• Adam Bushman

Domination Ratings: What Do They Tell Us About the Utah Jazz and the NBA?

The Utah Jazz are proving their dominance but will it translate to the Playoffs? Our Domination Ratings say...YES!


Photo Source: SLC Dunk

Advanced metrics are always trying to identify areas of NBA performance that predict dominance. Net Rating (the difference between a team’s offensive and defensive efficiency) has proved to be a valuable tool in evaluating dominance.


Today Milwaukee sits firmly at the top of the league per Net Rating. Time has proven them to be as dominate as their efficiency differential has claimed them to be. But Net Rating (efficiency differential) can only measure so much.



Theology


Another way to determine dominance is through the analysis of games won or lost via offensive AND defensive domination. What does this mean?


The most ideal win is a blowout. A team’s superiority is on full display to such a degree that the final margin tells the entire story.


But not all blowouts are created equal. A final margin of 15 points could be a 92-77 grind or a fast paced 132-117 shootout. The point is, one blowout was offensively driven while the other defensively.


The preferred blowout is driven by good offense AND defense. It shows a level of dominance on both ends of floor that mere Net Rating can’t explain. Therefore, only games of superior offense and defense are used to measure domination.



Calculation


We use the league median (average) offense and defense (rounded to a whole number) as a reference point. This point is then adjusted by five points in order to achieve thresholds for our criteria.


You may ask yourself, “Why five points?” It’s simple really.


As of January 14th, the league average offensive rating is approximately 109. Adjusting the rating by +5 points would result in an ORTG of 114, just 0.3 shy of the league leading Golden State Warriors offense.


Figure A

The inverse is also true. The league average defensive rating is approximately 109. Adjusting the rating by +5 points would result in an DRTG of 104, 0.1 better of the league’s second best defense, the Indiana Pacers.


In short, adjusting the league median by 5 points would consistently land our thresholds in the top echelon of offense and defense. This would classify a “Dominating Win”.See Figure A for a visual example.


A “Dominating Loss” would adjust the league median 5 points in the opposite direction. The offensive rating would drop to 104 and the defensive rating rise to 114, thus ranking the performance among the bottom three teams in each category. See Figure B for a visual example.


Figure B

Finally, the number of “Dominating Losses” are subtracted from the number of “Dominating Wins” and adjusted per games played. This results in a rating system similar to that of NRTG.


A positive Domination Rating translates to a higher frequency of “Dominating Wins” than “Dominating Losses”. The opposite is true for a negative Domination Rating.



What Do Domination Ratings Tell Us


A positive Domination Rating is important and has implications for postseason play. A team’s rating prior to the All-Star Break gives us a look into what the team’s outlook is.


Since the 2014-15 season, 83% of teams who made the playoffs had a positive Domination Rating by the All-Star Break. Of the teams who made the playoffs with a negative Domination Rating, only one made it to the second round (after playing another negative Domination Rating team in the first round).


Over the same time period, 72% of all teams advancing to the 2nd round of the playoffs were top 10 league wide in Domination Rating by the All-Star Break (and thereby all had a positive Domination Rating).


Suffice it to say, Domination Ratings give us a very good idea of who makes the playoffs and does well therein.


Click HERE to view the current league ratings.



How Dominant are the Utah Jazz?


The Utah Jazz have played 42 games and have tallied 9 dominating wins and 6 dominating losses. This results in a +6.8 Domination Rating, tied for 9th in the league.


They have the 2nd highest Dominating Win Frequency in the league and the 8th highest Dominating Loss Frequency.


Factoring in Utah’s Strength of Schedule, it’s very impressive by the Jazz to turn in a Domination Rating of positive but to be tied for 9th league wide is an incredible feat.

Assuming the Jazz retain their rank and rating up to the All-Star Break, the above data suggests Utah as a playoff team and admittance into the 2nd round.


OKC, DEN, NOP, MIN, and GSW are the only West teams with a higher Domination Rating than the Jazz through the first half of the season.



Who’s in Trouble?


The Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers have a significantly negative Domination Rating. Having tallied 5 “Dominating Losses” and only 2 “Dominating Wins”, the Clippers post the 24th ranked Domination Rating at -7.1.


Over the past four years, only 3 teams have posed a Domination Rating at the All-Star Break of -7.0 or below and made the playoffs (only 4.6% of all teams). Such teams won a combined two playoff games and were ousted in the first round.


The Trailblazers

Portland is another team in severe trouble. They’ve posted 2 “Dominating Wins” and 4 “Dominating Losses”, thus slotting them at 21st league wide with a -4.5 Domination Rating.


The same stats shown above apply to teams with a -4.5 Domination Rating or below.

Both Portland and Los Angeles are in the top 10 of hardest Strength of Schedule per TeamRankings.com and therefore have a chance to make some hay before the All-Star Break.



Conclusion


Domination Ratings aren’t perfect, just as many metrics have erroneously predicted and evaluated players/teams.


What can be said is its ability to evaluate a team’s dominance under the unique criteria of superior performance in both offense and defense. A team’s positive rating in such games is extremely vital for their future success.

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