GH And Petey's Timberwolves Blog

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Doing the Math

So in my last blog I said that the Wolves had exactly a 0% chance of winning the title. For those of you who are math-oriented, you realized that that was a lie. It was just one of the many lies I tell every day either in person or in print. But like all lies that I tell, I don't allow the person to believe my lies for too long before telling the truth.

So I got to thinking about the Wolves and what their actual chances of winning it all are at this point. The answer, as you may guess, is not good. It's hard to try and calculate what the Wolves chances of even making the playoffs are at this point, so first we'll just look at their chances if they do manage to make the playoffs. To test this, I wrote a script in Python (I've been learning that language lately, so it seemed a logical choice).

To figure out the approximate chance of a team with winning percentage A beating a team with winning percentage B, we use can use the formula:


I'm not sure where this formula came from or who derived it, but I've seen it used before and it seems to be fairly accurate. We can also use home and road records to get a more accurate approximation of how teams will do.

Next, we can apply this formula repeatedly to determine the chances of one team beating another in a seven-game series. In order to simplify these calculations, I didn't actually calculate out every possible scenario, rather, I gave the home team a winning percentage equal to (4*home winning + 3*road winning)/7. Similarly, for the road team, I assigned them a winning percentage of (3*home winning + 4*road winning)/7.

Before I go any further, I have to point out that these are only estimates based on team records up to this point in the season. They don't take into account that some teams will play better during the playoffs. They don't take into account the fact that some teams will likely have better or worse records due to having a unbalanced number of home and road games. And they certainly don't take into account the distinct possibility that Timmy Duncan might get arrested for inciting a riot and be unavailable for the playoffs. They simply predict the results of future games based on what has happened so far.

When I applied this, Here's what I got for the Timberwolves chances in a road series against other teams.
  • Chances of Wolves Beating Spurs in a 7-game series: 3.41%
  • Chances of Wolves Beating Suns in a 7-game series: 5.42%
  • Chances of Wolves Beating Sonics in a 7-game series: 13.29%
  • Chances of Wolves Beating Kings in a 7-game series: 15.27%
  • Chances of Wolves Beating Mavs in a 7-game series: 17.10%
  • Chances of Wolves Beating Grizzlies in a 7-game series: 34.83%
  • Chances of Wolves Beating Lakers in a 7-game series: 42.45%
  • Chances of Wolves Beating Heat in a 7-game series: 12.21%
As you can see, it doesn't look good for the Wolves. If they fall in the 8-seed and end up matched against the Spurs, they stand little chance of getting out alive.

Next, I took these calculations, and was able to predict each teams probability of winning it all based on who they might play at each point during the playoffs. For instance, if the Wolves have a 3.41% chance of beating the Spurs in the first round, then their second round opponent has a 3.41% chance of facing the Wolves and a 96.59% chance of playing the Spurs. Then, you can further calculate probabilities based on this information. You can continue doing this all the way to the top to determine each teams approximate chance of getting there. For this, I assumed current playoff seedings would hold, except that I took out Houston and inserted the Wolves into the 8-seed. Here are the results:

TeamChance to Win

Anybody want to bet against the Spurs? Of course, the Spurs chances might be slightly over inflated due to the fact that they've won 23 out of 24 home games, and that they would have home court advantage for every series. Even for a team as good as the Spurs, this seems a little high, so I took a bit off of their percentage and increased their road winning percentage slightly to compensate. Here are the modified probabilities:

TeamChance to Win

Still pretty dominant, although you may now notice that the Wolves chances have skyrocketed to slightly over 1/10,000. Also, for those of you who are curious, here's what would happen if you rightfully put the Rockets in the 8-seed instead of the Wolves:

TeamChance to Win

And finally, the Rockets with the reduced home winning percentage for the Spurs:

TeamChance to Win

Some interesting things to notice are that despite being the current 3-seed in the east, Boston falls 3rd or 4th from the bottom in all lists.

Also, notice that the Rockets fall ahead of the Lakers in both lists, despite being a lower seed. I ran similar test with the Wolves as the 6- or 7-seed and found that their chances actually went down with a higher seed. This is due to the fact that the 8-seed will likely face the 1-,2-, and 4-seeds, while the 6- and 7-seeds will likely have to face the 1-,2-, and 3-seeds in most scenarios to win the championship.

So we can now return to the original question. Assuming the Wolves continue to play in a way similar to how they've played so far this season, what are their chances of winning it all. I'll generously assume the Wolves have a 50/50 chance of making the playoffs. Of that 50% that they make it, I'll assume that 30% will be in the 8-seed, and the other 20% in the 6- or 7-seed. I'll also assume that the 6- or 7-seed has the chance to win consistent with the Wolves percentage in the first chart, and the 8-seed with the second chart. This gives the Wolves a 0.00506% chance of winning an NBA championship this season, or about 19,750:1 against.

This, of course assumes that nothing dramatic changes for the Wolves. They could make a trade which could possibly help them jump up as high as the 5-seed. But even looking at the Mavs, who are the current 5-seed, their chances are less than 2% in all estimates. Therefore, I conclude that the Wolves should not make any hasty moves in a desperate attempt to win the championship this season. Instead, any moves they make should be based on considerations for future seasons.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

There's Always a Silver Lining

The silver lining here is that now all Wolves fans can stop deluding themselves. There is exactly a 0% chance that the Timberwolves will win an NBA championship this year (slightly higher if they can make a trade).

So now that we've all accepted this, we can work on trying to improve this team, rather than continuing to chase pipe dreams of winning it all this year. We can start by doing the things I mentioned in my last post. Sam appears to be injured again, though the severity of it is unclear. If he has to go on the IR, then we might be able to take Ndudi off and start getting him PT. Otherwise, maybe we can trade him.

I'm too frustrated to write anything else. Anybody who wants, feel free to write something substantial in the comments.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Would Somebody Please Box Out?

So it appears that rumors of the Wolves return to glory were greatly exaggerated (by me mostly). The scouting report on the Wolves is out, and it says

"Crash the boards on offense as much as possible. The Wolves only have KG who can consistently rebound. And nobody on the team can start a fast break, so there's no downside in over-committing to the glass."

Sam started tonight, and for a change, the Wolves got off to a good start. As I had hoped, Sam's presence brought some balance back to the starting 5, and they were able to score some points early (Spree's hot start helped too). Unfortunately when he went out, Troy went in. I was really hoping that Carter would get the nod over Troy as our backup PG. Troy is basically the same as Sam, with two major differences that make him worse. 1) He isn't able to coordinate the offense as well; and 2) Instead of shooting ill-advised mid-range jumpers (that Sam makes often enough to make it forgivable), he has a tendency to launch 3-pointers from 5-feet behind the arc (which he doesn't make enough to make it forgivable).

I also would have liked to have seen more of John Thomas in this game. Dan Gadzuric and Joe Smith mercilessly muscling their way into the boards. His entire purpose out there could have been to keep at least one of them out of the paint after every shot. Don't worry about scoring. Don't worry about actually rebounding the ball yourself. Just make sure they don't get it.

