Sunday, June 7, 2015

Preview of the 2015 NBA Finals

The Golden State Warriors versus The Cleveland Cavaliers
Draymond Green #3 vs. LeBron James #1
First of all, the numbers after the names (one line above) are simply the overall rating the player has in the series, for instance Draymond Green is the third best player in the series and LeBron James is the best player in the series. However, a quick caveat is that these ratings are based solely on statistics and the numbers I am using are only based off of the player's various performances in this year's playoffs.
Secondly, an explanation to the numbers below. The original numbers I use are simply based off of a player's statistics in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, true shooting percentage, minutes played, and turnovers. I then incorporate those numbers into different formulas to create the player's overall performance level, offensive performance level, and defensive performance level. The actual formula for PPL, player performance level, in the spreadsheet looks like: =((((((M14*(7*M19*M19^1.085)) +M15+M16 +M17+M18-M21)*14)^1.07 +((M20*1.18)^1.98)) /1.07)/ 1.39125) *6/100. The formula is weighted especially towards points scored, true shooting percentage, and the number of turnovers a player has. A fairly average NBA player could expect to have a player performance level approximately equal to 1.00. I would consider the general range of overall player performance level numbers to be something along these lines -
AntagonistDeep Bench PlayerRotation PlayerLikely StarterQuality StarterPotential All-Star PlayerPotential MVP Candidate


LeBron JamesPer 100 PossessionsPlayer Performance Level Percentage    Weighted  P100P*PW
TS %0.49DPPL0.240.12
Draymond GreenPer 100 PossessionsPlayer Performance Level Percentage    Weighted  P100P*PW
TS %0.52DPPL0.240.13
Green only gives approximately an inch and twenty pounds to LeBron James, so he or Iguodala should provide a fairly decent deterrent to the best player in basketball.  While I would say that in the larger context of things LeBron is indeed a better player than Stephen Curry, I partially disagree with what the data says about James being slightly better than Curry in the playoffs; after I further slightly tweaked the PPL numbers, later then the insertion of these numbers, James and Curry's numbers ended up being virtually identical.
LeBron James has been putting up some fairly fantastic numbers in the playoffs, per his norm, except for in regards to turnovers, to a limited extent, and especially in regards to his true shooting percentage.  Oddly, LeBron's shooting percentages have been rather low in the playoffs in large part on account of having a very inconsistently connecting jump shot. 
If the Warriors are going to continue their excellence on defense, then Draymond Green will need to keep excelling on the defensive side of the ball, especially when he is guarding LeBron James.   If the Cavaliers are going to prevail against Golden State, then LeBron will effectively-definitely need to have a serious increase in his true shooting percentage, most likely bumping it up to a minimum of 53%.

Harrison Barnes #13 vs. Tristan Thompson #6
Harrison BarnesPPL0.86OPPL0.69DPPL0.71
Tristan ThompsonPPL1.19OPPL0.96DPPL1.33
Harrison Barnes has continued to be a moderately quality contributor to the Warriors, I partially disagree with the PPL numbers' conclusion on Barnes here. Tristan Thompson has been seemingly grabbing nearly every rebound that LeBron James or Timofey Mozgov have been unable to snag.  
While both Barnes and Mozgov will certainly have some impact on the series, I expect their impact to remain somewhat minimal as compared to the bigger picture.  However, for the Cavalier's ultimate goal of winning the NBA Finals the matchup of Barnes and Thompson will still be quite important as the Cavaliers can ill-afford to lose the matchup as Thompson should have a somewhat sizable advantage over Barnes.

Andrew Bogut #4 vs. Timofey Mozgov #10
Andrew BogutPPL1.32OPPL0.92DPPL2.39
Timofey MozgovPPL1.03OPPL0.75DPPL1.71
The PPL numbers attest to Andrew Bogut being the semi-significantly better player, but I disagree with their conclusion and think that the matchup will end as largely a draw at the end of the series.

Halftime Interruption
I wanted to have a March Madness post approximately three months back, but I did not have the time to get around to it at the time, as such I will give a small portion of the numbers that would have been included for that post.

Possible opponents
Actual opponents
Predicted opponents
I never understood why it was considered to be a foregone conclusion that Kentucky would reach and win the NCAA Championship game.  While I did consider the Wildcats to be the favorites to win the bracket (and really who did not?), I certainly did not view the Wildcats as being the overwhelming favorites.  Although my simulation numbers certainly still have some flaws that will hopefully someday be ironed out, for instance Kentucky had a 102% chance of winning their first game, I would consider them to be fairly accurate predictions of whichever team would happen to be better than the other.  

What would the NBA playoffs be without a quick gibe at Kendrick Perkins?  Not the NBA Playoffs I would imagine.  The clear MVP of the Cavaliers' playoff run has been  Kendrick Perkins.  Not only has he brought his A game to the playoffs (a little different from most people's A games), but he has even brought along his classiness. Admittedly, however, one play certainly does not necessarily tell a lot about a player and the condemning PPL numbers are only based off of 30 minutes of playoff action; as such I also inserted Kendrick Perkins' career numbers to see what story they would tell.  
Kendrick PerkinsPer 100 P
Player Performance Level
TS %0.42DPER0.240.10
Career Numbers for Kendrick PerkinsPer 100 PPlayer Performance Level
TS %0.55DPER0.240.13
The NBA Playoffs: Watch Classiness In Action.
Semi-surprisingly the numbers actually indicated that Perkins is only rated as a below average starter, aka a rotation type level player.  Glancing at the year by year numbers, however, provided some telling information about Perkins.  Over the past five seasons Perkins has not posted an overall PER in a single year above even 10, and Perkins has not had a WS/48 even approaching .100.  Consequently, it appears that since nearly the time I started paying at least moderate attention to the NBA, Perkins' basketball skills have been on a steady decline which does likely mean that at some point Perkins was able to play on a level close to an average level starter.  

