How Much Would Dwight Help Lakers?

by July 25, 2012

by Zach Warren / @numberFire

The guys from numberFire brought us the NERD Team and NERD Player rankings all ’11-12 season long, harnessing the power of algorithmic modeling to better understand sports. The numberFire Efficiency Rating Derivative (NERD) better evaluates every player and team in the NBA using offensive and defensive efficiency numbers. With the offseason in full swing, the NERD experts are bringing us more analysis—this time in evaluating what a hypothetical Lakers-Dwight Howard union would mean, mathematically. They’ve run all the nerdy numbers, so check out the results:

There hasn’t been a “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” game released on PC since 2001. That’s way too long; the series clearly needs to come back. And there’s one particular reboot that is tailor-made to attract attention and maintain accuracy: “Where in the World is Dwight Howard?”

Stick with me here game developers—it’s perfect. Dwight is a growing boy who wants to leave home and try some new adventures with his friends. It’s 945 miles from Orlando to Brooklyn, but the Third Team ticket company won’t help him get there. It’s only 847 miles from Orlando to Houston, but Dwight finds Houston icky. But then, Dwight learns about the bright lights of Los Angeles! You have two goals as the game player: convince Los Angeles to take Dwight, and if that works, figure out how exactly to get him there.

The second part of the equation is tough, as the Magic could currently tell you. But the first part is easy, and gamers don’t even have to do all the work. As always, numberFire has you covered. After running our accurate playoff projections based on 2011’s schedule and the 2012 offseason’s biggest roster moves, we’ve determined Los Angeles should be begging and pleading other teams to take Andrew Bynum in order to get the deal done.

Los Angeles Lakers Odds — Current Roster

Playoffs: 65.70%
NBA Champs: 1.74%

You don’t need Rockapella to tell you that the Lakers are a very good team already. With Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash on board, there’s around a two-thirds chance that the team as currently constructed will make the playoffs. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol make a great frontcourt: both players finished with a top-30 ranking in numberFire’s end-of-the-season nERD player rankings. However, less than a 2 percent chance at becoming NBA champs would cause Lakers superfan Jack Nicholson to become very angry, and I for one never want to see Jack Nicholson angry. With the Thunder and Heat dominating, and the Lakers’ window closing, the time to make a move is clearly now.

There are a few ways they could make that move. Houston and Cleveland are said to be interested if they can get Bynum as part of the deal. If the Lakers were to pull the trigger with either one of those two teams, their odds at both the playoffs and NBA title receive a Superman-aided blastoff.

Lakers Odds — Howard to LAL, Bynum to HOU

Playoffs: 81.60%
NBA Champs: 3.63%

Lakers Odds — Howard to LAL, Bynum to CLE

Playoffs: 84.55%
NBA Champs: 4.06%

Sending Andrew Bynum through Cleveland, an Eastern Conference team, would be preferable for the Los Angeles Lakers. In either case, though, the Lakers instantly vault back to the top of the Western Conference with Dwight in the middle. LA’s playoff odds increase over 15% even if they send Bynum to Western Conference foe Houston, and their odds of winning the NBA Championship more than double just by replacing Bynum with Howard. In other words, the Lakers go from fringe contender to serious player all in a single fax to the league office. Everybody’s happy: Howard, the Lakers, the league that wants two solid contenders in Los Angeles, even Andrew Bynum—heard it’s nice in Cleveland this time of year.

numberFire is 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.