MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes

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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#101 » by HeartBreakKid » Sun Mar 28, 2021 4:06 am

Kiddlovesnets wrote:
HeartBreakKid wrote:I dont think the OP understands how odds are put together. The reason why the Cavs were favored to do well in 2009 and 2010 is because thats what most casual fans expected - media craze and push. Nothing special about those teams, citing that Jordan's first round elimination teams were better feats than carrying teams to 60 wins is silly.

Also, the quality of opponent LBJ is facing in the finals is pretty severe. I mean this year if the Lakers make the finals, which they should if they are healthy - they're facing a mega stacked Nets team. Jordan won titles during an era with no superteams, in the 80s his teams were gobbled up because y'know, it's a team game.


Actually Lebron's Cavs were not favored in 2009 so I dont know what you are talking about. The 2010 Cavs were not pre-season favorites either, though they added Shaq who was an all-star in 2009 averaging 18/9 before joining up with Lebron so it was a championship window year for Lebron(top 3-4 teams in the league). Of course Shaq didnt seem to fit well with Lebron, but the team did look good enough to compete, at least for a trip to the finals. For the 2010 Cavs team, the expectation wasnt to win NBA title, but losing in the 2nd round was definitely below expectation.
I said nothing about the 2009 and 2010 Cavs winning the titles - I said they were favored to do well which was because of a carry job. Anyone who thought the Cavs would beat the Celtics got jobbed by overrating the regular season, as people often do.

The quality of Lebron's finals opponents aint as severe as you think, at least when compared to Lebron's own team(remember Lebron had superteams from 2011 to 2017 himself). MJ kept beating his opponents in the finals and thus they looked weaker in your eyes, while Lebron lost more to his opponents than he won, creating an illusion as if Lebron's opponents were so tough and unbeatable. Also the Lakers were pre-season favorite this season, and remained as favorite after Harden trade. If Lebron wins this year, its nothing special since he was expected to win anyway. And if he loses, theres no excuse saying the Nets or other teams were so good since Lakers were the better team.

Again, I don't think you know how odds work. And the Nets have acquired a lot more players since the Harden trade lol.


Also,

Jordan getting eliminated in the 2nd round as "above expectation" in 1995. No one even know Jordan would be on the Bulls before the season had started. The Bulls were actually favored to beat the Magic (Jordan played incredibly well in round 1 and averaged 32.5 points which was normal for him), and they were upset.


I don't get why you can't admit that this methodology is stupid. I mean it literally lacks details, so why are you defending it? Do you think that basketball lacks that much nuance? In fact, how can wins and losses even determine anything - it's not even a one on one sport. You're not even analyzing the quality of the team, you're just citing what people were guessing would happen before the season would started. That to you is undeniable evidence that Jordan is better than James? Do you think this type of thesis would get anything other than an F if it was graded?

If Michael Jordan in 1990 which is arguably his peak did not win a title, but he won a title in 1998 when he was a bit past it - what would that tell you about your method?
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#102 » by Ainosterhaspie » Sun Mar 28, 2021 6:27 pm

Kiddlovesnets wrote:Yeah it doesnt take account of team chemistry, but I've pointed it out many times that you guys have overlooked one fact that Lebron's team always seemed to have issue with chemistry that prevented them from reaching their maximum potential. Had Wade and Bosh been able to play to their strength, the Heat could've been at a different level enough to match and beat the Spurs in 2014. So why this didnt happen? Is Lebron's ball dominant playing style naturally unfit to the games of his all-star teammates? If so, it doesnt make sense to blame Lebron's teammates for being not good enough.

Did you even watch the Heat when LeBron played there?

The LeBron ball faux critique doesnt fit the Miami years. That's a second stint Cleveland issue, and even there it's more myth than reality. Miami didn't not play LeBron Ball.

They tried to play to Bosh's strengths and would often spend the first half or quarter trying to force feed him chances. He regularly failed to convert. Bottom line is he was not a particularly effective offensive player especially against good defenses. What he did do well is defend and space the floor. He didn't like to bang in the post and was most comfortable with his midrange game, i.e. the least efficient way to score. Focusing on that instead of LeBron scoring is not the path to victory.

The Heat offensive system was not about LeBron running the offense as he saw fit. They had their guards initiating the offense most of the time and focused on running sets not involving LeBron making the whole system go.

The Heat also had problems with spacing that had nothing to do with holes in LeBron's offensive game. Their 5s couldn't score outside the paint. Bosh and Wade were both midrange shooters. Only LeBron and the PG were decent shooter's from three. (LeBron was shooting 38-40% from three in 2013-14.) This made it easier for teams to collapse in and clog the paint, thwarting Wade and Bosh's best scoring abilities.

The Heat could go small to fix this issue since LeBron could handle defensive responsibilities as the five at times. That would allow lineups like Chalmers, Wade, James, Battier, Bosh which had enough spacing for great offense, and which could still be highly effective defensively. In these configurations, especially when they maxed out defensive effort, they generated turnovers and could play at a high tempo which played into Wade's strengths. But then, the high effort to make that work wasn't sustainable for long stretches. Play a more traditional lineup, pace drops and paint clogs.

But by 2014 the small lineups were faltering. The biggest problem for the Heat against the Spurs in 2014 was on the defensive end. Their defense was really good, at times completely suffocating, in 2012 and 2013, but it was a defense that required intense effort to be successful, and by 2014, the Heat were getting old. Battier was a crucial defender who was on his last legs, and Wade's knees had him hobbled.

