Newspaper article International New York Times

By One View, Spurs Are Best Team, Not Warriors ; Some Say Scoring Margin Is a Better Predictor, and San Antonio Leads League

Newspaper article International New York Times

By One View, Spurs Are Best Team, Not Warriors ; Some Say Scoring Margin Is a Better Predictor, and San Antonio Leads League

Article excerpt

Believers in scoring margin as a predictor say that it pierces the perception of the Warriors' greatness and that the Spurs are just as good, or better.

You almost can't go too far in praising the Golden State Warriors this season.

If the Warriors go 4-1 in their final five games, they will break the 1995-96 Bulls' record with 73 wins. Stephen Curry has been Jordanesque, shattering the record for 3-pointers and hitting shots from halfcourt and beyond. Klay Thompson is an offensive and defensive sensation, and Draymond Green is hauling down rebounds and dishing out assists at a dizzying pace.

But amid all the hype about history and destiny, could it be possible that the Warriors are not even the best team in the N.B.A. this season?

A look at the computer ratings by Jeff Sagarin in USA Today shows the San Antonio Spurs, not the Warriors, at the top. ESPN's Basketball Power Index says the same thing.

Even sites that have the Warriors in first show the Spurs nipping at their heels. The FiveThirtyEight website gives Golden State a 40 percent chance to win the N.B.A. title, with San Antonio just behind at 33 percent.

Why the discrepancy between the perception of the Warriors' historic greatness and the numbers?

The elements of computer sports rankings are relatively few: schedule strength, a standard factor for home edge and scoring margin. Attempts to add other factors, like field-goal percentage in basketball or yardage gained in football, have not proven to be more accurate.

Schedule strength is important in college sports, but not in the pros: By this point in the season, the teams have played essentially the same opponents. That leaves just one factor unaccounted for: scoring margin.

And that is where opinions diverge.

"There are two totally extreme philosophical ways of rating teams," said Sagarin, who has been producing rankings since the 1970s. For the most part, fans and the news media look exclusively at wins and losses. The Warriors are 69-8. The Spurs are 64-12. So the Warriors are seen as better.

But things look different when scoring margin is taken into account. The Warriors have some big defeats this year: Their median loss is by 15 points. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.