I had a few dialogues over the weekend with people about why on earth Phoenix is doing so well so far in the season. Looking at it a little bit more closely, “good luck” seems to be a big part of the answer. All the research shows that the best predictor of future performance is point differential, not win-loss record. If two teams meet ten times, and each time Team A wins by one point, the message you should take away is that Team A and Team B are closely matched and either could win the next matchup. It’s just bad luck that Team A is 0-10 in the matchup. And even though Phoenix’s 10-2 record is tied for best in the league, their +4.1 point differential is worse than what we’ve seen from Dallas, Denver, Portland, Boston, Milwaukee, Atlanta, or Orlando indicating that based on what we’ve seen so far we shouldn’t expect Phoenix to seriously contend for a championship.
By contrast, the surprisingly good Hawks look upon closer examination to be . . . surprisingly good pairing their 10-2 record with a second-best-in-the-league point differential. Common sense tells me that when Orlando and the Lakers have the opportunity to play more games with all their starters in place, Atlanta will slip. But so far they just seem to be a really good team.