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NBA Analysis: Can You Predict Postseason Success?

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Last year, we looked at using lineup data as a predictor for postseason performance. The thinking was, in the postseason, teams shorten their bench, tighten their rotation and put their best units on the court as much as possible during a 7-game series. This time around, let’s look at best units by adjusted performance instead of raw performance.

To do this, we’ll use the Adjusted Plus-Minus model published on basketballvalue.com. The minimum number of regular season minutes for a lineup to qualify is 225. If no playoff team has an active lineup that meets such criteria, the next best high-minute lineup was used. (Injured or traded lineups which could not play in the postseason were ignored.)

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The Results: From 2008-2011 (60 postseason series), the team with the better qualifying regular season lineup won 70% of the time. This is encouraging, although in the (smallish) sample slightly less accurate than the point-based metrics (Pythagorean Wins, or PW, Margin of Victory, or MOV, or the Simple Rating System which adjusts MOV for schedule strength, SRS.) PW will predict a playoff series with 76-77% accuracy. For those still clinging to myths, the better defense will win only about 57% of the time, slightly better than a coin toss.

Series predictors...

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