By Julian Ryan
The new NBA season brings promise and hope. Mathematically speaking, any team could be the champion and any player could win MVP (including Jason Kidd, who according to ESPN Fantasy basketball projections is expected to play 27.3 minutes per game for 65 games this year – will he get tired of his Giannis experiment and start jacking threes in a suit?? Only time will tell).
However, in reality, we do know a little more than that. Projection systems are difficult to improve on in general but when assessing overall team quality, the Vegas over/under win totals are a pretty solid indicator. These bets receive a lot of action and by and large reflect the average public sentiment of how well a team is going into the season.
From this expectation, we can derive a quick and dirty back of the envelope calculation of playoff odds for each team. Our distribution for each team will be centered with the mean set by Vegas and then we add in two sources of error. One is a luck factor – a team which should win 50% of its games will often win a few more or a few less than that just from the rub of the green – which we will calculate as the standard error assuming a team’s quality is as advertised; and the other is an inaccuracy factor – some teams will just be way off our preseason expectations (see Phoenix last year), or have a huge exogenous shock (e.g LeBron gets injured) – which we will assume is constant across this teams and add in so total errors compared to prior year expectation match with historical data.
With 82 games, the central limit theorem says the normal distribution is as good a fit as any. Let’s chuck in an untrue assumption of independence between win totals for all teams, and then simulate the regular season 10,000 times and see what happens. This is hardly a statistically thorough approach, but will serve as a workable indicator of what to expect from your team this season.
Enough of statistical inadequacy; here are HSAC’s NBA predictions for the NBA Season, with all over/under totals taken from Bovada:
|Team||Division||Make Playoffs||Win Division||Win Conference|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||North-West||85.3%||54.4%||11.6%|
|Portland Trail Blazers||North-West||74.8%||35.4%||6.7%|
|Golden State Warriors||Pacific||82.9%||31.7%||10.2%|
|Los Angeles Clippers||Pacific||93.4%||58.9%||22.9%|
|Los Angeles Lakers||Pacific||4.9%||0.3%||0.0%|
|New Orleans Pelicans||South-West||45.8%||4.5%||1.4%|
|San Antonio Spurs||South-West||94.2%||50.2%||25.5%|
|New York Knicks||Atlantic||56.9%||17.7%||1.1%|
Make of the table what you will but I leave you with two pieces of advice. First, the Trail Blazers win the division 35.4% of the time in our simulation, but Bovada still have them at +275 to win the division, probably because the market is yet to fully absorb Kevin Durant’s injury – there’s definitely good money betting on them. Second, never listen to betting advice – Vegas always wins.