The Golden State Warriors opened this season with a flood of expectations stemming from last year’s playoff success and the addition of a legitimate impact player.
That impact player, Andre Iguodala, did not waste time voicing his thoughts on how well he thought his new team could perform in their upcoming campaign. Iguodala stated this team should win more than the 50-win expectation set by the team as the goal of the season. Usually coaches hate player guarantees/proclamations because it brings a significant amount of pressure and attention that is unwanted. However, Mark Jackson is no stranger to making jarring statements.
Remember, that was Jackson who guaranteed a trip to the playoffs during his first season as head coach. Even though that proclamation at the time was as ludicrous then as it is now, Jackson’s guarantee went a long way in establishing a change in franchise expectation and culture. Unlike Jackson’s guarantee, Iguodala’s statement made logical sense to fans. After a 47-win campaign last season, a four-or-more game improvement seemed possible for a team oozing with improving talent and a brand new free agent prize.
With only 12 games left in the season, what is the probability the Warriors make Andre Iguodala look smart and win more than 50 games?
Using a binomial probability distribution, I am able to siphon through every combination of remaining game outcomes and assess the approximate chance the Warriors end up with a certain amount of wins.
Without going into too much detail, the probability of winning a single game is needed for the calculation. Since different teams present an altered chance of winning, the remaining games are classified into teams with a current winning or losing record.
The Warriors have played 39 games against teams with a winning record and have only won 46% of the time. This 46% will be the success rate against winning record teams for the twelve remaining games. The remaining 31 games have been played against teams with a losing record, which they have won 84% of this season. Therefore, for the rest of the games, it is assumed the Warriors have an 84% chance to beat a team with a losing record. Conveniently, the 12 remaining games are evenly split into six games versus each of the two described groups.
With these assumptions defined, the calculations can now be completed. By definition, there is a possibility the Warriors can win all, or none, of the 12 remaining games on their schedule. However, it’s most likely the highest probability of wins will lie somewhere in the middle of the 0 to 12 range. The presented table and graph lists the probability of each possible win total outcome.
As you can see, the probability of the Warriors being at the far end of either side of the table is quite slim. The outcome that has the highest chance is 52 wins, which has a probability of 25.6%.
Using the above information we can answer a few questions about where the Warriors are most likely to end up, in terms of record. Also, we can answer whether or not Andre Iguodala looks smart based on his beginning of the season quote.
First, what is the probability the Warriors’ record will improve over last season?
Pr(Wins>47)= Add every percentage to the right of 47= 99.7%
Second, what is the probability the Warriors end up with at least 50 wins?
Pr(Wins ≥50)= Add every percentage to the right of 49= 92.8%
Finally, what is the probability the Warriors satisfy Iguodala’s claim with more than 50 wins?
Pr(Wins>50)= Add every percentage to the right of 50= 79.8%
Based on these probabilities, it looks like the Warriors have a likely chance of not only improving upon last season, but also eclipsing Iguodala’s expectations.
Let’s imagine the end of the season works out according to the numbers and the Warriors end up with 52 wins (highest probability at 25.6%). Where can we expect this team to fall in terms of playoff seeding? The graph below gives the distribution of Western Conference playoff seeds for a team that won 52 games for each season since 1984. The current playoff system with eight teams per conference began in 1984, which yields 29 data points.
Based on the graph, the Warriors should expect either a fifth or sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The median for this distribution is five, but since this year is particularly skewed towards the West, in terms of depth, a six seed is more likely. Remember that this seed projection is most accurately applicable if the Warriors achieve 52 wins.
The Golden State Warriors have taken care of business since the All-Star break. They are 12-4 since the New Orleans festivities, having firmly ensconced themselves into the sixth spot in the West. Before the break, this team was in jockeying position for not only the sixth seed, but also a spot in the playoffs outright. The impressive run during the home stretch of the regular season has calmed the nerves of an entire fan base.
The probabilities above indicate the Warriors are very likely to improve upon last season, achieve a 50-win season, and satisfy Iguodala’s preseason proclamation. When the dust has settles, the regular season will be looked at as a success for the growth of this franchise.
All data is through 03/20/2014 and provided by Basketball-Reference.com