Monday, April 13, 2015

NBA Playoff Tiebreakers for the 21st Century

This season has been a ton of fun. That muderous Western Conference that we were all expecting? Yup, it was muder. The following picture is nuts:

Standings from

Just half a game separates 2nd through 6th place (with the Blazers in there because of their division). This inevitably begs a question: What happens if there's a tie?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

NBA Uniforms: A Quick Aside

Some of you will remember my post from this summer about better championship hardware. I was pleasantly surprised when the NBA announced a change to their jerseys to reflect championship pedigree, simlar to what national soccer teams do to reflect world cup wins. But after watching the product in action this season, I think they need to tweak the concept a bit. You see, everyone on a team that's won a title gets the patch. So everyone on the Bulls gets patches. That's right - the last time the Bulls won the title, MJ was hitting basketball shots in Utah, not golf shots. You see the disconnect - it cheapens the meaning of the notch.

Thankfully, this problem can be rectified, and the jerseys made cooler, very easily.

2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: Top 10

I'm not going to wax poetic about Jusise Winslow's NBA draft position or Coach K's ridiculous ability to win titles 25 years apart. Others have written all you need to know about that. Instead, here are 10 things I’ll remember from the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

1.       The Hunters and Georgia State. Like many, I was at work during much of the round of 64, constantly refreshing gamecast, listening on radio, and occasionally tuning in to good games on the March Madness app. I turned on Georgia State – Baylor with about 1 minute left thinking the Bears would probably win with FTs but hoping for some magic. That was a good decision. Gamecast failed to convey how much the atmosphere had changed in that game over the last several minutes, how Georgia State’s press and shot making started to transcend into the mythical. That’s why, when R.J. Hunter pulled up from deep, my first feeling was of trepidation. This is a tough shot – he’s going to be lucky to draw iron. Then, as the ball hung in midair, I thought differently: if this team goes down, this ain’t bad way to go. Turns out I was right. The ball didn’t draw iron. It did send the team and stadium into a frenzy, the coach off his stool, and the GSU (insert name) into the second round. That was the shot of the tournament.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Official YMTC Bracket

I know - anybody can make a bracket. But does everybody post it online for public ridicule? If you did, post a link in the comments!

A few quick commentson regions:

Monday, March 16, 2015

Winning in the NBA

WARNING: This post is extremely long and deals with a very complicated subject - what it takes to win in the NBA. A TLDR version can be viewed here. For those that read on - I warned you!

Winning in the NBA

What a season for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Early season excitement gave way to frustration as the team fell below .500 multiple times. When LeBron went to Miami for 2 weeks to fix his ailing back and ankles (the first such break since a wrist injury sidelined him at the end of his first Cleveland stint), it seemed to portend a lost season (and possibly more). Then LeBron came back, dropped 33 on the Suns (though in a loss, the 6th straight at the time), and generally looked like LeBron again. The Cavs acquired some defense (Timofey Mozgov), shooting (J.R. Smith) and depth (Iman Shumpert), Kyrie took a leap, and the team went on a tear. 

Not lost during in the cycle has been the play of Kevin Love, who admitted to having to make big adjustments. The season has been a struggle with him posting 5 year lows in major statistical categories, missing the All Star game, being referenced in a bizarre tweet from LeBron, and getting benched in crunch time. There have even been some ridiculous rumors that Love may not re-sign in Cleveland this summer (ridiculous because it is not the right time to speculate about that, unless you’re Goran Dragic).

Why this post

The trade the Cavs made for Love last summer turned out to be immensely polarizing. Before the season I tried to determine Love’s value by comparing him to other players at his position as well as analyzing his effect on Minnesota’s team-wide statistics.

My research returned mixed results: Love is undoubtedly oneof the best power forwards to ever play the game, as measured by box score stats. But his ability to affect Minnesota’s team numbers was muted. In fact, I found that of the common box score stats, only half really vary from team to team: 3 point and free throw attempts, offensive rebounds, steals, and blocks. Love’s ability to gather defensive rebounds almost didn’t matter as the best rebounding teams are only a bit better than league average. The data brought up more questions than answers, pointing to the complex, team-oriented nature of basketball.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

QB Corner: Colin Kaepernick (Week 9 STL @ SF)

QB Corner is now on YouTube! I felt that even after converting from JPEG to GIFs, the posts were getting too long, and I did enjoy looking at complete games to see how QBs adjusted to the defensive game plan. It's a pretty long video, but at least you don't have to stroll through page after page after page!

This week, I'm looking at Colin Kaepernick who has seemingly regressed each year. There are a lot of reasons for that, including the aging of Frank Gore and an offensive line that lost its ability to pass block. My goal is to figure out the root cause of his statistical decline and what he can do to reverse it (if possible). I chose this Week 9 game, a loss at home to the Rams, because it exemplified many of the issues the offense encountered throughout 2014. Not only did they only score 10 points (and after scoring 3 on the first drive), they gave up multiple sacks and only had two really big passing plays (both on the last drive that ended in a missed TD call and a Kaepernick fumble into the end zone. 

See the conclusion, including strengths and weaknesses after the video. Enjoy!

Monday, December 15, 2014

9ers and Falcons and Bears, Oh My!