Stephen CurryLeBron JamesChris PaulAnthony DavisRussell WestbrookHassan WhitesideBlake GriffinJames HardenJeremy Evans
Here are some PPL numbers for different players, I checked around twenty-five players, but these were some of the more interesting players.  The numbers are somewhat inaccurate because I have since tweaked the PPL formula around 10%, but the general estimate is at least accurate.  It appears that PPL endorses Anthony Davis as the Most Impressive Player of the year.  Also, I just wanted to mention that Jeremy Evans continues to be a borderline All-Star player who gets the minutes of a deep bench player.

Back to the NBA Finals
Stephen Curry #2 vs. Kyrie Irving #7
Stephen CurryPPL1.56OPPL1.82DPPL0.84
Kyrie IrvingPPL1.16OPPL1.20DPPL0.57
The matchup of Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving is probably the most anticipated matchup of the finals.  Curry has continued his stellar regular season play into the postseason, while Irving has continued to be a quality starter.  Irving will need to improve his defense greatly and not allow Curry to be shooting too many shots or else it could be a short series in favor of the Warriors.

Klay Thompson #12 vs. Iman Shumpert #11
Klay ThompsonPPL0.91OPPL0.91DPPL0.50
Iman ShumpertPPL0.99OPPL0.74DPPL0.88
Klay Thompson and Iman Shumpert are both quality starters who provide some key minutes for their respective teams.  I would expect this matchup to be somewhat even on a general level, but that Thompson will likely play a larger role on the offensive side of things.
JR Smith #5 vs. Andre Iguodala #8
JR SmithPPL1.21OPPL1.07DPPL0.98
Andre IguodalaPPL1.11OPPL0.95DPPL0.83
Somewhat surprisingly JR Smith has actually been around the fifth best player in the playoffs on one of the last two championship contenders.  I would expect that Andre Iguodala will have a slight advantage in this matchup, and Golden State will likely need him to at least even out JR Smith so that the Warriors other matchups where the Warriors have an advantage can take charge. 

Festus Ezeli #9 vs. James Jones #14
Festus EzeliPPL1.08OPPL0.87DPPL1.60
James JonesPPL0.79OPPL0.69DPPL0.38
Festus Ezeli and James Jones will likely not matchup with each other very often.  Jones will likely not play a large role in the series, but it is quite possible that Ezeli's defense and rebounding could provide a spark for the Warriors.

Shaun Livingston/Leandro Barbosa #15 vs. Matthew Dellavedova #16
Shaun LivingstonPPL0.72OPPL0.58DPPL0.45
Leandro BarbosaPPL0.68OPPL0.72DPPL0.28
Matthew DellavedovaPPL0.53OPPL0.56DPPL0.17
I do not really have anything to say about these players and their potential matchup with one another, except that I would randomly guess that they will have limited impact on the series. 

Overall Player Rankings
Golden State Warriors - 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15
Cleveland Cavaliers - 1, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 14, 16
     Based on the matchups that I lined up opposing one another it looks to be a very even series.  The Warriors won the matchups battle 4-2-2, but their advantage mainly came from the end of their bench.

Steve Kerr vs. David Blatt
I also have virtually nothing to say about this matchup, if I do a review of the finals based on the matchups I will likely have a little more to say.  Stellar jobs by both Coach Kerr and Coach Blatt to lead their respective teams to the NBA Finals in their first year as head coaches in the NBA.

Overall Series Outlook
Here are a few quick questions about the NBA Finals.  Why are the Warriors -270 to win the series? Why is Golden State a six point favorite to start the series in game 1? Why is LeBron James the second most likely NBA Finals MVP candidate?  
Accounting for home court advantage for the Warriors, the Cavaliers have a 50.7% chance of winning the series, based solely on each team's playoff statistics.   If regular season statistics were to be used instead, then the outlook would be drastically different and the Warriors would be the favorites at around 58%, or around -140, but since it does not happen to be the regular season anymore I fail to see why the Warriors are such overwhelming favorites in the finals considering the opponent they face. 
The MVP line makes some sense given that Curry would very likely be the MVP of the NBA Finals if the Warriors win, however, I think the odds of the Warrior winning are only at about 55%.  The O/U line for the first game seems quite accurate, I had the first game a little lower, the pure numbers suggested 202 O/U, but if you factor in the fact that it is the first game of the NBA Finals I would partially expect a lower scoring game, in part because both teams are well-rested. 
     I will go ahead and prognosticate that the Warriors split the first two games with the Cavaliers, Cleveland will then go home and do likewise, then each team will protect their home court, and finally I think that the Cavaliers will prevail on the road in game seven, thereby securing the NBA title.  Cavaliers in Seven.  Thanks for reading.