Thursday, April 14, 2011

NBA Playoff Analysis

So what trends stand out from the odds? There are a couple of interesting results, and they start right at the top with the Championship Odds.

Championship Odds
Chicago 0.274
Miami 0.228
San Antonio 0.13
LA Lakers 0.13
Orlando 0.062
Boston 0.051
Dallas 0.048
Denver 0.037
Oklahoma City 0.024
Memphis 0.009
Portland 0.003
New Orleans 0.003
Philadelphia 0.002
New York 0.001
Atlanta 0
Indiana 0

Only four teams end up having strong chances of taking the Crown this year, as Boston and Dallas have faded into the second tier lately, joining Orlando Denver and OKCity as fringe contenders.
The championship odds actually (Dad!) don't match up with the power ratings, where Miami is number one. Two things cause the discrepancy: The Bulls home court advantage and first round bye that is the Indiana Pacers. While the number one seed works out well for the Bulls, it has the opposite effect for the Spurs. San Antonio has a better power rating but because they have to face Memphis and then Denver (yeah, Denver) their schedule difficulty more than offsets home court advantage. One armed Manu Ginobili isn't going to help things either.

If this were an NCAA bracket we'd be looking for a couple teams to go on runs. Some of that is lost with multiple games series, but there are still 3 teams that could go a couple rounds past expected:
Memphis has looked strong throughout the year, and appear to be powering forward even without Rudy Gay. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are ready to wreck havoc on old guys like Tim Duncan. There's actually a 10.5% chance that the Grizz win not only one but two rounds to make the conference finals.
Orlando hasn't seemed to fully gel this year despite big hopes following their fall trades. Don't sleep on them though, they've quietly snuck up to 5th in the power ratings and have a lot to prove this postseason. The Magic have a 12.6% chance of returning to the finals after a one year hiatus.
Denver has exploded since the Melo trade, but it might not be for the reasons you think. They've actually been planted in the top 10 since this year's first power ratings, but were one of the NBA's unluckiest teams before Carmelo left. Since then they've played only slightly better, most of the improvement has come from some bounces that finally went their way.

Finally, while some first round series' are little more than speed bumps there are a couple that could send lower seeds into the second round. Last year the rankings were 8 for 8 in the first round, and while I'm not expecting that this year (about 6.3 for 8 is expected) I'm just saying...
Here are the top three first round upset candidates:
1. Denver over Oklahoma City (52.2%) This one is statistically a coin flip, but I'm going out on a limb and saying the Mountain West will soon be going Goo-goo for Gallo (Cray-Cray for Nene?). Anybody know how to get a phrase copyrighted?
2. Memphis over San Antonio (27.6%) Once again, these are very good odds for an eight seed. Still not great odds for winning though.
3. Portland over Dallas (27.0%) These odds are almost surprisingly low considering all the positive pub the TrailBlazers have been getting. I'm not sold on them though, they've played better since Gerald Wallace joined but not that much better. It just happens that Dallas isn't great either.

On the whole the 2011 NBA playoffs bring a deep pool of talent, especially out West, and a slew of potential title candidates. The Bulls(!!!) are the definite favorites, and the Lakers have surprisingly low odds of winning, but nothing's set in stone except the seeding right now. With a jacked up intensity, slowed down pace, and shortened benches anything could happen. Let the games begin.
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