The 2012 Heat: A Lion in Autumn

The Miami Heat have two more seasons as odds-on title favorites. Then it gets a bit murky, and if everything doesn't go right, they may very well end up worse off than the last 3 Cavs teams LeBron played on -- except instead of LeBron in his prime, they'll have him on his way down. With even less roster flexibility. Sort of weird. Strange. Ridiculous. And -- as I outlined in my new piece for 48 Minutes of Hell outlining the Spurs' ongoing difficulties compensating for Duncan's decline on the offensive end -- it's essentially rooted in a single concept. The respect defenders have for him. And something that, in a few years, may be nothing but a fond memory for any talent tasked towards defending the Miami Heat. Let's explain. Continue reading

Oklahoma City: the Burden of Expectation

A bit of a content update that I probably should have specified from day one. You may have realized it already, but there won't be a full complement of full-post freeform Gothic Ginboili team previews this season. After all, we're T-Minus three days from the season. The only teams with the coveted full-post previews so far are the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, the OKC Thunder (below) and the Miami Heat. The Heat preview (good eye) isn't there yet, but it'll be dropping tomorrow. Instead of reviewing every team in full, I'm building a win prediction model that will form the underlying prior distribution on our full season team ranking algorithm. If it sounds complicated, just trust me: it isn't. Promise. We'll be dropping this prediction model later this weekend / early next week, and some blurbs talking about what we expect from each of the non-full-coverage teams.

Without further ado, please join me in welcoming the new prohibitive favorite for the 2012 Western Conference title, both playoffs and regular season. Your 2012 Seattle Supersonics!

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New York's Three-Point-Plan: Defend. Ascend. Contend.

A BRIEF ORAL HISTORY OF THE NEW YORK KNICKERBOCKERS

When Ewing left, the rebuild began. It was slow, a process. But the free agents did come. In twos, in threes, in all sorts. Stephon, Eddy, more and more. It was then that the media -- the Beast -- cried. "The Knicks are back," they said. But it was Isiah Thomas, the false prophet, moves all for naught. The Knicks rebuilt, for a time. They were not back. They were not front. They were merely there; the New York Knicks, the NBA's resident big market stooge. The team that lets Kobe score 60, LeBron score 50, et cetera, et cetera. Career highs in the holiest of holies, Madison Square Garden nothing more than a mystical place for faraway stars to style on a terrible, terrible team. And it was not good. And it was not right. The Knicks proceeded on, and atoned for the sins of their forefathers. They traded their contracts, forged space, and waited. And thus did the Apostrophic King take his leave of the Phoenician Point God for good, departing with a nod and a wave as he fled to the greener pastures of New York. And so they were back. But the new Knicks struggled. They were not back. For they could not defend. They had naught but scraps around the King, such as it were, and the Media was not happy.

The Beast demanded a star, at any cost. And thus the Knicks traded their scraps, realizing upon departure their intrinsic value. And thus did they acquire the Rounded One. The Rounded One scoured upon the NBA tales of his scoring, his shooting, his post ups; signed, sealed, delivered. But the team was not complete. For they still could not defend, and they still could not contend. And thus did the summer come early, in an ignomious sweep to a wizened team. It brought with it a deathly fast, peppered with tales of a new Point God or a gentle giant come to the land of King. But not for one year. Knicks fans must be patient. The Knicks must still build. But in the 11th hour, the land of King realized its folly -- for the scorers and coach and team they'd assembled, they would not be Back until they engaged in the careful art of Defense. And thus did the Knicks add the Erstwhile, Fragile Champion. And thus did the tale conclude. The Beast who cried wolf was appeased. And finally, it was correct.

Indeed, the Knicks were back.

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Challenging Orthodoxy with the 2012 Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks won the 2011 NBA Championship. It was a pretty big deal, you might've heard about it. They've also been one of the most active teams in the offseason -- they've lost the linchpin of their defense, Tyson Chandler, but gained the reigning sixth man of the year Lamar Odom. They lost the diminutive Barea (he of filleting the Lakers and getting killed by Bynum fame) but added the eternal wildcard Delonte West. They let DeShawn Stevenson and his shocking defense walk, but replaced him with Vince Carter -- half man, half... geriatric? That's not how that's supposed to go! Regardless. The Dallas Maverick team that takes the floor on Christmas day to receive their rings and raise the blue and white to the rafters will bear few similarities in style to the team that reigned supreme last June.

Missing a whole wealth of pieces, Rick Carlisle will find himself tasked with quite the challenge -- while the pieces may be there, alchemizing together a cohesive contending unit from this menagerie of mismatched parts is going to be a thing to see. But among their key losses and gains, Dallas is stirring together an odd, odd brew. The 2012 Mavs look to be a potent and unpredictable blend of heterodox rotational flaws and opportunistic lineup tinkering. It could blow up. It could be dominant. We don't really know. I've never been a Mavs fan, nor ever will I be. But I'm excited to see how this plays out, and you should be too.

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Paul to the Clippers: the (big) easy way out.

