Meadow Muffins of the Mind

The droppings of some guy's imagination.

Tag: Jazz

Unlocked … 2012 NBA Season Report #10 – Final Report and Playoff Preview

First as you have probably seen from the last couple of entries, people still have Cystic Fibrosis – blah blah blah – click here to help

FINALLY.  The best of the playoff seasons is upon us.  Of course this was after a truly execrable last couple of weeks of the season where teams were playing scrubs shamelessly while still charging full prices.  The Tuesday Celtics-Heat game was a particular atrocity.  So the rankings could be skewed a tiny bit.  But whatever, the playoffs are here and looks at the series are coming up … how have the rankings changed since we last did this?

  1. (2) Bulls (50-16)
  2. (4) Spurs (50-16)
  3. (1) Thunder (47-19)
  4. (3) Heat (46-20)
  5. (5) Sixers (35-31)
  6. (10) Nugggets (38-28)
  7. (6) Celtics (39-27)
  8. (8) Hawks (40-26)
  9. (7) Grizzlies (41-25)
  10. (15) Clippers (40-26)
  11. (13) Mavericks (36-30)
  12. (9) Lakers (41-25)
  13. (14) Knicks (36-30)
  14. (16) Pacers (42-24)
  15. (11) Magic (37-29)
  16. (12) Rockets (34-32)
  17. (18) Suns (33-33)
  18. (20) Jazz (36-30)
  19. (19) Bucks (31-35)
  20. (17) Blazers (28-38)
  21. (21) Timberwolves (26-40)
  22. (22) Warriors (23-43)
  23. (24) Hornets (21-45)
  24. (23) Raptors (23-43)
  25. (25) Kings (22-44)
  26. (29) Wizards (20-46)
  27. (27) Pistons (25-42)
  28. (28) Nets (22-44)
  29. (26) Wizards (21-45)
  30. (30) Bobcats (7-59)

It’s the playoffs!  So – quick looks at your first round series are in order:

  • (E1) Bulls v (E8) Sixers – This is #1 vs #5.  What a matchup!  However, the Sixers have really stumbled down the stretch, but the metrics have been strong as the Sixers blowouts early still have resonance.  The Bulls with Derrick Rose’s dicey injury situation could be great – but they could be tricky.  Defense will be the order of the day (#2 v #3) and neither team is great from outside.  I can’t imagine the Bulls losing this but the Sixers match up well with them, better than they do with the Heat.  Bulls in 7
  • (E4) Celtics v (E5) Hawks – #7 vs #8.  Interestingly here the lower seed has home court.  The Celtics have been very strong down the stretch.  But so have the Hawks, both in the Top 6 since the trade deadline.  The Celtics have serious issues with rebounding and size, but the Hawks are 26th in offensive rebounding, so it is hard to read that as a huge edge.  The games have all been close in their head to head.  Really more of a coin flip than the experts purport.  Hawks in 7
  • (E2) Heat v (E7) Knicks – #4 vs #13 Fun series with two defensively adept teams.  Anthony and LeBron will be a great matchup and the Novak/Smith bench for the Knicks could explode.  But it is hard to envision the Knicks winning in Miami.  This is a fun series but Heat in 6
  • (E3) Pacers v (E6) Magic – The Pacers have the 5th best record in the league but merely #14 in rankings.  This describes the Pacers in general – a nice team, lot of good players, but is this the juice to win a playoff series?  The Magic will be motivated with no Dwight Howard and “nobody believing in them”. Did the Pacers more competitive than it seemed result vs Chicago last year inform them or will the Magic’s winning experience do it?  Without Glen Davis, the Magic just don’t have enough players now – good or otherwise.  Pacers in 5
  • (W1) Spurs v (W8) Jazz – Spurs can flat out score, but the Jazz can attack with size.  Will the Spurs lose in round 1 again?  Frankly I’d have more faith in the Jazz if their defense was not so mediocre.  Against the buzz saw offense of San Antonio it is tough sledding.  Spurs in 5
  • (W4) Grizzlies v (W5) Clippers – Grizzlies are a sexy pick to upset the apple cart.  However this is not last year’s Zach Randolph.  Meanwhile the Clippers just have more better players and one of the game’s best all around players and leaders.  Look how the Hornets stole 2 games against the Lakers with Chris Paul and nobody – he is just that good.  In the playoffs, the stars play more.  Lob City is not done yet.  Clippers in 6
  • (W2) Thunder v (W7) Mavericks – Hard series to peg.  On paper, Thunder should rip through this.  In actuality, Dallas can throw a lot of junk D at them and make the Thunder really work for it.  But it won’t be enough.  Thunder in 7
  • (W3) Lakers v (W6) Nuggets – Denver has depth.  The Lakers don’t.  Denver has speed, and the Lakers have real issues with that.  But the Lakers have all the really good players here and their size and ability to dictate in the half court.  I hope Denver can make this fun.  I think the Lakers grind it out enough.  Lakers in 6

Unlocked … 2012 NBA Season Report #3

OK, OK … I’m done whining about the quality of basketball so far.  It is what it is – maybe the season will get better – but the season is unfolding in a compelling way.  How have the rankings changed since last week’s tome?  Here ya go (previous position in parentheses):

