Category Archives: 2017 NBA Season

The Wizards and the rare three-second violation in crunch time

The play often discussed from Washington’s 125-124 victory over Portland has been the game-winning basket from Markieff Morris, but just after he stepped out of bounds. Unfortunately for the Blazers, the missed call couldn’t be corrected with a review and the Wizards escaped in overtime. It was a crucial win for Washington after a second straight game on the road, while Portland fell two games behind Denver for the final playoff spot in the West.

But there was another usual play that NEEDS to be talked about, one that happened with a minute left in the fourth quarter. No, not the four-point possession from Washington that put them up six points after trailing by 21 at halftime, but a defensive three-second violation against Morris. We can assume it was the right call (NBA.com’s play-by-play feed doesn’t offer a good look), but it’s one rarely ever made in crunch time.

Since 2002, there have been 12,773 defensive three-second violations in the regular season, or about 0.7 per game. That’s slightly more often than the similar violation on offense (0.5 per game), but they’ve occurred less frequently as the game progresses. The first half has accounted for about two-thirds of defensive three-second violations, 23 percent for third quarters, and 11 percent in fourth quarters and overtimes. Offensive three-second violations are more evenly distributed, though if we divide games not by quarters but four-minute blocks, both occur less often late in games.

Going back again to 2002, Morris’ defensive three-second violation was only the ninth called with one minute or less remaining and the first time since 2012. Even with fouling and garbage time, that seems weird given how much isolation occurs at the end of games as teams trade efficiency for having the final possession of the ball. With less player movement away from the ball, maybe it’s just easier to have those three seconds in a player’s mental clock, though it’s hard to camp in the lane against a high pick-and-roll and/or shooting spread out across the arc anyway. Cleveland, for example, sometimes gets these violations called in their favor not while LeBron James pounds the ball above the arc, but as he posts up on one side of the floor and the help defense waits at the rim for a bit too long. Those are the type of plays that have been pointed out in the NBA’s Last Two Minute Reports when a violation was missed. Who knows, maybe it’s something defenses have commonly taken advantage of, at least in crunch time.

The Wizards were up six points at the time of the call on Morris, still a nice lead (97.6 percent win probability, via Inpredictable) where the Blazers had to score every time they had the ball and get defensive stops each time, but the technical free throw opened more scenarios for how that could be accomplished. Portland scored four points on one possession (the technical free throw plus a three-pointer), two points on another, and stopped Washington twice on defense. They almost prevented another game-winner in overtime, but we know now Morris’ bucket couldn’t be overturned.

All statistics were according to play-by-play data from NBA.com. Violation totals were through March 11.

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Stabs at Westgate SuperBook’s 2016-17 Over/Unders

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook released their over-under lines for win totals for all NBA teams recently, which means it’s time for predictions. I finished the 2015 season 17-13, which I still maintain meant that I was better than 17 out of every 30 NBA players back then. 2016 was a year of rebuilding, finishing 11-19. Being better than only 11 out of every 30 players was unacceptable.

It’s time to bounce back in 2017.

One problem, though. I honestly have no idea where most teams will finish. It seems very top heavy with Golden State and Cleveland set for a third straight meeting in the NBA Finals, though San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers loom, and maybe Toronto and Boston can make things interesting by grabbing home court throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Everything after that is so murky, though, so to help with predictions I created a win projection model. The model takes into account various statistics that may or may not be important. Results are private, but many of the statistics used were cited for why I took the over or under for each team, which you can find below.

Atlanta Hawks (2015-16 record: 48-34, 2016-17 over/under: 43.5)

No surprise they didn’t win 60 games like in 2015. Part of that was because it’s possible they simply overachieved two years ago, but also because they made the most substitutions in the league last year (2,527). The model read that as fear and over-analyzing. It expects the Hawks to get worse, but still over 43 wins.

Over.

Boston Celtics (48-34, 51.5)

They had the lowest shot clock violation total in the league last season (20), which is all on Brad Stevens. What a genius. My model loves him.

Over.

Brooklyn Nets (21-61, 20.5)

Abbreviated as ‘BRK’ on some sites, ‘BKN’ on others. The model penalized the Nets for this stupid problem when analyzing play-by-play data, and projects another bad season in Brooklyn.

Under.

Charlotte Hornets (48-34, 39.5)

They will struggle with jump balls thanks to Roy Hibbert (32-59 last season) and Cody Zeller (20-47), but that didn’t stop the Hornets last season.

Over.

Chicago Bulls (42-40, 38.5)

The model likes their strong net attendance (home attendance – road attendance), but that hasn’t helped in recent seasons. Will it change thanks to a backcourt of Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, and Jimmy Butler? The model says yes, but I’m overriding it. My eyes say no.

Under.

Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25, 56.5)

Lowest strength of schedule last season (-0.55, via Basketball-Reference), which clearly means the Cavs will have a setback during the 2016-17 season.

Under.

Dallas Mavericks (42-40, 39.5)

Averaged the most minutes per game in 2016 at 48.8, which clearly meant they were run into the ground. Trading for Andrew Bogut was a questionable move.

Under.

Denver Nuggets (33-49, 34.5)

Just seven shot clock violations in 4th quarters and overtimes, tied for the lowest in the league, which the model loved. They are basically the Boston Celtics of the West.

Over.

Detroit Pistons (44-38, 45.5)

Stan Van Gundy has the Pistons headed in the right direction. One obvious reason was leading the league in most attempted end-of-quarter heaves (30). They also had the most team rebounds with 832. Domination.

Over.

Golden State Warriors (73-9, 66.5)

Lost a lot of jump ball skills in Andrew Bogut (44-30) and Festus Ezeli (9-9), but the model despised Harrison Barnes just because, and liked Kevin Durant strictly for his foul-drawing (4.5 team fouls drawn per 36 minutes last season).

Over.

Houston Rockets (41-41, 41.5)

2,020 substitutions last year. Dope. The model likes fancy numbers and gave Houston a few extra wins as a result.

Over.

Indiana Pacers (45-37, 43.5)

Called over 500 timeouts last year, which the model read as fear.

Under.

Los Angeles Clippers (53-29, 53.5)

Most technical fouls per game, but also the highest shot distance at 14.2 feet, which the model interpreted as more heaves in 2016-17.

Over.

Los Angeles Lakers (17-65, 24.5)

Toughest strength of schedule last season (0.64), which the model doesn’t expect to change anytime soon. Wonder why?

Under.

Memphis Grizzlies (42-40, 43.5)

They forced the most defensive three second violations last season (0.585 per game, via NBAminer), a clear sign of an offense that should be elite with a healthy roster.

Over.

Miami Heat (48-34, 36.5)

31 goaltending violations last season, tied for third worst. Hard to see Miami being a top five defense if that continues.

Under.

Milwaukee Bucks (33-49, 37.5)

Most defensive three second violations (0.451 per game). No wonder they had a terrible defense last season.

Under.

Minnesota Timberwolves (29-53, 41.5)

If the Wolves are going to have any chance at making the playoffs, it will come down to Karl-Anthony Towns‘ improvement in jump balls (45-64 during rookie campaign). Maybe Thibs will set him straight.

Under.

New Orleans Pelicans (30-52, 36.5)

Most kicked ball violations (72), and then New Orleans drafted a 22-year-old whose only hope at competent defense is kicking balls out of bounds.

Under.

New York Knicks (32-50, 38.5)

Going to ignore the model and roll with blog momentum.

Under.

Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27, 45.5)

Lowest shot distance allowed at 11.7 feet, which meant they prevented heaves, which means a top 10 defense even without Kevin Durant.

Over.

Orlando Magic (35-47, 36.5)

So much jump ball potential with Aaron Gordon, Serge Ibaka, and Bismack Biyombo. A lineup of all three, with the live jump balls they could force, is why the model projects Orlando as an elite defense.

Over.

Philadelphia 76ers (10-72, 27.5)

Highest free throw percentage allowed last season (78.6 percent), which is hard to turn around in just one season.

Under.

Phoenix Suns (23-59, 26.5)

Same problem as Brooklyn. Phoenix is sometimes ‘PHO’ and other times ‘PHX’ on websites. Unnecessary issue that’s held the team back for decades.

Under.

Portland Trail Blazers (44-38, 46.5)

Lowest Adjusted Distance Traveled: (Distance traveled on offense) – (Traveling violations * 10) at 713.9. Pathetic.

Under.

Sacramento Kings (33-49, 32.5)

The model projects Sacramento to win over 60 games because of how much penalty time DeMarcus Cousins generates for their offense (second-highest last season). At the least, they’ll have a decent offense again.

Over.

San Antonio Spurs (67-15, 56.5)

Losing Tim Duncan hurts, but not that much. Nobody talked about how he was a jump ball hog.

Over.

Toronto Raptors (56-26, 49.5)

Most shot clock violations (71), which means Toronto could slip a bit this season, but stay in the 50s.

Over.

Utah Jazz (40-42, 47.5)

They fouled a ton while defending in the penalty, 5.1 more fouls in the penalty per 48 minutes compared when not in the penalty, which is a wordy way to say the timing of their fouls were really bad. That will keep them from winning 60 games.

Over.

Washington Wizards (41-41, 42.5)

Second-most and-1s last season with 141, but the model worries about the jump ball chemistry between Marcin Gortat (84 jump balls) and Ian Mahinmi (82).

Under.

My model projects these predictions to go undefeated.

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