Every Wednesday, John Daigle of theunbiasedfan.com stops by Spin IT to provide his assessment of various happenings around the NBA.
This week, Daigle introduces you to his (mostly) fool-proof system for determining which teams will be the last 3 in and the first 3 out in the Western Conference.
For more of John Daigle, be sure to visit The Unbiased Fan.
With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, there are quite a few things I can confidently claim to know: What Boston has accomplished without their best player on the court is nothing short of astonishing; George Hill might be having the most underrated NBA season of any player out there; The Heat are really, really good; The Bobcats are really, really bad; Bryan Colangelo already regrets the Rudy Gay trade; No matter their combined age or resting situation, every team should fear running into the Spurs during the postseason; The Grizzlies are a legitimate contender if their seeding-chips fall in the right place; The Detroit obituaries, if even for a second, had reserved a spot for Brandon Knight after the DeAndre dunk; Orlando might have a sneaky-good core of role players in place between Vucevic, Harris, Moore, and Harkless; I’m not sure what the hell the Sixers are doing; And did I mention the Heat are really good?
However, one issue I can’t seem to put my finger on is which teams will eventually sneak into the postseason for the West. The top five seeds, minus the obligatory jostling that’s sure to take place over the next few weeks, might be set in stone, but the six through eleven seeds are separated by a mere six games. How are we supposed to deduce who’s in and who stays home to enjoy the new season of Game of Thrones on the night of?
The good news is, together, I feel like this can be accomplished. So, without further ado, I present to you the point scale that’s sure to help us reach a conclusion (or drive me to a Carrie Mathison-like state at the end of Homeland Season One).
It’s rather simple. We’ll only be judging Golden State, Houston, the Lakers, Utah, Dallas, and Portland, seeing as they’re the only teams left competing for three spots. A team receives two points for winning the category, one point for being an honorable mention, and half a point whenever I deem fit. (I wouldn’t try to argue that last bullet point, either. If you feel the need to protest any half-point increments, I’ll promptly use the Chewbacca defense and walk away.) In the end, we’ll tally the points we’ve divvied up to each team and see where we stand. Fail proof, right?
And as a friendly reminder, this is once again being brought to you by Around The Revolutions…
Strength of Schedule
Though this category offered numerous ways to approach it, I felt the best method was to address the toughest paths, rather than the easiest. For instance, the Warriors, Rockets, and Lakers have 10 games remaining against teams over .500, while Portland, on the other hand, has 16.
The worst luck happens to lean towards the Mavericks, who have 13 games left to play against above-.500 teams, yet only two games in which they could make up an entire game between themselves and the sixth seed (LAL, Portland).
However, the two most interesting outlooks to watch surrounding these six teams are (1) How the next seven games for Utah play out (@OKC, Mem, NYK, @Hou, @SA, @Dal, Por), and (2) How Los Angeles handles their final four games of the season (@Por, GS, SA, Hou). (Don’t worry. If it comes down to a win-and-in situation, you can lay the house on a Live Journal the following morning.)
Nonetheless, the clear winner here is Golden State. With only 10 games remaining against above-.500 teams, six of those happen to be versus opponents they could stay an entire game up on with a victory (Hou, LAL x 2, Port x 2, Utah).
SCORE: Golden State – 2, Houston – 1, LAL – 1, Utah – 0, Dallas – 0, Portland – 0
Is there any doubt who walks away from this one with two points? Only one team throughout the entire league has scored more points than the Rockets (Denver), while the Knicks, who are second in the league in 3-point-attempts, rank nearly one hundred behind them. And even with their high-volume of shooting from behind the arc, Houston’s accuracy hasn’t taken a hit, sinking an incredible 37.3% of their 3’s. (For comparison, the Warriors have attempted just below 1300 and are shooting a league-best 39.7%.)
Just to drive home the point, the Rockets are also the only team on this list that rank in the top 10 of OffRtg (scoring 107.3 points per 100 possessions), assist percentage (60.9% of their shots come via assist), and rebounding percentage (50.7%, which shouldn’t come as too much of a shock seeing as Morey and McHale preach the Moneyball-method of volume-shooting and rebounding). (Though their second-worst opponent offensive rebounding percentage might need some work.)
SCORE: Houston – 2, GS – 1, LAL – 0, Utah – 0, Dallas – 0, Portland – 0
Best Pending Reality Show
An incredibly strong category considering these are teams fighting to live another day. I’m not sure what Utah, Portland, or Golden State bring to the table in terms of entertainment, but Karoake with Delfino!, The Roast of Dwight Howard, and my personal favorite, Vinsanity’s School of Cycling undoubtedly have wheels.