  1. (3) Heat (16-5)
  2. (1) Sixers (15-6)
  3. (2) Bulls (18-5)
  4. (4) Hawks (15-6)
  5. (6) Nuggets (14-6)
  6. (5) Thunder (16-4)
  7. (9) Mavericks (14-8)
  8. (10) Blazers (12-9)
  9. (13) Spurs (13-9)
  10. (14) Clippers (12-7)
  11. (7) Lakers (12-9)
  12. (19) Celtics (9-10)
  13. (16) Timberwolves (10-11)
  14. (17) Rockets (12-9)
  15. (15) Pacers (13-6)
  16. (8) Jazz (12-7)
  17. (11) Grizzlies (10-10)
  18. (12) Magic (12-8)
  19. (21) Bucks (9-11)
  20. (20) Hornets (4-17)
  21. (18) Suns (7-13)
  22. (22) Warriors (6-12)
  23. (24) Raptors (7-14)
  24. (23) Knicks (7-13)
  25. (25) Cavaliers (8-11)
  26. (26) Nets (7-13)
  27. (29) Wizards (4-17)
  28. (27) Kings (6-14)
  29. (28) Pistons (4-18)
  30. (30) Bobcats (3-18)

Some notes:

  1. The big mover in the right direction has been Boston.  Yeah, 9-10 is not oozing impressiveness, and the schedule has not been the most strenuous.  However, the dual wins over Orlando and spunky win over Indiana more than offset the toe stub against the Cavaliers.  Considering how few points they have scored all season, it is easy for storyline NBA writers to talk about their offensive woes and how their defense misses Kendrick Perkins.  As it turns out, their offensive woes are overrated – they are not very good offensively, but they have been this way for a while now with the snail like pace they operate at.  The Celtics, as usual, are a good TS% team – 7th in the league, but between their indifferent offensive rebounding and lousy turnover rate – the Celtics like last year still generate the fewest looks of any team in the league.  That said, the defense has risen since Paul Pierce has returned.  The defense now is 2nd in the league, the best of the non-Sixers (who have lapped the field so far in that department).  Really where the team misses Perkins perhaps and still needs to improve is its 15th ranked defensive rebounding.  However, the Celtics are back to sort of usual – they need scoring more than defense.
  2. One thing to note about Boston’s results is that it might be skewed by its results over Orlando who had sort of a worst week ever.  Aside from a good win at Indiana, the Magic have been littered with awesomely poor efforts in Boston, and hosting Boston in the 2nd half, and then at New Orleans (though the Hornets are not as bad as their record).  Yeah their offense has looked horrible lately, but they always look that way because of the number of 3s hoisted up.  The TS% is a bit worse than a year ago (12th from 9th) but the real dropoff has been defensively.  This year the Magic – though about the same defensively quantitatively a year ago – has slipped from elite to decent.  Considering that Dwight Howard is their only good defensive player – he might be the cause.  Is he checking out of the season the way Melo did?  Considering his willingness to answer questions about future destinations on the record a la Melo 2011, it is hard to say no.
  3. The Magic right now are just punching above its metric weight.  The plunge of the week though went to Utah who slipped on the basis of a 2-2 week, with a home loss to Toronto being particularly mystifying.  The Jazz have been the beneficiaries of great seasons from Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap.  The bigs have led the Jazz to the 3rd most frequent visitor to the foul line, and the league’s 2nd best offensive rebound rate.  The two guys are strong with the ball too – as the Jazz have been a very low turnover team.  Sure Devin Harris has struggled and was never a passing point guard to begin with, but the Jazz with their pounding offense – manage to take care of the ball since it does not move much.  The Jazz are near the bottom of the league from 3, so this is really a 1976 sort of strategy – but so far the quantity approach (3rd in the league in shot generation) has worked out.  Really the Jazz have had to win with offense as the defense is not very good – merely 16th in the league – and seems distinguished only by the number of fouls committed.  Some things don’t change.
  4. If the Magic are the bad of recent note, the Ugly, Pathetic, and Sad have to be the Phoenix Suns.  A mere two seasons ago we’re talking about a team that was a scant two wins from the Finals.  Obviously they chose to let Amare go for financial reasons or whatever – but all of the personnel moves since are amazing to regard in collective.  I mean, in 2010 this team averaged 108 points per average paced game.  To give a perspective, the best team in 2011 was Denver at 104.3 let alone this year’s Denver’s 100.6.  So the Suns were a full 8 points better than the elite teams of this season!  Of course the 2010 Suns were merely a sentence of one of the great paragraphs in NBA history – a six year stretch interrupted by a brief blip where the otherwise brilliant Steve Kerr thought they needed to change – some of the best, most well oiled offensive teams ever.  Indeed while Mike D’Antoni was there, the defense was actually fairly good – the lack of physicality and pace of play obscured the fact that the team did a good job defending without fouling and largely preventing high value shots.  But you look at last year – as the Suns added Josh Childress, and then Vince Carter and Marcin Gortat – and became a more conventional alignment  – the team slipped to a mortal 9th place.  Meanwhile without Stoudemire there to provide any meaningful resistance – the defense actually DID start to stink.  This year it’s just depressing how far it has fallen.  The Suns are a mere 17th in pace, and now a sick sad 23rd in offense.  A Steve Nash team 23rd in offense?  92 points per game?  SIXTEEN POINTS WORSE than 2010?  From first in true shooting to 19th.  It’s a shame – and it feels entirely self inflicted as Steve Kerr laughs maniacally from his TNT position.  I am not sure the old way would have won a title – but we know THIS way won’t, and it ends up being horrendous basketball to boot.  A team that cranks out 60 win seasons – even if you don’t think it is a particular sustainable model – is some SORT of contender?  Shouldn’t Phoenix have ridden that out?  It’s not like they were blown out in their chances to shine.  Sigh.

