Power Rankings Week 3: The Titanic Division

The Nets are a trauma ward. The Knicks are a complete trainwreck. The Raptors still feature the Gay and DeMar experience. The Celtics haven't decided what they're doing yet. The Sixers are scrappy but lack enough healthy pieces.

I called it all before the season, but to see it play out like this is kind of amazing.

This year it might only take 42 victories to win the Titanic division.

BoxScore Geeks Power Ranking as of 11/22/13

Rk Change Team Point Margin Schedule
1   San Antonio Spurs 6.3 22
2 Up 4 Miami Heat 4.8 28
3 Down 1 Minnesota Timberwolves 4.4 25
4   Indiana Pacers 3.7 30
5 Up 3 Chicago Bulls 3.5 20
6 Down 3 Los Angeles Clippers 3.3 3
7 Up 7 Portland Trail Blazers 2.7 23
8 Down 3 Golden State Warriors 2.5 27
9   Oklahoma City Thunder 2.5 21
10 Down 3 Dallas Mavericks 2.5 14
11   Houston Rockets 2.2 26
12 Up 1 Atlanta Hawks 1.4 24
13 Up 10 New Orleans Pelicans 0.7 29
14 Down 4 Toronto Raptors 0.7 11
15 Up 12 Memphis Grizzlies 0.2 7
16 Up 3 Denver Nuggets -0.4 10
17 Up 1 Washington Wizards -0.9 15
18 Down 6 Phoenix Suns -0.9 18
19 Down 4 Detroit Pistons -0.9 5
20 Up 4 Los Angeles Lakers -1.7 1
21 Up 1 Charlotte Bobcats -1.8 13
22 Down 1 Brooklyn Nets -2.0 12
23 Down 7 Boston Celtics -2.3 6
24 Up 4 Sacramento Kings -3.4 17
25 Down 5 New York Knicks -3.4 4
26   Philadelphia 76ers -3.9 8
27 Down 2 Milwaukee Bucks -4.0 2
28 Down 11 Orlando Magic -4.1 16
29   Cleveland Cavaliers -4.1 19
30   Utah Jazz -6.6 9

Those are our Power Rankings through three weeks (and it includes pace-adjusted offense and defense). Let's talk highlights:

