Even though the dynamics that make up NBA teams are completely unique based on players, coaches, and the team’s overall season experience, it’s helpful to be able to compare current NBA teams to those past. The ultimate goal, of course, is to determine a team’s probable success (or lack thereof), and Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus has found the closest comparison for each of the 16 playoff teams.
Pelton uses each team’s offensive and defensive rating — the amount of points scored and allowed on a per possession, rather than per minute, basis — to determine the most specific matches for each of this year’s playoff squads based on the last 14 years of data.
For what it’s worth, the Utah Jazz were the only team for which the closest comparison was the winner of an NBA title (the 2006 Miami Heat). That’s not to say that the Jazz are statistically the best team in the playoffs, but rather that every other playoff team this year compared more closely (in terms of ORtg and DRtg) to a team that came up short.
A few other interesting comparisons:
- This year’s Celtics match up with the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers, the Iverson-led team that went all the way to the NBA Finals. The comparison is actually a pretty fair one; despite some emphasis on each team’s ability to produce on offense, defense is going to determine Boston’s fate just as it did Philadelphia’s. Interestingly enough, the Lakers were paired with exactly the same Sixers team.
- Pelton, regarding the Charlotte Bobcats: “Six of then 10 teams most similar to Charlotte won a playoff series, though just one of them advanced beyond that.”
- Even though the Orlando Magic compare best with the 2001 Spurs, a team that lost in the conference finals to the dynastic Lakers, they still boast the most impressive statistical balance among any team in the league. The Magic currently rank 1st in the NBA in offensive rating and 2nd in defensive rating.