 

 

Dare to be Stupid – Deron Williams Too??? (and more)

At first glance, the thesis of Isiah Thomas pulling the strings on the Knicks makes sense.  The Knicks giving up 4/5 of their starting lineup for two players while the Nets gave up less for a better player – that is definitely something Isiah would do.  That cynicism aside, this deal is a bit more complicated.  While we’re at it, we’ll add Golden State into the soup:

The Nets get Deron Williams, Dan Gadzuric and Brandan Wright

The Warriors get Troy Murphy

The Jazz get Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, the Nets unprotected 2011 first round pick and a Top 7 protected pick from the Warriors.  (At this second, the Warriors have the 11th worst record in the league – so there is a half-decent chance the Jazz will get to cash this in.)

The Warriors get Troy Murphy’s expiring salary and were able to dump Brandan Wright – whom they had no plans for, and Dan Gadzuric’s toxic contract.  This was a cap clearing move – hooray them.

For the Jazz, this is a weird deal.  They had considerable leverage with Deron Williams – with Jerry Sloan leaving, it seemed they could have tried to rebuild in a manner to keep him around.  Yet they jumped ship on the deal.  That said, they got a ton back for him.  Devin Harris is a legitimate NBA starting point guard.  Whether he is very good or just solid good is up to the observer – but he is young and he can play.  Derrick Favors is a huge upside big with defensive ability – the Jazz bigs currently are solid upside bigs with no defensive ability.  It’s a complimentary skill set, which we like.

The Nets ultimately are placing a massive bet on the collective bargaining agreement.  If the cap is lowered, or a franchise provision is put in – the Nets will have made out great.  If Deron Williams can just leave willy nilly – this is a ho-ho-horrendous move.  The downside – as Stephen A Smith wrote in his usual “I wrote this in crayon” sort of way:

Next season is an entirely different matter, specifically because Williams will be in the last year of his deal and can opt out of his contract in 2012. The disaster scenario is staring Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov squarely in the face. It’s a scenario that could have Williams, from a vantage point just across the Hudson River, witnessing the resurgence of a Knicks franchise inching to within an All-Star point guard of legitimate championship contention. Now imagine Williams as the missing piece, with Gotham City clamoring for his arrival.

Actually – maybe he wrote it in magazine clippings like mass murderers on TV movies do, but I digress.  That is the obvious downside – that Deron Williams takes his show somewhere else because he does not want to wait for Team Rocka to show up in Crooklyn in two years.  But with the rumbles on the labor front – there is a better chance the Nets will keep Williams than there is that he will be anywhere else – and certainly better than the odds of Stephen A’s wet dream coming true.

The Nets are not close to a title from this move.  But then, neither are the Knicks despite bleating to the contrary.  (if they manned up and dealt Chauncey for Steve Nash, things might change)  But in the long run, they have a bit more movement potential than the Knicks do.  Either way, it will be interesting.

************************************************************************

A smaller trade of note, something more in the line of what you’d expect around the deadline, a pseudo-contender trying to position themselves:

Hornets get Carl Landry

Kings get Marcus Thornton and $$$

For the Hornets, they want to win as much as possible while they still have Chris Paul.  Carl Landry gives them a potentially huge weapon for their desperately thin frontcourt.  Off the bench, he was brilliant for the Rockets in the past – he can do that here.

For the Kings, they get a fun bench gunner and a lot of money.  I have nothing else to add.

2011 NBA Preview – The Dirty Dozen

Six hours and 10 minutes to go before the store opens for the 2011 season.  12 teams left to countdown.  At this point, we are left with all teams that have a more than theoretical chance to win it all, although certainly a lot has to go right for some of the entries.  The flotsam, is passed:

12. Houston Rockets (16th overall in 2010, 19th offense, 17th defense)

Yao is back, albeit in a highly controlled role.  Kevin Martin, almost as brittle, gives them the best shooting guard they’ve had since Tracy McGrady was still alive.  Last year Rick Adelman used smoke and mirrors to keep them in the playoffs.  Luis Scola is a very good complimentary player – they have a very deep lineup.  Really, this is a team that could make a huge run, if Yao can hold up and if he can become a serious contributor late in the season.  Big ifs, so I will leave them here out of respect for Adelman and the talent Darryl Morey has assembled.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: Yao and Kevin Martin give them the dynamic duo – and a healthy dynamic duo at that.

11. Milwaukee Bucks (15th overall in 2010, 23rd offense, 3rd defense)

They won last year with Brandon Jennings youth, Andrew Bogut making a mini-Leap, and the 3rd best defense in the league.  In particular, they forced turnovers at a high rate while being the best team in the league at not committing fouls.  This elevated them from their good but not awesome first shot defense into elite territory.  But their 23rd ranked offense needs to improve.  Enter Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette, offensively gifted forwards.  Chris Douglas-Roberts gives some wing options to that end.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: Brandon Jennings is as good as his first season hinted, Andrew Bogut is healthy, their defense stays strong while Maggette, one of the game’s most efficient scorers, can bring their offense up.

10. Chicago Bulls (18th overall in 2010, 28th offense, 11th defense)

He will not be healthy to start the season, but Carlos Boozer portends to give the Bulls the low post scorer they have yearned for.  With him and Joakim Noah, they now have a frontcourt to compete with the East’s best.  Derrick Rose is growing, and his work for Team USA portended well.  This was a bad offensive team, particularly deficient at just shooting the ball.  Carlos Boozer will help this along – even if the Bulls were aiming for a bigger prize.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: Their defense is as solid as it was by the end of last year, Derrick Rose makes the leap and Carlos Boozer provides that post presence they need to win playoff games.

9. Dallas Mavericks (12th overall in 2010, 10th offense, 12th defense)

It feels like we could write the same blurb about this team for the last 5 years.  Dirk is a GREAT player, and his cast is solid but old.  They are coached well largely, though it has not always manifested in the playoffs.  It feels like this lineup has a finite amount of time together.  All of these sentences applied in 2007, 2008 and apply today.  Rodrique Beaubois could be a terrific spark as a combo guard, and Tyson Chandler is a terrific pickup as a defensive big and usable contract.  But really where is the upside here?

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: Dirk is 2006-2007 Dirk, Caron Butler is 2008 Caron Butler and Jason Kidd in 2003 Jason Kidd.  Honestly this seems like a stuck outfit.

8. Oklahoma City Thunder (6th overall in 2010, 11th offense, 7th defense)

What???  America’s sweethearts are all the way down here?  Let’s be real.  They were abnormally healthy a year ago.  They play in a brutal division.  The question is whether they make the elite leap now or next year.  Honestly, this is guessing.  Durant is going to be an MVP favorite as he should be, and Russell Westbrook is fringe all-NBA.  That is real.  They will be better than they were last year, but it might not reflect in the standings.  This is a fascinating division.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: Durant and the kiddies are all growns up!

7.  Portland TrailBlazers (11th overall in 2010, 7th offense, 13th defense)

This is a very interesting team.  The Thunder burst into our consciousness last season.  The Blazers, with a similar assemblage of talent and growth curve, suffered a comically rash level of injury yet won 50 games.  They have the sheer amount of size to give the Lakers trouble – the length the Jazz lacked.  However, is the health just a glitch or a real problem?  They spent too much money on Wesley Matthews, although he is a fit for what they want to do.  This might be the season for them to make The Leap.  Andre Miller is a good trade asset, as he and Roy are a poor basketball fit.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: Greg Oden gets healthy and develops.  Brandon Roy stays healthy.  The young talent just grows up.

6. Utah Jazz (5th overall in 2010, 8th offense, 10th defense)

The Jazz cannot beat the Lakers.  They were not long enough last year.  They aren’t long enough now.  They lost Boozer, but fleeced Minnesota for Al Jefferson who is a more than capable replacement.  They lost Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver, but Gordon Hayward might be better than either by the end of the season.  Deron Williams is a great PG and Jerry Sloan is a great coach.  This team cannot beat the Lakers but they can beat anybody else.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: The Lakers suffer a fatal incommunicable illness.

5. San Antonio Spurs (4th overall in 2010, 9th offense, 9th defense)

The Spurs are on the downside.  But Manu Ginobli had a career year of sorts, and Tony Parker is playing for a contract.  Tiago Splitter and DeJuan Blair give them a real chance to keep Duncan’s minutes even more controlled.  The pieces are there for another big run – though it will take some help.  After all, they finished 4th last year!  The problem though is that their defense has slipped from the elite levels of their title years, and their offense is a little less efficient than it used to be.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: Duncan, Ginobli and Parker go in the wayback machine a little bit … and their defense gets back towards the 2007 standard.

4. Miami Heat (13th overall in 2010, 18th offense, 4th defense)

Obviously they will be better – I don’t think we need to go over why.  In fact on the wing they will be magical, and Chris Bosh is an elite big, although not a great strength big.  They have a lot of bigs – but very little quality outside of Bosh, though Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony are good team sorts.  They will have trouble defending elite size, and teams that have that can beat them in a short series.  They might win the regular season derby – but teams that can pound them inside could very well beat them.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: They can defend real size.

3. Orlando Magic (1st overall in 2010, 2nd offense, 1st defense)

HERE is real size.  The Magic are a great defensive team.  Their depth is spectacular with a second five (Duhon, Anderson, Bass, Gortat, Williams) that could win 20 game in the NBA.  Their size on the wings can at least present some resistance against the Heat’s wing elegance.  If a team cannot handle Dwight Howard with single coverage, that opens up their 3 point attack and they become very very hard to stop.  But if Howard is defended 1 on 1, look out.  They will be active looking for an impact guy via trade.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: Dwight Howard becomes seriously unguardable.

2. Boston Celtics (9th overall in 2010, 12th offense, 6th defense)

The Celtics can guard Howard 1 on 1.  That has driven the Magic crazy matchup-wise.  The Celtics rank was low in 2010, but they took care to avoid injury and sacrified playoff positions.  But their defense is elite, and with Garnett being healthier, and all the size they signed in the offseason the Celtics have the chance to be much more rugged than they were last year.  Rondo made The Leap last year, this team just has to manage minutes and be strong.  They might not beat the Heat or Magic, but there is no reason to start with that assumption.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: They win one more game.

Los Angeles Lakers (7th overall in 2010, 13th offense, 5th defense)

The Lakers won the title last year, with so much wrong.  Andrew Bynum was hurt so much (as usual), Derek Fisher was HORRIBLE at the point and Kobe Bryant was ailing.  Like the Celtics, the Lakers bet on health over wins in the second half of the year and it worked.  The West has a lot of good teams, but none remotely as good.  This breaks my heart to type, I cannot emphasize enough.  No team can match up with so many styles, and the length they have up front makes them an elite team.  They are a rugged strength team and it is hard to envision a team overpowering them.  Witness the Celtics’ moves in the offseason – it was clearly with this in mind.



 

NBA Playoffs Round 2 Picks

Well, this is hardly revelation. Indeed, two of the series are already underway with the Lakers and the Cavaliers each taking 1-0 leads. Fortunately I was not picking the Celtics or the Jazz to sweep, so no biggie. So the series (rankings based on final rankings):

Cavaliers (2) vs Celtics (10):  To their credit, the Celtics will not be scared.  Of course this is a rematch of a 2nd round series from 2007-2008 when the Celtics beat the Cavs in a series where nobody won on the road.  This time, the Celtics NEED to win in Cleveland.  Alas, they have blown leads all season and their defense, 6th in the league, has wavered at times when they’ve needed big results.  Cavs athleticism is a real problem.  Celts must stop the Cavs 3 – and Rondo has to dominate.  Cavs in 5

Magic (1) vs Hawks (8): In Round 1, Magic played the Bobcats – 2 stout defenses with only one good offensive team – hence a Magic sweep.  Now, two of the league’s best offenses but this time the Magic have the far superior defense.  The Hawks have struggled in head to head matchups, and the Magic depth and quality is hard to top.  Both teams are very efficient on offense without being great assist teams – Magic take high level shots, Hawks offensively rebound.  Really I don’t see how the Hawks win.  Magic in 5

Lakers (7) vs Jazz (5):  Kirilenko has to play.  The Jazz showed to be a lousy defense in round 1 against Denver.  However, Denver was lousier and the Jazz scored at will.  The Lakers size and length are a tough matchup for the Jazz’ bigs.  Without Kirilenko the Jazz must win this on offense, which they are solid at.  However, the Lakers defense, with Bynum is outstanding.  There is a reason the Jazz have had trouble winning.  However, the Lakers did not look great against the Thunder.  They really are vulnerable.  The offense has been pedestrian, or streaky at the very least.  This could be a good series.  Lakers in 7

Suns (3) vs Spurs (4):  What a history these teams have.  Granted, the Spurs have had the better of it, but such a style matchup.  The Spurs are much more offensive minded now than back in the day.  I mean then the offense was efficient, but now their offense is more important, as their defense is not “great” anymore at a mere 9th.  The Suns are wonderful offensively, and they did very well in head to head this season.  They came off of a good series against a feisty Portland team, giving them 3 of their 4 worst losses of the season.  If Suns can manage the size, they should finally break through this time.  Suns in 6

The Final Power Rankings and First Round Picks

Process here. Rankings there:

Rank Team W L Off Def Road SOS Rating
1 Magic 59 23 104.631 (2) 96.214 (1) 1.75 3.166 (30) 13.333
2 Cavaliers 61 21 104.39 (3) 97.272 (8) 1.75 3.173 (29) 12.041
3 Suns 54 28 107.908 (1) 102.168 (19) 1.75 3.276 (25) 10.766
4 Spurs 50 32 102.717 (9) 97.59 (9) 1.75 3.532 (17) 10.41
5 Jazz 53 29 103.122 (8) 98.527 (10) 1.75 3.586 (13) 9.93
6 Thunder 50 32 101.459 (11) 97.188 (7) 1.75 3.584 (14) 9.604
7 Lakers 57 25 101.152 (13) 97.091 (5) 1.75 3.658 (10) 9.47
8 Hawks 53 29 104.132 (4) 100.085 (15) 1.75 3.381 (23) 9.178
9 Nuggets 53 29 103.777 (6) 100.105 (16) 1.75 3.63 (12) 9.051
10 Celtics 50 32 101.165 (12) 97.178 (6) 1.75 3.258 (27) 8.995
11 Blazers 50 32 103.569 (7) 99.894 (13) 1.75 3.415 (21) 8.84
12 Mavericks 55 27 102.457 (10) 98.973 (12) 1.75 3.472 (20) 8.706
13 Heat 47 35 100.305 (18) 96.849 (4) 1.75 3.219 (28) 8.426
14 Bobcats 44 38 97.408 (24) 96.389 (2) 1.75 3.411 (22) 6.18
15 Bucks 46 36 97.553 (23) 96.462 (3) 1.75 3.258 (26) 6.098
16 Rockets 42 40 100.13 (19) 100.907 (17) 1.75 3.928 (2) 4.901
17 Raptors 40 42 103.869 (5) 104.906 (30) 1.75 3.499 (18) 4.211
18 Bulls 41 41 96.563 (28) 98.573 (11) 1.75 3.568 (15) 3.308
19 Hornets 37 45 100.59 (16) 102.895 (22) 1.75 3.741 (7) 3.187
20 Grizzlies 40 42 100.398 (17) 102.932 (23) 1.75 3.739 (8) 2.955
21 Pacers 32 50 97.062 (26) 99.996 (14) 1.75 3.473 (19) 2.288
22 Warriors 26 56 100.65 (14) 104.321 (28) 1.75 3.897 (3) 1.977
23 Kings 25 57 98.103 (22) 102.032 (18) 1.75 3.868 (4) 1.689
24 Knicks 29 53 100.646 (15) 104.386 (29) 1.75 3.346 (24) 1.355
25 Sixers 27 55 99.066 (20) 103.097 (24) 1.75 3.546 (16) 1.265
26 Wizards 26 56 97.101 (25) 102.302 (20) 1.75 3.633 (11) 0.183
27 Clippers 29 53 96.693 (27) 102.357 (21) 1.75 3.866 (5) -0.048
28 Pistons 27 55 98.198 (21) 104.067 (26) 1.75 3.68 (9) -0.439
29 Timberwolves 15 67 94.652 (29) 104.233 (27) 1.75 4.111 (1) -3.719
30 Nets 12 70 94.115 (30) 103.745 (25) 1.75 3.786 (6) -4.094

A key caveat: With the last month being tanking/amateur hour and good teams being judicious with managing players – I suspect the Lakers and Cavaliers are undervalued. That said, still revealing as we get to the end:

  • The Magic have been the best team the second half of the year.  Took the season for Vince Carter to get integrated, and their defense was lazy earlier in the season.  However, back at #1, just like last year.  Their #2 offense is hard to say has dropped off at all.
  • The Cavaliers got off slow too, but rolled down the stretch save for preserving LeBron a bit.
  • Lakers really staggered to the finish.  They seemed to be shoo-ins for the best record for a while.  They can still right the ship, but with a scant 9 games separating the #1 and $#8 seed in the West who knows?

