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2012 NBA Playoffs: Evaluating the Efficiency of the Western Conference Entries

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 03:  Head coach George Karl of the Denver Nuggets directs Andre Miller #24 ,Ty Lawson #3, Nene Hilario #31 and Arron Afflalo #6 during a timeout against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Pepsi Center on February 3, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Abacus RevealsCorrespondent IIApril 29, 2012

ESPN and its assorted array of analysts inform us on a regular basis that “Numbers Never Lie.”  Of course, if predicting the outcome of sporting events—like the NBA playoffs—were a simple matter of numerical analysis, the word “bookie” would be a synonym for “nerd” and Las Vegas might still be a desert wasteland.

Nonetheless, measurements of offensive and defensive efficiency, far more often than not, properly account for the level of a team’s success.  Thus Abacus offers a look at the seasons of the eight Western Conference playoff entries through the lens of efficient play—on both ends of the floor.

Offensive efficiency can be thought of as the percentage of a team’s possessions that result in either a converted field goal or two (and sometimes even three) free-throw attempts.  Here’s how they rank in this regard:

 

OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY

 PossessionsConversionsPercentage
Denver6,5173,408.523
Utah6,3983,315.5181
San Antonio6,3533,289.5177
LA Clippers6,1763,170.51327
Oklahoma City6,4103,290.51326
LA Lakers6,2723,184.508
Memphis6,2603,139.501
Dallas6,3073,024.479

Similarly, defensive efficiency would be the percentage of the opponent’s possessions that do not result in a field goal or free-throw attempts—either a missed field goal not offensive rebounded or a turnover.  Those rankings are as follows:

 

DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY

 PossessionsStopsPercentage
Memphis6,2563,255.5203
Dallas6,3273,288.5197
Oklahoma City6,4533,326.515
San Antonio6,3723,274.514
Denver6,5113,326.511
LA Lakers6,2673,198.510
LA Clippers6,1493,073.500
Utah6,3703,147.494

 

Let’s consider one more standard of measurement—one to which Google is not likely to lead you.

Calculate a team’s field-goal percentage.  Add to this the percentage of the team’s missed field goals which can be balanced by an offensive rebound. (E.g. a team misses 40 field goal attempts, but hustles its way to 10 offensive rebounds—that’s a 25 percent.) 

Finally, we’ll determine the percentage of a team’s possessions which are lost to a turnover; naturally, this figure will be subtracted.  In this manner, we create a numerical offensive rating.

 

OFFENSIVE RATING

 Field GoalsOff. ReboundsTurnoversRating
Utah.456.286.146596
LA Clippers.455.273.142586
Denver.476.261.156581
San Antonio.478.239.141576
LA Lakers.457.276.159574
Memphis.447.277.153571
Oklahoma City.471.262.168565
Dallas.443.221.147517

 

Finally, we’ll crunch those same numbers for the opponent and create a numerical defensive rating.

 

OPPONENTS' OFFENSIVE RATING

 Field GoalsOff. ReboundsTurnoversRating
Memphis.444.255.181518
Dallas.435.239.153521
San Antonio.452.223.142533
Denver.456.241.158539
Oklahoma City.427.259.145541
LA Clippers.447.253.157543
Utah.453.250.152551
LA Lakers.437.236.119554

 

An average of each team’s standing in these four categories will create this ranking.

 Off. Eff.Def. Eff.Off. Rtg.Def. Rtg.Overall
Denver15343.25
San Antonio34433.5
Memphis71613.75
Utah28174.5
LA Clippers47264.75
Dallas82825.0
Oklahoma City53755.0
LA Lakers66586.25

 

If ESPN is correct about the veracity of numbers, then we should all be calling our friendly neighborhood bookie—no, not at the public library—and betting on Mr. Karl’s Denver Nuggets to make the NBA Finals.  Betcha can get some attractive odds on that one, huh?

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