On top of that, Pop had figured out how to exploit the Heat's defense and had the Spurs offense perfectly structured to capitalize on flaws in the Heat's defensive system. In short, the Heat were old and no longer able to maintain the intense effort required to run their defense, and Pop had the Spurs motion offense finely tuned so they could routinely having the ball moving faster than the Heat could rotate creating holes and easy scoring chances.

Why did the Heat fail in 2014? They were old and hobbled. They couldn't run their defense right anymore. It was not a LeBron ball and chemistry problem.
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#103 » by feyki » Mon Mar 29, 2021 4:06 pm

His teams top 2 at least in the last 12 years, besides 2019. Between 11/16, he has the best team in a consecutive six years.

It's really interesting. But those were about most of his team changing years. 2010,2011,2014,2015, all these years were not you could see his teams fully concentrate to winning it all. Both him and his teammates.
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#104 » by Djoker » Mon Mar 29, 2021 4:29 pm

Bosh definitely wasn't washed up in 2014. He was still in his prime at 30 years old and proceeded to average 20/7 for two seasons after Lebron left despite dealing with and missing games due to blood clots. Wade had declined by 2014 and was no longer a superstar but he was still an all-star caliber player for a couple of more seasons until 2016.
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#105 » by laronprofit9 » Tue Mar 30, 2021 8:50 am

Jordan has never pulled off anything like what Lebron did in the 2016 Finals.

However Jordan also never wilted under pressure in the middle of his prime/peak at age 26 like Lebron did in 2011.

I hate when people say Jordan is better for being 6 for 6 in the finals than Lebron being 4 for 9 in the finals. Jordan wouldn’t be perfect if he had to play the Warriors 4 times in the finals.

I also hate when people say it’s better to lose in the finals than losing before it. Lebron wouldn’t stand a chance in hell either if he played on the 1986 Bulls against the 1986 Celtics. I don’t think he makes it out of the east until 1991(maybe a coin flip in 1990) just like Jordan. Those Piston and Celtics were just too good, for Lebron to make it out without a true supporting 2nd star

My point is context matters. I still have Jordan higher, just because I think he was above his peers at a higher level between 91-93 than Lebron ever was in his career.
I think Jordan and Lebron are pretty much in the same tier in terms of ability and impact as individual players. There won’t be a huge difference in team success if you have comparable level talent and fit for their respective abilities

Lebron can still pull ahead all time because of longevity but that’s a book that hasn’t been written yet
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#106 » by HeartBreakKid » Tue Mar 30, 2021 9:51 am

laronprofit9 wrote:Jordan has never pulled off anything like what Lebron did in the 2016 Finals.

However Jordan also never wilted under pressure in the middle of his prime/peak at age 26 like Lebron did in 2011.

I hate when people say Jordan is better for being 6 for 6 in the finals than Lebron being 4 for 9 in the finals. Jordan wouldn’t be perfect if he had to play the Warriors 4 times in the finals.

I also hate when people say it’s better to lose in the finals than losing before it. Lebron wouldn’t stand a chance in hell either if he played on the 1986 Bulls against the 1986 Celtics. I don’t think he makes it out of the east until 1991(maybe a coin flip in 1990) just like Jordan. Those Piston and Celtics were just too good, for Lebron to make it out without a true supporting 2nd star

My point is context matters. [b] I still have Jordan higher, just because I think he was above his peers at a higher level between 91-93 than Lebro[/b]n ever was in his career.
I think Jordan and Lebron are pretty much in the same tier in terms of ability and impact as individual players. There won’t be a huge difference in team success if you have comparable level talent and fit for their respective abilities

Lebron can still pull ahead all time because of longevity but that’s a book that hasn’t been written yet



You think the gap between Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1993 is bigger than the gap between Lebron James and Kevin Durant in 2012?
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#107 » by Kiddlovesnets » Tue Mar 30, 2021 4:16 pm

laronprofit9 wrote:Jordan has never pulled off anything like what Lebron did in the 2016 Finals.


What Lebron did in 2016 was any more special than MJ did in his title winning years? I already pointed out in the first post that, Lebron and the Cavs were favorites to win according to pre-season odds for 2015-2016 season. Just because Lebron/Cavs coasted in the regular season and the Warriors overachieved in regular season, doesnt mean it has anything to do coming into playoffs time(other than HCA of course).

The pre-season odds showed that Cavs had more talented team than the Warriors, and the Warriors never played like a 73 wins team in the playoffs. They struggled against 55 wins Thunder before facing 57 wins Cavs, they were more like a 56 wins team than 73 wins. Regular season records can be deceptive, the Warriors won 67, 58 and 57 games in the next 3 seasons with KD, but they were absolutely stronger than the 73 wins season.

Lebron won in 2016 and this ring was very important to the Cavs franchise, but lets not act like its one of the most valuable in NBA history 'cause its absolutely not. Lebron had the better team and defeated a worse team, he did not take a team like 2011 Mavs to go up against stronger opponents. Coming back from down 1-3 was quite nice though, but a better question is why Lebron and his team fell behind 1-3 in the very first place when he had better teammates than Curry's.

If you disagree with me, check this link for reference. Cavs were pre-season favorites, they had the best rosters in the league:
https://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2016_preseason_odds.html
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#108 » by sansterre » Tue Mar 30, 2021 4:34 pm

Kiddlovesnets wrote:
laronprofit9 wrote:Jordan has never pulled off anything like what Lebron did in the 2016 Finals.


What Lebron did in 2016 was any more special than MJ did in his title winning years? I already pointed out in the first post that, Lebron and the Cavs were favorites to win according to pre-season odds for 2015-2016 season. Just because Lebron/Cavs coasted in the regular season and the Warriors overachieved in regular season, doesnt mean it has anything to do coming into playoffs time(other than HCA of course).

