Sim Season: 10-Game Review

If this were a normal regular season, we would be 10 games in to the 82-game grind. Surprise teams would certainly be emerging, while some teams expected to do well would be struggling. Conclusions might be able to get drawn, and yada, yada, yada. That is what we should be talking about.

Instead we are dealing with the stupidly complex nuances of an antitrust suit and federal jurisdiction. This is not how I want to spend my Thanksgiving. Why can’t we just have Jameer Nelson cutting the suddenly traditional Sun Sports Thanksgiving turkey after an easy win over the Hornets? Why not? Please!

Figured the NBA would not be listening.

Since I plug into the Matrix (don’t worry, Morpheus, this blog is not tapped), I along with many other people are going to imagine the NBA season is happening. I have been helping add context to the wonderful box scores Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus provides from Strat-O-Matic simulations of the entire NBA season. I will hopefully be posting a discussion with Doolittle on the sim season after the holiday.

That should hopefully tide us over until this interminable lockout ends.

Wednesday’s “game” at San Antonio would have been Orlando’s 11th of the year. So at the 10-game mark, I thought it was a good time to take a look at some of the statistics from the simulations. There are some interesting notes that oculd provide a small, small glimpse into the 2011-12 team.

It should be noted that Strat-O-Matic, from what I understand, is a simulation game that is using last year’s statistics. So it should not be surprising to note that statistics will be similar. Also, I am doing a lot of the math in entering the contracts into my excel spreadsheet. So I apologize if numbers or calculations are off.

Of course, none of this actually exists. It is the world pulled over our eyes to hide us from the truth…

Win Streak! Or is it?

The Magic lost the first two games in the simulation and looked pretty poor. The Bobcats and the Heat held the Magic’s offense down. Nothing seemed to be working and it sure looked like (from the box score) that this team would be in trouble.

Then something incredible happened in the simulation — Orlando got hot. The team is on an eight-game win streak and looks just about unstoppable. This is the Magic team we remembered from 2010, not 2011. It all seems to work and the team is winning big. Seven of the wins have been by double digits in the simulation.

That obviously might change when Orlando takes on San Antonio today at the AT&T Center.

Dwight Howard is the leading scorer with 21.7 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game. His numbers are certainly down, but his impact is still pretty large. According to my rough calculations (and they are very rough), Howard has a projected 19.7 win shares this year. Doolittle has calculated that Howard is fifth in the league in wins above replacement per 82 games with 19.2 (hey! I was close!).

The raw numbers may not be great, but it is clear even if Howard is not producing on the stat sheet he makes an impact on the floor.

To show how variable these simulations have been, AccuScore has the Magic at 5-5 through 10 games after defeating the Hornets. Ironically, that is my record in NBA2K12 through 10 games too. But I also suck at NBA2K12, so go figure.

To me, though, the disparity in record shows how close to being pretty good Orlando actually is. Things break right, the Magic could be really really good. Things break wrong, and, well, a disappointing 5-5 record follows. Long season left, right?

Point Guard Problems

One thing that I have noted in the first 10 games is that the Magic are not getting great play from Jameer Nelson or Gilbert Arenas.

Nelson is averaging 10.9 points per game and 6.2 assists per game — posting a very solid 29.7 percent assist rate according to my rough calculations. Still, Nelson is a score-first point guard, and while it is great to have him distributing and moving the ball, he needs to post better than a 46.2 percent effort from the field. His 55.5 percent effective field goal percentage is solid though — it would be better than his effective field goal percentage the last two years.

If Nelson were scoring more, than his numbers would be fine. As it stands now, he is just kind of there.

Gilbert Arenas, on the other hand, is struggling mightily, continuing the theme from last year. Makes sense since these are based on last year’s stats.

Arenas is averaging 7.6 points per game on 30.1 percent shooting. Ouch. He has hit on 16.3 percent of his 3-pointers. Double ouch. And has just 3.0 assists per game. His win shares on the team are a team-worst -1.4. Yes, Arenas is hurting this team.

The good news is that Arenas has had a big game or two so far. So there is hope. Of course, it does not eliminate the bad games he has had or the general feeling that the simulated Arenas might mirror real Arenas. Gulp.

Rebounding Titan

A sure way to win games is to get a lot of rebounds. And that is something Dwight Howard is very very good at. The rest of the team is still pretty mediocre at it.

The Magic do a decent enough job though. They outrebound opponents on average 42.9-40.9 and get about one more offensive rebound per game. The Magic grab 51.2 percent of all rebounds and 27.2 percent of offensive rebounds.

Howard, despite the low raw rebounding numbers, is grabbing 24.6 percent of offensive rebounds and 42.9 percent of defensive rebounds. I am pretty sure those numbers are wrong… but I just double checked them and they are not. At least using the formula I have been using.

That is what you expect from Howard. You cannot expect anything less from him. His numbers appear to be better than his career averages, although his total rebounding numbers are not up to that level.

Much like in real life, it is rebounding by committee outside of Howard. Brandon Bass is second on the team with 6.9 rebounds per game. Bass has a 14.5 percent total rebounding percentage… which is not great. The thing is the Magic defense is very good and there are lots of opportunities to get rebounds. Even when you give up offensive rebounds, Howard erases a lot of mistakes. That seems to be Stan Van Gundy‘s way.

You need not look further than 3-point field goal percentage to see how great the defense has been. Opponents are shooting 29.9 percent from long range against Orlando. This is very much in line with how Stan Van Gundy coaches his team.

Remember that all of this is an exercise in futility. We see bits of what the team was last year with bits of what the team could be when 2011-12 starts. I guess we will never know what would be…

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily