The rationale of fan irrationality
Used to be, I wondered why fans reacted so powerfully to Wizards wins and losses. After a loss, fans kvetch and rage — demanding coaching and front office changes, player trades, and lineup and strategy adjustments. After a win, those same fans see the player development, the coach’s wisdom, the intelligence and thought that went into the game plan.
So, why the wild swing from gloom and doom to sunshine and hope? The explanation is remarkably simple and boils down to this — teams look good when they win and look bad when they lose.
The sad-sack Wizards this season, for example, statistically resemble a 64-win team when looking solely at their wins. In losses, they resemble a 13-win squad.
To put this in perspective, just three teams have won 64 games — the 95-96 Seattle Sonics (which lost in the NBA Finals to Michael Jordan’s Bulls), the 96-97 Utah Jazz (which lost in the NBA Finals to the Jordan’s Bulls), and the 05-06 Detroit Pistons (which lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat).
On the other hand, only two teams have won 13 games over an 82-game schedule — the 04-05 Atlanta Hawks and the 93-94 Dallas Mavericks. Just seven teams have managed 13 or fewer wins over an 82-game season.
So, in wins this year the Wizards look like one of the better teams in league history. In losses, they look like one of the worst.
While the Wizards’ differential between wins and losses may seem extreme, it’s not. This season, on average NBA teams score 104.6 points and allow 94.5 in their wins. A team with this kind of scoring differential over the course of an 82-game season would be expected to win approximately 66 games. In losses, the average NBA team has the scoring differential of a 16-win team. Which means, NBA teams look like an all-time great unit when they win, and they look all-time bad when they lose.
This is the case even for the league’s best teams. San Antonio, for example, has a league-best 40-8 record. In wins, they look like a 67-win team; in losses: a 13-win squad.
Miami and Orlando tie for looking best in wins — both have the differential of a 72-win team when looking solely at their wins. The Heat resemble a 21-win team when they lose. The Magic, 18. Cleveland is the weakest looking team in their wins, statistically resembling a 57-win squad.
Five teams have the scoring differential of a 70+ win team when they win — Miami (72.4), Orlando (72.4), the Lakers (71.7), Indiana (71.2) and Chicago (70.0). Only two teams have a sub-60 win scoring differential in wins — Charlotte (59.5) and Cleveland (56.6).
While no one looks good when they’re losing, Houston (21.5), Boston (21.2), Miami (21.1) and Chicago (21.0) look least bad. The teams that look worst when losing are Cleveland (8.5), Utah (10.0), Atlanta (11.9) and San Antonio (12.6).
The Wizards rank 21st in looking good when they win and 24th in losses.
Before going too far with this analysis, it’s worth point out that neither looking good while winning nor looking least bad while losing appears to matter very much. While good teams are well-represented when it comes to looking good while winning, sub-.500 Indiana ranks fourth, the Sixers rank sixth and Minnesota is seventh. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City is in first place in its division, but ranks third-worst in “looking good while winning.”
The analysis doesn’t change much when looking at the loss column. Winning teams like Utah, Atlanta and San Antonio take three of the bottom four spots.
So don’t get too wrapped in a Wizards win or a Wizards loss. The truth about a team is found in the aggregate. And this season, the Wizards have the scoring differential of a 24-win team.
| February 2, 2011; 2:54 PM ET
Categories: Kevin Broom, Wizards | Tags: Kevin Broom, Wizards
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