April 13, 2010

Can the Thunder beat the Lakers?

Filed under: Uncategorized — wwinston @ 10:15 am

The Thunder will be playing the Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Does the Thunder have a chance to be competitive? We think so.

By the way, we are available for hire during the playoffs. If interested give us a call at 812-322-4270.

    For the season the Thunder played 3 points better than an average NBA team. After adjusting for the strength of opposition faced they also played 3 points better than average  against the Lakers. My colleague Jeff Sagarin and I believe the Thunder can play much better than this. Here are some key points based on the Thunder’s performance this year. All numbers below are per 48 minutes and adjusted for strength of opponent(unless otherwise indicated)

  • When Green, Westbrook, and KD are in the Thunder are good (5 points better than average.) But with KD and Westbrook in and Green out the Thunder are fantastic 16 points better than average,
  • Resting KD well is important to The Thunder’s success. When KD is out the Thunder play 15 points worse than average. But when Collison, Westbrook, Green, and Harden are in and Sefelosha is out the Thunder play 16 points better than average (in 52 minutes).
  • Resting Westbrook well is also important. When Westbrook is out and KD , Collison,  Harden, Ibaka and Maynor are in the Thunder play 23 points better than average in 153 minutes. The rest of the time Westbrook is out the  Thunder played 9 points worse than average.
  • Maynor, Harden, and Collison should be playing more and Green and Sefelosha shouls be playing less. Green has an Adjusted +/- of -4, Sefelosha -8, Maynor -1, Collison +3 and Harden +3. This means for example, that after adjusting for the other 9 players on the court, our best estimate is that Collison, for example, makes the Thunder play 3 points better  er 48 minutes than an average NBA player and Green makes Thunder play 4 points worse.
  • In the 4th quarter KD is great and Collison and Harden are average. The other Thunder regulars play very poorly in the 4th quarter. I would always close with COllison, Harden and Durant as my frontcourt.

Here are the Thunder’s best lineups during the regular season. For example, lineup 4A played 14 points better than average per 48 min (it played 153 minutes.

       OKC      14.44 (   20.89   16.74   -4.15   35.74    2.24    9.41)  153.09 minutes  124 appearances     4 A     13.17       42 $
Collison      Durant        Green         Harden        Westbrook     23.05 years       8222_OKC_2010

OKC      22.99 (   14.57    0.77  -13.80   24.38    1.34   11.10)  151.94 minutes  103 appearances     5 A     27.17       86 $
Collison      Durant        Harden        Ibaka         Maynor        22.72 years     131126_OKC_2010

OKC      28.12 (    9.98    8.45   -1.54   -2.12    0.04   10.83)   69.09 minutes   63 appearances     2 B     25.71       37 $
Durant        Green         Harden        Sefolosha     Westbrook     22.35 years       9244_OKC_2010

OKC      24.21 (   10.88    1.78   -9.10   42.13    1.29   10.83)   67.14 minutes   36 appearances     3 B     23.59       33 $
Collison      Durant        Krstic        Sefolosha     Westbrook     24.73 years       9286_OKC_2010

        ACTUAL    THEORY     OFF     DEF  IMPACT  ZSCORE   SIGMA     PLAYING TIME                             SIMPLE      +/-
OKC      28.80 (    5.58   -3.20   -8.78   23.23    0.80   12.70)   44.47 minutes   31 appearances     1 C     31.30       29 $
Collison      Durant        Harden        Ollie         Thomas        27.91 years       2582_OKC_2010

OKC      24.32 (    7.97    5.69   -2.29    3.51    0.07   11.52)   38.47 minutes   25 appearances     2 C     24.95       20 $
Collison      Durant        Green         Ibaka         Westbrook     23.04 years       8238_OKC_2010

OKC      21.50 (   21.20   10.93  -10.27   34.41    2.24    9.37)   36.78 minutes   33 appearances     3 C     23.49       18 $
Collison      Durant        Green         Harden        Maynor        23.34 years     131102_OKC_2010

OKC      26.90 (    4.13   -3.51   -7.64   13.05   -0.22   11.09)   27.37 minutes   17 appearances     6 C     26.30       15 $
Durant        Green         Krstic        Sefolosha     Maynor        23.85 years     132172_OKC_2010

These lineups should play more often!!!!!!!!!!

