Sweetney, Kurt Thomas, and Feedback

A few weeks ago, I added a link for comments to my webpage to get some feedback from my readers. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. At that time I was blogging in a vacuum, only getting feedback by email, and for the most part people won’t email you unless:

* You really really pissed them off.
* They really really agree with you.
* They want you to link to their blog/fan page/message board/scalper site.
* They want to sell you all-natural pills that will make your breasts bigger.

The first two are always welcome, the third is tolerated, and as for the last, I have no desire to look like Robert Paulson from Fight Club. Since adding the ability for my visitors to interact with myself and each other, I’ve received a lot of good comments like this one:

Jim K. wrote:
I dunno, this season I haven’t been as impressed with Sweetney as I was his rookie session. He plays with enthusiasm (or is it reckless abandon?) and puts up some nice stats (although his rebounding per minute is down from last year), but his defense seems nonexistent to me. As the Knicks are so bad, I guess he should get more minutes, but I don’t see Sweetney being a more than a 20 minute a night guy…I think Ariza has more of a case, just cuz Tim Thomas is so erratic, but Kurt Thomas is probably the Knicks most reliable vet, knows how to run the plays and actually defends his man in a reasonable fashion. Maybe shift Kurt back to center, start Sweetney, have Mohammed come off the bench, and hope Thomas has the energy to cover Sweetney’s defensive mistakes?

If you’re a regular here, you know I don’t hold Kurt Thomas’ defense in high esteem. The way I see it, Crazy Eyes’ good defensive ability is by reputation only. Thomas is at his best when defending in the post, but even then he’s not going to intimidate and shutdown his man. As for the rest of his defensive game, Kurt is just awful at stopping PFs that can operate from outside, nor does he bail his teammates out with great shot blocking ability.

As for Mike Sweetney, defense is one area where he has improved from last year, but that’s just a nice way to say he doesn’t get lost on switched assignments as often as he used to. He’s similar to Thomas, in that he’s not a great defender in any area. In Sweetney’s defense (no pun intended), he’s usually undersized in his matchup (more on this later). If Kurt Thomas was a current or former All Defensive Team member, I wouldn’t be upset with the frontcourt rotation. However, Thomas is not good enough defensively to warrant keeping a much better offensive player in Sweetney on the bench for 30 minutes a game.

And make no mistake, “Sweet ‘N Low” is the better offensive player. Jim noticed Kurt sets up the offense better, as Sweetney has regressed in running the pick & roll. It seems like he gets whistled for an illegal pick every other time the Knicks run it with him. But take a look at the per 40 minute stats below:

NAME....  PTS.  eFG%  PSA  REB.  OREB  BLK  TO.  PF. 
K.Thomas  12.5  47%   1.0  11.0  2.2  1.1  1.4  4.1
Sweetney  18.0  52%   1.2  10.9  4.0  1.2  3.2  5.7

Just as Jim said, Kurt Thomas is the more reliable of the two. He turns the ball over and fouls less frequently, but Sweetney has him flat out beat offensively. He’s an excellent offensive rebounder (OREB), shoots at a higher percentage (eFG%), gets to the line more often (PSA), and can take a heavier load of the offense (PTS/40). In tonight’s game against the Bucks, when Sweetney was in the post, he was getting double & triple teamed, but he still ended up with 18 points and 9 boards in only 22 minutes. Kurt had 16 & 10, but in double the time. Given those minutes, Sweetney would have put up some eye-popping numbers.

If I think Mike Sweetney is worth 30 minutes a night, and Jim thinks he’s worth 20, then maybe his solution of starting him along side Kurt Thomas is a good compromise. In fact I would prefer Jim’s solution to have Kurt play the five, because when they’re on the court together, Mike usually covers the opposing team’s center. According to 82games.com, Sweetney plays center 80% of his time, and rarely if ever is on the court at the same time as center Nazr Mohammed. This is a far cry from last year, where he played more than half his time at the four. Maybe Jim’s observation of Sweetney’s decline in play this year is due to the 6’8″ power forward being forced into duty against taller players?

Unlike the NHL, I’d agree to a compromise under one last condition. Kurt Thomas is averaging 37 minutes per game, 5 more than he did each of the last two years. Take 5 of those minutes & give it to Sweetney at PF along the first team offense. In tonight’s game, Milwaukee continuously double teamed “Big Mike”, because he played with the second unit of Norris, Hardaway, Jerome Williams, and Kurt Thomas. With no other inside presence and 3 bricklayers on the outside, the Bucks sent squadron after squadron into the post. With those extra minutes and the other team forced to respect the Knicks that can actually score, I’d like to see what Sweetney can do against the power forwards of the league.

Introducing The New Stats Page

I’ve been working on this for a bit, and I think it’s time to release it out into the general public: the new stat page. A little Merry Christmas from me to my readers. It actually started as an automated tool for myself, so I could have a few key stats handy when I’m writing, but it just snowballed into what you see today. Since I don’t have much of an index, let me give you a quick rundown, interspersed with comments from today’s Knick win over the hapless Bobcats.

The best place to start is the Team Totals. On that page, you can see each team’s scoring per possession, the best measure of a team’s offense or defense. At the very top of the defensive page are teams like the Spurs, Pistons, and Rockets. At the bottom are teams like the Jazz, Hawks, Bucks, and unfortunately, my New York Knicks. New York was 23rd when I checked a month and a half ago, so that means they’ve gotten worse since then. Wilkens has to deal with this disturbing trend either by trying out different defenses, getting the team to play better fundamentals, or by giving more minutes to better defensive players. I’ve begged & pleaded in this space for the Knicks to press & trap, something which the Knicks almost never do. In fact as far as I can recall, they play man nearly exclusively. Certainly it’s not working.

My least favorite defensive breakdown is what I call ‘defensive indifference’. Today Tim Thomas had two great examples of this. In the first quarter, Thomas got caught on a switch, and Primoz Brezec had the ball with Thomas at least 10 feet away. Brezec went up for the jumper as Thomas raced toward him. He closed the distance quickly, but realized he wouldn’t get there in time to block the attempt, and just gave up right in front of Brezec, without putting up a hand. Those kinds of plays kill me as a viewer, because every kid on a team in America has a coach that has taught him if he can’t block a shot to get a hand in the shooter face to stop him from getting a good look at the basket.

In the next quarter, Charlotte had a possession where they got a few offensive rebounds. At one point Okafor pulled one down facing the basket and Tim Thomas came behind him. Now, I have Thomas listed as 6’10, Okafor at 6’10, and Okafor’s FT% at 62%. If Thomas tries hard enough, the worst he can do is give Okafor a 38% chance of scoring two points. At best, it would have been a blind side block, the kind that little guys like Boykins, and Brevin Knight salivate for. But Thomas just watched as Emeka scored an easy two. Defensive indifference.

Anyway back to the stat page, not only can you rank the teams by efficiency, but by pace, or any of the four factors. You may notice that each team name is underlined, and clicking on the name will bring you to the team page. Here I have a few stats I use, including John Hollinger’s PER. It came in handy today when one of the announcers (Al Trautwig?) claimed that Moochie Norris was doing a good job bringing energy off the bench & setting up the offense. He’s got to be kidding me. Norris (2.9 PER) runs the offense like the Ukrainians run an election.

John Hollinger did a great job coming up with ways of rating a player’s ability, but what does Norris’ 19.5 turnover ratio mean? Click on the leaders link at the top, and then on the X above TO-r. This brings you to the League Leaders page, sorted by Hollinger’s turnover ratio. Norris doesn’t have enough minutes to qualify for league leaders, but if he could, his 19.5 would be 6th worst. Right between Antonio Davis and Erick Dampier. That’s just what you want in a backup PG, someone that turns the ball over like two old centers.

A special thanks goes to Kevin Pelton of supersonics.com fame for eyeing over my work & helping me get over that final hump in PER. Kevin, a cold beer awaits you in New York if you can make the trip with the team in March.

