Tagged: NBA

Theory of the Big 3: Predicting NBA Team Win % from Individual Performance: Full Paper

By Gene Li

spurs

Nowhere is the concept of the “Big 3” more relevant than basketball. As a relatively star-dominated game compared to football, soccer, etc., NBA games are determined by the performance of a few players who can deliver offensive firepower. NBA fans often view their team’s success as driven by the top three players on each team. Just last season, we saw the trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green from the Golden State Warriors face off against Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Historic “Big Threes” include the infamous James-Wade-Bosh trio in Miami, and the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili Spurs offense that won four championships over 13 years. But just how much can a team’s performance be attributed to its top three players?

View Li’s “Theory of the Big 3: Predicting NBA Team Win % from Individual Performance” full paper here.

 

There is No Place Like Home

By Jeffrey Gleason

Nine weeks into the NFL season, no teams remain unbeaten. This could’ve actually been said after eight weeks, after seven weeks, and after six weeks as well. Week 5 was the last time an unbeaten team remained, when both the Cardinals and Bengals were sitting at 3-0.

However, after these same nine weeks, five teams remain unbeaten at home. The Patriots, Broncos, Eagles, Packers, and Cardinals have yet to lose on their own turf.

Home field advantage is a phenomenon that gets a lot of traction in sports. Experts often use it to justify their predictions and betting lines usually reflect the perceived advantage of the home side. However, people often generalize home field advantage with a “one size fits all” approach, acknowledging its presence, but assuming it displays a constant impact across different situations.

With five unbeaten NFL home teams and the recent impetus of a road team finally winning Game 7 of the World Series (the Giants topped the Royals on October 29th to capture their third championship in five years), I was interested in how home field advantage was quantitatively different in different situations. How does it vary across sports? Do both good teams and bad teams experience the same advantage? Is it magnified in the postseason? What about differences in earlier eras? These are the questions I set out to resolve.

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Assessing NBA Scoring Champions Relative to League Average

A Historical Study

by Aqeel Phillips

http://i2.cdn.turner.com/nba/nba/dam/assets/130415230043-041513-kevin-durant-vs-kings.main-video-player.jpg

With just a few weeks left in the regular season, some of us are left without much to root for anymore. HEAT fans remain optimistic in the surprisingly competitive battle for the first seed, and Suns, Mavs, and Grizzlies fans are biting their nails short in hopes that their teams can grab a playoff spot. However, a good percentage of us basketball fans now realize we have little to root for anymore (or if you’re a Sixers fan like me, you realized in about August), and are just waiting to see the final playoff seedings and end-of-season awards before the playoffs get underway. Besides the MVP, one of the most notable awards each year is the Scoring Title. Last season, we were treated with a thrilling ending as the battle for the Scoring Title came down to the wire between Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.

This season, Kevin Durant aka the Slim Reaper has made things less interesting, currently scoring 32.2 points per game (PPG) over 2nd place Melo’s 28.0 PPG. Durant is the only player to average 30 points since he did in the 2009-10 season. The NBA has had a notable drop in scoring lately, a trend first starting when hand checking was instituted in the early 2000’s and extended as many teams have embraced sharing the ball throughout the team in order to better find open looks, namely threes, rather than relying on singular scorers. Durant’s current season widens eyes at first glance — averaging 4 points more than his next closest competitor will do that. But I find that PPG by itself doesn’t tell the full picture. Elgin Baylor averaged over 38 points in 1961-62, but that was over 50 years ago in a completely different league. So who had the most impressive season: 2014 Durant? 1962 Baylor? 2006 Kobe? We’ve witnessed plenty of monstrous seasons, and this study examines them in relation to the rest of the league at the time to contextualize the simple PPG marks.

League Scoring Average (Season)

To get a better comparison between scoring performances, we can divide a player’s PPG by their minutes per game (MPG) marks to see how they’re scoring with regard to the opportunities they’re being given. This is especially useful in calculating a league average scoring mark. We don’t want end bench players that average 0.6 PPG to drag down the entire league scoring average, most importantly because they outnumber the talented, 20+ PPG scorers in the league. Dividing PPG by MPG for each player across the league levels the playing field, and also accounts for the possibility that in any given season the league as a whole significantly played more or less bench/low-scoring players for whatever reason (for example, in the ‘60s there were much fewer players in the league and more minutes and points to go around).

