Namely, that I think biggest flaw of his system (and one he readily acknowledged, as I noted last time), the lack of recognition and adjustment for significant roster changes, significantly damages his predictive analysis beyond simply the power rankings.
It’s just a difference in opinion, really, and I completely understand that not everyone who watches, thinks, reads, and writes about the game is going to share my appraisal of this Mavericks team. But in justifying his latest power rankings (which have Dallas ranked at 13th), Hollinger takes the data a bit too far. He blurbs each of the top 12 teams to analyze which factors place them ahead of the Mavs and whether or not Dallas could beat said team in a seven-game series at a neutral site. The former is definitely an analysis that needed to be done, and I think should help clarify the Mavs’ low ranking in the same way that I attempted to. But the latter…well…yeah. By Hollinger’s measure, the only teams in the top 12 that Dallas would best would be the San Antonio Spurs and the Boston Celtics. He says that a match-up between the Mavs and Hawks would be a toss-up. But apart from those three teams, the remaining nine — the Magic, Jazz, Cavs, Lakers, Suns, Nuggets, Thunder, Blazers, and Bucks — would top Dallas in seven games.
Some of those selections you live with; the Lakers are the class of the West, Denver is on-par with Dallas in my mind, the Magic are the hottest team in basketball (yes, even hotter than the Mavs), and the Cavaliers could be the best team in the league when healthy. I frown at the idea that Utah would beat Dallas, but we can’t all agree. Oklahoma City, Portland, and Milwaukee, though…come on, John.
I understand that the regular season match-ups play a significant role here, and they should. Dallas hasn’t played particularly well against any of those teams this season, and wouldn’t deserve to be an overwhelming favorite. But they’d still be the favorite. A playoff series between the Mavs and the Thunder would be a ton of fun and incredibly competitive. But Dallas has improved defensively since the trade, and they already boasted one of the best defenders of the Durantula in Shawn Marion. Plus, how does Butler’s impact offensively not help Dallas substantially against OKC’s defense?
No disrespect to the Blazers, who punked the Mavs with Andre Miller and Juwan Howard, or the Bucks, who are on a hell of a tear right now, but it’s the same story against each of those three opponents: Butler and Haywood make a huge difference. Not only in terms of the production that they provide, but how they bolster the Mavs’ depth and shift the match-ups as well. The team’s disposition has changed, and their season’s outlook should change accordingly.
I fully understand that Hollinger and his ratings have been completely under fire from Mavs Nation during the win streak, and the natural reaction is to stand behind the findings of the system. Perhaps John has done that and then some, overcompensating for the fervor of Maverick fans by swimming further and further towards the deep end. Maybe that’s exactly what this conversation needed. But statistical system or not, that opinion will never be popular when isolated on its own, provided the Mavs continue to win games.
But for now, there’s no reason to really argue who might beat who to any unreasonable extent. The playoffs are still a lifetime away, and none of this will really matter until then. I mean, a month ago, no one would have objected to the Mavs being ranked 13th in the league; Dallas was coming off an embarrassingly huge loss to Denver and had dropped a game against the Timberwolves a few days prior. So before we squabble too much about rankings and match-ups, let’s let the games play out, see how the Mavs improve (or don’t), and base our discussion on something a bit more tangible.