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Friday, April 15, 2011

2010-11 Playoff Predictions

The L.A. Lakers are trying to make a fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals, something that has not been accomplished by any team since the 1984-87 Boston Celtics, who won championships in 1984 and 1986; the Lakers are seeking their third title in a row, which has not been done since the 2000-2002 Lakers "three-peated"--and no team has won three titles while making four straight Finals appearances since the 1959-66 Boston Celtics, winners of a record eight consecutive NBA championships (the 1985-88 Lakers captured the 1985, 1987 and 1988 championships but did not make it to the 1986 Finals).

Here is my take on the first round matchups, what I think will happen after that and who I predict will win it all.

Eastern Conference First Round

#1 Chicago (62-20) vs. #8 Indiana (37-45)

Season series: Chicago, 3-1

Indiana can win if...the Pacers can contain Derrick Rose, avoid getting obliterated in the paint by the Bulls' bigs and consistently score more than 100 ppg versus Chicago's staunch defense.

Chicago will win because...Derrick Rose will be the best player on the court, the Bulls' bigs will outplay Indiana's inexperienced frontcourt and the Pacers will struggle to consistently score more than 90 ppg.

Other things to consider: The Pacers are a young, improving team and they could possibly win one home game in this series but if the Bulls are focused and injury-free they should be able to sweep.

#2 Miami (58-24) vs. #7 Philadelphia (41-41)

Season series: Miami, 3-0

Philadelphia can win if
...Coach Doug Collins finds a time machine and inserts the 1983 versions of Julius Erving and Moses Malone into his starting lineup.

Miami will win because...the Heat have the three best players in the series--LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh; the Heat play the same style that the 76ers do but have much better personnel, which makes this a very bad matchup for Philadelphia.

Other things to consider: The Heat should sweep this series; they tend to feast on inferior teams and they have several distinct matchup advantages to exploit. However, the Heat have had some strange lapses during the season and Collins is an excellent coach, so perhaps the 76ers will extend the series by winning a home game.

#3 Boston (56-26) vs. #6 New York (42-40)

Season series: Boston, 4-0

New York can win if...Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire each average more than 25 ppg while shooting a high FG% (over .480 for Anthony and over .520 for Stoudemire) and if the Knicks devote a fraction of the energy and effort they put forth on offense to actually offering some kind of defensive resistance.

Boston will win because...the Celtics are a veteran-laden, championship quality club anchored by multiple future Hall of Famers. The Celtics have some frontcourt health issues but that is not a weakness that the Knicks will likely be able to fully exploit.

Other things to consider: Most of the teams that have given the Celtics trouble in the playoffs in recent seasons are athletic teams that push the pace; the Knicks are a high scoring team but with Chauncey Billups running the point they are not a super athletic, push the pace kind of team. The Knicks may hit the Celtics with a flurry of three pointers during a quarter or even for an entire game but over the course of a series the Celtics will force the Knicks to shoot a low percentage from behind the arc.

Has there ever been a more overhyped team than this year's New York Knicks? Yes, the Heat received too much hype but they eventually earned the second seed in the East and they are legitimate championship contenders. The Knicks have been terrible for the better part of the decade and they seemingly tanked the past couple seasons in order to free up enough cap space to sign LeBron James--who I don't believe ever had the slightest intention of going to New York--but instead they ended up with Amare Stoudemire, who teamed up down the stretch with Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to...drum roll please...lead the Knicks to 42 wins and the sixth seed in a weak Eastern Conference in which two of the playoff teams don't even have winning records. It is mindboggling that Knicks' fans are still grousing about Isiah Thomas while acting as if the current regime has somehow performed a great miracle.

#4 Orlando (52-30) vs. #5 Atlanta (44-38)

Season series: Atlanta, 3-1

Atlanta can win if...the Hawks can single cover Dwight Howard effectively enough to enable their perimeter players to stay at home on Orlando's three point shooters.

Orlando will win because
...it is difficult to believe that the undersized Hawks can effectively single cover Howard for the duration of a playoff series.