Dampier: Peak Or Fluke

In my last column, I wrote that Dampier would be a good addition to the Knicks. Well not everyone feels the same way as I do. I received an email from a (hopefully) long time reader who pointed me to an APBR_analysis post of his regarding Dampier dated almost 3 months ago.

From: bob chaikin (bchaikin@bballsports.com)
Date: Fri Apr 2, 2004 2:31 pm

…dampier may be valuable now (with the individual numbers he’s putting up), but almost certainly won’t be as a free agent – i.e. if someone looking at him is expecting this kind of performance in the future from him he won’t repeat a season like this with any consistency, if at all. it can easily be shown that dampier is having, as JohnH would say, a fluke season (see posting 3370), a fluke good one in this case…

he’s already in his 8th season and 29 years old, and up and to this point has never demonstrated this kind of production before, despite getting substantial playing time. and although he looks like a monster offensive rebounder now, its actually his defensive rebounding that has improved more (from last season). his touches/min and player attributes (what he does once he gets the ball) are pretty much the same as last season (he is getting fouled more however), and in actuaity his touches/min is down from prior years, as is his shot blocking – those two right there would worry me. he is shooting better than ever, getting to the line better than ever, and committing fouls the least amount of his career. i’d bet he won’t keep this up, not for any extended period of time in the future. i can’t recall any player that was in the league for 7 seasons that had his career year in his 8th season and kept up that kind of production for any length of time…

…if dampier is traded or signed as a free agent next season by another team expecting from him super rebounding numbers for a few more seasons, they will most likely be disappointed, especially when his rebounding numbers come down along with his shooting, he commits more fouls, and his shot blocking doesn’t return to previously high levels (two years ago he was blocking almost 6% of all opponents shots, now he’s just a little better than half that)…

Part-time KnickerBlogger and full time sports guru, Bob feels that Dampier’s season was a fluke. That is he’s highly unlikely to repeat last year’s performance in the future. In his evaluation, he says to expect more fouls, a lower FG%, less rebounds, and the same or less number of blocks. Browsing through the APBR_analysis message board, I found another part-time KnickerBlogger that has a different opinion on Dampier.

From: Kevin Pelton
Date: Sun Apr 4, 2004 5:54 pm

…Dampier pretty clearly is not having a fluke season, in that he had not “leveled” prior to this year. Before last season, he had leveled off at a sub-mediocre level of performance, but he dramatically improved last year — in fact, in a point I don’t think anyone else has pointed out, JohnH has Dampier as one of his fluke players this year.

Take a look at this graph of Dampier’s efficiency by my formula divided by replacement level year-by-year:
http://www.sonicscentral.com/dampiereff.jpg

That’s not a player who’s leveled off. PER shows a similar pattern, so I didn’t bother graphing it.

To quote JohnH, “Dampier enjoyed a career year at the age of 28, which means I’ll be looking very closely at him this season. The Fluke Rule says that players who make sudden jumps in productivity after 27 almost always come back to earth the next season, but 28-year-olds do less severely than others.”

Well, Dampier hasn’t come back to earth, he’s been even better. Two years of well above-average play in the middle seems an awful lot to explain away to a fluke to me. Dampier is extremely unlikely to repeat this year’s All-Star level performance in the future, but given the current level of centers in the NBA, he’s still a very valuable free agent…

Fluke or peak, there is one thing that all of us agree on:

Bob: “paying a 29 year old for one really good season with a contract going for 4 or 5 at mega bucks IMHO would be ill-advised.”

Kevin: “I would be careful of giving Dampier too long of a contract or too much money.”

It’s not the amount of money that Dampier would be getting that worries me, as much as the number of years. The Knicks are bent on never getting under the cap, and as long as the Dolans are willing to pay out a luxury tax, I guess it doesn’t matter if they’re $1M over the cap, or $50M over it. If the Knicks have to overpay to get someone to agree to come here, then so be it. It really doesn’t affect us in the short term, since we’re nowhere near being under the cap.