Now for some quick picks for the first round (power ranking in parens) …

EAST:

Cavaliers (2) vs Bulls (18): Bulls played hard down the stretch, Rose is a terrific PG.  But Cavs defend the position well, and there is LeBron.  Cavs in 5

Celtics (10) vs Heat (13): Celtics after a 27-5 start, are a 23-27 team.  This is not a good team right now, though they have played in stretches.  Wade the best player on the floor.  Heat playing better D than Boston, but it’s a toss up.  Celtics in 7

Magic (1) vs Bobcats (14): Top 2 defenses in the league.  Alas the Magic have offensive skill.  Magic in 5.

Hawks (8) vs Bucks (15):  Hawks have been metsa metsa since a fast start.  However, their efficient size-based offense has been there all year.  Bucks are scrappy, tough defensively, but without Bogut the size match is too problematic.  Hawks in 6

WEST:

Lakers (7) vs Thunder (6): You read that right.  Thunder have the better body of work in terms of indicators even with 9 less wins.  Durant is a prime time scorer.  They are a good defensive club (7th).  The Lakers were the top defensive team when healthy though, and the wins and home court count for something.  If Kobe is ready and effective, they should advance.  But the Thunder will not be pushovers.  Lakers in 6

Nuggets (9) vs Jazz (5): Another upside down series.  Jazz hurt themselves badly slipping out of the home court position by getting whomped by Phoenix.  They have played better basketball than Denver all season, but Denver is still better against good teams (5th, Utah 11th).  And with home court, and Utah with an iffy Boozer, they get the edge despite their own myriad of issues.  Nuggets in 7

Mavericks (12) vs Spurs (4): Mavericks have been close game kings all season.  The Spurs have outpaced them in fundamentals most of the season.  Does this mean they will win?  Not sure.  Dallas won in 5 last year and the matchups favor them in a lot of places.  That said Manu is healthy, and we have not had that for a while.  Spurs in 6

Suns (3) vs Blazers (11):  Love this series.  Lots of matchups up front (Amare vs Aldridge), at the point (Nash vs Miller), subplots (Suns vs the slowest paced team in the game … will Roy be effective).  Suns have been the big overachievers in the league this season – their last two wins have been special.  They are as good offensively as ever.  Can they defend the paint though.  This could go any direction, but I just don’t think the Blazers have the offense without Roy at 90%.  Suns in 7

NBA Trade Deadline – The Final Rush

Well, after much speculation about whether it would be quiet or not – we got a real hoppin trade deadline after all!  So, as a follow up to two other posts on the topic, the final deals:

  • Bucks get Royal Ivey, Primoz Brezec and a 2010 2nd Rounder, Sixers get Jodie Meeks and Francisco Elson

Elson is a classic buyout candidate.  Useful big, solid defender, few other recognizable basketball skills.  Jodie Meeks has not shot lights out yet at the pro level, but for anyone who saw him score 54 against Tennessee, we know the kid can stroke it.  Sixers have been a lousy shooting team for years – they could use all the help they get.  The Bucks get a solid backup PG whom they are familiar with and a second round pick – which should be in the mid 30s, this year.  In other words, a deal that made sense for everyone, even if it is low profile.

  • Grizzlies get Ronnie Brewer, Jazz get protected 1st Rounder in 2011.

Jazz do not NEED Ronnie Brewer.  That said Brewer is an excellent defender and good efficient player even if he is not a good shooter.  He was good enough to start for a title contender.  The Jazz probably did not hurt themselves that much, but making a money dump when they are a legit Top 4 team in the West is a letdown.  The Grizzlies get themselves a legit rotation player and capable 6th man for what could be an outside the lottery 2011 draft pick.  Hard to get revved up about the Jazz philosophy here.

  • Kings get Dominc McGuire, Wizards get $$ and a conditional 2nd Rounder

Not much to say here.  Wizards get below the luxury tax line – and thus could keep Ilgauskas the rest of the year, and the Kings get to see a good defensive specialist sort for the rest of the season, no strings attached.  Let’s move on.

  • Bobcats get Theo Ratliff, Spurs get conditional 2nd Rounder

Another straight dump.  Ratliff could make the Bobcats rotation, maybe.  Not sure why I even listed this.

  • Bobcats get Tyrus Thomas, Bulls get Flip Murray, Acie Law and future 1st Rounder

Bulls get something for the perpetually intriguing Tyrus Thomas.  Law could be a useful backup PG, though with Derrick Rose there, it is bit of a Maytag repairman job.  Flip Murray is one dimensional – but a dimension who can catch fire (a poor man’s Eddie House).  The 1st Rounder from what I read could take a while to materialize – no earlier than 2012.  For the Bobcats, Thomas’ talent is undeniable – though he has been a knucklehead and shown the talent only in flashes.  He can walk after the season – for a playoff push, it’s a good free look for Charlotte.

  • Rockets get Jordan Hill, Jared Jeffries, Kevin Martin, Hilton Armstrong, The Knicks 1st Rounder in 2012 (Top 5 protected) and the option to switch picks with the Knicks in 2011 as long as it’s not #1.  The Knicks get Tracy McGrady and Sergio Rodriguez.  The Kings get Carl Landry, Larry Hughes and Joey Dorsey.

