You'd thought I'd forgotten about the rankings before leaving for the holidays, right? I just decided to wait until the Christmas Eve break and give you an extra special post. Oh, and we'll have some Christmas surprises too. Case in point:
Yes, I did update the Visual Rankings just in time for Xmas.
A third of the season is almost in the books and I'm guessing a lot of you feel like you've got a handle on most of the NBA's teams. Aside from Miami and Indiana, the East is pitiful. On the other hand, the West is top loaded -- murderous and filled with contenders. Portland is better than you thought. Houston is schizophrenic. San Antonio does not care about the regular season. Milwaukee, Utah, Orlando and Philly seem to be checking out.
But ttrades are coming. Prepare for the final rankings before the some of the big dominoes start to fall (Rudy Gay was something like a 3-for-1 in a second-hand store; it counts, but no one really cares).
Let's get to the rankings:
BoxScore Geeks Power Rankings as of 12/24/13
|BoxScore Geeks Power Ranking as of 12/23/13|
|Rank||Change||Team||Point Margin||Sched Rk||Sched PM||Orank||Drank|
|1||Up 3||Indiana Pacers||9.7||26||0.9||12||1|
|2||Up 5||Los Angeles Clippers||7.4||6||-0.7||4||7|
|3||Down 1||Oklahoma City Thunder||7.2||4||-1.0||7||3|
|4||Down 3||San Antonio Spurs||5.7||7||-0.5||3||4|
|5||Down 2||Miami Heat||5.6||30||2.5||1||22|
|6||Up 6||Phoenix Suns||4.5||25||0.8||9||14|
|7||Down 2||Portland Trail Blazers||4.4||20||0.2||2||16|
|8||Up 5||Atlanta Hawks||4.0||22||0.4||8||20|
|9||Down 1||Minnesota Timberwolves||2.0||3||-1.1||10||9|
|10||Down 4||Houston Rockets||2.0||19||0.2||6||12|
|11||Down 1||Golden State Warriors||1.4||28||1.0||15||6|
|12||Down 1||Dallas Mavericks||1.2||13||-0.2||5||24|
|13||Down 4||Denver Nuggets||0.3||10||-0.3||21||8|
|14||Up 2||Toronto Raptors||-0.2||15||-0.1||18||11|
|15||Up 6||Detroit Pistons||-0.2||5||-0.9||14||13|
|16||Down 2||New Orleans Pelicans||-0.4||23||0.5||11||23|
|17||Up 3||Charlotte Bobcats||-1.1||27||0.9||28||5|
|19||Down 4||Boston Celtics||-1.5||9||-0.4||23||10|
|20||Down 3||Los Angeles Lakers||-1.8||1||-1.9||22||15|
|21||Up 2||Brooklyn Nets||-1.9||11||-0.3||16||29|
|22||Down 3||Chicago Bulls||-2.3||17||0.0||29||2|
|23||Up 2||New York Knicks||-2.6||8||-0.4||17||25|
|24||Down 2||Orlando Magic||-3.3||14||-0.2||24||21|
|25||Up 4||Sacramento Kings||-3.7||12||-0.2||13||28|
|26||Up 2||Memphis Grizzlies||-4.1||24||0.6||19||26|
|27||Down 1||Utah Jazz||-4.7||2||-1.8||25||27|
|28||Up 2||Milwaukee Bucks||-4.8||16||0.0||30||17|
|29||Down 5||Cleveland Cavaliers||-5.7||18||0.1||27||18|
|30||Down 3||Philadelphia 76ers||-6.3||21||0.3||26||30|
Those are our Power Rankings through a 33% of the season (and it includes pace and schedule adjusted offense and defense). Did you enjoy the Christmas colors? Let's talk highlights (ICYMI, all the ratings went up as a visual post ):
- #1 Indiana Pacers Neutral Site Win:80.3% (Up 3,#12 in offense, #1 in defense): The Pacers have annihilated their last three opponents (Houston, Boston, and Brooklyn on the road on a back-to-back) and the model loves that. It has no way of knowing that Brooklyn was without their best player (Lopez), which makes it less shiny. Indiana's defense remains the best in the league, but their offense is starting to make some noise. The big story for this team continues to be the outstanding play of their top 6 in minutes played (all 0.138 WP48 or better) and their remarkable health. Continue to use pen to mark them down for the ECF if they stay healthy.
- #2 Los Angeles Clippers Neutral Site Win:74.4% (Up 5,#4 in offense, #7 in defense): Through a third of the season, Chris Paul is the Wins Produced MVP, with an ungodly 0.367 WP48, which would be the highest by a point guard not named Magic or Stockton. He's damn good. As much as I gave Doc crap about their defense, I have to give him kudos. If you consider the amount of injuries this team has right now? Definitely a contender. Seems like the issue is always injuries and streakiness with this group. They're on a tear right now, and that got them to the 2 spot. They need to pray for it to hit in April. They hold the belt, but can they make a run at the title?
- #3 Oklahoma City Thunder Neutral Site Win:73.9% (Down 1,#7 in offense, #3 in defense): OKC is now 16-2 over their last eighteen, with their only losses in Rip City and in Gay-less (and thus improved) Toronto -- both on the second night of a road back to back. Quietly OKC has rounded back to form. But it's a slightly different form; KD is still KD (0.308 WP48) and Russell and Ibaka are recovering and slightly diminished, respectively (0.101 WP48 and 0.177 WP48). The big story is the emergence of Jackson, Lamb, and Adams as significant contributors. The talent is there, it comes down to the rotation. Do you trust Scotty Brooks? Do you believe OKC can win the title with the worst coach in the Western Playoffs?
- #4 San Antonio Spurs Neutral Site Win:69.2% (Down 3,#3 in offense, #4 in defense): My process for handicapping a San Antonio game is to always to ask: is Kawhi playing? If so, then they can win (if not see the OKC game). Every time San Antonio rests their supposed big three everyone is surprised by their other guys either winning or coming close. They shouldn't be. I would pick the Spurs minus Tim, Tony, and Manu to win over 52 games. They have six players playing at a star level (>0.180 WP48): Kawhi, Manu, Tiago, Tim, Patty, Marco, and Tony. They have zero to prove, but the other night at Oracle? Signature win. For them, it remains all about banner number five.
- #5 Miami Heat Neutral Site Win:69% (Down 2,#1 in offense, #22 in defense): The Heat are exactly where they want to be at this point in the season. Did you know 21-6 is their best record after 27 games as the Heatles? And thanks to their split with Indiana they keep the possibility of a one seed open. LeBron at 0.384 WP48 is hands down still the best player in the world. Yes, Miami has some depth issues -- which will always keep their regular season record down -- but once the rotations get shorter, this team is still the two-time defending champ. They may also have a solution to the depth issue deep on their bench (Mr. Oden come on down). Miami has the luxury of being able to take its sweet time.
- #6 Phoenix Suns Neutral Site Win: 65.5% (Up 6,#9 in offense, #14 in defense): Hey, Phoenix is back in the top 10. They're 8-1 over their last nine and continue to look like a legit playoff spoiler out West. They're a solid eight deep, young, and cheap. Excellent team for the future. I think this year is about growth and experience for them.
- #7 Portland Trail Blazers Neutral Site Win:65.1% (Down 2,#2 in offense, #16 in defense): Portland continues to win even if their point differential is below their win total (translation: expect a correction). Of note is that their rotation boasts eight guys over 300 minutes played, with everyone else not cracking 60 minutes. This is Tom Thibodeau territory. This probably means that they're a weaker playoff team than regular season team because there is really no way to shorten up the rotation.
- #8 Atlanta Hawks Neutral Site Win:63.9% (Up 5,#8 in offense, #20 in defense): With an impressive 4-2 run (losses on a back-to-back in NYC and an OT loss in Miami), the Hawks finally look like they're putting it together. They're not even at full strength (at 0.170 WP48, Gustavo Ayon will help). I like this team and I think they should resist the urge to blow it up. The Hawks should just hold for that lottery pick from Brooklyn, which is looking very high indeed. At this rate, the 2014 and 2015 picks from Brooklyn might be lottery picks both.
- #9 Minnesota Timberwolves Neutral Site Win:57.1% (Down 1,#10 in offense, #9 in defense): As much as the model likes this Wolves team, I remain skeptical until they can put together a run. Kevin Love is a top five guy and the best power forward in the NBA (0.333 WP48), but their depth remains terrible and they haven't won four consecutive games this season. I can't take this team seriously.
- #10 Houston Rockets Neutral Site Win:56.9% (Down 4,#6 in offense, #12 in defense): The Houston team we have now is a bit of a schizophrenic mess. D12 looks like himself again. Daryl needs to pull the trigger on an Asik deal and stop playing brinkmanship games with potential trade partners. I understand trying to drive up the price, but a few down weeks in the West could have you on the road in round 1 or out of the playoffs. Houston has all the horses to contend now and I wouldn't waste the opportunity. I also would not have minded seeing Asik in Celtic green (Bass is a great fit for playing next to Dwight and Lee would be the best wing defender on the Rockets). I do fear he might wind up a Laker (Pau, Hill, and a pick swap for Lin, Asik, and Montiejunas -- who says no?)
