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The Most Consistent Teams Could Benefit From A Shortened Season

The length of the 2011/2012 season is still up in the air. In Austin Link's ( most recent ESPN Insider article he claimed that consistency could be a huge factor in a shortened season. The reason is pretty simple: The margin of error shrinks if you don't have too much games left to come up for a bad stretch. A small losing streak suddenly becomes very threatening in terms of playoff seeding or even in terms of making the playoffs. So worse teams which are pretty consistent could sneak into the playoffs while better, inconsistent teams which just hit one of their bad stretches would be unable to rebound. Of course the Cavaliers or the Timberwolves won't be able to make the playoffs that way but what about the Suns, Rockets, Bucks or Bobcats which came up a few wins short of a playoff berth? Were they actually more consistent than the teams above them and could have had a shot in a shortened season?

I examined the standard deviation of Pace, Offensive Efficiency, Defensive Efficiency and Efficiency Differential of the 2010/2011 campaign. The most important category should be the Efficiency Differential because it's simply a Pace adjusted Margin of Victory and you know some folks love that stat. For those unfamiliar with standard deviation: It shows how much variation there is from the average. A higher number indicates that the team has been more inconsistent while a lower number indicates consistency.

Click through to see the results.

Team Pace OffEff DefEff EffDiff
ATL 4.02 11.26 10.59 15.70
BOS 4.85 12.02 11.02 12.76
CHA 4.61 11.59 9.62 13.12
CHI 5.55 10.80 10.04 13.21
CLE 4.89 10.87 10.54 13.23
DAL 4.22 9.99 9.57 11.15
DEN 4.72 11.37 12.77 13.98
DET 5.16 10.40 9.60 12.76
GSW 5.55 11.18 11.15 14.20
HOU 4.94 9.92 10.81 11.39
IND 4.99 12.75 9.79 14.41
LAC 4.93 10.30 9.90 12.28
LAL 5.63 10.51 11.36 14.50
MEM 5.54 9.50 11.76 13.40
MIA 4.63 10.55 10.93 13.75
MIL 4.55 11.12 10.13 13.75
MIN 5.02 10.41 9.85 13.23
NJN 6.49 9.73 10.21 11.51
NOH 4.55 9.02 11.98 14.14
NYK 4.75 12.55 10.57 12.11
OKC 6.28 10.65 9.75 12.02
ORL 4.65 11.55 11.75 13.75
PHI 5.79 11.08 11.12 14.19
PHX 6.55 9.81 11.71 12.61
POR 4.57 11.31 10.27 14.46
SAC 6.14 10.06 10.75 12.86
SAS 4.93 9.95 9.98 13.03
TOR 5.29 10.74 10.27 12.47
UTA 5.21 11.20 11.23 13.60
WAS 6.04 10.11 11.27 14.17

First of all let's look at the Pace. A lower number means that the team was able to play at a more similar pace night in and night out. So they basically were able to play at their own pace regardless the opponent. That's important because against the Suns or the Warriors in example you certainly don't want to get involved into a "run and gun" type of game. The table is sortable and the Maveicks will end up second only trailing the Rockets in Pace Consistency. So they were able to play their own pace on more nights than other teams which is a clear advantage because you always want to force the opponent to play your style and not the other way round. The Thunder, who are expected to attack the Western Conference throne next season, were the third worst team in that regard. They played the opponents pace more frequently than other teams.

Dallas ranks 7th in Offensive Consistency. The Nets probably would have wanted to avoid the Top3 here because their offense indeed was consistent ... consistently bad. I think that's a decent ranking for the Mavs taking into account that they've lost Caron Butler early in the season and Dirk Nowitzki for some time and that Roddy's injection into the starting lineup also clearly messed the offense. So they overcame major changes during the season without struggling too much. Other teams with major changes like the Nuggets, Knicks, Jazz, Celtics or Magic are ranked in the bottom third in Offensive Consistency.

If 2011 World Champions is not enough for you: How about 2011 World Defensive Consistency Champions? Because that's what the Mavs are. They not only improved their defense dramatically but also remained stable over the whole season. Roddy for example did hurt the offense but not the defense. Jason Kidd's and DeShawn Stevenson's shot was on or off but on the defensive end they executed night in and night out. An interesting observation is that teams like Boston, Orlando or the Lakers, who played really solid defense throughout the season rank very low in consistency. So they some sort of gained their rating from few games in which they dominated but weren't able to sustain that throughout the whole season. Some of the variance comes from a home/road discrepancy. Orlando for example dominated opponents on their home court on the defensive end but couldn't quite do that on the road. The Mavericks in opposition to that were the best road team in the NBA last season (tied with the Heat) and so their variance wasn't that strong.

If 2011 World Defensive Consistency Champions is not enough for you: How about 2011 World Consistency Champions? Because that's what the Mavericks are. The standard deviation in Efficiency Difference is the lowest for the Mavs in 2010/2011. The team with the best Margin of Victory, the Miami Heat, rank only 19th in consistency. So they blew out some opponents to get their rating and struggled against others. Other teams like Phoenix, Houston, the Bucks and Bobcats that barely missed the playoffs rank ahead of Memphis, the Knicks, the Hornets and Philadelphia. The two most inconsistent teams are the Lakers and the Hawks. Hot or not. I think specifically if you followed the Hawks you'll know that this stat is not lying. I am also pretty much surprised to see the Lakers at the bottom of this rating.
This all of course does not necessarily mean that a shortened season would highly benefit the more consistent teams, but if an inconsistent team indeed would go on a bad stretch (which they do occasionally) before they hit their good stretch to come up for that, this could spell trouble in a shortened season.

These are problems the Mavs probably won't face because they top the consistency ranking of the past season. Advantage Mavs?