Could your favorite NBA team run a hotel?

Calculating the precise star rating of every franchise before the Orlando Bubble

Disney’s Grand Floridian. Photo credit: Flickr user: mrkathika (Michael Gray) Wantagh, New York, USA

This week, the NBA announced their plan to restart the 2019-20 season in Orlando. Teams will enter a bubble, submit to a variety of daily medical tests, and turn Fortress Disney into a summer camp featuring the best basketball players in the world.

Players will play in front of empty stadiums for the privilege of basketball glory and early access to the MCU.

My favorite of the leaked logistics? The NBA’s allocation of Disney resorts to the teams included in this truncated season.

Whitney Medworth at SB Nation wrote an extensive guide on each of these properties, highlighting the perks and pitfalls of each locale. While she explains that all of these resorts would be a lovely spot to vacation, I do see a potential correlation between a team’s winning percentage and the quality of their accommodations.

I understand why the NBA would want to mitigate mutiny by placing the teams who appear most likely to stick around longer in the nicer hotels.

Just ask noted NBA fan John Milton, who covered this topic in Paradise Lost in 1667. He wrote:

The mind is its own place, and in it selfCan make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.

This doubles as a great Instagram caption for a bored NBA player tired of room service cheeseburgers.

I wonder if there’s a more scientific way to assign lodging to the teams. Tripadvisor scores hotels by an overall rating out of five, but they break out metrics for four key criteria: cleanliness, service, value, and location. I took this framework and built out a scoring model for each of the thirty NBA franchises, pulling all data from our pals at Basketball Reference.

Like the beleaguered travel critic in Ocean’s 13, we seek to separate the five-star diamond class from the roach-infested motels.

Cleanliness: Making a mess and cleaning up after yourself

We’re getting into the grime for our first rating.

Basketball teams create mess in two ways; they sloppily turn the ball over, or they clank open shots and knock the ball everywhere. A team scoring highly in cleanliness must reduce their turnovers while cleaning up their own messes on the offensive boards.

To calculate a star rating for cleanliness, I pulled the turnover percentage—Basketball Reference’s estimated share of possessions that end with a turnover per 100 possessions—and the offensive rebound rate (ORB%) for each team. ORB tracks the percentage of available offensive rebounds that the team ends up grabbing, which we’re taking as a sign that a team can tidy up any bricks.

The Denver Nuggets take home our top spot as the cleanest squad in the league. Denver posted the second-best ORB rate in the NBA, buoyed by the now-svelte Serbian Nikola Jokic and his 2.4 offensive rebounds a game, and added a turnover rate that landed in the 75th percentile.

Somehow, the New York Knicks showed up as the second-cleanest squad. Driven by the league-best offensive rebound rate and a middle-of-the-pack turnover rates, the Knicks shocked the world and produced positive data in one of these articles.

You might want to pack an extra hand sanitizer if you’re the Hawks or the Heat, though. These teams tied for a rare 0 star score in cleanliness, driven by poor results in both metrics. While neither finished last in ORB% or TOV%, Atlanta produced the second-largest turnover rate (bigger is not better) and the Heat had the fourth-lowest offensive rebound rate.

Location: Positioning yourself in the right spots on the court

Users on Tripadvisor provide insight into the quality of a hotel’s location, which for Disney’s portfolio often means ease of access to the parks and smart placement. Location might translate easiest for this highly cartographical sport, where efficiency and regions with increased point values map perfectly to any “how fast to the EPCOT food court” query.

We’re defining premium real estate as the modern offense, the share of shots taken 0-3 feet away from the rim and anything beyond the arc.

You’ve already guessed the winners here. Houston, with an offense built out of data science and beard oil, easily wins the location rating with 79% of their field goal attempts happening in the prime real estate. Their shot chart looks exactly like James Hardens’s facial hair.

Brooklyn came in second in this rating, powered by the modern offensive system that Kenny Atkinson built during his tenure with the Nets. The Knicks could quickly turn their Baltic Avenue location into Park Place by snapping up the free-agent coach Atkinson.

