“Albert grunted. “Do you know what happens to lads who ask too many questions?”
Mort thought for a moment.
“No,” he said eventually, “what?”
There was silence.
Then Albert straightened up and said, “Damned if I know. Probably they get answers, and serve ’em right.”
― Terry Pratchett, Mort
I’ve been a bit selfish lately. I will admit that my writing has been directed towards what I want to see.
I’ve been working on understanding how to measure team strength as the season progresses. It’s perfectly fine to come up with a chart like the one above illustrating that calculated strength. It’s also fine to put it in table form.
It’s even fine to use it to do a season and playoff projection.
But really this does not answer the questions you all might have: What does it all mean? Why are teams bubbling up and bubbling down? What is actually going on?
This requires some work on my part. Like maybe taking every player and every team for the season dividing it into six twenty day periods (chronological of course) and reviewing every team and player in terms of what’s moving the needle. Like figuring out what each player is contributing for each period using our handy dandy Points over Par metric and doing it per game.
Now all that’s left is for me to do the team reviews and we are going alphabetically:
- Atlanta Hawks (Improving) : Al Horford is Really good and really back. Shades of the Celtics-Hawks playoff series last year. They’ll be interesting if Josh Smith makes a late contract push.
- Boston Celtics (Improving): Post- Rondo Injury, Jason Terry is making a real contribution. Also, the aliens seem to have come down and replaced Jeff Green with an actual basketball player. The big questions seem to be if Green is really turning it around and if there an actual chance of a Rondo return? I remain skeptical.
- Brooklyn (Listing): For a while there, Brooklyn looked good. Brook Lopez was surprisingly and rightfully an all star. Deron Williams stopped sucking. Reggie Evans was his usual self and got played. It sadly seems to be going south with Deron and Brook. They make the playoffs but get bounced quickly if they don’t figure it out soon.
- Charlotte (Titanic): Charlotte continues to be the worst roster in the league. The only piece of any real value on that roster is Kidd Gilchrist. Kemba might be a decent bench guard for a contender.
- Chicago ( Hanging Around): This Bulls team has a solid roster with star center Noah, ironman swingman Deng and sophmore find Jimmy Butler. Throw in the better than average Boozer and Gibson combo at the four and you have almost all the pieces for a contender. If they only had a star player to add to put them over the top, could you imagine? Oh and much,much less Rip Hamilton please.
- Cleveland (Improving): With Kyrie and Tristan Thompson, the cavs have an interesting young roster. Throw in a full season of Anderson and some more picks and this might be an extremely interesting roster to free agents after next season. Kingly, you might even say.
- Dallas (Improving): The Matrix, Vinsanity and Dirk, ladies and gents, it’s the 2003 all star game! Kidding aside this team does have a shot at getting that eight seed but not real shot at winning a series. If I were Cuban, I’d much rather get a lottery pick to make my roster younger. Wright should play more too.
- Denver (Improving): We told you this team would be good. Once Iggy and Gallinari came back to form this was inevitable particularly with the Manimal and a sprinkling of Javale. I leave the quibbling about coach Karl in more capable hands (or at least more involved hands :-) ). Denver has a real shot at a home series and two weeks of questionable Karl 4th quarter lineups leading to a heart breaking loss in a game seven at home (going centerless against ZBo and Gasol seems like fate). I await a manic ten thousand word fire Karl column from my co-editor.
- Detroit (Treading Water): Detriot got the best piece back of all the trades made in Jose Calderon and he has played to form. Losing Drummond though is a hard blow and cancels out the gain particularly since I don’t really believe Calderon re-signs. Monroe and Drummond means this team has hope. Throw in the inevitable draft picks (which to be fair, Dumars has been decent at) and maybe clean out some dead weight (Villanueva, i’m looking at you) and this could turn around quickly.
- Golden State (Regressing): The Warriors meanwhile seem to be regressing. David Lee and Stephen Curry have come back to earth somewhat. Their young bucks (Barnes and Thompson) have as well. They are young and have been a nice story but seem to be wilting under the light. I vote them most likely to fall out of the top eight in the west. The biggest xfactor is Bogut. If he can actually play, this is a very different and much more dangerous roster. I do tend to think that the stars point to this team being a preview of a better 2013-14 version.
- Houston (Improving and Dangerous): This is the team to avoid in Round 1 of the Western Conference Playoffs. So young and talented, Houston has perhaps the best roster of any team in the league in terms of potential, bang for the buck and flexibility. This roster has been getting better all season and will continue to do so in the next five years. Throw in Harden taking it up a notch as the season goes along and this is a real dark horse out west. If it is Clippers and Rockets in round one, we all win.
