Arturo avatar

Power Rankings #4: The Leastern Conference

Rose is out for the year and Butler is hurt. The Wizards are clueless. The Hawks are hot and cold. The Cavs are coming to blows in the locker room. The Pistons just don't seem to work. The Magic are really young. In a span of less than a fortnight, the bottom seems to have dropped out of the every team in the Eastern conference not named Miami or Indiana.

While in the west, the competition just keeps picking up.

The East is so darn bad that I spent an hour and a half hashing it out with Howard Beck (see here). The question may not be if a sub 0.500 team makes it to the playoffs, but how many. Keep in mind that some teams that are trying right now won't be after the All Star Break, and the majority of them are east of the Mississippi.

BoxScore Geeks Power Rankings as of 12/03/13:

Rank Change Team Point Margin Sched
1 Up 3 Indiana Pacers 7.4 29
2 Down 1 San Antonio Spurs 6.8 19
3 Up 8 Houston Rockets 5.2 24
4 Up 2 Los Angeles Clippers 3.4 7
5 Down 3 Miami Heat 3.4 30
6 Up 3 Oklahoma City Thunder 3.0 23
7   Portland Trail Blazers 2.7 20
8 Up 7 Memphis Grizzlies 2.1 4
9 Up 7 Denver Nuggets 2.1 18
10 Down 7 Minnesota Timberwolves 2.1 9
11 Down 1 Dallas Mavericks 1.3 13
12 Down 4 Golden State Warriors 1.3 27
13   New Orleans Pelicans 0.9 26
14 Up 5 Detroit Pistons 0.0 11
15 Up 5 Los Angeles Lakers -0.1 2
16 Down 11 Chicago Bulls -0.3 14
17 Down 5 Atlanta Hawks -0.5 10
18 Down 1 Washington Wizards -0.7 28
19 Down 5 Toronto Raptors -0.7 16
20 Up 8 Orlando Magic -1.0 5
21 Up 2 Boston Celtics -1.4 12
22 Down 1 Charlotte Bobcats -1.6 21
23 Up 2 New York Knicks -2.8 1
24 Down 2 Brooklyn Nets -3.0 3
25 Down 1 Sacramento Kings -3.1 15
26 Down 8 Phoenix Suns -3.5 25
27 Down 1 Philadelphia 76ers -4.4 22
28 Up 1 Cleveland Cavaliers -4.6 8
29 Up 1 Utah Jazz -4.6 6
30 Down 3 Milwaukee Bucks -5.7 17

Those are our Power Rankings through a fifth of the season (and it includes pace and schedule adjusted offense and defense). Let's talk highlights (ICYMI, all the ratings went up as a visual post earlier today) and look for any signs of possible hope out East:

  • #1 Indiana Pacers (Neutral Site Win% 74.3, Up 3, #23 in offense, #1 in defense): The Pacers ride their league leading defense and their first road win over a contender (the Clippers) all the way to number 1 in our rankings. Their offensive woes remain and George and Stephenson have come down from god mode to star mode. Their starting five remains superb. We will see if they can keep the #1 slot thru the rest of their upcoming west swing. One thing to watch out for is injuries, as this squad has been relatively injury free amongst their starters these last two seasons. Won't keep them from a return to the ECF though.
  • #2 San Antonio Spurs (Neutral Site Win% 72.6, Down 1, #6 in offense, #2 in defense): Should Spurs fans worry about losing two of their last three games? Let's see: a close road loss in OKC and a home loss to a surging Rockets team on a back to back were they came back from 20+ down. I'm going to say no. This team remains the class of the West, particularly with Duncan showing signs of life these last 6 games (0.300 WP per game is 's really good, with 0.729, 0.492 and 1.057 for the last three which is fantastic).
  • #3 Houston Rockets (Neutral Site Win% 67.6, Up 8, #3 in offense, #16 in defense): Last time I mentioned that the Rockets would rise in the rankings and they did just that, rolling off five straight wins, including a road win against our second ranked team. They get docked for not taking care of business in what was a scheduled loss in Utah. The big differense has been their steady rise up the defensive rankings. D12 has started to look good on D. Chandler Parsons has quietly been key for them; at 0.177 WP48, he's leading them in minutes and wins. It'll be really interesting how this team will look once they move Asik (who has been somewhat of a non factor for them as 0.094 WP48 in limited minutes).
  • #4 Los Angeles Clippers (Neutral Site Win% 61.8, Up 2, #2 in offense, #14 in defense): The Clippers' defense is finally improving (up from 29th) and that shoots them up into our top four. CP3, DeAndre, and Griffin are having killer seasons. The Redick and Barnes injuries leaves a rather big hole at the three for them as Jared Dudley has been excruciatingly bad (0.000 WP48. That's right: zero). This team's supporting cast after Redick/Barnes has been pathetic. They really need to add some Euro/D-League/Leastern talent to stay competitive in the West. I fear that injuries are about to bring them back to the pack.
  • #5 Miami Heat (Neutral Site Win% 61.8, Down 3, #1 in offense, #24 in defense): The story here is LeBron continuing his ongoing GOAT campaign (0.361 WP48? OMG). A smaller story is Wade and Birdman playing at star levels after a slow start. Throw in the Heat trying to retroactively win the Rose/Beasley draft and we should all be booking hotels for the ECF in Miami. Heat fans should also keep in mind that coach Spo is pulling a Popovich and Milton Berling the regular season.
  • #6 Oklahoma City Thunder (Neutral Site Win% 60.4, Up 3, #13 in offense, #5 in defense): The Thunder are lurking in this group and look to be ready to make a big leap. KD, Ibaka and Thabo have been their usual selves, but Russ is still not back to 100% (-0.018 WP48). Expect him to improve greatly. Throw in the good play from Adams and Lamb and I expect this team to continue rising. Thunder fans should pray for Brooks to cure himself from Perkyfish because the sky is the limit if that happens.
  • #7 Portland Trail Blazers (Neutral Site Win% 59.5, No Change, #4 in offense, #15 in defense): Are the Blazers for real? Our great friend and mentor Dave Berri covered the Blazers in detail over at Wages of Wins a few days back. The gist of it? They are better than last year, mostly because of Batum and Matthews, but expect some regression because Wes Matthews is not Wilt Chamberlain.
  • #8 Memphis Grizzlies (Neutral Site Win% 57.5, Up 7, #14 in offense, #12 in defense): The Grizzlies come way back in these rankings despite the Gasol injury. The dirty secret for this team is that Ed Davis has been better than Gasol in fill in duty (his WP48 numbers have skyrocketed as his minutes have increased). I would be cautiously optimistic in Memphis right now.
  • #9 Denver Nuggets (Neutral Site Win% 57.5, Up 7, #8 in offense, #8 in defense): The Nuggets' ratings continue to skyrocket. They're up to 8th in defense and offense. Brian Shaw seems to have figured out his schemes and rotations. Remember how people laughed when we compared Ty Lawson and Russell Westbrook last year? They should really not be laughing now. I would be very optimistic about this team, particularly if they can get Gallo back. Melo Who?
  • #10 Minnesota Timberwolves (Neutral Site Win% 57.3, Down 7, #9 in offense, #6 in defense): According to our model, Minnesota is better than their record, but they still has some real issues. The Kevins (Love and Martin) have cooled off after a super hot start. Five of their top six guys are excellent. But I do still worry about their injury history and the fact that they're in the West. I am bearish on the Wolves right now.
  • #11 Dallas Mavericks (Neutral Site Win% 54.6, Down 1, #5 in offense, #25 in defense): The Mavs continue to plug away in the middle of the pack. Monta has been average (0.098 WP48) but he's been improving. I worrry about their health. I also think they should find Blair and his gaudy 0.252 WP48 more miniutes. That and the fact that they're still missing Wright keeps me thinking this is a dark horse team. They have to figure out their defense though (a putrid 25th) for me to get more excited about them.
  • #12 Golden State Warriors (Neutral Site Win% 54.5, Down 4, #10 in offense, #10 in defense): I hated being the pessimist in the room about this Warriors team. They're ridiculously fun to watch, their fans are great, but they have some real flaws. Andre Iguodala is, in my opinion, the most underrated player in the league. They missed his wing defense tremendously against Washington. I really love this team and want them in the playoffs, but I could totally see them winning 50 and being the nine seed in the West.
  • #13 New Orleans Pelicans (Neutral Site Win% 53.3, No Change, #7 in offense, #26 in defense): It was fun while it lasted for the Pelicans. The Ryan Anderson/Anthony Davis combo was wreaking havok, but with the Davis injury this team is looking at a very steep fall in their future. It might be for the good though as there are some serious doubts as to the competency of their coach.
  • #14 Detroit Pistons (Neutral Site Win% 50, Up 5, #16 in offense, #13 in defense): The Pistons just might be the 4th best team in the East. They're a weird team though. Drummond is a freaking monster and the best centre in the NBA right now (and he needs to play more). The Monroe/Smith thing does not work. Dumars should be lighting up the phones to move one of them and have this team make more sense. Dumars making a trade would not make me confortable as a Pistons fan though.
  • #15 Los Angeles Lakers (Neutral Site Win% 49.7, Up 5, #15 in offense, #11 in defense): The Lakers are a feel-good, fast paced team that relies on unselfish play. They're fans love them and they're the perfect D'Antoni team. Mike continues to be a wiz at getting role players to buy into a system and exceed expectations. We saw this movie in New York a few years back and this is the part where the ominous music begins to play. I think Kobe's return is going to cock this up for multiple reasons (health, fit, ego). It'll be great drama though.
  • #16 Chicago Bulls (Neutral Site Win% 49.1, Down 11, #26 in offense, #3 in defense): Honestly, the Bulls can still compete in the East. Jimmy Butler is a franchise player and once he's back this is a better than a 0.500 team. They also have pieces (Deng, Boozer) that can be moved. I just don't know what their front office is going to do. If I had to guess, they make a move for depth and try to compete. Deng/Boozer for Lin/Asik/ Brooks, who says no?
  • #17 Atlanta Hawks (Neutral Site Win% 48.1, Down 5, #12 in offense, #20 in defense): I like the Hawks and I think they'll get better as they play more together. Keeping it close in San Antonio was a good indication that they can compete with the elite. Thankfully, the East provides ample opportunity to play themselves into shape.
  • #18 Washington Wizards (Neutral Site Win% 47.6, Down 1, #19 in offense, #18 in defense): This Wizards team should be better than they are. I remain convinced that they're not using Beal properly and are in general running terrible offense and defense. I would love to see this team with a real coach. Don't hold your breath though.
  • #19 Toronto Raptors (Neutral Site Win% 47.4, Down 5, #20 in offense, #9 in defense): Somehow the Raptors blew a 27 point second half lead to the Warriors yesterday. This is one of the dumbest things I have ever seen a team do. All they had to do was slow the game down, drive to the baskets and chase the Warriors off the three point line and they win easy. I can't quite decide if Witless or Casey is the worst coach in the NBA. I think they're making a trade soon, and with Masai making it, they'll get better.
  • #20 Orlando Magic (Neutral Site Win% 46.3, Up 8, #17 in offense, #19 in defense): Orlando is losing, but getting better. Weird right? The big difference is that Victor Oladipo is quietly putting it together. He's been flirting with superstar play over his last five games. But they do feature way too much Big Baby. Fun to watch, but not going anywhere.
  • #21 Boston Celtics (Neutral Site Win% 45, Up 2, #25 in offense, #7 in defense): It feels weird to say but the Atlantic is Boston's to lose. Especially when you consider the fact that their star player (Rondo) is out, particularly since Avery Bradley has been so terrible. It really does come down to what they want to do. Boston could very easily make a move and be a 45 win team. We need to wait and see.
  • #22 Charlotte Bobcats (Neutral Site Win% 44.5, Down 1, #29 in offense, #4 in defense): Hey MJ? That kid you play sometimes (Jeff Adrien, 0.435 WP48) looks pretty damn good. Mayhaps he should get some run ahead of the meh PFs (Tolliver, Zeller) on your squad? There is some real talent on this squad (Adrien, Biyombo, Jefferson, McRoberts, MKG), just not necessarily on the court.
  • #23 New York Knicks (Neutral Site Win% 40.2, Up 2, #21 in offense, #21 in defense): The Knicks are better than their record. Surprised? You shouldn't be. They've had the toughest schedule in the NBA so far this year and their best player has been out for a long time (Chandler). I actually think that the Atlantic is a three way race between them, a healthy Celtics team and whover the Raptors are in 2014. If I had to try to GM a team to the ECF this year other than Miami or Indiana, it would be NYK. Of course, I would demand 100% control and I would trade Melo and Barganani ASAP. Worked for Masai.
  • #24 Brooklyn Nets (Neutral Site Win% 39.4, Down 2, #22 in offense, #30 in defense): The Nets have to be one of the worst returns on a $200 million private investment ever. The injuries continue for this team. The upcoming Nets/Knicks game should be billed as a loser leaves town match.
  • #25 Sacramento Kings (Neutral Site Win% 39.3, Down 1, #18 in offense, #28 in defense): The Kings are terrible but at least they play hard. Not much else to say.
  • #26 Phoenix Suns (Neutral Site Win% 37.9, Down 8, #11 in offense, #23 in defense): This is more like it for the Suns. They're not very talented or deep, but they are well coached. I'd consider them a playoff team in the East. They're doomed in the West.
  • #27 Philadelphia 76ers (Neutral Site Win% 34.8, Down 1, #24 in offense, #29 in defense): MCW is a fantastic player. Hawes has been a great big and they should keep him. I love watching this team and they never ever quit. They're going to be way better at full strength too. However, they should move Turner while his value is high and they should be perfectly happy to be what they are right now: a good, fun but limited team that'll be in the lottery.
  • #28 Cleveland Cavaliers (Neutral Site Win% 34.4, Up 1, #28 in offense, #17 in defense): Anthony Bennett may be the worst top three pick that ever got to play for his team. With the emergence of Oladipo and how terrible the Cavs guards are playing, this is shaping up to be a franchise killer. Cleveland should be entertaining any and all trade offers.
  • #29 Utah Jazz (Neutral Site Win% 34.3, Up 1, #27 in offense, #27 in defense): The Jazz beating the Rockets, which was on the third game in four nights, at home in Altitude is why we liked the over for this team. They're bad, but they play in Utah.
  • #30 Milwaukee (Bucks Neutral Site Win% 30.6, Down 3, #30 in offense, #22 in defense): Through 17 games the Bucks have been blown out 5 times. They're terrible across the board. John Henson is their best player and he's only slightly above average (0.131 WP48). How 'bout them Packers?

