Friday, June 16, 2017

Not The Greatest Yet

  

  The NBA season wound down to its conclusion this week with the Golden State Warriors winning their second championship in three years. My basketball pick program performed admirably with a 54% success rate when my calculated line deviated from the actual betting line on Bovada.lv’s website. This should have yielded me a 2.5% profit on the 322 games my program picked except for two factors.

  One factor was my Bovada account being senselessly suspended for 18 days (as outlined here) just before the program had a hot streak. The other factor was my refusal to get out of my own way and let my basketball program do its thing. I continually tinkered with the betting amounts and sometimes added my own bets instead of trusting the program that has delivered picks over the magic break-even point of 52.4% over my four season retrograde testing. I didn’t use my program during the playoffs and managed to erase my $27 regular season deficit and was $12 ahead heading into the Finals where I decided to take the points in every game since I was expecting close games throughout. I went 1-2 in the three blowouts and lost the two close games against the spread by a total of 1 and a half points to leave me $4.06 down for the season. This was a downer but I received $130.39 in the form of a welcome bonus from Bovada and $70 from two contributors in exchange for my picks in advance of the games so I netted $196.33 for the season and if my two contributors picked the games I selected they would also have shown a profit since they received my picks during my Bovada suspension. I haven’t tried to withdraw my money yet but will report on it if and when I do. In any event, I consider my basketball program a success and will give it another go next year with a little more discipline. I can’t say it was the greatest betting season ever but for me the sting of losing $4.06 was well worth the valuable experience I received moving from the realm of fake to real betting.

  The storyline of this NBA season was were the top performers and teams rated in a historical perspective. Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder averaged a triple-double (10+ points, rebounds, and assists) for the entire season which last done by Oscar Robertson in 1962. There was a large debate as to whether Westbrook’s triple double season was deserving of the MVP award or whether the award belonged to James Harden. The argument for Harden is that while he had a few more assists and a few less points and rebounds his Houston Rockets were 8 games better than the Thunder which implies that Harden made his teammates and team better than Westbrook made his.

  In my view the league’s MVP is LeBron James. I’m not a big fan of King James but I recognize his greatness. James also nearly averaged a triple double (26 points and 8.5 assists and rebounds), led the league in minutes played per game, and finished in the top 10 in minutes played despite missing 8 games NONE OF WHICH THE CAVALIERS WON. I know the Cavaliers had a mediocre regular season record (for them) of 51-31 and didn’t even win their conference. Still I think this isn’t a playoff team without LeBron and a championship contender with him.

  The entire triple double thing tends to impress me as a fan based statistic. Out of the players I saw it seems clear to me that Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and possibly Larry Bird could have had a triple double in almost game they played. Blocked shots weren’t kept as a statistic until 1973 which was well after Bill Russell retired and Wilt Chamberlain was at the very end of his career. The players of that time claim the both Russell and Chamberlain blocked at least 10 shots a game so I’d have to think that both averaged triple-doubles during some years in their careers. Both Russell and Chamberlain averaged over 20 rebounds a game for their careers. 10 blocks a game is not out of the question or a misremembrance on the part of old-time players.

  Before their loss to the Cavaliers on Friday, the Warriors won their first 15 games of the playoffs before finishing with a record 16-1 for the playoffs. The closest any team came to playoff perfection was the 1982-83 76ers who went 12-1 in that years’ three round best of seven playoff format and the 2000-2001 Laker team that went 15-1 when the first round of the four round playoffs was best of five games. The Warriors 16-1 playoff record is the best percentage-wise of all time. There have been plenty of comparisons between the Warriors and great teams of the past to determine who the greatest team is. I’ve never seen a team like the 1991-1993 Chicago Bulls and they get my nod over the Showtime Laker teams of the mid 80’s. I’ve never saw the great Celtic teams of the 50’s and 60’s. Ultimately the latest super team has to be favored in a comparison with great teams of the past. Today’s players are bigger, faster, and more skilled than ever before. The superstars of the past like Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan would be great in any era but the role players of the past wouldn’t be competitive against the players of the present. Having said that an imaginary matchup between teams of the past and future would come down to which rules were used. If today’s Warriors were able to get foul calls on minimal contact they would easily win but if the physical play of 20 years ago were allowed with players able to hand check on defense and toss elbows like beanbags the old timers may be able to bully their way to victory. I would have a hard time anointing the Warriors as the greatest team of all time as long as the Celtics of the 50’s and 60’s won 8 championships in a row and the Bulls and 2000-2002 Lakers have three-peat championships. It is easy to say that the Warriors would have won three championships in a row of they hadn’t blown a 3-1 lead in last year’s Finals but they did blow that lead and the other three franchises didn’t. It is not easy to have the best record in the league three years in a row like the Warriors have but it is even harder to win three championships in a row. The Warriors stumbled while the Lakers, Bulls, and Celtics did not and to my mind teams that come close do not get the benefit of a doubt. If the Warriors win another title or two they may well be the best basketball team ever but with the injuries Stephen Curry and Keven Durant seem to suffer every year or two I don’t see their rolling over the league as a given.

  The other talking point during the Finals was whether LeBron James could establish himself as the greatest player of all time if the Cavaliers upset the Warriors. The Cavaliers lost the series but James once again proved he is the best player on the planet, averaging a triple-double in the five games while expending energy on defense guarding Finals MVP Kevin Durant. James has played 14 years and has played at least 74 games every season but two (playing 62 of the Heat’s 66 games in the strike shortened 2011-2012 seasons and taking two weeks off in the 2014-2015 season and finishing with 69 games). This durability is almost unprecedented. James is showing few signs of slowing down at the age of 32 and has been to seven consecutive NBA finals with three championships. Michael Jordan is considered the greatest player of all time with his six championships and six Finals MVPs with Bill Russell and is 11 championships also coming into consideration. If James can break the NBA career points record (he is 5 years away) and get to the NBA Finals a few more times I think he will be thought of as the best player ever due to recency bias and the wish of many to believe they are seeing the greatest ever. I can’t see James as the greatest player of all time and the recently concluded finals were a perfect example of why I think that way. James was the best player in the series and started each game with a flurry of points, rebounds, and assists. The Cavaliers were in every game at halftime. But in the fourth quarter of the first three games, James had no energy left and the Cavaliers lost. To me the hallmark of a great player is the ability to take over the game in the fourth quarter and not the first. James did come up big in the fourth quarter of the final game but fell short of leading his team to victory. Until and unless James takes over big games in the fourth quarter I fail to see how he can overtake Jordan as the greatest player ever.