29 October 2013

NBA Preview 2013

I typically follow basketball more consistently than other sports. This season promises to be very interesting for several reasons. Several teams are tanking for highly regarded draft picks. A few teams are rising and presume to be competing for playoff spots after several (or more) years of mediocrity. And then there isn't quite as clear a contender for the championship but several very good teams (Miami is still probably the favorite, but they have more competition and looked exposed by the Spurs).

First off. I always set up a fantasy basketball team in a roto league. I don't do this for baseball because I keep a historical all-star league with normalised statistics with players going back to 1876 (and including major-minor leagues like the negro national league). I find it way more fun to draft Willie Mays than current players. I don't do this for football because I have no interest in following it any further than as a casual observer and because football fantasy leagues are much more like gambling than basketball. Basketball it is really easy to predict how good a player might be the next year. Which makes the having to adjust rosters more often factor pretty easy to compensate for. I typically compete for winning any league I'm in. Rondo's injury last year really hurt my chances. I was in first most of the year, and fell to third in the last month as I couldn't make up the assists and steals with PG by committee.

This is my team (I picked 8th).
PF Kevin Love
PG Deron Williams
C Brook Lopez
F Josh Smith
PF Ryan Anderson
G/F Andre Iguodala
C Marcin Gortat (the trade to Washington is great)
SG OJ Mayo
PG Isaiah Thomas
SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
G Brandon Knight
C Nerlens Noel (stashed for blocks).
PF Elton Brand

I expect I should be doing pretty well in assists and threes and percentage stats. I'm worried about points and rebounds a bit. I think blocks or steals will be okay.

So actual teams. Over/Unders will be after the team followed by statgeek projections. Plus would be whether I think they're an over, minus for unders.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division
Brooklyn (52.5+) I'd say will actually be somewhat worse regular season than projected as they rest the starters (they seem to be around 55 wins). But probably still around 52-54 wins and a tough out for Miami or Chicago. This is now my team with KG on it. Probably the 3 or 4 seed.
New York (48.5-): Projects around 47. I think this is also high. I think they have chemistry issues and fall to around 43, but if Chandler stays healthy, 47 is also quite possible. This is not a team that I'd expect to win a first round series.
Toronto (36.5-): Depends on the impending Rudy Gay trade (DeRozan might also be traded). Projects around 38. I'd say 33. If they get a good haul for these trades, it will mostly be in picks or younger players.
Boston (27.5=): Depends on how quickly Rondo comes back. Projects to 27. This is probably about right. Even if they are trying to tank, there's a lot of bad teams.
Philadelphia (16.5-): I don't think they are in any danger in breaking the worst league record. But. Getting to 19 (projected), not so much.

Central Division
Chicago (56.5+): Projects to 52. I think this is low. I put them around 58. Probably second to Miami for title contention. Their defense should be insane. A couple of trades are out there that could push them past Miami (Boozer or Deng could be dealt).
Indiana (54.5-): Projects to 52. Sounds about right. They upgraded their bench. I think their ceiling is 55. They seem to be one of the most consistent projections. Defense should still be very, very good.
Detroit (40.5+): Projects to 41. Probably low. But it depends a lot on how the new pieces mesh (and if Monroe and Drummond can play together). I think this is a playoff team at least in the East and around 45 wins. Will block a lot of shots.
Cleveland (40.5-): Projects to 40. Really depends if they get more than 80 games from Andy and Bynum combined and Kyrie plays a full season finally (I'm doubtful). I do not at all like the Bennett pick. So. Probably 40 is fine. They're not going to be much better than that even if healthy though. Ceiling looks like 45. I'm not expecting much defense (even with the coaching chance, nobody on this team has a history of playing D) and Mike Brown is just a dreadful offensive coach. Which is not good with a team that has some weapons that need plays.
Milwaukee (28.5+): Projects to 31. Again, probably low. But not by much. This or Cleveland look like the 8th seed (with the Cavs a little better). Probably 36 wins.

