Or, Another Entry In the ongoing Canis Hoopus Death Match Soap Opera: Optimism vs. Pessimism, Red Pill or Blue
It seems to me that there are 2 prongs to the argument for optimism: first that this team has more talent and potential than last year's crew, and second that this year's team is competing better than last year's. I want to take a quick look at that second prong to see if its true that this year's team is more competitive. Follow....
First, I admit that this isn't statistically rigorous. Just a quick thumbnail attempting to answer the question. Let's recall that last year, the team was without Kevin Love for the relevant stretch of games, and Al Jefferson was still in recovery mode from his knee. This year, the team has played almost the whole season without Jonny Flynn and Martell Webster--how much weight to give those injuries is up to you. Anway, through 26 games this year, the team has won 6 games, vs. 4 wins through 26 games last year, so that's a slight improvement. Now to the losses. I broke them up into 4 groups--"close" losses (1-5 points), "competitive" losses (6-10 points), "bad" losses (11-20 points) and "blowout" losses (over 20 points). Here's the data:
1-5: 5 losses
6-10: 4 losses
11-20: 7 losses
20+: 6 losses
1-5: 3 losses
6-10: 10 losses
11-20: 3 losses
20+: 4 losses
While there were more really close losses last season through 26 games than this year, I think from the data you would have to conclude that this year's team has been more competitive. Many more under 10 point losses, and fewer bad losses and blowouts. Now, I didn't parse strength of schedule or anything like that, so YMMV. Another way to consider this is to look at the average loss in each season. Last year to this point, the average loss was by 14.18 points, this year its been 13.35, so not a huge difference. I think this isn't as useful as the above, since the average can be so thrown by a couple of games.
At any rate, last season they won their 27th game, which kicked off their "best" stretch of the season in which they went 9-16 over 25 games, culminating in that shining 4 game win streak at the end of January/start of February. Of course following that was the death march of losses: 2-28 to close the season. This year's story is yet to be written, but I do think that the optimists are right insofar as the team has been better to start this season than it was to start last season.
KEEP HOPE ALIVE!