The question is how much longer and at what level Dampier can keep up his production? At this price, he’ll be unmovable for 5 years. So, between him and Marbury, the Knicks will have at least 4 more years of cap hell (which brings us to 2008).

Going into next year, Dampier is a clear upgrade over Nazr Mohammed. He is superior in every measure, offensively and defensively. The Knicks will see some improvement if they have Dampier starting next year. If Dampier is a “fluke” or fizzles out in a few years, then the Knicks will be stuck with an untradeable contract until 2009. Simply put, it’s a short term gain for a long term hit.

Knicks Roster Analysis – Small Forwards

So I’m back today with my look at the Knicks’ small forwards. If you haven’t read my point guard analysis, that’s probably worth reading before this post so that you understand what I’m doing here.

Tim Thomas

Year    MPG   PPG   RPG  APG   TS%  Reb%  Pass   Off   Def  Win%  WARP  Value  Salary
01-02 26.9 11.7 4.1 1.4 .522 8.7 0.12 90.0 90.9 .455 2.3
02-03 29.5 13.3 4.9 1.3 .527 9.6 0.07 89.8 90.6 .479 3.9
03-04 31.7 14.7 4.8 1.9 .534 8.8 0.19 90.0 90.0 .487 3.8 $4.229 $12.90

As you may or may not have noticed, my fellow guest blogger David wasn’t a huge fan of Tim Thomas’ acquisition. I’ve got to say I was more than a little puzzled by the move. Trading Keith Van Horn wasn’t the worst idea in the world. I tend to think Van Horn gets a bad rap from many people, but he’s a poor defender, horribly inconsistent, and as out of place in the paint as Wayne Brady at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. So, if you were going to trade him, you’d think you’d acquire someone who was entirely different, right? Wrong.

As I noted in my post-deadline Transaction Analysis, Thomas was Van Horn’s most comparable player in the NBA as of the trade, and vice versa. If you look up the definition of irony in the dictionary, you get the Van Horn-Thomas trade.

In my book, Van Horn’s the better player, but there are some things in Thomas’ favor. He’s a better athlete, which has been a key point of emphasis during the Isiah Thomas era, and he has the advantage of not having teamed with Marbury in New Jersey (and the resulting possible bad blood).

Overall, I would describe Thomas as an “adequate starter”. With him in the lineup, small forward isn’t a position the Knicks really need to be aggressively looking to upgrade, but they also aren’t set for the next decade at the position.

Looking at his numbers, Thomas is a better offensive player than I realized. His efficiency isn’t that bad (league average true shooting percentage, for reference, was 51.6%), and he does put points on the board. Thomas is also improving on offense, though it’s not readily apparent from the numbers I’ve listed; just maintaining the same Offensive Rating is improving, because it’s gone down league-wide from 90.4 to 89.9 to 89.2 over the last three years.

Unfortunately, Thomas is an absolutely horrid defender. John Hollinger rated the Bucks 28th in defending starting small forwards last season, and this year (per 82games.com) opposing small forwards shot an adjusted 49.2% against the Bucks as of the trade (I’m recycling an argument here — sorry), as compared to a league-wide 46.9%.

Thomas’ rebounding is also nothing special for a small forward. Small forwards are generally around 10% of available rebounds in terms of rebound percentage; Thomas has been below 9% two of the last three years.

Shandon Anderson

Year    MPG   PPG   RPG  APG   TS%  Reb%  Pass   Off   Def  Win%  WARP  Value  Salary
01-02 19.5 5.0 3.0 0.9 .489 9.0 0.09 87.3 90.9 .380 -0.7
02-03 21.1 8.4 3.1 1.1 .553 8.6 0.10 89.7 90.0 .484 3.0
03-04 24.7 7.9 2.8 1.5 .500 6.5 0.20 87.5 89.6 .399 0.0 $1.268 $7.300

Someday, when historians look back on the great mysteries of the 21st century, they will be confronted with the popularity of reality television, how George W. Bush became president, and Anderson’s 2002-03 season. In three years in New York, Anderson has shot 39.9%, 46.2%, and 42.2% from the field. From three-point range, he’s shot 27.7%, 37.1%, and 28.1%. Which of those numbers are not like the others?

