Until tonight, everyone's still undefeated
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Long-rumored...but with hours to spare, here's our NBA preview special. Because, you know, the world needed another one.
Hey there, wayward readers! Welcome to We Rite Goode's high-concept, low-rent NBA preview, where we'll...
....wait, wait. Hold on. Not only does the season tip off tonight, there already are a gazillion, top-notch NBA previews to choose from. Tom Ziller offers the appealing, non-denominational Festivus series on Ballhype. Celtic Blog's Jeff Clark corralled an entire league's worth of bloggers to post about their favorite teams. Even our hometown heroes, Prada and Jake at Bullets Forever, have done due diligence on the Wizards while offering "competition discussions" to take the league's pulse. The list goes on and on and on, with wrinkles galore. Most likely previews! Individual player previews!! Previews by players!!! A preview so hyperlinked it folds back in on itself!!!!
You get it. It's a crowded space. So why us? What made us think we can actually add value to the mix?
As usual, it all starts with him.
We got to wondering, when ESPN's Hollinger started taking flack this month over NBA predictions that we'll charitably describe as "counterintuitive" and others call "$%$ing awful." The Raptors...slipping out of the playoffs? The Nets...falling behind the Hawks and Magic? The Clippers...winning only 20 games!?
Save Houston fans--basking in Hollinger's prediction of a title--many others were grinding their axes, or at least asking Yahoo! if it was OK to get angry.
But here's the thing about Hollinger. Unlike many, many bloggers (excluding most of the ones mentioned above), he accounts for competition.
It should go without saying, but predictions can't be made in a vacuum. If a blogger forecasts one team winning 10 more games than last year, he needs to understand that the rest of the league collectively loses those 10 (and a true forecast would account for scheduling quirks, too). Say a blogger predicts the Wizards to win 55 games, up from 41...well, who's falling behind them in the East? And didn't Boston, Orlando, Atlanta, and other Eastern teams improve more in the off-season? Looking at the Celtics Blog-organized previews--which are wonderfully comprehensive, entertaining reads, and offer all kinds of fan perspective--occasionally reveals this lack of scope. We knew something was fishy when the Seattle guy predicted 40 wins.
What makes Hollinger annoying is that he serves as a check on our optimism at exactly the wrong time. During preseason, as we're thinking of what could be, he keys on what never was; looking backward, Hollinger explains why some won-loss records are hollow and certain players had career years. And agree with his logic or not, Hollinger grounds his predictions in such granular, player-by-player reasoning, it's hard to ignore his argument. Thus, while we're dismayed by the forecast of a 33-49 Wizards' season, we at least understand his case.
(We'll also confess our bias here; regular readers know Hollinger carries WRG's stamp of approval, and Dan Steinberg points out that Hollinger wasn't that far off last year.)
So, here's where we came in: We wondered if bloggers could independently exercise the same restraint, the same critical eye as Hollinger. In an early incarnation, we figured our NBA preview would focus on a brief experiment--ask 30 of the bloggers we most respected and trusted to predict their favorite team's season, submitting some brief comments as explanation.
We didn't explain this experimental aspect when we asked; meanwhile, in a credit to bloggers' kindness, our target participants near-unanimously agreed to help. As we collected data, the bloggers' responses all were kept blind of one another; moreover, we didn't encourage participants to focus solely on won-loss record, as we asked for that fact within the context of a larger survey.
Basically, no one knew to "temper" their predictions. For all intents and purposes, each participant wrote up a normal preview.
(Of course, the writing that we got back was so good, we decided to expand this preview. More on that all the way at the bottom.)
(And hopefully, none of these bloggers now hate us. Scout's honor, it was for a good cause! Marketplace of ideas, and all that.)
First, we wanted to know--what does your team need to do to make you happy? Here's what we learned, in what we'll call the "wishful thinking" scenario.