Other things to consider: Although the Hawks won the 2011 regular season series with the Magic, the Magic swept the Hawks convincingly in the 2010 playoffs. Both teams have made some roster moves since that playoff series but the Hawks still have an undersized frontcourt that Howard should be able to dominate. I am far from completely sold on the Magic and when they made their two big midseason trades I wrote that those moves did not increase their chances to win a title--but the inconsistent, mercurial Hawks hardly inspire much confidence, either. It would not shock me if the Hawks win this series--I can picture a "Hack a Howard" strategy being used or perhaps a game in which Gilbert Arenas shoots 2-14 from the field--but ultimately the Magic have three significant tangible advantages: they have the best player, they have game seven at home if necessary and they have the best coach. I am not saying that Larry Drew is a bad coach but the Hawks won nine fewer games this season with essentially the same roster that Mike Woodson had in 2009-10--and Stan Van Gundy is a top level coach, perhaps just below the cream of the crop (Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich).

Western Conference First Round

#1 San Antonio Spurs (61-21) vs. #8 Memphis Grizzlies (46-36)

Season series: Tied, 2-2

Memphis can win if...Zach Randolph outplays Tim Duncan, the Grizzlies contain the Spurs' three point shooters without exposing themselves to backdoor cuts and the Grizzlies play intelligently and unselfishly at both ends of the court.

San Antonio will win because...they are more talented and deeper than the Grizzlies. The Spurs have a nice blend of championship experience and youthful energy.

Other things to consider: The Spurs may be the most overlooked 60-plus win team ever, particularly considering that their core players have won three championships together since 2003. The Grizzlies apparently wanted this matchup--or at least preferred it to the "option" of playing the Lakers--because they made little effort to win the final few games of the season and move up to the seventh seed. I understand why the Grizzlies did not relish the prospect of facing the two-time defending champions but the old cliche about being careful what you wish for comes to mind. Manu Ginobili's arm injury could be a major X factor later on in the playoffs but the Spurs have enough talent and depth to defeat the Grizzlies even if Ginobili misses some games or performs below par.

#2 L.A. Lakers (57-25) vs. #7 New Orleans (46-36)

Season series: L.A., 4-0

New Orleans can win if...a micro black hole envelops Los Angeles and sucks Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol into a parallel universe.

L.A. will win because...the Hornets have no one who can cover Bryant or Gasol.

Other things to consider: TNT's Kenny Smith says that the Lakers disrespect the NBA and their opponents because of their cockiness and their apparent belief that they can simply flip a switch to instantly be dominant but that is an oversimplification; the Lakers may be cocky or complacent--Lamar Odom publicly said that they are--but people seem to be blithely dismissing how difficult it is to reach the NBA Finals year after year and then finish another season as a top two seed. Kobe Bryant's age/nagging injuries have forced Coach Phil Jackson to limit Bryant's regular season minutes and it should be obvious that five minutes per game less of Bryant explains at least a few of the Lakers' "questionable" losses--not to mention the fact that Bryant hardly practices full speed anymore, which inevitably leads to a lack of sharpness for the team collectively (Bryant used to be a hard driving practice player in all senses of that phrase). Bryant's minutes will increase during the postseason and I suspect that the extra days off will enable him to practice more frequently; those two factors should make the Lakers a more effective, more focused team.

#3 Dallas (57-25) vs. #6 Portland (48-34)

Season series: Tied, 2-2

Portland can win if...the Blazers' wave of versatile defenders is able to slow down Dirk Nowitzki and force him to shoot a low field goal percentage. LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace both need to perform at an All-Star level. It would also help if the Blazers can win the battle of AARP point guards (Andre Miller versus Jason Kidd).

Dallas will win because...Nowitzki is the best player in the series and an underrated playoff performer. Tyson Chandler has made the Mavericks a better defensive team and a more physical unit than they used to be. Jason Terry must shoot a good percentage, particularly in the fourth quarters of close games.