Having a season that was about as good as possible, post-Utah, Anderson was still only a solid backup. Last year was a more typical year, and Anderson was right at my estimate of replacement level. His efficiency was poor, he started rebounding like a guard, and he’s only an okay defender.

Further downside: Anderson was a complete and total disaster in the playoffs, shooting 25.9% from the field and averaging 4.3 points per game as Allan Houston’s replacement in the starting lineup. That probably should have been the last strike against Anderson’s Knicks career. Dave mentions a buyout, and it’s tough to see this relationship ending in any other fashion. Between Trevor Ariza and potentially Dermarr Johnson, the Knicks have a pair of young options at small forward who could be better than Anderson next season — Johnson was, by my metrics, last year — and could get better. Anderson, at age 30, could have another fluke season, but real improvement is not coming.

If I was Anderson, I’d try to beg my way back to Utah or to some team like Sacramento, New Jersey, or Washington that uses a highly motion-based offense. 2002-03 aside, Anderson’s been best when asked to slash and move without the ball, not stand around and be a catch and shoot player from three-point range. In the right situation, Anderson can still have some value. That situation just isn’t the Knicks.

Dermarr Johnson

Year    MPG   PPG   RPG  APG   TS%  Reb%  Pass   Off   Def  Win%  WARP  Value  Salary
01-02 24.0 8.4 3.4 1.1 .513 8.2 0.09 88.8 90.0 .443 1.5
03-04 13.6 5.4 1.9 0.5 .511 7.9 0.05 88.6 89.6 .437 0.2 $2.203 UFA

I hadn’t taken much of a look at Johnson statistically this season, other than KnickerBlogger’s periodic updates in this space. Comparing his performance last year with how he did before his serious injuries, the similarity is rather evident. Actually, as with Thomas, similar offensive numbers indicate improvement, and that’s true of Johnson as well.

Based on these numbers, it appears Johnson’s injury didn’t set him back at all. However, he did lose two seasons of development. Johnson’s 01-02 numbers were impressive for a player who hadn’t quite yet turned 22. Now, with Johnson having turned 24 last month, his potential isn’t nearly so great.

Also, while Johnson was a pretty well regarded defender in Atlanta, the numbers at 82games indicate he was just awful on the defensive end last season. Not only did he make the Knicks 9.3 points per 100 possessions worse on defense, he got torched by opposing shooting guards and small forwards. The former averaged a ridiculous 31.4 points per 48 minutes when Johnson was at the position.

That matches what the good folks at KnicksOnline.com had to say recently about Johnson: “Dermarr Johnson is really something on offense but he has nothing on defense.”

I don’t know that I’d say that Johnson is “really something” on offense; he looks pretty good compared to Anderson every year besides 2002-03, but 18.9 points per 48 minutes at an efficiency slightly below league average is nothing to hang your hat on.

Again, we’ll run the similarity scores on Johnson to try to get a read on where he’s going. It’s interesting to note that the defining characteristic of Johnson in this regard is a great “Shoot” rating, based on his 36.1% three-point shooting and 90.3% free-throw shooting last year. So we get a lot of one-dimensional shooters, like Joe Hassett and Tracy Murray. It’s also “interesting” to note that a pair of Knicks teammates, Allan Houston (as a rookie in Detroit) and Anderson (circa 1997, the Utah days), show up amongst Johnson’s 20 most comparable players.

In terms of drawing conclusions, I want to temper my initial reaction based on my knowledge that there’s a reason I haven’t heard of the guys on the list who weren’t successful; If I pay attention only to the players I know, I’ll overestimate Anderson. The first three players on the list — Paul Thompson, Linton Townes, and Rodney Buford — hardly inspire confidence. Further down, however, are guys like Houston, Terry Teagle, and another Knicks shooting guard, John Starks, all of whom went on to solid careers or better.

Ultimately, I think Johnson is worth a longer look next season to see if he can make dramatic strides in his second season after the injury, and I’d rather have him on the roster than Anderson, all things considered, but Ariza may pass him in the Knicks’ plans at small forward.

