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Checking 2013-14 NBA Win Predictions & Projections

With 2013-14 NBA regular season in the books it’s time for some fresh projections about the NBA playoffs!
But wait a second, aren’t we forgetting about similar predictions for the regular season? As usual I’d like to expand the effort of APBR community in an attempt to measure how successfully basketball writers, bloggers and authors predicted what will happen during the regular season regarding teams’ wins.
So which writer, blogger or author had the most accurate projections before the 2013-14 NBA season?

To answer this question I saved on my hard drive predictions in early November [it’s a reason why not all of the links below work, they’ve changed since then] from most popular sites and some googled sources [but it’s not a closed list so if you want to add your’s predictions let me know in the comments] and compared them to actual wins for each team by Root Mean Square Deviation which is essentially average difference between each prediction and final total wins in terms of absolute value. Results of this exercise are in the table below…

But please keep in mind two important notes:
1) don’t think or assume it’s all about the skills of people involved because randomness plays a huge part here… injuries and trades in most cases simply couldn’t have been predicted before the season but they affected some of the results in a big way [for example, Gay trade anyone? Or Horford’s shoulder…].
Personally I treat it as fantasy basketball on a team level and I’m more interested in the year-to-year patterns than in actual results for one particular season because it’s basically a sample of one.

2) in most cases entries next to each other are interchangeable in terms of accuracy because difference between them can be translated into “2-3 more/less wins in the right direction would flip them”.

Onto the table…
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Posted by on April 20, 2014 in Expanding Horizons

 

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Collection of 6788 Fantasy Basketball Leagues

As you may know from this blog I love digging into topics from the big picture point of view.
As an experienced fantasy basketball player I wanted to explore multiple questions in that area but I hit a wall of complete lack of data. Why?

Because on one side, even if you played in 30-50 leagues in your fantasy career it’s not only a small sample size but it’s also biased – you were in every one of them. So that’s not a good start for big picture analysis.
On the other side, simple search on Yahoo and ESPN revealed there were at least half of million fantasy basketball leagues last year alone. So they were sitting on that kind of data and as far as public is concerned they did almost nothing with it in terms of analysis. For some reason that bothered me very much.

I tried to contact those major providers to ask whenever they did something with it or even just to suggest what they could do but not surprisingly that didn’t work so in February of 2013 I took matters into my own hands.

I immediately stumbled into a problem – most leagues were private so as an outsider I had no access to them. Nothing I could do about that but I knew there were also some publicly visible ones… but how to find them?
Unfortunately during the season there wasn’t a comprehensive list of all public fantasy leagues… at best there were only lists of various Top100 but by definition those were extreme outliers so I wasn’t interested.

So I stopped thinking about the efficient solution and focused on a way which would bring me the most leagues possible – searching using brute force of scripts. As I was the most familiar with Yahoo leagues and taking into consideration their hourly and daily connection limits I searched automatically by ID for publicly visible Yahoo leagues’ settings. One by one starting at #1. Due to aforementioned limits and availability of free time it took me over a month to get to 30.000th ID… and I had to stop because I needed more data than just the league settings. But after such search I had a nice long list of all publicly visible basketball leagues so it was way easier to gather information about the drafts and final standings.

That’s how I collected data from 6788 Fantasy Basketball Leagues from 2012/13 NBA season.
And the first lesson here was… only around 22.6% of all leagues were public!
Overall this project wasn’t pretty or efficient but I accomplished what I hoped for. Mostly. It turned out that some of the leagues existed only on paper so either they didn’t draft at all or they didn’t start after the draft but the most annoying cases where with leagues which… stopped being public! Who does change that option 4 months into the season? I don’t know but thankfully all those examples above where the exceptions which wasted only a small minority of the data collected.

What’s more, while 30 000 leagues checked and over 6000 collected sound like a lot for one person to have… in a grand scheme of things it was basically a tip of an iceberg because judging by IDs Yahoo alone had over 200 000 basketball leagues last year. Maybe I’ll start earlier next year to expand this project but we’ll see, maybe it won’t be even necessary.