Other things to consider: Portland is a chic pick to win this series and the Blazers are this year's proverbial "team that nobody wants to face," a designation that is annually handed out informally to a lower seeded team that some national media members would like to hype up; someone should go through the archives and find out the winning percentages of such teams, because I suspect that most "teams nobody wanted to face" actually did not go particularly far in the postseason (I think that Carmelo Anthony's Nuggets received that title several of the years that they lost in the first round). The Blazers are a very good team and the addition of Gerald Wallace certainly helps them at both ends of the court but they are the sixth seed for good reason--they are not an elite team. The Mavericks have consistently been a better team than the Blazers all season long, they have the best individual player in this series plus home court advantage and I expect the Mavericks to win in six games at the most.

#4 Oklahoma City (55-27) vs. #5 Denver (50-32)

Season series: Oklahoma City, 3-1

Denver can win if...the Nuggets' new-found attention to detail defensively enables them to slow down Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The frontcourt matchups will also be crucial; the Nuggets must neutralize the Thunder's revamped power forward-center rotation.

Oklahoma City will win because...Kevin Durant is the best player in the series (do you detect a theme in this article regarding playoff matchups?), plus the additions of Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed shored up the team's one weakness--a lack of interior size and strength.

Other things to consider: If there is really a team that other teams legitimately don't want to face (other than the obvious choices among the top two or three seeds in each conference) then the Thunder certainly qualify; they are young, athletic and now have enough size to match up with anyone. The only things that could hold them back (in later rounds) are their collective playoff inexperience and, perhaps, if Durant struggles to score efficiently against elite defenses.

It is interesting that after the Nuggets acquired Chauncey Billups the "stat gurus" and national media members agreed that Billups "changed the culture" in Denver (even though the Nuggets had been a 50 win team with Allen Iverson the previous season) but not much is being said about Billups' culture changing impact this season when his new team (the Knicks) has been a .500 squad since he arrived and his old team (the Nuggets) looks tougher, more cohesive and more dangerous than they ever did with Billups. This is yet another example of how similarly biased some "stat gurus" and some media members really are: both groups have axes to grind against Allen Iverson (for various reasons), so when the Pistons floundered and the Nuggets thrived in 2009 several "stat gurus" and various media members fell all over themselves praising Billups and trashing Iverson, completely ignoring the various other factors that contributed to the differing fortunes of those two teams. The nuanced reality--too complicated for a soundbite and not comprehensible to the "stat gurus"--is that Iverson played very well for Denver, Billups also played very well for Denver, the Pistons' collapse cannot be blamed on one player or one trade, the Nuggets became deeper and more defensive-minded after the Anthony trade and Billups' vaunted culture changing abilities cannot magically transform a New York team that has serious defensive liabilities.

-----

I expect the second round matchups to be Chicago-Orlando, Miami-Boston, San Antonio-Oklahoma City and L.A.-Dallas. The Bulls will single cover Howard, smother Orlando's three point shooters and make short work of the Magic. Before the Kendrick Perkins trade I thought that the Celtics had the perfect roster to beat the Heat--Rajon Rondo could exploit the Heat at point guard, while Perkins and the other Celtic bigs could push around the Heat's center by committee. The Celtics have actually been able to get by defensively without Perkins but they miss his toughness and the solid (moving) screens that he set to free up Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. The Heat have homecourt advantage and they no doubt gained confidence by routing the Celtics late in the season after losing to them three straight times. Unless LeBron James inexplicably quits, the Heat will beat the Celtics.

The Thunder have the right combination of youth, athleticism and size to cause the Spurs a world of trouble but if the Spurs stay healthy I think that their veteran savvy (plus home court advantage) will enable them to triumph in seven games. There is a perception that the Lakers had a bad/disappointing season but their 57 wins match their total from last year and also from 2008 when they made the first of their three straight trips to the NBA Finals. The Spurs sprinted out to a nearly insurmountable lead in the race for the West's top seed, but the Lakers did just enough after the All-Star break to secure the second seed and earn home court advantage in the second round. The Mavericks have generally had trouble defending Bryant, so--with game seven at home as a trump card if necessary--the Lakers will eliminate Dallas.