I've gone on a brief hiatus over the last few weeks as I am contemplating a re-vamping of my QB Corner series. Also, I know Kevin Love, Part 4, is still on my hard drive for the 1.5 of you that have managed to stay awake as I've cherry-picked through stats in Parts 1-3.

Today, I wanted to write in essay format about something more anecdotal. I've mellowed considerably as a sports fan over the last 18 months, and when my 49ers were eliminated from playoff contention in the most 'Hawks/9ers fashion ever this last Sunday, my usual disappointment was quickly replaced by a whimsical attitude - only one team will win the Super Bowl, and it clearly wasn't going to be San Francisco, so what's the harm in starting the off-season a little early.

I know other fans fret about championship windows missed, new coaches galore, and why our QB is broken (don't worry - my next QB Corner is on the 49ers former current starter), my mind took me to all sorts of places. I wondered if the defense and offense switched places, which would be more effective (I think defense - they could run the ball with a healthy Borland and I'm pretty sure the CBs have better hands than the WRs at this point). I also randomly started thinking of who the 49ers NFL doppelganger would be and immediately had this = thought pop into my head: the 49ers are basically the Falcons, just playing in the NFC West.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Kevin Love, Part 3: Does Love Make A Difference?

A Journey Through NBA Team Statistics

Problems with Statistics

We’re nearing the conclusion of a 4-part series on the Cavaliers’ new big man that started once it became clear he was leaving Minnesota. Parts 1 and 2 examined why he was left Minnesota and how he compares to other great players at his position. But stats like rebounds and assists and 3s tell only part of the story. That part of the story is rosy for Love – comps include historically great players like Kareem, Wilt, Worthy, Bird, and Garnett. Part 3 will look at if Love’s statistical output had an effect on his previous team. Part 4 will examine if that effect translates into winning games.

Comparing players with Basketball-Reference’s season finder tool present two immediate problems. First, it’s easy to cherry-pick an individual’s stats, coming up with a unique combination that only elite players have accumulated over a season. I’m not sure of this, but I suspect that we can take a merely above-average player, like say Deron Williams, and cherry pick a set of numbers that will place him in elite company. Oh look:

Monday, October 27, 2014

QB Corner: Ryan Tannehill vs. Jake Cutler (Week 7)

2014 has been kind to Ryan Tannehill. His Dolphins may sit only 3rd in a crowded AFC East, but at 4-3, the team is performing at a higher level than the Bills (beset by injuries) and already have a win over the 1st-place Patriots under their belt. I watched most of that Week 1 win and came away impressed with Miami's young signal caller. I noticed tangible improvement over my analysis from 2013, and was curious to see if that would continue.

My primary concerns from that previous piece were A) a high sack figure (9.0% of dropbacks), B) a highly conservative scheme that averaged only 6.7 yards/attempt (one of the lowest in his cohort), and C) a mediocre completion % for someone who ran such a conservative offense. He was inconsistent handling pressure and could get stuck on reads, which explained the sack issues. That also explained the low yards/attempt, as he missed numerous open receivers downfield.

I like to look at a QB's film against a good defense, one that can generate 4-man pressure as well as play different looks. Unfortunately, the Bears are not a good defense, beset by a litany of injuries and an inability to reload at linebacker. They're 14th in pass DVOA and 18th in run DVOA (per Football Outsiders). But the buzz about Tannehill after this game was too much to ignore. Most of the time, when you hear superlatives heaped upon a player, the truth is somewhere in-between, and I wanted to diagnose this case with my own eyes.

A second interesting thing about this game is the now well-known Bears locker room incident regarding the offense's poor showing. Chicago QB Jay Cutler was playing a tough Miami defense (4th in overall DVOA, 5th in passing, 9th in rushing), but Jay received a lot of criticism, especially for turnovers. I wanted to see what, if anything, Cutler could have done differently.

This film analysis won't be a fair comparison since I'm trying to objectively analyze Tannehill's game while seeing what went wrong with Cutler (introducing an element of bias). Still, I enjoyed comparing the two QBs in my Locker vs. Dalton piece, especially when taking game flow and situations into account. Let's start with Tannehill on the Dolphins' first possession:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Kevin Love, Part 2: Is Love Even Good?

If you missed Part 1, of my Kevin Love triple-header, click here to see why the Minnesota Timberwolves lost their franchise player to begin with.

An interesting thing happened in the weeks leading up to the Love trade. The trade became a culmination of peoples' opinions on love, a referendum of sorts. This makes sense - it was fans' way of inserting themselves into the trade, figuring out what Love is worth, and what assets they would demand (or give up, from various suitors' perspectives) for the All-Star. What I didn't expect was an outpouring of disdain mixed with disappointment, and maybe even hostility, from some Timberwolves fans. These fans, pointing to the zero times a Love team has made the playoffs, seemed to cast doubt on Love's stature as a franchise player, with some indicating the franchise might be better off without their star.

This reaction caught many other basketball writers off guard as well. This launched a whole series of articles either trying to gauge Love's value or coming to his defense (here, here, here). ESPN's David Thorpe even posted a cryptic article directed at supposed Kevin Love "haters."

I don't want to add mindlessly to a growing list of articles evaluating Love's skills, but wanted to provide some context using numbers. We hear all the time how Love is a fantastic rebounder, 3 point shooter, passer, etc., but how good is he really compared to his peers?