I'm a title. Click here to edit me.
Which NBA Teams Improved The Most This Offseason
With the NBA Draft completed and Free Agency winding down, the NBA landscape has changed immensely. In the first month of the offseason, stars were traded, 2 billion dollars were spent, and teams have improved, but which have improved the most? Chicago Bulls Additions: G Lonzo Ball, G Alex Caruso, G Ayo Dosunmu, G/F DeMar Derozan, F/C Marko Simonović, C Tony Bradley Analysis: The Bulls started Free Agency with two splashy signings in former All-Star DeMar Derozan and Lonzo Ball, who will both slide directly into the starting lineup. They followed up quickly two underrated depth pickups in Caruso and Tony Bradley. The Bulls already had two score-first All-Stars in Zach Lavine and Nikola Vucević; adding Derozan and Ball will improve their passing which has been a glaring deficit in years prior. Derozan had a 31% Assist Percentage (Percentage of teammates shots the player assisted on,) ranking in the 100th percentile. Lonzo ranked in the 77th percentile in Assist Percentage despite the lack of spacing on the Pelicans this year. Last season the Bulls had an Offensive Rating of 111.1, ranking 19th in the NBA and scoring 110.7 points per game, ranking 21st in the League. The Pelicans had an Offensive Rating of 115.1 with Lonzo and 111.8 without him, netting in a 3.3 difference with Lonzo on the court. They also averaged 4.8 more points per game with him. The Spurs Offensive rating was 5.3 points higher and averaged 7.9 more points with Derozan playing. The Bulls' starting five projects: PG Lonzo Ball, SG Zach Lavine, F DeMar Derozan, F Patrick Williams, C Nikola Vucević. Lonzo Ball will move back to his more natural position at the Point, while Patrick Williams and Derozan will spend time at both Forwards spots. With Lonzo at the Point, the Pelicans outscored opponents by 8.7 points per 100 possessions, which ranked in the 94th percentile for all Point Guards. The constant knock on Derozan is his poor perimeter shooting leads to a lack of spacing at times. The Bulls' lineup outside Derozan shot a combined 39.67% from 3 last year on over 24 attempts per game. Alex Caruso is a combo guard known for being an elite defender, ranking in the 97th percentile in points per possession and turnover percentage. He will be running the bench unit alongside combo guard Coby White, a natural scorer, making them an excellent fit. During the 2020 Lakers Championship run, they fared 6.6 points better with Caruso on the court. This past season, they were 5.2 points better with him on the court. In terms of WORP (wins over replacement player), this Free Agency the Bulls added the most with 7.6. After not making the playoffs last year, the Bulls have put themselves in contention to make a run in the Post-Season. Miami Heat Additions: G Kyle Lowry, F PJ Tucker, F Markieff Morris Analysis: The Miami Heat came into the off-season seeking a player who can get them back in the championship hunt. Shortly after the start of Free Agency, the Heat bagged point guard extraordinaire, former NBA champion, and perennial All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry might be the missing piece they need to contend for a championship. After ranking in the top 90th percentile in Point Differential and Point per Possession in 5 of the last 6 years, Lowry had a down year in 2021. When analyzing his On Court/Off Court splits, Lowry still had a positive impact on winning. Offensively, the Raptors were 3 points better with Lowry on the court, despite the dip in his defensive numbers. The main reason for his regression could be that the Raptors were in a rebuilding phase, and his surrounding cast was less experienced. The Heat also signed PJ Tucker from the Bucks, who will add veteran leadership and hard-nosed defense. Last year, when Tucker played the Power Forward spot for the Bucks, they outscored teams by 10 points per 100 possessions. The Heats' starting five should consist of: Kyle Lowry, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, PJ Tucker, and Bam Adebayo. The lack of perimeter shooting in this lineup is not as great a concern as one might think. Notably, they re-signed Duncan Robinson, one of the league's most lethal shooters. The Heat often set off-ball screens and constantly have Duncan running around the perimeter. The gravity he attracts and the defenders he drags deep outside should help open the floor for everyone else. The addition of Lowry also adds valuable shooting depth. He shot nearly 40% last year on over seven attempts from 3. The Heat ranked second to last in Pace last season. Lowry, who consistently ranks in the low 20's in Pace should help speed up the Heat’s offense but still can play Miami's desired pace. The two starters the Heat are replacing had a combined BPM (Box Plus-Minus) of -1.5, a VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) of 0.9, and a total of 4.8 Win Shares. While Lowry alone has a BPM of 1.2, which was his lowest since 2010, with the pieces around him, he is likely to return to his historically high BPM. He also had a VORP of 1.3, which like last season’s BPM was his lowest since his 2010 season. If Lowry returns to his form, the Heat are in a great position to improve this upcoming year. Los Angeles Lakers Additions: G Russell Westbrook, G Kendrick Nunn, G Malik Monk, G/F Wayne Ellington, G/F Kent Bazemore, F Carmelo Anthony, F Trevor Ariza, C Dwight Howard Analysis: After LeBron's first-ever exit in the first round of the playoffs, the Lakers made some major roster moves. A few days before the draft, arguably the biggest move of the offseason happened with LA parting ways with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and draft compensation in a trade for former MVP Russell Westbrook. After acquiring Westbrook and opting to give Talen Horton-Tucker a qualifying offer, the Lakers were over the cap and decided to let Caruso walk. The rest of their additions, therefore, had to be either veteran minimums or a mid-level exception. The Lakers project a starting lineup of Russell Westbrook, Wayne Ellington, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Marc Gasol, although, I would opt to play Nunn, Monk, Ariza, or Melo over Gasol which adds shooting and defensive versatility with Davis sliding to the Center spot. As valuable as the Westbrook signing may be, the secret to the Lakers' success next season might be the bench players they added while working with spare financial resources. They added a mix of two-way players and some young shooters and scorers for the unit. Westbrook, when correctly utilized, can be one of the most effective players in the league. In his MVP year, he took nearly 30% of his shots from the restricted zone and had one of the highest VORP, Win-Share, and BPM's that year. This year, he shot only 19% of his field goals in that area which rendered him ineffective; therefore, many of his advanced statistics and efficiencies fell this year. The key for the Lakers will be perimeter shooting. The number of three-point attempts from Russell Westbrook negatively correlates to the number of wins. The Lakers will need Lebron and AD to be more consistent with their 3-point shot for their starting five to excel. The bench unit is stacked with capable shooters; Malik Monk, Carmelo, and Kent Bazemore shot over 40% last year, while Nunn shot it at a 38% clip. Mixing some of the bench players with the stars should work seamlessly and allow the Lakers to find the optimal lineup. This team that ranked 22nd in scoring and 24th in Offensive Rating should be looking forward to a marked improvement in this area this coming season. New York Knicks Additions: G Kemba Walker, G Evan Fournier, G Quentin Grimes, G Miles McBride, F Jericho Sims Analysis: The Knicks had a slow start in the offseason after missing out on CP3 and Lowry. They also made some puzzling trades of draft picks on draft night. On the heels of disappointment, however, they "stole" the Celtics backcourt. Last year, the Knicks ranked last in Pace and bottom 7 for points per game and offensive rating. Despite that, the Knicks were the 4th seed in the East. The addition of proven scorers Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker should address the Knicks’ shooting needs, an area where the Knicks were woefully ineffective last season. The Knicks starting lineup projects: Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson. The Knicks replaced Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton with Walker and Fournier and now have four starters who average 15+ points per game and can all create their shots. Last season, Reggie Bullock shot 32% of his 3's from the corner, and over 97% of his made 3's off an assist. In contrast, Fournier, who will be the Knicks' best shooter, should get getting similar looks and score with higher efficiency. Last year, he shot an elite 57% from the corner; he also created his shot more often than Bullock, getting assisted around 7% less from 3-point range. Bullock was only a threat from 3, with over 70% of his field-goal attempts coming from there. Fournier's scoring comes from more spots on the court, making him more difficult to guard, and he will create great spacing for his teammates. Last year, he was in the positives in On-Court/Off Court for Boston and Orlando, showing that he can be valuable for non-playoff and playoff teams. The real surprise came when Walker was bought out of his massive contract and signed with the Knicks for 2 years 17.9 million. He gives the Knicks a presence they did not have last year. Walker can flat-out score, putting up 50+ points twice in his career. Last year Walker battled through injuries, and Boston was still 3.5 points better with him on the court. In 2 of the past five seasons, Kemba ranked above the 94th percentile in the On/Off Court point differential. In those seasons he was one of the primary scorers and playmakers. His style of play should draw defenses and create more open shots for his teammates, as Payton was unable to do. Last season Randle struggled with initiating offense for himself and others. With Kemba leading the offense, Randle should get more open looks and focus more on his game rather than orchestrating the offense. Defensively, the Knicks will again be a top 5 team under the coaching of Tom Thibodeau, a known defensive guru. If the Knicks two new starters can replicate their play from previous years, the Knicks should achieve even greater success this coming season. Sources: Basketball-Reference, ESPN, CleaningTheGlass, StatHead, RealGM, StatsMuse
