Thursday, May 13, 2010

Season Review: Predictions

I don't think the season reviews proper will begin appearing until next week but, in the interests of self-examination and owning up to my own limitations, I'm prefacing them with a brief accounting of how and why I again underestimated the Hawks prior to the season.

"Some Early Prediction Thoughts," was a well-intentioned but not especially thought through post. In retrospect, using Win Shares over-complicated an already difficult task as it encompasses both player and team performance in a single number. I don't have a projection system* and cobbling together some scratch work involving advanced stats doesn't change that. I didn't even do an especially good job of estimating player minutes for a team that suffered no significant injuries.

*Compare my efforts with some things I took note of in Pro Basketball Prospectus 2009-10 to see the value of a projection system when making projections.

I did, though, set a realistic goal for my record prediction:
I'm researching and exploring some methods to utilize in the hopes of making a more objective, more accurate prediction for the 2009-10 season with the goal of getting within, let's say, ten games of the Hawks' final record. A small step but one which would constitute an almost 30% improvement for me over last year's prediction. It's all about setting attainable goals.
In my official season preview, I pegged the Hawks for 44 wins but gave myself plenty of wiggle room in the text:
The Hawks have not built, nor do they appear to be building, a championship contender. Instead, a bifurcated ownership group, former GM Billy Knight, Mike Woodson, and current GM Rick Sund have worked (if not always together) to assemble the best Hawks team in a decade, a 44 to 50-win squad almost certain to make the playoffs in the East for a third consecutive season.
[T]he Hawks went from attempting one out of every six field goals from beyond the arc in 2007-08 and making 35.6 percent of them to attempting one out of every four field goals from beyond the arc in 2008-09 and making 36.6 percent of them. The improvement was a team effort. Mike Bibby and Josh Smith bettered their career 3-point field goal percentages. Flip Murray, Maurice Evans, and Marvin Williams each set career highs in 3-pointers made, attempted, and 3-point field goal percentage. Whether this was a sustainable, systemic improvement or just a confluence of unlikely performances will go a long way toward determining whether the Hawks’ win total in 2009-10 is closer to 47 or 37.
The Hawks followed up a 36.6% three-point shooting season with a 36% three-point shooting season. I guess it was sustainable. Josh Smith eliminating the three-point shot from his game (during the regular season) certainly helped make up for the decline in three-point percentage from Mo Evans and Marvin Williams. That Evans and Williams both shot fewer three-pointers in 2009-10 minimized the impact of their decline in accuracy.

None of which is to say that I didn't make too much of the team's three-point shooting much like how I overreacted to the loss of Josh Childress the previous summer.

Looking back, I'm not at all ashamed of this passage:
[T]he 2009-10 team will look an awful lot like the 2008-09 team, will fall out of the divisional race fairly early but will fight to the end for the fourth seed and its accompanying home court advantage, will win or lose a close first-round series, and, if the former occurs, [and] might even win a second-round playoff game...
My 2010 team predictions were better than my 2009 team predictions but they still weren't especially good. Nowhere did I mention turnover rate, the defining characteristic of the league's third-best offense in the regular season, I underestimated, despite writing a pretty good post about it, the impact of Josh Smith being healthy for a full season, and probably allowed my own prejudices to underrate Jamal Crawford's addition even though Flip Murray demonstrated the season before that the rest of the Hawks could make good use of a shoot-first third guard.

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