So you wanna be a Champion - Update #1

  • By Kris Burley, Day 109, 2026

The last article outlined some initial metrics which appear to support whether a team is a true contender, however as pointed out these are mixture of correlation and causation.

Based on this, I've performed so supplementary analysis, with a view to split the methodology between:

- Leading indicators (before the season starts)
- Lagging indicators (in season statistical performance)

These could be interpreted as

Leading = have I built my team to be a true contender
Lagging = has my team performed like a true contender

I have included an additional 2 points of consideration to the analysis and then categorised all measures into those two categories. These points of consideration are prior season success and validation of ORTG vs DRTG (as opposed to net rating)

Prior Season Success

One of the reasons why I thought that the Kangz would not be successful in 2025, but would be in 2026 was their prior playoff performance. They had been dispatched from the 2022, 2023 and 2024 playoffs in the second round, all 3 series lost with a 1-4 record.

To validate this, I have looked at the prior 6 champions and looked at their prior season success to establish a correlation.

Dragons 2025
2024 2nd Seed: Lost Conf Finals (3-4)

Huskies 2024
2023 2nd Seed: Lost 2nd Round (2-4)
2022 1st Seed: Lost Finals (3-4)
2021 2nd Seed: Lost Conf Finals (3-4)

Warriors 2023
2022 2nd Seed: Lost Conf Finals (3-4)
2021 4th Seed: Lost 2nd Round (3-4)

Thunder 2022, 2021
2020 1st Seed: Lost Conf Finals (3-4)

Stars 2020
2019 3rd Seed: Lost 1st Round (2-4)

Given that the 2019 season is pre expansion, I will conveniently ignore this one. Based on this snapshot, it would appear that prior season success is a good leading indicator for following success. Obviously this needs to consider team consistency from one season into the next, what opposing team have done, but it does show that it is a consideration.

Ortg and Drtg vs Net Rtg

As an additional data point, I looked into whether Ortg or Drtg performance was more relevant that Net Rating.

It was not. Based on this, I will continue to use Net Rtg.

Inclusion of Prior Season success

Based on the prior analysis, 3 tiers were constructed. How do the teams in these tiers look with the inclusion of prior season success.

Tier 1

Kings: 1st Seed: Lost Finals (2-4)
Bullets: 2nd Seed: Lost Conf Finals (3-4)
Huskies: 3rd Seed: Lost 1st Round (3-4), 1st Seed: Won Championship (4-3)

This largely cements the teams in this tier and differentiates the Huskies from the Kangz/Bullets and puts them at the bottom of the tier.

Tier 2

Jailbirds: 2025 - 5th Seed: Lost 1st Round (3-4), 2024 - 2nd Seed: Lost Conf Finals (3-4)
Warriors: 2025 - 6th Seed: Lost 2nd Round (1-4), 2024 - 3rd Seed: Lost 2nd Round (3-4)
Fireballs: 2025 - 4th Seed: Lost Conf Finals (3-4), 2024 - 7th Seed: Lost 1st Round (2-4)

The Warriors slip to bottom of the tier with no conference/finals appearances in the past 2 years, especially with the poor performance in the 2025 second round. Jailbirds look ok on paper but the relevance of 2024 with an ageing team reinforces that they are not part of Tier 1. The Fireballs have the most recent success but they are from the West.

Tier 3

Jacks: 2025 - 1st Seed: Lost 2nd Round (3-4), 2024 - 4th Seed: Lost 2nd Round (2-4)
Mustangs: 2025 - 7th Seed: Lost 1st Round (0-4), 2024 - DNP
Blizzards: 2025 - 6th Seed: Lost 1st Round (1-4), 2024 - DNP

The addition of prior season success further validations the addition of this measure. The Jacks were clearly the only team capable of jumping a tier and the results above reinforce this.


Based on the above I have updated the methodology of true contender based on the following:

Leading Indicators - Qualitative

- One of two team leaders has a '5 star' personality
- Minimum 1 All JBL player
- 2 players that can score in excess of 20ppg
- Team has previously been to the conference or JBL finals in the prior 2 season

Lagging Indicators - Quantitative

- Net Rating is top 3 in the league
- 2 players are scoring in excess of 20ppg

In the next update on 'So you wanna be a Champion' I will be looking at playoff XP at the player level.