How does the model think all this plays out over 82 games?

Season Simulation as of 12/03/13
NBA Rank Playoff Seed Team Win Proj Vegas
O/U
Playoff Odds Top 4 Seed
Odds
1 Seed
Odds
Avg Seed
1 E1 Indiana Pacers 64 53.5 100% 100% 99% 1.01
5 E2 Miami Heat 52 60.0 100% 100% 1% 2.06
14 E3 Detroit Pistons 41 41.0 88% 43%   5.39
18 E4 Washington Wizards 41 42.0 88% 41%   5.51
17 E5 Atlanta Hawks 40 40.0 86% 39%   5.71
16 E6 Chicago Bulls 39 56.5 82% 29%   6.19
21 E7 Boston Celtics 38 27.5 68% 18%   7.23
19 E8 Toronto Raptors 37 36.5 65% 15%   7.51
20 E9 Orlando Magic 36 24.5 48% 7%   8.47
22 E10 Charlotte Bobcats 36 27.5 45% 7%   8.62
24 E11 Brooklyn Nets 32 52.5 11% 1%   11.29
23 E12 New York Knicks 31 49.5 10% 1%   11.56
27 E13 Philadelphia 76ers 30 16.5 6% 0%   12.12
28 E14 Cleveland Cavaliers 29 40.5 4% 0%   12.65
30 E15 Milwaukee Bucks 23 28.5 0%     14.68
2 W1 San Antonio Spurs 60 55.5 100% 100% 82% 1.26
3 W2 Houston Rockets 54 54.5 99% 85% 10% 2.94
7 W3 Portland Trail Blazers 51 38.5 95% 59% 2% 4.40
6 W4 Oklahoma City Thunder 51 50.5 96% 54% 3% 4.64
4 W5 Los Angeles Clippers 51 57.0 95% 53% 2% 4.64
9 W6 Denver Nuggets 46 47.0 66% 14% 0% 7.34
10 W7 Minnesota Timberwolves 46 41.0 58% 9%   7.83
8 W8 Memphis Grizzlies 45 49.0 56% 10% 0% 7.88
12 W9 Golden State Warriors 45 49.5 52% 7% 0% 8.17
11 W10 Dallas Mavericks 45 44.0 49% 7%   8.33
13 W11 New Orleans Pelicans 42 40.0 24% 2%   9.84
15 W12 Los Angeles Lakers 40 33.5 11% 0%   10.87
26 W13 Phoenix Suns 32 21.5       13.27
25 W14 Sacramento Kings 28 31.5       13.95
29 W15 Utah Jazz 25 27.5       14.64
                 

 

The East could have twelve teams below five hundred for the year. The third best team in the East would be fighting for twelth in the West. Right now, I have Denver, Minnesota, Memphis, Golden State, Dallas, New Orleans, and the Lakers fighting over three playoff slots while a 38 win team gets homecourt in the East.

The majority of the Eastern conference playoffs could be on NBA TV.

 

Great article, but oh man, so very many typos! As someone who can't self edit (I know what I meant, who cares what the words say), I know what that's like.

Do you guys want editing help? Of the "just fix the typos" variety?
Great article! I really enjoyed it, just two quick issues:

1. You mentioned in the Heat section that their defense rose from 22nd to 13th but have them listed as 24th (with the Pistons at 13th).

2. How much does point differential play into your rankings? I don't have a problem going with point differential but it looks like it is a 100% predictor on how you ranked the teams. I just wanted a bit of clarity on that.

Anyway, keep up the great work guys! I love the new site. If you ever get a chance to add an archive section for the articles it would be helpful. Thanks for the hard work.
motherwell,
That's all mostly my fault for not waiting for my editor so i could make my deadline.
dodgson,
Everything is based around point differential but using mathematical aproximation techniques to aproximate it on a game to game basis.
The projections definitely still need some work, the Pacers have 99% odds at the top seed?
Arturo,

Thanks for the explanation. I love the work you guys are doing.
Yeah, projections are giving a bit too much weight to point differential I think. 76ers are currently a half game behind the division leader and model says 6% to make playoffs... You'll need to show the work to convince me that that's true.
Totally agree about Iggy. At least as he's played this season, he ought to be in the MVP conversation. 60% on 2s, almost 50% on 3s, 6 assists per game, add in almost 2 steals, and top-tier defense, and you're looking at the greatest version of Manu Ginobili ever to hit the court. Or, conversely, he's the real mini-Lebron. The TS% is close, the passing is there, the defense is there, he just takes fewer shots. And with Curry and Thompson going the way they have been (and I expect Curry's 3pt% to pick up a bit once Iggy's back), that's not hurting the Warriors as much as it should.

God, I was miffed when I heard about the chance that Harden might've been traded for Thompson, but Iggy's been such a perfect match. If they could just get one more decent big (or the real David Lee, or start playing Green/Barnes as backup bigs), things would be golden.

What I am about to write will be critical, but I hope it's understood as an effort to improve a site which I fundamentally like.

Misspelling "Mississippi" within the first 150 words of a post has the nasty effect of undermining the post on the whole. This is especially damaging to a site which positions itself as a voice of rational thought in a sea of "Yay Points!" and Rube Goldberg-like statistics comprised of arcane and unsound processes. Especially to people that cannot independently compare the quality of the method of this site's statistics versus any other site's advanced statistics--a percentage of your readership probably north of 90%, now and always--this kind of mistake can have the insidious effect of framing you all as "crackpots" rather than "visionaries." And every subsequent mistake acts to confirm this bias.

It is my experience that readers, on the whole, are forgiving of mistakes, so long as those mistakes are minimized. Glaring errors or whole posts riddled with errors give the impression of ... a lack of care, a lack of attention to detail, perhaps an underlying lack of intelligence, but worst of all, a sense of it being okay to fudge. A sense of hurried and slipshod workmanship that can't help but extend to how we the readers interpret your data and metrics.

This is exacerbated because Wages of Wins and now Box Score Geeks are somewhat on an island, isolated but privileged with the position of pointing out the inconsistencies and outright inanity of the arguments of others. In other words, you guys are sort of the "reformer," which is cool and which is part of why I so consistently visit this site, but which identity carries the burden of being "better": more careful, more meticulous, etc.

This site really embraces that identity, too. And whatever the absolute truth of the matter, whatever you may get wrong or right, I think there is fundamental value in transparent methodology and an intelligent but unorthodox approach. Box Score Geeks challenges mainstream metrics. It expands and enriches the conversation.

Or it could. Presentation, the writing itself, even a willingness to call attention to where your site's methods might be lacking, this is the milieu, the tone--this is the Box Score Geeks most readers will interact with, and from which they will determine if it's worth a damn. A trifling as the spelling of "Mississippi" may seem in the greater scheme of things, it does a number on what we now call "The Halo Effect," and might more properly be called "authority."

To wit: Would I share this post with a friend?

[No need to publish this if it ends up in a queue.]
John,
So your advice is that I should wait for my editor before posting or avoid words like "Mississippi" until we can get a spell checker working?
:-)
I like the intent and the message of your post. I will caveat this by saying that a typical power rankings post takes me:
about 8 minutes per team times 30 = four hours plus another half hour of compiling and formatting. It takes a lot of work. I am trying to make it more efficient but I will admit I traded aesthetic for time. I will endeavour to improve in the future.
Arturo,

A simple copy/paste into word for the text would probably suffice. I do that for comment sections that don't have spell-check (luckily boxscoregeeks does have spell-check).
RE: typos, maybe just post "NB: Posted before editor checked it. Forgive any typos". Forewarned is forearmed, and I'd personally forgive that if I was prepared.

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