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Monday, December 22, 2014

10-10 = Optimism

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“We’ve definitely got a tough schedule,” Knicks President Isiah Thomas said. “You look at our first 20 games and with our road schedule and the people we play on the road we’d be lucky if we play even .500.

Isiah Thomas is usually overly optimistic when setting goals for his team, so it’s a bit shocking to see the Knicks GM having lowered expectations for his team. Hoping a team goes .500 is usually reserved for teams coming off a horrible season, or coming into the starting gate with multiple injuries. Even though the Knicks did have a season ending disaster after being swept by the cross-river Nets, and Allan Houston still isn’t healthy, neither one should have the Knicks aiming at a mediocre .500. So exactly how bad is the Knicks first month and a half?

Luckily we can look at the schedule & see how many wins the Knicks should have after their first 20 games. In the event that you haven’t read & memorized all my columns, last March I talked about how you can predict the odds of a team winning a game. All you would need is both team’s winning percentage and the home winning percentage of the NBA. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to contact Sylvia Browne to get the 2005 standings, so I’ll use last year’s winning % for each team. For the Bobcats, I was optimistic with 20 wins.

I put the Knicks opponents’ records into a spreadsheet, and calculated the Knicks’ chance to win each of their first 20 games with this formula:

If Team A is the home court team and Win%H is the percentage of times the home team wins, we have:

Win%A_B = [Win%A*(1-Win%B)*Win%H]/[Win%A*(1-Win%B)*Win%H+(1-Win%A)* Win%B*(1-Win%H)]

Last year the home team won 61% of their games, and to make things even I assumed the Knicks were a .500 team. With all this information, I ran a simulation of the Knicks early schedule 10,000 times. The results:

#Wins	%	% of wins or better
15 0% 0%
14 1% 1%
13 2% 3%
12 5% 8%
11 9% 17%
10 14% 30%
9 19% 49%
8 18% 67%
7 14% 82%
6 10% 92%
5 5% 97%
4 2% 99%
3 1% 100%

As you can clearly see, the Knicks only have a 30% of finishing .500 or better. It’s highly probable (85%) they’ll win between 6 and 11 games, with the most probable result either 8 or 9 wins (37%). However if you’re an optimistic Knick fan you might think they’re better than a .500 team. What do the odds become if we run it again with the Knicks 5 wins better than they were last year (.536)?

#Wins	%	% of wins or better
15 1% 1%
14 1% 2%
13 4% 6%
12 8% 13%
11 13% 26%
10 17% 43%
9 19% 62%
8 16% 78%
7 12% 89%
6 6% 96%
5 3% 99%
4 1% 100%
3 0% 100%

The Knicks chance of being .500 jump up to 43%, good but still not encouraging. In this scenario the Knicks have an 84% chance of winning 7-12 games, with the most likely outcomes 8, 9, or 10 (50%).

Things do look bleak for the Knickerbockers early on, but overall they should have a good schedule, considering they’re playing in the NBA’s weakest division. A quick look shows that they should have an easier time on the back end. In April they face only 5 playoff teams out of their last 12 games, and none in their last 6. Two of those games are against the gutted New Jersey Nets, so in theory they could win 8 of their last 12. If I could find a bookmaker that would accept such a bet, I would wager that two things will happen. Message boards will have plenty of fans will write off the Knicks for their poor start in December and in April at least one commentator will tout them as the “hot” team heading into the playoffs.

Kevin Pelton is back on the map with his preview of the 2004-2005 season. He will be having team capsules in the near future, so I suggest you check him out periodically. Kevin provides some of the best analysis out there.

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