Miami (61.5-): Projects at 59. About right. They did get some size in Oden maybe to help out with Hibbert or Chicago/Brooklyn in the playoffs. Assuming he is healthy. The loss of Miller hurts. Still probably the favorite to win it all though.
Atlanta (39.5-): Projects at 41. Probably not a lock. Because I think they are breaking up the team and trading Horford or Millsap. They have the talent for 45 win team or so right now. But it's not going anywhere either with these pieces. If they do blow it up, they will do it early and tank to 30 or so wins. If they start out hot, they probably won't blow it up but won't go anywhere.
Washington (40.5+): Projects at 37. I think this team is better, with the Gortat trade and a healthy Wall. Probably 6-7th seed in the East. I like them a lot for around 44 wins.
Charlotte (26.5=): Projects at 28. Probably a little high, I'd say closer to 25. Kemba and Al might be worth something at least though.

Playoff Teams
New York

Western Conference
Oklahoma City (52.5+): Projects around 54. Depends on how soon Westbrook is back to being Westbrook. They have some major holes that require a trade or two to compensate for. Durant should have a monster first half.
Denver (45.5=). Projects at 45. I think this is about right. They made some very dumb moves offseason. Koufos trade was lame. Iggy's gone. Their defence is major league downgraded. Gallinari is hurt to start the year. All bad things.
Minnesota (41.5+): Projects to 43. If healthy, this could be a 46-48 win team. Their D is still troubled, but they will score.
Portland (38.5+): HUGE upgrades to their horrible bench last year. I'm not sure why they only project at 38. They won 33 last year with injuries late to key players and no bench. I don't think they're much better than 42-44 wins, but they shouldn't be only 5 wins better than last year with this roster.
Utah (25.5+): Tanking. Somehow projects to 30 anyway. They have still some good size players and Burke could be good. Hard to project how they will do because they have the highest turnover in minutes from last year and a lot of rather useless vets and young players with high potential but no track record. I think they're good for 27.

Clippers (56.5=), Projects at 56. Probably will have the best offense in the league. Not sure how their D will do. Weak upfront too. 56 looks fine.
Golden State (51.5-), Projects at 46. I think they're good for at least 48. Too many injury prone players. They have a high ceiling but I don't think that ceiling gets them much over 50. Iggy is a great addition though.
Lakers (36.5-), projects at 32. I'd be surprised if they win more than 32. Gasol is probably getting traded. Kobe has to come back in some kind of playable shape to get past 36. The rest of the team is basically useless or old.
Sacramento (31.5-), projects at 31. They have a weird roster still even with Evans and Robinson gone.
Phoenix (19.5-). Projects at 22. Gortat trade pushes them below. I think they win 17-18.

San Antonio (55.5=), Projects at 55. Sounds right. Duncan will drop off a bit, but the younger guys should be better too.
Houston (54.5-) Projects at 54. I don't think they do so well at mixing Howard and Harden. Kind of an odd combo. But they have so much talent that 50 wins is a no brainer.
Memphis (50.5=) Projects to 50. Has a pretty high ceiling but they have some weaknesses that were exposed last year too.
Dallas (43.5+) Projects to 43. I think they win around 47-48. Dirk wasn't healthy last year. Calderon is a good point guard. I don't like Monte Ellis (he has no point on the court he can make shots from consistently).
New Orleans (39.5=) (Pellies!). Projects to 39. Probably needs to trade Gordon. Should be solid at 39. I don't like Holiday and Evans and Gordon as a backcourt. I love Davis and he should be very good this year.

San Antonio
Golden State
Minnesota (or Denver)

I would see OKC coming out of the west at this point. Their defence is pretty good and the Durant-Westbrook combo is just devastating to most teams out west. A couple of these teams would leap past them with some moves though. Clippers need a big guy. Houston needs probably a shooter/stretch four, Memphis needs shooters of any kind, and San Antonio is still dangerous even with the team they have.

01 October 2013

Shutdown city USA

I have many thoughts on this.

