Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Off the Index: 2011 Western Conference Finals Pick

NBA Finals Preview

Time to make my picks for the Wages of Wins Network's playoff contest. The Miami Heat Index is currently in third place of that competition.

My Eastern Conference Finals pick was posted HERE. Now, it's time to make my pick for the Western Conference Finals series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks.

This article will use Win Score and Estimated Wins Produced, statistical models created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's box score statistics contributed to their team's efficiency differential and wins. An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (Est.WP48), a star player produces +0.200 Est.WP48 and a superstar produces +0.300 Est.WP48. More information on these stats can be found at the following links:

Simple Models of Player Performance
Wins Produced vs. Win Score
What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say
Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Western Conference Finals Notes:
I'm going to look at the Western Conference Finals the same way I looked at the Eastern Conference Finals — by the matchups at each position. Here's the spreadsheet.

  • The Mavs project to win the matchups at three of the five positions with their biggest advantage coming at center. The Mavs ranked 5th in center production based on Win Score while Thunder centers rank 24th. Those numbers are based on all games played to date and may be distorted by more games from Nenad Krstic than Kendrick Perkins, but Thunder centers have posted a slightly lower Win Score after the all-star break. The Win Scores for each team, by position, are listed in this spreadsheet.
  • NBA writers and analysts have all claimed that Tyson Chandler has changed the Mavs defense but the team only ranked 20th in Opponent's Win Score at the center position. Perkins hasn't had a defensive impact on opposing centers in Oklahoma City, either. The Thunder ranked 23rd in opposing center's Win Score for the season and 28th after the all-star break. This spreadsheet lists the Opponent Win Scores for each team, by position.
  • The next two big matchup advantages in this series go to the Thunder at SG and SF. Thabo Sefolosha (0.181 WP48) and James Harden (0.159 WP48) form a dynamic duo at SG and combined to produce 14.9 wins for the Thunder this season. The Mavs, meanwhile, rely on DeShawn Stevenson (0.008 WP48) and Jason Terry (0.043 WP48) at that position. Yes, it's a mismatch.
  • The Thunder have Kevin Durant (0.217 WP48) at SF and rank 1st in the NBA at limiting the opponent's production at that position. 'Nuff said.
  • Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs project to win the PF matchup and that probably comes as a surprise to no one.
  • I think the pivotal matchup in the series will be at PG. Mavs  PGs post the 3rd highest Win Score in the NBA while the Thunder rank 7th. The Mavs rank 5th in limiting their opponent's PG production and the Thunder only rank 12th. The Mavs project to win that matchup. But... 
  • Jason Kidd is 38 years-old with slow feet and little lift off the ground. Russell Westbrook is 22 years-old with a long and fast first step plus HOPS. I think Kidd will have a hard time defending Westbrook and if that's the case it could turn the series. This spreadsheet lists their head-to-head performances.

  • Kidd (12.8 WS48) has outplayed Westbrook (5.9 WS48) head-to-head in their careers. That's a pretty big gap, but even if the Mavs win the PG matchup by the projected margin these teams look to be dead even.
  • The Mavs project to 0.501 wins produced per 48 minutes and the Thunder project to 0.499 wins produced per 48 minutes.
  • Home-court advantage makes Mavs in 7 the most likely outcome.

Since Westbrook was the Finals MVP on my championship fantasy team, I'm going to bet that he'll play better than expected in his matchup with Kidd (since he has all the physical advantages) and pick the Thunder to beat the Mavs in 6 games.

Aside from an entertaining matchup with the Heat in the NBA Finals, another benefit of picking the Thunder is that if I'm right, I should be able to take the lead in the WoW Network picks contest since I expect most of the bloggers that already picked the Bulls to beat the heat to also pick the Mavs. A few have already done that:
Only time will tell if I know what I'm doing...

All original position data was taken from hoopsstats.com.

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