A lot to unpack here.  First, the Rockets did exceptionally well.  Kevin Martin is the perimeter guy they needed, and add him to Yao next season, it’s a great place to start.  Jordan Hill did not play in NY, but that does not mean he can’t be a fit in Houston.  Hilton Armstrong sucks, but hey, a big body is a big body.  Depending on what the Knicks do in free agency, the draft picks could have significant value also.

The Knicks did very well, getting Sergio Rodriguez, who has shown tons of ability in Spain, but it has not translated in the NBA.  One’d think he’d be a good fit with Mike D’Antoni.  They also cleared the salary, so suddenly they are in a position to be huge players in free agency next season.  Can they get two max guys?  Probably not, but they will be a lot better quickly.  It came at a cost, but this trade makes sense.

The Kings also did very well.  Kevin Martin is a very good player but not in their long term plans.  So they turned him into cap space and a young starting caliber big in Carl Landry.  Good all around.

  • Celtics get Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry.  Knicks get Eddie House, JR Giddens and Bill Walker

Celtics got a guy who can be an explosive 6th man for a guy who has been an explosive 6th man and 2 guys who don’t play.  Robinson has more skills than House and House has been meh this season.  Knicks get to move more salary and get a guy D’Antoni is fond of.  Overall a small sensible deal for the Celtics, who need to change their team energy.

Week 15 NBA Power Rankings: All Star Break, Here We Come

Fifteen weeks in the books.  We started with a dominant Celtics team which has been fading ever since, and a Cleveland Cavalier team of disparate parts which has jelled into something potentially very very special.  As always, the methodology is here:

Rank Team W L Off Def Road SOS Rating
1 Cavaliers 41 11 104.229 (3) 95.839 (2) 1.817 2.983 (27) 13.19
2 Lakers 40 13 101.999 (11) 96.132 (4) 1.585 3.546 (16) 10.999
3 Magic 35 17 102.04 (10) 96.185 (5) 1.817 3.176 (24) 10.848
4 Celtics 32 17 101.334 (12) 95.465 (1) 1.786 2.912 (29) 10.567
5 Jazz 31 18 102.502 (7) 98.505 (10) 1.5 4.077 (4) 9.573
6 Nuggets 34 17 103.885 (4) 99.291 (14) 1.716 3.173 (25) 9.483
7 Spurs 29 21 102.409 (9) 97.915 (9) 1.47 3.445 (20) 9.409
8 Hawks 32 17 103.765 (5) 99.792 (16) 1.643 3.771 (11) 9.387
9 Thunder 29 21 99.49 (18) 95.916 (3) 1.75 3.795 (9) 9.119
10 Suns 31 21 106.833 (1) 103.476 (28) 1.885 3.576 (15) 8.818
11 Mavericks 32 19 102.411 (8) 99.123 (12) 1.853 3.64 (14) 8.781
12 Blazers 30 23 103.467 (6) 101.042 (18) 1.651 3.781 (10) 7.856
13 Heat 24 27 100.033 (15) 99.002 (11) 1.784 4.081 (3) 6.896
14 Rockets 27 23 99.776 (17) 99.222 (13) 1.75 4.304 (1) 6.608
15 Bobcats 24 25 96.962 (23) 96.354 (6) 1.786 3.94 (5) 6.334
16 Raptors 28 23 104.353 (2) 104.459 (30) 1.784 3.496 (18) 5.175
17 Bucks 23 26 96.934 (24) 97.461 (7) 1.857 3.299 (22) 4.629
18 Hornets 27 25 100.704 (14) 101.93 (21) 1.885 3.194 (23) 3.853
19 Grizzlies 26 24 101.218 (13) 103.3 (27) 1.75 3.858 (7) 3.526
20 Knicks 19 31 99.916 (16) 101.712 (20) 1.61 2.91 (30) 2.724
21 Clippers 21 29 96.889 (25) 99.452 (15) 1.82 3.378 (21) 2.635
22 Bulls 24 25 94.549 (29) 97.774 (8) 1.857 3.871 (6) 2.504
23 Sixers 19 31 99.081 (19) 101.545 (19) 1.82 2.967 (28) 2.323
24 Kings 16 34 99.069 (20) 102.859 (24) 1.75 4.116 (2) 2.077
25 Warriors 13 37 98.797 (21) 103.07 (26) 1.82 3.81 (8) 1.357
26 Wizards 17 32 97.601 (22) 102.301 (23) 1.714 3.532 (17) 0.547
27 Pacers 18 33 95.288 (27) 100.318 (17) 1.784 3.076 (26) -0.17
28 Pistons 17 32 95.924 (26) 102.056 (22) 1.643 3.482 (19) -1.007
29 Timberwolves 13 38 94.656 (28) 102.906 (25) 1.716 3.73 (12) -2.805
30 Nets 4 46 91.7 (30) 103.696 (29) 1.89 3.686 (13) -6.42

Impressions:

  • Only two 40 win teams at this juncture, the two teams we probably expected.  The Lakers were very impressive the last two nights out with Kobe-less wins over the Blazers and Spurs.  I am not sure they have quite rounded into form.  Their #4 defense had that ghastly oopsie against Denver on Friday, although 15-22 from 3 point land might be just incredible bad luck.  One thing worth noting is the raw score.  Despite the record being close to Cleveland, they are honestly closer in rating to 10th place than 1st.
  • Not sure if Cleveland will keep this up and live to its promise of greatness, but it’s getting closer.
  • Spurs are 7th and have the fundamentals of a very good team numerically.  However, their 1.47 Home/Away number is the  lowest in the league, thus the most home-tilted schedule to date.  This portends to possibly slippage – their fortune in close games might hurt their seed, chances to cash in that they whiffed on.
  • Jazz have been the best team in the league since the new year, and the rise to 5th shows.  Really the success has lay in the defense, which is a vast improvement on a year ago, and good enough for an estimable 10th this year.  Add in the tough schedule, albeit a bit home kinked, and presto.

