Grading Feltbot’s 2013-14 Western Conference Forecast

Before every season, I like to peruse the Vegas NBA win-total lines, with an eye towards picking up lost money in search of a home. Let’s see how I did this season, when I gave you this Western Conference forecast, Part One and Part Two:   

RANKINGS:

  1. Warriors
  2. Spurs
  3. Grizzlies
  4. Rockets
  5. Clippers
  6. Thunder
  7. Mavs
  8. TWolves
  9. Blazers

WAGERS:

I recommended these six bets to my readers. The result is highlighted.

Clippers under 57 wins. Actual wins: 57.

Grizzlies over 49 wins. 50.

Warriors over 49.5 wins. 51.

Nuggets under 47 wins. 36.

Pelicans under 40 wins. 34.

Trailblazers over 38.5 wins. 54.

ANALYSIS:

Obviously my pre-season rankings proved less than stellar, but in my defense, I did state before making them that I was basically flipping a coin among the top 6 teams, all of which I felt had a chance to come out on top. I did make some significant miscalculations, though, which I will cop to below.

As for the wagers, it looks like I performed a little better: 5-0, with one push. Bringing my record for the last two seasons to 10-1-1. (I went 5-1 last year.)

Warriors and Grizzlies: Both of these teams barely scraped over their Vegas lines. Did I get lucky? I don’t think so. Both of these teams suffered major injury problems. The Warriors, most obviously, to Iggy. And then late in the season, to David Lee and Bogut. The Grizzlies had it even worse, losing Marc Gasol for a significant period, and then Mike Conley and Tony Allen as well.

And both of these teams had coaches who disappointed. At least early in the season, in Joerger’s case. (The Grizzlies had one of the best records in the league in the second half.)

Bottom line, I think the pre-season Vegas lines had a significant cushion built into them. It was more likely for the Warriors and Grizzlies to crush these lines, than to fall short.

As for me giving the Warriors the number one ranking in the West, that was clearly an error. Not so much based on the strength of their roster, although the bench needed shoring up. But because of their coach. I completely over-estimated Mark Jackson.

Under Jackson’s leadership, the Warriors never found their true identity this season. Are they really a team that should seek to slow the pace and grind out low-scoring games with defense? A team that should lead the league in isos and post-ups on the offensive end?

Or could they have been something else? Something closer to the fluid Spurs?

Spurs: What can one say, but Wow? I had significant injury concerns coming into the season, which never materialized. Popovich has mastered the art of giving his starters rest when they need it. Which starts with assembling a talented bench roster, and ends with knowing how to use it.

Two things the Warriors need help with.

Thunder: I was right to be concerned with Westbrook. I was dead right on Jeremy Lamb, and the Thunder’s lack of depth at two guard. Dead right that defenses would be all over Kevin Durant.

None of it mattered, as Durant put up a season for the ages. One of the top 5 players of all time?

Serge Ibaka also stepped up his game, and became the secondary scoring outlet that the Thunder needed to survive Westbrook’s absence, as well as one of the great defensive centers in the game. Yes, I said center.

Clippers: I was right about the Clippers’ backcourt defense coming into the season. The Clips were the worst defensive team among the top Western Conference teams in the early going, and it looked for some time like I was going to win this bet.

Oddly enough, the injuries to Jamal Crawford and JJ Redick may have helped them. Matt Barnes had a huge season, and Danny Granger and Willie Green got plugged in, all good defenders. The Clippers went 32-10 from January to March.

But I was also wrong about quite a few things: Particularly the vast improvement in Blake Griffin’s and DeAndre Jordan’s games. Difficult to foresee, particularly in the case of Griffin’s outside shooting.

I was also apparently wrong about Chris Paul’s knee, although the extended rest he got from his shoulder injury may have helped that situation. But last I looked he wasn’t even wearing a sleeve. And I was wrong about how well the Clips could play without him. Darren Collison did a great job. As did Doc Rivers.

So was I lucky to push at 57 wins? Perhaps. But 57 wins is a big number, with not a lot of fat on the bone for over bettors.

In retrospect, I still like this bet even though I didn’t win it.

Rockets: Performed largely as predicted. Dwight Howard is now good but not great, clearly no longer the player he once was. The offense led by Harden is well-constructed and formidable. But they badly need a wing stopper.

Mavs: I picked them for the seventh seed, and they took the Grizzlies to overtime in the last game of the season in an effort to get it.

So there.

TWolves: Huge disappointment. Rubio hasn’t progressed at all offensively. Shved fell off the face of the planet. The frontline of Love and Pekovic is clearly mismatched — neither play defense. Add KMart to them, and you have a hopeless defensive team.

Blazers: I did a little better here. That preseason line was the worst of them all, an absolute gift to bettors.

Nuggets: Another absolute gift. Decimated roster. Running team, inexperienced triangle coach. Dissension, misery, losing.

I’ve seen this movie too many times to count.