The Ride to the Finals
The NBA Finals is set to tip-off Tuesday with the Western Conference Champions, the Phoenix Suns slated against the Eastern Conference Champions Milwaukee Bucks. I am going to analyze how both teams got to the playoffs, and then from there how they reached the Championship. Lastly, I will preview and analyze the key factors in the series and give a prediction about who will win. How They Got to the Playoffs The Phoenix Suns playoff run started way before the regular season was underway, a playoff push began at the start of last season. The Suns are historically known as a lackluster franchise that has not had playoff or regular-season success. At the beginning of last season, it looked as if the Suns were ready to compete for a playoff spot when they started the season hot, spearheaded by the elite play of their young stars Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Unfortunately for the Suns, Ayton received a 25 game suspension and missed an additional ten games due to injuries. The Suns won just 14 of those 35 games. The Suns went 28-18 (8-0 in the bubble) with Ayton in the lineup but narrowly missed out on making the playoffs. The Suns built a team ready to compete for a championship in the offseason. They made a big splash by trading a few of their core players to the Thunder and received Superstar Point Guard Chris Paul in exchange. Later in the offseason, they picked up Jae Crowder via free agency. The Suns entered the year with the 8th best odds in the West to win the championship at +4000. Vegas set their win total at 38.5 games. The Suns finished the regular season 2nd in the West with a record of 51-21, sporting a starting lineup of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, and Deandre Ayton for over 50% of the regular season, with consistent bench minutes for rotational players: Cam Johnson, Cam Payne, Dario Saric, Frank Kaminsky, Torrey Craig, Jevon Carter, and Langston Galloway. The Suns were led by a strong balance of offense and defense, ranking both number 7 in points allowed and scored. Despite having a top 10 offense, they had a pace of 97.2, which ranked 26th in the NBA in possessions per game. The way they were able to overcome this was by being efficient on offense. The Suns were 2nd in the NBA in field goal percentage, 2 point percentage, and free throw percentage, 3rd in assists, 4th in turnovers, and 7th in 3 point shooting percentage. They also produced 2 NBA All-Stars in Chris Paul and Devin Booker. Defensively, the slow pace allowed them to have both a top 10 defense in terms of points per game and defensive rating. They were 1st in blocks, 5th in steals and 3 point percentage allowed, and top 10 in offensive, defensive, and total rebounding. For The Milwaukee Bucks, on the other hand, playoffs were a given. The Bucks have made the playoffs 5 out of the last 6 seasons, including the past four. In the offseason last summer after losing in the second round, they acquired former All-Star Point Guard Jrue Holiday in hopes of competing for a championship. The Bucks entered the year with the 2nd best odds in the NBA and the best odds in the East to win the title at +550. They also had the best-expected record at 50-22. The season started somewhat rocky for the Bucks, this made them add one final piece to their roster near mid-season. That piece was defensive-minded veteran P.J Tucker, who also happens to be a great leader. The Bucks finished the regular season 3rd in the East with 46 wins and 26 losses. The Bucks were an offensive powerhouse in the regular season, averaging 120.1 points per game, which was good enough for first in the NBA. They powered this offense by having the 2nd fastest pace in the NBA at 102.2 possessions per game. The Bucks were first in Field Goal Attempts, makes and defensive rebounding, top 3 in both field goal percentage and total rebounding, and top 5 in 3 point makes and percentage and 2 point percentage. Defensively, the Bucks were not impressive at first glance ranking 22nd in points allowed. However, a lot of the defensive woes can be blamed on the fast pace, as they are ranked 10th in the defensive rating, which takes into account pace. The defense allows the fewest FTA in the league, the 2nd lowest 2 point percentage allowed, and the 5th lowest field goal percentage. Their Achilles heel defensively is the 3 point shot, they allowed the most made threes a game at the second-highest percentage. They had a starting lineup of Jrue Holiday, Donte Divincenzo, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez. The Bucks bench players in the rotation were Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis, Bryn Forbes, D.J Augustin, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, PJ Tucker, and Jeff Teague. How They Got to the Finals The Phoenix Suns were tasked with playing the defending Champions Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. Despite boasting the 2nd best record in the NBA, the Suns had the 7th best odds to win the championship before the playoffs started. Before game 1, the Suns were the underdogs in the series versus the Lakers. The Suns came in as +140, while the Lakers came in as minor favorites at -180. The Suns shocked many when they went on to win game 1, spearheaded by a disruptive defensive game. The issue was that their star point guard Chris Paul was injured in the win. They lost the next two games to the Lakers, and many people were ready to count the Suns out. Throughout game 4 Chris Paul started to look like himself again, and unfortunately for the Lakers, Anthony Davis was injured in game 4. The Suns took that game to tie the series 2-2 and then won the following 2 games as Davis only played in one half in one of the games. The Suns won this series with a ferocious defense allowing under 101 points from game 3 and on. In the second round, the Suns started the series off as -220 favorites vs. the reigning MVP, Nikola Jokic, and the Denver Nuggets. The Suns took care of business against the Nuggets sweeping them in 4 games. The Suns averaged 121.5 points per game, shooting over 50% in 3/4 games in this series. They hit 18 3s in 1 of the games and shot 42.5% from 3 the whole series. The Suns advanced to the Western Conference Finals, set to face the Los Angeles Clippers, who were without 2-time Finals Champion Kawhi Leonard. The Suns had their issues as well, Chris Paul a couple of days before game 1 was announced out indefinitely due to the Covid guidelines. The Suns chose to start Cam Payne in place of Paul; in the 2 games Payne started, he averaged 20 points and 9 assists per game, taking a commanding 2-0 lead with the return of Paul imminent. The Clippers down 2-0 switched their lineup, this forced the Suns to drop 2/3 games in bringing the series to 3-2 Suns. Led by a classic performance from Chris Paul with 41 points and 8 assists in game 6, the Suns were heading to the NBA Finals. The Suns' playoff run was very similar to their regular-season run. They played with a pace of 94.7, which was only slightly down from the regular season. This allowed them to increase their margin of victory from 5.8 points in the regular season to 7.0 in the postseason. They did this by slowing the pace down and having each one of their 3 stars up their scoring. The Milwaukee Bucks entered the playoffs with the 5th best odds to win the championship at +800. Waiting in the way was a 1st round matchup with the team who ended their season last year, the Miami Heat. The Bucks held the Heat to just 98 points per game on under 40% shooting from the field on the series. The most important result in the series was that the Bucks lost regular-season starter Donte DiVincenzo in game 3. The Bucks were now set to face presumed Finals champions Brooklyn Nets. The Bucks made a small change within their lineup pushing PJ Tucker into a starting role. The Nets jumped out to a 2-0 lead but lost James Harden to a hamstring injury in the opening minutes of game 1. The Bucks shot under 30% from 3 in both of the losses. Game 3 of the series Middleton and Giannis combined for 68/86 points for the Bucks in the last possession win. The Nets lost star point guard Kyrie Irving, while the Bucks hit 16 3's and went on to tie the series and regain their mojo in game 4. The Nets returned James Harden for games 5-7, but he never seemed to regain form. Nets took game 5 off the back of a historic near 50 point triple-double from Kevin Durant. Bucks took game 6 after their trio Middleton, Holiday and Antetokounmpo combined for 89 points. Game 7 was an overtime classic filled with a buzzer-beater and two former MVPs dueling against each other scoring at least 40 apiece. The Bucks shot 41% from 3 and held the Nets to 31% shooting, ultimately deciding the game. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bucks were heavy favorites versus the Cinderella story Atlanta Hawks. Game 1 Trae Young had a career ballgame putting up 48 points and 11 assists, beating the Bucks by 3 in a shocker. The Bucks took games 2 and 3 after shooting over 50% from the field in both games. More importantly, late in game 3 Trae Young injured his ankle, which put him out for games 4 and 5. The Bucks came out flat in game 4 and were down big at half to the Hawks without Trae. In the second half, the Bucks had cut it to 10, then Giannis went down with an apparent knee injury. The Bucks lost the game, and more importantly, they lost Giannis for the rest of the series with a hyperextended knee. The Bucks won the battle of the starless teams in game 5, with Portis filling the starting spot for Giannis; he, Brook, Middleton, and Holiday combined for 107 points in the win. Trae returned game 6 with the Hawks on the brink of elimination. The Bucks defense held the Hawks to 41% shooting from the field and then offensively connected on 17 3's in route to an 11 point win. During the postseason the Bucks were led by an elite defense, allowing 10.5 points less per game and holding teams on average with 5 fewer possessions than the regular season. Their trio Holiday, Middleton, and Giannis have stepped offensively averaging 69 points combined, all while being an elite defensive trio as well. Finals Preview and Predictions The Phoenix Suns are set to tip-off vs. the Milwaukee Bucks Tuesday night at 9:00 for game 1 of the NBA finals. The 2 teams squared off twice in the regular season, resulting in 2 1 point wins for the Suns. A huge question in this series is the health of Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 2-time MVP got injured in game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals and did not return. The Bucks need Giannis if they want to be NBA champions. In the 11 regular-season games without Giannis, they went 6-5, averaging 3.5 fewer points per game and shooting 2.5% worse from the field. The key for the Bucks is their 3pt shooting. In the 5 losses this post-season, they have shot 6.3% worse from 3 and hit on average 4 fewer 3's per game. Another issue in their losses was their ability to get to the free-throw line. In losses, the Bucks got to the free-throw line 6.1 attempts less. In wins, the Bucks average 4 more assists, shoot 5 more 3's, forced 4.5 more steals, and 33% more blocks. The key for the Suns is their pace/turnover margin and Devin Booker. The Suns have turned the ball over 32.3% more in the 4 losses these playoffs. They also got up 4.5 fewer field goal attempts per game in a loss. Booker, in playoff wins, scores 4 more points, shoots 13.5% higher from the field, and 5.5% better from 3. The X-Factor for the Bucks is star Khris Middleton. In the 5 losses, Khris Middleton averages an underwhelming 17 points on abysmal shooting splits of 31.4% from the field and an unimaginable 15.4% from 3. In the 12 wins, he put up 26.0 points on 49.1% from the field and 41.8% from 3 while also getting 50% more assists. The X-Factor for the Suns is Jae Crowder, his shooting and defense presence will be able to win games for the Suns. In the 4 post-season losses, he shot 21.7% from 3 and 30% from the field. On the other hand, in wins, he averages 4 more points per game, and he shoots a scorching 41.3% from 3 and 44.7% from the field. Giannis Antetokounmpo will win Finals MVP if the Bucks win. Not much of an argument needs to be made, but if you need convincing, in the two regular-season games against the Suns, he averaged 40 points and 9.5 rebounds. The Suns have 2 candidates for Finals MVP if they win, Chris Paul or Devin Booker. Devin Booker will be the MVP if the Suns win, I see Chris Paul playing more of a facilitator role in the finals with Booker being the primary scoring option. Chris Paul will have his moments and games, but ultimately Booker will come away as MVP. If the Suns win the title, Chris Paul will be their leader, but Devin Booker will need to be their best player putting up at least one game reminiscent of his performance in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The Milwaukee Bucks will win this series in a hard-fought 7 games, led by Giannis and co-stars Middleton and Holiday. Defensively, the length of the Bucks will give the Suns issues. Every member of the Bucks starting 5 is an above-average 1 on 1 defender, which gives them a huge advantage at the end of games. The Suns will struggle to guard the size of the Bucks and will need to shoot the ball extremely well to overcome this. Sources: Sports-Reference, Draftkings, StatMuse, Sportsbettingdime
Predicting the NBA playoffs using Dean Oliver’s Four Factors of Success
6/7 Update: Dean Oliver’s four factors of success has been historically great in the first round. With the first round finally being over, the four factors have been almost perfect so far predicting 7/8. With the second round underway in the East, I would watch closely the Bucks vs Nets series as I think the winner of that should come out as the Eastern conference champions. James Harden's injury should have a huge effect in the series, and in the grand scheme of the playoffs. For the Bucks 3pt shooting will be a huge factor as in game 1 loss they shot 20% from distance. In the Hawks vs 76ers series with one game under the belt, the key elements will be Joel Embiid’s health as they are two different teams with and without him and the Hawks shooting. Along with those factors the 76ers will need to limit Atlanta’s high pick and roll as Trae Young this whole playoffs has been on a tear scoring and passing wise. In the West on the other hand we have our predicted champions the Utah Jazz well rested going into the second round. They will be facing the Clippers who are coming out of a hectic 7 game series. The key in this matchup will most likely be the consistency of Paul George and the shooting of the Jazz. Both teams are great defensively as well. We have our first incorrect prediction with Suns knocking off the Lakers. As I mentioned in the article a big factor for the Lakers success would be their health as it was ultimately their downfall. I need to note that this takes nothing away from what the Suns accomplished in this series and playoffs so far as they did win the one game where both teams were “healthy”. Denver Nuggets after a battle with the Blazers are now set to play the Suns. The key factors in that series will be CP3’s health and the play of Michael Porter Jr who has averaged 21.3 ppg in the playoff wins, while only averaging 14 ppg along with 0 total assists in the 2 losses. The 2021 NBA Playoffs are underway with the first round starting on Saturday. What is on everyone’s mind is who is will be the next NBA champion and which teams will under or over-perform. In this article, we will predict this year’s playoffs using Dean Oliver’s Four Factors of Success and measure its accuracy to predict the outcomes of the last 5 NBA Playoffs excluding the bubble year (2020). Data was collected for each team that made the Playoffs since 2015 (2015-2021) excluding last year due to COVID-19 and opt-outs going into the bubble. As a parameter, if two teams are within .15 points of each other, it is deemed a toss-up. When a matchup is a toss-up, the win would be awarded to the team with the higher seed. Each playoff bracket is predicted with no reseeding as that is how the NBA playoffs work. The Four Factors that Dean Oliver uses to determine success are a unique combination of effective field goal percentage, free throw rate, offensive rebound rate, and turnover percentage (all apply both offensively and defensively). In this year’s NBA playoffs, Dean Oliver's Four Factors of Success predict that the Utah Jazz will be the 2021 NBA champions, defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in the Finals. The Jazz is number 1 in both the offensive and defensive four factors, while the Bucks are in the top 5 in both. Some of the more interesting picks while using the four factors would be the Hawks going to the Eastern Conference Finals after narrowly beating out the 76ers, and the Suns as the 2nd seed, losing in the first round. It is important to mention that a few of the teams ended up with bad draws in terms of who they are playing as both the Clippers and the Nets were in the top 4 of the Four Factors however, they both had bad draws in the second round. Another point to note is that teams like the Lakers and Nets were not fully healthy throughout the regular season, with both teams playing less than 10 games with their active starting lineups. Even with those injuries the Nets still managed to rank 4th in the overall Four Factors ranking, while the Lakers were not so far behind in 7th. Both teams may potentially outperform their expectations due to those reasons and the model also had them both just narrowly losing in their respective matchups. The previous 5 NBA champions from 2015-2019 had an average Four Factor score of 1.84 with three of the champions being within .1 of the average. This year there are 3 teams in the playoffs that have a higher score than that: the Jazz, Clippers and the Bucks. The Nets slightly trail behind. The lowest score of the previous 5 champions was the 2019 Toronto Raptors with a score of .955. This year, the teams that are above that score are the ones previously listed as well as the Nuggets and the Hawks. Slightly behind the Raptors, would be the Lakers and the 76ers who have both dealt with some injury issues with their stars during the regular season which may have caused their score to drop a little. After collecting data of playoff teams from the last 5 regular seasons and using the Dean Oliver Four Factor predictions for each respective year, we were able to determine how accurate this model has been. Over 2015-2019 the model has correctly predicted 57/75 playoff series giving it a success rate of 76%. When predicting the first round, the model was correct 35/40 series giving it a success rate of over 87% with the worst year only getting 2 matchups wrong. The model had a little more difficulty when it came to predicting the second round as it was correct for 13/20 series which would give it a 65% success rate. When it comes to the Conference Championship, the model correctly predicted 7/10 series winners for a 70% success rate in the conference championship which is impressive. For the championship, the model correctly chose the champion 2/5 times, and if it were not for blown 3-1 leads it would be 3/5. Lastly, 4/5 champions over the past 5 seasons were in the top 5 of the Four Factors ratings. Dean Oliver's Four Factors of success definitely is a strong predictor in the playoffs, especially in the earlier rounds. It was also interesting to note that all besides one of the champions were within the top 5 of the four factors in their respective years. References: https://www.nba.com/stats/teams/four-factors, https://www.basketball-reference.com/playoffs Illustration by Fernanda Basurto
Defense vs Offense, How to Win a Championship?
For years the classic statement in the NFL is that defense wins championships, but offense wins games. I decided to test this theory. I collected data from the past 10 NFL seasons (2011-2021) from every team that finished within the top 5 of defensive or offensive points per game. I then recorded: wins, whether they made the playoffs, distance in the playoffs, and if they made it to or won the Super Bowl. Over the past ten seasons, a top 5 defensive team has won a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 14 regular-season games. The teams within this threshold won on average 10.88 games in the regular season. The average team wins 8 games throughout the regular season, so obviously, this is a large uptick - winning 36% more games than the average team. Out of the 50 eligible teams, 41 made the playoffs, giving the top five defensive teams an 82% playoff rate. The rate an NFL team makes the playoffs over the last 10 seasons was 38.125%, with a minor jump due to the expansion of the playoffs last year. Teams with a top 5 defense were more successful making the playoffs at around a 2.15-1 ratio compared to the rest of the NFL. Of the 41 teams who made the playoffs, 14 lost in the wildcard round, and another 14 lost in the divisional round. That means that 13 out of 41 teams advanced to at least the Conference Championship. The average NFL team has a 12.5% chance of making the Conference Championship while a team with a top 5 defense has a 26% chance. 7 of the 13 teams who made the Conference Championship advanced to make the Super Bowl. In the past 10 seasons, 35% of the Super Bowl appearances were made by a team with a top 5 defense despite only making up 15.6% of the league. Of those 7 teams who made the Super Bowl, 4 won, winning 40% of the last 10 Super Bowls. An NFL team has a 3.125% chance of winning the Super Bowl while a top 5 defense has an 8% chance. This is more than a 250% increase of an average NFL team. A top 5 offensive team has won a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 15 regular season games within the last 10 seasons. The offensive powerhouses have won on average 11.36 games in the regular season. Again, the average NFL team wins 8 games during a regular season, so this is a rather large uptick, winning 42% more regular-season games than the average team. In terms of the postseason, over the last 10 seasons of the 50 teams, 43 of them made the playoffs giving them a 86% playoff rate. As previously mentioned, the playoff rate was 38.125%. Teams with a top 5 offense were significantly more successful in the regular season, making the playoffs at around a 2.25-1 ratio compared to the rest of the NFL. Of the 43 teams who made the playoffs, only 6 lost in the wildcard round, another 13 lost in the divisional round. That means that 24 out of 43 playoff teams made it to at least the Conference Championship. The average NFL team has a 12.5% chance of making the Conference Championship, while a team with a top 5 offense has a 48% chance, nearly 4 times more likely. To further exemplify how successful these offensive teams are, if we were to only use data from playoff teams, those teams would still only have a 33% chance of making it to the Conference Championship. This is about 50% less than a team with a top 5 offense. 13 of the 24 teams who made the Conference Championship went on to make the Super Bowl. In the past 10 seasons, 20 teams have made the Super Bowl. 65% of the Super Bowl appearances have been made by a team with a top 5 offense despite only making up 15.6% of the league. Of those 13 teams who made the Super Bowl, 6 won it, winning 60% of the last 10 Super Bowls. An NFL team has a 3.125% chance of winning the Super Bowl while a top 5 offense has a 12% chance which is a 384% increase of an average NFL team. To even further demonstrate how impressive and successful these teams have been, teams who make playoffs have an 8.2% chance of winning the Super Bowl, which is a 32% decrease from teams who have a top 5 offense despite 7 of teams not even making the playoffs. Both top 5 defenses and offenses have witnessed much more success than the average NFL team over the last 10 years. However, it has become abundantly clear that offense runs the league. The top 5 offensive teams have on average won more regular-season games. The offensive-minded teams also have had a higher playoff rate, outperforming the top 5 defensive teams with 2 additional playoff births. In terms of the playoffs, the 43 offensive teams won on average 1.86 playoff games while also appearing in 13 Super Bowls. Defensively, the 41 teams won on average of 1.24 playoff games and appeared in 7 Super Bowls. Offenses won 50% more playoff games than the defenses and appeared in 86% more Super Bowls. Most importantly, the offense has also won 50% more Super Bowls, outnumbering them 6 to 4. Even more notably, 2 out of 4 of the Super Bowl wins for the defense were from teams who were in the top 5 offensively and defensively. Lastly, the last 5 Super Bowl winners were all in the top 5 in offense, which further proved that the NFL is an offensive league. Sources: Pro-Football-Reference, FootballDB
Statistical Analysis: Ronald Acuña Jr's Dominant Offensive Season
Ronald Acuña Jr. has always been a solid player and a fan favorite. This year he has surpassed expectations and has risen the level of his game. He has been a monster offensively carrying his team to many wins. He is establishing himself as a great and solidifying his name amongst the top players of the league. In this article we will examine his offensive play and see how he has grown and compares to the rest of the league This season, Ronald Acuña Jr. is a big contender to taken home the most homers title. His big swings have been extremely rewarding to the Atlanta Braves. He is currently tied for second but has been at the number one spot for several weeks this season. The current standings as of June 6, 2021 are: Acuña Jr.'s dominance of the offensive front has been a pleasure to watch and seeing his current offensive trend, it will be no surprise if he ends up with the most homers in the league at the end of the season. Ronald Acuña Jr. has been a problem since he first step foot into the league, but his rapid rise and growth has been a sight to see. Many baseball fans will appreciate the way he has taken his team on his back and is becoming a franchise player and face for the Atlanta Braves. If we look at his growth from 2018, we see that this season, 2021 year, Acuña Jr. has taken his offensive game to a whole new level. The three statistics we are looking at to document Acuña's progress are BA - batting average, SLG - slugging percentage and OPS - on base percentage plus slugging. BA - Batting average is the most basic batting statistic. It is calculated by taking the number of hits a batter gets and divided it by the number of at bats they take. SLG - Slugging percentage indicated the productivity of a batter. It is the total number of bases the player gets at an at-bat. It is the total number of bases divided by the total number of at-bats a player has. OPS - On base percentage with slugging is an extremely important statistic as it calculates in depth for both the player's ability to get on base as well as the power the player has with each hit. Although the current season is still in progress, Acuña Jr.'s batting average has significantly risen from the past 2020 season. He averaged 0.25 in 2020 and is currently sitting at .249. His slugging average is at an all time high as well. In 2018 he was at 0.552, in 2019 he was at 0.518, 0.581 in 2020 and his current best at 0.611 this season. As we can see through the chart, Ronald Acuña Jr. is having one of his best offensive season and it isn't even over yet! This improvement in numerous statistics show that Acuña has really worked on his game offensively and his offensive dominance is something that will be sustainable as the season continues and future seasons to come. While Acuña Jr. is having his personal best season, how does that compare to the rest of the league? Is he a top player in the league? Let's analyze top 10 players from the most home run's standings. To effectively analyze the top 10 we are taking into account how many runs (R), hits (H), runs batted in (RBI) and total bases (TB) they have. R - Runs is the number of runs a player has scored. H - Hits is the number of hits a player gets. RBI - Runs batted in is a statistic that records how many players/runs a batter has brought in to score because of their hit. TB - Total bases is the accumulation of bases a player has gained through their hits. Looking at these different statistics, the answer to if Ronald Acuña Jr. is a top player in the league is a firm - YES. Acuña Jr. leads the league in runs with 46. His competitors average around 30-40, highlighting the offensive dominance Acuña Jr. has shown this season. Acuña Jr. has batted in 35 runs this season as well, showing the essential role he has to his team. Rounding 116 total bases, Acuña is rising as extremely efficient offensive player. While he still has work to do to be the best and be comfortably at the top, he is growing in the right direction. He fits right in with the best offensive players in the game and with the drastic rise this season, he definitely has the ability and capability to eventually overtake them all. We previously looked at countable, tallied statistics. Now, let's take a deeper look into some percentages. OBP - On base percentage calculates the frequency a batter gets on base. This is calculated by taking the sum of the batter's hits, walks and times hit by pitch and dividing it by the batter's times up to bat. SLG - Slugging percentage indicated the productivity of a batter. It is the total number of bases the player gets at an at-bat. It is the total number of bases divided by the total number of at-bats a player has. OPS - On base percentage with slugging is an extremely important statistic as it calculates in depth for both the player's ability to get on base as well as the power the player has with each hit. WAR - Wins above replacement tells the value of a player. This stat tells how many more wins the current player would have over another replacement player. Ronald Acuña Jr. hold up against the best offensive players in the league. His OBP of 0.386 is third best amongst the top 10 and his SLG of 0.598 and OPS of 0.984 is right there with the top 3. His WAR is at 2.2 which is lower than Guerrero Jr's 3.1, Tatis Jr's 2.9 and Ohtani's 2.6. 2.2 is a respectable WAR value, however, as the season continues and he continues to flourish as an offensive player this is statistic is only going to go up. Looking at his achievements and statistics through a holistic and overall approach, Acuña Jr. is making his case as a future HOF'er and as one of the best in the league. The Atlanta Braves are currently sitting at 2nd in the NL East with a record of 28-29. While considered a good, even great, player before this season, Ronald Acuña Jr has shown his worth this season. His fun game and thrilling home runs make him and his team fun to watch. Through our analysis, we see that he is safely placed in the top positions of several important offensive statistics and is one of the best offensive players this season. However, he is far from done. As the season progresses, Acuña is only going to get better and catch the attention of more people. Cover Art/Design: Fer Basurto References: ESPN, Baseball Reference No copyright infringement is intended The Tactician refrains from monetizing infringing content
Statistical Analysis: Comparing Jack Grealish and "the best of the rest".
Analyzing how Jack Grealish matches up statistically to his English colleagues -- James Maddison, James Ward-Prowse, and Jack Harrison. The Aston Villa man has generated great interest from a host of Premier League clubs and is rumored to become the first 100 million English players, courtesy of Manchester City. Let's see how the new Gascoigne compares to other English midfielders this season. Grealish has been primarily deployed as a left-winger this season due to Ross Barkley occupying the attacking midfield position for Aston Villa this season. Looking at Grealish's heat map we can see that he has stuck to the left flank due to his natural ability to dribble the ball and cut inside to score goals and create chances for his teammates. Considering his abilities Dean Smith sticks to start Jack n the left to create more space as he cuts inside from the left and the right-back is forced to mark him to create a 2v1 situation while attacking. Compared to his three English counterparts, Grealish has 0.41 assists per 90 minutes which is better than the second-best Harrison by an impressive 0.16 assists per/90. He finished the season with 10 assists, number 4 in rank behind Kane (14), Bruno Fernandes (12), KDB (12). Considering that all the mentioned players finished in Europen spots and Aston Villa finished 11th, it certainly speaks about the individual brilliance of Jack this season. While assists can be a skewed statistic with most responsibility riding on the receiver to deliver when presented a scoring opportunity. Expected assists (XA) measures the possibility of a given pass turning into an assist. From the table below we can see that Grealish finished fourth in the league in terms of expected assists, showing his class and ability to play amongst the elite teams and players. Not only has he shown exceptional ability in his passing but also his work rate off the ball making 0.5 interceptions per 90 minutes only second to James Ward-Prowse (keep in mind that Ward-Prowse plays as a center mid) and 1.2 tackles per game. He has a fair share of defensive duties assigned to him and is constantly pressing the right back in order to support his midfield to start a quick counterattack high up on the pitch. England's Finest Analyzing the stats provided by Whoscored we can see that Grealish has played considerably less than his English counterparts but still has managed to top in assists, key passes, and average passes per game. Grealish has attempted 2.5 dribbles per game, being second to Jack Harrison with 1.2 dribbles per game. He has also attracted the most fouls at 4.2 per match. From the visualization below we can see that Grealish has performed unbelievably when it comes to the progressive passes (Prog) which are passes that move the ball towards the opponent's goal at least 10 yards from its further point in the last six passes, or any completed pass into the penalty area. Jack leads the charts with 6.91, with Maddison second at 4.33. Meaning that he outscored everyone in dribbles, key passes, and progressive passes. Furthermore, Jack is also the leader in PPA amongst this group, which points to the fact that Grealish is the clear winner in the midfield when it comes to passing and dribbling. But when it comes to scoring goals he actually comes in last as everyone on the list has scored 8 goals, whilst Jack has only managed to score 6 goals this season. Conclusion Having looked at the four Englishmen's stats from this season and the overall performance analysis of Jack Grealish there is no doubt about his ability in the Premier League this season as one of the finest English players and an all-around midfielder who does not shy away from his defensive duties as well. This is all well noted in the numbers above and is one of the biggest reasons as to why he is headed to the Euros with the England team along with James Ward-Prowse and both Maddison and Harris were left behind. 100 million price tag...That's a lot of money Mate! There are a lot of rumors coming out of Manchester that suggest that Manchester City is ready to make Grealish the first English player worth £100 million. But is that a realistic price tag Citizens are willing to pay? Considering that Harry Kane has received the price tag of £150 million. It is unclear at this stage whether City will splash the cash on the English pair, we will have to wait until the Euro cup is over to see how the transfer market unfolds and whether Grealish will rock the light blue kit of the Premier League champions. Sources: FBref, Whoscored, and Total Football Analysis
Analyst Insights: Steven Scott
The Tactician speaks to Steven Scott, former manager of football services at FootballLOGIQ and currently an on-field performance and player recruitment analyst at the Canadian Premier League. We discuss Steven's experience as an analyst in Canada and his formation of a private consultancy focused on sustainable club growth. How long have you been in the sports industry and what positions have you held? I have been a coach for 8 or 9 years and technically we are doing a lot of analysis there, I have also worked as an analyst for TSN ( A Canadian broadcasting station). For over 2 years now I have been working as a data analyst, completely immersed in the data analytics side of the sport. What is a typical word day like as a performance analyst? My work is divided into two aspects, the first is identifying key KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for individual clubs. For example, if a certain club wants to play a high pressing game, I translate that playing style with KPI's that are most relevant. In the high press example, I would present statistics like possession gained within 6 seconds of losing the ball. The second part of my job involves speaking with agents and analyzing players from a data perspective and also from a video perspective. A lot of work revolves around identifying markets around the world and analyzing different metrics for player recruitment purposes. What analytical tools do you use as a performance analyst? Most of my work is on spreadsheets based on the data pulled from Wyscout and Opta. Sometimes I use Python and Tableau. But Tableau can be a bit tricky to work with as it is a good visualization tool, but at the same time limits the users in the design interface. What I like about Tableau is that it can translate the data very quickly. Is there a certain project or report you worked on which influenced a club to acquire/scout a player? In the Canadian Premier League, we work with the 21st Club by utilizing their data and football development which I am a part of. We have a vetting process for international players based on their playing level and wages, several players that have signed with the CPL have been analyzed by me and others in the department. The main purpose of the league is to make us a soccer nation and make our national team better. What is the hardest part of the job? The hardest part is to identify the blind spots present in the data and understanding the power it has and also the flaws in the data. Knowing how the data is collected and what doe these data points to capture. That is the most difficult thing in the industry when it comes to analysis. For example, defining a pass is easy for the regular viewer but as an analyst looking at a simple pass means discovering the intent behind the pass and why certain if not all actions are made during the game. The ability to find the right player for the right club at the right time is incredibly difficult but we do our best. What do y0u look for in a player during data scouting? From a non-data point of view, some players I scout are technically more gifted than others but then during the data analysis it comes down to is that player just technically gifted or is efficient as well? Can he make the killer passes into the box versus the counterparts, it goes to show that technique vs efficiency has a big part to play in scouting. For example, if we are looking at a center back that is not technically gifted but has a counterpart that is left-footed, quicker, and technically gifted we need to figure out what the team needs are and how a player can influence the style of play. Can you share about your consultancy venture and what do you aim to achieve? link: https://www.stevenmarcscott.com/ I started my consultancy for a couple of reasons, mainly due to help out clubs in the given situation of the pandemic. Some clubs in the Bundesliga went bust because of no ticket revenue and a lot of the wages being inflated. My main objective is to figure what an adequate wage bill should be for each player based on the performance in the past year or two. Furthermore, use the same models to identify transfer fees so the clubs are making smarter decisions and grow sustainably. The next step for football clubs is to identify alternative revenue streams in case of another situation like COVID. In the past couple of years is there a player in Canada or the United States that has caught your eye? It is quite difficult to find another player like Fonzie (Alphonso Davies) or Jonathan David for a bit but it is completely possible. In CPL Marco Bustos has impressed me this year and received a national call-up this season. Mo Farsi (right-back for Cavalry FC) has been phenomenally good right back, I could see him making a move away from Canada sometime in the future. In terms of raw talent, Alphonso is probably the best Canadian athlete of the decade. Any word of advice you wish to share with aspiring football analysts. As a piece of advice, the most important thing is domain knowledge, starting with when and how to receive the ball in a certain situation. The basic tactical side of things will go a long way, you can learn tools online for free but domain knowledge is something we should focus on. At SportLOGIQ I had to create a data collection system from the ground up, it was challenging for sure but it made me learn about how and which data points are most important and relations that matter.
How do the freshman seasons of the last ten No. 1 Picks in the WNBA Draft compare to Paige Bueckers?
The last ten No. 1 Picks in the WNBA draft have had, and continue to have, incredible basketball careers. Nneka Ogwumike (2012 No. 1 Pick) averaged 10.6 points with a 65.7% true shooting percentage in her freshman year at Stanford. In 2016, she became the most efficient shooter in the history of the WNBA with a true shooting percentage of 73.7% while averaging 19.7 points. She is also the president of the WNBPA. Brittney Griner (2013) set the WNBA season record for blocks in her rookie season with 129. She has also led the WNBA in scoring twice: averaging 21.9 points in 2017 and 20.7 in 2019. In August 2020, Chiney Ogwumike (2014) became the first WNBA player and the first black woman to host a national radio show for ESPN. She continues to play in the WNBA. Jewell Loyd (2015) won the USBWA National Freshman of the Year award over Breanna Stewart and since then, has matched Stewart in WNBA Championship titles. Breanna Stewart (2016) has won almost every award under the sun, including 4 NCAA Championships with UConn and 2 WNBA Championships with Seattle. She also set the WNBA record for most defensive rebounds in a season with 277 in her first WNBA season. Kelsey Plum (2017) scored 57 points on her senior day to become the NCAA All-Time Career Scoring Leader with 3,527 points (25.4 points per game). She is also the NCAA Single Season Scoring Leader with 1,109 points (31.7 points per game). On Martin Luther King Jr. day this year, a statue of A’ja Wilson (2018) was unveiled on South Carolina’s campus to remember her impact on the program, including leading South Carolina to their first Final Four appearance in 2015 and first National Championship in 2017. Jackie Young (2019) played an integral role in Notre Dame’s 2nd NCAA Championship in 2018, especially in their win over the undefeated UConn team in the Final Four. Against UConn, Jackie had 32 points, a career high and the 7th highest ever scored in the Final Four. Sabrina Ionescu (2020) holds the NCAA Career Record (men or women) for Triple Doubles with 26, which is 14 more than second place. She was also the first player in history (men or women) to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 assists, and 1,000 rebounds. Charli Collier (2021), this year’s #1 pick, rocketed to the top with large improvements in each of her 3 seasons, averaging 13.1 more points per game in her junior year than in her freshman year. Together, these 10 women have earned the AP Player of the Year 8 times, the Wooden Award 9 times, the Naismith Trophy 8 times, the USBWA Women’s National Player of the Year 8 times, and the WNBA MVP title 3 times. They hold 7 NCAA Championship Titles and 6 WNBA Titles. But, there’s four things that none of them were able to do: earn the Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy, AP Player of the Year, or USBWA Player of the Year as a freshman. Paige Bueckers just finished her freshman season by winning all four of these awards. And it wasn’t just the last ten No. 1 WNBA picks that weren’t able to do it. Bueckers is the first woman in the history of college basketball to receive these awards as a freshman. Needless to say, her debut season has garnered a lot of attention; here’s what Diana Taurasi had to say. To see what set