Monday, October 19, 2009

2009-10 NBA Win Over/Under Predictions

OK folks, it's time for the annual October favorite here at The Painted Area, as we offer our predictions for picking NBA regular-season win over/unders.

2008-09 was a good season for us in terms of O/U predictions - we were 5-2, and strangely, almost every prediction, win or lose, was decided well before the end of season.

Usually these things are within a few games of the line, but each of our picks was right or wrong by at least 10 games, other than Knicks over 31.5, which went down to the final game of the season in a win over the Nets which was memorable only to those of us who made that pick.

For the record, here is our overall record for the three years we've been publishing our picks:
    Season  TPA  
    06-07 6-1
    07-08 3-4
    08-09 5-2
    Total 14-7
First, let's go straight to the data. What we've done below is:As always, these are for entertainment purposes only.
    (O/U Line - JH/KP/KD - '08-09)
    CLE 61.5 - 63/59/65 - 66
    ORL 57.5 - 62/58/64 - 59
    BOS 56.5 - 54/50/56 - 62
    ATL 44.5 - 44/39/43 - 47
    DET 41.5 - 39/33/40 - 39
    TOR 41.5 - 35/32/40 - 33
    WAS 41.5 - 41/35/43 - 19
    PHI 40.5 - 42/41/43 - 41
    CHI 40.5 - 38/34/41 - 41
    MIA 40.5 - 40/36/42 - 43
    CHA 37.5 - 29/33/19 - 35
    IND 34.5 - 31/27/33 - 36
    NYK 31.5 - 26/36/30 - 32
    NJN 28.5 - 24/28/24 - 34
    MIL 25.5 - 25/34/35 - 34

    (O/U Line - JH/KP/KD - '08-09)
    LAL 62.5 - 65/54/64 - 65
    SAS 54.5 - 53/52/57 - 54
    POR 52.5 - 55/51/55 - 54
    DEN 52.5 - 52/50/51 - 54
    UTH 49.5 - 50/49/49 - 48
    DAL 48.5 - 47/49/52 - 50
    NOH 46.5 - 51/52/50 - 49
    PHX 41.5 - 40/41/39 - 46
    HOU 35.5 - 37/37/37 - 53
    OKC 35.5 - 36/33/29 - 23
    GSW 35.5 - 35/41/25 - 29
    LAC 34.5 - 34/41/33 - 19
    MEM 27.5 - 27/45/27 - 24
    MIN 25.5 - 33/32/31 - 24
    SAC 24.5 - 22/21/12 - 17

Amazing that six teams in the East are all set at either 40.5 or 41.5, but it seems fair. If you have a handle on tabbing 5-10 in the East this season, you're a better person than I. Needless to say, we're not touching any of those teams.


OK, without further ado, here are our favorites for 2009-10:
  • MIN Over 25.5
  • MIL Over 25.5
  • ORL Over 57.5
  • POR Over 52.5
  • GSW Under 35.5
Here's our rationale on the team picks:
MIN OVER 25.5 (24 last season)
At first blush, we loved this line for Minnesota, and the numbers analysis from both Hollinger and Pelton backed up our gut. We've tempered our feelings slightly both because of reports that Al Jefferson still has a way to go to get to 100%, and because of the broken hand recently suffered by Kevin Love.

We're sticking with this pick, though, because the beauty of it is that the bar is *so* low - just 26 wins, and just a 2-game improvement for a team that lost Jefferson for 32 games, and played pretty well when they were all together for Kevin McHale in the middle of the season, including a 12-4 stretch around the New Year.

Yes, they lost a couple good vets in Randy Foye and Mike Miller, but we love the value of the Ramon Sessions signing, especially considering what they had at the point last year, and we like Jonny Flynn's promise, even though it's unclear if he can play alongside Sessions.

Believe us, there's plenty that concerns us about this team in general - frontcourt defense and depth, production on the wings, how Sessions and Flynn play together - but again, that bar is so, so low.

We think that Minny's line is artificially low because of last season's injuries (in our opinion, they were closer to a 34-win team in terms of talent than 24), and because they received so much bad press in the summer due to the Ricky Rubio saga, which shouldn't really affect the 2009-10 edition of this team in any way, especially after they signed Sessions.

MIL OVER 25.5 (34 last season)
Do we think that Milwaukee got worse in terms of talent over the offseason? No question. They lost their three leading scorers (total points) - Ramon Sessions, Richard Jefferson, and Charlie Villanueva - without picking up any marquee names. Why do we like them?