  • The Spurs (#1, 8th in offense, 3rd in defense) currently feature five guys playing at a star level: Kawhi, Danny, Tiago, Marco, and Patty. You'll note that none of these five are named Tim, Tony or Manu. And right now the Spurs are #1 by a wide margin. To illustrate, San Antonio is +66 in three games against the Atlantic Division. Spurs fans, keep you calendar open around Finals time.
  • The Heat (#2, 1st in offense, 22nd in defense) continue to rise. That'll be the case as long as LeBron continues to show up. It's interesting that they're aping San Antonio's strategy of resting their players. Miami is a cut above everyone else in the East right now. With Michael Beasley being serviceable and given Greg Oden's comeback, the Heat could kick up their regular season to San Antonio's current level. But that's not really necessary at this point.
  • Kevin Love and his Timberwolves (#3, 10th in offense and 5th in defense) continue to hang around despite some tough losses. A lot of this is Love coming down a level from Super Saiyan to merely MVP. If healthy, this team will keep hanging around in the crowded West playoff race.
  • Indiana (#4, 16th in offense and 1st in defense) did not impress me at all this week. Their lack of an offensive strategy to beat up on the Knicks terrible defense was telling. I don't trust the Pacers, and the reasons why were evident in their last two games. Their defense is stifling, but they need to figure out their offense to beat Miami.
  • The Bulls (#5, 26th in offense and 2nd in defense) are just visiting. You see, their best player -- Jimmy Butler at the moment -- is out for at least a month. Couple that with Derrick Rose being utterly terrible, and this team is going to struggle until the end of the year. Honestly, the Bulls are their own worst enemy right now. They have a deep enough squad that they could play a great five (Hinrich, Dunleavy, Deng, Boozer, Noah) even with the Butler injury and move Rose to the second unit while he works himself back. But I don't know that they have the will to do that.
  • The Clippers (#6, 3rd in offense, 29th in defense) are terrible at defense. I thought Doc was a great defensive coach? I told you all that Doc's defensive impact was way overstated. They still need a defensive stopper and have the pieces to get one. They should be looking for a way to get Asik or Tyson on their team. I keep thinking that if they get Tyson Chandler, CP3 will pick him up at the airport.
  • Portland (#7, 4th in offense and 10th in defense) countinued their Titanic tour of the Eastern Conference. Their last four games were Boston, Toronto, Brooklyn and Milwaukee. Not exactly a murderer's row. A nice story, but I'll be less skeptical once we see them run through some actual NBA teams. I think they're an eight seed in the West right now. Granted, with the way this season is going that might be close to 50 wins.
  • The Warriors (#8, 9th in offense and 4th in defense) are loving Andre Igoudala. His superstar level play, combined with his spectacular wing defense, has kept the Warriors ready to come out and play every night. I do still think regression and injury will pull them back down, but I think that 50 wins is very realistic given what we've seen so far. Their upcoming tilt with Portland should be a referendum on both of these teams.
  • The Thunder (#9, 11th in offense and 9th in defense) currently have the rookie of the year on their roster (Gentleman Steve Adams at 0.211 WP48). This has them exceeding their projection. However this is a bit deceptive as it's been assisted by Perkins being out. The pieces for this team are so very tantilizing. If they played Russ, Thabo, KD, Serge and Adams? Woof. Thanfully for the rest of the west, Scotty Brooks remains gainfully employed.
  • The Mavericks (#10, 2nd in offense and 28th in defense) are joining the Clippers in trying to shoot opponents out of the gym. This is a dangerous road to take. Our Monta/Dirk watch shows some improvement (Monta up from a WP48 of 0.060 to 0.087 and Dirk from 0.047 to 0.125). As much as Carlisle gets lauded as a great coach, they need him to find some defensive consistency on this squad.
  • I expect that the Rockets (#11, 5th in offense and 15th in defense) will rise in the coming weeks. They need to figure their rotation (play Asik or trade Asik). They also need to figure out a way to stop giving close games away. For some inexplicable reason, one of the smartest teams in the league in terms of shot selection seems to lose all reason at the end of close games and falls back on iso/heroball. I think the biggest problem for this team is that the guy who should get the car keys is Lin. Have him and Harden alternate at the end of games as opposed to the slop they're currently running. Running an actual offense for 48 minutes should not be that hard Rockets!
  • The Hawks (#12, 6th in offense and 19th in defense) are now starting to look like the team that we expected to challenge for a top four slot in the East. With the addition of Ayon and Williams, the Hawks now have 7 above average players in the rotation. This is the kind of team building that puts you one player away. All they really need is for one of their guys to excel (Korver is filling that role nicely now) and that #4 seed is theirs.
  • The Pelicans (#13, 7th in offense and 17th in defense) are in the wrong conference. Anthony Davis is starting to look like a future Best Basketball Player on the Planet. Ryan Anderson is back and he's good. Those two would be enough in the East. In the West? It gets them a shot at fourth place. Fourth place in their division.
  • The Raptors (#14, 19th in offense and 7th in defense) are somehow doing it with mirrors. Their offense hurts my very being, but their defense has been excellent (yay ghosts!). The Rudy and DeMar show rides on still. Somehow, this looks like it could be enough to win the Titanic division. And I still get the feeling that they'll be making a trade.
  • Memphis (#15, 12th in offense and 16th in defense) is officially back and all it took was a spinning kick in CP3's face to do it. The Gasol Malaise hasn't left Marc Gasol (0.090 WP48), but wins at Golden State and at the Clippers as part of a three-road-wins-in-four-nights run is hella impressive. WENDIGO is back!
  • The Nuggets (#16, 17th in offense, 11th in defense) have two stars (Lawson and Faried) and the best home court advantage in the West.  They look to be learning Shaw's defense too. Right now all that is good enough for 45 wins and a chance to help the Spurs test out some stuff in round one of the playoffs. If the defense sticks some more and Gallinari comes back and contributes, this could get more interesting.
  • The Washington Wizards (#17, 18th in offense and 21 in defense) had some nice wins this week (T-Wolves and Cavs on a road back-to-back). But I'm still frustrated at how this team's offense is run. They have three legit hard to stop offensive moves (Nene in the post, Wall on the drive, Beal for three). This should be a top ten offense. Didn't they also have a top three pick in the draft as well?
  • After an excellent start, Phoenix (#18, 15th in offense and 8th in defense) is back to the pack. Plumlee has come back to being average (0.075 WP48) and that's made a huge difference. This is a decent team suffering from some regression. But they're a fringe playoff team in the West right now, and far fringe at that.
  • The Pistons (#19, 14th in offense and 24th on defense) need to stage an intervention with Josh Smith. No more threes Josh. Stop it. They also need to completely change Drummond's foul shot. Shooting under 18% from the line is historically bad. Whatever he's currently doing is completely and utterly wrong for him. Hey, it's the East; they still have a lot of time to figure it out.
  • How to explain the Lakers (#20, 24th in offense and 18th in defense) surprising early success? Two things. When Mike D'Antoni is given the freedom to coach his way, he's a great coach. And then there's Jordan Hill.
  • Charlotte (#21, 27th in offense, 6th in defense) is a fringe playoff team in the East. Their defense is good enough to beat you on a bad day, but their offense needs work. If Al Jefferson can get himself to decent, this could be enough for 41 wins. Don't hold your breath.
  • The Nets (#22, 21st on defense and 26th on defense) are locked into a death spiral right now. Deron is terrible (-0.007 WP48) and out. Pierce, KG, and Reggie Evans are decaying rapidly. AK47 is out. This is the point when the rats abandon ship.
  • In Avery Bradley, the Celtics (#23, 25th in offense and 13th in defense) have one of the worst players in the league getting minutes ( -0.083 WP48). If only they could find a star point guard to take his minutes. Grins.
  • The Kings (#24, 13th in offense and 27th in defense) manged to beat the Suns twice and are still terrible. We remain unsurprised.
  • The Knicks (#25, 23rd in offense and 25th in defense) are not good at basketball. This team is done. I don't expect Mike Woodson to make it to Christmas. They have no cap, no pick, no flexibility and no future. This team may be done for the next decade. The James Dolan Knicks everybody!
  • The Sixers (#26, 22nd on offense, 30th on defense) can't cover anybody. But they do seem to have found a franchise big in Spencer Hawes. At 25 years old and playing at star level, Hawes is that rarest of commodities in the NBA: an effective big. At his current level of production, a Pek or Splitter level contract ($9-12 million per year) would be a steal. The Sixers should resign him. Evan Turner (0.048 WP48)...not so much.
  • Do any Milwaukee fans (#27, 28th on offense, 20th in defense) still think their 2-8 Bucks are not tanking? They're tanking, and doing a dang good job of it.
  • How the mighty have fallen: Orlando (#28, 20th in offense and 14th in defense) goes down 12 spots! With two losses to Boston and a loss to the Hawks, the Magic tumbled down the charts. Vucevic and Affalo continue to play like stars, but they need somebody else to step up. Oladipo has been going through some rookie growing pains (-0.074 WP48), partly because of the unfamiliar role that he's been asked to play. I feel like that will change. He'll get better and so will they. Well, as long as Big Baby stays in street clothes.
  • The Cavaliers (#29, 29th in offense, 12th in defense) are at least playing decent defense (you go Mike Brown). You know, when you can spend a #4 draft pick on a shooting guard who can't start for his college team or shoot (Waiters, -0.023 Career WP48 and 40% FG%) and a #1 on a power forward who you didn't need and who can't shoot (Bennett, -0.214 WP48 and 13.5% FG) you have to focus on defense. As for Bennett: someone had to inherit Kwame's crown now that he's out of the league.
  • The Jazz (#30, 30th in offense, 23rd in defense) are indefensibly terrible.

