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Current Warriors vs. 73-Win Warriors: Setting the Odds and Betting on the NBA2k Sim

May 15, 2019 12:08 PM EDT
Credit:

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30), forward Kevin Durant (35), forward Draymond Green (23) and center DeMarcus Cousins (0).

A month ago I walked into the playroom of my mansion in Connecticut and my NBA2k-obsessed 12-year-old son asked me, “What was Dominique Wilkins like as a player?”

“Huh?”

“What was he good at?”

On the big screen I could see the near-life version of Nique bouncing up and down.

“Dunking, that’s it.”

“OK, good to know. I’ve got a button for that.”

And just like that, we were in a NBA2k rabbit hole. We made lineups that included Wilt Chamberlain and John Stockton against an all Bulls team that included Artis Gilmore and Scottie Pippen. At one point we had a five-on-five in which Magic was passing to Shaq, who was posting up Bill Russell. We were arguing about the virtues of Oscar Robertson vs. Russell Westbrook and, of course, LeBron vs. Michael.

TV empires have been built on less than this. Much less. And we were playing the hypothetical out in real-time on a big-ass TV in a room that I’m usually only allowed in if I want to switch the laundry.

Of course, when I mentioned this to my friends at The Action Network, it did lead to another, more important question.

Can we make a spread for games like these?

The answer: Yes, yes we can.

And thus, a game was born. We pick a match-up. Our resident model, oddsmaking, projection genius Sean Koerner creates a point spread and then we play it out.

It’s that simple, the actual answer to the never-ending debates.

Our first match-up was obvious: The 73-win, 2015-16 Warriors against this season’s Golden State juggernaut. The non-Durant version vs. the Durant version, basically. We chose the teams on Friday morning, after Kevin Durant had been ruled out for Game 6 against the Rockets and the conversation turned to, “Are the Warriors better without KD?”

It’s idiotic, of course. The best player in the world with the wingspan of a Pterodactyl is going to make any team better. But chatter has only intensified after the Durant-less Warriors took care of the Rockets in Game 7 and cruised past the Blazers on Tuesday night.

Now, with the help of NBA2k and Koerner, we could actually answer the question. What in the name of Stephen A. Smith is going on here?!

This was Koerner’s take before we simulated any games:

“I initially made the current Golden State team a three-point favorite. Going into this I felt like the right approach was to establish a starting line, play out this game a handful of times, and allow that to sharpen my initial guess.”

“The 15-16 Warriors team is one of the best of all time. But the current team would still probably beat them, at least on paper, due to largely having the same core of players in their prime plus Durant in his prime. I wasn’t sure if the game would have any home-court advantage and I also wasn’t sure how high/low the scoring environment would be in the video game.”

On Saturday, Koerner simulated the game four times. In Game 1, the 73-win Warriors won easily, 124-116. In the middle of the second game, Koerner slacked me, “Have a tight 71-71 game in the third going on. Setting live lines on it as we speak. May have some buddies over later to bet on it.”

Later that afternoon, I started simulating games, as well. Honestly, it was electric. I truly had no idea what was going to happen. The only given was Harrison Barnes looking lost, making mistakes and getting outgunned by Kevin Durant. Klay Thompson was on legit fire … for both teams. He scored 10 of the first 17 points for the 15-16 Warriors and shot 6-of-6 form 3 in the first half for the current Warriors. Through the third he was shooting at an 89% clip.

It turns out computer Klay is not all that different than human Klay. Kind of hard to read and almost literally automatic. Check out this sequence back-to-back of Klay.

Later that day Koerner slacked me that the current Warriors ultimately won his second game, and two more after that by an average of 18 points per game. The story was the same in Millman Playroom stadium, with the current Warriors handily winning by 21.

In total, we had simulated five games, with four easy wins by the KD-led Warriors. Koerner had what he needed to make his numbers.

  • 15-16 Warriors +7.5
  • 
18-19 Warriors -7.5
  • Over/under: 221.5

This is where the gambling comes in. On Sunday afternoon, while my wife was out doing what she likes to do most on Mother’s Day, be alone, my 12-year-old and I simulated one more game.

We knew the line was Current Warriors -7.5. We knew they had dominated the first five games of the “series.” But we are suckers for an underdog story. And nostalgic for Harrison Barnes’ glory days. So we decided to “bet” the 15-16 Warriors. And they did not disappoint.

Barnes scored five of his team’s first seven points. While the first game featured lights-out shooting, the second game had more hypothetical bricks than a proposed border wall. Clearly, that favored the old-time Warriors. And, of course, old-time Klay. who showed the kind of emotion that comes with an efficient 8-of-11 shooting night for a team-high 20 points.

Final score: 15-16 Warriors 120, Current Warriors 102.

Together, my 12-year-old and I celebrated. Family time is the best.

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