Week 14 NBA Power Rankings

Before we get started with this week’s rankings (methodology here): The Celtics have just come off of a 1-3 stretch of 4 games in 5 nights where they lost to the Lakers, Magic and Hawks by a combined total of 12 points.  Team is struggling in some close-and-late situations, but the raw material is there to get better.  That said, they could use another body, a shot in the arm.  Now, release the numbers!

Rank Team W L Off Def Road SOS Rating
1 Cavaliers 38 11 104.024 (3) 96.015 (5) 1.929 2.998 (27) 12.935
2 Celtics 30 16 101.371 (13) 95.046 (1) 1.902 2.954 (28) 11.181
3 Lakers 37 12 101.713 (12) 95.717 (2) 1.643 3.296 (21) 10.935
4 Magic 32 16 102.014 (9) 96.351 (6) 1.896 3.208 (24) 10.767
5 Nuggets 33 15 103.925 (4) 98.782 (12) 1.677 2.836 (29) 9.656
6 Spurs 27 19 102.731 (7) 97.814 (8) 1.293 3.423 (19) 9.634
7 Hawks 30 16 103.806 (5) 99.813 (15) 1.674 3.836 (11) 9.503
8 Mavericks 30 18 101.881 (10) 98.671 (11) 1.896 3.953 (5) 9.059
9 Jazz 29 18 101.858 (11) 98.511 (10) 1.564 4.005 (3) 8.916
10 Thunder 26 21 99.155 (18) 95.898 (4) 1.713 3.874 (9) 8.844
11 Suns 29 21 106.655 (1) 103.55 (29) 1.82 3.613 (15) 8.538
12 Blazers 29 21 103.667 (6) 100.484 (17) 1.68 3.503 (17) 8.366
13 Heat 24 24 100.33 (15) 98.794 (13) 1.677 3.91 (8) 7.123
14 Bobcats 24 23 96.754 (25) 95.821 (3) 1.787 3.866 (10) 6.587
15 Rockets 25 22 99.586 (16) 99.688 (14) 1.787 4.564 (1) 6.249
16 Raptors 26 22 104.193 (2) 104.417 (30) 1.823 3.93 (6) 5.529
17 Bucks 21 25 96.999 (24) 97.448 (7) 1.826 3.376 (20) 4.754
18 Grizzlies 26 21 102.162 (8) 103.11 (27) 1.713 3.803 (12) 4.567
19 Hornets 26 22 100.408 (14) 101.608 (20) 1.896 3.047 (25) 3.743
20 Bulls 23 22 95.126 (27) 97.87 (9) 1.867 3.911 (7) 3.033
21 Clippers 20 27 97.535 (23) 99.947 (16) 1.787 3.241 (22) 2.616
22 Knicks 18 29 99.304 (17) 101.58 (19) 1.638 2.804 (30) 2.166
23 Kings 16 31 98.677 (21) 102.34 (23) 1.787 3.974 (4) 2.097
24 Sixers 16 31 98.833 (20) 101.835 (21) 1.787 3.03 (26) 1.815
25 Warriors 13 33 99.025 (19) 102.985 (26) 1.826 3.586 (16) 1.451
26 Wizards 16 31 98.008 (22) 102.355 (24) 1.638 3.494 (18) 0.785
27 Pistons 15 31 95.749 (26) 102.025 (22) 1.598 4.141 (2) -0.537
28 Pacers 16 32 94.715 (28) 100.633 (18) 1.823 3.218 (23) -0.877
29 Timberwolves 11 38 93.964 (29) 102.955 (25) 1.714 3.712 (14) -3.564
30 Nets 4 42 91.191 (30) 103.46 (28) 1.826 3.748 (13) -6.695

The takeaways?

  • Cavaliers lead continues to grow.  Celtics stumbling and Lakers sort of flatness has made it easy.  That said the compression at the top continues, as spots 2 through 10 are only separated by 2.5 points (inside the normal spread for home court).  In a playoff series, the usual suspects still seem to be good picks, but definitely more volatility in the middle as we have said all along.
  • It is starting to look like last year between the conferences with the East occupying 3 of the top 4 positions, but only one other position in the top 12.  The West’s middle is just so much stronger and their tournament so much more compelling.
  • Surprise surge of the last month are the Jazz, who looked like the 3rd best team in the NBA in 2008, looked near dead a year ago, but now have sneaked into the Top  10.   Probably playing the best ball in the league since the new year.

Game 9: Celtics 105, Jazz 86

Reaction from tonight’s Celtics victory over the somewhat injured Utah Jazz

  • The Celtics defense, who had shown some tiredness and was absolutely dusted by the Phoenix Suns last Friday … well, it has not fully healed yet.  However, the 86 points allowed in 91 possessions is a good start.  Most of the work came in the form of the Jazz going 0-10 from three point land while turning it over 21 times, thus wasting a pretty good offensive rebounding performance.
  • Rasheed Wallace sure ain’t scared.  7 three point attempts tonight.  That said, the defense and fit on the team continues to look as good as advertised.
  • Good balance.  Not only no 20 point scorers for the Celtics, but nobody took more than 12 shots.  Good distribution (7 in double figures), which implies …
  • RONDOOOOOOOOOO … 14 points, 11 assists … and total control.  Yes, Deron Williams had some back issues from the game before apparently.  However, still … Rondo showing his chops as a top 10 PG if not a top 5.

 

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