NBA Rank 2: It’s a Celebration

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Published: October 14, 2013

It’s time to celebrate. Davis is looking very much like the franchise player that New Orleans fans expected him to be, and national media finally appears to have arrived at the consensus opinion that he is going to be a star in the league. But of course, we all knew that, so why does this newfound national optimism about Davis’s career expectations matter? Because now you don’t have to tolerate scowls and accusations of “homerism” when you talk about his bright future with fans of other teams. You can wave his NBA Rank card (seriously, print/laminate one and keep one handy) in their faces, boldly proclaiming that this is the opinion of the majority and that the majority IS ALWAYS RIGHT, as we (the majority) know we are.

Last week, I took a look at the 2012-2013 NBA Rank and how the results played out.  I had one goal in mind: look for trends in teams who made the playoffs. I found 3 trends and was fortunate enough to have one of our readers (MazonMafia) point out one that I missed.

If you missed last week’s piece and want more detail, check out last week’s piece. If you don’t want to read through any more of my mindless drivel than you have to, here’s a quick recap.

Trend 1: Having a top 10 player

Success rate: 85.7%

Trend 2: Having 2 players in the top 50 (thanks, MazonMafia)

Success rate: 87.5%

Trend 3: Having 3 players in the top 50

Success rate: 100%

Trend 4: Having 4 players in the top 100

Success rate: 90%

Pelican results

Now to the fun part. The Pelicans have all been ranked, so it’s time to take out the measuring stick. Here are the results of each Pelican. Please excuse the formatting.

       Player        Rank
Anthony Davis 33
Jrue Holiday 43
Ryan Anderson 56
Eric Gordon 71
Tyreke Evans 79
Al-Farouq Aminu 170
Jason Smith 243
Anthony Morrow 265
Austin Rivers 281
Brian Roberts 316
Greg Stiemsma 350
Darius Miller 380
Jeff Withey 387
Lance Thomas 391
Arinze Onuaku 494

 

Trend 1: Having a top 10 player
Result: Failure

Trend 2: Having 2 players in the top 50
Result: Success (Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday)

Trend 3: Having 3 players in the top 50
Result: Failure (Ryno fell short by a few spots)

Trend 4: Having 4 players in the top 100
Result: Success (Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans made the cut, which means that the Pelicans had one more than the benchmark of 4).

Establishing a Comparison

After the dust settled from the summer storm that was the Pelicans offseason, I went over the roster again and again trying to establish an idea of what to expect this season. I wanted to find a team from last year to compare to this year’s Pelicans, and I decided to find it using NBA Rank.

Assumption: in establishing a team comparison, it is most important to match the values of the best players. In my last article, I mentioned the widely-used notion that many role players are interchangeable. Successful teams almost always have a star, and champions always have a star. That’s what I believe matters, and I went off of that assumption in this analysis.

New Orleans had 5 standout players in NBA Rank, so I chose to find a team whose players’ NBA Ranks from last year closely approximated those of the 13-14 Pelicans.

In this table below, the NBA Rank of each team’s top 5 players from last season was compared to the NBA Rank of the top 5 Pelicans players from this year. Each number represents the absolute value in distance (in regards to rank) from the Pelicans player.

If that doesn’t make sense, here’s an example. Last year, Denver’s top 5 players were ranked 28, 48, 54, 71, and 77.  Its best player, therefore, was 28. The number in the “1” column, 5, was calculated by subtracting from the first Pelicans player (33).  It follows that..

Column “2”:      5 comes from absolute value of (Pels 43 minus Denver 48)
Column “3”:      2 comes from absolute value of (Pels 56 minus Denver 54)
Column “4”:      0 comes from absolute value of (Pels 71 minus Denver 71)
Column “5”:      2 comes from absolute value of (Pels 79 minus Denver 77)

I decided to use absolute values because the sum of a highly negative value and a highly positive one (let’s say -91 and 91) could still wind up being a small number. For example, Team X’s best player was ranked 91 spots away from the Pelicans’ best player and its 2nd best was 91 spots away from the Pelicans 2nd best.. yet their sum winds up being 0, which leads one to believe that the teams are comparable. Moving on..

 1  2  3  4 5 Sum
Denver 5 5 2 0 2 14
Indiana 2 4 0 4 8 18
Brooklyn 23 10 4 1 5 43
Chicago 28 7 19 4 3 61
Memphis 9 11 22 6 13 61
Boston 21 22 27 10 18 98
Oklahoma City 31 34 15 5 21 106
Atlanta 3 12 32 37 30 114
Golden State 7 2 3 53 56 121
Miami 32 35 38 7 25 137
Dallas 22 42 34 21 19 138
Minnesota 26 4 23 34 54 141
Utah 11 10 33 52 46 152
New York 16 20 13 56 53 158
San Antonio 17 18 29 24 70 158
L.A. Clippers 29 29 30 39 32 159
Philadelphia 20 30 35 47 40 172
Milwaukee 13 18 16 65 74 186
Toronto 18 15 40 41 85 199
L.A. Lakers 30 37 41 52 58 218
Phoenix 24 25 27 69 79 224
Washington 19 12 45 71 91 238
Houston 7 35 43 81 96 262
New Orleans
(reference
numbers)
33 43 56 71 79 282
Sacramento 9 26 75 79 99 288
Orlando 47 59 59 70 64 299
Portland 13 20 53 131 132 349
Detroit 16 60 88 106 127 397
Cleveland 11 31 144 137 171 494
Charlotte 95 103 98 113 120 529

 

Results

The Pelicans’ NBA Ranks from this year were remarkably close to the 2012-13 Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers, two highly-seeded teams in their respective conferences.. but don’t jump for joy yet. Indiana’s Paul George took a quantum leap forward last year and played way better than his 75 rank and the Pacers were in a weak Eastern Conference.  They also featured the best defense in the NBA and did not face the core chemistry issues that the Pelicans will likely have to overcome this season.  Despite the similarities in rank, the Pacers are very unlikely to be a fair comparison.

The 12-13 Denver Nuggets, however, seem to be a decent comparison for what this Pelicans squad could be. The team featured many very good, borderline All-Stars, but no established superstar.  Denver’s roster from last year was full of athletic, fast players, and its depth + athleticism but lack of superstar made it a perfect candidate for the “we’re built for the regular season but probably won’t go far in the playoffs” club.. and that’s exactly what happened. The Nuggets finished 3rd in the conference with 57 wins, which was 1 more than the Clippers and Grizzlies managed.

The difference between this year’s Western Conference and last year’s starts at the top.  The Clippers and the Rockets appear to have improved, and in reality, the top 5-6 spots in the conference look pretty set. The Pelicans’ goal is clear: they want to make the playoffs. The preseason results have brought optimism, and Anthony Davis’s play is stirring up excitement. The trends from last year say the Pelicans can make it and NBA Rank says the talent is there.. what do you think?


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