Both Conference Finals will be epic. In the East, the likely MVP award winner Derrick Rose and his well balanced, excellently coached Chicago Bulls will square off against Miami's power trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Bulls are an outstanding defensive team, while the Heat have had trouble executing offensively down the stretch in close games, as I described last month: "Henry Abbott's repeated attempts to 'prove' that Kobe Bryant is not a great clutch player look even more ridiculous after nearly a full season of watching LeBron James and Dwyane Wade team up to look like clowns piling out of a car at the circus every time the Heat are in a close game." The "clown car" offense that also transforms Chris Bosh from an All-NBA caliber player to a Horace Grant clone waiting for scraps on the weak side is not going to get the job done versus elite teams in the NBA playoffs; the Heat will not need to win close games in the first round and they have game seven at home versus Boston if necessary but I suspect that we will see the "clown car" offense reemerge at some point versus Chicago. I would have never imagined making this pick before the season began--I expected the Celtics or possibly even the (old look) Magic to knock off the Heat and I did not consider the Bulls a legit contender--but Chicago will delight fans in Cleveland (and many other cities) by defeating Miami.

The Lakers and Spurs have been the teams of the new millennium not just in the West but in the league overall, collectively claiming the 2000-03, 2005, 2007 and 2009-10 NBA championships. The Spurs own home court advantage and they have a deeper roster but the Lakers have Kobe Bryant, who has been a Spurs-killer in several playoff series. The Lakers will win one of the first two games on the road and close out the series in six games.

The NBA Finals will represent a full circle journey for Phil Jackson, who began winning championships two decades ago in Chicago; he will return to the Windy City trying to cap off his coaching career with an unprecedented fourth three-peat. The Bulls will pose many of the same challenges that the Celtics did in the 2010 NBA Finals but ultimately this series will come down to a battle between Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose; Bryant will likely check Rose at least part of the time, while Rose is unlikely to guard Bryant, but both players will score 25-plus ppg while also creating shot opportunities for their teammates. The Lakers will split the first two games in Chicago, take two out of three in L.A. and then win the title in Jackson's old stomping grounds with a game six victory that probably will come down to the final possession. Coach Jackson will leave on top, Kobe Bryant will tie Michael Jordan by winning a sixth championship ring--one more than Magic Johnson but five fewer than Bill Russell--and, unless a lot of progress is made off of the court, this may be the last NBA game we watch for quite some time.

********************

Here is a summary of the results of my previous predictions both for playoff qualifiers and for the outcomes of playoff series:

In my 2010-2011 Eastern Conference Preview I correctly picked five of this season's eight playoff teams and I also went five for eight in my 2010-2011 Western Conference Preview. Here are my statistics for previous seasons:

2010: East 6/8, West 7/8
2009: East 6/8, West 7/8
2008: East 5/8, West 7/8
2007: East 7/8, West 6/8
2006: East 6/8, West 6/8

That adds up to 35/48 in the East and 38/48 in the West for an overall accuracy rate of .760

Here is my record in terms of picking the results of playoff series:

2010: 10/15
2009: 10/15
2008: 12/15
2007: 12/15
2006: 10/15
2005: 9/15

Total: 63/90 (.700)

At the end of each of my playoff previews I predict which teams will make it to the NBA Finals; in six years I have correctly picked eight of the 12 NBA Finals participants (I missed Boston in 2010 and Orlando in 2009, plus I missed both Miami and Dallas in 2006). In three of those six years I got both teams right but only once did I get both teams right and predict the correct result (2007). I track these results separately from the series by series predictions because a lot can change from the start of the playoffs to the NBA Finals, so my prediction right before the NBA Finals may differ from what I predicted in April--the most obvious example of this is the 2006 playoffs, when neither of my projected Finalists actually made it to the Finals!