her freshman season apart, the following article compares Paige Bueckers’ freshman season to the freshman seasons of the last ten No. 1 Picks in the WNBA Draft. Paige Bueckers averaged 20.03 points per game, second only to Kelsey Plum’s 20.94 points per game. Despite playing their freshman seasons 7 years apart, these two are connected: Adia Barnes was an assistant coach at the University of Washington during Plum’s freshman season, and Barnes was the head coach of the University of Arizona program that put an end to Bueckers’ historic freshman campaign. Bueckers averaged 36.14 minutes per game, second only to Plum’s 37.29 minutes per game. The player with the best points to minutes ratio was A’ja Wilson, who averaged 13.14 points per game in only 19.84 minutes. The following visualization ranks all 11 players by various shooting statistics. Guards are denoted in blue, forwards/centers are in green, and Bueckers (a guard) is in red. Bueckers is the clear leader in field goals made per game, with 7.66, and has the highest field goal percentage of all of the guards (52.36%). While she averaged less 3 point shots per game than Plum or Sabrina Ionescu, she has the highest 3 point shooting percentage at 46.38%. Bueckers is a lot more than a shooter. She has more assists per game (5.79) than anyone, including Ionescu, the queen of Triple Doubles. She surpassed the UConn freshman single season assist record in her 20th game of the season (she played 29 games in total) and set the UConn single game assist record with 14 against Butler. When it comes to turnovers, Bueckers managed to average less than guards Plum and Ionescu, with Jewell Loyd being the only guard averaging more than 30 minutes per game with fewer turnovers than Bueckers. Bueckers blows everyone away in the steals department with 2.28 per game, the only player averaging over 1.5 steals per game. She is also the most accurate free throw shooter, hitting 86.9% of free throws. Finally, it is not pictured on the visualization, but Bueckers averaged more blocks than any other guard and had more defensive rebounds than every guard besides Ionescu. The last part of evaluating a freshman season is consistency, especially in the NCAA Tournament: do they rise to the occasion or falter? Kelsey Plum (the highest scorer) is the only player on this list of 11 whose team did not make it to the NCAA Tournament. Interestingly enough, 6 of the 11 women were eliminated in the Final Four in their freshman season. Also, 4 of the 11 women were eliminated by UConn, and two more played for UConn. The following graph tracks each player’s scoring progression throughout the season. The players are ordered by average points, with Plum having the most and Jackie Young having the least. Right away, we can see that Stewart is the epitome of playing your best when it matters the most; her NCAA Tournament run is impressive. Bueckers had three 30+ games in a row in the middle of the season. She dropped down to 11 points 4 games later, but steadily built back up through the rest of the season. She demonstrated incredible poise. Nneka Ogwumike stepped up in the NCAA Tournament, especially with 27 points against San Diego State in the Second Round. Jewell Loyd also played better in the NCAA Tournament, including 27 points in the First Round. Brittney Griner’s scoring slowly decreased after her 34 point game against Oral Roberts early on in the season, and Charli Collier also performed worse in the NCAA Tournament. Paige Bueckers displayed phenomenal control throughout her freshman season. A component of her season was that 6 of her 11 teammates were also freshmen, and there were not any seniors on the roster. Maybe that forced her to be more of a leader, maybe it didn’t. In any case, she was firing on all cylinders in more than one aspect on the court. Look at the following graph. It puts 8 important statistics to the game on the same scale in order to compare them. Bueckers accompanies the most room on the graph. If Paige Bueckers can have a career that is anything like the other 10 players mentioned in this article, it will go down in history. Regardless of what her future holds, we know it will be fun to watch. No copyright infringement is intended The Tactician refrains from monetizing infringing content
NBA Trade Deadline Preview
March 25 is the NBA trade deadline. There have been several players mentioned in trade rumors. These players, along with the teams that should be the most interested, are discussed below. Kyle Lowry Best Fits: 76ers, Heat, Celtics The 76ers could use another ball handler/playmaker along with Ben Simmons. During the playoffs, Simmons is going to face the same "wall" defense Giannis has the last two seasons, a strategy that has shown to be effective. Having Lowry, would give the 76ers another player that can initiate the offense, and allow Simmons to play more off ball and face more favorable coverages. Not to mention, a combination of Lowry, Simmons, and Embiid would be lethal defensively. The Miami Heat do not currently have a point guard that is a plus defensively. This will be a problem in the playoffs when they face players like Kyrie, Kemba, and Jrue Holiday. This would also give the Heat another reliable, consistent scoring option and take some of the load off of Jimmy Butler. Again, a combination of Lowry, Butler, and Bam would be lockdown on defense. Kemba Walker is coming off a knee injury and has not been consistent so far this season. The Celtics need a third player who can be relied upon to produce. If the Celtics can make a trade with the Raptors centered around a Kemba, Lowry swap, they would be getting more consistent production from the point guard position as well as getting a significant upgrade defensively. Nikola Vucevic Best Fits: Celtics, Heat, Clippers The Celtics lack talent at the center position. This was evident last season when Bam dominated them in the conference finals. Adding Vucevic would add a new element to the Celtics offense, as well as solidify their starting lineup. It would also add more size to their roster which will be necessary when facing Embiid and Bam. Bam Adebayo is the only reliable big man on the Heat's roster. Adding Vucevic fixes this problem and then some. He is the perfect compliment to Bam with his outside shooting and isolation scoring. Furthermore, starting him and Bam would force opponents to start two legit big men which most teams do not do. The Clippers are another team that lack big man talent. Ibaka is still a good option but he is averaging less than 25 minutes a game, so the Clippers clearly do not want to rely on him to play big minutes. Having Vucevic would give them a starting caliber center, and would take offensive pressure off Kawhi and George. Victor Oladipo Best Fits: Knicks, Mavericks, Nuggets The Knicks are surprisingly having a good season. This is mostly due to their elite defense and the improvement of Julius Randle. However, their offense is struggling and they rely too much on Barrett to score; at this point in his career he is still an inconsistent shooter. Adding Oladipo would help improve the Knicks offense without sacrificing their defense. It would also allow Barrett to become a third option which may increase his efficiency. The Mavericks really extremely heavy on Luka Donic to create offense, which is why he leads the league in usage rate. Porzingis should help ease Luka's load, but he cannot be counted on to stay healthy. Adding Oladipo would take the scoring pressure off Luka, as well as improve the Maverick's defense which has been an issue this season. During the 2020 playoffs, it looked like Denver had an elite one-two punch in Murray and Jokic. However, Murray's production has decreased to what we had seen pre-bubble. Thus, the Nuggets need to find a third option. Sometimes Michael Porter looks like the solution to this problem, but there are times the Nuggets cannot play him at the end of games due to his struggles on defense. Trading for Oladipo would give the Nuggets a legit third option while also improving their defense. Andre Drummond Best Fits: Nets, Raptors, Clippers The Nets biggest weakness is their big men and overall defense. While Drummond is not an elite defender, he provides size and would certainly improve the team's rebounding. If the Nets face the 76ers in the playoffs, Drummond would at least have the size to provide some resistance to Embiid. As currently constructed, Embiid would have his way and may average 35+ points in that series. The Raptors currently have Aaron Baynes and Chris Boucher as their centers, and are in the bottom half of the league in offensive rebounding and allowing offensive rebounds. Adding a rebounder of Drummond's caliber would go a long way toward fixing this issue. As stated above, the Clippers are lacking at the center position. Adding Drummond would at least give them a starting level center. Playing with Kawhi and George would help hide some of the flaws in Drummond's game as he would not be relied upon to score. Demarcus Cousins Best Fits: Jazz, Nets, Spurs Demarcus Cousins would be a valuable addition to the Jazz's big man rotation. Their main bigs are Gobert and Favors, neither who are offensive minded or stretch the floor. Adding Cousins would provide a center with shooting ability, and the ability to create his own offense. Furthermore, since Gobert and Favors are already on the team, Cousins would not be relied upon to play big minutes, and they would help minimize his defensive deficiencies. The Nets need any competent center they can get; they currently only have one on the roster in Deandre Jordan. Cousins isn't their optimal choice as he won't fix their defensive issues, but being able to add a playable center to the roster without giving up any assists would be a smart move for the Nets. The Spurs are moving on from LaMarcus Aldridge, which is going to leave a massive hole in their big man rotation. Unless they plan to play Jakob Poeltll 32+ minutes a game, they need to add a player. They could add Cousins without giving up assists, and he would help replace the scoring Aldridge provided, as well as improve their rebounding. LaMarcus Aldridge Best Fits: Heat, Celtics, Lakers The Heat are currently starting Kelly Olynyk. They need a more reliable big man to pair with Bam Adebayo. Aldridge would provide more consistent scoring than Olynyk while keeping the floor spacing that is important when playing with Bam. This would also allow the Heat to decrease Olynyk's minutes, and give him a more appropriate role. The Celtics have several different bigs, but none that are real offensive threats. Aldridge would be a nice compliment to Theis, Thompson, and Williams. Also, having an offensive threat at the center spot, would diversify their offense and make them more difficult to cover. For the Lakers, Aldridge would take Gasol's minutes and immediately be a significant upgrade. In addition, it would provide another big while Davis is out, and would allow Davis to play less minutes throughout the rest of the regular season, should that be necessary. J.J. Redick Best Fits: Bucks, Mavericks, Lakers There can never be too much shooting around Giannis. The more shooters on the floor, the harder it is to set up the wall that the Raptors and Heat employed the last two seasons. The Bucks recently added P.J. Tucker who has been a solid shooter most of his career. However, this season he has really struggled, and is shooting about 31% from 3. Adding Redick would provide more floor spacing and may be the key to the Bucks advancing deep into the playoffs. In the offseason, the Mavericks traded Seth Curry for Josh Richardson. Richardson is a defensive upgrade, but the Mavs have not been able to replace Curry's elite shooting as they currently rank 20th in 3-point percentage. Acquiring Redick would fix this issue and increase the efficiency of the Maverick's offense. The Lakers have few flaws, but one of them is 3-point shooting; they are currently a bottom 10 team in 3-point percentage. With the attention that LeBron and AD draw, Redick may get the most open looks he's gotten in his career, and would be a lethal weapon for the Lakers. Larry Nance Best Fits: Trailblazers, Suns, Celtics The Trailblazers two bigs are Enes Kanter and Jusuf Nurkić (when he returns from injury.) They also play Melo at the 4 about 25 minutes a game. A common theme between these three, is a lack of athleticism, and only Melo is a reliable shooter. Adding Nance would provide the athleticism and shooting to the Trailblazer's front court that they desperately need. The Suns are struggling to figure out who to start at the 4. Crowder began the year as the starter, but has recently been benched. Now the Suns are going back and forth between starting Crowder and Frank Kaminsky, who is clearly not a long term solutions. Nance would solve this issue. He would be a great pick-and-roll partner with Chris Paul, and would space the floor for Ayton. This may be the final piece to solidify the Suns as one of the top teams in the Western Conference. The Celtics have to chose between athleticism (Robert Williams and Tristen Thompson) and shooting (Daniel Theis) when choosing which big men to put on the floor. Larry Nance allows them to have both, which makes them more versatile offensively. He also has the ability to play next to any of the three bigs mentioned above.
