Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2012-13 NBA Win Over/Under Predictions

[Editor's note, Oct. 30, 2012: On season's eve, in the wake of the James Harden trade, we have rescinded our Houston under pick, and replaced it with an OKC under pick below, and also updated all Hollinger/Pelton projected win totals to their final numbers. More below.]

Hello, folks. We're back with one of our annual favorites here at The Painted Area, as we offer our predictions for picking NBA regular-season win over/unders.

For the record, we were 5-2 in O/U predictions in 2011-12 - with both losses by a painful mere half-game - and the 71% success rate lifted our lifetime winning percentage since we started The Painted Area to a robust 67.5%.

Here are our year-by-year records for the six years we've been publishing our picks:
For 2012-13, let's go straight to the data. What we've done below is:
    a) sorted each conference in order of the posted over/under line for season wins,
    b) provided predicted '12-13 wins from two of the smartest men in the business: ESPN's John Hollinger, and Basketball Prospectus' Kevin Pelton (from his essential book, Pro Basketball Prospectus 2011-12), and
    c) provided '11-12 wins, *pro-rated to a 82-game season for apples-to-apples comparison.
As always, these are for entertainment purposes only.
    (O/U Line  - JH/KP - '11-12*)
    MIA   61.5 - 64/58 - 57
    BOS   50.5 - 48/48 - 48
    IND   50.5 - 52/44 - 52
    CHI   47.5 - 43/47 - 62
    PHI   47   - 45/46 - 44
    BKN   46   - 46/45 - 27
    NYK   45.5 - 44/46 - 45
    ATL   43   - 45/49 - 50
    MIL   37.5 - 37/38 - 39
    TOR   33.5 - 33/41 - 29
    DET   32   - 27/31 - 31
    CLE   31.5 - 34/32 - 26
    WAS   28.5 - 38/27 - 25
    ORL   24.5 - 17/28 - 46
    CHA   18.5 - 16/21 -  9
    (O/U Line  - JH/KP - '11-12*)
    OKC   60.5 - 54/51 - 58
    LAL   58   - 53/54 - 51
    SAS   55.5 - 60/53 - 62
    DEN   51.5 - 59/55 - 47
    LAC   49.5 - 47/49 - 50
    MEM   49   - 50/45 - 51
    UTH   44   - 44/45 - 45
    DAL   41.5 - 42/41 - 45
    MIN   38.5 - 43/51 - 32
    GSW   36.5 - 40/29 - 29
    POR   33   - 27/31 - 35
    PHX   33   - 24/28 - 41
    SAC   31   - 31/32 - 27
    HOU   29   - 37/30 - 42
    NOH   26.5 - 30/36 - 26
Here are what we're calling the consensus picks from Hollinger/Pelton - teams which are at least four wins above or below the line in the same direction by both men's projections [Oct. 30 note: mass chaos here post-Harden trade, we're adjusting the threshold down from 4 wins to 3.5 wins to make it easier, with a couple new additions]:
    DEN Over 51.5
    MIN Over 38.5
    PHX Under 33
    LAL Under 58
    NOH Over 26.5
    OKC Under 59.5 (line was adjusted down from 60.5 post-trade)
Note that the H/P consensus picks were 5-0 last season (when we went three games +/- due to the shorter schedule). **********************
Hollinger/Pelton consensus forms the bedrock of our approach. From those scientific underpinnings, we add our own artistic license on top, often with coaching factors (which fall outside of player-projection systems) playing a role.
Here are our recommended picks for 2012-13:
  • DEN Over 51.5
  • MIN Over 38.5
  • PHX Under 33
  • TOR Over 33.5
  • ORL Under 24.5
  • PHI Under 47
  • HOU Under 29
  • OKC Under 59.5 (updated, post-trade line)
Here's our rationale on the team picks:
DENVER OVER 51.5 (38 last season/47 pro-rated)
Our three Over picks are all repeats from last season which were all winners for us. Andre Iguodala is a deserved All-Star and Olympian - he was our choice for Defensive Player of the Year last year - and we think that the trade which brought him to Denver in return for Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington is a big win for the Nuggets. He should provide a significant upgrade on D, while also fitting in with Denver's potent running, attacking offensive style.
We also love going Over on teams with lots of depth, to withstand the rigors of the long season, and the Nuggets go 10 deep with legit rotation players.

MINNESOTA OVER 38.5 (26 last season/32 pro-rated)
Feeling quite confident in this one despite the recent Kevin Love injury, on top of the Ricky Rubio torn ACL from last season. We thought this was a 50-win team before Love's injury, and don't think the superstar's absence of a month or so will affect Minny's W total too drastically.
We love how the Timberwolves upgraded from complete garbage (Wes Johnson, Webster, Ellington, Tolliver, Darko) to above-average (Budinger, Kirilenko, Alexei Shved, Greg Stiemsma, Roy) all over the place. This has quietly become an extremely deep team - we count 12-13 plausible NBA rotation players on the roster.

