Sunday, 19 May 2013

Consistency of NBA Franchises from 1974 to now - are Indiana the most boring team?

As another NBA season draws to a close, I've started to think a little about what makes NBA success work in the long term. Why is it that some teams (the Spurs) seem to make a deep playoff run every year where as others (Dallas perhaps) go up and down like a yo-yo? Well first I wanted to visualise these differences in consistency to see if my impressions of the different franchises are actually correct. Hence the viz below.

Looking at franchise performance in terms of regular season wins from the 1973/74 season to now, I've used the average season wins and the variance in season wins to split the NBA franchises into four groups:

1. Consistent Winners - These guys win games year after year. Some do it in serious style and end up with titles (like the Lakers), while others plod a long as above average winners, but never go on to wn it all (Phoenix).

2. Inconsistent Winners - The Bulls, the Heat and The Mavericks all embody this trait perfectly. Periods of superstar led brilliance, followed by seasons of regrouping and rebuilding. I was surprised to see Boston in this group.

3. Consistent Losers - Every year these teams seem to perform below par, little surprise this group includes the Clippers and the Raptors.

4. Inconsistent Losers - There are only three teams in this group since 1973/74, the Cavs, the Grizzlies and the Timberwolves. Mostly these guys are in the doldrums, but on occasion something happens (something like LeBron James) to lift them to heady heights.

There is also I think a fifth distinct group, which are really the most boring  teams to follow in the NBA (the stats are saying it not me). I'm looking here at Indiana, Milwaukee, Atlanta and New York. Maybe thats a little unfair to the Knicks because the chat starts just after their last title, but hey that was 40 YEARS AGO! These teams are very consistent, have average seasons of 41 wins and don't win anything.

Which leads to another conclusion. Every team except Orlando in the Inconsistent Winners quadrant has won at least one, and often multiple, titles. But in the Consistent Winners quadrant there are 6 title-less teams. Maybe these results echo the appetite for risk of each team's owners. Some would rather aim for the occasional big win where as others want a consistent winning team but aren't willing to take the risks of crashing and rebuilding. And you have to take your hat off to the Spurs and the Lakers ownership and management for such high levels of consistent performance.

This being a Tableau viz there is of course the option to interact with it, so please go ahead and click on teams to compare, or change the period of time you're looking at. What else can you find?

Below is a screen shot comparing some of the key teams in the 'post Jordan' era.

Since 1999, San Antonio have shown an other-worldly ability to be consistently good, year after year after year with an unending supply of talented and overlooked players*. Other teams like Cleveland have seen their stock rise only to fall off a cliff when a key player departs.

My team is Chicago, I'm just hoping for an injury free season in 2013/14.

* @datajedininja has done an analysis of all the players the Spurs have drafted since 1966, check it out here 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Hopometer - Visualising beer strength and bitterness

This week's blog post is a team effort and is all about beer! My wife Heather (@highline_online) is, like me, a big craft beer fan so we decided to collaborate on this viz all about beer strength and bitterness. Plus Heather has much better design skills than me.....

Below are a bunch of mostly very hoppy beers (I love me some hops) plotted by their alcohol content and bitterness as measured in International Bittering Units (or IBUs). Introducing The Hopometer.....

Most of the beers come from a list of the top 100 most bitter beers in the world compiled by And to give some perspective we've also added some of favourite slightly less hoppy beers, along with some popular mass market 'beers'. Are any of your favourites on the viz?

We had to strip out some beers from the top 100 because the massive amount of clustering between 8% and 10% alcohol and 100 and 130 IBU's was making things a bit crowded. And we used a log scale for the same reason. You'll see in this range the beers are mostly from the US, and Double or Triple IPA's dominate in that section.

Here's what says about IBU, I particularly like the Example...

IBU - International Bittering Units
This is a measure of the actual bitterness of a beer as contributed by the alpha acid from hops. Because the apparent bitterness of a beer is subjective to the taste of the drinker and the balancing malt sweetness of the beer this is not always an accurate measure of the "hoppiness" of a beer. But, generally speaking, beers with IBUs of less than 20 have little to no apparent hops presence. Beers with IBUs from 20 to 45 are the most common and have mild to pronounced hops presence. Beers with IBUs greater than 45 are heavily hopped and can be quite bitter.
Not knowing that the barleywine had an IBU of 68, Rachel took a big swig from the glass then twisted up her face as the hops assaulted her taste buds.

For more info on IBU's the are loads of places to look on the web, but this is a good start
All that vizing has made me thirsty.....

Sources:,, general googling....

Quick shameless plug. Heather runs a record label Highline Records, and this is the latest release by The Ralfe Band: