Did the James Harden And Chris Paul Experiment Work in Houston?

When the Rockets unexpectedly acquired Chris Paul via trade in the summer of 2017, the NBA world was abuzz.  How could the ball-dominant Paul coexist with usage king James Harden?

I was actually already thinking of writing about this, but now, with the Paul era in Houston coming to a premature end (hello Russell Westbrook!), I think its worthwhile to look back and evaluate the Harden-Paul pairing .

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The NBA Title Race Has Not Been This Wide Open Since 2008-2009

This NBA offseason has been, for lack of a better adjective, crazy.  Anthony Davis was finally traded to the Lakers for a boatload of picks and young players (I had some thoughts after it happened). Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signed with a team which, just a few years ago, was described as one of the bleakest destinations in the NBA.  The Warriors, firmly ensconced as NBA royalty for so long, were suddenly in shambles.  Kawhi Leonard, the reigning finals MVP, was seriously considering joining the Lakers’ super team.  Except then he was actually 99% likely to stay in Toronto. But wait, actually he was going to the Clippers all along and taking fellow star Paul George with him!

All this turbulence and meteoric shifting of the NBA landscape got me thinking: who is actually going to win the whole thing?  This NBA season appears to feature the most wide open title chase that we have seen in years, and that’s the way Vegas sees it too.

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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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