The pre-season odds showed that Cavs had more talented team than the Warriors, and the Warriors never played like a 73 wins team in the playoffs. They struggled against 55 wins Thunder before facing 57 wins Cavs, they were more like a 56 wins team than 73 wins. Regular season records can be deceptive, the Warriors won 67, 58 and 57 games in the next 3 seasons with KD, but they were absolutely stronger than the 73 wins season.

Lebron won in 2016 and this ring was very important to the Cavs franchise, but lets not act like its one of the most valuable in NBA history 'cause its absolutely not. Lebron had the better team and defeated a worse team, he did not take a team like 2011 Mavs to go up against stronger opponents. Coming back from down 1-3 was quite nice though, but a better question is why Lebron and his team fell behind 1-3 in the very first place when he had better teammates than Curry's.

If you disagree with me, check this link for reference. Cavs were pre-season favorites, they had the best rosters in the league:
https://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2016_preseason_odds.html

You realize that if the people making the pre-season odds are even a little bit imperfect your entire argument kind of folds up like a house of cards, right?
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#109 » by Kiddlovesnets » Tue Mar 30, 2021 4:44 pm

sansterre wrote:You realize that if the people making the pre-season odds are even a little bit imperfect your entire argument kind of folds up like a house of cards, right?


I realize that pre-season odds are much better and reliable matrix to determine a team's raw talent and chances of playoffs success compared to regular season records. We've seen enough in the past decade that, regular season records didnt matter, teams and superstars no longer even care about that anymore. The Cavs being pre-season favorites was a much more convincing proof that its the better team, than Warriors winning 73 games in regular season. Of course no measurement is perfect, but pre-season odds >>> regular season records as indicator of a team's strength coming into playoffs. If you think pre-season odds are not accurate, then regular season records are far worse and the 73 wins Warriors are by no means better than the 67/58/57 wins Warriors in the next 3 years.
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#110 » by sansterre » Tue Mar 30, 2021 5:45 pm

Kiddlovesnets wrote:
sansterre wrote:You realize that if the people making the pre-season odds are even a little bit imperfect your entire argument kind of folds up like a house of cards, right?


I realize that pre-season odds are much better and reliable matrix to determine a team's raw talent and chances of playoffs success compared to regular season records. We've seen enough in the past decade that, regular season records didnt matter, teams and superstars no longer even care about that anymore. The Cavs being pre-season favorites was a much more convincing proof that its the better team, than Warriors winning 73 games in regular season. Of course no measurement is perfect, but pre-season odds >>> regular season records as indicator of a team's strength coming into playoffs. If you think pre-season odds are not accurate, then regular season records are far worse and the 73 wins Warriors are by no means better than the 67/58/57 wins Warriors in the next 3 years.

So. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I ran two seasons worth of data. I grabbed all playoff teams (I infer that you don't care about teams that don't make the playoffs). I recorded where they finished in the playoffs (1 = first round, 2 = semis, 3 = conference finals, 4 = Finals Loser and 5= Champion). I also recorded their preseason odds, their RS wins and their RS SRS.

Normally I'd do every season from '85 to '20, but I only have so much time.

I'm presenting my findings in terms of R, which is the correlation coefficient that shows a connection between two different numbers. Higher is better (the preseason predictions' R is actually negative, but I list it as positive for more intuitive comparison).

1985:

RS Wins: 0.84
RS SRS: 0.77
Preseason Predictions: 0.48

Both wins and SRS finish *way* ahead of preseason predictions here. Some of this is a bit obvious. If nothing else, RS wins give you seeding, and it really helps to be seeded high. Does this seem impossible? Please consider some of the following:

The '85 Nets were given +1000 odds (7th highest) but got knocked out in the first round. But their record and SRS (42 wins and +0.64) both suggested that this wasn't a good team.

The '85 Nuggets were given +2000 odds (4th lowest) but actually made the Conference Finals. Their record and SRS (52 wins and +2.05) weren't great, but were 5th and 7th, which was a lot closer.

Don't get me wrong, preseason rating did okay, but RS wins did better.

2014:

RS Wins: 0.66
RS SRS: 0.52
Preseason: 0.36

Again, not close.

The 2014 Bulls got the 3rd best preseason odds (+1000, behind the Heat and Thunder) but got knocked out in the first round (only 48 wins and +1.2 SRS suggested this). Derrick Rose getting injured showed up in the record/SRS, but not in the preseason odds.

The 2014 Nets were given the 4th best preseason odds (+1200) but were knocked out in the 2nd round (44 wins, -1.58 SRS).

The 2014 Blazers were only given +8000 odds (4th lowest) but actually made the semis (54 wins, +4.44 SRS).

The 2014 Wizards were only given +10000 odds (3rd lowest) but actually made the semis (44 wins, +0.48 SRS).

And the 2014 Spurs only got +1200 odds (5th highest) but posted the highest record and SRS in the league. And then creamed everybody.


To be clear, this is only two years. I picked them fairly randomly (I wanted one Jordan and one LeBron). It's *possible* that more years would find a different pattern. I have some serious doubts. Those correlation coefficients aren't close at all.

At least from this two-season survey, it looks pretty clear that preseason predictions are considerably worse than regular season wins or SRS for predicting playoff success.
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#111 » by Kiddlovesnets » Tue Mar 30, 2021 5:55 pm

sansterre wrote:So. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I ran two seasons worth of data. I grabbed all playoff teams (I infer that you don't care about teams that don't make the playoffs). I recorded where they finished in the playoffs (1 = first round, 2 = semis, 3 = conference finals, 4 = Finals Loser and 5= Champion). I also recorded their preseason odds, their RS wins and their RS SRS.

Normally I'd do every season from '85 to '20, but I only have so much time.

