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Longshots

Outside the five contenders (San Antonio, Detroit, Dallas, Miami, Phoenix) which team has the best chance of winning the championship? The odds of the entire "field" put together are quite poor, so the odds of any particular field team winning are pretty miniscule. That said, my longshot bet would be Denver. Like the Suns, they benefit from the odd bracket that will have Spurs-Mavs in the second round. We know from the end of last season that this group is capable of going on a tear and playing well-above their apparent long-run ability level. Their not-so-impressive regular season record reflects the costs of having two injury prone guys (K-Mart and Camby) in important roles, but if they're fortunate that might not be a problem come playoff time. They almost certainly won't win, but if anyone breaks out, I think it's more likely to be them than anyone else.

The other respectable case, I think, can be made for Indiana whose +3.1 margin of victory is the field's highest and suggests they've been underperforming and who we haven't really see play at full strength almost all season.

March 2, 2006 | Permalink

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By conference, yeah, I guess those would be the long-shot pics, Denver in the West and Indy in the East.

Posted by: Haggai | Mar 2, 2006 12:12:58 PM

Gawd help me, but I like the Clips. They are, possibly, a better team than they've shown to date. Maggette is a big addition to the team.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Mar 2, 2006 12:35:26 PM

i think there's no way denver wins the championship, simply based on melo's lack of experience in the playoff (though the kid has nerves of steel, camby and martin have been there, etc.). by contrast, indy is truly battled tested, could get lucky with some health issues, peja could get hot, things could click, they could win. (if indy could take detroit to seven games last year, they might be able to get past detroit or miami this year and beat whoever the west offers up.)

Posted by: dj superflat | Mar 2, 2006 1:14:59 PM

Indy lost to Detroit in six games in each of the last two playoffs.

Posted by: Haggai | Mar 2, 2006 1:26:18 PM

Is there a chance O'Neal might be back for the playoffs for Indy? I have no idea. If so, I'd agree.

I guess the only other team not mentioned is the Grizz, although I'd put their chances as lower than Denver's.

Posted by: Al | Mar 2, 2006 1:36:57 PM

Yeah, Jermaine got hurt in late January, and the recovery time was supposed to be about two months. So he'll probably be back about three weeks before the playoffs. I don't know about Tinsley, though. That dude just can't stay healthy.

Posted by: Haggai | Mar 2, 2006 1:43:39 PM

I'd be a little nervous about guys coming back from a torn groin... I wonder how close to 100% he'll be.

Posted by: Al | Mar 2, 2006 1:55:14 PM

On the subject of Tinsley.

Why are some NBA players so injury-prone? One would think that injuries would be randomly distributed across the population, but that's not the case. See Tinsley, Camby, Bobby Jackson, L.Hughes, etc. Is it related to their style of play? Their low investment in the weightlifting room? Are they just genetically more brittle?

Posted by: next big thing | Mar 2, 2006 3:56:52 PM

Well, first of all, randomly across the population is not the same as evenly across the population. In a random distribution you'd expect some players to have a bunch more injuries than others.

In Camby's case I suspect it's the third. Just look at the guy. He's a raw string bean waiting to snap.

Posted by: Alexander "Benjamins" Hamilton | Mar 2, 2006 4:25:27 PM

Well, first of all, randomly across the population is not the same as evenly across the population. In a random distribution you'd expect some players to have a bunch more injuries than others.

That's right, and I should have been more precise in my first post. But with guys like Camby and Hughes, it seems like the scribes are able to predict that these guys will get injured often. In a random process, future injury should not depend on past frequency injury. (unless the two injuries are physically related, but that's not what happens with Camby, Hughes, etc.)

Posted by: next big thing | Mar 2, 2006 4:40:27 PM

IIRC Bill Bradley says in one of his autobigraphies that NBA players tend to either have flexible or inflexible joints and the ones that have infelxible joints (like Bradley) tend to always have nagging injuries but aren't prone to catastrophic failure, whereas the ones that have the more flexible joints are more likely to suffer serious injuries.

In other words I think that body type has to do with rate of injury but I don't think it's just a function of skinny vs muscular.

Posted by: NickS | Mar 2, 2006 5:42:17 PM

Cleveland?

Posted by: right | Mar 2, 2006 5:47:05 PM

I remember reading that from Bradley. But it was a piece of speculation from the Knicks' trainer, not backed up by any particular evidence. It was in Life on the Run.

Posted by: Alexander "Benjamins" Hamilton | Mar 2, 2006 6:07:53 PM

"That said, my longshot bet would be Denver."

Seems almost as likely as any of the other 'field' teams. Camby and K-Mart get healthy. The nation gets gripped by Boykins-mania...

-----

"Gawd help me, but I like the Clips. They are, possibly, a better team than they've shown to date. Maggette is a big addition to the team."

Yup. I like the Clips better than Denver. A returning Maggette, a maturing Livingston, a contract-year Cassell, and an Elton Brand.

It's too bad they'd likely have to go through both Dallas and San Antonio to get there...

-----

Completely off-topic, but no one should miss the following conversation between Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell.

Now there's a pair for bloggingheads.tv...

Posted by: Petey | Mar 3, 2006 12:17:27 AM

Are we going to have the "Camby's a wuss" argument again? Because that worked out so well for me last time...

