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Posted by By Jon Loomer on May 17, 2006 1:24 p.m. ET


We're running a Drive to the Finals league for NBA.com employees. This league includes the likes of Jeff Dengate, Rob Peterson, and John Schuhmann, all self-labeled experts who bring you picks on a daily basis. Dengate was dominating, up until recently when he slipped to third place. Rob finds himself in fifth, John in sixth, and I... Well, I'm below all of them.

Technically, I am currently in eighth place of 11 people. Technically, this is nothing to cry over. Unfortunately, the three people I lead have either failed to make a single pick all post-season or haven't showed up for the past week plus. I even trail a couple of people who have missed a day or more of picks.

When you check the standings, there's a big, fat (or would it be "small, skinny?") 14 in the fifth column of scores next to my name. That's right, I've scored 14 points so far this week. Did I forget to pick a day? I wish. I haven't missed a single day. I'm dedicated like that.

No, I picked Flip Murray and his 11 PRA on Monday. The encore? Nenad Krstic and his three PRA on Tuesday. Look. If I need to follow grammatical rules to type your output in word form rather than numerical because the production you managed falls below 10, that's a problem.

So I've been getting roasted today. The boys are having some fun with me, and I deserve every word of it. My picks stink. Period.

Now, I hate being one of those people who makes excuses, but you know what? The excuses here are just too beautiful to ignore. We're talking conspiracy level excuses here, people. I'm convinced the President is involved.

I'm not just making bad picks here, folks, I have brought this skill to an art form. To pull this off you can't just pick the worst player available. That's too easy. What I have decided to do is pick through the players available, make sure to follow the strategy that I and all "experts" are following, and then find the one player who is about to have a horrendous night.

It's not easy, so don't try this at home. We go beyond the obvious here. You know about the injuries, minutes, foul trouble, etc. I dig deeper. Ate some bad fish last night? Bonus. Can't find his lucky socks? Cha-ching. Put his contact lenses in inside out? You, my friend, are my pick for the day!

To support any good conspiracy theory, you have to do some research. What I found astounded me. I compared the PRA for the players I chose on their particular night to shine to their average PRA's in the playoffs and regular season. We're talking 24 total picks, so a nice sample size from which we can begin making allegations.

The results? On 19 of these 24 nights, I managed to choose a player on a day in which he played below his season average. On six of those days, I chose a player who finished with a PRA that was at least 10 below his average. Four times at least 15 below his average.

Don't ignore the facts, people. On only five days did I mess up and pick a player who actually exceeded his season average PRA. On three of those days, that added production was under 5.0. Only once -- Elton Brand's 52 PRA debacle on 5/8 -- did I exceed a player's season average by more than 6.8.

Stop rolling your eyes. There is something to this. If not a conspiracy, there is a jinx in here that you may be able to take advantage of. Let's take a look at some of my recent picks in this league:

Date Player Season PRA Playoff PRA My PRA (My PRA - Season PRA)
4/22 Brad Miller 27.5 14.7 5 -22.5
4/23 Michael Redd 32.6 34.2 17 -15.6
4/24 Carmelo Anthony 34.1 30.4 22 -12.1
4/25 Gilbert Arenas 38.9 44.8 42 3.1
4/26 Pau Gasol 33.9 30.0 28 -5.9
4/27 Vince Carter 34.3 41.9 32 -2.3
4/28 Kobe Bryant 45.2 39.3 29 -16.2
4/29 Jason Kidd 29.0 29.3 24 -5.0
4/30 Shawn Marion 35.4 33.7 33 -2.4
5/1 Andre Miller 26.2 28.0 29 2.8
5/2 Steve Nash 33.5 33.9 29 -4.5
5/3 T.J. Ford 23.1 23.0 19 -4.1
5/4 Jermaine O'Neal 32.0 30.2 27 -5.0
5/5 Mike Bibby 29.4 25.7 26 -3.4
5/6 Lamar Odom 29.6 35.0 19 -10.6
5/7 Dirk Nowitzki 38.3 39.8 34 -4.3
5/8 Elton Brand 37.4 38.5 52 14.6
5/9 Larry Hughes 23.6 17.8 16 -7.6
5/10 Sam Cassell 27.2 28.9 34 6.8
5/12 Corey Maggette 25.2 22.2 26 0.8
5/13 LeBron James 45.0 45.4 41 -4.0
5/14 Richard Jefferson 32.1 30.4 23 -9.1
5/15 Flip Murray 15.8 14.5 11 -4.8
5/16 Nenad Krstic 21.0 22.3 3 -18.0
  750.3 733.9 621 -129.3

Brad Miller and Michael Redd started things off by having their worst games of the season. If I had the time, I would go in and find out how many times a player got his lowest playoff output on the day I picked him. I'm quite certain that number would be high. If I had even more time, I would investigate how often a player rebounded from that performance to have his defining playoff game.

But my involvement in this research assignment has reached a level that can only be labeled "pathetic." And so, I stop.

But, I'll leave you with this: I am picking Tim Duncan tonight, Chris Kaman tomorrow, and Tony Parker (if the Spurs win tonight) on Friday. If I were you, I'd pick someone else. You see, I am taking one for the team. By taking these players, you can be assured that they will stink. As the anti-Expert I make your pick that much easier.

And don't be surprised if the President of the United States conspicuously appears at one of these games to make sure that the conspiracy is carried out.