SCORE: Dallas – 2, LAL – 1, Houston – 1, Utah – 0, Portland – 0, GS – 0
In a not-so-coincidental coincidence, none of these teams are currently listed in the top 10 of defensive efficiency. In fact, none are ranked in the top 15. Actually, let’s take this a step further. Here’s a list of how many points per 100 possessions each team is currently allowing, with their league ranking in parentheses.
Golden State – 103.4 (17)
Los Angeles – 103.9 (18)
Utah – 104.1 (19)
Dallas – 104.2 (20)
Houston – 104.9 (24)
Portland – 105.3 (25)
Thanks for doing all the work for me, guys.
SCORE: Every team -1
There’s certainly a clear-cut winner here, however, almost every team deserves some sort of applause. The Trail Blazers began their transition during the most recent offseason, while the Warriors are currently competing with a team of surging youths that are destined to be an eventual contender with one or two more minuscule additions.
Furthermore, the Mavericks reasoning behind the release of Chandler revolves solely around the CBA and what lies in the future, the Lakers only have one player on the books during the Summer of Lebron (literally), and the Jazz holds all the cards with two exponential sign-and-trade pieces in Millsap and Jefferson. It’s just too bad each of these teams has to compete with the Rockets analytics.
I’ve written it time and time again, so I’ll save further barraging for another date. Just don’t be shocked when the Rockets “fill-in” players around a couple of maxed out superstars are (instead of casual names like Carter, Meeks, and Hayward) Lin and Asik.
SCORE: Houston – 2, Dallas – 1, Utah – 1, GS – 1, LAL – 1, Portland – .5
Sure, no one in the league might be trekking towards the playoffs like the Nuggets (nine in a row/19-4 over their last 23, which is about an 11 on the Holy Shit Meter), but there are still a few outliers in this group that are just now reaching their peak.
Though they’re slowly attempting to right the ship, Golden State has been the complete opposite of this category as of late, going 6-12 over their last 18 games. On the same note, Utah is getting shelled in the second half of games, specifically in the third quarter, where they’ve allowed 111.8 points per 100 possessions while only scoring 92.8 over the course of their last seven games (2-6). (It should also be noted that even in those two wins, they scored 109.3 and allowed 136.5 in the third.)
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Rockets are finding a groove, and Dallas is hitting their stride at the right time, winning five of their last six. The big winner here, though, remains the Lakers.
Rising from the depths of 17-25, Los Angeles has somehow collected themselves over time, now sitting three games above .500. Howard’s momentous 39 and 16 in Orlando may or may not have been an important niche and turning point of this season (let alone his career), but either way, the Lakers are building chemistry en route to a likely postseason berth.
SCORE: LAL – 2, Houston – 1, Dallas – 1, GS – 0, Utah – 0, Portland – 0
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to America’s favorite game show: GUESS! THAT! NAME!!
You already know how to play, so let’s jump straight into it. Ready? Ok, go ahead and…GUESS! THAT! NAME!!!
Your category is THE FINAL FIVE MINUTES…
Kyrie Irving – 43-90 FG, 47.8 FG%, 9-28 3FG, 32.1 3FG%
(Player A) – 17-34 FG, 50 FG%, 14-25 3FG, 56 3FG%
Answers locked? Well, if you guessed Wesley Matthews…YOU’RE CORRECT! Thanks for playing, and as always, please have your pets spayed or neutered.
Of the 38 players that qualified with 100+ minutes logged during the final five minutes of games (when CLUTCH statistics are tracked), Matthews has the highest shooting percentage from beyond the arc (per NBA Stats Database) and has been a constant go-to, along with Lillard.
I realize you want the ball in Kobe’s hand during those must-have moments, especially since he’s still playing out-of-this-world great. Or maybe you’ll even suffice with Harden/Virk Carwitzki. But come on, Portland is still in the negatives! Plus, we somehow have to make up for LaRue Martin, Mychal Thompson, Greg Oden, and Arvydas Sabonis (every Trail Blazers fan just smashed their computer).
SCORE: Portland – 2, LAL – 1.5, Dallas – 1, Houston – 1, Utah – 0, GS – 0
So, if you’ve been keeping track, the totals are as follows (drum roll, please)…
Houston – 7
Los Angeles – 5.5
Dallas – 4
Golden State – 3
Portland – 1.5
Utah – 0
And there you have it. I’m not saying it’s a fool-proof plan for figuring the West out, but it’s the best method we have