I'm presenting my findings in terms of R, which is the correlation coefficient that shows a connection between two different numbers. Higher is better (the preseason predictions' R is actually negative, but I list it as positive for more intuitive comparison).

1985:

RS Wins: 0.84
RS SRS: 0.77
Preseason Predictions: 0.48

Both wins and SRS finish *way* ahead of preseason predictions here. Some of this is a bit obvious. If nothing else, RS wins give you seeding, and it really helps to be seeded high. Does this seem impossible? Please consider some of the following:

The '85 Nets were given +1000 odds (7th highest) but got knocked out in the first round. But their record and SRS (42 wins and +0.64) both suggested that this wasn't a good team.

The '85 Nuggets were given +2000 odds (4th lowest) but actually made the Conference Finals. Their record and SRS (52 wins and +2.05) weren't great, but were 5th and 7th, which was a lot closer.

Don't get me wrong, preseason rating did okay, but RS wins did better.

2014:

RS Wins: 0.66
RS SRS: 0.52
Preseason: 0.36

Again, not close.

The 2014 Bulls got the 3rd best preseason odds (+1000, behind the Heat and Thunder) but got knocked out in the first round (only 48 wins and +1.2 SRS suggested this). Derrick Rose getting injured showed up in the record/SRS, but not in the preseason odds.

The 2014 Nets were given the 4th best preseason odds (+1200) but were knocked out in the 2nd round (44 wins, -1.58 SRS).

The 2014 Blazers were only given +8000 odds (4th lowest) but actually made the semis (54 wins, +4.44 SRS).

The 2014 Wizards were only given +10000 odds (3rd lowest) but actually made the semis (44 wins, +0.48 SRS).

And the 2014 Spurs only got +1200 odds (5th highest) but posted the highest record and SRS in the league. And then creamed everybody.


To be clear, this is only two years. I picked them fairly randomly (I wanted one Jordan and one LeBron). It's *possible* that more years would find a different pattern. I have some serious doubts. Those correlation coefficients aren't close at all.

At least from this two-season survey, it looks pretty clear that preseason predictions are considerably worse than regular season wins or SRS for predicting playoff success.


The pre-season odds are much more accurate when it comes to top teams, since they have less young players who may improve significantly over the season and teams talent levels are more predictable. For bottom teams, some may choose to tank while others will try to make playoffs, which make their records much harder to predict. But anyway, I am talking about the talent level on each team, not necessarily the records they will put up.

The 2014 Spurs are a weak argument since them winning it all doesnt mean they had the most talented team. The Mavericks took the Spurs to 7 games, they were 8th seed in the West, this again proved that regular season records were not very useful coming into playoffs time. The 2014 Heat had clear-cut better rosters but didnt win it all, in fact they did worse than the Mavericks and Thunder. This is a question you have to ask yourself, why Lebron has consistently failed to win with better teammates.
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#112 » by Ainosterhaspie » Tue Mar 30, 2021 6:05 pm

OP assumes without providing any supporting data that preseason odds have some sort of meaning. We're just supposed to take it on faith. As the above post by sanstere suggests, if you actually look into preseason odds predictive power, it may not be accurate. That comes as no surprise. It's based on information that is quickly outdated. It's made by people who don't necessarily understand the game well enough to make good predictions. It's based on motivations to balance betting, not to provide the most accurate prediction of actual final results.

I looked at every preseason odds prediction for champion from 86 to present. The odds makers were wrong 20 times; they got it right 17 times. That's a lengthy period of time and they show very little predictive power.

The burden is on OP to demonstrate that the odds have some actual predictive power. If they can't/don't get it right regularly, they provide little value in measuring teams much less iblndividual players.
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#113 » by sansterre » Tue Mar 30, 2021 6:13 pm

Kiddlovesnets wrote:The pre-season odds are much more accurate when it comes to top teams, since they have less young players who may improve significantly over the season and teams talent levels are more predictable. For bottom teams, some may choose to tank while others will try to make playoffs, which make their records much harder to predict. But anyway, I am talking about the talent level on each team, not necessarily the records they will put up.

You: "Preseason predictions are the best predictor of playoff success."
Me: "Here's evidence that preseason predictions are a bad predictor of playoff success."
You: "Well, I'm not actually talking about playoff success, I'm talking about their talent levels."

You do realize that at this point you've basically punted on your entire position?

You're now at "Preseason predictions don't actually predict anything well, they merely measure talent."

IF THEY DON"T PREDICT ANYTHING WELL THEN WHO IN THE NINE HELLS CARES!?

How can you possibly consider it a mark against LeBron that he underperforms a predictive metric that doesn't actually predict anything well?

*ahem*

Seriously, I feel like this is all hat and no cattle.

But minus the hat.
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#114 » by Kiddlovesnets » Fri Apr 2, 2021 8:18 am

Ainosterhaspie wrote:I looked at every preseason odds prediction for champion from 86 to present. The odds makers were wrong 20 times; they got it right 17 times. That's a lengthy period of time and they show very little predictive power.


Actually pre-season odds are very good at predicting the winners since 21st century, I've made a comparison chat of pre-season favorites vs regular season champion:

Image
Image

As evident from the chart, pre-season favorites have significantly higher chance to win NBA titles compared to regular season champions(10-6). Pre-season favorites also dominated the matchups against regular season champions(6-3), and the disparity would have been even higher if we discounted the 6 years Lebron was pre-season favorites. Pre-season favorites won 10 out of 20 times, this is 50% probability to win NBA trophy and the chance is actually very high to justify its predictive power since this aint a two horses race like finals series, we have usually at least 4-5 teams in championship window at the beginning of each season. In contrast, the regular season champions have won merely 30% of the NBA titles, which further demonstrates that playoffs and regular seasons are very different games.