- #11 Golden State Warriors Neutral Site Win:55.1% (Down 1,#15 in offense, #6 in defense): Golden State looks to be in the second tier in the West right now. Andre being back should be a substantial help for this team though. After some subpar play to start the year, David Lee has been on fire to get himself back to a respectable .131 WP48. The typical Warrior injury crisis has now moved to big man depth. Basically, if you have size and are alive, Golden State might have room in the rotation for you and this is with Bogut healthy. Cross those fingers warrior fans because we need you in the playoffs.
- #12 Dallas Mavericks Neutral Site Win:54.1% (Down 1,#5 in offense, #24 in defense): The good news for Dallas is that Brandan Wright is back and he's been fantastic (0.420 WP48 in four games). The bad news is that their defense is still piss-poor. Back-to-back losses at home to Toronto and in Phoenix could come back to haunt them. I like this team but they could end up with a great record and the 9 or 10 seed. They need to hope that Brandan is the answer for them or that Cuban can find an answer in the trade market.
- #13 Denver Nuggets Neutral Site Win:51.2% (Down 4,#21 in offense, #8 in defense): Ty Lawson has been hurt and sick and this has affected his play lately (36% FG in December is not of the good). Combine that with injuries and limited minutes for Faried and we get a slide in both offense and overall rating. Denver is a team to watch, as they have some interesting pieces and contracts to trade (Faried, Chandler, McGee, and even Gallo). I expect them to make a move simply because I don't think their coach likes how this team is put together.
- #14 Toronto Raptors Neutral Site Win:49.4% (Up 2,#18 in offense, #11 in defense): Toronto is 5-3 since the Rudy Gay trade, with two losses to San Antonio and an overtime loss to Charlotte. Both stats and reality seem to be against poor Rudy Gay (0.000 WP48 in Toronto). Wasn't that trade supposed to mean Masai was tanking? Isn't it hard to replace inefficient high volume shooters? I love the media -- really I do -- but the Gay trade was all about making the Raptors better right now, not worse. Toronto is the best team in the Atlantic at this point. It remains to be seen if that's what they want. They have a move to make and that move will give us a bit more clarity about their intentions. A Lowry trade probably means packing it in. A DeRozan trade might mean making a run. I do expect Masai to win any trade he makes though. NBA GMs: stop taking his calls!
- #15 Detroit Pistons Neutral Site Win:49.4% (Up 6,#14 in offense, #13 in defense): The Pistons are a five hundred team on the strength of their franchise center Drummond (0.323 WP48 at 20 is just sick). There isn't anything else there right now. The Josh Smith/Greg Monroe experiment has not worked. I'd advise this team to trade for assets, but Dumars does not have a stellar track record on that front.
- #16 New Orleans Pelicans Neutral Site Win:48.7% (Down 2,#11 in offense, #23 in defense): In 2066 minutes last year, Al-Farouq Aminu had a 0.217 WP48, and he's at 0.268 WP48 this year. He looks like a legit star. Throw in Davis looking like a future top five player and the rest of the pieces around them, and you have to like this Pelicans team going forward. Even though their defense is very, very poor. If I was running the team, I would take a good, long look at an Asik trade.
- #17 Charlotte Bobcats Neutral Site Win:46.1% (Up 3,#28 in offense, #5 in defense): I was asked to summarize the Bobcats recently for a friend. My answer was the Bobcats are a well-disciplined, well coached, strong defensive team that's fun to watch, but couldn't sink a jump shot in the ocean. Did you know Josh McRoberts leads the team in assists? Not a good sign. If they had any offense at all they'd be pulling the East's version of Portland this year. Even shooting threes won't help them, as they shoot the worst percentage in the league. They're definitely a team in need of a trade.
- #18 Washington Wizards Neutral Site Win:45.8% (No Change,#20 in offense, #19 in defense): Three straight road wins for the Wizards sounds good right? Did I mention it's against the Atlantic? The Wizards are talented, but their coaching remains atrocious. They should be able to coast to 45 wins, but they'll struggle to get there.
- #19 Boston Celtics Neutral Site Win:44.7% (Down 4,#23 in offense, #10 in defense): I was convinced that I wouldn't care about the Celtics this year, yet here I am, completely invested. The Celtics will be making some trades soon. My hope is that they keep Rondo (who is one of the few guys in the league who's traded haymakers with LeBron in the playoffs and won) and who I think still has his best basketball in front of him. I also think they should do what they need to do to get a starting center. If only one of those were available....
- #20 Los Angeles Lakers Neutral Site Win:43.8% (Down 3,#22 in offense, #15 in defense): We've learned that, with a hobbled Kobe, the Lakers are a lottery team, and without him they're a fun, scrappy, borderline playoff team. Here's some detail on Kobe's injury: the words Yao Ming should scare the hell out of any Lakers fans. I would shut down Kobe for the year and explore all my trade options while trying to maximize my lottery options.
- #21 Brooklyn Nets Neutral Site Win:43.2% (Up 2,#16 in offense, #29 in defense): Before the season started, my model was worried about injuries completely decimating the older players on this team. Now, on top of that ongoing concern, their best player and perhaps lowest injury risk (Lopez) is out for the year. This team feels done to me. Completely and utterly done. I really don't know how you can salvage this season other than by completely blowing it up.
- #22 Chicago Bulls Neutral Site Win:42% (Down 3,#29 in offense, #2 in defense): At this point, only Noah, Butler, and Rose should own any property in Chicago. Everyone else on this team should be renting on short term leases with no penalties for cancellation. I expect everyone to be on the block.
- #23 New York Knicks Neutral Site Win:40.8% (Up 2,#17 in offense, #25 in defense): Lost amongst the disaster of a season the Knicks are having is that Carmelo Anthony is having the best year of his career (0.167 WP48). This cann't offset that fact that this team has played Andrea Barganani -- our all-time wins produced most harmful player -- the second most minutes on the roster. At times the Knicks roll out lineups that couldn't stop me from scoring in the post.
- #24 Orlando Magic Neutral Site Win:38.5% (Down 2,#24 in offense, #21 in defense): If you're tanking and you know it clap your hands. If you're tanking and you know it, and you're not afraid to show it; if you're tanking and you know it clap your hands.
- #25 Sacramento Kings Neutral Site Win:37.1% (Up 4,#13 in offense, #28 in defense): Since the Kings traded for Rudy Gay they are 2-5, while his previous team is 5-3. The lesson continues to be to never trade for Rudy Gay. Boogie is finally showing signs of life (0.133 WP48) and it might go for naught.
- #26 Memphis Grizzlies Neutral Site Win:35.8% (Up 2,#19 in offense, #26 in defense): The Grizzlies continue to be a casualty ward but that has provided opportunities for some players. Recently signed James Johnson from the D-league is posting a 0.325 WP48 through 4 games. This bears watching.
- #27 Utah Jazz Neutral Site Win:33.7% (Down 1,#25 in offense, #27 in defense): Utah has been a better team recently since Trey Burke started playing more minutes. They've also played the toughest schedule in the league. Given that and the youth of this squad, I suspect that Utah will continue to move up slowly through the bottom of the ranks. The over for this team (27.5 wins) is still very much in play.
- #28 Milwaukee Bucks Neutral Site Win:33.5% (Up 2,#30 in offense, #17 in defense): As of right now Giannis (.197 WP48) is your Wins Produced rookie of the year. Milwaukkee: keep playing him and Henson all the minutes.
- #29 Cleveland Cavaliers Neutral Site Win:30.8% (Down 5,#27 in offense, #18 in defense): 1-4 over their last five with their one win at home in overtime over Milwaukee. The Cavs suck. They really, really suck. Honestly? Varajao and Thompson have played well (0.201 and 0.130 WP48 respectively), but everyone else should be considered expendable or tradable. Everyone else.
- #30 Philadelphia 76ers Neutral Site Win:28.8% (Down 3,#26 in offense, #30 in defense): This team is better across the board when Michael Carter-Williams plays. They're also totally making a trade soon.
How does the model think all this plays out over 82 games?
|Season Simulation as of 12/23/13|
|NBA Rank||Playoff Seed||Team||Win Proj||Vegas
|Playoff Odds||Top 4 Seed
|23||E11||New York Knicks||32||49.5||20%||0%||10.13|
|3||W1||Oklahoma City Thunder||61||50.5||100%||100%||57%||1.65|
|4||W2||San Antonio Spurs||59||55.5||100%||97%||21%||2.49|
|2||W3||Los Angeles Clippers||58||57.0||100%||97%||17%||2.64|
|7||W4||Portland Trail Blazers||55||38.5||100%||86%||5%||3.53|
|11||W9||Golden State Warriors||44||49.5||62%||1%||7.94|
|16||W11||New Orleans Pelicans||38||40.0||7%||10.79|
|20||W12||Los Angeles Lakers||36||33.5||2%||11.49|
A small note here: I'm working on updating the playoff model over the holidays. For now it remains unchanged.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good game night.