Roster Improvements Doesn’t Necessarily Mean More Wins for Hornets

When it comes to predicting how the team will fare this season, McNamara argues that some people have it all wrong.

It’s the dead season right now in the NBA, and that means fans and media are reaching at straws to find topics that can quench our thirst for basketball after a captivating season and an equally exciting summer. Now that the draft has taken place, trades have been made, and free agents are all signed, it is only natural that fans and media alike move on to projecting the upcoming season. Different forms of analysis are used; everything from running simulations to forming panels in order to arrive at a consensus. Our own Mason Ginsberg attempted to predict each player’s minutes and PER to determine the subsequent effect that it may have on each team’s expected wins and losses.

Are these methods foolproof? Of course not, but at least they are sound forms of analysis, based off of some sort of calculable measure. There is another form of analysis, another form of argument that gets it all wrong however and it is a splinter inside of my mind that must be removed before I can move forward. It is an argument that not only Hornets fans, but fans of all teams in all sports make that simply drives me crazy and it goes as follows:

We won [insert number here] games last year and we improved our roster so that means that we are going to win at least [insert larger number here] games this season.

This is a terrible argument. In fact, it is worse than terrible. It is simply non-sensical and unsound. It is the exact type of argument that we have to put an end to in order to engage in a more well-informed discussion. First things first, I want to clarify why it is a terrible argument. You see, most people tend to think that a good argument is an argument that proves to be true. That simply is not the case. Let’s assume somebody who never met me were to say the following after reading this article:

This writer is Michael McNamara

McNamara is an Irish name

Michael McNamara must drive a Subaru Outback.

Now, even though this person’s conclusion is true, this argument is not sound because there is nothing that connects their premises to their conclusion. Similarly, saying that the Hornets will win more games than they did last year because of perceived roster improvements is a statement that may eventually prove to be true, but the form of the argument is still incredibly poor.

The number of wins or winning percentage of the 2011-12 New Orleans Hornets has absolutely nothing to do with how many wins the 2012-13 New Orleans Hornets will produce. Zip. Zilch. Nada.  The 2011-12 Hornets won 21 games, but that is not an absolute. If that season was played in 1,000 different universes, the Hornets would not have won 21 games in each one of those universes. That team was not, by definition, a 21 win team. Yes, they happened to win 21 games, but that was not a necessary and sufficient characteristic of the 2011-12 New Orleans Hornets.

Furthermore, the 2012-13 Hornets do not play the 2011-12 New Orleans Hornets schedule. They do not even play one team that is identical to a team that the previous years’ team played. They are tackling an entirely different obstacle with an entirely different set of circumstances and variables. Using the 2011-12 Hornets as a baseline for the next year’s performance would make us much sense as using your buddies luck in blackjack to predict your luck in No-Limit Texas Hold-Em.

Let’s look at another sport to see how ridiculous this common argument truly is when it is used. John Thrasher is a UFC Middleweight that is 6-4 in his first ten UFC contests. Now, word out of his camp is that his takedown defense is dramatically improved and his punching power has increased by nearly 15%. With that new-found knowledge, can you say that he is a lock to win at least seven out of his next ten fights, if not more? Of course not, but why?

Because he is going to be fighting completely different opponents, and beyond that, there is the randomness of the next ten, not to mention the uncertainty of what truly happened in the first ten. Perhaps, in one of his six victories, he fought poorly but caught another fighter on a worse night (as the Hornets did when they defeated the Bobcats at Charlotte this past year). Against any other fighter, he would have lost. This is my point when I say that your record isn’t necessarily a proper indicator of the quality of team (or fighter) that you truly are overall.

In his next batch of ten fights, he might have a bad fight on a night when a worse fighter has a good one and subsequently lose. He might have a good fight on a night when an equal fighter has the bout of his life; losing again. The point is that his previous ten fights and his increased skill set really has nothing to do with his next ten fights when so many variables in the equation have been changed.

So, what are some of the variables when it comes to the 2012-13 New Orleans Hornets, besides the schedule of course? Well first of all, there are dozens of variables inside of the schedule change. But beyond that, how about the effort of the opposing teams? We saw it time after time last year and acknowledged it while it was happening- teams simply did not play us for 48 minutes the way that they would play a team they respected. We all optimistically point to how many close games that we lost but fail to admit that we went into most of those fourth quarters with decent sized leads before the other team decided to finally wake up and put their foot on our throats. I don’t expect the same level of disrespect, nor to I expect teams to enter the Hive this year with the nonchalant attitude that they greeted our bees with last year.