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

Season Simulation as of 11/21/13
NBA Rank Playoff Seed Team Win Proj Playoff Odds Top 4 Seed
1 Seed
4 E1 Indiana Pacers 55 100% 100% 49%
2 E2 Miami Heat 54 100% 99% 41%
5 E3 Chicago Bulls 50 100% 92% 9%
12 E4 Atlanta Hawks 45 98% 62% 1%
14 E5 Toronto Raptors 42 94% 28% 0%
17 E6 Washington Wizards 40 81% 10% 0%
19 E7 Detroit Pistons 38 64% 5%  
21 E8 Charlotte Bobcats 37 58% 3%  
23 E9 Boston Celtics 35 38% 1%  
22 E10 Brooklyn Nets 34 26% 0%  
26 E11 Philadelphia 76ers 32 13% 0%  
29 E12 Cleveland Cavaliers 31 9%    
25 E13 New York Knicks 31 8% 0%  
28 E14 Orlando Magic 30 8%    
27 E15 Milwaukee Bucks 29 2%    
1 W1 San Antonio Spurs 60 100% 99% 85%
3 W2 Minnesota Timberwolves 52 98% 71% 6%
6 W3 Los Angeles Clippers 50 96% 54% 2%
7 W4 Portland Trail Blazers 50 93% 47% 3%
10 W5 Dallas Mavericks 49 92% 40% 1%
8 W6 Golden State Warriors 49 90% 34% 1%
9 W7 Oklahoma City Thunder 49 88% 35% 2%
11 W8 Houston Rockets 46 76% 16% 0%
15 W9 Memphis Grizzlies 42 30% 2%  
13 W10 New Orleans Pelicans 41 23% 2%  
16 W11 Denver Nuggets 39 8% 0%  
18 W12 Phoenix Suns 36 2% 0%  
20 W13 Los Angeles Lakers 36 2%    
24 W14 Sacramento Kings 30 0%    
30 W15 Utah Jazz 20      


To get the #8 seed in the East, all you need is 37 wins, and 45 wins gets you homecourt in the first round. In the West, 50 Wins might make not even be enough to make the playoffs. I'm thinking that a lot of Eastern Conference playoff games will be on NBA TV. A Spurs/Heat rematch continues to feel inevitable.