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The Numbers: The Odds, The Streak, The Real MVP

Some of you –those who have been following my writing for a long time – might remember that back in the day, I used to write a post every day, and because I did that, you got to see pretty much everything I was tinkering with on a daily basis. Those posts had me following whatever data I was chasing down the rabbit hole at the time.

It's been pointed out to me that some of the best work I did was when I wrote in this style. Interestingly enough, the fact that I don't write every day does not mean that I've stopped messing around with the numbers every day.

Let's see if we can recapture some of that magic and give you a peek behind the curtain as the season draws to it's inevitable conclusion.

I always start with the state of the NBA. I run the season sim pretty much every day. It gives me a good feel as to how the teams are behaving and evolving as the season goes along. I also run the team rank in parallel.

The Spurs are really good right now, and the Heat are the class in the East. Interestingly enough, the Bobcats have moved to number 4 in our rankings, wheras the Pacers are at 17th. Right now, I'd be heavily considering picking the Bobcats over the Pacers in round 1. The Knicks look to be in contol of their own destiny and are favored to get that eight seed in the East. Stunningly, every projected playoff matchup in the East looks to be fun and competitive (the Wizards are the weakest team but a Raps/Wiz series should be fun to watch if you ignore the bad coaching). 

The Mavs somehow still look to be the eight seed in the West and the team most likely to be swept in Round 1.

The full simulation is plenty intriguing as well.

There's a 0.5% chance Indiana fails to win another game this season and takes the Las Vegas under. Philly is still 50/50 to hit 18 wins. San Antonio is winning all its remaining games about 13.9% of the time. It'll jump to around 28% if they win tonight against the Thunder. Time to talk a bit more about the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard, and the streak.

Here's a simple table for perspective on the streak:

That's the 100 most-dominant 19 game stretches in the history of the NBA. As of yesterday, the Spurs clock in at number 6 overall, and, having just overtaken the 1972 Lakers and 1996 Bulls, are the second-ranked team of all-time, behind only the 1971 Milwaukee Bucks. That's crazy impressive. If we look post-merger only these Spurs, the 1996 Bulls, and the 2009 Cavaliers (who got killed by injuries pre-playoffs) have hit a point margin of 16 points or more. 

The Spurs are not just the best team in the NBA this year, but they're putting up numbers like an all-time team. The reason? His name is Kawhi Leonard.

Kawhi Leonard has played 60 games this season and he has been available for the entire game in 59 of these games (he got hurt at halftime of a game the Spurs lost to the Thunder, which I am not counting here). Over those 59 games, the Spurs are 51-8 and +11.32. This projects to 71 wins over an 82 game season. 

Without Kawhi Leonard? San Antonio was outscored by their opponents by about a point per game over 24 games. So Kawhi's presence has meant a 12 point swing for San Antonio (there are some additional factors at play here, but that's outright crazy). That's the equivalent of about 0.500+ WP48.

That means that adding Kawhi to any team in the league automatically makes them a contender.

Quite honestly, he deserves some serious MVP buzz. He'd be number 1 in my ballot right now.

That's really not the only surprising thing about the Spurs, but I have to save something for tomorrow, don't I?