Yes, hope springs eternal in the preseason. (Note: We conducted these surveys pre-Ricky Davis trade, pre-Beno Udrih trade, and pre-Mark Cuban elimination from Dancing With the Stars. Just take that into consideration). According to our participants--ranging from dedicated NBA writers like Natalie Sitto and Marcel Mutoni to guys like the Big Picture's Zach ("I'm only a fan, not an expert" he assured us)--the average team would need to go 47-35 and a whopping 24 teams would make the playoffs in order to satisfy expectations. Only the esteemed bloggers representing Memphis, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Portland, Sacramento, and Seattle are OK with buying their teams lottery tickets in October. (You read right--every Eastern Conference blogger save one think his team's got a chance. It's that wide-open).
You'll notice that we scratched a few predictions out; this reflects three cases when participants weren't especially concerned with record. As you'll read in their write-ups, Jon of MVN/Passion & Pride wanted a win--just one!--for the 76ers, while Seth Kolloen of Enjoy the Enjoyment only asks for the Sonics to stay in Seattle. (Also, Liston Von Culbertson calls for an 82-0 season for the Spurs...but we felt obligated to exercise a bit of restraint.) In these cases, we turned to the Celtics Blog-previews and just subbed in the average record expected.
But OK. That's the ideal scenario. Of course every fan dreams big...although, pending emergency playoff expansion, more than one-quarter of our participants are slated for disappointment. But we figured, true fans are grounded in reality--they've had to temper expectations before. So we also asked--forget the ideal scenario; what realistically is going to happen? And here's where it gets really interesting, folks.
Sure, there's still some distortion--the average team would go an impossible 43-39--but, the group now forecasts a near-perfect field of 17 playoff teams. The correct eight from the East, the unorthodox nine from the West. Seven bloggers weeded themselves out; only Carter Blanchard's wavering support for the Lakers keeps it from a proper playoffs.
So our conclusion: Bloggers tend toward slight optimism and inflation, but given the limitations of their information, being an average of just two games off (and picking a near-playoff field) was pretty impressive to us.
And we could've stopped there...but the bloggers blew us away. Some wrote back in record time (Tom Ziller, Trey Jones) or offered to craft multiple previews (Ben Go). Others wrote reams, even when we asked for only a few lines of context (you know who you are). Clearly, we had a full-fledged preview on our hands, even if we weren't initially prepared to build one.
Thus, although it's not We Rite Goode's style, we'll update the site two-three times per day over this first week of the NBA, sharing with you all the witty quips and observations some of the best sports bloggers offered up to us, division by division. And we really feel like we've been given a great window to do so--we've totally cornered the NBA preview market for this week and next!
As a side bonus, we pulled some other insights from the surveys, and if there's time, will throw them up via other soul-crushing graphs and charts that only remind you of work and/or dreaded econ classes.
Wait. Graphs, charts, and pages of text?
Yes--we know our target audience.
Update: Links below as we upload division-by-division previews.
Southwest Division previewSoutheast Division preview
posted by Crucifictorious @ 04:35,
- At October 30, 2007 at 8:45 AM, Brett said...
As the Bobcats rep for this little social experiment, I've got to say that this was a very cool idea. I'm impressed that, given the stipulation of basing the prediction in reality, the bloggers came so close to a realistic outcome. Maybe we're not just fanboys after all.
- At October 30, 2007 at 10:05 AM, Hot Shit College Student said...
Nice work. Iron Law.
- At October 30, 2007 at 10:37 AM, Jarrett Carter said...
Beautiful textual analysis.
You guys really know how to get right to the middle of my heart.
- At October 30, 2007 at 10:42 AM, said...
Good stuff. Some interesting blogger choices- for example, no Celtics Blog or Bright Side of the Sun? Or Golden State of Mind, Henry Abbott, and so on? It doesn't hurt the idea, but your premise would have been stronger with the biggest names participating.
- At October 30, 2007 at 11:42 AM, Crucifictorious said...
Brett, glad that you approve. It's definitely intriguing that bloggers self-corrected...two games off is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Our opinion: Many extra wins are tied up in teams forecast to finish around 40 victories +/- 5, but will actually fall apart midseason and slump into the 20s (see: Memphis last year, New York the year before). It's tough to predict for that, though...unless you're Hollinger and confident that the Pacers and Clippers, among others, are ripe for a fall.