I havent done the same analysis for other scenarios such as chance to make finals and conference finals, but its rather clear that pre-season odds as metrics of ranking each team's raw talent, is a very good metric to determine the winner of NBA champions. The fact that pre-season favorites usually beat regular season champions in their head to head matchups, is yet another concrete proof that playoffs are more about the talents on rosters than good coaching/teamwork. When theres a talent disparity, a well coached team in the right system can usually overcome this in regular season, but in playoffs they will fall short(ie. 2015 Hawks and 2016 Warriors) to the more talented teams.

Note my analysis only covers the recent 20 years, though I can make it further to 1984(first year that pre-season odds data became available). I think back in the 80s and 90s, the regular season champions won the titles more often than the recent 20 years. What is clear is that, since this century the regular season games became more and more meaningless, teams are using regular season as playing ground to test different line-ups, tactics and player developments rather than actually competing for better records.

Interestingly, Lebron won half of the time as pre-season favorites, which isnt terribly bad compared to the league average(10 out of 20), but this is quite underwhelming if we compare him to MJ who was undefeated(100%) when favored by pre-season odds. Of course Lebron is great and clearly a top 5 player of all time, but MJ is just on a different level. MJ never lost when his teams were good enough to contend and win, Lebron could only win half of the time or less.
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#115 » by sansterre » Fri Apr 2, 2021 2:40 pm

Kiddlovesnets wrote:
Ainosterhaspie wrote:I looked at every preseason odds prediction for champion from 86 to present. The odds makers were wrong 20 times; they got it right 17 times. That's a lengthy period of time and they show very little predictive power.


Actually pre-season odds are very good at predicting the winners since 21st century, I've made a comparison chat of pre-season favorites vs regular season champion:

Image
Image

As evident from the chart, pre-season favorites have significantly higher chance to win NBA titles compared to regular season champions(10-6). Pre-season favorites also dominated the matchups against regular season champions(6-3), and the disparity would have been even higher if we discounted the 6 years Lebron was pre-season favorites. Pre-season favorites won 10 out of 20 times, this is 50% probability to win NBA trophy and the chance is actually very high to justify its predictive power since this aint a two horses race like finals series, we have usually at least 4-5 teams in championship window at the beginning of each season. In contrast, the regular season champions have won merely 30% of the NBA titles, which further demonstrates that playoffs and regular seasons are very different games.

I havent done the same analysis for other scenarios such as chance to make finals and conference finals, but its rather clear that pre-season odds as metrics of ranking each team's raw talent, is a very good metric to determine the winner of NBA champions. The fact that pre-season favorites usually beat regular season champions in their head to head matchups, is yet another concrete proof that playoffs are more about the talents on rosters than good coaching/teamwork. When theres a talent disparity, a well coached team in the right system can usually overcome this in regular season, but in playoffs they will fall short(ie. 2015 Hawks and 2016 Warriors) to the more talented teams.

Note my analysis only covers the recent 20 years, though I can make it further to 1984(first year that pre-season odds data became available). I think back in the 80s and 90s, the regular season champions won the titles more often than the recent 20 years. What is clear is that, since this century the regular season games became more and more meaningless, teams are using regular season as playing ground to test different line-ups, tactics and player developments rather than actually competing for better records.

Interestingly, Lebron won half of the time as pre-season favorites, which isnt terribly bad compared to the league average(10 out of 20), but this is quite underwhelming if we compare him to MJ who was undefeated(100%) when favored by pre-season odds. Of course Lebron is great and clearly a top 5 player of all time, but MJ is just on a different level. MJ never lost when his teams were good enough to contend and win, Lebron could only win half of the time or less.

This is not an unreasonable analysis.

But to make a substantive conclusion about LeBron vs Jordan it assumes that two things are true:

1) The oddsmakers were equally optimistic/pessimistic about the two players' teams relative to their actual skill. I have serious doubts about this being true on account of how much skepticism the '91 Bulls had, but I could be wrong.
2) The two players having comparable opposition.

The second one is pretty demonstrably false, and it's on that point that I'll be speaking here.

Jordan was favored #1 in five years, LeBron in six. I grabbed the top 10 teams for Jordan and 12 for LeBron from those years (averaging two per year), sorted by my OSRS (a blend of regular season and playoff SRS, weighted toward playoffs pretty heavily). OSRS has its problems, but it's a pretty decent benchmark for such things. And I think you'll find that it won't matter too much.

Jordan's Top 10 Opponents in years he was favored (Wins, Regular Season SRS, OSRS):

1. 1996 Utah Jazz, 55 wins, +6.25, +10.86
2. 1997 Utah Jazz, 64 wins, +7.97, +9.13
3. 1996 Seattle Supersonics, 64 wins, +7.40, +8.75
4. 1992 Portland Trail Blazers, 57 wins, +6.94, +8.48
5. 1998 Indiana Pacers, 58 wins, +6.25, +7.33
6. 1997 Seattle Supersonics, 57 wins, +6.91, +7.21
7. 1998 Utah Jazz, 62 wins, +5.73, +6.75
8. 1992 Cleveland Cavaliers, 57 wins, +5.34, +6.75
9. 1992 Phoenix Suns, 53 wins, +5.68, +6.57
10. 1997 Houston Rockets, 57 wins, +3.85, +6.53

LeBron's Top 12 Opponents in years he was favored (Wins, Regular Season SRS, OSRS):

