We know the upcoming NBA season is going to be an exciting one … the hard part is trying to figure out how it all will play out and which elite players will separate themselves from the pack.
We’re asking you to make your predictions for all of the major individual awards and to pick the leaders in each of the major offensive statistical categories. What say you, Nostradamus?
Russell Westbrook took home last year’s MVP Award after in an insane season that saw him average a triple-double. This year’s Rookie of the Year race looks to be a major improvement over last year’s, which Malcolm Brogdon won. Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s massive leap into stardom made him into last season’s Most Improved Player. Last season, Westbrook led the league in scoring (31.6 PPG), Hassan Whiteside in rebounding (14.1 RPG) and James Harden won the assist crown (11.2 APG).
With the NBA season tipping off soon, we’re taking a deep dive into every team. Here are our top three storylines for the 2017-18 Dallas Mavericks, along with an invitation for you to weigh in on how each will play out.
The Mavs will open the season at home Oct. 18 vs. the Atlanta Hawks (8:30 p.m. ET).
Dallas Mavericks big man Dirk Nowitzki, 39, is set to begin his 20th season in the NBA. Will coach Rick Carlisle lower Nowitzki’s minutes this season from previous years? In 2016-17, Nowitzki made 54 appearances and averaged 26.4 minutes per game.
“It sounds great to bring his minutes down to the mid-20s. But if you do that, he’s going to be sitting for long periods in the game and then getting back going again is going to be very challenging,” Carlisle told The Dallas Morning News. “And with the new game-flow package, timeouts are coming at different times. It’s a little bit different science when it comes to substituting him. So we’ll see.”
With Nowitzki set to begin the season as the starting center, Carlisle does have options at that position and power forward to keep Nowitzki’s minutes close to the 2016-17 number, with Nerlens Noel, Dwight Powell and Josh McRoberts coming off the bench.
Nowitzki re-signed with Dallas in July and will make $5 million this season and next year, if the Mavericks pick up their 2018-19 team option.
Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle was expected to start a backcourt of Seth Curry and rookie Dennis Smith Jr. when the regular season tips off next week. However, Carlisle may now have to make an adjustment because Curry is sidelined indefinitely due to a stress reaction of his left tibia.
“I just try to play to my strengths and give the team energy,” Ferrell said. “The guard rotation probably is going to stay the same, just me replacing Seth, basically. We’re just going to do the same things we’ve been doing.”
Ferrell, who is beginning his second season with the Mavericks, appeared in 36 games (29 starts) for Dallas last season and averaged 11.3 points, 4.3 assists and 2.8 rebounds per contest.
While the Mavs’ projected starting backcourt is young, Carlisle does have plenty of experience to use when needed, with Devin Harris (13-year veteran) and J.J. Barea (11-year veteran) as options.
In three years at the University of Utah, Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma shot 32.1 percent from the college 3-point line. For whatever reason — he has attributed it to greater focus because he knows he has to jump to shoot — the longer NBA 3 has agreed with Kuzma. He shot 4-of-5 on 3s in the one scrimmage he played at the NBA draft combine, 24-of-50 (48 percent) at the NBA summer league in Las Vegas and now 8-of-17 (47.1 percent) during his first three preseason games.
My hot take is Kuzma likely won’t surpass Steve Kerr as the most accurate 3-point shooter in NBA history, which I’m pretty sure is not what you mean by take it seriously. The question is probably more like, at what point can we expect Kuzma to be an above-average 3-point shooter? From a Bayesian perspective, that’s a product of two things: How many NBA attempts Kuzma has and how well he has shot on them.
There’s one key underlying question here: Does each individual NBA 3-point attempt tell us more about a player’s NBA 3-point shooting than an NCAA 3-point attempt? And the answer here seems to be yes. Using summer league stats for rookies who attempted at least 20 3s in the summer and 50 the following NBA season, I found the best prediction of their rookie 3-point percentage weighted summer league attempts 70 percent more than college attempts (using their projected NBA 3-point percentage, not their actual college percentage).
So, taking preseason 3-point attempts as equally predictive as summer league ones, Kuzma’s projection would now be weighted by 169 college attempts to the 29.2 percent he was projected to shoot based on his NCAA accuracy and 117 NBA attempts to the 47.8 percent he has shot in the NBA. That yields a projection of 36.7 percent, a little better than last year’s league average of 35.8 percent.
