Bulls Mathematical Favorites to Win Championship

Bulls Mathematical Favorites to Win Championship

All studies show the best indicator of a team's playoff success isn't their record in close games, but a team's ability to blow other teams out while avoiding getting blow out -- moreso than beating elite teams. People who say otherwise are actively lying to you.

That said, the Bulls (53-19) are continuing to spank competition as games around the league get tighter.
Basketball-Reference.com's plus-minus ratings -- adjusted for strength of schedule -- are updated every Friday and had the Bulls at #1 for the first time this season, despite a relatively weak schedule. John Hollinger's playoff odds, based on simulations, has the Bulls an overwhelming 31.1% favorite to win the NBA championship over the tied-at-11.6% Celtics (51-21) and Lakers (53-20) Hollinger's power rankings, which weigh recent games over earlier games, has had the Bulls at the top for almost a week now.
The more analytical subjective rakings -- i.e. Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk and Eric Pincus at HoopsWorld have the Bulls at #2 overall behind the Lakers, which seems reasonable. I'm not even going to entertain discussing the rankings of people who just yank shit out of thin air and vomit them out, peddling their biased word jumbles for analysis.
The Bulls' two-game lead for the top seed in the Eastern Conference has completely shifted the balance of power to their favor. No slight on the Magic, but avoiding the Celtics and Heat in the first two rounds as those two play each other are highly favorable for Chicago. But, as the subjective rankings suggest, without homecourt against the Lakers, it's tough to buy the Bulls winning a title this season. Also, it's very tough to shake the possibility that all four top East teams are capable of beating each other in the playoffs, so it's jibberish -- in my opinion -- to call anyone a definitive favorite. That said, all reasonable standards grant the Bulls that honor right now.
I linked to it today's Horny Notes, but it's worth repeating: Doug Thonus' look at the Bulls, Celtics, and Heat (51-22) remaining schedules over at Chicago Bulls Confidential is worth a look to put this in perspective.

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  • Alex I've seen you're an advanced stat guy. I have up until recently stuck with traditional stats integrating PER after Doug's heavy reliance/insistence on it's relevance. Have you used the "play index - team season finder" on Basket-Reference.com much? Doug's suggestion from his podcast led me to compare the 108 off. rating and and 100 def. rating teams he was referring to who have won the championship. Except the other two teams(Spurs and Boston) had eFG%'s of .520 or so while the Bulls were at .498. And Bulls offense ranks lower at 20th. Are these meaningful differences to you?(Sorry if I butchered any advanced stat usage/interpretation, but I'm fairly new to them).

  • In reply to MikeKeane:

    It's definitely relevant because the better your defense, the more you're draining time from opponents' shot clocks. The longer their possessions, the less total possessions in a game. So when non-FT possessions are converted into about .99 points per, instead of 1.04, the defense's margin of error shrinks by a pretty high, tangible manner.

    Thibs is very self-aware of this and where the Bulls D differs from those Spurs/C's D's is running the floor on defensive rebounds a la Red's Army in the 1960s. Instead of the Bulls' best offense being meticulously fine tuning offensive sets for marginal gains, their emphasis is more on not letting other teams elongate possessions with offensive rebounds *and* shifting the pace in those situations to create the quickest, easiest buckets that be created on the basketball court.

    But again, since the NBA Piston-proofed the rules a few years ago, yes, Doug's right to be concerned. That said, the Bulls' offense is above average, when adjusted to pace and that's relevant because their pace is consistent -- compared to, say, the T'wolves, whose pace swings with their own mistakes. It was within a point of average for a large part of the mid-trimester of the season and has risen to 13th from around 15th/16th at 107.9 and rising from the low-106 range only about five weeks ago. As long as this continues to trend upward without the defensive trends suffering, they become more of a title contender than anyone because their margin of victory (average dominance) skyrockets.

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