1. '08-09 injuries. Again, we don't think that, in terms of talent, we're starting with a 34-win team from last season. Remember that Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut missed 95 games combined, and we believe this was closer to a .500 team talent-wise last year. That's the way they played for the first half of the season.

2. Underrated acquisitions. The Bucks didn't get any stars, and again, they lost talent overall, but we like the value in underrated pickups like Hakim Warrick, Carlos Delfino and Ersan Ilyasova, who developed nicely in Barcelona the last couple years. We really stuck our neck out in praise of Brandon Jennings in June. We can't say we think he's going to be a star right away as a rookie PG, but we do think he's going to be better than expected, and that he's going to improve as the year goes on. With this group of unheralded players, we think that Milwaukee lost less actual production and defense than it might seem.

3. Coach. We think that Scott Skiles, while he still has his team's ear, is one of the very best coaches in the league. He improved Milwaukee's defensive efficiency from 30th out of 30 in 2007-08 to 15th in his first season last year - a huge improvement. We think he'll have this team prepared, defending and competing every night, and again, that bar of 25.5 is just so low that we think Skiles will get the Bucks there.

ORL OVER 57.5 (59 last season)
We always need to take a deep breath before going over a number so high, but we really strongly believe that the Magic are an improved team over last season. We also believe that Orlando is on par with the Lakers and Cleveland as one of the three best teams in the league, and think that their line should be at the same level (LAL's is 62.5, CLE's is 61.5).

We think the Orlando line is relatively/comparatively low because so many people think that the Magic got worse in essentially exchanging Hedo Turkoglu for Vince Carter, which we think is preposterous. Vince is clearly the better player.

We love this team to pile up regular-season wins because they have so much depth - they can withstand injuries as well as play big or small as needed. We also think that Stan Van Gundy is one of the best coaches in the league. We thought he deserved Coach of the Year honors for turning last year's unit into the most efficient defensive team in the league. We see a 60+-win team here.

POR OVER 52.5 (54 last season)
Last season, we took Portland over 44.5 after winning 41 in 2007-08, even though Hollinger projected them for just 42. We just felt like this team wasn't going to end up getting worse, and we make this pick on a similar rationale this season.

52.5 is a high number, but the Blazers won 54 last season as the second-youngest team in the league. Further, Hollinger pointed out in his team forecast that - in terms of point differential plus the bad luck that Portland opponents shot .803 from the foul line, the highest opp. FT% in the 39 years the stat has been tracked - the Blazers actually performed like a 61-win team statistically.

We have concerns about how Andre Miller will fit, but we just can't imagine a team so young getting worse. We love team depth, which Portland certainly has, in making these regular-season predictions. On top of that, we see Greg Oden making good strides this season. We just can't imagine them not holding steady with last year's win total, at the least.

GSW UNDER 35.5 (29 last season)
This one's coming straight from the gut, as the data works against us - Golden State suffered a lot of injuries last season, they have arguably the deepest collection of under-25 talent in the league, and the Hollinger/Pelton projections average out to 38 wins.

But we think that Nellie has lost it for good, and we're predicting that it all implodes this season. We believe that this team will perform far under its talent level, though we're betting there will be entertainment value in it, as Nellie might trot out an Ellis-Curry-Morrow-Azubuike-Maggette lineup or something. The Stephen Jackson situation doesn't seem like it can possibly end well, they've already lost a promising young player (Brandan Wright) to a multi-month injury, and we're betting there will be one or two talent-depleting trades along the way.

It's a tough pick, because we think this team has more than 35-win talent on paper, for sure, but we're sticking to it. We also think that last year's crappy teams at the bottom of the West will all be better, so wins against the bottom-feeders will be harder to come by.

Here are the teams which are at least five games over or under the line in John Hollinger's projections:

TOR - Under 41.5 (35)
CHA - Under 37.5 (29)
NYK - Under 31.5 (26)
MIN - Over 25.5 (33)

Here are the five teams which are the most games over or under the line based on Kevin Pelton's SCHOENE projections in Pro Basketball Prospectus 2009-10:

TOR - Under 41.5 (32)
DET - Under 41.5 (33)
MIL - Over 25.5 (34)
MEM - Over 27 (45)
LAL - Under 62.5 (54)

Going under on the Raptors is where the statistical projections from these two esteemed gentlemen seem most in concert. However, in his Raptors preview, Hollinger notes that, "[A]lmost nothing they do this year would surprise me.... if they win 50 games, it won't be shocking, and if they win only 25, that won't raise eyebrows, either." We tend to agree, so we're giving them the "Stay Away" tag.

