How good are the Golden State Warriors this year? Data geek site Five Thirty Eight predicts the team has a whopping 92 per cent chance of winning the NBA title.
Led by Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and the excitable Draymond Green, the Warriors have perhaps been the most fascinating of the “Super Teams” –teams that consist of two or more superstars in their prime. The NBA’s other current Super Team, according to the Nate Silver founded site, just aren’t as super: Predictions show Lebron James’s Cleveland Cavaliers, who are up three games to one on the Boston Celtics in the NBA Eastern Conference finals, have just an 8% chance of winning the title. The Celtics? Five Thirty Eights says they have nearly no chance at all.
The prediction is backed up by some people who know a thing or two about championships, from the court level.
“They’re in a groove,” San Antonio Spur centre Pau Gasol told the Mercury News. “They know what it takes to win and obviously they’ve been champions, they’ve established records that have never been set before and they’re on a path to get another championship. In all my years in the league, they’re playing at the highest level right now.”
Gasol’s teammate Manu Ginobili agrees.
“They were so much better than us, so much stronger,” he said following the Warriors sweep of the Spurs. “We did our best. We shook their hands, wished them luck and go back home to our families.”
The Five Thirty Eight prediction comes from a rather sophisticated mixture of ratings which they have dubbed CARM-Elo, a basketball specific version of the famous Elo ratings, developed by Hungarian physicist Arpad Elo.
Today, ELO ratings are widely used across many different sports and pastimes, incorporating simple stats such as home-court advantage, and fancier ones such as how much a team wins by, how well the team has done in past years, and recent league expansions. The range for Elo is 1200-1800 with 1200 being the worst possible, 1500 being average, and 1800 being the best team ever.
The Five Thirty Eight system is an acronym for Career-Arc Regression Model Estimator with Local Optimization, and the tip-of-the-hat to a certain ringless New York Knick. It’s a method the site uses to compare a player to other players through history that were similar in play style and stats to determine how they will do in future years.
The reason for the mixing the CARM and the ELO is because ELO itself doesn’t take into account the more specific changes within a team such as trades and injuries of players. Using CARM-ELO, say its creators, creates a more specific system that can also account for what happens in the offseason.
The current Vegas odds for the Warriors to win the NBA finals are 5/14 according to VegasInsider. So if you were to bet $1000 it would be (5 / 14 * 1000 = $357) a $357 win plus your initial bet of $1000. Current odds for the Cavaliers are ½ and the Celtics have a rather comical 2500/1 odds.
FiveThirtyEight, which is owned by ESPN, was launched in March of 2008. The site’s original creator Nate Silver, used his knowledge of relevant data which he gained through basketball analysis to cover the United States 2008 presidential elections. Since it’s creation it’s been used as a platform to post statistic information on sports and politics as well as podcasts.