There are actual people, many thousands of them, who are presently out of work because of this. I share a general distaste for the government employing millions of people in the first place, but there are far better ways to trim the rolls and most of the people out of work are not the sort that are doing things I would more strongly disapprove of having in the first place (such as DEA agents, the TSA, the various NSA personnel doing dragnet surveillance on Americans, and most foreign deployed Army forces). It's mostly civilian contractors for defence programmes and some agencies that do "less essential" things, only some of which would fall into those categories of unsavory occupations. Some of these are people who could be in some agency that could be partially or fully privatized and their jobs less subject to partisan budget haggles (some national parks or most of NASA's operations for instance), but that isn't' the state of affairs as yet. And isn't a likely consequence of this whole kerfuffle either. While I think there's some disdain for civilian workers, these are people who were hired under contract to do a job and are largely being dismissed in a haphazard and foolish way, even if only temporarily. This is a form of pain and suffering inflicted on people, and imposes costs for starting and stopping various operations unexpectedly, hiring and training potential replacements if it lasts any appreciable duration, creates unemployment concerns, and so on. The sequester had some similar pain and suffering inflicted but was largely overlooked as this was mostly (but not entirely) impacting poor people. These are mostly middle class professionals now getting hammered. That changes the political impact.

That said, the political impact is that people will hate Congress. But they already hate Congress. A lot. And they had an opportunity to do something about this not long ago, and for the most part, did not. People hate Congress, but mostly think their man in Washington (and it's usually a man) is doing fine. The chances of this are slim in reality, but occur mostly because people have been segregated by years of movement, personal affiliation, and gerrymandering into strong partisan camps for Congressional races. They don't see the problem with their guy because he mostly says things they want to hear, and that's easier to do because they want to hear fewer conflicting things tailored to separate camps (albeit, still plenty of conflicting nonsense is necessary, such as "Medicare shouldn't be cut but deficits are bad"). Republican grassroots backers seem fine with shutting down the government even if the only thing they deign necessary to turn it back on is some concession on ObamaCare. Which isn't a political possibility, and isn't even an effect of shutting down the government.

In general, ObamaCare represents a shift in the economy, but it is not a significant shift in the status quo of health care markets in the US. I don't like all its particulars and would support overturning it, if it were replaced with something more like Wyden-Bennett for instance. But in and of itself, it really isn't that different from what we had before (yet anyway, it could prove more unpredictable, but it's more likely to end up looking like Massachusetts than the UK). So. I'm not really sure why it is the pillar that either party wants to stand and die on. There are more significant deficit busting things the Republicans could have picked in order to be credible on that issue (including, say, the farm subsidies that they voted to increase, but also entitlement reform negotiations or tax reforms, or reductions in defence spending). Portions of the ACA are broadly popular (price transparency, insurance of pre-existing conditions, leaving children on adult insurance longer, etc) and would likely have to be part of any new deal to replace it. So simply getting rid of it will likely turn out less popular than the public imagines for this reason and will not actually be a very effective and popular move for the party that does so. While this idea of tying a delay or a kill it effect to the ACA bill has been floating around a while, the sales job for the general public, rather than the conservative base who already champions the idea, has been very slow in coming around. This makes picking it as a fighting point a very strange move politically. It had zero chance of success, it isn't likely to make the Democrats look like the bad guys to the general public, and so on. There's a possibility of it, simply because this bill isn't that popular either. But the general public wanted a deal, not a shutdown. And that deal wasn't "kill or delay this silly health care law too", it might be some other concession, but something smaller more likely. As a further problem, the bill on the table wasn't even a deal that would solve this problem for a year or two. It was for a few weeks where we would just be back at this same point around Thanksgiving or Christmas. Hurrah for that.

I'm curious what happens now with the default limit in a few weeks. I think most Republican backers (of substantial wealth anyway), are probably okay with a shutdown, if not happy about it. I doubt most of them are okay with a default risk. The business types are in fact, probably pissed about the prospect. I suspect this reflects the division within the Republican party over what to do over the last few months, with party elites trying to push for simple moves to get things over and done with and move on to meaningless symbolic votes against ObamaCare and the like, and the base understanding those symbolic votes won't amount to anything but not understanding that actual votes probably won't either.

In general, I am greatly annoyed that a meaningless potential intrusion into Syria and the government's inability to play together have destroyed the public attention span for the NSA scandals, still ongoing in their revelations. For instance that the NSA decided it may use "enrichment" data without restraint drawn from social media sites, credit cards, insurance records, as part of their investigations and dragnets into American citizens. I don't like having to pay attention to furloughing of civilian workers while the NSA continues unimpeded. It is a distraction from the real business of actual deficit controls and necessary reforms therein, and from the expansion of executive and government power into the lives of ordinary people to have fights over things that do very little of either.