Head to Head:Thunder vs. Lakers

We only have 197 minutes of data but even this limited data makes it very clear what goes on when the Thunder play the Lakers:

  • When the Thunder have their starting lineup in or have KD and Westbrook both out they lost by 46 points in 86 minutes. The rest of the time the Thunder was +40 points in 111 minutes.
  • When KD was in and Collison and Harden were both out the Thunder lost by 16 points in 97 minutes. The rest of time KD was in the Thunder were +38 points in 48 minutes.

There you have it. If the Thunder adjust their lineup decisions in accordance with the previously discussed data, we think this series can be a great one. Otherwise we predict Thunder lose in 5.


  1. What about a lineup of:


    I feel like they might have a little trouble defending but that combo seems to have great balance and firepower. Green is undersized at the 4 (and will be murdered by Pau but I doubt Collison has the length to defend him either) hopefully Ibaka is quick enough to rotate over and then we just do the Harden/Thabo switch depending on how Kobe is playing..


    Comment by Matt — April 13, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

  2. It has played at -4 level in 70 minutes so not so good!

    Comment by wwinston — April 13, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

  3. interesting – thanks for the quick feedback.

    Comment by Matt — April 13, 2010 @ 1:38 pm

  4. I don’t usually have a worthwhile comment, but always read and appreciate your work.

    Quick question: Do you do stats on baseball?

    Comment by Dave Memphis MOJO — April 13, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  5. Not as much. Check out Fangraphs.com

    Comment by wwinston — April 13, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  6. What Actual Adjusted +/- and Impact rating do you have the huge-minute Thunder starting lineup at?

    The Thunder don’t know their best non-Durant lineup. Which looks best to you?

    A rotation, based on your data and with an eye toward match-ups:

    Kristic Green Durant Sefolosha Westbrook

    I’d keep under 10 minutes a game. Against whoever Green does better against Odom or Gasol.

    Collison Ibaka Durant Harden Maynor
    The main non-Westbrook lineup. Use pretty heavily.

    Collison Durant Krstic Sefolosha Westbrook
    Use at least 5 minutes, maybe 10.

    Collison Durant Green Harden Westbrook
    5+ minutes. Against whoever is the better match-up for Collison.

    Collison Durant Harden Ibaka Westbrook
    5+ minutes. Against whoever Ibaka’s best match-up is.

    Collison Durant Green Ibaka Westbrook
    If you have to go big maybe try this.

    Durant Green Harden Sefolosha Westbrook
    Unlikely, unless you decide to go small and run and probably pop the 3 point shot.

    Collison Durant Harden Ollie Thomas
    Especially if things are chaotic.

    Durant Green Krstic Sefolosha Maynor
    Maynor and the starters great in 27 minutes. Why have they only tested it 27 minutes?

    Collison Durant Green Harden Maynor
    Also great. And only tested 37 minutes.

    I’d use these two some.

    And there are two others I’d use.

    Collison Durant Green Sefolosha Westbrook

    Collison Ibaka Durant Sefolosha Westbrook

    How do they look on your measures?

    I’d stick to these top 12 as much as possible. Not the time to experiment further, unless things aren’t working.

    Comment by Crow — April 13, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

  7. Related to when KD is out, you say Collison, Westbrook, Green, and Harden looks good in general, but I am still not totally sure who that the best 5th guy is. My best guess is Ibaka. But that is only based on 20 minutes. I’d think after an entire season the team should have tested more and known this with more confidence.

    Comment by Crow — April 13, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

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