2015 NBA Power Rankings #1 – The First Week

Even without my Celtics being serious contenders, this is as excited I have been for a new NBA season. Last year was one of the best years the league has ever had, and the dramatic offseason featuring LeBron doing something or other only made things more compelling.  Sprinkle in one of the most fascinating rookie classes of recent memory along with the rise of The Brow, and there are storylines galore.  Also – after a 1 year absence, we have some power rankings.  The chart at the end here is a bit of an eyesore, but this is some pretty tried and true analysis.  The method?

  • Offense and Defense are based on points per possession.  A possession is defined as a trip down the floor ending with a made shot, a shot rebounded by the other team, or a turnover.  Box scores do not provide numbers of possessions, but the FGA + .44* FTA – OffReb + TO is a good estimator.  Note here an offensive rebound keeps a possession alive, and .44 assumes that there are more and-ones than three shot fouls.
  • For defense, instead of points allowed, I substitute FTs allowed with a global FT%.  That is, I take out the luck of having your opponent make all their freebies.
  • I calculate the number of possessions in a 48 minute game, and that number is used to create Off and Def Ratings.  Looking at Golden State’s offense, this means they are averaging 98.8 points per “average speed” game.  The Pace column shows the number of possessions per game.
  • The schedule adjustment is more sophisticated than it has been.  For each team I calculate the adjusted points scored and allowed (against other opponents) and use that to normalize both offense and defense.  For example, the Celtics allow 103.55 points per game (23rd in the league).  However, their opponents are averaging 112.32 points per game in their non-Celtics games (highest in the league) so the adjusted defense is actually -8.77 (4th in the league).  The Celtics allows 8.77 points FEWER than their opponents score against the rest of the league.  For the record, I do not think the Celtics are the 2nd best team in the league – but their schedule has been very tough based on info to date.  Note that 58 of each teams 82 games are the same (everybody plays each other twice).  So the schedule adjustments will shrink as the season goes on. (and why I don’t care about “opponents’ opponents” right now.
  • Part of power rankings should include a forward looking component.  As such, I expect to add a “recent form” component after the season hits the 25% mark or so.

So, after discussing the methodology, the next question is what can we get from early results?  Not a whole lot, but we can make a few observations.

  1. The Celtics pledged to run more this season.  Running more is the sort of “check is in the mail” you always hear about in the preseason but never happens.  But so far, the Celtics are playing the 2nd fastest pace in the league – so there is definitely some intent there.  The Knicks were slowpokes last year, and are even moreso this year.
  2. The Lakers are off to an awesomely bad start defensively.  Their raw numbers are terrible, but their adjusted ones aren’t good either.  When you see the Suns ranking 11th in offense, but the Lakers schedule is rated 22nd in terms of opponents offense, it shows that the two games LA and Phoenix have played so far drives almost all of Phoenix’s offensive success.  Let’s put it this way – on a raw basis, the Jazz (29th defensively) are closer to 15th place than they are to 30th.  The Lakers can rope in any free agent they want, so I do not weep for them – but this team has been worse than anybody could imagine.
  3. Detroit had one of the more celebrated coaching changes of the new season.  Stan Van Gundy, one of the league’s best defensive coaches, has shown his impact right away with Detroit leaping up to a decent defense so far (league average).  But the offense has been ghastly complete with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s remarkable start.
  4. And that leaves us with the Cavaliers and their very uninspired start.  Particularly startling is the offensive issues.  The defense has been bad, and that was going to be the uphill battle.  However, we expected an offensive juggernaut right away.  Right now, that juggernaut has yet to appear – with the team shooting just 40%, 29th in the league while only getting to the line on 25.9/100 shots. (23rd in the league).  The three point frequency is nothing special either (21st) – so this seems to be a team which is taking a lot of long 2 pointers, which is death for an offense.  There is a lot of work to do on this end of the floor, let alone the defense.

(through games of 11/3/14)