I’m fascinated to see how Kuzma continues to develop as a shooter. I can’t recall a case of a player showing this kind of improvement from the NBA 3-point line so early. The change to his projection incorporating summer league stats dwarfs the next-highest improvement, for Anthony Morrow when he went 11-of-20 from 3 in summer league play in 2008. (Morrow went on to exceed even his revised projection by shooting 46.7 percent on 3s as a rookie.)
Absolutely. As with the previous example of 3-point percentage, the key question to ask here is how different is a team’s performance during preseason from what we previously expected from them. I’ve found some predictive value to exceeding or underperforming preseason over/under lines, on the order of about three wins per season above or below those lines at the extremes.
The exception to that is for teams with an over/under line of more than 50 wins, so the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs all starting 0-2 shouldn’t be reason for concern.
For individuals, the story is similar. The most recent time I studied the issue, I found preseason performance had about a fourth the predictive power of my SCHOENE player projections, which isn’t nothing but also isn’t everything.
“When looking at best case and worst case scenarios for a team, based off a forecast like ESPN’s real plus-minus (RPM), how big a range is typical? What would be the band of outcomes (call it 10th to 90th percentile) we might expect?”
As the saying of disputed origin goes, prediction is hard, especially about the future. So the band is pretty large. Over the three seasons we’ve published RPM projections, the average team error is about 5.4 wins — slightly better than over/under lines over that span (6.1 wins, granting that this doesn’t account for bookmakers changing the odds on the over and under in response to action rather than moving the line). Here’s how they compare graphically:
The over/under lines have done slightly better at predicting records almost perfectly (in this case half a game; I just used the integer of difference), but RPM has been slightly better at getting within three games (52.2 percent of teams as compared to 46.7 percent) and avoiding huge errors (that 23-game difference belongs to the 2014-15 New York Knicks, who won 17 games with an over/under of 40.5).
But either way, even above and beyond the challenge of rating players and how they’ll fit together, injuries and midseason transactions ensure that there’s a wide degree of variability in how teams actually perform. So there’s reason to hope even if your team has a weak projection.
“For a variety of reasons, Dallas and Memphis have a history of exceeding statistical projections. What do you see of the likelihood of that happening this year?”
I don’t know that I’d put the Dallas Mavericks in that category. The Mavericks have actually fallen short of their preseason RPM projections two of the past three years, though that can be attributed to the Rajon Rondo trade in 2014-15 and the decision to punt late in the season last year. I’d say there’s a decent chance of something similar happening this year, where Dallas is more competitive than the RPM projection (34.8 wins before accounting for schedule) indicates but ends up near that mark because of late-season losses.
The Memphis Grizzlies also had a stronger track record of exceeding projections early in the Grit n’ Grind era. (Memphis beat its retroactive RPM projection by at least six wins each season from 2009-10 to 2012-13.) To the extent the Grizzlies have exceeded expectations lately, it has often been by outperforming their point differential.
I’d give Memphis a pretty good shot at beating this year’s RPM projection (also 34.8 wins before accounting for schedule) just because it’s so low. That would be an eight-win decline from last season and seven wins worse than the 42 wins the Grizzlies’ 2016-17 point differential typically would have yielded. I’d say my expected average outcome for Memphis is closer to 40 wins than 35.
Some say say that Wilt never fouling out was bad because it meant he didn’t play aggressive defense. What’s your opinion? #peltonmailbag
In his great “The Book of Basketball”, Bill Simmons quotes John Havlicek‘s autobiography, “Hondo”, on this topic: “Wilt’s greatest idiosyncrasy was not fouling out. He had never fouled out of a high school, college or professional game and that was the one record he was determined to protect. When he got that fourth foul, his game would change. I don’t know how many potential victories he may have cheated his team out of by not really playing after he got into foul trouble.”
At the same time, I think attributing Chamberlain’s desire to avoid fouling out strictly to vanity is a mistake. Pretty obviously, there was an immense drop-off from Chamberlain to his backup, which is why he averaged 45.8 minutes per game for his NBA career. (This probably doesn’t get enough notice.) So what was worse for Chamberlain’s teams: him playing less aggressively to avoid fouls, or him fouling out?
Granting that I wasn’t there and can’t say just how limited Chamberlain was in foul trouble, I think Havlicek and other critics are probably confusing correlation with causation here. The problem wasn’t how Chamberlain played in foul trouble; it was him getting in foul trouble in the first place.