1. 2014 San Antonio Spurs, 62 wins, +8.00, +12.32
2. 2016 San Antonio Spurs, 67 wins, +10.28, +12.22
3. 2015 Golden State Warriors, 67 wins, +10.01, +12.09
4. 2016 Oklahoma City Thunder, 55 wins, +7.09, +11.25
5. 2016 Golden State Warriors, 73 wins, +10.38, +10.98
6. 2013 San Antonio Spurs, 58 wins, +6.67, +10.78
7. 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder, 58 wins, +6.44, +9.20
8. 2012 San Antonio Spurs, 62 wins, +7.28, +9.09
9. 2011 Dallas Mavericks, 57 wins, +4.41, +8.93
10. 2013 Oklahoma City Thunder, 60 wins, +9.15, +7.86
11. 2014 Los Angeles Clippers, 57 wins, +7.27, +7.66
12. 2015 Los Angeles Clippers, 56 wins, +6.80, +6.93

Average of the Top Opponents (5 for Jordan, 6 for LeBron):

Jordan's Top 5: 59.6 wins, +7.0, +8.9
LeBron's Top 10: 63.7 wins, +8.7, +11.6

So the top team LeBron had in his league averaged 4 more wins than Jordan's top opponents, an SRS 1.7 higher and an OSRS 2.7 points higher. Those are *massive* gaps.

Average of the Top Opponents x2 (10 for Jordan, 12 for LeBron):

Jordan's Top 10: 58.4 wins, +6.2, +7.9
LeBron's Top 12: 61.0 wins, +7.8, +9.9

In this grouping, LeBron's opposition averaged 2.6 more wins, 1.6 higher SRS and 2.0 higher OSRS.

Even if we were to stipulate that the preseason odds were equally fair to both players (and I don't know that they were) it's pretty obvious that LeBron played in far more top-loaded leagues which made his paths to the championship considerably harder than Jordan's.

I'm not necessarily saying that Jordan's achievements are worse than LeBron's here, but simply saying that Jordan won more isn't really a fair analysis given that LeBron played considerably tougher teams. And the preseason odds are considerably complicated by the fact that the '12-16 Spurs were criminally underrated and the '15 Warriors came out of nowhere (seemingly).
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#116 » by Ainosterhaspie » Fri Apr 2, 2021 3:50 pm

sansterre wrote:And the preseason odds are considerably complicated by the fact that the '12-16 Spurs were criminally underrated and the '15 Warriors came out of nowhere (seemingly).


That's the critical point though. Contrary to Kiddlovesnets assertions, preseason odds do a lousy job of recognizing or predicting change. The Spurs defied the aging curve because of an unexpected new star and a successful minutes management plan implemented by Pop. The Warriors had a completely unexpected synergy that had them come from seemingly nowhere.

Stars fade catching odds makers by surprise. Trades catch odds makers by surprise. Unheralded players catch odds makers by surprise. Injuries catch odds makers by surprise. All of those things are more meaningful to how a player's performance should be judged, than a prediction made based on none of those things being expected to happen.
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#117 » by Ainosterhaspie » Fri Apr 2, 2021 4:05 pm

Kiddlovesnets wrote:
Spoiler:
Ainosterhaspie wrote:I looked at every preseason odds prediction for champion from 86 to present. The odds makers were wrong 20 times; they got it right 17 times. That's a lengthy period of time and they show very little predictive power.


Actually pre-season odds are very good at predicting the winners since 21st century, I've made a comparison chat of pre-season favorites vs regular season champion:

Image
Image

As evident from the chart, pre-season favorites have significantly higher chance to win NBA titles compared to regular season champions(10-6). Pre-season favorites also dominated the matchups against regular season champions(6-3), and the disparity would have been even higher if we discounted the 6 years Lebron was pre-season favorites. Pre-season favorites won 10 out of 20 times, this is 50% probability to win NBA trophy and the chance is actually very high to justify its predictive power since this aint a two horses race like finals series, we have usually at least 4-5 teams in championship window at the beginning of each season. In contrast, the regular season champions have won merely 30% of the NBA titles, which further demonstrates that playoffs and regular seasons are very different games.

I havent done the same analysis for other scenarios such as chance to make finals and conference finals, but its rather clear that pre-season odds as metrics of ranking each team's raw talent, is a very good metric to determine the winner of NBA champions. The fact that pre-season favorites usually beat regular season champions in their head to head matchups, is yet another concrete proof that playoffs are more about the talents on rosters than good coaching/teamwork. When theres a talent disparity, a well coached team in the right system can usually overcome this in regular season, but in playoffs they will fall short(ie. 2015 Hawks and 2016 Warriors) to the more talented teams.

Note my analysis only covers the recent 20 years, though I can make it further to 1984(first year that pre-season odds data became available). I think back in the 80s and 90s, the regular season champions won the titles more often than the recent 20 years. What is clear is that, since this century the regular season games became more and more meaningless, teams are using regular season as playing ground to test different line-ups, tactics and player developments rather than actually competing for better records.

Interestingly, Lebron won half of the time as pre-season favorites, which isnt terribly bad compared to the league average(10 out of 20), but this is quite underwhelming if we compare him to MJ who was undefeated(100%) when favored by pre-season odds. Of course Lebron is great and clearly a top 5 player of all time, but MJ is just on a different level. MJ never lost when his teams were good enough to contend and win, Lebron could only win half of the time or less.


So you prove that preseason odds are a good predictor by pointing out there are worse predictions that no one has argued are good? In your new chart, the method you are arguing for is 50/50 successful, just as likely to be wrong as right. It also does nothing to support your primary contention that preseason odds are an accurate measure of raw talent.
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#118 » by McBubbles » Fri Apr 2, 2021 11:14 pm

1. I'm surprised this thread is even still active, damn.

2. Kiddlovesnets, you say that pre-season odds are "very good at predicting the winners" and then go on to show from your chart that there is only a 50% chance that the pre-season favourite wins the title. In what universe is 50/50 prediction "very good"? You do understand that your method is 1% off from being, by definition, a below average predictor of success? 1% from being more incorrect than it is correct? That's like saying an E- is a very good grade when in reality it's as close to failing as you can possibly get.