For reference, here are the Points Per Minute values for the current league leaders in scoring:

League Leaders

(For those wondering about a full list of the league leaders in PPM, see the appendix)

In terms of points scored per time played, you can see that Durant is not just scoring at an average rate while playing more minutes, he is scoring more efficiently than the players below him on the list (shown by a higher PPM value than his competitors). It’s interesting to note that Melo averages more minutes than Durant, but Durant makes much better use of his time, scoring-wise, than Melo (Durant is also more efficient with his shot attempts – averaging 20.7 field goal attempts per game to Melo’s 21.5). This gives more evidence to Durant’s case for “best scorer in the league” – not only does he have the sheer output, but he also has the efficiency.

Next, we’ll calculate the average PPM value for the entire league, and compare each individual player to that average, to see how much better they score than the average replacement.

Unlike other studies I’ve done, I haven’t artificially subtracted out all of the players that aren’t contributing much (<20 MPG, <30 GP in previous articles), as using PPM should even out all contributions.

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Using Weighted Player Efficiency Rating to Predict the NBA Playoffs

By Neil Rangwani

This time of year means a few things in the world of sports: March Madness highlights take over ESPN, baseball stadiums start to fill up, and Knicks fans await their inevitable disappointment.

This NBA season looks remarkably competitive: the top of the league is crowded with legitimate contenders. The defending champion Heat and the Pacers, although sliding a bit recently, look to be the favorites in a weak East, while the Thunder, Clippers, and an extremely hot Spurs team each look like they could win the West.

In order to take a closer look at the playoff picture, we wanted to rank teams according to a metric that took into account various facets of a player’s game, so we decided to calculate a team equivalent of Player Efficiency Rating (PER). We took a relatively simple approach, since PER encompasses a number of basic statistics.

Introducing Weighted Player Efficiency Rating (WPER)

Using data for each player over the past four NBA seasons, we weighted each player’s PER by their playing time as a fraction of their team’s total playing time in order to account for a player’s actual usage. Then, we found each team’s Weighted Player Efficiency Rating (WPER) by summing the values for each player on each team.

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Dishes and Dimes Part II – Passing Efficiency

by Aqeel Phillips

Halfway through the current NBA season, fans have celebrated and lamented the position of their teams as the contenders and lottery teams separate themselves from the pack. On the flip side, NBA stat geeks have begun universally celebrating as the SportVU player tracking system has filled up with an ample pool of data and now possesses a respectable sample size. More than 41 games into the season, we can not only start to project playoff seeding and start pondering matchups, but we can also begin to accept players’ performances so far as an expectation of how they will finish the season as well (barring injury or possible team-afflicting swaps at the trade deadline). SportVU allows us to take a deeper look at these performances, past the simple statlines of points, rebounds, and assists, and really get our hands dirty in finding out what might makes each team and player special.

A Revisit

To start, I’d like to revisit my previous article with a few revisions. A reader pointed out that the passing player’s free throws were not being subtracted from the team free throws, so players like LeBron James and Russell Westbrook benefitted from taking many free throws. In addition, it appears that Assist Percentage is a more helpful stat to use than Assist Rate for calculating free throws. The former is simply a percentage created by the amount of field goals assisted by a player out of the total team field goals made, while Assist Rate is a more involved metric that counts assists versus possessions in a game. Lastly, player minutes need to be factored in as well. Team points from free throws are tallied over the entire game, but a player is only on the court for a fraction of the game to assist on those free throws. As a result, we need to multiply the team free throws per game by the fraction of the game that a player is on the court.

Here is a comparison of my formula (specified in previous article) compared to the concrete data that SportVU provides this season, using this season’s data rather than the 2012-13 data I used previously.