Kevin Pelton writes “Page 23” for Hoopsworld.com on a semi-regular basis. He can be reached at kpelton@hoopsworld.com. Check back Monday for his analysis of the Knicks’ power forwards.

Seeds

Here I am sitting with my NBA bracket. All empty & waiting to be filled out. I’m more curious about the thought process that goes into such an endeavor. What would make someone choose one team over another? If logic is in play, shouldn’t I always pick the higher seed, since they have home field advantage and are usually the team with the better record? Or do I use my gut feeling? What information am I using to base my picks on? Do I go with the hot/cold teams (SAS, MIN, IND, DET, and MIA are hot; NJ, MEM, HOU, and SAC are cold)? Do I take the teams with more playoff experience (LAL, SAS, NJ, & DET) over the ones that aren’t playoff tested (NY, DEN, MIA, & MEM)? Where can I find solace in my decisions?

A good place to start is to look at recent history. I don’t have a team of experts at my call (this is a one man blog, not ESPN). So I’ll quickly use the last two years as a starting point, to find out what kind of team is most likely to pull off an upset. Here are all the underdog winners over the last two years:

Year	Rnd	TEAM	Seed	OPP	Seed
2002	2	BOS	3	DET	2
2002	2	LAL	3	SAS	2
2002	3	LAL	3	SAC	1
2003	3	NJ	2	DET	1
2003	2	DAL	3	SAC	2
2003	1	LAL	5	MIN	4

Out of the 16 first round games, there has only been one upset. The 5th seed Lakers played without Shaq for 15 games, and only missed the 4th seed by one game. However with their center (and franchise player) healthy, they took the Wolves in 6. They were as easily dismissed by the Spurs in the second round 4 games to 2. Of the latter rounds, it seems that the #3 seed has the best chance of survival. Subtracting the well documentated Lakers 2002 championship, 2 of the remaining #3 teams have won their second round game. Both teams were offensive orientated teams that just got hot at the right times. Boston behind the shooting of Walker & Pierce, and Dallas with their myriad of scorers. Twice the #1 seeds have been upset one series before the finals.

So with my extremely small sample size, what kind of data am I armed with? First round upsets are rare, but the further you go in the playoffs, the more perilous it gets. This should be obvious because the disparity between the teams gets smaller (instead of a #1 playing a #8, it’s a #1 playing a #4 or #2). In my small sample size, no team lower than a #5 seed is likely to pull of an upset. In history there have been lower seeded teams to move on past the first round (Knicks & Nuggets). However the odds seem too slim when given even odds (as a picking out a bracket is).

Leaving open the option that a #6 could slip by, I’ll take a quick gander at those two matchups. #6 Memphis isn’t likely to upset the Spurs. San Antonio still has the best defensive team in the league, and I think that makes it a little tough for an underdog to unseat them at home. Similarly with other #6 team, the Bucks. They are facing the #2 defensive team in the league, and I don’t see the Pistons losing with home court advantage.

The 5th seeds have a little better chance at unseating their opponents. According to me, a few days ago Miami only had a 17% chance of taking the 4th seed. Their opponent the Hornets were in the 6th seed. Thanks to the Bucks who mailed it in the last few games (why does that sound familiar?) those two get to play each other. Miami seems to have every edge, home court advantage, hot team going into the playoffs, and the better record. The Hornets only have their playoff experience, but I don’t think that’ll be enough to unseat the Heat.

Dallas-Sacramento is the matchup that could go either way. Both teams are great on offense. However the Kings have an average defense, while Dallas ranks among the bottom 5 teams. It’s not without the realm of possibility for the Mavs to take this series, especially if their offense explodes. However I can’t get over their defense being that bad, especially while facing the league’s best offense.

