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Pre-1974 Pace And More

April 10, 2013

wilt-russell

Before 1974 they didn’t track turnovers or offensive rebounds for NBA teams. Because of this, we are missing pieces necessary to estimate pace, which can be super helpful in understanding team strengths and even player contributions. However, it’s possible to get a reasonable estimate of pace by using regression analysis and making reasonable inferences. I was particularly intrigued by the methods employed by ElGee, who posted his results a year or so ago. Unfortunately, something went wrong with his site, and none of his data is available anymore. Luckily, Opposing Views reblogged his post, and I was able to find his formula, which is as follows:

Pre-1974 Pace = (FGA + 0.4 * FTA – ORB% * (FGA – FG) + (-TOV% * (FGA + 0.44 * FTA) / (TOV% – 1))/G), where ORB% = 0.319 for1971-1973 and 0.303 for before 1971, and TOV% = 0.158 for 1971-1973 and 0.161 for before 1971.

Using this information, I figured I’d post the estimated pace for all teams from 1951-1973 (before 1951 we don’t have rebounds, so there’s no way we’re gonna be able to estimate further back than that). Additionally, with pace (possessions per game by the way, though I’ll probably add possessions per 48 soon), I can calculate Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating – points scored per 100 possessions and points surrendered per 100 possessions, respectively. And with Offensive and Defensive Ratings I can estimate Relative Offense (Ortg – League Avg Ortg), Relative Defense (League Avg Drtg – Drtg), and Efficiency Differential (Ortg – Drtg). So I made a spreadsheet and included all this stuff for anyone interested in finding all these numbers, including the post-1973 estimates, in one place.

For fun, here are some top tens:

Top Ten Efficiency Differentials:

  1. 1996 Bulls, +13.4
  2. 1997 Bulls, +12.0
  3. 2008 Celtics, +11.3
  4. 1992 Bulls, +11.0
  5. 1971 Bucks, +10.9
  6. 1972 Lakers, +10.5
  7. 1972 Bucks, +10.1
  8. 2009 Cavs, +10.0
  9. 1994 Sonics, +9.6
  10. 1997 Jazz, +9.6

Top Ten Relative Offenses:

  1. 2004 Mavs, +9.2
  2. 2005 Suns, +8.4
  3. 1971 Bucks, +7.8
  4. 1997 Bulls, +7.7
  5. 2010 Suns, +7.7
  6. 2002 Mavs, +7.7
  7. 1998 Jazz, +7.6
  8. 1996 Bulls, +7.5
  9. 2007 Suns, +7.5
  10. 1982 Nuggets, +7.4

Top Ten Relative Defenses:

  1. 1964 Celtics, +10.9
  2. 1965 Celtics, +9.5
  3. 2004 Spurs, +8.8
  4. 1963 Celtics, +8.6
  5. 2008 Celtics, +8.6
  6. 1962 Celtics, +8.5
  7. 1993 Knicks, +8.3
  8. 1973 Celtics, +8.2
  9. 1994 Knicks, +8.0
  10. 1961 Celtics, +7.7

Again, the pre-1973 estimates aren’t as accurate as their modern counterparts, but they come reasonably close, and that’s what we’re going for. What I find particularly interesting is the number of Nash offenses and Russell defenses in their respective top tens (5 each).

-James

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