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:31 AM

21 comments

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21 Comments:

At Friday, April 15, 2011 6:53:00 PM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

Playoff preview.

Odds to win Championship:
Team P(win)
LA Lakers 0.280
Miami Heat 0.192
Chicago Bulls 0.156
San Antonio Spurs 0.130
Boston Celtics 0.091
Orlando Magic 0.045
Dallas Mavericks 0.041
Oklahoma City Thunder 0.032
Denver Nuggets 0.009
Portland Trailblazers 0.008
NY Knicks 0.008
Memphis Grizzles 0.005
Atlanta Hawks 0.001
New Orleans Hornets 0.001
Philadelphia 76ers 0.000
Indiana Pacers 0.000

Odds to win Conference:
East
Miami Heat 0.345
Chicago Bulls 0.307
Boston Celtics 0.192
Orlando Magic 0.118
NY Knicks 0.025
Atlanta Hawks 0.008
Philadelphia 76ers 0.003
Indiana Pacers 0.002

West
LA Lakers 0.470
San Antonio Spurs 0.261
Dallas Mavericks 0.100
Oklahoma City Thunder 0.086
Denver Nuggets 0.033
Portland Trailblazers 0.027
Memphis Grizzlies 0.018
New Orleans Hornets 0.005

Series Prices
East
Chicago 0.923
Indiana 0.077

Miami 0.927
Philadelphia 0.073

Boston 0.756
NY Knicks 0.244

Orlando 0.823
Atlanta 0.177

West
San Antonio 0.785
Memphis 0.215

LA Lakers 0.922
New Orleans 0.078

Dallas 0.677
Portland 0.323

Oklahoma City 0.642
Denver 0.358

If you wish I'll update my projections after each round.

 
At Friday, April 15, 2011 7:50:00 PM, Blogger charliegone0531 said...

David, you pretty much are thinking what I am. I feel the Lakers will win a 3rd straight title. During the season they weren't very consistent, but they showed how well they play when they really try like they did against the Mavericks in the last game they played against each other or against Portland in that OT win. Defensively I think they are better this year than the last 3 seasons and offensively they still are one of the best. At the beginning of the season I thought Chicago would be a 4th seed at most, but boy did I underestimated them. They play good team ball and their defense is really good, but I think they do not possess the same talent the Lakers do, which is why I think the Lakers win the title. Good stuff as always David.

 
At Friday, April 15, 2011 11:56:00 PM, Anonymous Fj-3 said...

Hey, David. Again, nice article. I share many of your predictions here, and I'm not stealing ideas from you, but rather, I'm just telling you how you hit it, spot on! Just a question, what do you mean when you said this?

"and, unless a lot of progress is made off of the court, this may be the last NBA game we watch for quite some time."

That's all, man. Enjoy the playoffs!

 
At Saturday, April 16, 2011 4:55:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

Those are interesting odds and for the most part they are in line with my predictions, except that your odds favor the Heat over the Bulls. The chic pick is Portalnd over Dallas but I think that Dallas will win and your odds suggest that the matchup is not even particularly close. What methodology do you use to derive those odds?

If you want to post updated round by round odds, simply wait until I make a series preview/prediction and then post that series' odds in the comments section.

 
At Saturday, April 16, 2011 5:01:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Charliegone0531:

The Lakers have the potential to be better defensively if Bynum and Barnes are healthy; if those guys are not healthy then the Lakers' defense will be roughly equivalent to last year's (which was not so terrible, particularly in key moments during the playoff run). Kobe is not hobbling around on a knee that needs to be surgically repaired, so when he starts playing those extra five or so mpg in the postseason that will also positively impact the Lakers defensively--and the Lakers will need for Kobe to put out some fires defensively, because Fisher seems to have no lateral mobility left.

I also underestimated the Bulls before the season began but their attention to detail defensively and their unselfishness offensively is very impressive. They play like a younger, more athletic version of the Boston Celtics, which is a tribute to Thibodeau's coaching, Rose's excellence and the way that the entire roster bought into Thibodeau's philosophies.