- Indiana (Improving): A great young improving core loses to the champs in round 2 and then proceeds to lose to them again in the ECF? It’s a familiar story and it could be playing out again with this Indiana team. Paul George, George Hill, Lance Stephenson and David West have all been above average and Hibbert has progressed back to just slightly below average for the most part this season. My worry for them is that the return of Danny Granger (a good player) could be detrimental as both Stephenson and George have played better than him filling in. I look forward to watching them pay their dues against the Heat in the Playoffs.
- Clippers (Coming back to form): The Clippers plan A, B, and C is Chris Paul. With him, they have to be taken seriously as a contender. Without him, they are not going anywhere. I don’t think they can get past OKC or San Antonio just quite yet.
- Lakers (Better than their record): The Lakers are bad but are better than their record. Dwight and Kobe have been good but the rest of the roster has been a mixed bag. Health with Pau and Nash has been killer. I do however feel they round into shape and make the playoffs at the eight seed (barring a Doctor like regeneration on the part of Bogut).
- Memphis (Lurking): I like Memphis post game and their Bigs (Gasol and ZBo). I like their guards in Conley and Allen. I like the Tayshaun Prince addition. I do not trust their coaching staff at all in a playoff series. If the Memphis/Nuggets first rounder does materialize, it’ll probably set a basketball twitter record for snarky comments about coaches, playcalls and shot selection (Here let me start #heroball , #kobeassist , “The hell is Karl doing rolling with two guards and three small forwards versus Zbo”)
- Miami (Peaking): We’ve established that Lebron James is the Greatest Basketball player on the planet. Add in DWade finding his stroke and you can start writing the Heat in in pen as the Eastern representative in the Finals.
- Milwaukee (At the Crossroads): In J.J. Redick, the Bucks have the perfect two guard to pair off with their slashing ball dominating guard. The problem is that they have two of them in Jennings and Ellis. Sanders, Illyasova are great pieces as well. Now they need to figure out who they’re dumping of Monta and Brandon. They make the playoffs as a sacrificial lamb for the Heat.
- Twolves (Do-Over): The state of Minnesota has declared an injury emergency. The season is suspended. Tune back next season when we resume regular service.
- Hornets (Getting Better): The Hornets have some great young pieces in Davis, Anderson, Aminu and heck even Robin Lopez has done a good job. They do however need to get rid of the awful Austin Rivers. Although maybe they should ride him to a make up lottery pick.
- Knicks (Downward Spiral): Hide the women and children! It’s the return of Bad Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks had enjoyed a renaissance under the auspices of the Good Carmelo Anthony who shared the ball and passed up covered long two point jumpers. This had turned the knicks offense into a spurs level exhibition of good, selfless play. Bad Melo is back with a vengance. The key date seems to be January 7th. Maybe he should eat his cheerios.
- OKC ( Dominant): OKC should rightfully expect to get to the finals again. Durant is the best player in the world not named Lebron. Ibaka and Thabo have been great and Russell has been good. The road seems bound to be rough. Houston, Clippers, Spurs, Heat would be one of the toughest roads faced to a championship in a good long while.
- Orlando (Tanking): They are playing for ping pong balls in Orlando.
- Philadelphia (Missed the Spare): I understood blowing it up for Bynum. I think at this point you focus on getting him healthy and resigning him. No point in even trying to be the team to be killed by Miami in round 1.
- Phoenix (Crashing): Great medical staff, horrible, horrible roster. I really don’t get why they didn’t move some pieces (Dudley/Gortat) for assets. I really think this is a terrible situation right now.
- Portland ( Regressing): I love the Blazers roster in particular Batum, Hickson and Lillard. The schedule and youth caught up to them this season but time is on their side (as are the lottery picks coming their way).
- Sacramento (Imploding): Have the Maloofs sold yet? As bad as this team is now, I think this is a horribly dysfunctional situation (think 2008 Seattle). I would not be surprised if a lot of these guys (I’m looking at you Boogie and Tyreke) are much improved in their next NBA city. Keep in mind, Durant was terrible (-.015 WP48) that last season in Seattle.
- San Antonio (Historic): The Spurs have won 66 of their last 82 regular season games. Spurs look to be a historically good team.15 teams have won 65 or more games . 12 won titles. With the Spurs and Heat we could be looking at two 65 win teams.
- Toronto (Balanced): Toronto is not really that improved and Bargs just walked thru that door. A fall is coming.
- Utah (Good): A good but not great roster and a great homecourt. Utah will be a playoff perennial but does really need one star piece to put them over the top. Need some luck in the draft.
- Washington (Improving): Once the injury bug went away this team got better. Not only that but rookie Beal is rounding into form. They could sneak into the playoffs and give Miami a much better workout than the other teams on the bubble in the East. Better tv too.
Good Luck, drive safe and we’ll see you on friday at Sloan!