Chaos theory reigns over NBA playoff scenarios


Thumbnail image for bulls_game.jpgGame 1,230. The last one of the seemingly eternal NBA regular season. It tips off at 10:30 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday night, Utah Jazz at the Phoenix Suns.

Until that game ends well after midnight, we are not going to know all the first round playoff matchups. It has just been that kind of season. With just three days remaining of games we still almost need Stephen Hawking to figure out and explain all the potential playoff scenarios out there.

The Eastern conference is complex. For the Western Conference, maybe Hawking isn’t the guy, we need Edward Lorenz, the father of Chaos Theory. (Well, except he’s been dead for a couple years.)

Out in the West, we know the teams and that the Lakers are the top seed. That’s about it. It could be just about anybody playing just about anybody — four games still separate seeds two and eight. It’s so chaotic that one team with at least 51 wins this season (likely 52) will not have home court advantage.

In practice the West is really two tiers (behind the Lakers): The Mavericks, Suns, Jazz and Nuggets fighting for seeds two through six; then the Spurs, Trail Blazers and Thunder fighting for six through eight.  

Dallas is the current holder of the second seed out West, with a 53-27 record. Phoenix, Utah and Denver all are a game back at 52-28. With two games left, anyone of them can finish either as the two seed or the six.

Two big games will decide a lot of this and the Suns are in both — they play Denver Tuesday then Utah on Wednesday. Win both and they could be the two seed. However, that will most likely be Dallas because of their current one-game lead — and they have a gimme against the Clippers on Monday night. But then comes a game on Wednesday night against San Antonio where both teams could want to win for playoff positioning reasons.

Utah should get a win Tuesday against Golden State. Then comes the big Wednesday night showdown with the Suns. The scenarios for what that game could mean is where we need Hawking.

As for the lower tier of the West, Oklahoma City is likely facing the Lakers in the first round — unless they can beat Portland Monday night. The race in this second tier is actually tighter than the top — Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Portland all have 49 wins.

Which makes the Thunder/Trail Blazers game huge. At the same time as that game, San Antonio will almost certainly be beating the dead horse of Minnesota to get win 50. The bottom like is the loser of the Oklahoma City/Portland game almost certainly gets the Lakers.  

Just to make it more complex, San Antonio owns the tiebreaker over Oklahoma City but Portland owns it over the Spurs. That Monday night game between the Thunder and Blazers decide who has that tiebreaker.

Thank Buddha the East is a little more straightforward. A little. We know a couple things for sure: The Cavaliers are the top seed, but we’re not sure who they will play yet. We are also sure that Orlando is the two seed and will likely play first-time playoff participants Charlotte.

Chicago’s blowout win over the Raptors in Toronto Sunday gives them a one game lead and the advantage, for that eighth and final spot and the “reward” of playing Cleveland. But the Raptors own the tiebreaker with the Bulls. Chicago has two games left — Boston on Tuesday, then Charlotte on the second night. Two playoff teams. Toronto’s two games left are against teams bound for the lottery, Detroit and New York.

That said, the Raptors have yet to win since Bosh was injured, can they really overtake the Bulls now? Not likely. The Bulls should hold on to the eighth spot. But with unpredictable teams like this “should” means little.

Also out East, Boston and Atlanta will finish as the three and four seeds, in some order, and will face Miami or Milwaukee, in some order. The Bucks may have the most say in how this finishes up — they face the Hawks and the Celtics.

Atlanta has a one game lead on Boston for the three-seed, and plays the Bucks then the Cavaliers (who likely will rest a lot of players). Boston faces the very desperate Bulls followed by the Bucks. The smart money would say Atlanta remains the three seed. But again the Bucks get a big say.

And those Bucks need their wins, Miami’s two remaining games are against the Sixers and Nets, two games the hot Heat should win. Milwaukee will have a tough time getting two wins. Again, look for the Heat to be the five seed (against Boston) and the Hawks to get the Bucks.

But when Chaos Theory is operating, anything can happen.

Report: Sevyn Streeter’s contract with 76ers for anthem prohibited political statements

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 01:  Actress Sevyn Streeter speaks onstage during the 'Ringside' panel discussion at the TV One portion of the 2016 Television Critics Association Summer Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 1, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
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Sevyn Streeter said the 76ers stopped her from singing the national anthem last night because she wore a “WE MATTER” jersey.

The 76ers said they use their games to bring people together.

Jan Carabeo of CBS3 (hat tip: CSN Philly):


This has been taken by some as proof Streeter was in the wrong. But the 76ers have a right to determine who uses their platform and how. That legality of the 76ers’ actions isn’t in question.

What should be questioned is the message they sent.

That they’re against any and all political statements defies belief. They have allowed their invited guests to display political messages on the court before. If Streeter wore a shirt that said “Support our troops” – no less of a political statement – would she have been barred from performing? You must believe the answer is yes to believe political statements themselves, not the specific content of Streeter’s, were the problem here.

There’s also something troubling about “WE MATTER” being a political statement, but in the reality of America, the jersey is undoubtedly political. The 76ers silencing Streeter will keep it that way.

