Dirk’s Ring: A Long Time Coming

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Dirk’s quest for a ring has taken a lot longer than we realize.  He has been the Mavericks’ leading scorer for the last 11 seasons, and has won this championship as the team’s leading scorer.  Of the all the NBA players who have scored 20,000 points, he has waited the longest to achieve that feat.  Here’s a table that shows the rest of the players who did.

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Dallas-Miami Game 5: A Rare Offensive Show In The Finals.

In tonight’s Game 5, Dallas and Miami both shot at least 50% from the field; this feat has been accomplished only 4 other times since the 1991 Finals.  This was a beautiful game to watch; it was more about great shooting than about poor defense.  Oddly enough, every one of the other instances involved the Lakers; it’s probably just a product of them making the Finals seemingly every other year.
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Dirk With A Ring: Better Than The Ringless Wonders, Ewing, Malone, and Barkley?

Does Dirk jump ahead of Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, and Charles Barkley on the all-time greats list if he wins a ring this year? In other words, does winning a single championship necessarily make one superstar better than another superstar who hasn’t won?   
The Bulls, Lakers, and Spurs have dominated the last 20 years; as a result, some players have been denied rings that they may have won otherwise.  The table below is an attempt to distinguish between the guys who should have won a championship and just had some bad luck and the guy who just didn’t get it done in the playoffs.   I measure them using something called “Consolation Points”; the player who loses to the eventual champion in the first round gets 1 point, second round gets 2 points, conference finals gets 3 points, and NBA finals gets 4 points.  I had to make the “superstar cutoff” somewhere, so I only included guys who had met one of the following criteria:  20,000 career points, 8,000 career assists, a career average of 20 points per game, or a career average of 8 assists per game.  The cutoff could be made at many different milestones, but I don’t think they’re unreasonable.  Defensive stats are conspicuously absent from the criteria; that is because in the context of talking about great players and winning championships, almost all the talk is about offensive players, Bill Russell notwithstanding.

I don’t think Dirk moves ahead of Ewing and Malone if he wins a ring.  I do think he is already of Barkley just by virtue of making this year’s finals; Barkley has lost to the eventual champ only once in the Conf. Finals or later.  However; my eyes, heart, and those Right Guard commercials still say choose Barkley over Dirk.

Some Notables About The Table:

Jason Kidd is third on the list.  I’m rooting the most for him to win this year; he is a winning player.  Nobody was beating the Lakers and Spurs during early 2000s – except for the Lakers and Spurs.

The top seven guys on this list kept running into dynasties; they all lost to the Lakers, Spurs, or Bulls at least once.  Malone, Ewing, Kidd, and Stockton really got hit hard against those dynasties; each of these guys would have a ring if not for Jordan, Shaq/Kobe, or Duncan.

Jordan’s Bulls almost single-handedly prevented 3 all-time greats from winning a ring, that’s greatness.

The guys in this year’s finals; Kidd, James, Nowitzki, and Bosh, each get 4 points for this year.  Obviously 2 of these 4 guys won’t be on this list anymore.

Of the top 10, three of the players really squandered golden opportunities: Malone, Ewing, Nowitzki lost to teams they probably should have beaten, the 2004 Pistons, the 1994 Rockets, and the 2006 Miami Heat, respectively.  In this just-ended 20-year era of dynasties, a player has to take advantage of every opportunity.

Only 38 players met the criteria to make this list; the table lists the top 20 players.  Four of the remaining 18 players have no “consolation points”:  Walt Bellamy, I don’t know enough about him to form a opinion; Gilbert Arenas, not a winner; Tracy McGrady, not a winner; and Chris Paul, it’s too early in his career.
Dominique Wilkins, Vince Carter, and Tim Hardaway have less than 4 “consolation points”:  I was surprised by Tim Hardaway; I saw him as a winning player, but his Miami days were only a small portion of his career.  Vince Carter has never really been thought of as a winning player, no surprise there.  Dominique was never seen as a winning player either and he had many chances to play to the NBA Champ; the Sixers, Pistons, and Celtics won 5 championships in seasons beginning in the 80s.  I have to cut him some slack though; the East was tough in the 80s. In addition to those 5 championship teams, he had to deal with the early to mid 80s’ Bucks and the mid to late 80s’ Bulls.

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Combined Playoff Losses of NBA Conference Champions (Since 1984 Playoff Expansion)

Game 7 In The NBA Playoffs: Home-Court Advantage Is Overstated. (Part 3 of 3)

As the NBA playoffs are upon us, we will hear dozens of clichés thrown around by commentators.  The most irritating cliché is that the home team wins Game 7 of the series most of the time.  Since 1991, the home team is 36-10, a .783 win percentage.  This stat is always brought up without being put into proper context; as if to say having Game 7 at home causes a team to win.  However, I’ve never heard a commentator mention that the team with home-court advantage has a better record and usually is the better team anyway.  One would expect them to win a Game 7 at home, or on the road.  In this article and subsequent articles, I will try to find out how many Game 7s were won by the home team mainly because they were at home. 
The table below tries to get the answer to the previous question.  The basic premise of the table is that the more road wins there are in a series, the less home-court advantage matters.  I separate Games 1-4 from Games 5-7 because the last three games of a series are probably more intense than the first four and home-court matters slightly, but still materially more in the last three games.  Since 1991, in Games 1-4 the road team wins 32% of the time while in Games 5-7 the road wins 25% of the time.  I rate, on a five point scale, the probability of the home team winning Game 7 mainly because they’re at home.  The five outcomes are: Yes, Probable, Possible, Doubtful, and No.  This is scale far from perfect, but it appears sufficient to answer the question posed in this article. 
Here are two examples of how the table works: The 1995 series between Orlando and Indiana produced no road wins, so it would be safe to say that the home team won Game 7 because of the home court advantage.  The 2000 LA-Portland series produced four road wins, LA winning that Game 7 was more likely due to them being a better team than due to home-court advantage.  The table below shows the 12 conference and NBA finals series that went to Game 7 in the last 20 post-seasons.
The home team won 10 of the 12 Game 7s, but how many of those 10 wins were mainly because of home-court advantage?  According to the table, only 6 of the 10 wins were at least probably due to home-court advantage alone.  That means that 4 of the 10 home-team wins probably had nothing to do with home-court advantage.  Home-court advantage in the Conference and NBA Finals’ Game 7s, appears to be overstated, as it did in the first round and conference semifinals of the playoffs.  Part 1    Part 2
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Can An NBA Team "Peak Too Soon" And Still Win The ‘Chip.

After watching Jon Barry and Michael Wilbon talking at halftime of the Nuggets/Lakers game about the Lakers “peaking too soon”, I decided to explore the subject.  This is by no means a comprehensive study, but it does shed light.  Jon Barry started with saying that the Lakers may be peaking too soon and Wilbon slightly disagreed.  Then JB started talking about teams he has been on that have gone into the playoffs hot and then lost in the first round, and then about other teams that have gone into the playoffs slumping, only to go deep into the postseason.  He stated this as if the two instances prove that a team doesn’t want to “peak too early”.
The adjacent table looks at the last 20 years of  NBA Finals’ teams and measures when they peak during the season; there are many ways to measure peak, but I used the team’s best record in a 20-game stretch during the season.  For example, the 2010 NBA Champion Lakers best 20-game period ended at game 34 of the season.  I don’t think the table unequivocally proves that there is an ideal time for a team to peak, but it does show that the average peak for a conference champion team is at 57 or 58 games.  Based on this limited data, I would conclude that it matters when a team peaks; but a more comprehensive study may be needed to prove it.  What do you think?