Screenshot 2014-03-27 15.56.09

The formula has its flaws, specifically it has a tendency to overestimate the number of free throws catalyzed by a player’s passing. For example, the formula assumes that Chris Paul’s ridiculous 53.8% assist percentage also applies to the amount of free throws shots while he is on the floor. The formula projects him to catalyze 5.8 FTs per game, while NBA.com reports that he only catalyzes 0.9 per game (almost the full difference between his projected points and his contributed points). Overall I believe it still gives a fairly good projection of how many points a player is contributing total. I think that it can still be a valuable tool for getting a picture of players’ contributions before SportVU was available.

(Note: AST+ is not available for this season, so I was forced to calculate it myself. A full explanation can be found after the conclusion of the article).

Introducing Passing Efficiency

SportVU has been tracking two pieces of player data never readily available before: Passes per Game and Points Created by Assist per Game (as mentioned previously). The points are a combination of passes leading to two-pointers, threes, free throws, and passes leading to assists (“Hockey assists”). To get a picture, here are the current top five in Passes per Game and Points Created by Assist per Game (which is desperately in need of a fancy acronym).

Screenshot 2014-03-27 16.12.02

Dishes and Dimes – A Close Look at Assists

by Aqeel Phillips

With the introduction of the new SportVu advanced statistics that the NBA has officially introduced at the beginning of November, I’ve been most intrigued by the new passing statistics now at the disposal of the fans. It’s been well known around stat-heads for a while that Assists are a flawed metric for measuring a player’s contribution to their team. They simply serve as a tally with no weight to them, a cross court pass to an open player in the corner yields the same number of Assists as a pass inside to a big man who does most of the heavy lifting by skillfully posting up. Though some public websites track the number of assists that lead to three-pointers as opposed to deuces, there is still no stat that accounts for passes that lead to free throws, and passers are robbed of rightful assists that they should receive when a play ends in a shooting foul. SportVu will be tracking these statistics, but I’m too impatient to wait for the season to progress and the sample size of SportVu to increase sufficiently, so I set out enumerate the contributions of passers from last year’s NBA season.

The Three-Pointers: Creating Valuable Shots

Let’s start by reminding ourselves of the Assist leaders from last year:

Assists

As stated previously, these assists merely serve as a tally of passes a player completed that led to field goals. We can gain a better picture of each passer’s contributions by taking a peek at a lesser-known statistic called Weighted Assists (shorthand AST+, courtesy of Hoop Data), which weights three-pointers as 1.5 as valuable as regular field goals. From AST+, we can easily calculate the amount of points from field goals that a player produced per game, by multiplying their AST+ value by two.

Table2

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Using SportVU to find the most overrated defenders in the NBA

dj block

By: Patrick Harrel

In the quest for advanced statistics capable of accurately quantifying defense, NBA analysts have always faced an uphill battle. Unlike offense, which had easily quantifiable measures of success, readily available statistics came nowhere close to establishing how effective a defensive player was on the floor. If a player blocked a lot of shots, he was often lauded as a tremendous defender, but what if those blocks came at the cost of missed rotations and wide open layups on failed attempts? Until very recently, we couldn’t dream of answering a question like that comprehensively.

When the NBA announced this year that they would be making the SportVU data available to the public for the 2013-14 season, the news was met with raucous applause from all circles involved with basketball. Writers loved it, fans loved it, and statisticians, who had always only been able to make educated guesses about certain factors, adored it. At Princeton Sports Analytics, we are going to make the data more accessible to you in a bi-weekly column, with each entry dedicated to a specific aspect of what is going on in the NBA.

If you are unfamiliar with SportVU, it is a system that is now installed in all 29 NBA arenas that tracks the movement of all 10 players on the court, the 3 referees, and the ball, and automatically generates an incredible amount of data about the various outcomes on the floor. It tracks average speed of every player, how many touches any given player gets per game, and much more.

Today, we’re going to discuss the ability to better quantify defense. Specifically, we will look at who have been some of the surprisingly poor interior defensive players this season. SportVU measures how well players defend inside by charting every shot attempt that an offensive player takes when a defender is both within five feet of the basket and within five feet of the offensive player. It then measures what percentage of shots the defensive player allows to be made under these conditions.