You could say "There is mathematically a 3.33% chance of success for any given team at the start of the season, so a 50% chance is relatively speaking a very high probability" but that's only true in theory and not in practice. Some years they're only 2 teams in legitimate conversation for championship contention anyway, making your "very good" method as equally valid as a coin flip.

Also you keep on saying "matrix" and "methodology" like odds makers are extremely rigorous basketball heads heavily invested in the game, game tape, sabermetrics and data etc, NOT just bookies throwing out odds that get them the most money.
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#119 » by Doctor MJ » Sat Apr 3, 2021 8:54 pm

Kiddlovesnets wrote:I saw that RealGM actually voted Lebron as GOAT, which makes absolutely no sense to me. For this reason, I have compiled a table of season by season comparison of MJ and Lebron. This table compares MJ and Lebron based on how they performed according to expectation. The pre-season odds are a great matrix to determine the strength of each team, a team favorite to win by the odds is the best team in the league for the very season. Lets take a look:

Note:
* The Cavs started the season as 4th favorite and should be in championship window, but dropped back to 5th following the Lakers trade for Gasol. For this reason, the 2007-2008 season does not count as a championship window year for Lebron.
** The Lakers were favorite to win in pre-season and remained as favorite even after the Nets Harden trade. For this reason, the 2020-2021 season is considered a Championship Favorite Year for Lebron.


I would note that you're objecting to our rankings of basketball players by avoiding talking about basketball play. There's nothing here about the two players' general strengths and weaknesses, let alone getting into specifics of what happened in a given year. You're relying on what bettors thought about basketball teams as the ultimate authority for ranking individual players, and this is not something that should be relied upon in this way as if it represents any kind of direct causality.

Apologies if that sounds condescending. I think you thinking to look at this past data and present it to us is a very good thing. But you are confused if you're saying what we said about how a guy played basketball makes no sense to you because you have more faith in your ability to judge this stuff by analyzing the quantified opinions of anonymous others without ever actually looking more closely at how the teams played basketball.

Now, you may just say that you've looked at the basketball and think Jordan was better than LeBron. That's just fine. But your thread implies that you're literally perplexed at how anyone could think LeBron had a more accomplished career than Jordan given that a group of other people (bettors) would appear to disagree with us, and this is not how I'd suggest you go about understanding what others understand about basketball.
Hey: With what's going on in the world, my fuse is shorter than it used to be, and it's leading my lose my cool and then go on self-imposed breaks from things (such as RealGM). Please try to keep it civil, and I'll be looking to do the same.
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Re: MJ vs Lebron based on pre-season odds & finishes 

Post#120 » by Kiddlovesnets » Mon Apr 5, 2021 8:57 pm

sansterre wrote:This is not an unreasonable analysis.

But to make a substantive conclusion about LeBron vs Jordan it assumes that two things are true:

1) The oddsmakers were equally optimistic/pessimistic about the two players' teams relative to their actual skill. I have serious doubts about this being true on account of how much skepticism the '91 Bulls had, but I could be wrong.



I would agree that sometimes oddsmakers are not always equally optimistic/pessimistic about the two players teams relative to their actual talent. The 2008 Cavs were overhyped due to overachieving in the 2007 playoffs, while similar thing happened in 2019. For this reason, I already took context into the discussion and made some adjustments to the chart before posting it here(ie. 2008 is not a championship window year for Lebron, and he did not fail expectation).

However, the odds for MJ and Lebron's teams were quite reasonable in other years. And if you disregard 2008, Lebron did not have any insane expectation to win the title. The 6 straight pre-season favorites years happened only after he left Cleveland and decided to collude, and suddenly there was a huge expectation for him to win it all. This is because Wade and Bosh were top 5/10 players the year before they joined up with Lebron, and MJ never had teammates as good as them until Pippen improved into an all-star caliber player(which happened only after 1991 and we could see that the Bulls were pre-season favorites since then). The odds were direct reflection of how stacked a team with prime big three should've been.

We can conclude that the reason for Lebron and his team's crazily high expectation, happened after he started to collude. This is reasonable given how good Wade/Bosh were before joining up with Lebron. Its debatable why they performed below their talent level, but at least its evident that the Heat from 2011 to 2014 were the most talented teams in the league. Similarly in 2015 to 2016, Lebron had yet another big three team in Cleveland and it wasnt able to perform up to the expectation. I cant fathom the idea that media/odds makers always overhype Lebron's teammates. They were favorites for 6 straight years, and its for a very good reason.

sansterre wrote:Jordan was favored #1 in five years, LeBron in six. I grabbed the top 10 teams for Jordan and 12 for LeBron from those years (averaging two per year), sorted by my OSRS (a blend of regular season and playoff SRS, weighted toward playoffs pretty heavily). OSRS has its problems, but it's a pretty decent benchmark for such things. And I think you'll find that it won't matter too much.

