Two Big Questions For Evaluating The Lakers’ Anthony Davis Gamble

The NBA offseason lurched into high gear on Saturday night.  There it was, plastered prominently across the bar’s TV screen: Breaking News; Anthony Davis traded to Lakers.

I immediately went to Twitter, eagerly searching for the details of how much Los Angeles had to give up.  A day or so later we finally got the full story: the Lakers were sending Ball, Ingram, Hart, this year’s 4th overall pick, a top-8 reverse protected 2021 1st rounder (which becomes unprotected in 2022), a 2023 pick swap, and a 2024 1st rounder (with the right to defer to 2025) to the Pelicans for the one contract year of Anthony Davis’s services.

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The Raptors Probably Need To Outshoot The Warriors From Downtown To Take The Title

The NBA Finals are almost here and we are finally, mercifully, treated to a matchup which is not Warriors vs. Cavaliers.  The Raptors, in their first NBA Finals appearance, will get a chance to dethrone the champs and I, like most fans, am really excited to see how this turns out.

To get a feel for how a series might shake out, I like to start by looking at the regular season point differentials of both competitors.  By this measure, this Finals looks pretty even.  The Warriors and the Raptors were 2nd and 3rd in the NBA, respectively, at +6.5 and +6.1.  My simple point differential only model pegs the Raptors as slight favorites (55% chance to win the series) by virtue of having home-court advantage.  Plus, the Warriors look to be without Kevin Durant for at least the first few games in the series, which hurts their odds.

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How Likely Is Each Draft Pick to Someday Make an All-Star Team?

It’s May and the 2019 NBA Draft is a little over a month away.  Soon we will watch the future stars of tomorrow excitedly walk onto the stage and shake Commissioner Adam Silver’s hand.  Of course, mixed in with the future stars will be many draftees who will simply never pan out.

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How Important Is A Good Bench To NBA Success?

The difference between good and bad bench play could be 3 or 4 points per game.

Back in 2015, Seth Partnow, now a member of the Milwaukee Bucks analytics team, did a great job analyzing how each team deployed lineups featuring each possible number of starters, from 0 to 5.  Inspired by his approach, I gathered data on starting and bench units for the current 2018-19 regular season, through December 30th.  I was particularly interested in the question in the title of this article: How important is a good bench to NBA success?

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Expected Points Gained, A Framework For Evaluating Actions On A Basketball Court

What is more valuable, an offensive rebound or a defensive rebound? Consult Expected Points Gained.

The currency of a basketball game is points.  This is obvious.  After all, this is the one thing we add up to determine who won and who lost.

This really simple insight actually has a lot of value as a framework for evaluating everything that happens on the court.  Each action that a player takes, be it good or bad, has to have its effect traced back to the scoreboard to be properly measured.  Of course, some actions, like made jumpers and rebounds, are neatly recorded in the box-score and others, like contesting a shot or moving the ball quickly to keep an offensive action going, are not.  But, at the end of the day, we really need to tie everything back to points.

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3 Random NBA Questions (10/15/18): What is the Probability that the Lakers Miss the Playoffs?

Q1: What is the probability that the Lakers miss the playoffs?

Inspired by Ben Falk’s Predict challenge on his website, Cleaning the Glass, (a really cool website if you’re an NBA fan) and filled with intrigue about year 1 of the LeBron led Lakers experiment, I decided to tackle this question.

So, how should we go about answering it?

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Did the 76ers Really Gain 2.3 Points of Net Rating from Poor Opponent Outside Shooting in 2017-18?

Defending the jump shot, particularly the 3-point shot, is one of those seemingly small topics that for some reason I keep coming back to.  I think what first peeked my interest was a podcast in which a guest speculated that one of the biggest unanswered questions in basketball analytics was the degree of control the defense has on the offense’s 3-point field goal percentage.  He said that some analysts guessed that much of the year-to-year variability in 3-point percentage defense was due to chance.  The main source of control a defense has with to respect to 3-pointers could be limiting the number of attempts (particularly open and corner threes), rather than forcing a low percentage.

I dived right into some small projects inspired by this discussion.  My first post examined whether the shooting ability of the players actually taking the 3-pointers against a particular defense had some ability to explain variability in 3-point percentage defense.  I looked into whether the Celtics’ sustained run of top-5 3-point percentage defenses under Coach Brad Stevens could be a fluke of randomness (it’s highly likely it’s not).  I also analyzed which team statistics were most likely to carry over from the first half of the regular season to the second, and found defensive 3-point percentage was low on that list.

Now, I have tried quantify exactly how many points of defensive rating (points per 100 possessions allowed) are subject to opponent shooting variability.  Besides simply considering 3-pointers, I also looked at free throws and ‘deep’ 2-point attempts, where I defined deep as greater than 16 feet.

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