Bulls throw back to a different era with poor-shooting starting lineup

PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 18:  Taj Gibson #22 of the Chicago Bulls during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on November 18, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Bulls defeated the Suns 103-97. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Bulls’ 2016-17 opening-night starters combined to make 133 3-pointers last season.

Twenty-nine players made more themselves.

Chicago was always going to face questions about floor-spacing with Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler starting on the perimeter. But Fred Hoiberg intensified the concern by naming Taj Gibson the Bulls’ starting power forward with Robin Lopez at center.

No NBA team has started a season with such a meager 3-point-shooting lineup in years.

Here’s how many 3s each Chicago starter made per game last season:

  • Rondo: 0.86
  • Wade: 0.09
  • Butler: 0.96
  • Gibson: 0.00
  • Lopez: 0.00

Grand total: 1.91.

Sixty-three players made at least two 3-pointers in their 2016-17 debut.

Obviously, we don’t know how players will shoot this season – especially for the Bulls, who open their season against the Celtics tonight. So, to get a rough estimate, let’s assume each 2016-17 opening-game starter makes the same number of 3-pointers per game he made last season. Here’s how each team would rank. (Because the Clippers, Wizards and Hawks have also yet to play this season, I projected their starters.)


Keep in mind: These rankings give zero made 3s to anyone who didn’t play in the NBA last year, and 2016-17 starters who were in smaller roles last season get no adjustment upward.

That the Bulls are starting five players who started last year and still rank last speaks volumes.

This rough projection gives the Bulls’ starters 1.91 3-pointers per game, but we don’t need to project for previous seasons. We know how many aggregate 3-pointers per game each prior team’s opening-game starters produced that season.

The last team with so few was the 2012-13 New Orleans Hornets with 1.58 – and it had been two years before that since another team had less than Chicago’s projection. Those Hornets went 27-55, though their offense ranked 16th in the league.

These Bulls are truly a throwback to a different era. Teams have come to understand the value of 3-pointers, both for their efficiency themselves and the floor-spacing they provide. There’s a reason no other team dares to start a lineup like Chicago’s.

The Pelicans come closest, but they’re relying on E'Twaun Moore and Solomon Hill taking larger roles. New Orleans’ outside shooting will also improve when Jrue Holiday returns.

The Bulls essentially have their full roster available, and they opted for this lineup – even though there are other options. The simplest would’ve been starting Nikola Mirotic, a stretch four who seemed certain to start given Chicago’s constraints. Gibson might be a better player. He ‘s definitely a better defender and offensive rebounder. But Mirotic’s fit seemed so natural.


Hoiberg can stagger minutes, and Mirotic and Doug McDermott should play key roles as floor-spacers. But the Bulls are committing to starting each half with several minutes of this non-shooting lineup.

Of course, it doesn’t have to go as poorly as history would suggest.

Wade has shown an improved ability on 3-pointers in the preseason. Butler has been up and down from beyond the arc, so it shouldn’t be assumed last year’s poor outside shooting is truly representative.

But Rondo is coming off the best 3-point season of his career, and it seems it might be a fluke outlier. Gibson and Lopez have shown no proficiency from downtown.

Still, there other ways to space the floor. Rondo passes extremely well. Wade excels as a cutter. Butler’s drives demand attention. Gibson can out-muscle opponents to spots. Robin Lopez is exceptionally quick around the paint for a big man.

But 3-point shooting is the simplest and most direct method for creating space. The Bulls will be working from behind there – years behind.

Ben Simmons denies rumor he plans to sit out all season: ‘As soon as they tell me I can play is when I’ll be out there’

CAMDEN, NJ - SEPTEMBER 26: Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers dribbles two basketballs during media day on September 26, 2016 in Camden, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Despite rumors agent Rich Paul won’t let Ben Simmons play this season, 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil said the No. 1 pick would return from a broken foot during his rookie year. Yet, the last 76ers official who expressed optimism about Simmons’ timeline had to walk it back.

So, I’d prefer to hear straight from Simmons or Paul.

Simmons, via Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:

“I’d love to play, definitely,” Simmons said of the 2016-17 season. “As soon as I can get out there, I’d love to play.”

“There’s no timetable on getting healthy,” he said. “I’m working every day to get back and as soon as they tell me I can play is when I’ll be out there.”

No two injuries are alike, so Simmons doesn’t perfectly compare to Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid of prior years. But the 76ers definitely seem to be less precautious with Bryan Colangelo rather than Sam Hinkie. Not that they’ll rush a player back, but if he’s ready, they’ll play him. There’s no more sitting talented players to tank. Philadelphia wants to market Simmons, and that requires getting him on the court.

So, the ball is in Simmons’ court – but he threw it back to the 76ers, saying he’ll follow their clearance call. That’s all they can ask for at this point.

Justin Anderson cuts under basket, reaches back for putback dunk (video)

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One player dunking on another is always fantastic.

But some of the best jams come when the dunker artfully dodges defenders in the first place.

Mavericks forward Justin Anderson did that with this putback slam against the Pacers last night.