Remember my post from less than a week ago, where I started with a misleading paragraph meant to make you think I was describing the Chris Paul to the Lakers trade? The one where I was actually talking about Albert Pujols in an attempt at some classical misdirection comedy? Well. I'd ask you to read that introduction again, and actually apply it to Chris Paul this time. Because virtually everything I said for the Lakers -- that they weren't really expected to land Paul, that they took a bigger risk than was being reported, that there's this sense where you wonder if you're dreaming -- effectively summarizes how I feel about Paul going to the Clippers. Countless words have already been spilled on it, but I feel that there's a lot that's being left out of the conversation right now. So, I'll be the contrarian folk hero who quixotically tries to add a bit to the discussion. Paul to the Clippers. Really. This actually happened. Let's discuss. Continue reading

2011 Transaction Analysis #3: Big Deals

Season's back, everyone! And you all know how we like to celebrate. Excruciatingly long posts analyzing intricacies and untapped facts, ahoy! In this mini-feature, watch as Aaron shares his inexpert opinions on every amnesty, trade, and signing -- big and small -- that goes on before the season starts. We're going to cut it into several parts -- this is a to-be-updated post on the larger deals of this transaction period. In an amusing and somewhat unintentional twist, every player in this post isn't just one of the larger prizes from free agency, they're also all big men. So, big deals in more ways than one, I suppose. This post outlines my thoughts on the signings of David West, DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, and Nene. Let's get to it. Continue reading

2011 Transaction Analysis #2: More Small Deals

Season's back, everyone! And you all know how we like to celebrate. Excruciatingly long posts analyzing intricacies and untapped facts, ahoy! In this mini-feature, watch as Aaron shares his inexpert opinions on every amnesty, trade, and signing -- big and small -- that goes on before the season starts. We're going to cut it into several parts -- this is a to-be-updated post on the smaller deals and amnesties. There will be another post later tomorrow with the big deals, then a few posts to individually examine the monstrous deals. Watch out for it. Continue reading

2011 Transaction Analysis #1: Small Deals & Amnesties


Season's back, everyone! And you all know how we like to celebrate. Excruciatingly long posts analyzing intricacies and untapped facts, ahoy! In this mini-feature, watch as Aaron shares his inexpert opinions on every amnesty, trade, and signing -- big and small -- that goes on before the season starts. We're going to cut it into several parts -- this is a to-be-updated post on the smaller deals and amnesties. There will be another post later today with more small deals, and a post tomorrow on big deals. Watch out for it. Continue reading

Compression Effects: the injuries of 2011, today!

I wasn't planning to write another post about injuries this week, but I was talking with a friend of mine about Chris Paul and a thought came into my head that I didn't want to sit on. One of Chris Paul's most notable traits (unfortunately) is his somewhat sketchy injury history. While he only missed 2 games last season for a scary-but-minor concussion, thinking about all the dings and dents of an NBA season and the possible repercussions on Paul got me to thinking about how those will look this year. To start -- the season is compressed, and every game mathematically matters more. Andrew Bynum was suspended five games for his hit on J.J. Barea in last year's playoffs. In a full season, that's 6.0% of a player's possible games. In a compressed season? 7.5%. Not an insignificant difference, by any means. The effect of individual games being worth more in the overall picture is pretty straightforward. But as for that being the only effect? Not quite.

That's only true for suspensions, which are a designated number of games. What about injuries? When a player gets a hip strain or a sprained ankle, they aren't out some prescribed number of games. It isn't like the NFL, where a concussion means a designated number of games out of action. An injury to a basketball player simply means you're out until you're in playing shape again, whenever that may be. Usually, it takes some set number of days of sitting out and recuperating. Some medical treatment. Some downtime. Some coaches bring players back on less rest, some coaches use more -- my last post on injuries tries to get at the heart of the coaching side of NBA injuries by looking at raw numbers and assigning them to coaches. In this post, I'm more interested in simply translating some player-side numbers from 2011 to the compressed season. This is more like my previous analysis of compression trends, except instead of trends, this involves cold hard facts.

The guiding hypothetical to this post: if players were to go through the exact same injuries in the 2012 season as they went through in the 2011 season, how many more games would they miss? Good question, voice in my head. Let's go find that out. To the spreadsheet, once again.

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Get Like Gregg: One Man's Quest to relate Coaching to Injuries.

So, I was thinking. A dangerous habit, I know. Last year's underrated Cavs story was just how hard Byron Scott pushed the team in practices and off-the-court training. I'm talking suicide sprints after every loss, players throwing up in training camp, etc. Now, the 2011 Cavs were an awful team. But Byron Scott's "bad cop, crazy cop" routine made no sense to me. If your child is bad at a school subject, screaming at them and forcing them to do thousands of extra homework problems isn't going to do much of anything. Besides leaving them with crippling psychological disorders, anger management problems, and Samardo Samuels.

Overall? This had me rather worried about Kyrie Irving and the 2011 Cavs. Kyrie, as everyone knows, is coming off a injury-torn season where he played only 11 games of college ball. Not very pleasant, but he performed lights out when he played. What if Byron Scott's insane practices hurt him? The whole tangent got me to thinking about ways I could, perhaps, poke at a measure of coach-centered effects on injuries. As with my last big statistical post, this isn't an advanced model or a particularly advanced concept -- essentially, I'll be taking data from our pals at Brewhoop and repackaging it to describe coaches. Current coaches only, and for the majority of this post, only a smaller subsample of those coaches. Ones with enough seasons that I feel we can start to make some conclusions. There will be three parts -- an intro, some analysis of the big outliers, and a short discussion.

For my spreadsheet, check out the Google Doc. Let's get to it.

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