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Past Achilles injuries show that Kobe Bryant’s #NBArank is more than generous

By: Patrick Harrel

Kobe Bryant recently changed his twitter avatar to a simple image of the numbers “1225,” an obvious nod to ESPN’s respective predictions for the Lakers performance in the West and Kobe’s performance this season in comparison to his NBA counterparts. He, along with Laker Nation, was appalled to see both ranked so poorly. The NBA Rank methodology may be a bit primitive, with each voter voting on a 1-10 integer scale to rate all the NBA players on the list, but the ranking nonetheless reflects a reality that Kobe is likely to regress after rupturing his Achilles tendon.

But how much will he regress? Dr. Douglas Cerynik and Dr. Nirav H. Amin of Drexel University did some research into Achilles ruptures in their paper Performance Outcomes After Repair of Complete Achilles Tendon Ruptures in National Basketball Association Players, and shed some light as to just how difficult it is to come back from an Achilles tear. Of the 18 players they looked at, 7 were never able to return to NBA action, 3 returned for just one season, and the remaining 8 would go on to play 2 or more seasons.

And of those players that did return, their performance suffered drastically, especially in their first season back. In their study of the 11 players that returned to the NBA, the players PER (player efficiency rating), decreased by an average of 4.57 points. In the second, it decreased by 4.38 points. Even after controlling for age and other confounding variables, both figures were statistically significant, the first with a p-value of .038 and the second with a p-value of .081.

If you are unfamiliar with PER, it is an attempt at an all-encompassing rating system that sets the league average at 15. An All-Star typically has a PER in the range of 21 or above, and an MVP will be in the 27-30 range. Last year, Kobe had a PER of 23.10. If his PER fell by the mean decrease seen in the study of 4.57 in 2013-14, it would be 18.53, or .07 points worse than Samuel Dalembert’s PER last year. When Kobe is compared to the mediocre center the Mavericks just signed as a stopgap to please the fan base in Dallas, he suddenly doesn’t seem so intimidating.

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Regarding Rebounds

By Avi Cohen

All basic sports statistics need to be simple enough for the regular sports fan to comprehend quite readily, allowing them to understand the basics of how a player or team performed without actually watching the game. As a result of this simplicity, most are pretty flawed in some way or another when taken out of context. For instance, a typical stat line in basketball reads points, rebounds, assists – sometimes including steals and blocks. Obviously, some of these reflect a player’s performance better than others. But on the whole, the majority of these stats can be contextualized with other statistics or by effectively watching game action. But it just seems that this is not the case with rebounds.

PPG can be contextualized with FG%/FGA and USG rates. Same could be said for assists. Few people assume that lots of steals and blocks equate directly to good defense – though it certainly helps. And yet, rebounds exist within their own category. They are in limbo between offense and defense, essentially a loose-ball statistic. Granted, it could be argued that defensive rebounds are a component of playing good defense, while offensive rebounds as contributing to your team on offense.

Nevertheless, when we say someone is a good rebounder, we only really look at rebounding numbers. Maybe some will bring up rebound rates to seem smart, but that really is just controlling for minutes/game. Evaluating the offensive and defensive talents of a players often comprises multiple statistics in order to come a conclusion, and yet we typically only rely on the one or two readily available ones when judging rebounding prowess.

All in all, rebounds are all about securing the possession for your team. An offensive rebound gives the team an additional opportunity that they otherwise wouldn’t have had, and as such, conveys more of the in-game contribution. But defensive rebounds? Not so much the case. So many teams often box-out their men specifically with the intention of allowing their designated rebounder to grab the board. The most obvious example of this is Jason Kidd on the Nets during the early 2000’s. All too often everyone else would just box their men out, let Kidd grab the board and immediately go into the fast break. Kidd was certainly a more than competent rebounder, but his numbers were highly inflated by the system implemented by the coaching staff during his time as a Net. There are plenty of others factors that need to be taken into consideration as well. If a big man’s teammates were bad perimeter defenders he would be forced to commit to help on defense more often, resulting in missed rebounding opportunities. Additionally, less offensively talented players may not be deemed a threat, and left unguarded, have no one boxing them out. The loose ball period between the shot release until possession is secured with a rebound is much less structured, and as such, much more difficult to quantify in a simple manner.

