numberFire is a sports analytics platform that uses algorithmic modeling to better understand sports—and they’ve developed the numberFire Efficiency Rating Derivative (NERD) to better evaluate every team in the NBA using offensive and defensive efficiency numbers. The nerdier, the better, according to these guys. The NERD rating for teams shows complete production on both sides of the ball. The team ranking is on a scale from 0-100, with 50 as the League average. This ranking is predictive of the team’s ultimate winning percentage. For example, in the 2010-11 season, the Bulls ended with a 75.1 NERD rating—and a 75.6 win percentage. To calculate the NERD rankings we use the Four Factors, which are the factors most predictive in winning games: shooting, turnovers, rebounding, and fouls. Visit numberFire to check out a detailed explanation of the NERD stat for team efficiency and basketball efficiency stats in general.
Below are numberFire’s NBA team power rankings to this point in the year. “Playoffs” and “Champs” refer to each team’s odds of making the playoffs and winning the NBA Finals. “Off.” and “Def.” refer to the teams’ offensive and defensive ratings; these represent the points scored and allowed per 100 possessions.
We talked last week about how the Portland Trail Blazers are vastly underperforming, having lost numerous close games in the recent weeks. Unfortunately for them, a .500 record just won’t cut it in the West. The Blazers’ playoff odds dropped by over 30% to a mundane 52.8%, a coin flip essentially. Hope remains in Portland due to the team’s ability to control the turnover battle. The Blazers force turnovers on 15.2% of possessions (No. 4 in the NBA) and turn the ball over on only 13.3% of possessions (No. 7 in the NBA). Unfortunately for Portland, they still have a tough schedule in March, facing Boston, Indiana, Chicago, Oklahoma City twice, and both L.A. squads.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Nuggets have turned things back around, winning four straight and will soon get Danilo Gallinari back in their starting lineup, too. Denver should easily make it six in a row with games at home against Cleveland and New Orleans this week; they are in the midst of a 9-game home streak. The Nuggets play quicker than any team in the League, averaging almost 95 possessions per game, but score efficiently as well with an offensive rating over 107. In addition, Denver is one of the most balanced teams in the League in terms of the way they distribute their possessions. No player uses more than 25% of the team’s possessions while on the floor, and only Al Harrington uses over 22%. When everyone on the floor can score, it’s a nightmare for defenses.
Don’t sleep on the Jazz. While they are under .500 and have only a 11.9% chance of making the playoffs, they do a lot of things well. Utah ranks in the top third of the League in offensive rebounding rate, turnover rate, and free throw rate, but they need to step it up on defense as they allow 106.2 points per 100 possessions. One of the primary reasons for their subpar defense is how often they foul. Jazz opponents average a free throw for every four field goal attempts, No. 27 in the League.
The NERD power rankings are powered by numberFire, a sports analytics platform that uses algorithmic modeling to better understand sports. Follow Nik Bonaddio at @numberfire, and Keith Goldner at @drivebyfootball. Check out numberFire on Facebook.