Famously reliant on midrange scoring, the San Antonio Spurs come in last for prime location with only 55% of their shots in ideal locations. Consider DeMar DeRozan the interstate blocking access to Space Mountain that gets roasted on Tripadvisor, as he posted the absolute-lowest percentage of shots taken beyond the arc among similar players, per Cleaning the Glass.

Service: Assisting others in their day-to-day

Picture your five-star hotel. Are you carrying your bags up yourself, parking your own car, or dribbling through a crowd of defenders to fling up a contested shot?

Of course not.

You’re guided by the warm embrace of polite hospitality, set up perfectly by a support system that empowers you to live your best life. NBA players might not leave a mint on their teammates’ pillow, but they can assist on made field goals. We can quantify the teams’ level of service by understanding the percentage of made field goals that were assisted.

The Phoenix Suns produced an NBA-best 66% assist rate for their made field goals, with the Warriors slightly behind in second place. Despite their super-powered backcourts, the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers had the lowest assist rates in the league. I suppose when your best players can pull up from 35 feet and drop casual 60 point nights, there’s no need to worry about turndown service.

Value: How far does your dollar go?

Is this hotel deserving every bit of your hard-earned dollars? What’s the ROI on the owners’ millions?

While we might debate upgrading to the Mickey Deluxe package, NBA teams hand out generational wealth to players each year with wildly divergent returns on those investments. To mirror Tripadvisors’ value rating, I pulled all of the cap data for each team and calculate the cost per actual win; this wouldn’t necessarily penalize cheap teams for stinking, but definitely highlights the overpaid and underperforming.

And man, do we have some stinkers. The Warriors paid for a Finals team but got a lottery one after a series of brutal injuries, paying a league-highest $8.7M per win. Wins leaders like the Bucks and Lakers do top the list in cheapest cost per win, but overachievers like the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder do well.

Tier One: The Five and Four Star Palaces

Initially, I wanted to pull a specific hotel analogue for each team, but my research on Tripadvisor showed that every single Disney hotel manages to be insanely expensive and also incredibly well-reviewed. No property listed as official scored less than 4 stars, and even when breaking out for the four metrics, the Mouse still barely dips below 4 in anything other than value.

Instead, let’s aggregate all of our results and assign a star grade to each NBA franchise, rounding up for simplicity’s sake.

Here’s the cream of the crop, the elite of the elite, the most hospitable of NBA teams:

Shockers abound. Eight of the nine teams included will be headed to Orlando, but what are the Charlotte Hornets doing in this collection? Charlotte landed in the middle of the pack for cleanliness and location, but struggled immensely for value; there’s a price to paying Terry Rozier and Nic Batum beyond just cap considerations. They salvaged their rating with 4.5 truly excellent service stars, as nearly 64% of Charlotte’s field goal makes were assisted.

Tier Two: Your Midrange Options

Here, you’re looking at the affordable if unspectacular, the solid choices.

Teams in this range either produced similar results across all four categories, like the Grizzlies, or vacillated wildly between one and five stars like the Houston Rockets. Houston put up the league’s best location score but the second-worst service score; I’d say their closest comp is a hotel right next to the airport that serves a continental breakfast of old cottage cheese.

I’d also like to shout out the Heat, who nearly rode a wonderful service record into elite status before getting blindsided by their F health grade.

Tier Three: Abandoned Mattress on the Sidewalk

And, finally, we bring in the statistical sadness. Three franchises didn’t even get one star.

No surprise to see the Knicks and Cavaliers, but what are the Orlando-bound Kings, Spurs, Trail Blazers, and Thunder doing here?

  • The Thunder’s highest score came in value, at 2.9 stars. Everything else? Under 1.

  • San Antonio couldn’t overcome their antiquated shot selection. Location, location, location.

  • Sacramento, like the Thunder, boasts little other than solid value. You’re getting exactly what you pay for.

  • Portland’s a clean hotel, but they have the worst service in the entire league. You can eat off the floor, which is good since the waiters don’t give you plates.

If you want to check out the star ratings yourself, I broke out the data in this link.

Email me at [email protected] if you strenuously disagree with my scientific analysis, or just want to check in on my mental state after writing essentially hotel fan fiction.

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