The NBA Storylines I Miss Most

I’m having NBA withdrawal.  We haven’t played any games since March 11th and there are serious doubts now among league executives if this season will even be finished at all, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

With all the uncertainty notwithstanding, I thought it would be fun (and maybe even cathartic) to look back at some of the storylines that made the rest of this season, particularly the playoffs, so compelling.  In no particular order, here they are below:

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What happens to home court advantage when the Lakers and Clippers face off at Staples Center?

With the possibility of an all-LA Western Conference Finals looming, I looked back at regular season data from the past 12 years to see if the home team maintains an advantage.

On Sunday afternoon, the basketball world’s two Los Angeles squads face off at Staples Center, their shared home. Though the rivalry has historically been dominated by the Lakers, this year’s matchup features two star-studded squads at the top of the Western Conference.  With the Lakers and Clippers 1 and 2 in the Western Conference standings, the thought of an exciting Western Conference Finals between the two rivals, with LeBron James going toe-to-toe with Kawhi Leonard, is a real possibility this season.

What makes a potential playoff matchup all the more intriguing is the added drama of knowing that every game would be played in the same building!  That got me thinking about home court advantage in such a series.  Would the home team in an individual game of a Lakers vs. Clippers series not have the full home court advantage that we would expect from a typical matchup?  Or might we see the Lakers, the traditionally more popular team, maintain their home court advantage while the Clippers suffer the effects of a swarm of purple and gold fans invading their “home” games.

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Why are playoff projections so high on the Pelicans?

The Pelicans are in pole position in the playoff race out West despite being 2 games back of Memphis with 23 to play. Why?

If you have been tracking the heated race for the 8th seed in the Western Conference, you might have noticed something weird.  Projection models such as FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR based predictions are bullish about the Pelicans’ chances of securing that final spot.  As of early February 29, New Orleans is given a 74% chance of making the playoffs by FiveThirtyEight.  This is despite the fact that the Memphis Grizzlies are the team currently in 8th place in the standings, two game up on the the Pelicans with only 23 games left to play.  FiveThirtyEight gives the Grizzlies only a 4% chance of making the playoffs.  What is going on here?  Why are we so confident that New Orleans will jump Memphis, and hold off at least three other plausible challengers for that last playoff spot?

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Will Trump’s low net approval rating sink his re-election bid?

President Trump is, at the moment, not a very popular president.  According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval rating tracker, he currently has a -11.7% net approval rating, which means that the percentage of people who disapprove of his performance is 11.7 percentage points higher than the percentage of people who approve of his performance.  Moreover, Mr. Trump has had a poor net approval rating for almost his entire presidency.  The fact that Americans are currently not enthused with the president’s job performance seems to be an ominous omen for his re-election prospects.  But to what extent is this true?

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Five Statistics To Help Answer The Questions Of The Offseason

Two and a half months ago, we were pining for NBA basketball.  Now it’s snowy December and we’ve had plenty of it.  It is time to check in on some of the statistics that have defined this regular season.  In particular, I focus on numbers which answer (however incompletely at this point) some of the lingering questions from the turbocharged 2019 offseason.  A big thanks to basketball-reference for most of the statistics cited here. Enjoy!


Stat:  Luka Doncic True Shooting Percentage

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