It is true that there aren’t many good and simple ways to evaluate defense. Steals and blocks are the only basic defensive statistics available to evaluate defensive contribution, but as mentioned earlier, few seriously equate those two with good defense. However, when discussing rebounding ability, there is almost no discussion beyond the number of sheer boards a player brings down.

Considering that rebounds can really be narrowed down to just securing possession, there needs to be a new method for evaluating presence on the glass. Some sort of system that weighs offensive rebounds more heavily than their easier, less contested defensive counterparts, while also taking into account the amount of times you allow your man to grab offensive rebounds. It’s certainly a considerable challenge to take on, but considering the advances of sports video analysis software, it’s definitely not as difficult as we’d imagine.

Come back over the coming months as we attempt to tackle this challenge.

Let the NBA Back in Seattle, But Not Who You Think

The case for the Clippers to leave Los Angeles for Seattle

 by Dylan Ackerman

In the last couple of weeks, like many Americans, I find myself intrigued with happenings in the NBA. Unlike most people following basketball, however, my interested has nothing to do with anything happening on the court. I am not completely sure how – perhaps my love of Starbucks, perhaps my desire to see Macklemore get a team back, or perhaps my general nostalgia for the west coast – but I find the possible move of an NBA franchise back to Seattle extremely enticing.

As a result, I was as interested as anyone with the decision by the NBA owners against the proposal to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle. Obviously for fans in Seattle, the decision is a blow to the head. Personally, I actually see the recent decision as an opportunity to propose an idea I had in high school. After I looked at the numbers more closely, I realized what I once thought was a crazy idea can actually work, so here it goes.

The Kings are not the team that should move to Seattle. Instead, I propose a different franchise moves to all-too-long basketball-less Key Arena. What team?

The Los Angeles Clippers.

Now I know at first the thought seems ridiculous. The idea of a team leaving Los Angeles alone seems stupid, especially when the alternative moves a team out of Sacramento, a city one tenth LA’s size and with no other major sports franchises. But I promise, give the numbers a chance, and you’ll why shipping Chris Paul and crew north is the best move for the Clippers, for Seattle, and even for the NBA. Let’s put the puzzle pieces together.

Puzzle Piece Number One: Seattle Basketball

When the Sonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008 they were the 28th most valuable team in the NBA. They had a payroll of just over 36 million, without major financial trouble, but also without much recent success on the court. Five years later, they’ve jumped to the number 12 most valuable team, and with superstar Kevin Durant leading the way are a formidable force and title contender.

Why does the team that left Seattle matter? For starters, we see why the city is a tad angry, and why they want a new team so badly. When the Sonics announced the move, I remember friends from Seattle reacting to the news with exclamations of “Oklahoma F%&*ing City?!” only to see a cherished franchise thrive in a new city. People attack LeBron for leaving Cleveland when he did, but the entire franchise leaving hurts a bit more. Looking back and realizing they took the 19-year-old Durant with them, Seattle fans can only shake their heads and ponder what could have been.

If the Clippers come to Seattle, the city not only gets a basketball team, but a contender as well. If they are willing to take the somewhat hapless Kings, even with what is sure to be a high draft choice this June, they should obviously welcome a good team with open arms. As hungry as Seattle fans are for basketball, they are probably the easiest group to convince, and getting the Clippers would be Christmas come early.

The first major roadblock for Seattle would be the city’s ability to support them the Clippers. Compared to that of the team that left Seattle in 2008, the current Clippers’ payroll is almost double, at about $70 million compared to $36 million. The Clippers payroll is also more than $15 million above that of the Kings, the originally proposed move. Even if fans are excited for a new team, if the move doesn’t make financial sense it obviously can’t happen. So does it?

