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January 7, 2011
On the Beat
Stats Helped Build Super Heat

by John Perrotto

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When the Miami Heat shook up the NBA over the summer, a statistical analyst played a part in the team's strategy of re-signing Dwyane Wade and adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh as free agents to go with him.

Bob Chaikin, who has consulted for multiple teams using his B-BALL simulation model, gave his endorsement to the Magic signing the trio. And everything Chaikin predicted would happen back in the summer is coming true so far this season.

According to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, Chaikin projected James and Wade would both average 24 points a game and Bosh's scoring average would be 18.5. Wade has a 25.0 average through 37 games while James is at 24.8 and Bosh is at 18.4.

"Believe it or not, when we were going through our analysis during the summer, it often doesn't happen like this, but this is what we predicted," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Spoelstra is a big believer in APBRmetrics, even if he laughingly admits that there is sometimes a language barrier between him and Chaikin.

"I got a computer geek who's got a problem," Spoelstra said with a smile. "I consult him probably as much as I consult anybody. This guy is way beyond my ability with numbers. And most of the reports that he gives me, I can't even understand. I have to talk to him on the phone to break it down to an elementary level that I can understand."

Miami is 28-9 but Spoelstra balked at saying what Chaikin projects the Heat's final record to be.

"It doesn't do that stuff," he said. "You can't really predict, obviously, injuries and the different things that happen during the course of an NBA season. But it can give you an idea."

Pistons Not Embodying "Bad Boy" Ideal

President of basketball operations Joe Dumars said before the season that it was time for the Detroit Pistons to go back to their roots. He wanted a team that would establish itself as mentally tough and able to grind out victories. Dumars called it "Detroit basketball."

However, at 11-24, the Pistons aren't exactly conjuring up visions of those "Bad Boys" championship teams that Dumars played on.

Instead, Detroit lives and dies with jump shots and players tend to get frustrated when those shots aren't falling. They also shy away from playing physical defense. That has made coach John Kuester weary of his team's lack of toughness.

"One of the things I wish we could alleviate is when our offense is not going well, we've got to grind things out defensively," John Kuester said. "We have some guys trying but we've just got to get tougher and become more physical during that time and be very aggressive."

Center Ben Wallace is a physical player and he is bewildered by the play of the Pistons.

"I'm clueless. I'm baffled," Wallace said. "That's the word I'm looking for--baffled. I'm baffled."

Imitation is Boston's Flattery of San Antonio

It was easy to see the similarities between the two teams Wednesday night when the Boston Celtics beat the visiting San Antonio Spurs 105-103. And it goes beyond them having the two best records in the league with the Spurs 29-6 and the Celtics 27-7.

They run their organizations similarly and, according to coach Doc Rivers, Boston is admitted copycats of San Antonio.

"Four or five years ago, (Celtics general manager) Danny (Ainge) and I sat down and said we wanted to be them as much as we can," Rivers said. "I think (Spurs GM) R.C. Buford and Danny--I don't know if anybody does a better job than those two guys. They do it every year. They find the right guys for their team."

Rivers is a basketball purist as he spent 13 seasons in the NBA as a point guard, including his last two with San Antonio from 1994-96. Thus, he is a fan of his last team.

"I think people like the way they play, and I think we play the game the same way," Rivers said. "I think people like them because they're good people, No. 1. And I think they like them also because they all try to play team basketball. They all buy into the system. There are no selfish guys, no agenda players on their team. They are the most high-character team in the league. I think people like that. They appreciate that. It comes from two people. It comes from Tim Duncan and it comes from Gregg Popovich. They're both just classy, quiet human beings. They're humble; they do their jobs, and they do it with confidence. But they're humble about it."

Boston forward Paul Pierce also understands why the Spurs are so well-liked among people inside the game.

"Because they go about their business quietly and just kick everybody's (butt)," Pierce said with a smile. "They don't say anything. They just stay under the radar and win."

76ers Thinking Playoffs

The Philadelphia 76ers' record of 14-21 certainly won't make many people stop and take notice. Yet they would be the eighth and final playoff team in the Eastern Conference if the season ended now and the 76ers believe getting to the postseason is a realistic goal, especially after having a road-heavy schedule to this point with 20 of 35 games away from home.

"We should be thinking we're going to be a playoff team," coach Doug Collins said. "We have every opportunity if we take care of our business."

Forward Elton Brand admits that he regularly checks the scores around the league and the standings.

"All the time," he said. "You want to see where you are. It's not seedings or we'll play No. 1 or No. 2. It's just having enough wins to get in there."

John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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