Pelicans: The injuries to Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday certainly helped my under bet, but the Pelicans never had a winning month before they got injured. Tyreke Evans was a cancer, as predicted. He didn’t start playing until injuries forced him into the starting lineup, and put the ball in his hands. My continued doubts about Anthony Davis’ durability proved justified: 67 games this season, after 64 last. Eric Gordon, meh. Bench, barf.

Impossible to know for sure, but I think I got this one right.

Suns: Hello!

The Suns’ performance this season is a testament to the ability of a great coach with the perfect system to completely transform an NBA team.

Calling Mike D’Antoni.

27 Responses to Grading Feltbot’s 2013-14 Western Conference Forecast

  1. Thanks, Feltbot, and sorry I didn’t follow you advice.

    D’Antoni would be the perfect coach for the Warriors. He can coach on the fly and make quick decisions. He is committed to defense, but within the overall scheme of winning. He knows how to distill his system into advice his players can handle. And, what may be the most glaring weakness in the Warrior staff, he can bring out the talents of all the players.

    It’s impossible to make any kind of assessment of him since he left Phoenix. A team oriented, team movement coach got stuck with two of the worst ball hogs and ego cases on the planet in Melo and Kobe. What on earth were the Knicks and Laker FOs thinking? But remember: Linsanity took off under his plan, when Melo went down.

    From McCallum’s Seven Seconds:

    There was, however, a governing principle to D’Antoni’s offense: There are good shots, and there are better shots. It takes only one second to make an extra pass to a player who is more wide-open and better prepared to release his shot in rhythm.

    “I still think we can score 108, 109, or 110 points,” says D’Antoni. That is the way he thinks: When trouble hits, outscore the opposition. When all else fails, amp up the offense. When that fails, amp it up again

    He delights in cutting up every chestnut about the NBA. “I’ve heard you don’t lose the game in the first five minutes,” D’Antoni will say, “but if you get down six in the first five minutes, then you lose by five, didn’t you lose the game in the first five minutes? I’m from West Virginia but I took a little math.”

    Or: “Most coaches believe defenses are more vulnerable late in the shot clock, that you can get them out of position with a lot of passing. I don’t know why defenses wouldn’t be more vulnerable before they get set. That’s why we play fast.”

    Or: “People say that when you play fast you’ll be a high-turnover team. I think you’ll be a low-turnover team because you don’t throw as many passes.”

    This is how you beat the Clippers. Can those cameras tell us when the Warriors made the most turnovers?

    • “Can those cameras tell us when the Warriors made the most turnovers?”

      THAT is a very interesting question, rgg. Maybe our pal EvanZ has an answer.

      On the other hand, even if the likelihood of TOs is evenly distributed throughout the 24-sec clock, a slower pace will lead to more TOs. It provides more opportunity for them, so a greater total number must result.

      • Good analysis.
        That’s the same rationale I (seriously) use to justify going past stop signs on my bicycle. The less total time you are on the road, the less likely some idiot in a car is to hit you.

        • As a daily bike commuter, I actually kinda welcome the opportunity to discuss America’s legal system with hostile drivers. But my commute is in a fairly low-speed environment. I probably won’t die upon impact.

          Biking aside, you’re right. A core premise in software and database design is that any opportunity for errors does introduce some number of errors. It has to.

        • That’s a great rationale! I should use that as well, while I’m driving. Just ignore the laws of the road that apply to bicyclist and motorist equally, because I’m less likely to get in an accident if I don’t follow the rules of the road because I’ll be on the road a short time. There’s no whom we’ll run into with that logic.

          America’s legal system with hostile drivers and bicyclists is a subject that’s long overdue for a thorough review. I commuted for eight years on a motorcycle and I knew damn well I’d better be following the rules of the road if I wanted to live, let alone get home safely. Now, I witness bicyclists blowing through stop signs, street lights, chasing pedestrians off crosswalks and using sidewalks indiscriminately (which is illegal in most CA cities). The irony is this blatantly aggressive behavior from bicyclists is a drop in the bucket compared to the idiots in cars. Even so, taking the road by any means necessary on a bicycle is short sighted. When you blow through a stop sign and inevitably get into an accident, it will be your fault, no matter how inattentive the driver or pedestrian was. But…it’s your life, you’re welcome to your own rationale.

          • Thanks for politicizing a basketball discussion. That’s just swell.

            As a cyclist for 40 years, I can tell you this for a fact: only newbie morons take unnecessary risks on a bike. That includes pissing off drivers unnecessarily, by blowing through stop signs for example.

            I also ride a motorcycle. I face the same hostility and incompetence from drivers then. My rule: when in doubt, defer to the guy in the big steel box. And whenever some asshole decides to teach me a lesson with his fender, I take his picture, we have a chat, and I explain how happy he could make my lawyer. End of discussion.

          • this discussion reminded me of an episode of portlandia. i also love biking – today 4 in the morning got home after few beers riding through empty streets, also the safe way to avoid drunk youngins ‘asking for cigarettes’.
            my most extreme route was taking 60 km ride on the road that is very narrow and has lots of trucks on it (it is legal). aside from numerous horns, the air vacuum when they fly by you pulling you was just an amazing feeling.

          • A truck route at 4am? Yikes.

          • How about those bicyclists who ride on road with no bike line because bike lane is on the side of the road ? That is very dangerous, the bicyclists not only putting their life in danger but also can make motorists life hell.

          • @ Hat,

            I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I’ve noticed a lot more motorcyclist are riding with a GoPro Helmet Cam. I doubt anybody is trying to “teach them a lesson” with their fender when they can clearly see it’s all being recorded. It’s not going to be the politicians that address our traffic laws and behaviors, it’s going to be everyone putting cameras on their cars, helmets, etc. Only after we remove the pseudo anonymous nature of traffic, will we see real behavioral change.

            I’m sure that’s what Northern Lights and Decima are counting on…

    • Nigel Tufnel

      D’Antoni would be the perfect coach for the Warriors. He can coach on the fly and make quick decisions. He is committed to defense

      LOL, what? Are you serious?

  2. For some reason I’m flashing on this recurring image of Feltbot wearing bandaids on both of his thumbs. Bravo, Feltbotman! Neither rain nor snow nor exploding toilets…

  3. Re Haralabos tweet: Yes, fouling D Jordan is a good idea statistically. But MJax’s thing now is moral victories. Maybe he’s overcompensating for his shameful first season. Whatever. Don’t expect him to go with Hack-a-DAJ.

    Re Ratto tweet: Scal would be very helpful right now. Erman would be extremely helpful. Who cares? Certainly not Mark Jackson. He’s got other fish to fry.

    Re Ekpe tweet: Yeeaahh. Wherever Monta goes, he becomes THE MAN. He doesn’t steal that role from others, his coaches insist he take it. I would have expected Carlyle to put the ball in Dirk’s hands for that final shot, but Carlyle has played with Monta for a full season now, and he chose — Monta.

    • He did have a history of fouling big guys with FT woes like Dwight Howard. I think, DeAndre should be fouled and sent to line if clips are on a run to stop their rhythm, at the least.

      • Jackson’s first year. The Hack-a-Dwight game. A shameful display of a coach conceding defeat. And just one year earlier the Warriors with Biedrins beat that team.

        • Oh, that hacking was way out of line. This time, I hope he uses that option more judicially like for a certain period in 2nd quarter or to stop a Clippers run etc.. but not start and end the game with that strategy.

  4. Howard Roarkie the Yorkie

    Pretty sure we’re gonna be running, and taking the offensive, playing Lee at the 5 with some Curry PNR with Dray on the floor for open 3′s… we’re finally gonna be playing OFFENSE, right? Who here thinks we’ve got a shot? Have yet to hear anyone in the media come out and say the smallball Bogut-less Warriors could pull the upset…

    • I think we have a shot.

      As FB sez, the Ws coach is the limiting factor, but I think even Jackson has finally figured out that the Lee/Green front line works. If not, then losing the Clips series could rid us of the problem.

  5. I suspect we all have pregame jitters. During the 2006 playoffs, after a practice, D’Antoni showed the Pat Burke Hair Restoration video to lighten the mood:

  6. A note from the Hangtime Blog this evening. In the regular season games between GSW and the Clips, Griffin shot just 11-for-29 when defended by David Lee. That’s .379. Griffin is .528 for the year according to ESPN. DLee with the good D!

    82Games breaks down Griffin’s shooting by shot type, and even if you remove dunks, which Lee may not have “defended” in the open court, and would skew the sample, Griffin still averages .46 for the season. Please weigh in if my math or assumptions can be improved.

    Could a banged up Lee hold Griffin to below .4 for the series? Could Lee and Green do that for a series? If they can hold Griffin to .4, will they be allowed to run the pick and roll enough to win?

  7. Bill Simmons comments on the recent record-breaking sale of the Bucks:

    But you can’t rationally assess the “value” of anything when ego is involved. What’s the value of sitting courtside as everyone watches YOUR team? What’s the value of having an NBA superstar laughing at your jokes, treating you like you’re the president and pretending you’re his buddy? What’s the value of walking into a restaurant in Italy and telling the maître d’, “I’m the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, I’d like a table”? What’s the value of having a potential business partner say to you, “Hey, I heard you own the NBA team that has Durant and Westbrook”?

    http://grantland.com/features/the-worlds-most-exclusive-club/

    As I said before: Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

    • No one can assemble a $550M financial package based solely on ego.

      All NBA franchises have an assessed value far greater than anything it’s possible to spend on them today. Their tax breaks and other potential governmental gifts make them worth Billions, not merely Millions. If you’re interested, I’ll be happy to break it down for you.

      Bill Simmons is an entertainer, not a financial analyst or even a competent basketball analyst.

      • Bucks

        $550m

        Put those two terms together somehow and tell me it makes sense.

        • rgg, it makes sense in only one way: financially. Why that’s so has nothing to do with hardwood.

        • Increasing the sales tax on all purchases in Wisconsin to pay for the new owners area and practice facility $500 million — During an era of steep local and state budget cuts — priceless.

          • Raising the effective overall tax rate for the poor, reducing it for the wealthy. Typical Repug thing.