In our “Smartest” Teams series we are using simple statistical models to assess which teams over and under perform on the field, floor, or ice relative to how much they spend. Thus far we have taken a look at the NHL and MLB. We now turn to the NBA.
These analyses are in some respects simple, as what we do is estimate linear regression models that predict team performance as a function of team fixed effects and payrolls. We use a bit more than a decade worth of data.
Astute readers might question the use of fixed effects, since team management (GMs) may change over time, and payrolls may be a point of concern given the prevalence of guaranteed contracts. Folks might also complain that we don’t consider player ages since rookies are given set dollar value contracts. Our feeling is that over the course of a decade, these factors (cap management, draft position, etc…) are within the control of teams.
Moving on to the list! The smartest team in the NBA is San Antonio. The Spurs are followed by Oklahoma City and the Mavericks. Houston is a notable 5th. The top of the list looks very much like a list of successful teams with well-regarded management.
At the other end, we aren’t going to say much. The bottom two are the Washington Bullets (we are offended by all DC team names so we are going to use whatever we like best) and at the very bottom we have the NY Knicks. The Knicks are a fascinating team. They charge the highest prices in the league, have won our most supportive fan base both years, and make the worst player decisions.
Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.