With the potential for a truncated 2011-12 NBA season looming, we delved into the data to see which teams stand to benefit the most from a short season; tomorrow we will look at which teams would be hurt the most.
Here's a list of four factors that matter, and five teams that could make the most of a chaotic year in the NBA.
Bad teams have the most to gain
Lost salaries aside, players on bad teams should all pray for a strike-shortened season. The laws of probability dictate that they have the most to gain. By playing fewer games, randomness and luck play a much larger role, compared to actual skill, in determining where teams stand at the end of the regular season.
As an example, in 2010-11 the Miami Heat were clearly a much better team than the Cleveland Cavaliers. If last season were replayed today with all the same teams and players, there would only be a miniscule chance that the Cavs would finish the season with a better record than the Heat.
However, according to Vegas lines, the Cavs had between 10 and 30 percent odds to beat the Heat in their most recent matchups last season.
In other words, while Cleveland has almost no chance of outplaying Miami over 82 games, the Cavs have a much better chance of winning an individual game head to head. Given the much shorter time frame, there's always the chance that the Cavs get hot, the Heat go cold and the obviously worse team beats the obviously better team on that one night. The same effects can manifest themselves in the playoffs, when the total number of games played also is small. Witness the 1998-99 postseason, when the eighth-seeded Knicks advanced all the way to the NBA finals.
In short, when the number of games played is smaller, there's less time to sort the good teams out from the bad. Being lucky means more and being good means less.
Consistency can be good or bad