How to Tell a Good Basketball Team

Basketball isn’t my favorite sport, but it does interest me.  I played in high school, or rather I was on the team.  My senior year was my only full year on the varsity, because there was nowhere else to go at that point.  I never got into a game where the outcome was in doubt.  If memory serves, I played in six games with 13 points (double figures for the year!). The highlight was my final chance.  I played the last few minutes in a tournament game and scored two points on a college court — the old on-campus University of Dayton arena.

For you math geeks, basketball is a percentage game. Take higher-percentage shots than your opponent and you should win.  Of course, everyone loves to play offense.  It’s more fun to shoot baskets.  If you’re by yourself, how do you practice defense anyway?

So what’s a good way to evaluate a basketball team?  Since games are played in smallish, compact arenas, there is a built-in home-court advantage.  So the best method I’ve ever heard of is to take road wins minus home losses. If that result is positive, you’re following a good team!

I was reminded of this while checking up on the Cleveland Cavaliers. As of this writing, they are 15-9 at home and 11-11 on the road, for +2.  That’s good, but not as good as Golden State, who are 21-1 at home and 15-5 on the road for a stellar +14.  On the other hand, Minnesota is a paltry 3-18 at home and 4-19 on the road, for an anemic -14.  Forget it!

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