We can also assume that there will be a different psychology surrounding the Hornets this season. Possibly gone is the “us against the world” mentality that was derived from the fact that New Orleans was in the only team in the NBA without an owner. Perhaps there will be less hunger in the locker room, as the roster went from guys scratching and clawing for just a chance to play in the NBA to one where a few guys got legitimately paid and a couple of rookies are being anointed despite the fact that they never played an NBA game.

And of course there are hundreds of variables that can push the win total in the opposite direction, catapulting the Hornets into the Western Conference playoff picture. Maybe the Hornets face San Antonio on the nights when Popovich decides to sit his three stars or they get the Lakers on a night when Dwight and Nash are getting a couples massage on their ailing backs. The point of this article is not to try to accurately predict how many games the Hornets, or any other NBA team for that matter, will win next season. I simply desire to put an end to this ridiculous argument that I see far too often in favor of a more intelligent discourse. And now that the splinter has been plucked from my brain, the onus is on each and every one of you to disarm others who try to wield this false logic in the future.

Message boards and comment sections are a dangerous place, so I send you out there knowing that you may never return, but believing that the sacrifice you make in doing this will benefit future generations who may never be subject to such an argument if we succeed. That, my friends, is something worth [internet] dying for.


35 responses to “Roster Improvements Doesn’t Necessarily Mean More Wins for Hornets”

  1. One thing people forget is that we were a 21 win team in a 66 game schedule last season. So we could have a worse winning percentage this year and still have more wins this upcoming season.

      • For the Hornets it won’t be playoffs or bust. They have a centerpiece in Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon and pieces around them. If they are looking to go the classic franchise building rout, next season should be about gaining an identitiy and consistency by season’s end. You want to see a team and organization that believes they see light at the end of the tunnel and an overall committment by the players buying into the coaches mindset.

        I expect the Hornets to compete for a playoff spot, scare a few teams but marginally fall off.

      • I agree with you Ross. While I would love a championship as much as the next fan, the Hornets will just fall short of the playoffs on the way to finding their identity…….

        And enjoy another lottery pick next year.
        (Googling small-forwards possible in next year’s draft)

  2. I just believe in the hornets organization. I’m jus a die hard who wants to believe and hope every year that the New Orleans HORNETS /Saints will get better and better each year! Beeleave Dat! !

  3. Michael,

    The law of averages indicates that, over an 82 game season, the good and bad luck of how you catch an opponent will even out. And slightly less theoretically, injuries will even out, too, over the long run of several seasons. Which leads to a factual problem with your position: All things being equal, the Hornets will be a much better team this year than last year if Gordon is significantly more healthy this year because they caught a horrible break with Gordon’s pre-existing injury.

    Now if people were looking at the Hornets in a vacuum when they said “We won [insert number here] games last year and we improved our roster so that means that we are going to win at least [insert larger number here] games this season”, then I would agree with your point. But most people aren’t merely looking at the Hornets in isolation.

    Most people are looking at the improvements to the Hornets RELATIVE TO the rest of the teams in the league. You can do that and suggest significantly more wins for the Hornets this year. (Of course it means assuming reasonably luck for all teams.)

    But there is no difference in this method and Mason’s PER based method, running simulations, or polling a panel. They all involve value judgements about how the 2012-13 Hornets and their improved roster will perform RELATIVE TO the rest of the team is the league. (And these method you mention also assume reasonable luck for all teams.)

    Putting numbers in a future analysis is like putting lipstick on a pig. It is still someone’s opinion of how the Hornets will perform as a group. No method is any better than another. For each method depends on the author much more than the method. And that point is where I believe you really missed the boat.

    • Again, you are falling into the trap of assuming that a valid argument is the same as an argument that proves to be true. This is not the case. An argument is valid if the premises imply the conclusion.

      There is no method that can accurately predict what will happen next season, but at least give me a method that is valid by the definition I stated above. The argument that bothers me is neither sound nor valid and it is said far too often without anybody challenging it to let it slide any more.

      I agree that the other methods are not sound, because their premises are not necessarily true, but at least they are valid and when talking about the future, that is sufficient for me.

      • Your example argument with the Subaru Outback is an excellent example.

        Unfortunately for your thesis, “better players” is related to “winning more games”.

