of my total predicted wins being too high, but I do think that at least 8 teams in each conference will end up reaching that mark. No patsies in the playoffs this year.

5. The middle tier teams in the Eastern Conference are impossible to predict. Miami has injuries. Cleveland might be dealing with the absence of Varejao if his contract situation isn't resolved. Washington has players returning from injury, making it hard to figure out what last year's performance really means. I think one of these teams is likely to drop out of the playoffs, but I can't predict which one and I was too much of a pansy to actually make a prediction that included this belief.

6. Everyone' s favorite Cinderella team from last season, Golden State, is going to discover that the clock has hit midnight. They lost Jason Richardson and didn't really get anything in return. I don't see how they recover from that decision.

One final note-- Since I made my predictions last week, there have been a few trades (Antoine Walker to the Timberwolves) and injuries (Mike Bibby, Chucky Atkins) that probably would have impacted my predictions. I decided not to redo my predictions, but in a few cases I mention "major" events that have occurred since I made my initial predictions.


Louis said...

I would like to see the wages-of-wins predictions matched up with the alternate version mentioned a few weeks ago so that at the end of the season we can see which came out closer.

Sam Cohen said...

I'm not sure I know what alternate version you're talking about. Could you clarify what you mean?