Why the Blazers Will Reach the NBA Finals From WhatIfSports.com image

Bumps, Bruises and Blazers

How Whatifsports.com's computers predicted Portland's run
By Ryan Fowler, WhatIfSports.com Content Manager
April 16, 2010


Lebron Football
Brandon Roy's Stats
21.5 37.2

If you've never had surgery in your life, my advice is to avoid the Portland, Oregon area for, well, the foreseeable future.

The Trail Blazers, once referred to as the "Jail Blazers" for their players' unique ability to constantly face an array of criminal charges, have worked hard to clean up their act and image over the past few years. Now the franchise's main focus has evolved from keeping players out of court, to keeping them on the court and off the operating table.

Just this season alone, Portland has seen franchise player and former overall number one pick Greg Oden sidelined, for the second time in his career, with a season-ending surgery. Fellow big-man Joel Przybilla is also out for the season with a knee injury. That's over 14-feet of post-presence gone for the majority of the season.

Several other bumps and bruises forced other members of the Blazers to jersey down and suit up while watching from the bench at different points of the season. Yet, the Blazers still managed to win 50 games.

Then on the final Sunday of the regular season, as if the basketball gods were testing the Blazers' will once again, their team leader Brandon Roy left the game against the Lakers with a knee injury. It was later learned Roy actually tore the meniscus in that knee and would require surgery today if he wanted any chance of returning later in the playoffs.

With the absence of Roy, Oden, Przybilla and a cast of others nicked up from 82-games of punishment, how does Whatifsports.com come to the conclusion that Portland will tear through the Western Conference and face the Cleveland Cavs in the NBA Finals?

Its starts off with a basic statement: these are predictions based off our highly sophisticated NBA simulation engine. Just like your favorite college basketball analyst or expert (really?) came to the conclusion that Kansas...wait, no Kentucky...wait, no West Virginia...wait, no Duke was going to cut down the nets in Indianapolis, Whatifsports.com's computers are designed to predict NBA teams' playoff advancement based on the statistical make-up of that team. Injuries do play a factor in the simulations and when we ran the 2001 sims of the 2010 NBA Playoffs, Brandon Roy was pulled from the line-up and the Blazers still made that run to the Finals.

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It may be tough to stomach a Cavs vs. Blazers finale, but if you understand the statistical inputs we feed our NBA simulation engine, it may make more sense.

Looking at the numbers/stats, the Whatifsports.com simulation engine really gets hot and bothered over rebounding and turnovers. As long as one team has a reasonably efficient offense, you have a stronger chance of winning when you out-rebound your opponent and win the turnover battle.

The Blazers are second in the league when it comes to taking care of the rock, only averaging 12.3 cough ups a game. They are tied for seventh in the league in rebounding margin (+2.1), which may seem minimal, but our NBA engine stresses efficiency. The numbers in those areas favor Portland in their potential playoff match-ups.

The other area you need to look at is the strength of the Western Conference field. Remember we simulate the ENTIRE bracket 2001 times and with such a stacked field, each teams' chances of advancing on a regular basis are reduced dramatically. On the contrary, the Cavs and Magic advance more often because of a weaker Eastern Conference and easier road to the conference finals.

When you have the Spurs as a 7-seed, fans of the Western Conference are in for a playoff treat while the teams are in for a dog fight. With that said, the Lakers road to the Finals could be a headache with a possible second round match-up with the Jazz, another Whatifsports.com NBA simulation engine favorite. This causes Los Angeles' chances of reaching the Finals to plummet below 20-percent

Like the dozens of NBA beat writers, analysts and ex-players chiming in with their two-cents over the next few weeks, Whatifsports.com's predictions are not the law, but they do allow the stats to tell the story and predict the outcome. There are no biases in our world and no popularity contests. The highly sophisticated simulation engine provides the results and we simply post the outcomes.

Ryan Fowler is the Content Manager for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at rfowler@whatifsports.com. Feel free to shoot him an email with any questions or comments.

Whatifsports.com is proud to say it accurately predicted the 2009 Super Bowl, 2009 BCS National Championship, 2009 World Series, 2009 NBA Finals and 2009 NCAA basketball championship. Our hope is to add the 2010 national basketball championship to that running list of Whatifsports.com's simulation success.

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