Analyzing Joel Embiid's MVP Caliber Season
Joel Embiid is having his best season yet and is an absolute terror on the offensive end. He's shooting at an extremely high volume from the mid range is scoring on his attempts efficiently. He's also leading the league in post up possessions and post up points by an extremely large margin. After yet another disappointing postseason, things are starting to look up for the Philadelphia 76ers. They are currently the number one seed in the Eastern Conference and the new additions of head coach Doc Rivers and sharpshooters Seth Curry and Danny Green have cemented them as legitimate title contenders. While much of their newfound success can be attributed to these additions, the biggest difference between this season and past seasons is the improved play of Joel Embiid, one of the league's top MVP candidates. Joel Embiid has struggled to remain on the court throughout his short NBA career. He did not play any games his first two years in the league because of a foot injury and has yet to play over 80% of the games in a given season. However, so far this year, he has played in over 82% of games, which is the best of his career. The saying, “The best ability is availability” applies to Embiid as he has shown that when he plays the 76ers perform better. Joel Embiid is averaging 7 more points a game this season than last season and is scoring more efficiently than ever. Surprisingly, a large portion of his success can be attributed to his post-up and midrange play, both of which are considered to be very inefficient types of shots. However, Joel Embiid is making those shots look efficient. He's currently averaging 51.30% from the mid-range, 8% higher than the league average. This is also his first time averaging above 50% from the mid-range and this improvement has led to career highs in PPG, eFG%, and Offensive Rating. It's also interesting to note that although the league has been taking fewer midrange shots over the past couple of years, Joel Embiid has been increasing his attempts. He's averaging 5.6 attempts per game, good for 6th in the league. He's shooting significantly better than elite guards like Bradley Beal and Devin Booker and is shooting better than any big man not named LaMarcus Aldridge or Nikola Jokic. Alongside his mid-range game, his post play has been fantastic as well. When it comes to the post-game, Joel Embiid is in his own world. He's averaging more post-up points and possessions than any other player in the league by a large margin, including other elite big men like Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis. Not only is he attempting a lot of post-ups, but he's also doing so efficiently. He's outperforming every elite big man as shown above. Joel Embiid's improved play has cemented him as an MVP favorite and his dominance in both the paint and the midrange have elevated the entire 76ers team. They're the first seed in the Eastern Conference and are potential favorites. They're currently 1-1 in their season matchup against the Brooklyn Nets and are 2-0 against the Boston Celtics. They have yet to face the Milwaukee Bucks but the improved play and durability of Embiid might tip the scales in their favor. Contributors: Dhruv Batra, Jingting Liu, Michael Snow, Kenny Tran Video Credits: NBA.com **No copyright infringement is intended** **The Tactician Refrains from monetizing the infringing content**
An Analytical Look into the Chargers hiring Brandon Staley
What does the Brandon Staley hire mean for the Los Angeles Chargers? How will he change the way the team has played the last couple of years? Read the article to find out his unique coaching style and thought process behind his #1 ranked defense this past season using different pre-snap looks and disguises to fool QB's. On January 12th, 2017, the Los Angeles Rams shocked the football world by hiring 30 year old Sean McVay. At the time, he was the youngest head coach in the NFL since 1938. He transformed the Rams into a Superbowl caliber team with innovative offensive schemes. In his first two seasons, the Rams ranked 5th in Offensive EPA/play. Also, they were the only team in the NFL to finish with a positive EPA/rush over those 2 years. As we all know, the NFL is a copycat league. Seeing how well McVay did over his first couple of years made other teams follow suit. Young coaches like Matt LaFleur and Zac Taylor were hired from the McVay coaching tree in hopes of rebuilding their teams as well as McVay did. The Chargers were the favorites to hire Bills OC Brian Daboll ever since Anthony Lynn got fired. The links between Daboll and GM Tom Telesco were evident. They both shared the same sports agent and both went to the same high school in New York. Additionally, on this past Saturday, Adam Schefter tweeted that, “Bills OC Brian Daboll has emerged as a favorite to land the Los Angeles Chargers' head coaching job”. So how did Brandon Staley become the next head coach for the Los Angeles Chargers? Well, after Dean Spanos let Anthony Lynn go, he mentioned how the Chargers wanted to become more innovative with how their football team would be run. This can be interpreted to say that former HC Anthony Lynn wasn’t innovative enough. Given Anthony Lynn coached under Bill Parcells and played on a Broncos team with Terrell Davis, it’s easy to see why Lynn was so adamant about running the ball despite having an electric rookie QB in Justin Herbert. On the other hand, new HC Brandon Staley has been in the league for only 4 years, and only been a coordinator for 1, but he is at the forefront of defensive innovation in the NFL. In 2012, the Legion of Boom began its reign as the top secondary in the NFL. Their vaunted cover 3 defense became a staple in many teams around the league to prevent big plays and keep everything in front of them. As the league moved towards a passing centered league, the old featured defense of Tampa 2 from the early 2000’s slowly fell out of touch. This stayed until the hiring of Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan in 2017. Both of these HC’s brought Mike Shanahan’s famous wide zone run scheme back into the NFL and defenses had no answer for it. As more teams attempt to copy McVay and Shanahan, it is imperative that the Chargers find a way to combat that, and Staley is the answer. Let’s dive into why Staley’s defense was so successful and what he brings to the table with the Chargers. 1. His defense led the league in 2 high safety looks this past year Staley’s defense featured John Johnson and Jordan Fuller as the two main safeties, and both of them usually lined up outside the box. This means that there would usually only be 3 DLs and 3 LBs or 4 DLs and 2 LBs inside the box. He did this at an 85% clip this year. This look invites teams to run on the Rams, because of the lack of bodies inside the box. It is a very interesting concept, and one that hasn’t been utilized by many teams. On a side note, the next closest team who used this concept was the Broncos who are coached by Vic Fangio, the same guy who hired Staley in the first place (both Fangio and Staley’s defenses ranked in the top-half in defensive EPA/play this year). In interviews, Staley has made sure to make his goal clear: “My big belief system is 1-on-1s in the run game and 2-on-1s in the passing game”. Essentially, this means that his players will go 1 on 1 with an opposing offensive lineman when the offense runs the ball, and he wants 2 players around every receiver when the offense passes the ball. He does this because he understands how much more the passing game is than the running game in today’s NFL. 2. By using a 3-4 base defense, he normally lines up 5 bodies along the offensive line: There are 3 linemen, and 2 OLBs that the offensive line has to worry about. This means it is difficult for them to get up to the second level without taking out the 2 OLB first. John Johnson and Jordan Fuller are also lined up in a split safety look which is a staple in the defense. Because of the 5 bodies along the offensive line, the ILBs don’t have to attack the gaps immediately because there are defenders already there. This helps the defense because the ILB’s aren’t attacking the gaps as hard, they are less likely to get caught by play action and crossers. The whole goal for this defense is to prevent big plays by spreading out the defense. They are allowing teams to run as much as they want, while also making sure they are prepared for any playaction calls or deep passes. Per Next Gen Stats, the Rams ranked first this year in defending deep passes of 20 air yards: They only allowed 10 completions (1st), 1 TD (1st), 6 INT (3rd), and allowed a 27.4 passer rating (1st). They also allowed the fewest 20+ yard passes, and 40+ yard passes this year. One of the biggest problems with the Chargers this year was leaving their corners on an island. Although the Chargers ranked in the top 10 in both 20+ yard passes and 40+ yard passes allowed, the Rams were better, and did it with 2 UDFA corners starting in Troy Hill and Darious Williams. Let’s compare the Rams defense and Chargers defense from this past year. The Chargers’ DC Gus Bradley had problems not adjusting his defense in the 2nd half of each game this year by allowing 0.108 EPA/play which ranked 26th in the league, a huge step down from allowing -0.049 EPA/play in the 1st half which ranked 5th this past year. On the other hand, the Rams were flat out dominant. Staley’s ability to make halftime adjustments helped the Rams play better than they did in the first half. The Chargers blew five 17+ leads this past year and most of them occurred in the second half due to lack of adjustments. Hopefully Staley can fix this problem next year. 3. Rams played a much more diverse coverage scheme under Brandon Staley. The Rams made sure to use a variety of coverages which can be used with a 2 high safety look. For 4 years under Gus Bradley, the Chargers have consistently shown a 1 high safety look with the other safety in the box around the line of scrimmage. As a result, the 2 main coverages you can run are cover 3 and cover 1. (Shoutout to @ryanweisman12 for making these graphs. He’s doing some really cool work and you guys should definitely check him out). Looking at the Chargers, they used cover 3 quite a lot last year, and it was their primary coverage scheme that they utilized over 50% of the time. They also ran a decent amount of cover 1 and cover 4. Now the Rams were a little bit different. Rather than utilize 1 coverage, they decided to play a whole bunch of coverages to throw offenses off. Thanks to their 2 high safety looks, it allows them to play almost any coverage they want as one safety can drop down to play cover 3, or both play back and they can run some variation of cover 4 or cover 6. That’s what the Rams did this past year. Their 3 most used formations turned out to be cover 3, cover 4, and cover 6. Again, with a 2 high safety look, opposing QBs might suspect that the defense is playing cover 2 or cover 4, but the look allows for so many possibilities which is why the Rams had a ton of success. Now it’s one thing to play a ton of different coverages. Their effectiveness is another story. In these graphs, you want the bars to be negative, because these graphs represent defenses and the coverages they run. A negative EPA/play means the coverage was successful. On the Rams side, they had success utilizing cover 3, cover 4, and cover 6, which were their most frequent coverages. Staley knows how to mix up his defenses and give different coverage looks to the QB which allows them to perform better. The Chargers on the other hand had more coverages producing a positive EPA/play than negative which is not a good thing. Another thing to note: The Rams were not a blitz heavy team. In fact, when they ran both cover 0 (all-out blitz) and cover 2, they struggled, just like the Chargers did. Staley likes to create 1 on 1 matchups in the passing game which allowed players like Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd to shine. Luckily for the Chargers, this should allow guys like Joey Bosa, Uchenna Nwosu, and hopefully Jerry Tillery to get favorable matchups and allow them to go 1 on 1. This can also be made possible thanks to NT Linval Joseph who fits perfectly in a 3-4 (will touch on that in a future article), and is a guy that commands double teams due to his massive frame. 