Looking at other teams’ payroll and revenue figures around the NBA, the answer appears to be yes. The Clippers current revenue (about $108 million annually) is behind that of the Spurs ($135M), the Thunder ($127M), the Trailblazers ($117M), and the Cavaliers ($128M), all team that play in markets smaller than Seattle. In addition, in the case of the Cavs and Blazers, the market is not only smaller, but the teams are not as good as the Clippers. Seattle only needs revenue figures at or greater than current numbers for the current Clippers team, something that seems at least plausible given these figures, especially considering (one can at least assume) fan interest will be high.

The other consideration in revenue is not only the media market size, but also the capacity of the stadium, as teams need to sell tickets as major revenue source. The Key Arena, the proposed interim home of an NBA team, is slightly smaller than the Staples Center, where the Clippers currently play. It is also a few thousands seats behind Portland’s Rose Garden and Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. This may be the best arguments against the move, but misses a few key points. The first is that a few thousand seats would not likely cripple the teams finances given revenue from media coverage. The second, and most important fact, is that part of the proposal to move the Kings was to build a new arena. The Key Arena was never proposed as a permanent home of an NBA franchise, so its capacity is significantly less relevant. If investors are willing to build a house for the Kings, they would almost certainly extend the same offer to the Clippers, who are at least worth spending the money on.

Puzzle Piece Number Two: The Clippers

So if this proposal looks good for Seattle, how does it look for the Clippers?

Though the Clippers would leave the second largest city and media market in the country, my proposal is actually in their best interest as well. Leaving Southern California for Washington State gives the Clippers their own city, and may even boost revenue figures by lowering competition for coverage and fans.

The Clippers are a good team, and in a few years they could be a great team, and someday soon, they could very possibly be NBA champions. Yet even if that happens, they will be second place in their own city.

This may sound harsh, but as someone who lived in Los Angeles for nineteen years, I can promise that it is true. The Lakers have and always will be the city’s team. Part of this is history, as the Lakers manage to contend much more frequently than the Staples Center’s other inhabitants. Looking to the roof and seeing the Lakers sixteen Championship banners next to the Clippers zero sends a powerful message, even with the latter’s recent promise. It would take incredible success by the Clippers along with a decade or likely more of failure by the Lakers to significantly alter this balance. The season that just ended provides a near perfect case in point.

Despite loading up last summer in an attempt at another dream team, the Lakers season was never good. Not once did they make headlines as potential playoff threat, and they limped into the playoffs in the number seven spot. When they did fans were ecstatic over a feat that would have been considered failure at the beginning of the season. The Clippers by contrast, were a solid playoff team the entire season, but the only times I opened my browser and saw them on the front page of the LA Times was when they beat the Lakers. In the first season ever where Lob City swept Showtime, the Clippers still could not carve out their own identity. The comparisons are constant between the teams, and even in a season where the Clippers were clearly superior, Los Angeles remains Lakers’ territory.

The Clippers deserve a city and a fan base that they can call their own, which simply will not happen (at least in my lifetime) as long as they compete with the Lakers. Even if the Purple and Gold fail to bounce back from this season or to rebuild for a few years and during this fallow era the Clippers manage to hoist the O’Brien Trophy, long-term loyalties won’t sway. At best, the Clippers could control the city for a season or two, but I cannot image such a shift being more than fleeting, as one season of competitive basketball for the Lakers would push the Clippers back to number two.

The greatest advantage the Clippers have in LA is the massive media market the city offers, but I have to question the benefits of this market when the other local team dominates it so thoroughly. The greatest argument for staying may be that with a good up and coming franchise, the Clippers are only beginning to tap into all the city can give them financially. To an extent that is true, the turnaround just since the Chris Paul trade has been incredible in terms of the team’s value as well as their revenue, but the turnaround also aids my earlier point. Even with this huge turnaround the Clippers are not pulling the revenue one would expect given the size of their hometown. They are a big market team with small to medium market revenue, which can and should change.

Lastly, if the Clippers really worry about leaving Hollywood behind, history indicates it may be a good idea. In football, the Rams and Raiders both left LA in the early 1990s, and both had successful season in their new hometowns. The Rams analogy is particularly poignant, as the team left for a market significantly smaller then Seattle, and within five years had successfully built “the greatest show on turf”, beating the Titans in the Superbowl. Someone may argue that revenue sharing in the NFL had as much to do with this as anything but to believe a revenue sharing scheme is the only cause is a mistaken. Revenue sharing matters, but so does the ability to put together a viable product, which the Clippers have done. As the Rams did on the football field in the 1990s, the Clippers can do on the court now, and leaving LA will only help them.