During the second half, the cameras showed Sam and Spree sitting on the bench talking. Luckily for all of you, I'm an expert lip-reader and will transcribe their conversation for you.
Sam: Dude, you suck.
Spree: Suck my dick.
Sam: No, seriously dude, you suck.
Spree: I know dude.
Sam: I bet you wish you had taken that $9 million extension when they offered it to you, huh dude?
Spree: Sure do dude, nobody will offer me that kind of green now.
Sam: Don't worry dude, if you need to, you and your kids can come live with me. I still got a year left on my contract.
Spree: Kiss my ass mothafucka.
So, now that I've basically given up on the Wolves, here's a list of what they should do for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, they won't get a first round draft pick this year, so tanking and trying to make the lottery isn't going to help that much.
  1. Don't trade Spree. I know I've been lobbying for us to trade him for a while, but that's when I still felt that the Wolves had a chance to win the championship this season. Trading him would like us with someone else who has a bloated contract and still has years left on it. If we're planning to compete in the future, we'd be better off just letting his contract run out and then using our funds to sign somebody who will actually help this team win next year.
  2. Ditto for THud. His contract's not nearly as big, but we'd still likely have similar issues.
  3. Trade Sam and Kandi if possible. Each of them still has a year left on their contracts, so getting rid of them for some young talent would be greatly beneficial. Sam will probably be useless by next season because he'll either be hurt, or his defense will have gotten so bad that it's no longer beneficial to have him on the court. Kandi--well--he's Kandi, need I say more?
  4. Take Ndudi off the IR and put Kandi on it. Whatever injury we made up for Ndudi, we can just say he got over it and that Kandi somehow got it. As the only first-round pick the Wolves have had in the past 4 years, it's time to start developing him. Plus, he plays a position where the Wolves have been lacking depth anyway. I see no harm in trying to get him out there.
My prediction for tomorrow night's game: Suns 173, Wolves 128. Surprisingly, we'll be up by 20 at halftime, Nash will reaggrivate his injury and Stoudemire will get ejected, but we'll come out and get outscored 68-13 in the third quarter.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

I Hate My Life

When I first started thinking about the game against the Kings, I thought it would be a good test for the Wolves who have started to play better. Then, when I found out that both CWebb and Peja would be out, I figured the game would be a walk in the park.

The Wolves started off slowly (as has become tradition), but after the first half, it looked like I would be right, taking a 6-point lead into the half, and increasing the lead to 7 immediately at the beginning of the second half after making a technical free throw for a T called on Mike Bibby as he entered the locker room for halftime.

Then, the third quarter started off about as horribly as you could imagine. The Wolves turned the ball over on what seemed like every possession. It wasn't quite every possession, but it did happen 6 times in the first 7 minutes.

What happened next seemed bizarre to me. I need to say that I'm a huge fan of Flip Saunders, and normally I think he's a great coach. But for some reason, he decided to go with very small lineups for the end of the third and beginning of the 4th quarter. At then beginning of the 4th quarter, we had a lineup of Hudson/Hassell/Hoiberg/Szczerbiak/Griffin. I'm not exactly sure why Flip chose to go small against this team, but it was just terrible.

The Kings had Miller and Songaila both out there, who are both big men who can shoot jumpers. What happened was that one of them would be open for a jump shot, and we didn't have enough size to cover both of them. Furthermore, with Griffin as our only rebounder, we were getting pounded on the offensive boards. And just to top it off, when Bibby beat either Troy or Sam off the dribble, there was nobody there to help out since Eddie was outside guarding their big men.

So that's the deal. As promised, here are two more big question marks facing the Wolves for the rest of the season:


To be blunt, he's been awful lately. He's had a couple good games, but mostly he's been bad. He's always been a streaky player, but streaky is only ok when there's at least as much good as bad. Over the last 8 games, he's shot 3-11, 3-12, 12-18, 1-5, 2-7, 1-5, 9-28, and 1-6. His defense hasn't been all that great either. If the Wolves are going to do any damage in the playoffs, they'll either need him to find his game again, or else they'll need to trade him. The problem with trading him, of course, is his huge bloated contract. This means, he'll probably need to find some way to make himself useful on the court.


Since coming back from injury, he's been OK. Not great. Not awful. He's never been a great defender, but he looked particularly bad today. It's about 24-feet from the three-point line to the basket. At one point, Bibby was six-feet past him when he got to the basket. I know Bibby's quick, but even I could stay within 6-feet of him in that small of a space. Hamstring injuries have a tendency to be nagging, and I think the Wolves have done a good job of not rushing him back.

On a completely unrelated note

I was trying to find out approximately how many people alive are 7-feet tall and how many of them have played in the NBA at some point. So far, I haven't been able to find out much. (Anybody know anything about this? If anybody knows anything, I'd be grateful for the info) In the process of my search, I ran across this interesting web page. Did you know that 1 out of 5000 people in the Netherlands is 6'10"? Holy shit! The NBA needs to start cropping players over there.