        Your point, IMNSHO, should have been that “better players” isn’t the only factor in winning more games.

    • As far as the law of averages, or various laws of large numbers go, the time scale must exceed the effect of interest.

      Ergo, it has more of a place in terms of these things evening out over seasons, not within a season, for the gross injuries.

      Also, it’s based on independence in many cases, so correlation between `steps’ should not be inferred . . .

      So, over 100 years, it’s as if it all balances out, but there’s no rule about short term order in the deviations, even if there is in the `signal’.

  4. The first comment is blind conjecture. I can’t tell if they’re serious or not.
    Michael, I love the post and agree to your point.
    Whenever some fan, here or on Hornetsreport, posts something like “playoffs this year” I choose to play their game however. I wonder how much basketball those people watch. I wonder if they know other teams well. Do they understand that in the western conference there are 10 teams who are going to scrape tooth and nail to get into 8 seeds? All ten of those teams are better than us right now. We just overhauled our roster, we have (I’m assuming) the youngest team in the league. Our future is bright. We have nothing to complain about. We just won’t make the playoffs this year.

    • What is your argument that we won’t make the playoffs based on? Other teams’ predicted performances in the upcoming season? According to that logic, Michael hates your argument. The Hornets youth? I can’t think of another really young team that has had a successful season in recent memory… except for, oh yeah, OKC.

      Now I’m not saying we’re OKC, I’m just flipping the script. Our division, like much of the NBA, is in flux… will S.A. fall off that age cliff they’ve been hanging out around for several years now? Will Dallas succeed with Dirk and a roster overhaul? Will Memphis have the depth to contend without Mayo and others? Houston, you have a problem, no questions asked. Not only might N.O. make the playoffs, they might even contend for the division!

      Then again, maybe not… I have no idea. So I’m predicting 41 wins. Just because.

      • My oh my.
        A- OKC is a great example…..of a team that took years to reach the playoffs after getting a number 2 pick in the draft. Durant was drafted in 2007 and played his first year in Seattle. That year they won 20 games. They actually did worse than the year prior.
        B- How does my argument not make sense based on other teams record’s? If you think this team makes the playoffs then you are inherently also stating that they finish with a better record than the other teams so by measuring the other teams’ performances you can gauge where you stand.
        C- Divisions don’t mean anything in the NBA. You can win the division and not make the playoffs. Who cares if we win our division? (spoiler alert, we won’t)
        D- Mayo? How many Grizzlies games have you watched the past 4 years? There is a reason they let him go. If anything their question is “will Z-bo get back to where he was and if so can he and Gay contribute together?”
        E- I’m inclined to agree that SAS have been teetering on the edge for years but every year people underrate them. They just came off of a winning streak that saw them lost 2 games in the period of nearly three months. That’s incredible no matter who you are so I doubt they’re just suddenly going to dive from an 8 seed to out of contention
        41 wins? We win half our games? Look around the league. Stop overvaluing our own players. We are in great shape 3 years from now. This season will still be amazing, and probably my favorite in five years. At this point I can’t tell if some fans are ignorant of the rest of the league or purposely putting on blinders. Us making the playoffs is a 1/100 shot.
        Oh and you think a .500 team goes to the playoffs in the western conference?

  5. Most of the things in this world are wrong if all things are taken equal because the world never is like that. The argument that “we won 21 games last year (in a 66 game schedule so extending it to an 82 game schedule comes out right around 26) so we’ll probably win more this year because we improved our roster so much!” is indeed an invalid argument masquerading as a valid one.

    But your tone seems to imply that it cannot be used to help evaluate how good the team is RIGHT now. That is not correct as well. In any discussion, context means everything. If for example I say that “argument” in the context of just the number of wins, then yes it is valid. Saying the “argument” is indeed a valid argument. But in the overall scheme of things, using that “argument” alone in the context of winning is indeed invalid. It fails to capture the randomness of situations, the inescapable variables that will affect all teams (injuries, schedules, chemistry, fit, etc.) and the fact that SOME teams also improved or “maintained” (at least on paper) their previous roster, not just us, then suddenly, using that argument falls by quite a bit (and by a bit, I mean a TON).

    Comparing our team this year to our team last year without the right context seems wrong. Our team must be compared to the teams THIS year because THOSE are who we’re going to play this year. But comparing our team last year to our team THIS year is basically comparing OUR team this year to the league LAST YEAR (i.e. how would the NOH 2012/13 fair in a 2011/12 NBA season?) gives you a glimpse what the team is made of. Example:

    NOH 2012/13 is worse than the LAL 2011/12, so my argument that NOH will probably lose to the much improved LAL 2012/13 (on paper) holds water, right?

