Monday, September 28, 2009

Greatest Defense of All-Time

So I was doing some of my typical NBA Blog/News browsing and one thing lead to another and soon before I even knew it, I had crash landed on the www.Celticshub.com blog. I love the Celtics and this is a pretty good blogspot for a Celtics fan (also check out Celtic's 17)

Anyway, the article that caught my eye was the one on the C's of 2008 being the G.O.A.T. in terms of Defense. (Click Click)

Defense has always been both in a state of duality. Both subjective and objective. While some nerds are in some sweatshop somewhere working on some mad scientist formulas, there isn't a stat for most defensive factors such as defensive presence, off-ball deny or lock down defense. So I can't fault the Hub for declaring the Celtics one of the greatest of all time. I agree, they were phenomenal. It isn't the Ends that we disagree on, it is the means through which they arrived at such a conclusion.

As one of the readers pointed out, you can't just use some arbitrary fact to adjust stats by. (in this case, CelticsHub tossed the years 1997-2004 because of the hand check rule). I, myself, am a stats guru and I believe that, given enough time, formulas and stats can be created for all things in basketball. However we have to be careful, numbers can't just be manipulated and mutilated just so we arrive at the conclusions we want.

I'm not sure where I read this quote, but I think it applies perfectly here:
Contrary to popular belief, statistics do not lie. At worst, the numbers are merely unwilling accomplices forced into an arena to which they don't belong. The true masters of deception are the people who, consciously or otherwise, flaunt their misleading stats to continue perpetuating half-truths and outright lies

I contacted the CelticsHub, and Zach was MORE than willing to listen. What i'd like to do is not throw away the Dead-Ball Era stats (1998-2004) but i'd like to adjust the way we rank the figures.

If we just looked at the RAW figures, the 2003-04 Spurs are the Top Defense of all time. The rest of the top 10 looks like this:
Rk Season Tm W L W-L% Pace ORtg DRtg
1 2003-04 SAS 57 25 0.695 89.2 102.2 94.1
2 1998-99 SAS 37 13 0.74 88.6 104 95
3 2003-04 DET 54 28 0.659 87.9 102 95.4
4 1998-99 ATL 31 19 0.62 85.3 100.5 97.1
5 2003-04 IND 61 21 0.744 87.5 103.8 97.2
6 1998-99 ORL 33 17 0.66 88.8 100.3 97.4
7 1998-99 NYK 27 23 0.54 86.9 98.6 97.5
8 1998-99 PHI 28 22 0.56 88.6 99.9 97.6
9 1998-99 POR 35 15 0.7 89.2 104.8 97.7
10 2003-04 NJN 47 35 0.573 89.4 100.8 98

Since each season has a different pace and the NBA went through a horrible slump (1997-2004) and has slowly been recovering to a very high efficiency, it isn't fare to say that the offenses each defense faced is the same through the years. What we need to look at is how good each defense was compared to all the overall offensive efficiency of their season.

First we need to look at what the whole NBA was averaging each season and also what the NBA has averaged overall since the 1979-80 season:
CHART

So the overall NBA Defensive Efficiency has been 106.34. And the rest of the individual season averages are in that chart. So each season stats need to be adjusted so the overall average and the team average are comparable to the 106.34 average.

When we do this, most of the 2003-04 teams disappear. While their numbers seemed great compared to the historical averages, they were nothing more than an average defense in a very sub par era of basketball efficiency. What we do find, however, is that the 2003-04 Spurs are still at the top:
Rk Season Tm DRtg NBAEff VarianceOff/Def +/- Championship
1 2003-04 SAS 97.2 106.3 9.1 8.4
2 2007-08 BOS 97.8 106.3 8.5 11.2 YES
3 1992-93 NYK 98.2 106.3 8.2 6.3
4 1993-94 NYK 98.2 106.3 8.1 7.5 Lost in Finals
5 2003-04 DET 98.6 106.3 7.8 6.8 YES
6 1998-99 SAS 98.8 106.3 7.5 9.4 YES
7 2004-05 SAS 99 106.3 7.3 8.7 YES
8 2006-07 CHI 99.5 106.3 6.9 5.3
9 2005-06 SAS 99.7 106.3 6.6 7.7
10 2006-07 SAS 99.7 106.3 6.6 9.3 YES

The Celitcs of 2008 jump up there to the #2 spot with some of the all-time greats. However, unlike the other top 4, the Celtics actually won a title. To top it off, they boasted a +/- Def/Off Efficiency rating of 11.2. That's incredible. Not only were they shutting teams down, they were also crushing them on the offensive end. Imagine if they solely focused their energy on the defensive end, what kind of results could they have produced?

Are they the greatest Defensive team of all-time? Maybe. I do somewhat favor the Knicks of the 90's. Then again, it's all subjective.

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