 
At Saturday, April 16, 2011 5:05:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Fj-3:

That final statement was an oblique reference to a possible work stoppage after the conclusion of the NBA playoffs; if owners and players do not come to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement then the last game of this year's NBA Finals could be the last NBA game that we see for quite some time.

 
At Saturday, April 16, 2011 12:45:00 PM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

David,

I use a combination of factors to derive the series and futures odds, as listed below:

(1) Game 1 betting odds. I found this to be the single best predictor of future results.
(2) Overall level of talent on the roster.
(3) Playoff experience.
(4) Possible officiating irregularities.

I use these factors to come up with power ratings for each team and calculate series odds based on these numbers. I then try to project series odds in the later rounds, and use a computer to calculate the final odds for the futures.

As for the Bulls, the factors I listed above were not in their favor. The Game 1 odds suggest that Miami is considered to be a stronger team than the Bulls in the playoffs. In addition, I don't feel they are as talented as the Heat or the Celtics, nor do they have the playoff experience that the leaders of the Heat and Celtics possess.

Their style of play is also a detriment in the playoffs as they rely on balance and depth, two factors that are reduced in the playoffs. Depth is compromised due to shortened rotations and increased time off between games. Unselfish ball isn't always rewarded either, as the officiating becomes more biased toward ball-hogging - guys like Lebron can simply run straight toward the basket, throw the ball up wildly and get two free throws.

Bulls are a good team and have a good defense. However, I think ultimately their chances will depend on Rose hogging the ball and getting a number of cheap calls, and guys like Noah being allowed to mug the other players without getting called for fouls. I don't think either scenario is particularly likely.

 
At Sunday, April 17, 2011 6:23:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

Betting odds are established so that, ideally, wagers are split 50-50 between the two teams and are thus influenced by the public's perception of who will win; the public sometimes favors popular, "name" teams over other teams so I am not sure how reliable a predictive metric the betting odds would be overall. Your fourth category is something that the NBA certainly would deny, though I know that many gamblers believe that they can profit from charting such things and placing their bets accordingly.

I agree that the Bulls are not as talented as the Celtics or Heat but the Bulls have been more consistent and their roster is more well balanced due to Boston's injuries and Miami's holes at certain positions.

You are correct that depth is not as important during the playoffs as it is during the regular season and we have seen proof of that with the Lakers' two championship teams: Odom (who starts nearly half the time anyway due to Bynum's chronic injuries) and Shannon Brown are the only two reserves that Coach Jackson has really trusted the past couple years, at least based on how Coach Jackson has allocated the minutes during the playoffs.

Before the season began, I did not think that the Bulls had enough perimeter firepower or a good enough half court offense to be a legit championship contender but after watching them finish with the number one overall seed I concluded that they have morphed into a younger, more athletic version of the Celtics; the Bulls don't have as many "name" players but they run much of the same stuff offensively and defensively and I think that it will be very difficult to beat the Bulls in a seven game series.

 
At Sunday, April 17, 2011 4:59:00 PM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

David,

I had the chance to learn a lot about how betting odds were established. They are not determined by the public and they are not mean to attract 50-50 wagers. In reality they are determined by offshore internet sportsbooks, and bettors who bet on those lines at low limits. In addition, books take sides on most games and their goal is to let the bookmaker's percentage work in their favor over the long run.

I've also encountered several professional gamblers. Most of them do not have big edges over the house. The best ones only make about 1% for every dollar they wager and they make their money through volume and line shopping.

In short, betting lines are heavily influenced by experts and they are almost always accurate to within ~2% or so. I have yet to see a more consistent, powerful, and robust method for predicting future results.

 
At Sunday, April 17, 2011 5:01:00 PM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

As for the officiating, it seems that the home teams had a huge advantage at the free throw line in Game 1. It will be interesting to see if home teams continue to get the calls when the venues shift for Games 3 and 4.

 
At Sunday, April 17, 2011 5:27:00 PM, Anonymous khandor said...

David:

1. Great article, on your part.

2. FYI ... TrueHoop’s Stat Geek Smackdown: NBA Playoffs, 1st Round Series Winners

3. Even though the Lakers have struggled mightily during different parts of the season, the three-peat does still seem to be within their grasp, provided they can remain healthy during the playoff run.

That said ... there are a number of teams that are "good enough" to win the title this season, should any slight injury occur to a key player on one of the other prime contenders, such that I will not be publishing my own prediction for the eventual champion until much later in the process.

[PLEASE NOTE: If you recall, 2 years ago, the Lakers were such a "slam dunk" pick to win the title, from my perspective, that I published my selection of them, as the eventual 2009 champs, PRIOR to the START of their 2008 NBA Finals loss - which I also forecasted accurately, in advance - to the Boston Celtics.]

Best regards.

 
At Monday, April 18, 2011 2:31:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

I'll have to take your word about how betting odds are established because I have not done as comprehensive of an examination of this subject as you apparently have but it seems to me that if bookmakers establish odds based purely on what they think will happen in total disregard to what the public thinks the bookmakers are risking losing a lot of money because their books will not be balanced--i.e., if significantly more than 50% of the bets go in favor of the team that ultimately wins (covers the bet) then the bookmakers will take a bath.

As for the home team free throw advantage this weekend, there are several possible explanations for this other than officiating irregularities (there is also the fact that we are talking about a small sample size). The home teams may have enjoyed a free throw advantage because the home teams (1) naturally play more aggressively at home, (2) are the higher seeds and thus likely have more players who can draw fouls and/or (3) exploited certain particular matchup advantages during the games and/or were leading at the end and thus got some "cheap" free throws when the trailing team had to stop the clock.

 
At Monday, April 18, 2011 2:33:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Khandor:

I'm not quite sure what 2008 or 2009 has to do with this season and I think that you issued some caveats regarding your prediction about the Lakers but none of that really matters at this point.

I don't understand why you are waiting with your 2011 Finals prediction but if you wait until July you can be assured of 100% accuracy :)

I prefer to make three Finals picks: one before the season starts, one before the playoffs start and one before the Finals start. The three predictions may be the same or they may differ depending on changing circumstances. I liked L.A.-Boston before the season began but I switched to L.A.-Chicago before the playoffs began. You are of course correct that there are several teams that could win the title this season: the Lakers, Bulls, Celtics, Heat and Spurs (if fully healthy) are legit contenders, plus there are a few other teams that I don't think could win the title but could potentially be good enough to win a series against one or more of the teams listed above. However, even after a wild opening weekend in which the top two seeds in the West lost I'll stick with my L.A.-Chicago Finals prediction unless or until one or both of those teams is eliminated.

 
At Monday, April 18, 2011 11:07:00 AM, Anonymous khandor said...

David:

re: what does 2008 and 2009 have to do with this year?

Making accurate forecasts for the NBA Playoffs in previous seasons - e.g. 2010, 2009, 2008, etc. - can add to the "credibility" of a legitimate NBA Analyst/Expert, when that person is forecasting future results for this year's post-season play.

It seems like you agree with this notion, since you chose to list the results of your own selections for previous years, in your original article.

re: caveats associated with past selections

IIRC, there were none listed by me ... except, of course, the need to remain relatively healthy, as a team, and the retention of the rotational players on the existing squad.

[NOTE: IIRC, there was also one WC series in past NBA Playoffs, where it made little sense to make a prediction, at all, since an accurate analysis of the situation for each team indicated that it was basically an "equal" match-up which - in all likelihood - would be decided more-or-less on the basis of luck rather than on skill differentiation between the two opponents.]

re: the reason to wait on making an early championship prediction this year

This season was always going to be very different one from any other in the history of the NBA.

