Sunday, May 29, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 10

This is the week where the relative part of "relative adjusted net margin" comes into focus. West Coast getting belted by Collingwood is still a better relative performance than Sydney's narrow win over North Melbourne, so the Eagles move up to sixth. Similarly, the Bulldogs' loss to Hawthorn is not as bad in a relative sense as Fremantle's loss to St. Kilda and Adelaide's loss to Brisbane, so the Dogs move up to eleventh.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 40.2 (Last week 41.8)
2 (2) Geelong 31.5 (30.1)
3 (3) Hawthorn 19.7 (18.5)
4 (4) Carlton 15.9 (13.4)
5 (5) St. Kilda 6.7 (3.5)
6 (8) West Coast 2.7 (1.4)
7 (7) Essendon 2.2 (2.2)
8 (6) Sydney 2.0 (2.3)
9 (9) Melbourne -6.0 (-3.9)
10 (12) North Melbourne -8.1 (-8.3)
11 (13) Western Bulldogs -11.1 (-9.7)
12 (10) Adelaide -11.1 (-5.3)
13 (11) Fremantle -11.9 (-8.1)
14 (14) Richmond -17.5 (-15.6)
15 (15) Brisbane -19.6 (-24.8)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -27.9 (-29.6)
17 (17) Gold Coast -49.4 (-48.2)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

LeBron vs Jordan

OK, right now I'd say Michael Jordan was better than LeBron James is, but there's one argument that I never want to hear again for why Jordan was better, which is that LeBron has teamed up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to try and win a championship. Jordan had great teammates in Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, and then Pippen and Dennis Rodman. The difference is this: Jordan's front office in Chicago got him his great teammates, LeBron had to leave Cleveland to find his. Yes, the 'taking my talents to South Beach' quote does grate, but it doesn't impact how effective LeBron is on a basketball court. If anyone wants to say Jordan was better than LeBron is, find another argument (and there's plenty of other arguments that one can use).

Thus ends the rant.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

So Where Are the Cuban Mavs On The List of Most Memorable Non-Title Winning NBA Teams Now?

Up to No. 4 I reckon, although of course if they win the title they fall off the list entirely. And if Miami don't win the title, they knock out the 2004 Lakers for the No. 10 spot.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More Wins = More Brownlow Votes?

Yes they do, but the effect hasn't been uniform across clubs. In particular, the newer clubs have considerably higher correlations between average votes per match and winning percentages across home-and-away seasons (excluding those seasons in which the 3-2-1 system of voting was not in place).

Brisbane Bears/Lions: 0.97
West Coast: 0.96
Adelaide: 0.95
Port Adelaide: 0.92
Fremantle: 0.91
St. Kilda: 0.81
Hawthorn: 0.78
Richmond: 0.75
Bulldogs: 0.74
Geelong: 0.73
Carlton: 0.73
Essendon: 0.73
Sydney: 0.72
North Melbourne: 0.67
Melbourne: 0.66
Collingwood: 0.61
Fitzroy: 0.59

The likely explanation for this is that votes have become more highly correlated with wins over time.

Monday, May 23, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 9

Most interesting week this year in terms of movement in the rankings. West Coast and the Bulldogs essentially swap spots after the Eagles toasted the Dogs. The Eagles, remember, were dead last when the season began. The Saints jump back to fifth after their win, but are still a fair way off the top four teams, which have been settled for a while now.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 41.8 (Last week 43.8)
2 (2) Geelong 30.1 (31.8)
3 (3) Hawthorn 18.5 (16.5)
4 (4) Carlton 13.4 (12.3)
5 (7) St. Kilda 3.5 (2.6)
6 (5) Sydney 2.3 (6.2)
7 (6) Essendon 2.2 (4.0)
8 (12) West Coast 1.4 (-9.6)
9 (9) Melbourne -3.9 (-3.1)
10 (10) Adelaide -5.3 (-6.8)
11 (13) Fremantle -8.1 (-11.9)
12 (11) North Melbourne -8.3 (-7.5)
13 (8) Western Bulldogs -9.7 (2.0)
14 (14) Richmond -15.6 (-17.9)
15 (16) Brisbane -24.8 (-25.8)
16 (15) Port Adelaide -29.6 (-25.5)
17 (17) Gold Coast -48.2 (-47.4)

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Overvaluation of Rings in Basketball

Most basketball fans would have heard this one before: Player X has won more (championship) rings than Player Y, therefore Player X is better. Certainly the number of rings that a player has won gives some indication to how good they are - no-one wins a championship, let alone multiple championships, purely through luck. But as a method for evaluating players they are vastly over-valued.

Now I think it's true that in basketball one or two or three players can have a much larger influence on the outcome than a lot of other sports. So the amount of games a player wins does say quite a bit about a player's ability. The fact that Jordan, Magic, Bird, Tim Duncan, Shaq and Kobe have all been major contributors to teams that won championships indicates they were among the best players than the NBA has ever produced - you would have a very hard time arguing otherwise. But the difference in ability between them and a few of the players who did not win championships is not as large as often thought, and in some cases may not even exist at all.

The first reason is that a lot of basketball playoff games are very close, and there was a substantial probability that they could have turned out differently to how they did. Consider Kobe for instance - three of his championship runs involved a Game 7 that was close to going the other way: 2000 (against the Blazers), 2002 (against the Kings), and 2009 (against the Celtics). Had the Lakers lost all three he would have won "only" two rings to date. Now I'm not saying we shouldn't think of him any differently at all because he has won five rings: his team was able to win those games after all. What I'm saying is that we shouldn't think that much differently of him whether he ended up winning two championships or five, because the margin between him winning two or five championships was very slim.

The second reason is that, as dominant as the best players are, whether you win a championship or not depends to a considerable degree on your teammates. If Kobe had been an LA Clipper instead of an LA Laker, would he have won a single ring? Unlikely. But the wide disparity in results would barely be any reflection on him, rather it would be a reflection of the respective teams around him. Conversely, put Tracy McGrady (at his peak) on those Laker teams and he would have had a great chance to pick up a few rings by now. It should never be argued that a player wasn't great simply because he never won a ring. What that means is his team wasn't great. If you want to argue a player was or wasn't great, you have to have more of an argument that the number of rings he has won.

Yes it is great to win and it sucks to lose. But don't let the huge difference in emotion fool you into thinking there is a huge difference in ability. The difference is often not as large as it seems.

AFL Power Rankings - Week 8

There were a few unexpected results this week, with Geelong beating Collingwood, North Melbourne beating Melbourne, and West Coast beating Fremantle. St. Kilda fall to 7th after another loss, while Fremantle fall to 13th.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 43.8 (Last week 45.3)
2 (2) Geelong 31.8 (30.2)
3 (3) Hawthorn 16.5 (15.5)
4 (4) Carlton 12.3 (12.1)
5 (6) Sydney 6.2 (4.1)
6 (7) Essendon 4.0 (1.2)
7 (5) St. Kilda 2.6 (4.7)
8 (8) Western Bulldogs 2.0 (0.8)
9 (9) Melbourne -3.1 (0.3)
10 (10) Adelaide -6.8 (-6.7)
11 (12) North Melbourne -7.5 (-11.3)
12 (13) West Coast -9.6 (-13.8)
13 (11) Fremantle -11.9 (-9.6)
14 (14) Richmond -17.9 (-16.8)
15 (16) Port Adelaide -25.5 (-23.8)
16 (15) Brisbane -25.8 (-22.7)
17 (17) Gold Coast -47.4 (-49.3)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 7

All the action is around the middle this week, as Melbourne rebound back into ninth, while the Crows and Dockers take sizable hits in terms of ranking points. In terms of next week, even if Geelong beat the Magpies it's highly, highly unlikely they'll take the top spot, but it will close the gap between them.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 45.3 (Last week 46.1)
2 (2) Geelong 30.2 (29.6)
3 (3) Hawthorn 15.5 (14.2)
4 (4) Carlton 12.1 (10.9)
5 (5) St. Kilda 4.7 (5.3)
6 (6) Sydney 4.1 (2.4)
7 (8) Essendon 1.2 (2.2)
8 (7) Western Bulldogs 0.8 (2.4)
9 (11) Melbourne 0.3 (-8.2)
10 (9) Adelaide -6.7 (0.8)
11 (10) Fremantle -8.8 (-3.9)
12 (12) North Melbourne -11.3 (-10.5)
13 (13) West Coast -13.8 (-14.2)
14 (14) Richmond -16.8 (-20.6)
15 (15) Brisbane -22.7 (-21.3)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -23.8 (-23.6)
17 (17) Gold Coast -47.4 (-49.3)

Monday, May 2, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 6

Essendon jump into eighth after their 139-point thrashing of Gold Coast, although a 139-point win against the Suns doesn't get you as many ranking points as it did a few weeks back. Indeed, the Bombers are now barely out of sixth place as they continue their rapid rise up the rankings. Melbourne fall to eleventh after being belted out west.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 46.1 (Last week 44.1)
2 (2) Geelong 29.6 (29.6)
3 (3) Hawthorn 14.2 (13.9)
4 (4) Carlton 10.9 (8.5)
5 (5) St. Kilda 5.3 (5.6)
6 (6) Sydney 2.4 (3.7)
7 (7) Western Bulldogs 2.4 (3.5)
8 (11) Essendon 2.2 (-5.6)
9 (8) Adelaide 0.8 (-0.5)
10 (10) Fremantle -3.9 (-4.0)
11 (9) Melbourne -8.2 (-3.8)
12 (12) North Melbourne -10.5 (-14.4)
13 (13) West Coast -14.2 (-19.4)
14 (16) Richmond -20.6 (-21.3)
15 (14) Brisbane -21.3 (-20.1)
16 (15) Port Adelaide -23.6 (-20.7)
17 (17) Gold Coast -49.3 (-39.5)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The 12 Most Memorable Non-Title Winning NBA Teams Since Jordan Started Winning Everything - Part Two

6. The Mid-‘90s Sonics

Peak years: 1992-97.
Best result: NBA Finals ’96.
Key players: Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Detlef Schrempf, Hersey Hawkins, Nate McMillan, Sam Perkins.

Kemp and Payton just edge out Shaq and Penny because they hung around for longer and they avoided getting swept in the finals. They were also arguably even brasher, what with Kemp’s spectacular dunking and Payton’s non-stop mouth. They first rose to prominence in ’93 when they stretched Barkley’s Suns to seven games in the West Finals, then had two embarrassing first round exits (including becoming the first No.1 seed to lose in the first round in ’94), and then finally broke into the NBA Finals in ’96, knocking off the two-time champion Rockets before becoming fodder for the rampaging Bulls. After that they kind of faded away, so much so that I had to look up when their era actually ended – it was when Kemp got annoyed about the Sonics giving too much money to Jim McIlvane and was traded to Cleveland in ’97. Payton then soldiered on with Vin Baker for a few years, and then he was gone, and then a few years later the Sonics were gone also.

5. The Late-‘90s Jazz

Peak years: 1994-2000.
Best result: NBA Finals ’97, ’98.
Key players: Karl Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, Bryon Russell, Greg Ostertag, Howard Eisley.

Though the Stockton-to-Malone era lasted for what seemed like an eternity, they reached their peak when Jeff Hornacek joined the line-up. The Jazz are memorable for how uncool they were, with Stockton and Hornacek forming the dorkiest backcourt of the ‘90s, and Malone standing as an imposing pillar of blandness. But they faced Jordan’s Bulls for two years in the Finals, and gave a decent showing both times, adding some more memorable moments to Jordan’s highlight reel in the process. Malone even stole two MVPs in the process, one which should have belonged to Jordan (though most people were happy to see Malone win one) and one which should have gone to Tim Duncan. They were a great team no doubt, but I can’t put them any higher than fifth.

4. The Early-‘00s Kings

Peak years: 2001-03.
Best result: Western Conference Finals ’02.
Key players: Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac, Doug Christie, Bobby Jackson, Hedo Turkoglu.

Oh, the agony… the Kings surely deserved to beat the Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, but were stopped first in Game 4 by a Robert Horry buzzer beater and then in Game 6 by (allegedly) the referees, and then they lost Game 7 in overtime. Had they won that series, they no doubt would have destroyed the Nets in the Finals (which, admittedly, would have been watched by about five people). This team also probably went up a couple of notches because of Doug Christie’s wife, who brought a whole new level of crazy to the WAGs club.

3. The Seven Seconds Or Less Suns
Peak years: 2004-08.
Best result: Western Conference Finals ’05, ’06.
Key players: Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw, Raja Bell.

When Steve Nash re-joined the Suns in 2004, they quickly became the most popular team going around, with their “run and gun” or “seven seconds or less” offence seen as a welcome antidote to the defensively-orientated Pistons and Spurs. That popularity gained Nash two MVP awards, and the Suns made two straight trips to the Conference Finals, making the world a better place in which to be a skinny white basketballer with bad hair. Joe Johnson’s departure hurt their chances to win it all, as did Stoudemire’s microfracture surgery in ’05-06 (though it did help Nash win his second MVP award). Then, inexplicably, Marion was traded for an aging Shaquille O’Neal and his massive contract in ’08, effectively killing off the SSOL era, though the Suns would again reach the Conference Finals in 2010. Coach Mike D’Antoni and Stoudemire’s ego are now using a “run and gun” style in New York, but it isn’t quite the same without Nash on board.

2. The Riley Era Knicks

Peak years: 1991-95.
Best result: NBA Finals ‘94
Key players: Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Charles Oakley, Charles Smith, Anthony Mason, Doc Rivers, Derek Harper.

Say what you want about Pat Riley’s Knicks teams, but they were memorable (though not always for the right reasons). Ewing’s jumpshot and battles against Hakeem, the thuggish frontline of Oakley and Mason, Starks’ dunk on the Bulls and his epic fail in Game 7 of the ’94 Finals, Charles Smith getting blocked 47 times by the Bulls’ defence, and so on … This team also spawned a memorable rivalry when Riley jumped ship to the Miami Heat and the Heat and Knicks proceeded to pound on each other for the next few seasons. It’s a shame they never went up against the Pistons’ “Bad Boys” more often, maybe then we would have seen if Riley’s hair could ever be ruffled.

1. The Mid-to-Late ‘90s Pacers

Peak years: 1993-2000.
Best result: NBA Finals ‘00
Key players: Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, Dale Davis, Antonio Davis, Mark Jackson, Jalen Rose, Derrick McKey.

You wouldn’t think a team from Indiana could stand out as the most memorable non-title winning team of the past couple of decades, but there’s a number of factors that earned them the top spot on this list. First, their long run of success: they made the Eastern Conference Finals in ’94, ’95, ’98, ’99 and 2000. Second, their depth: Miller, Smits, the Davises, Jackson and Rose were all All-Stars at some point in their careers. Third, their memorable rivalries with the Knicks and the Bulls: who can forget Miller’s mouthing off at Spike Lee, or his eight points in 8.9 seconds? Between Miller’s shooting and the Davises toughness on the boards they could do it all: except win the title that is. So they will have to settle for being No.1 of the non-winners instead.