So in the first round, I’ll be a wimp and take all the favorites:
East: IND, NJ, DET, MIA
West: MIN, LAL, SAS, SAC

To keep my street cred, I’ll have to go out on a ledge in round two. So here we go. I’ll predict both 3rd seed to win their series. Detroit and the Spurs are ranked #1 & #2 in defense, and both teams finished with better records than their 2nd seeded counterpart. Not many people are taking the Nets over the Pistons, but enough people are not only picking the Lakers to win in the second round, but to go all the way. I can’t find a good reason to pick either of these teams to knock off the top teams, so I have an Indiana-Minnesota finals.

Second & Third Round:
East: IND def MIA, then DET
West: MIN def SAC, then SAS

For the finals, I’ll take Indy over Minnesota. Despite my hatred for the Pacers due to their rivalry with the Knicks, the East needs a to win a championship to gain any type of respect from the media. While the talent disparity is still there, an East team winning it all will let free agents feel they can win a championship in the East. Recently I’ve felt that players are going to or staying out West because they think it’s their best chance at winning a championship. Logic dictates that while it may be easier to reach the finals in the weaker East, the West is pumping out the rings faster than Sauron. In any scenario, I will be rooting for whoever represents the East in the Finals

Finals:
IND over MIN score of the final game: 91-84

Playoff Odds 04/05/04

Curious at how the seeds to the playoffs might turn out, I got a little ambitious. It all started from something I learned a while back. That is you can calculate the probability of a team winning a game if you know: the home team’s record at home, the road’s team record away, and the league’s home win %. I used this little formula in a previous column to talk about the Knicks’ chances to win their 5 next games.

I decided to see how far I could take this. So I inserted all the home/road records of every team in the league into a spreadsheet. Then I put in the remaining schedule for the entire league. I determined probability of the winner of each game using this formula. Based on these odds & using Excel’s random number generator, I played out the rest of the season 1000 times.

The East:

Team	Ewins	EW%	Seed1	Seed2	Seed3	Seed4	Seed5	Seed6	Seed7	Seed8	Miss


IND 59.9 .730 1.00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00
DET 54 .658 .00 .00 1.00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00
NJN 48.5 .591 .00 1.00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00
MIL 42 .512 .00 .00 .00 .77 .19 .04 .00 .00 .00
MIA 40.9 .499 .00 .00 .00 .17 .58 .23 .02 .00 .00
NOR 40.1 .489 .00 .00 .00 .05 .22 .62 .09 .01 .00
NYK 38.3 .467 .00 .00 .00 .00 .01 .09 .66 .24 .00
BOS 37.5 .457 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .02 .22 .70 .05
CLE 34.8 .424 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .01 .03 .96
PHI 34.1 .416 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .01 .99
TOR 32.2 .393 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 1.00
ATL 27.3 .333 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 1.00
WAS 25.6 .312 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 1.00
CHI 23.8 .290 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 1.00
ORL 20.3 .247 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 1.00
[Ewins = Expected # of wins, EW% = Expected winning percentage]In the East, the top 3 seeds are already set in stone. Indiana, New Jersey and Detroit will be the top 3. New Jersey clinches the #2 spot, due to winning the weak Atlantic. Milwaukee has a 77% chance of taking the 4th seed (a.k.a. the last home field spot for the first round), followed by Miami (17%), and New Orleans (5%). More good news for Bucks’ fans, they won’t likely have worse than a 5th seed (4%). Miami can fall as far as the 7th seed, but even that is a small (2%) chance.

Speaking of that 7th seed (we know Penny Hardaway isn’t anymore), the Knicks appear to be the favorites here, with a 66% probability of facing the Nets in the first round. After the events of this weekend, that should prove to be a most interesting matchup. Boston might win the 7th seed, and the Hornets have a 9% chance of falling that far as well. If either Cleveland (4%) or Philly (1%) makes the playoffs, it’ll be at the expense of the Celtics.

