Tag Archives: Karl-Anthony Towns

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.

Advertisements

Looking at the Timberwolves During the Free agent Frenzy

As we near 48 hours of staring at Twitter for the latest updates in free agency, the Timberwolves are one of the few teams yet to steal the spotlight. Sure, Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones will eventually sign their rookie-scaled contracts and Nemanja Bjelica may agree to a multi-year contract. Those would generate some fireworks, but Minnesota already held the rights to those players, and they already have 10 guaranteed contracts. Kevin Garnett will also resign re-sign, and Robbie Hummel looks to be coming back as well. There are still minor splashes that can be made, but the Timberwolves already have their core in place.

That doesn’t mean we can’t take a thing or two away from what’s already happened across the league and apply it to the Timberwolves, though. Some of it may be repetitive as we’ve learned just how much money is being thrown around because of the rising cap after the 2015-16 season. Those two changes to the NBA landscape were mentioned often in what I wrote below, but let’s take a look at how they affect the Timberwolves anyway:

The Long-Term Contracts

Minnesota’s two largest annual salaries currently take up over a third of the salary cap, but by 2018 that would be down to nearly 20 percent. Ricky Rubio holds the Timberwolves’ largest contract guarantee, and his four-year, $55 million contract starts now. As with most major contracts, the reaction to his on Twitter was polarizing, but it looks better after last night regardless. At this point, the biggest worry is Rubio’s health, but that’s more because of the length of his contract than his injury history so long as Flip doesn’t run him into the ground. I’m weirdly not too worried about that.

The much larger worry comes from Nikola Pekovic. $35.8 million for three years is a lot to absorb from a player who may never crack 1,000 minutes in any of those seasons due to chronic ankle issues and an Achilles debridement, but Pekovic’s contract looks a bit better now that the quality in players above or around eight figures got a little worse after last night. The year total on Pekovic’s contract remains bad, though, and an asset would still have to be attached or a smaller, troubling contract would have to be taken back in a trade.

Rebuilding without sacrificing some of the future is important. We’ll see if Minnesota can do that while handling Pekovic’s contract. At this point, a reasonably healthy, effective 2015-16 campaign would take some of the load off the frontline while making him more tradeable. $23.7 million for two years looks better than $35.8 million for three. With room to maneuver going forward and how far Minnesota is from the playoffs, I’m not sure moving Pekovic is necessary anyway. Just eat the contract if nothing on the trade market is attractive.

The Rookie Contracts

If no rookie contracts are traded, the Timberwolves will be paying less than $30 million to Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Adreian Payne, Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammad, and Gorgui Dieng, as well as the choice to keep them all for the 2016-17 season for a slightly higher price. That was already important before free agency, but it’s even more crucial now that we’re past July 1, though they have a lot of players to develop.

Minnesota will have to eventually address the second contracts of the youthful bunch, but a good chunk of money will be off the books by then. Looking ahead to the summer of 2016 isn’t that helpful given what could happen by then, but Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger will either hit free agency or have been traded, and among team options Bennett’s $7.3 million for 2016-17 is still up in the air. That’s about $20 million possibly off the books going into 2016-17 when Muhammad, Dieng, and Bennett will be the first rookies to come off their first contract.

Who knows how much of that money is really going to be thrown at Muhammad and Dieng if they’re still around. (I’m assuming Bennett’s gone.) Muhammad’s such a fascinating player as a possible small ball power forward, but he’s yet to play a full season. Dieng’s played a more meaningful role up to this point, but will be 28 years old in 2017-18, the first season of his second contract (same for Payne when that time arrives).

That’s down the road, though. Right now, Minnesota is down two protected first-round picks to dangle, but they get to enjoy having most of their core on the cheap with team options. Not bad for a rebuilding team.

The In-Between Contracts

How about the roller coaster that is Kevin Martin’s contract? In the summer of 2013, Martin was 30 years old with injury history, and his value on the court was noticeably impacted by the change in the rip-through move, but four years and $28 million was still perfectly understandable. The Timberwolves had to build a playoff contender around Kevin Love and, with Martin, looked to be one of the most efficient offenses.

Well, the gamble didn’t pay off. The Wolves missed out on the postseason and Love was traded. Another rebuild was on the horizon, though not quite at the level of just 16 wins, and Martin was due $7 million per year up to 2017. So. Much. WELP. Fortunately, Martin’s contract looks a lot better now. Even if he’s not able to be traded or if Flip Saunders just doesn’t want to make a move, the $7 million player option for 2016-17 shouldn’t be exercised with how much players are making on the open market.

Normally I’d prefer aging players to play for playoff contenders, but Minnesota could use a guy who can soak up scoring possessions. That’s a brutal process to watch when it comes to Martin, but Wiggins could learn a thing or two from his foul-drawing, among other scoring-and-definitely-not-defensive things.

The idea of Chase Budinger is better than actual Chase Budinger. How much would he have made if his first four years were from 2013 to 2016 rather than 2010 to 2013? Budinger’s a free agent after this season’s $5 million owed, but this team is weirdly deep and I’m not sure how many minutes are there for him.

There’s also Garnett and whatever he resigns re-signs for. By the way, Anthony Davis’ five-year, $145 million contract has nothing on what KG signed for during the 1997-98 season:

One day the Timberwolves may find themselves in a similar position with Wiggins, Towns, and/or maybe they’ll spread money around multiple players on the market. Cap space allows for a ton of possibilities as we’ve seen over the last 48 hours, though sometimes that does not end well. The draft and free agency each carry risk, and right now Minnesota has done well in the former. They’re currently on the sidelines when it comes to the latter, but with how decent their contracts look outside of Pekovic they’ll eventually have the chance to make some major moves of their own.

%d bloggers like this: