Hey, everybody! This is the third edition of the STEVE NASH Power Rankings. The object of these Power Rankings is rather simple -- STEVE NASH is my statistical model for making team projections the season, and STEVE gave us some results about teams' SRS projections before the season. So -- during the season -- we've been updating these SRS predictions to reflect the week's results. Our new results are a rather simple re-weighting of STEVE's projections and the actual results of the season. These new results are then run through a Gibbs sampler to predict playoff probabilities, projected records, and other various stats. I apply the mean-regressed HCA estimates from Evan of The City to these new projections to calculate predicted home wins and road wins remaining in the season and add them to the team's current record. Keep in mind (once again) these are completely and utterly automated -- there's no human input on these rankings, at all. So don't lynch me, Wizards fans. Without further ado, here are the rankings as of the close of all games played on January 10th.
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Courtesy of (again) Evan, I now know how to embed spreadsheets. This week's spreadsheet:
A few observations, as I continue to create a proper format for these ranking posts.
THREE UP, THREE DOWN
- UP: IND, DAL, UTA. Two weeks in a row for Utah, who ranks as one of the more interesting teams in the league right now for me. They have a relative dearth of quality wins, but they DO have one of the more impressive blowouts of the week with their scorched earth obliteration last night of the Los Angeles Clippers. Paul Millsap is playing all-star ball, and they're on the edge of a top-10 ranking on the defensive end. I didn't really believe STEVE NASH when it predicted Utah would be a fringe playoff team, but that's exactly what they look like right now, their 9-4 schedule notwithstanding. As for these other two? Indiana finally is starting to play up to their record, and though the model has been hesitant to declare what we've seen as gospel, it's finally starting to see them as a mid-tier playoff team that'll challenge for a top-4 seed. Mostly on the back of Hibbert. And finally? STEVE NASH apologizes to Mavs fans -- two thirty-ish point blowouts will make any model think better of your team, and the Mavs have finally eclipsed the 0.500 mark (handily, in fact) and are looking like a decent bet to make the playoffs, now. And they even have a shot at a division title!!!
- DOWN: PHX, SAC, POR. The Suns have been bad this season, and this week -- a dispiriting blowout loss to the Bulls, a 10 point sans-Nash loss to the Nets, and a respectable (but disappointing) 11 point road loss to the Spurs -- represents all facets of it. Not at all enough minutes for Gortat and Markieff, and some puzzling decisions by Alvin Gentry. He doesn't seem to have a good sense of what he wants to do with this team, and while he looked like a solid and decent coach in the Suns' exciting 2010 conference finals trip, his minutes distributions lately have been utterly counterproductive and if he bears any front office responsibility for not trading Nash while he had value he's not worth keeping as the team goes forward. Not like Sarver will do anything about it. Sacramento has been abhorrent, despite DeMarcus Cousins' improvement. And the Blazers? They had a pretty poor week, for a team that looked REALLY good to start the year. They had a more-embarrassing-than-it-looked 3-point home loss to the Magic, were victims to a murder at San Antonio in the middle of the week, lost a tight overtime game to a reeling Rockets team, and barely eked out a win against a remarkably bad Hornets team. They're still top tier in the West, but they look less like a world-beater and more like a solid playoff team with a punchers chance at making an NBA finals. Like the Grizzlies, I suppose.
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In the spirit of fixing errors, I realized this week that the weighting mechanism I was using was maintaining week 1 reweights on our week 2 ratings. As a result, a few teams got the short stick in last week's writeup -- for instance Portland was in 5th when the model actually had them in 2nd in the West (hence their fall this week). In a related story, when calculating playoff percentages, the model was assuming there were only 7 spots per conference, not 8. I've updated the probabilities in each week, which doesn't really change the broad narratives I talked about, but does change some of the numbers. I'll try to go back and edit it at some point. Apologies for that error.
I would comment on interesting trends, but there aren't too many of them. The Spurs have been awful enough on the road that the model now predicts they'll end with a final road record of 16-17 -- which, given that they're oh for five so far, may seem like an almost charitable assessment. We see a pretty clear separation between the contenders and the pretenders in the East, with the Heat/Bulls/Sixers troika all ending up around 45 wins (which translates to around 56-57 wins in a full season). The Thunder are lapping the competition, record-wise, in the West -- their two biggest competitors (Spurs and Nuggets) both have had underwhelming low points to their starts, and it's tough to see either seriously challenging the Thunder when all's said and done. I thought, before the season, that the Thunder had about a 50% chance of winning the West. NASH has finally come to an agreement with me, it appears.
And in our weekly note on the matter -- NASH sees the season turning out, despite all the hype the East had entering this season, exactly like recent years in terms of how the lower-tier playoff teams look. The West has no less than three teams who project to miss the playoffs in the West despite better records than the Eastern 8 seed. The East has two playoff teams under 0.500 and the three worst teams in the league. For all the talk about the East coming back? Certainly doesn't look it.
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I'd like to say more, but man, am I tired. I'm going to watch a few games and go to sleep. Night, world.