 Piece 3: Convincing the NBA

So if it works for the team in question and the city in question, all that’s left is convincing the rest of the NBA. For the Kings deal, many people pointed out how the NBA stood to gain significantly, but what about the Clippers proposal? Partially due to many of the factors that make it a good move for the team and the city, the proposal move supports the interests of the NBA as well.

In this case, what helps the Clippers (more revenue) helps the entire league as well. If the team isn’t capitalizing on the benefits of a large market, neither is the league. The opportunity to open up a new market without leaving an old one is rare in sports, but the NBA has one such opportunity with this proposal.

In the age where every major sports league has some sort of revenue sharing system, the entire league benefits from opening up a new market. In the proposed move, the NBA is able to open up Seattle with the presence of a franchise there while seeing minimal losses in Los Angeles. The Lakers will continue to dominate their market, and could expect to only continue to build off their current $197 Million in annual revenue. The Clippers currently pull $108 million annually, a figure that could increase if they no longer compete with the Lakers, even if the market itself is smaller. This does seem plausible, especially given my earlier comparison of Clippers revenue to that of the Spurs, Thunder, the Trailblazers, and the Cavaliers. All currently have higher revenue than the Clippers while playing in smaller markets than Seattle.

The NBA benefits from opening up a new market. At present the LA and Seattle markets together bring $305 million but entirely from Los Angeles. There is $305 in revenue from LA and $0 from Seattle. If the Clippers move to Seattle, it is reasonable to assume they will continue to pull at least $108 million. Looking at the revenue of worse teams in smaller markets (Cavaliers, Trailblazers, etc) I am willing to assume that the current Clippers team playing in Seattle would make significantly more revenue than they currently due under the Lakers’ shadow in Los Angeles.  It is also more than reasonable to assume that Lakers’ revenue figures will continue at their present numbers, if not rise as well as fans who used to watch the Clippers will switch to the Lakers for their basketball. Given these considerations, it is generally reasonable to predict that total revenue as far as the league is concerned will increase if the Clippers move to Seattle. At worst, revenue figures will not fall. In the worst case the league gets $108 million in Seattle and $197M in Los Angeles, but it is very plausible that both these figure will rise.

 Putting the Puzzle in Motion

So if the numbers work for everyone, what will it take to put this idea in motion? If everyone wins, why hasn’t this been discussed, much less acted on, already?

Well, perhaps the biggest difference between the Kings and the Clippers is also the most important: one team is up for sale and the other is not. Donald Sterling has owned the Clippers for more than three decades, sticking with them through all of the awful years to earn the title of longest tenured NBA owner. It seems unlikely that he will want to finally cut ties with them now, which means that he has to decide to move the team.

But again, the move may be in his best interest as well. His team and the NBA both benefit, so as the owner of the that team he certainly sits to benefit as well. While he may not want to sell the team outright, he may be able to attract some of the investors interested in the Kings to the Clippers in order to finance the move and improve the situation of his team. Obviously, these investors sit to benefit from the move. The only aspect where they are worse off with the Clippers as opposed to the Kings would be complete control, but considering that the Clippers have more demonstrated success, having a good investment in an already well run team may be worth ceding or sharing some control.

Unfortunately, this idea is not one I expect to see implemented any time soon, although I do often wonder why Los Angeles has two teams while Seattle has none and why the Clippers do not try to leave. The recent attention brought to Seattle and the NBA may provide the best chance for this proposal. If I were Donald Sterling or the team of Seattle investors, I for one would look to move the Clippers north. Maybe, just maybe, they will realize it’s a good idea and do just that.

Dylan Ackerman took this small break from sabremetrics to weigh in on the Seattle Basketball drama. Until researching this article, he didn’t know the name of the Larry O’Brien trophy.