Other teams for which Hollinger/Pelton are most in agreement are over on the Timberwolves, over on the Hornets and under on the Bobcats.

Here are the teams which are at least five games over or under the line in Kelly Dwyer's projections:
MIN - Over 25.5 (31)
MIL - Over 25.5 (35)
CHA - Under 37.5 (19)
ORL - Over 57.5 (64)
OKC - Under 35.5 (29)
GSW - Under 35.5 (25)
SAC - Under 24.5 (12)

Last year, Hollinger's teams to watch ended up 3-2, while Dwyer's were 4-4 (Pelton's were not tracked).

One random note: seems to us that the Rockets are one of the toughest teams to predict this season, so we were amused to see that Hollinger, Pelton and Dwyer all tabbed Houston for exactly 37 wins!

Something we're keeping an eye on again is the research by Roland Beech of which showed that preseason records may have predictive value for regular-season records.

Specifically, Beech found that teams which win less than 30 games one season and then have a winning record the following preseason tend to see substantial improvement.

So far this is based on a small sample size, so these are fairly rough generalizations. The team which best satisfied the criteria last season, Minnesota, was a bust, improving by just 2 wins. Of course, as noted above, the T-wolves struggled after Al Jefferson went down with a torn ACL, which likely prevented them from having something closer to a 10-win improvement.

In the 2009-10 preseason, the only team which fit the qualification was the L.A. Clippers, who went 6-2. However, big improvements are expected by many for LAC, so it doesn't help much from an O/U perspective, as those expectations are reflected in the lines (and the late news that Blake Griffin will miss six weeks clouds the picture further).

We'll check back after the season to see how everyone did. Finally: Remember, this is not a competition, it is only an exhibition - please, no wagering.


At 12:49 PM, Blogger Stephe said...

I think the reason why most people have Orlando rated lower than you is that many people think that one of the main reasons for Orlando's success last year was that they had a unique system and talent uniquely geared for that system. Not only is Carter's skill set is a worse match for that system but also a skill set that depends to a large degree on athleticism, which clearly decline w age.

At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Lu Galasso said...

25.5 for Milwaukee? That's absolutely insane. Skiles's bunch plays hard and they have a healthy Redd and Bogut now. Jump on this one.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger Robbie Safford said...

What you're missing is that Vince Carter will only be asked to hit open shots and occasionally create scoring opportunities from the pick and roll. Turkoglu was a horrible shooter last year, so we know that Carter can best him there. Carter also has a better pure point rating and is a better ball handler so they don't lose anything there. Your comment about athleticism doesn't really hold true since Vince isn't being asked to be a human highlight reel. No one has ever accuse Turk of being even slightly athletic. Turkoglu's only advantage was height, and as long as Matt Barnes can defend as well as the highly overrated Courtney Lee, the Magic's "system" is definitely better than it was last season.

At 8:05 AM, Anonymous khandor said...

FYI ...

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At 8:08 AM, Anonymous khandor said...

Sorry for the double post ... but, it seems as though the address for the original link did not get transcribed properly the first time around.

At 10:44 AM, Blogger Eric B said...

Last year's post inspired me to figure this out for myself. I finished 10-4 on things I was fairly certain of (although just 14-16 overall). That's about the same as Hollinger and Dwyer who I think are the two of the best out there, but (to my surprise) Bill Simmons was 21-9, so pay attention for his predictions as they come out. Thanks for posting this.

I like Cleveland, Minnesota and New Orleans on the over and Charlotte, Detroit and Toronto on the under so far.

At 12:08 PM, Blogger M. Haubs said...

Very cool, Eric B. I like your choices - I was (and still am) strongly considering NO over, and CHA/DET under.

Simmons was 5-2 on recommended picks last year. In the three years he's published recommended picks, he's been 13-10.

So many of these come down to 1 or 2 games that it really can be a little random. We almost lost the Knicks over last year b/c Al Harrington got idiotic late technicals in BOTH games vs. the Clippers.

At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Crow said...

I'd take under for Detroit, Charlotte, OKC and GSW.

At 1:40 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Portland under; Utah over.

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Where did you find the over/under lines?

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