For example:

- Phil Jackson is going for an historic 4th three-peat, as a head coach

- Phil Jackson has already announced his plans to retire from coaching the Lakers after this season

- Kobe Bryant's off season knee surgery

- Derek Fisher's continued aging/physical deterioration

- Andrew Bynum's off season knee surgery

- The Phenomenon of the "Super Friends", in Miami

- The continued existence of the Big 3, in Boston

- The coalescence of Tom Thibodeau, Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, CJ Watson, Kurt Thomas, Keith Bogans, Omer Asik, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose, in Chicago

- The 2nd season of increased cohesion for Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, George Hill, Dejaun Blair, Matt Bonner, Gregg Popovich and RC Buford, in San Antonio ... in conjunction with the arrival of Tiago Splitter [Euroleague Big], Gary Neal [Euroleague Shooter] and James Anderson [NCAA Wing], to augment their existing core

- The impending lockout which is looming large for this summer

Given this degree of turmoil and unsettledness ... in a season where the Bulls, Heat, Celtics, Spurs and Lakers, are as close to one another in ability level as they are right now ... there seems to be very little "percentage value" in making an early prediction, re: the eventual champion for this year.

[i.e. When I publish specific forecasts for future sports-related events, I prefer that there's a high probability those forecasts will actually be proven to have been accurate, in the first place, since that's part of what I do on a professional basis. :-)]

Others are certainly free to disagree with my assessment of a given situation, if they wish.

 
At Monday, April 18, 2011 3:13:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Khandor:

You misunderstood my question. What I meant is, "What does your 2008/2009 prediction have to do with the article on which you are commenting?"

Keep in mind that the comment section is provided for readers to comment on a specific article, not to filibuster on other subjects or to post advertising/spam. I give some leeway, particularly to regulars, but I also do not hesitate to moderate (i.e., delete) comments that do not fit the bill.

 
At Tuesday, April 19, 2011 11:22:00 AM, Anonymous Gil Meriken said...

David,

How did you know a micro black hole would envelop Pau Gasol and suck him into a parallel universe?

What's that you say? That's not what happened? He played in Game 1 and he's actually playing in Game 2?

 
At Tuesday, April 19, 2011 3:20:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Gil:

The most amazing thing is not Gasol's disappearing act but the fact that there are so many people who will still publicly say that Gasol is the Lakers' best player. Kobe said it perfectly after game one: Kobe's default mode is to be aggressive, even if he is tired or injured, but Pau is not a naturally aggressive player. We can expect Coach Jackson and Kobe to prod Gasol into being aggressive by force feeding Gasol the ball early in game two.

 
At Wednesday, April 20, 2011 4:36:00 PM, Blogger ChowNoir said...

Dave,

Did you see the C.A. Clark article on Silver Screen and Roll where he wants a moratorium on all Pau as MVP talk?

I love Pau and what he's brought to the Lakers. But the article echoes many of the points you've made in the past as to what's really needed from an MVP. Pau has and will have great stretches of MVP level play. But that's different from being an actual MVP.

 
At Thursday, April 21, 2011 5:42:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Chownoir:

No, I have not read the article but I have never understood why some people have such difficulty understanding the difference between being an All-Star--or even an All-NBA caliber player--and being a legit MVP candidate. An All-Star can play like an MVP for a game, a few games in a row or sometimes even a month but that does not make him an MVP, yet it seems like every season the media anoints some player who started off well and/or had a few good games as an "MVP candidate"--we have seen this happen in various seasons with Gilbert Arenas, Carmelo Anthony and, this season, with Pau Gasol.

 
At Sunday, April 24, 2011 7:22:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

Has the first-round action we've seen so far caused you to change your mind about anything? Before the playoffs started, I thought the Heat would defeat Boston, but after the way Boston took care of business against the Knicks, I'm wondering if they may have "flipped the switch" like they did last year.

Also, it will be interesting to see how Dallas responds to their latest late-game collapse.

 
At Sunday, April 24, 2011 8:59:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

I will soon be posting a "midterm report card" about the first round that will address the issues that you brought up.

 

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