Hot Sh!t, word.
Jarrett, it's been pointed out before--you're our best reader. (Often, our only reader.) So however we can best reach you, you just let us know.
Anon, it's an interesting point, but we liked the mix we had--rather than only seek out columnist-types (or, alternatively, try to find new bloggers who would make overly optimistic predictions and be easy pickings), we aimed for a cross-section of bloggers who would be considered "experts" as well as those who are more casual, yet still-devoted, fans.
As a result, there are definitely some established names (can you name anyone else besides Tom Ziller to write about the Sacramento Kings?) to balance out the newer or less-team specific folks. The effect we were going for was broad cross-section of the sports blogging world--you'll have to decide if we succeeded.
- At October 30, 2007 at 12:11 PM, Jason said...
Good stuff, guys. It does seem like people are trying to be more realistic this year--I was amazed that all of the Celtics predictions from Jeff Clark's roundup hovered at 49-50 wins.
But where's the preview that folds back in on itself?? Wait, never mind ...
- At October 30, 2007 at 12:26 PM, Crucifictorious said...
Thanks, Jason. But...urgh, we should've known: If you have a "new" idea in the blog world, chances are three smarter folks had it first. So know that any trespassing on your territory is completely accidental; as much as Ballhype is our first stop, none of us had ever visited lowpost.net at this point last year.
Everybody, read Jason's post for historical context.
One silver lining: We always figured to be a few years behind Jason Gurney, but only 12 months? The gap is closing.
- At October 30, 2007 at 12:32 PM, mrclm said...
I'm the Sonics Central blogger who did the write up. Among our staff, it is an ongoing joke that I ALWAYS predict about 10 more wins than occur in reality. If you look back at my previous year's predictions, subtract 10, you are very close to our real win total with the exception of 2004 IIRC. I think the average number of wins projected by our regular people is around 30. Take that for close to where we'll likely be.
- At October 30, 2007 at 1:51 PM, TheHype said...
You didn't know this... but Jason also invented emailing. Fact of life!
Pretty sweet writeup, glad to part of the robust crowd of bloggers being selected!
Though I'm not sure how I feel about being a lab rat... Excuse me while I go back to running on the giant exercise wheel.
- At October 30, 2007 at 2:10 PM, Jason said...
Please. All I did last year was tabulate the records from a few dozen reviews. And demonstrate that I can't write my way out of a wet paper bag.
Now when do we get the witty quips?
- At October 30, 2007 at 2:18 PM, The Big Picture said...
that came out awesome, guys! nicely laid-out chart made it very comprehendable.
good job all around.
and i'm totally gonna be an "expert" when the Blazers lose 52 games.
- At October 30, 2007 at 2:29 PM, Crucifictorious said...
mrclm, how consistent are you at being 10 wins over? Only so-so or worthy of making a bet on the Vegas lines? Just thinking, if you have a gift, we might as well use it.
Howie, we tried to attach some cheese to the Gmail message but it didn't go through--please pass along your address when you can, the Gouda's starting to stink up the office.
Jason, what is this strange feeling that you convey in your post? Anticipation? For something on our blog?? Just for you, we threw up the first post early; the plan is to space them out, as not to terrify readers who aren't used to such prodigious output. Enjoy and just remember, Liston writes his own material.
Zach, kind words are appreciated, as was your semi-expert opinion.
- At October 31, 2007 at 3:59 PM, Black and Blue Jor said...
Very fun to have The Howeva Files add to the experiment with the Magic preview, and great to see a bunch of buds up here like Zach at The Big Picture.
When Hedo Turkoglu puts up a statline similar to that of a dirty diaper, you'll find me hiding under my bedsheets.
- At November 1, 2007 at 7:52 AM, said...
But was it really necessary to have another blogger preview? What do you all know that Marc Stein or SI don't know?
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