April 3: NERD Rankings (Team)
Playoff odds rising for Memphis and Milwaukee, plus why the Bobcats are historically bad.
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.
Last year’s surprise Playoff contender, the Memphis Grizzlies, are once again making the Playoff push. They have won 4 of their last 5 games, including a big win last night over the Thunder. The Grizz are sitting in 5th place in the West, but are still only 2.5 games away from missing the postseason entirely. Thanks to the current hot streak, the Grizzlies increased their Playoffs odds by 14.8%. Their secret is their ability to force turnovers at a ridiculously high rate—opponents turn the ball over on 16.5% of possessions, the highest rate in the League.
The Milwaukee Bucks increased their Playoff odds by 9.1% since last week, and have a 31.7% chance of seeing postseason action. Currently, Milwaukee is 2 games behind the Knicks, sitting in 9th place in the East, but the Bucks improved their efficiency dramatically since last week, increasing their NERD rating by 4.3 points. Like the Grizzlies, the Bucks do an excellent job managing turnovers. They turn the ball over on only 12.8% of possessions, yet force turnovers on 14.9% of possessions (both No. 4 in the League). If the Bucks can improve their defense and rebounding, they may have a shot to play some extra basketball come May. They currently rank No. 28 in defensive rebounding rate a 70.3%.
The Charlotte Bobcats are historically bad. In fact since 2000, the lowest single-season NERD score was recorded by the 2001 Chicago Bulls (who went 15-67) at 16.6. The 12-win 2010 New Jersey Nets finished at 19.0. The Bobcats’ 9.4 rating means that based on their actual play, they should have only won five games so far this season (in comparison to the high total of 7 they currently own). The Bobcats are the only team in the NBA scoring less than 100 points per 100 possessions. But, they are not just under 100—they are scoring a dismal 95.8 points per 100 possessions. To add insult to injury, they are also allowing 109.6 points per 100 possessions, edged out only by the Nets for the worst defense in the League by 0.1 point.
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.