Yeah, I got to say Cleveland. I like the moves they made at the deadline, as LBJ needed more scoring help, and flip and Nailon certainly give that. (Plus, anything that reduces Gooden's court time is a plus for them if you ask me...)

I have half a mind to say NO-OKC, as they could well end up in the #6 sweet spot. But then I have visions of C-Paul getting thugged for 7 games by K-Mart, Patterson, Miller, etc...

Posted by: Pooh | Mar 3, 2006 2:28:14 AM

I wanted to say CLE, but (a) Hughes getting a second surgery hurt me deep down inside, and (b) they're going into their standand post-All-Star game swoon.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Mar 3, 2006 11:59:56 AM

"I wanted to say CLE, but (a) Hughes getting a second surgery hurt me deep down inside, and (b) they're going into their standand post-All-Star game swoon."

Apparently, Hughes has been traveling with the team and staying involved, so if he gets back a week before the playoffs, maybe he could step right in.

But more importantly, I don't think LeBron is strong enough mentally yet to single-handedly pull them through the playoffs the way he'd have to do.

The Clips make much more sense to me. If they were smart, they'd tank enough games to end up with the 6 or 7 seed...

Posted by: Petey | Mar 3, 2006 12:13:13 PM

can anyone cite a recent example of a team winning the championship when a key player gets back from an injury shortly before the playoffs? i haven't sat down and studied rosters, but the closest i can summon up is willis reed, 1973, and that's not even accurate, in that reed played mediocre ball all season, then, magically, for the playoffs, became the real willis reed.

while there must be some example, i don't think there's much track record, which is part of why the likes of indiana and phoenix (and yes, the clips and denver) don't strike me as having any chance at all....

Posted by: howard | Mar 3, 2006 12:25:40 PM

in 1997 Dennis Rodman didn't play in the month of April until the playoffs and the Bulls won the championship.

Also, I'm curious, given how good the basketball discussion is here why do none of you post at either APBRMetrics or Courtside Times?

Posted by: NickS | Mar 3, 2006 12:39:36 PM

"while there must be some example, i don't think there's much track record, which is part of why the likes of indiana and phoenix (and yes, the clips and denver) don't strike me as having any chance at all...."

Remember, this thread is all about picking longshots. There's a reason the odds are very, very long on all of these teams.

I'd say the Clips have the best shot of any of the non-Big Five, but I'd still put their odds around 75 to 1. There's not much of a track record because it's pretty damn unlikely.

Add in the Pacers at 150 to 1, the Nuggets at 150 to 1, the Cavs at 100 to 1, and everyone else together at 100 to 1 and you start getting to about 4 or 5 cents on the dollar for the non-Big Five field.

Just because something is exceedingly unlikely doesn't mean it's impossible.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 3, 2006 1:07:21 PM

NickS, i guess i had a lengthier injury in mind, but ok, that's a start.

Petey, i was posing the question because this seems like a good place to ask, but that said, at risk of repeating myself from elsewhere, i regard the chances of anyone other than the big four (i don't think phoenix has any chance either) winning as exactly zero. still, fun's fun, and far be it from me to deny others the chance to have some speculating....

Posted by: howard | Mar 3, 2006 1:36:42 PM

"i regard the chances of anyone other than the big four (i don't think phoenix has any chance either) winning as exactly zero."

Well, as we uncovered on the last thread, you only have to go back 11 years to find a team with a "zero" chance of winning at this point that actually won.

You ought to give me 100 to 1 odds on Phoenix with real money. Seriously. You'd pick up some easy dough from me with "zero" risk.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 3, 2006 1:49:16 PM

Petey, i actually had to drop out of the previous thread, but no, i don't regard the team with one of the 4 greatest centers in NBA history winning the title a zero-chance probability.

i do regard Phoenix as a zero-chance probability, and i'm happy to put $10 on it at your odds for the fun of it. feel free to contact me directly via the email address i post here with and we can firm it up....

Posted by: howard | Mar 3, 2006 2:19:06 PM

"i do regard Phoenix as a zero-chance probability, and i'm happy to put $10 on it at your odds for the fun of it."

You really feel comfortable risking a grand for the fun of it, howard? I take no enjoyment in winning more from friends than they feel comfortable losing.

But if you're down with the experiment, I'd enjoy having a real rooting interest in falling in love with Boris Diaw and Eddie House this spring. It seems as if my Iverson love will die early in May.

(Or perhaps you mean your ten bucks against my thin dime, rather than my ten against your grand...)

Posted by: Petey | Mar 3, 2006 2:57:38 PM

yes, petey: i'm happy to "risk" $1000. truly. i'm not a betting person by nature (i did put $25 into a super bowl pool this year, but that's because it was run by the guys who run the soccer pub i go to, and they needed someone to fill out the grid; i did once put money into an ncaa pool and win - the year that michael jordan hit the shot against georgetown - and retired undefeated; i did go to a couple of horse races in the '70s; i did bet the knicks against the field in '73; and i used to play a little poker; and now i've bored you to tears!) but yeah, i'm willing to do this for fun, and i don't, in the slightest, feel "forced" into it. feel free to contact me directly and we can firm it up.

Posted by: howard | Mar 3, 2006 3:02:44 PM

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