FanPost

Roy Wants NBA Title Next Year...Will He Get It. (Updated)

(See update at bottom of post for those returning a 2nd time)

Roy has stated that he believes the Blazers can go for the NBA Championship next year. This post is an attempt to ascertain whether that statement is feasible from the point of view of my favorite stat, the Team Point Differential. Well maybe not my favorite stat, but a stat that I believe is one of the most pure stats. Unlike the Individual Point Differential that is subject to player rotations of both teams, the Team Point Diff is a fair evaluation of overall team performance.

 

The numbers in this post are not adjusted for pace, but the data adequately gives a good estimate of whether or not Roy’s appraisal is on target.

Appetizer  - The point differential trend chart
Long timers can skip the 2-paragraph explanation. I throw this up first since I’ve posted it 2 or 3 times throughout the season. It does make you wonder if the Blazers were pushing too hard for seeding the last 10-12 games and were exhausted for the playoffs? After game 1 Roy said he was extremely tired.


For those who haven’t seen this chart, it is a chart of point differentials, the season average, a 21 game average, and a 7 game average, plotted against each other. The shorter term 7 game average looks at a smaller segment of the season and gives you an idea of how the Blazers have performed short-term in comparison to the season. Each data point is an average of the last 7 games.

Included is a "strength of schedule" to better evaluate the point differential chart.
The difficulty stat (i.e. strength of schedule) is a crude stat I created to gauge the toughness of the opponent. It also looks at the average toughness of the last seven games, so it should be viewed in consideration of the 7 game point differential stat. This stat oscillates between one and zero, the closer to one the more difficult the schedule.

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The last 14 Seasons of all NBA teams is in this next chart. Actually 15 seasons is used in some of the data below, but the 98-99 season had only 50 games and since I’m using number of wins instead of win% it doesn’t fit in the subsequent chart.

The chart is plotting wins (across the top) against point differential on the left.

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A couple points of interest:

At any win level you choose, the delta point difference is always less than 6. i.e. at the 41 game level the spread is from less than –3 to less than +3 (-2.6 to +2.9).


A perpendicular line is drawn at  a 41 win game season. In 14 years of data the linear trend line crosses almost exactly at a point diff of "0" when a team wins 41 games. (see two zoomed in charts below)

Secondly: another line is drawn at where the point diff is approximately +9.8. This point diff is chosen because the Blazers had a point diff of 9.8 for the last 21 games of the year.

Drawing upwards from 9.8 on the trend line yields a 68 win season.

This number is clearly elite status. Cleveland (#1) ended this year at 8.9   The Puke yellow and purple (#2) ended the year at 7.7

 

For the last quarter of the season the Blazers were the cream of the crop. Not only this, but our Point diff averaged above 10 for the last 15 games. Only 3 teams have averaged above 10 for the season in the last 15 years.

Zooming in on the trend line
Where the trend line crosses Zero in these 14 seasons would take an average number of wins of 40.95  
Without doubt a point diff of Zero is a .500 team.

This suggests that the team point diff is one of the purest stats available.

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Looking at this same zoomed in shot from the left side, when the tend line crosses 41 games the point diff is at +.02

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Here’s a table of the last 15 years showing the point diff rank of the NBA champ and the runner up.

There are several things to notice in this chart.
7 of the last 15 years have been won by the team ranked 1st.
A team ranked 1st, if in the finals has never lost.
11 of 15 times the higher ranked team has won.

If this year holds true to trend, 8 of the last 16 years will be won by the #1 ranked team.



3518014392_253acfffb4_medium 

Average rank of title winner is 3.13, runner up is 4.80
Minus out the year with the 11th ranked Rockets, 2.57 & 4.92 respectively.
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One more look at the Blazers this year.
Again, at years end the 21 game average was at 9.8, the 7 game average held above 10 for the last 9 data points, which is equal to a 15 game average above 10 for the years end. Stellar indeed.

When writing this post unlike the last 21 games I was just eyeballing the last 15 games, having now calculated it before hitting the florist, The last 16 games had a point diff average of 12.5

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As said above the Blazers were the best in the league not just the last 10-12 games but likely for the last 21 games. I say likely because I did not research the other top tier teams but remember that their point diff came down as the season progressed. Orlando I think was the only exception but I don’t think their push was at the end of the season.

Yes, the Blazers were breaking away from the rest of the pack, trying to join the top-level teams at years end. It seems very likely they could parlay this into a championship run next year.

UPDATE
For a better perspective:
We had a win% of .659 this year, we had a Point diff of  5.3 with most of the year below 5 almost scrapping 3 at one point.
Roy said he wants it next year.
If you look at the win% of the point diff winners in the last 15 years (see table below in top of comment section), the range is from .695 to .878 with a point diff range from 6.8 to 12.2  (again us .659 & 5.3)
Bottom line, in both categories we are under the range of the last 15 years of point diff winners.

Conclusion: We absolutely have to play somewhat like the last 21 games (.762 win% and 9.8 point diff) to raise odds of winning an  NBA Championship Trophy. 
Going into the Finals ranked #1 gives us a 50% chance of a title, going in ranked above the other teams gives us a 75% chance.

Even with no changes the Blazers will be a better team next year. But how much will Oden’s schooling affect progress? Will Roy make another leap, like the one he wasn’t supposed to make this year? Can Travis shake the playoff monkey? Batum? Bayless? LMA? Lots of questions, but point differential says it just may be so.

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