Jordan's Top 10 Opponents in years he was favored (Wins, Regular Season SRS, OSRS):

1. 1996 Utah Jazz, 55 wins, +6.25, +10.86
2. 1997 Utah Jazz, 64 wins, +7.97, +9.13
3. 1996 Seattle Supersonics, 64 wins, +7.40, +8.75
4. 1992 Portland Trail Blazers, 57 wins, +6.94, +8.48
5. 1998 Indiana Pacers, 58 wins, +6.25, +7.33
6. 1997 Seattle Supersonics, 57 wins, +6.91, +7.21
7. 1998 Utah Jazz, 62 wins, +5.73, +6.75
8. 1992 Cleveland Cavaliers, 57 wins, +5.34, +6.75
9. 1992 Phoenix Suns, 53 wins, +5.68, +6.57
10. 1997 Houston Rockets, 57 wins, +3.85, +6.53

LeBron's Top 12 Opponents in years he was favored (Wins, Regular Season SRS, OSRS):

1. 2014 San Antonio Spurs, 62 wins, +8.00, +12.32
2. 2016 San Antonio Spurs, 67 wins, +10.28, +12.22
3. 2015 Golden State Warriors, 67 wins, +10.01, +12.09
4. 2016 Oklahoma City Thunder, 55 wins, +7.09, +11.25
5. 2016 Golden State Warriors, 73 wins, +10.38, +10.98
6. 2013 San Antonio Spurs, ; 58 wins, +6.67, +10.78
7. 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder, 58 wins, +6.44, +9.20
8. 2012 San Antonio Spurs, 62 wins, +7.28, +9.09
9. 2011 Dallas Mavericks, 57 wins, +4.41, +8.93
10. 2013 Oklahoma City Thunder, 60 wins, +9.15, +7.86
11. 2014 Los Angeles Clippers, 57 wins, +7.27, +7.66
12. 2015 Los Angeles Clippers, 56 wins, +6.80, +6.93

Average of the Top Opponents (5 for Jordan, 6 for LeBron):

Jordan's Top 5: 59.6 wins, +7.0, +8.9
LeBron's Top 10: 63.7 wins, +8.7, +11.6

So the top team LeBron had in his league averaged 4 more wins than Jordan's top opponents, an SRS 1.7 higher and an OSRS 2.7 points higher. Those are *massive* gaps.

Average of the Top Opponents x2 (10 for Jordan, 12 for LeBron):

Jordan's Top 10: 58.4 wins, +6.2, +7.9
LeBron's Top 12: 61.0 wins, +7.8, +9.9

In this grouping, LeBron's opposition averaged 2.6 more wins, 1.6 higher SRS and 2.0 higher OSRS.


You make an interesting point, except that you seem to forget that its difficult and illogical to compare the numbers across different years(which is why I only list the ranking of odds rather than the actual numbers such as +200, +400, etc). There are 4 points I can make about this:

1. The numbers/stats you posted was for regular season, and read again, its regular season. The reason why I even took the time and effort to make the new chart I showed you earlier, is to prove that regular season records were poor demonstration of how talented each team is for a given season. Theres no evidence that better regular season records lead to better playoffs performance, especially if the advantage of HCA is neglected. Its better if you could at least, show the data of MJ and Lebron's top 10/12 opponents in playoffs. I am not convinced that regular season stats had anything to do with how good/talented a team actually is when it comes to playoffs.

2. The numbers you posted only show that in the years when Lebron's teams were favorites, the top contenders were stronger relative to the non-contenders and lottery teams in the same years. The total number of wins and losses must be equal, so the more wins top contenders have, the less wins non-contender playoffs teams and lottery teams will have. Unless the talent levels of average and bottom teams remained the same, it cannot be proven that a team performs better in one season is better/stronger than another team that performs worse in another season.

For instance, the bottom 5 teams in 2015-2016 season averaged 20 wins, while the bottom 5 teams in 2016-2017 season averaged 25.4 wins. The Warriors and Spurs both had 6 less wins compared to the previous season. You may say they got worse, but it can also be argued that the bottom teams got better since they won 5-6 more games. Theres no way to prove that the decreased wins of Warriors/Spurs from 2016 to 2017 was a consequence of themselves getting worse, or the average and bottom teams getting better. Or perhaps, they just paid less attention to regular season and did load-management.

3. Unlike MJ's top 10 opponents, it seems that Lebron's top 12 opponents all came from the Western Conference, I have not seen a single team from the East. This implies that Lebron basically had free rides to the finals, his one and only true test was the NBA finals series. Usually Lebron's team was well-rested(except for 2012 and 2013), and the Western Conference winners were worn out before facing Lebron. I found its intriguing that people often talk about how tough Lebron's oppositions were in the finals, without considering how easy the trip to finals was thanks to the East being historically weak.

Even with this advantage Lebron still somehow went 3/8 with the Heat and Cavs(not counting 2007). You may argue that Lebron's teammates just aint good enough, and I can say that the teammates were enough talented but just failed to perform at their expected level. Then we are back to the question of why Lebron's teams always looked weaker than they were supposed to be on paper.

4. Even assuming you are right that Lebron faces slightly tougher oppositions compared to MJ's, its still hard to justify the fact that Lebron lost 60% of the finals series. Other than the two 'unwinnble' finals in 2007 and 2018, is it really impossible for Lebron to do any better than he did in the other 4 finals series he lost? I am not even talking about 2011(no excuse that year) and 2015(injury problems), but lets think about 2014 and 2017. Were Lebron's teammates bad enough that he only won 1 game in the entire series? How would MJ perform if hes in Lebron's shoes? We already saw what happened in 1993 when MJ put up the greatest individual performance ever in the finals series to defy the odds and beat the Suns, as well as 1998 when MJ single-handedly took the Bulls to another 3-peat with declined Pippen and washed Rodman. Lebron did not just lose in the finals series, he got blown out and his teams were humiliated. I wont say that MJ would go 10/10 if he was in Lebron's Heat/Cavs, but 2-3 series that Lebron lost were actually winnable, and at the very least shouldnt have been this lopsided.

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