Perspective for the Fanatic: a statistical projection of the Timberwolves current season outlook

Nov 5, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Darren Collison (4) is fouled while shooting against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Lou Amundson (17) and forward Dante Cunningham (33) in the fourth quarter at American Airlines Center. The Timberwolves beat the Mavericks 90-82. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Perspective by definition means – The capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance. Fanatic by definition means – Marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion. These 2 definitions seem impossible to work in conjunction with each other. That’s part of the problem with fan bases, they lose perspective on their team; they drink the Kool-aid, put on the rose colored glasses and leave the real world behind. I’ll admit I’m guilty of this; I’m a Timberwolves fan for crying out loud. I’ll take anything to give me hope so I can dream of better days. I was one of those who thought Darko was going to be the turning point of the franchise; he would finally figure it out once he got to Minnesota. Or, Michael Beasley was going to get a fresh start and playing time and be the baller everyone thought he could be once he got to MY team. Of course people on the outside with perspective kept reaffirming how this would not happen, but I so badly wanted to believe my team was going to be good, I refused to listen. So now these days, call it being older and wiser, I try to impart some perspective to my fandom.

Statistics for better or worse, richer or poorer are married to the ‘Fan”. See as a fan we will choose the statistical categories that indulge our disillusionment and turn a blind eye to the stats that shoot holes in our happy dream. This is where statistics (all of them) can provide us, the fan, with perspective. These numbers aren’t to take the wind out of any fans sails. The purpose of these stats and any of this analysis is to try to allow us to keep an even keel or a level head about our team.  I want to believe this is going to be the team that will cure the Wolves “losingitis”.  Statistically this team should finally make it to the “second season” this year. While this season is still very young and the Wolves have been plagued by injuries things have still looked good for this hobbled squad. Using the Correlated Gaissian Winning Percentage, which is the method that relates winning percentage to points scored, points allowed, the standard deviations of points scored and allowed, and the correlation between points scored and allowed. The Wolves show they have a .544 eWIN% through the first 9 games. What does that mean, if you take that winning percentage over the remaining 73 game and add the existing win total you get 43.712, round up to the nearest number and you have 44 wins. OK so what does all of that geek talk mean to you the “fan”? Here it is, with this projected winning percentage the Wolves would have the 6th best winning percentage in the west. Granted early winning percentages are not the best indicator of where teams will finish. Take the Grizzlies .876 eWIN% and they would win almost 71 games, the Clippers would have 67 wins and OCK would have 60 W’s.

Team

eWIN%

Projected Wins

Memphis

0.876

71.948

LA Clippers

0.825

67.225

Oklahoma City

0.723

59.779

San Antonio

0.656

55.888

LA Lakers

0.61

48.53

Minnesota

0.544

44.712

Dallas

0.537

45.201

Houston

0.528

42.544

Utah

0.51

42.23

Golden State

0.441

37.193

Denver

0.435

35.755

Portland

0.429

35.317

New Orleans

0.363

29.499

Phoenix

0.296

25.608

Sacramento

0.118

10.614

 

Frankly the Wolves have been playing very well, with all of the numbers at our disposal, the Wolves have played above what was expected of them to start this season. By using ACH which is Achievement level in Terms of wins which is a metric that is based on differential between actual and expected winning percentage. Positive figures indicate overachievement while negative figures indicate the team should have more wins. The Wolves ACH is currently a .012 this season.  While this number isn’t greatly in the positive category, it’s still in the positive range.

Team

ACH

San Antonio

0.144

Golden State

0.115

Sacramento

0.104

Phoenix

0.068

Portland

0.015

Memphis

0.013

Minnesota

0.012

New Orleans

0.012

Dallas

0.008

Oklahoma City

-0.023

Denver

-0.035

LA Clippers

-0.047

Utah

-0.055

Houston

-0.084

LA Lakers

-0.166

With the warm fuzzy projected 44 wins caressing me and the knowledge of my favorite team playing slightly above expected I am feeling great. Now it is time for perspective, the perspective is, my team has a -2.24 SOS. SOS is Strength of Schedule, this is a team’s average schedule difficulty faced by each team in the games that it’s played so far or for all season. The schedule difficulty of a given game takes into account the rating of the opponent and the location of the game.  Now while this isn’t nearly as important in the NBA as it is NCAA sports or the NFL, it is something to help gauge what your team has done, especially this early in the season. The -2.24 for the Wolves is, well, not good. It is 5th worst in the Western Conference. The Lakers are last in the league at -3.36, which is a bad sign for the dysfunctional Lakers. Who has had the hardest in the West? The Suns have had the most difficult SOS with a 5.50.  The higher the number the harder the schedule, where 0 is average and of course when a team has a negative it is an easier schedule.

Team

SOS

Phoenix

5.5

Portland

3.78

Golden State

1.31

San Antonio

0.03

Sacramento

-0.34

Memphis

-1.05

Dallas

-1.63

New Orleans

-1.77

Denver

-1.87

Utah

-2.02

Minnesota

-2.24

Houston

-2.28

LA Clippers

-2.43

Oklahoma City

-3.45

LA Lakers

-3.66

Perspective will look thru the stats and tell us while it is great to see the Wolves get off to such a solid start missing so many pieces, they’ve had some help with a weaker than average SOS.  Something the ‘Fan’ in me will still cling to, is the fact that while all of these numbers are based on performance to date, the numbers don’t take into consideration the injuries that have plagued the Wolves roster. While numbers are a great indicator of the current team and current accomplishments, they do fail to take into account unknown variables. The fan in me will continue to believe that the universe is essentially random and unpredictable, and perspective will keep us grounded so we can stay honest about a team and a sport we love.

Topics: Advanced Statistics, Analytics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Statistics

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