PHOENIX UNDER 33 (33 last season/41 pro-rated)
Steve Nash, Channing Frye, Grant Hill and Robin Lopez have been replaced by Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson. We like Dragic quite a bit, but this is Steve Nash we're talking about. We've loved Scola for years, but think he's in decline at 32. Too many spare parts, without Nash to hold it all together. We see a big dropoff this year.
After going Over on MIN and Under on PHX, is it fair to say we have a bias against Wes Johnson, who was 3rd in minutes for the T-wolves last year? You'd better believe it.

TORONTO OVER 33.5 (23 last season/29 pro-rated)
Toronto crushed its O/U line of 16.5 last season as new coach Dwane Casey (a Painted Area favorite) oversaw a major improvement on defense, and we're back for more. The Raptors added one of the more underrated players in the league in Kyle Lowry as well as promising rookie center Jonas Valanciunas, who should be productive though he may struggle with foul trouble. And don't forget that Toronto's improvement last season came even though its best offensive player, Andrea Bargnani, missed half the season due to injury.

ORLANDO UNDER 24.5 (37 last season/46 pro-rated)
It's always tough to go in the opposite direction of Pelton, who has the Magic pegged for 26 wins, not to mention going under such a low number. But consider that Pelton's SCHOENE projection system does not include any coaching factors. In our opinion, going from an elite head coach in Stan Van Gundy to a rookie in Jacque Vaughn should cost Orlando several games on top of the devastating losses of Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson, with little in return. This team could well be in the running for the most lottery combinations.

PHILADELPHIA UNDER 47 (35 last season/44 pro-rated)
Another gut call here, as both Pelton and Hollinger project Philly right around the 47 number. As much as we are Andrew Bynum proponents, we find it tough to believe that a team which turned Iguodala, Lou Williams, Elton Brand and Jodie Meeks into Bynum, Nick Young, Dorell Wright, Kwame Brown and Jason Richardson to have improved. Though it is worth noting that the Sixers drastically underperformed its +4.2 point differential, which suggested they were the equivalent of about a 55-win team (over an 82-game season), and they've also been the league's best team in the preseason, for what that's worth, at 6-1 with a +11 point differential without Bynum.
Still, we're going with the subjective call of banking on Bynum's knees not fully holding up and Doug Collins' message starting to wear off in year three.

[Oct. 30 update: The Rockets line was moved up to 31.5, and we think they'll be right around that number with James Harden in the fold. Hollinger now has Houston all the way up to 37 wins. Pass. We're subbing in the OKC under below.]

HOUSTON UNDER 29 (34 last season/42 pro-rated)
Seven out of Houston's nine most productive players last year are gone, and of the two left (Chandler Parsons, Kevin Martin), Martin seems like a decent bet to be jettisoned by the trade deadline. In their stead, the Rockets picked a few good vets (Jeremy Lin, Carlos Delfino, Omer Asik), and of course, still have an army of unproven youngsters picked in the mid-first round. After Houston has missed out on landing a cornerstone big men, we're banking on them playing to max out their lottery combinations from here.

OKLAHOMA CITY UNDER 59.5 (47 last season/58 pro-rated)
The lines have barely moved for OKC in the wake of the Harden trade (from 60.5 to 59.5 in this case), which is surprising to us as we think this is a significant blow, which should knock them back from about 60 wins to about 55. We predict the Under without hesitation here.

OK, there you have it. Two teams we couldn't quite pull the trigger on were Miami Under 61.5 and the Lakers Under 58. The Heat, remember, have won "just" 58 and (pro-rated) 57 in the past two years, and are still very thin beyond the Big 3. But the Eastern Conference looks so weakened on top, with steep drops expected by both Chicago and Orlando, that it just makes us too nervous.

Similarly, the Lakers seem built for the playoffs rather than the regular season, with their thin bench and reliance on several 30+ players. We expect L.A. to go Under such a high number, but this team is just such an unknown, and Dwight is really the x-factor to us. If he is engaged and healthy and can quickly regain his form as the league's second-best player, there's no reason this team can't be a juggernaut in the winter as well as the spring. Pass.

Nonetheless, we think both of these teams are optimized for the postseason, and - following the Harden trade - they are our picks to meet in the 2013 NBA Finals. Our original thought was Oklahoma City over Miami, but the trade changed all that. What looked like a Western Conference dynasty now has some serious work to do to get back to June basketball.

We're predicting the Miami Heat to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers to repeat as champions in 2012-13, with the Celtics and the Thunder as the two other teams in the pro final four.

Alright, hoopheads, there you have it. The League is back, rejoice.