Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Explaining the Hollinger Stuff a Bit

OK, I need to talk Pricing Boy down a bit here. Pretty much what John Hollinger exists to do is be to the NBA what Rob Neyer is to the MLB. In short, he is using a complex mathematical formula to assign point scores and rankings to teams - and players too - to figure out who is the best. He takes into account the following:

strength of schedule
victory margin
home/road victories and defeats

This is by no means a perfect system (full description here), but I do think it serves it's purpose well when relatively predicting future performance. What it says is that a blowout is more impressive than a close victory and a road victory trumps a home victory. Not rocket science but these are things that typical standings don't take into account.

Sure you can argue that close wins build character and toughness - which is probably true to an extent - but you can also say that they are often dictated by one fortuitous bounce or a shot that can either go in or out. For example, if Eddie House does not get that rebound on Sunday and Paul Pierce does not hit the ensuing three, the Celtics lose. In the end, so what they won and good for them but in a 15 point victory, two plays happening in succession like that more than likely will not account for the difference between a W and an L. Therefore, you put a bit more stock in the big one than the close one. Less luck and chance involved in the big victories meaning that is a result more likely to repeat itself.

So what does this have to do with Cleveland v. Boston? Well, the reason why they are ranked ahead of Boston is primarily a result of victory margin. Cleveland has won 18 games and 15 of those victories have been by double-figures. Boston has won 20 games but with just 11 by double-figures. So if you are a computer or a mathematical equation, which team do you put more stock in for keeping up their current pace? Cleveland because 83% of their victories have been "big" victories as opposed to Boston who only has a 55% "big" victory percentage.

I'm not saying the above is a perfect solution by any means but it is meant to reflect both current and future performance and right now, if you take all subjective analysis out of the equation, Cleveland looks statistically to be the superior team to the Celtics. How that manifests itself between now and April and even more importantly through April and June is to be determined but from where we stand now, I can see where Hollinger makes his point.

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