What do I plan to do with all those leagues?
I’d like to start with some obvious topics and questions like…

What are the most popular settings in fantasy basketball?
Does seeding even matter in head-to-head fantasy basketball?
Do actual results confirm or deny a theory of unfair snake draft?
Comparing the effect of playoffs in head-to-head leagues to roto leagues.
Is it true that punting in roto leagues is not a winning strategy?
What were the average amount of stats needed to win each category in roto leagues?

and probably many more… I’m guessing that during research I’ll stumble into more topics to explore and hopefully at least one reader will add at least one interesting question to answer.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Fantasy for Real

 

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NBA Pioneers of Drafting and Stashing Foreigners

Recently at the end of every NBA draft there are foreign names, who even for hardcore fans, seem like they could be just randomly generated. But they are in fact long shot prospects who are drafted and stashed for later just for an outside chance they could be good someday [*]…

How did NBA arrive to this point?
Which team did start this trend? What did happen to those pioneers?

To find out, I used my list of all Draft-and-Stash players in history to identify such cases based on two criteria:
1) according to basketball-reference.com player didn’t play in US college,
2) player had a contract outside of US during his draft year.

There were over 100 players in history who fit (I’m assuming here that all of them were drafted with an understanding NBA team had to wait for them… even though it’s hard to prove this for everybody).
I think it’s the best to start this topic with a graph…

Number of Foreign Players Drafted by the NBA Each Year who Started Career Later than Their Draft Class

A couple of facts which may help explain this graph or could be just a coincidence:
– Oscar Schmidt and Greg Wiltjer participated in the 1984 Summer Olympics which I’m assuming was announced before the 1984 NBA draft.
– Peja Stojakovic debuted in the NBA in February of 1999 and made his first all-star team in 2002.
– in October of 2001 Andrei Kirilenko, Primoz Brezec, Predrag Drobnjak and Zeljko Rebraca joined the league from previous draft classes.
– in October of 2002 list expanded with Manu Ginobili, Mehmet Okur, Marko Jaric and Gordan Giricek.

So I would summarize history of Drafting and Stashing Foreigners like this…

According to various sources, including an interview with him, Greg Wiltjer did play in US college so he made the list only because of a rare bug on basketball-reference.com which means…
the grandfather move of drafting foreigner with a contract happened thanks to the Nets with their shot at Oscar Schmidt in 1984.
That makes sense, he was a truly dominant scorer not only on his clubs but also in the Summer Olympics.

Oscar Schmidt didn’t play in the NBA in the following years but it didn’t discourage Hawks and Blazers to take a chance at other foreign stars: Drazen Petrovic and Arvydas Sabonis (if you want to learn a lot more about the background of these transactions, and Drazen Petrovic’s life in general, I strongly recommend Drazen Petrovic retrospective podcast from inallairness.com). For the next couple of years one or two teams bought such a foreign lottery ticket but nothing materialised out of them until 1989 when Drazen Petrovic, Sarunas Marciulionis and Alexander Volkov joined the league.
All of them were reserves initially and only Petrovic reached a starter status but unfortunately he died in a car crash in 1993. It doesn’t change the fact that Nets, who acquired Petrovic’s rights from Blazers, were the first team not only to try this move but also to gain something out it. Maybe two solid seasons from Petrovic don’t seem like much but he was poised for more.

In 1994 and 1995 arrival of Sabonis, improvements from Kukoc and brief success of Dino Radja created a slight bump in foreign players being drafted. One of them in my opinion became the second milestone in the history of this strategy: Peja Stojakovic was drafted 14th by Kings in 1996.
Even though his first couple of seasons were underwhelming he was the first drafted and stashed player to join the NBA at the age similar to his American counterparts.
He debuted at the age of 21, not only 3 or 4 years earlier than all previous draft-and-stash players, but also at a point in his career where he wasn’t fully formed as basketball player and had some upside.
I’m guessing such a proof that talented young foreigners were willing to come over early led to the draft class of 1999 which featured, record at that time, 5 draft-and-stash players.

It created another wave of players who finally arrived in 2001 and 2002 which along the growing success of Peja Stojakovic created followers and another spike in interest of drafting such players later in the draft. It remains at the high level a decade later even though success rates has since plummeted… but that’s for another post.

Does it make sense? Have I missed anything important? Let me know.

[*] more probably those players are drafted for the certainty of not paying them anything right now.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Expanding Horizons

 

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All Draft-and-Stash Players in NBA history

While 2013 NBA draft was very unpredictable at the top, it had a familiar strategy at the bottom of each round: draft-and-stash.

Drafting players with no chance of coming to the NBA right away – either because of player’s intentions or because team doesn’t want him there – seems weird at first glance but it became such a staple of recent NBA drafts I just had to investigate this topic futher to get to the bottom of it.

So here’s what I did:
1) based on draft recaps from basketball-reference.com since 1950 I created a list of draftees who either didn’t play a single game in the NBA or they debuted at least a year later than their draft class.
a) among players who didn’t play at all I focused only on those drafted in the first couple of rounds because for decades draft in the NBA was way too long [and let’s be frank – I wanted to save a lot of time chasing unknown 7th rounders who really had no chance of playing in the NBA because of limited number of spots available].
b) I included all players who played in the NBA but started career later than they should based on draft year.

2) for every player from list above I used wonders of Google to identify possible reasons behind the delay.
If a possible draft and stash players were simply cut before their first season or for some other reasons didn’t really qualify as draft-and-stash type I deleted them from the list.

3) “Probable reason(s) for delay” below is my best guess at what happened to the player after the draft but in most cases [especially before 2000!] I have no idea about the relationship between cause and effect.
In other words, did player sign somewhere else because he wanted to or because he was able to get better contract or because he didn’t receive any offer from the NBA? Either way he became a draft-and-stash type so he is on the list below but we just don’t know who made that decision.

Starting in 1989 in some cases I had to gave up searching so I used “????????” as an explanation which means I couldn’t find anything. On the other hand, in situations I found interesting or unique for some reason I included links to sources and more than one word description. If you have any questions, or maybe if you know what did happen to some unsolved by me situations, let me know in the comments.

In total final list includes over 600 players so that’s why this post is basically only about the data.
For more analysis on this topic, using list below, please visit blog later this week…

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Posted by on July 4, 2013 in Fringe Stats

 

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Grading NBA Mock Drafts 2013 From Best To Worst

NBA Draft 2013 started with a huge surprise at the top and remained unpredictable through the rest of it.
Because I once again gathered data for my project accuracy of NBA mock drafts I accidentally measured just how unpredictable it was! Here are some key statistics… I processed 263 NBA mock drafts and among them:
Only 4 mock drafts had Anthony Bennett going number 1. F-O-U-R! That’s below 2 percent!
Congratulations to Todd Salem, Greg, Trey and Jason Quint for a really bold prediction which turned out to be accurate but, interestingly, overall their mocks were average.

66 different players appeared in at least one first round mock draft and I have to give props to Tim who was the only one with Solomon Hill included.

Around 22% of mock drafts nailed selection of Victor Oladipo at number 2 but only 6 mocks had Cody Zeller 4th to Bobcats, 21 mock drafts had Alex Len at #5, only 3 mocks had Ben McLemore at #7 and…
literally NOBODY had Nerlens Noel being drafted at #6!! How is that for unpredictable top picks?!?
For comparison, among Top7 picks in mock drafts in 2012 only Dion Waiters and Harrison Barnes were surprises on a similar scale.

On the other side, Otto Porter was at #3 in majority of mocks – 73% to be precise.

With all that said you can see why it wasn’t a great year for mock drafts’ accuracy but despite such wild Top7 and lower average score than in previous years, people at the top still managed to distance themselves from others. So…Who Had The Best and Worst 2013 Mock Drafts on the Internet?

To answer this question here’s what I did:

1) after the draft lottery I saved on my hard drive pages from as many first round mock drafts as I could quickly gather. Mostly from widely known authors/sources but I also added many googled ones and tried to include authors from last years’ post [hence the growth]. I repeated this exercise weekly up to the day before actual NBA Draft when I had a final push for the data.
In 2011 I checked 33 mock drafts, in 2012 I expanded efforts to 122, this year I ended up with 263 NBA Mock Drafts. So my quest to cover every mock available on the web continues ;-)

2) I graded every mock by an average absolute difference between the mocked and actual picks.
So for example, if you had Nerlens Noel at number 1 in your mock draft your score for #6 [where he went] was “5” but if you had him at #9 you would get a score of “3”. Simple, right?
I did the aforementioned thing for every pick in every mock and calculate an average for the entire first round so the lower the number the more accurate mock was. Players who were predicted as first rounders but were drafted in the second round counted but if a player went undrafted his position was “61”.

There are three important notes about this excercise:
– because I tried to capture content which was quickly changing some of the links provided won’t work. It’s not my fault that people use the same address or page for often changing content. I could just upload those saved files but that probably wouldn’t be legal so I just posted a PDF file with every pick of every mock I’ve processed.

- as in previous years, I didn’t try to include versions of mocks published in the last hours before the draft because not only I don’t want to chase last minute updates or rumors from teams or possible leaks but I also question the value of such mocks which are online for 50 minutes… especially when at this point you can just wait for the real event.

- it’s kind of obvious but, as a remainder, please don’t assume that mock drafts represent entire value of those sites or authors. Even if someone had a really good/bad mock it doesn’t mean their analysis of players was good/bad too. It may have been, I don’t know, I didn’t include it in any way.

OK, let the mock draft challenge begin! Here are the results…

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Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Expanding Horizons

 

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Long NBA Winning Streaks That ALMOST Happened

By winning 27 straight games in 2013 Miami Heat not only reached a second place on list of the longest winning streak in NBA history but they also reminded everybody about the difficulty of Lakers’ remarkable feat of winning 33 games in a row and received insurmountable amount of media attention because they were so close.
While the answer may seem obvious, was it really the best opportunity to break the record?

This is a story about forgotten heroes: the longest winning streaks in the NBA that ALMOST happened but because of couple untimely points here and there they didn’t so very few remember them.

My approach to find them was pretty simple, using all-time NBA schedule and results from basketball-reference.com I tried to locate multiple winning streaks next to each other interrupted by some close losses. Because I had history in mind I ignored potential streaks shorter than 18 games [only 9 such streaks really did happen] and to make it somewhat realistic all losses during them had to be by single-digits.

Such searching pattern surprisingly came up with 90[!] potential winning streaks. Some of them were literally one basket away from happening while others needed more to change but would have broken the record!

So let’s break them down starting with the ones single game away… [list is sorted by potential streak’s length]
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Posted by on April 26, 2013 in Casually Unique

 

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Checking 2012-13 NBA Win Predictions & Projections

Just before every NBA season most basketball writers, bloggers and authors try to predict what will happen in the next year which is usually fun stuff to read and discuss. But I’ve always felt there’s a half of the picture missing – accountability for those predictions.
Recently pundittracker.com started to track single-winner picks which is great but I’d like to continue this blog’s “tradition” with comparing wins projected before the season to the actual ones after the season.
So which writer, blogger or author had the most accurate projections before the 2012-13 NBA season?

To answer this question I gathered predictions in early November from most popular sites and other googled sources [btw, it’s not a closed list so if you want to add your’s predictions let me know in the comments] and compared them to actual results by Root Mean Square Deviation which is essentially average difference between each prediction and result in terms of absolute value.
If you want to play with numbers or check any single entry just download NBA Predictions Accuracy 2012-13.pdf but if you are interested only in the results they are in the table below…

But please keep in mind two important notes:
1) don’t think or assume it’s all about the skills of people involved because randomness plays a part here… and it’s hard for the better example than Minnesota Timberwolves in 2012-13. Literally everybody thought they would be better this season but they were crushed by injuries and in the end the best prediction for this team turned out to be from… last years’ adjusted wins! So if someone predicted 45 wins for them his result was punished by bad luck more than someone who predicted 35 wins for them.
Well, unless someone can predict injuries…

2) in most cases entries next to each other are basically interchangeable in terms of accuracy because difference between them can be translated into “2-3 more/less wins in the right direction would flip them”.

Onto the table…

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Posted by on April 23, 2013 in Expanding Horizons

 

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