    NOH 2012/13 is better than DET 2011/12. The DET 2011/12 haven’t really improved, so NOH 2012/13 will probably be better than DET 2012/13.

    NOH 2012/13 is better than WAS 2011/12. But WAS 2012/13 is better than WAS 2011/12.

    Suddenly, the argument becomes murkier and you start considering everything – chemistry, fit, head coach, schedule, etc.

    But using the basic property of commutativity, comparing our team to last year (which is basically comparing our team to last year’s league) is a valid argument if you put it in the right context. Otherwise, it’s a bad argument.

  6. Michael,

    I just think you fail to realize that this team has a vision now. Last year was basically figuring out how to play without Chris Paul. This year, it is figuring how to build around Davis,Gordon, and Rivers. The wins may not add up but there will be more progress in terms of evaluating what we need to tweak to get better versus should we even win this game to hurt our lottery chances last year. I see little reason why we would not improve on last year’s win total. The players are less experienced but the talent level has increased dramatically. Davis and Gordon will win us alot of games we had no business winning. Talent trumps coaching in this league at times. If we assume no major injuries will occur, there is no doubt the win percentage will climb with this team. Benson did not pay for alot of roster improvements if the GM couldnt convince him it was time to make a push. I dont think Hornets want to see the lottery for a long time. To me, Anderson is the key. He is unselfish player who will hit the three and take pressure off guys like Gordon,Rivers and Davis who thrive by getting to the basket. The spacing he will provide will make all the difference, C and PF guarding him cant cheat and fill the lanes. Lopez is the guy who will give the fouls and defense the bigger C leaving Davis the matchup nightmare for opposing PF. I just think Davis’ timing is off the charts. As long as the referees dont let him get pushed around in the paint, he is a defensive player of the year candidate. All this adds up to more wins.

  7. I also want to simplify it for you, the Heat acquired James and Bosh and they were expected to win the championship the first year. Based on your theory it would be “non-sensical” to think the Heat would win the title based on roster improvements. If you add better players the wins usually goes up, it’s really simple basketball is a 5 man sport. If you upgrade at two positions that is a huge jump in the NBA. The HEAT did indeed make the Finals the first year together. Same with Boston, they added KG and Allen and the first year they win the championship. Coaching was still the same, they just added supremely talented players.

  8. The Hornets upcoming season will be better off than this article leads you to believe. The main idea that has never crossed the mind of the writer of this article is the future uproar of the New Orleans Arena. Everyone already knows the Saints are the kings of the town and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is renound as the loudest venue in the largest American sport. Along with that another interesting statistic is that the Saints had an NFL league-high 99.8% season ticket holder retention. You may be asking “why is this relevant.” The answer is the sports fans of New Orleans will make an impact quickly. Not to mention that the Hornets have a good home schedule with numerous games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Not to get away from the argument about the hornets not being a 21 win team, but without Eric Gordon what kind of expectations did you expect, not to mention injuries. Don’t be fooled by this articles negativity when the string of recent events for the organization has been superb.

  9. Either this article wasn’t read or some people don’t understand what they read- and I don’t know which is worse.

    NOWHERE in this article do I make the claim that I do not think the Hornets will improve. The article is solely about using a bad argument to make a claim that they will improve.

    Personally, I think the Hornets record will be significantly better than it was last year, but I would not arrive at that conclusion using a form of reasoning that lacks structural validity

      • The argument makes sense, but to a degree, its a little pointless. It’s sort of like saying, you cant draw conclusions from business cases because the factors are different in every case or there is no reason to study history because every scenario is different.

        Bottom line is the Hornets should be a better team than last year — this hinges on huge assumption that we don’t suffer major injuries to Davis, Gordon, and Anderson. With that in mind, a better team doesn’t mean more wins. History is littered with talented teams that combust (e.g. last years Philadelphia Eagles). But the NBA has long seasons, and luck plays a much smaller role (beyond the obvious injury issues) than in sports like Football.

        So in most cases, if you add more talent, that talent stays healthy, and that talent is able to coexist with one another (e.g. adding a shoot first PG may not always translate to wins, but adding a great pass first PG almost always translates to wins) you will probably win more games.

        I agree that there are tons of reasons why every season is not exactly the same and why the Hornets season may be more difficult this year or less difficult. Fewer teams may try to tank, etc. All of that being said, if history shows that teams that make talent (actual, not perceived) upgrades in the off season tend to win more games, then that argument is 100% valid, although there will always be counter-examples (e.g. Hornets add James Posey and regress from their best season ever).

  10. Seriously Micheal your title is very misleading and for you to write a blog without an opinion is another headshaker. Not once in the article did you say the hornets would win more games. Stop trying to be cute and just state an opinion. Hornets247 is starting to be like Nola. Com. Writers who won’t admit mistakes.
    Your title suggests hornets may not win more games. Does it not or did you graduate from a better high school than all of usus

    • The article was talking about how the argument of “comparing this year’s team to last year’s team” without any context is invalid. And it is. You seem to be talking about mere roster improvements. The title is misleading (that’s MMs fault) but you not comprehending his post is your fault.

      Again, MM was arguing that the following statement is invalid:
      “We won 21 games last year, so because we now have a better team than last year, we’ll win 21+ games this year”. He said it was invalid because the team this year should be compared with other teams this year and not to our team last year because they are going to be playing with those guys.

      As I said, context is everything. As it is, the argument is invalid. But used in the proper context, it can mean something.

  11. 1) Mistakes happen. At what point did anyone say otherwise? If you are jumping on lately and making comments about patterns that you’ve not had time to observe, I’d ask you increase your sampling.

    2) There is no need to engage in discussions about any reader or comments in favor of discussions about the writing or comments.

    3) The article is about an implication, not a result. It’s about whether p implies q, not about p or q. It’s about whether “roster improvements,” the concept, implies, “more wins for Hornets.” Another way to say this to ask if “more wins for Hornets” follows necessarily from “roster improvements,” the concept.

    I can see the argument for including a Don’t or removing the “s,”, but it’s a little gray given the typical lingo in logic. None of these grammar rules are as rigid as those who memorize them (rather than study language) believe. For instance, people say “an MBA” all the time. Rules suggest “a MBA.” Phonetics and the actual phonemes suggest otherwise. See “NPR” often said as “MPR” . . . it’s a tongue thing.

    He’s not talking about the any particular improvement, but the ideas of improving the roster and more wins for the Hornets.

    If you want to get pissed off about an “s”, feel free. If you had a class in logic at the high school you are so proud of, perhaps you’ll recognize this kind of language, etc. from the first week.

    Bring some fun, or bring some genuine discussion about the article, please.

    Improvements and criticism are always welcome, but there’s a way to do it.

  12. Who cares haha

    All I want is hornets to do is win more games then last year, grow as a team and get all these pieces to bond together. Lets make Gordon love new Orleans, let’s watch Davis become a beast.

    My god season and 2k13 please hurry up

  13. Fans are fans and will become excited when they’re team improves, and will always look to figure out where their team will be in the next season. I don’t see it as a statistical argument rather commited fans who are excited and have great hope for their team. Some may have expectations too high, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with looking forward to the future season and wondering what it will behold. We wouldnt be good fans if we didn’t look for our team to improve and didn’t have faith in them. I love the hornets and will always stick with them, and honestly can’t wait to watch them this year. Geaux Hornets!

  14. These are the articles I love during the dead season. Well written and a fun read while staying on topic (of the Hornets), without making wild speculation. I enjoyed the read, and while I think there are outliers to every rule, I agree with this piece.

    Thanks for taking the time and keep ’em coming.

  15. More clouds doesn’t necessarily mean more rain

    While it does make it far more likely, it does not that rain is definitely going to follow.

    Sorry that the title is misleading to some, but I think the article stands on its own and I asked a few others to read it to make sure it was not too confusing.

    Now, those people are fired! I am talking to you Calmes! You said it was clear….

    • Why aren’t you fired for asking a rambling fool if something is clear? Ask someone who hasn’t had a logic class? Wouldn’t that the most logical thing?

      I still don’t see anyone complaining about the article, just about what they wish the article said instead.

      Oh well, I guess I’ll go check out Zephyrs247. See you guys on the other side. It’s been fun.

    • Not trying to harp on the point I just made — but if you saw more clouds, its valid to say you expect rain relative to your expectation prior to seeing the clouds. It doesn’t mean it will rain, but it does increase your expectation.

      That’s basically how it goes with roster improvements.

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