The West:

TEAM	Ewins	EW%	Seed1	Seed2	Seed3	Seed4	Seed5	Seed6	Seed7	Seed8	Miss


SAC 56.73 .692 .55 .02 .31 .10 .02 .00 .00 .00 .00
LAL 56.23 .686 .25 .18 .45 .10 .02 .00 .00 .00 .00
MIN 55.69 .679 .12 .41 .11 .36 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00
SAS 55.53 .677 .07 .39 .13 .41 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00
MEM 52.55 .641 .00 .00 .00 .03 .77 .20 .00 .00 .00
DAL 51.41 .627 .00 .00 .00 .00 .20 .80 .00 .00 .00
HOU 44.77 .546 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .90 .07 .03
UTA 42.6 .520 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .03 .43 .54
POR 42.43 .517 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .04 .32 .64
DEN 42.09 .513 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .03 .18 .79
GSW 37.09 .452 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 1.00
SEA 36.93 .450 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 1.00
LAC 28.94 .353 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 1.00
PHO 27.83 .339 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 1.00
The West isn’t as simple. Four teams are vying for the #1 seed. Just looking at the expected wins column, and there is little to separate them (barely more than one win). The Kings are the favorites, but at 55% are hardly locks for the top spot. If you add in the Lakers’ 25%, there is an 80% chance that the Pacific will have the top seed.

Minnesota (12%) and the Spurs (7%) can still land the top spot. However since there is an 80% chance that the Pacific gets the #1 seed, then that means there is the same probability that these two teams will have the #2 seed. The Timberwolves (41%) have a slight edge over the Spurs (39%) here. There is the tiniest chance (2%) that the Lakers or Kings will slip to the 5th spot, and in that scenario, the Grizzlies would grab the last home field spot (#4).

There are 6 teams that can avoid the lottery. Actually Dallas and Memphis have guaranteed them no worse than the 6th spot. The Rockets only have a 3% probability of missing the playoffs, and will likely get the 7th seed. That leaves Utah (46%), Portland (36%), and the Nuggets (21%) to fight for the final spot (although technically any of them can be as high as #7). It’d be nice to see the Nuggets win that 8th seed, and hopefully critics won’t blame only him for not being able to get out of the first round, like they do to Kevin Garnett.

We’re Back!

Once again, back is the incredible
The rhyme animal
The Incredible D. Public Enemy #1

— “Bring Tha Noize”
Public Enemy

I wish I could say I’ve come back from vacation where I was able to kick back and watch the Knicks a few times. However fate was against me, as the satellite company used by my vacation spot somehow decided to not show any of the Knicks’ games.

I felt bad for the poor waitress at the local bar who had to hop on a chair to try to find in vain the Knicks-Nets game without a remote control. In case you ask, yes they do have remotes for the televisions, but there are 4 TVs within 5 feet of each other, so if you don’t aim the little sucker right, you’ll change the channel on all the TVs. Not a pleasant prospect to be yelled at by the people who were watching either Kentucky beat Flordia A&M or Pacific knock off Providence.

Keeping up with the Knicks wasn’t an easy task. My internet access was limited to a couple of minutes visiting the local library, and some of that had to be devoted to checking my email. The box scores published in the local paper were the olde style jumbled mess, something to the effect of: K.Thomas 3-4 12 0 6, T.Thomas 7-19 7 2 16, N. Mohammed 7-13 10 0 14, etc. You don’t know how much you rely on things until you don’t have it. Not having advanced technology at the tips of my finger is a tough thing, since I grew up on computers.

Even though I caught a bit of the Knicks’ game on MSG Rewind, I really don’t have much to say about it. They trounced a Nets team without their two best players (Kidd & Martin). These are the games they should win if they are to be a “contending” team.

The win puts them back into the 6th spot, a half game ahead of Cleveland and Miami. They’re still behind the 5th seed Bucks by 3 games. As I noted in a previous column, home teams win about 64% of the time in the NBA. Fortunately for the Knicks, the Bucks play 15 more games, with 9 being on the road. New York only has 7 of their next 13 games away from home. Just eyeing the schedule, the Bucks have tougher opponents than the Knicks, so it’s possible for New York to climb up to that 5th spot. The two teams don’t play each other again this year, so their final matchup of the season occurred last Sunday, where the Knicks won 103-100.

That’s it for today. I will have the Dean Oliver interview up on Monday, (maybe late Sunday), so stay tuned.