4. My final note on the Rams’s coverage is their blitzing. I touched on it briefly above, but the Rams blitzed right around the league average. However, the good news for Chargers fans is that when the Rams did blitz, they were highly successful. They ranked 3rd in EPA/blitz, which is a huge step up from where the Chargers ended up. While the Chargers ranked last in blitz rate, they also failed to successfully get to the QB when blitzing which leaves them in the bottom 7 in EPA/blitz. Luckily for the Chargers and Staley, there are a couple players on the team who can allow Staley to call creative blitzes. First off, Derwin James. Unfortunately for James, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy, but he is a tremendous blitzer when given the chance. He recorded 4 sacks and 19 pressures as a rookie and produced a 86.0 pass rushing grade while rushing from the safety position. The next person who can help Staley when blitzing is Kenneth Murray. He is an instinctive violent tackler who has sideline to sideline speed. He was used more in a coverage role this past year and that might change next year. He could potentially move to OLB near the line of scrimmage and be used more as a blitzer or a guy who spies the QB. Hopefully this allows him to play without thinking and having to be the defensive play caller, a duty bestowed on him by the Chargers this past year. 5. The Rams ran a 3-4 defense last year, but spent most of their time in nickel just like the Chargers. The main worry that people have with Staley and the Chargers is the defensive scheme he employs. Now it will be hard to make assumptions about what Staley plans to do because it is very early in the offseason and free agency and the draft will tell more about what the defensive plan is for the Chargers. However, a 3-4 base isn’t something that should be worried about when looking at the Chargers defense. The Chargers mainly used their 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 nickel packages this year on defense. There is a reason they signed Chris Harris last offseason so it isn’t a surprise to see them use defensive packages that will help keep him on the field. Now the Rams don’t run a 4-3, they run a 3-4. But they rarely used their 3-4 base package. Instead, they opted to use their 3-3-5 and 2-4-5 nickel packages along with their 2-3-6 dime package the most this past year. Now depending on how the 2-4-5 package looks, it could very well be similar to the Chargers 4-2-5 nickel package. The only difference is the 2-4-5 personnel has the 2 OLB line up very wide. Again, Staley looks to try and isolate his best pass rushers to get 1 on 1 matchups for them. It is very early to speculate how the Chargers defense will look in this package, but I think it makes sense that star DE Joey Bosa lines up at OLB with either Uchenna Nwosu or Kenneth Murray opposite him. Even though the Rams used many different personnel, the stat that sticks out the most to me is how successful they were with every formation they used. In their 3 most frequently used formations (3-3-5, 2-4-5, 2-3-6), they all produced a negative EPA/play over the whole season. It is clear that Brandon Staley knows how to play to his strengths. It also shows that his play calling from this last year was tailored to whatever personnel he had on the field. On the flip side, the Chargers struggled mightily when they went into their dime package, as well as their nickel package. Both of them produced a positive EPA/play. In fact, the Chargers best personnel this year was their 4-3 base package. Denzel Perryman had a career year this year on limited snaps as he played fast, and violent and produced a career best 83.3 PFF grade and ranked 9th in tackling efficiency among all LBs. To wrap it up, Brandon Staley is a terrific hire as he should be able to transform the modern day NFL defensive scheme just like the Tampa 2 did back in the early 2000s and the LOB cover 3 did in the early 2010s. His staff has yet to be filled out, and free agency hasn’t even begun, so there is no point talking about what his scheme could look like on offense and defense and what players would play where. Ideally, the offensive coordinator he brings in will look to pass the ball on early downs more than the Chargers did in 2020. It should be a very interesting offseason for the Chargers as they have quite a few free agents departing, and it is likely that Staley brings in some of “his guys” from the Rams as they have familiarity within his system. All in all, an excellent hire for the Chargers, and if he turns out to be the defensive minded version of Sean McVay, this could be the most important hire in Chargers history
How Well Did We Predict the Last Decade of March Madness?
The 2021 Men’s NCAA Tournament ended with Baylor dominating a heavily favored Gonzaga team in the Championship game. In fact, there were many surprises throughout the tournament, including UCLA making it all of the way to the Final Four from the First Four (the play-in games) and Illinois (predicted Runner Up) falling to Loyola Chicago in the Round of 32. How do the surprises in the 2021 Men’s NCAA Tournament compare to previous years? The following article evaluates how well the basketball world was able to predict the outcomes of the last 10 Men’s NCAA Tournaments. Data was compiled for each team that competed in the last 10 March Madness tournaments (2011-2021 because the 2020 March Madness tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Each team was categorized by which round of the tournament, or step of the tournament, they were predicted to be eliminated in. A team's regional seed was used to determine their predicted elimination round (and the AP Poll was used to differentiate the predicted Champion and Runner Up from the other two regional No. 1 seeds). Teams that were supposed to be eliminated in the First Four (the play-in games) were counted as step 1. Next, the difference between when a team was predicted to be eliminated and the step of the tournament where they were eliminated was calculated. The chart above is an example of the two teams predicted to be eliminated in the Final Four. Team A gained two steps from their predicted elimination round, becoming the Champions. Team B lost two steps from their predicted elimination round, losing in the Sweet 16. Therefore, they combined for a total change of 4 steps from their predicted elimination rounds. For the teams in each predicted elimination round of the last 10 NCAA Tournaments, the total change from seed to outcome was calculated. Then, each elimination round was put on the same scale because the number of teams differ in each group. For each elimination round, the year(s) with the smallest total change were assigned a value of 0 and the year(s) with the largest total change were assigned a value of 10. This shows how the distribution of variability by predicted eliminated round changed year-to-year. For example, in 2011, teams expected to be eliminated in the Elite 8 only varied a little from this prediction, but in 2012, the teams expected to be eliminated in the Elite 8 ended up being eliminated in very different stages of the tournament from the Elite 8 (in comparison to the other years). In 2012, the top seed accounted for a smaller portion of total variability than it did in the other years because it reached the step it was predicted to reach: the top seed won the tournament. This is the only year in the last 10 NCAA Tournaments that the top seed came out victorious. It was Anthony Davis’ Kentucky Wildcats. The year with the most variability for the top seed was 2018 when the Virginia Cavaliers lost to No. 16 UMBC in the Round of 64, a loss of 6 steps from their seed. The following two charts (use the arrows to navigate between them) illustrate the variability between years in different ways. Rather than using percentages, these graphs break down the variability in each year by using the total steps gained or lost (absolute value) by all of the teams in each predicted elimination round. In the first chart, we can see how each predicted elimination round contributed to the total variability and compare total variability across the years. We can see that 2017 had the least total variability from predictions. 2021 is tied with 2018 for most overall variability in the last 10 March Madness tournaments. It makes sense that the outcomes of the 2021 March Madness Tournament were harder than average to predict. We didn’t have how teams played in the 2020 March Madness Tournament to factor into our predictions, and there was a lot of COVID-19 chaos in the regular season and the tournament. In the second chart, we can more clearly see the change in variability for each predicted elimination round over the years. 2015 had the least variability for teams predicted to lose in the Round of 64. 2013 had the least variability in the Round of 32, 2017 for the Sweet 16, 2019 for the Elite 8, and 2016 for the Final Four. In 2016 and 2017, the predicted Runner Up was the Runner Up. From the first graph, we can see that the total variability from year to year is random; we have not become better at predicting the outcomes of March Madness in the last decade. From the second graph, we can see that the average variability from the two teams predicted to be eliminated in the Final Four is almost the same as the average variability of the team predicted to win it all (3.2 steps for Final Four vs 3.1 steps for Top Seed). The two teams predicted to lose in the Final Four are combining to gain or lose 3.2 steps from their predicted elimination round, which the top seed is single handedly matching. This speaks to the pressures facing the top seed of the tournament. Even though 15 of the 20 teams predicted to make the Final Four in the last decade did not make it that far, they were still eliminated closer to their predicted final round of the tournament than the top teams were. The pressure facing the top team can force them to crash and burn early in the tournament. Data from https://www.kaggle.com/andrewsundberg/college-basketball-dataset and https://barttorvik.com/trank.php# Cover photos from The Dallas Morning News and UConn Today No copyright infringement is intended The Tactician refrains from monetizing infringing content