Rnk Team W L Off OffSOS AdjOff Def DefSOS AdjDef RoadWt Total Pace
1 Warriors 3 0 98.8 (17) 101.41 (21) -2.61 (19) 85.15 (1) 101.23 (11) -16.08 (1) 2.33 15.8 102.55 (1)
2 Celtics 1 2 101.17 (13) 97.62 (11) 3.54 (10) 103.55 (23) 112.32 (1) -8.77 (4) 2.33 14.65 102.36 (2)
3 Kings 3 1 94.91 (21) 92.97 (4) 1.94 (13) 91.17 (3) 99.15 (15) -7.98 (6) 1.75 11.67 98 (6)
4 Bulls 2 1 105.04 (5) 102.49 (25) 2.55 (12) 95.46 (9) 101.78 (6) -6.33 (7) 2.33 11.21 93.51 (26)
5 Mavericks 3 1 113.5 (1) 96.13 (6) 17.37 (1) 104.05 (26) 95.88 (23) 8.17 (28) 1.75 10.95 94.41 (20)
6 Heat 3 0 109.36 (3) 98.95 (13) 10.4 (3) 99.95 (16) 99.12 (16) 0.84 (17) 1.17 10.73 95.87 (14)
7 Rockets 4 0 104.89 (6) 107.13 (29) -2.25 (18) 91.3 (4) 100.54 (13) -9.23 (3) 2.63 9.61 95.99 (13)
8 Jazz 1 3 104.88 (7) 96.18 (7) 8.71 (5) 106.81 (29) 105.77 (3) 1.04 (19) 1.75 9.42 94.62 (19)
9 Grizzlies 4 0 93.42 (23) 99.58 (17) -6.17 (22) 86.61 (2) 99.66 (14) -13.04 (2) 1.75 8.62 93.92 (23)
10 Hawks 1 1 104.6 (8) 102.96 (26) 1.64 (14) 96.93 (11) 102.02 (5) -5.09 (9) 1.75 8.48 93.5 (27)
11 Spurs 1 1 99.47 (15) 102.19 (23) -2.73 (20) 100.8 (17) 109.34 (2) -8.53 (5) 1.75 7.56 91.58 (29)
12 Blazers 1 2 96.48 (20) 92.23 (3) 4.25 (9) 94.54 (8) 95.37 (25) -0.84 (13) 1.17 6.26 96.07 (12)
13 Raptors 2 1 105.18 (4) 96.91 (10) 8.28 (6) 106.75 (28) 101.47 (8) 5.29 (22) 2.33 5.32 96.93 (9)
14 Timberwolves 1 2 101.56 (12) 90.39 (1) 11.17 (2) 100.93 (18) 93.59 (27) 7.33 (25) 1.17 5 95.36 (16)
15 Wizards 2 1 101.66 (10) 98.96 (14) 2.69 (11) 97.7 (12) 97.67 (18) 0.03 (15) 2.33 5 96.84 (10)
16 Cavaliers 1 1 100.66 (14) 100.28 (20) 0.39 (15) 102.55 (21) 101.63 (7) 0.92 (18) 1.75 1.21 92.35 (28)
17 Nets 2 1 109.62 (2) 100.09 (19) 9.53 (4) 102.69 (22) 90.9 (30) 11.79 (29) 2.33 0.08 94.17 (21)
18 Pelicans 1 2 93.05 (24) 99.32 (16) -6.27 (23) 96.69 (10) 101.47 (9) -4.78 (10) 1.17 -0.32 98.24 (5)
19 Hornets 1 2 89.14 (28) 96.23 (8) -7.09 (25) 91.57 (5) 96.1 (21) -4.53 (11) 1.17 -1.4 93.56 (25)
20 Knicks 2 1 99.23 (16) 94.6 (5) 4.62 (8) 103.57 (24) 95.68 (24) 7.89 (27) 1.17 -2.1 87.29 (30)
21 Suns 2 1 101.58 (11) 111.61 (30) -10.03 (26) 98.05 (13) 103.5 (4) -5.45 (8) 1.17 -3.41 95.65 (15)
22 Clippers 3 1 103.16 (9) 105.16 (28) -2 (17) 99.59 (14) 96.48 (20) 3.11 (21) 0.88 -4.24 95.27 (17)
23 Bucks 1 2 93.56 (22) 98.46 (12) -4.9 (21) 94.53 (7) 92.82 (28) 1.71 (20) 2.33 -4.28 97.73 (8)
24 Pacers 1 2 96.7 (19) 96.71 (9) 0 (16) 101.56 (19) 93.91 (26) 7.64 (26) 1.17 -6.48 93.87 (24)
25 Nuggets 1 2 90.5 (27) 101.85 (22) -11.35 (28) 92.33 (6) 92.59 (29) -0.26 (14) 1.17 -9.92 100.65 (3)
26 Thunder 1 3 92.53 (25) 99.15 (15) -6.62 (24) 103.63 (25) 97.64 (19) 5.99 (23) 2.63 -9.98 94.82 (18)
27 Sixers 0 4 88.43 (29) 99.67 (18) -11.24 (27) 102.01 (20) 101.45 (10) 0.55 (16) 1.75 -10.05 97.86 (7)
28 Pistons 0 3 88.26 (30) 102.39 (24) -14.13 (30) 99.61 (15) 101.05 (12) -1.43 (12) 2.33 -10.37 94.16 (22)
29 Lakers 0 4 97.46 (18) 91.94 (2) 5.52 (7) 115.13 (30) 95.94 (22) 19.19 (30) 1.75 -11.92 99.37 (4)
30 Magic 0 3 91.79 (26) 103.68 (27) -11.89 (29) 105.53 (27) 98.25 (17) 7.28 (24) 1.17 -18.01 96.45 (11)
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