Extra Pass: Western Conference playoff field ought to be really good, but just how good?

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The Oklahoma City Thunder sent a message to the Houston Rockets. The Golden State Warriors overwhelmed the Dallas Mavericks. The Memphis Grizzlies made up ground on the Portland Trail Blazers. The San Antonio Spurs smacked down the Chicago Bulls. The Minnesota Timberwolves took care of business against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Tuesday night was eventful for Western Conference playoff contenders.

Though the slate wasn’t the most thrilling, it at least offered glimpses of what’s to come – a historically loaded Western Conference playoffs.

Here are the current standings of the 10 Western Conference teams with realistic playoff chances.

1. San Antonio Spurs (47-16)

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (47-17)

3. Los Angeles Clippers (45-20)

4. Houston Rockets (44-20)

5. Portland Trail Blazers (42-22)

6. Golden State Warriors (41-24)

7. Memphis Grizzlies (37-26)

8. Dallas Mavericks (38-27)

9. Phoenix Suns (36-27)

10. Minnesota Timberwolves (32-31)

If those top eight teams keep winning at the same rate, they’d each hold a better wining percentage (red) than their corresponding seed’s all-time average (gold) since the NBA adopted a 16-team playoff in 1984.

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Heck, the ninth-place Suns are on pace to finish better than a typical No. 6 seed, and the 10th-place Timberwolves are on pace to best a typical eighth seed.

This is a really tough playoff field to crack.

The top eight in the West have combined to win 66.4 percent of their game. If that holds, it will be the second-best mark ever:

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If you’re curious, here’s that 1997 Eastern Conference field:

1. Chicago Bulls (69-13)

2. Miami Heat (61-21)

3. New York Knicks (57-25)

4. Atlanta Hawks (56-26)

5. Detroit Pistons (54-28)

6. Charlotte Hornets (54-28)

7. Orlando Magic (45-37)

8. Washington Bullets (44-38)

Now, we already know the West playoff field (red) is on pace to be better than average (gold) at each seed. But how does it compare to the best teams to hold each seed under this system (black)?

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Here are the best teams at each seed:

1. 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10)

2. 2008-09 Boston Celtics (62-20)

3. 1997-98 Los Angeles Lakers (61-21)

4. 2005-06 Dallas Mavericks (60-22)

5. 2012-13 Memphis Grizzlies and 1997-98 San Antonio Spurs (56-26)

6. 2007-08 Phoenix Suns (55-27)

7. 2007-08 Dallas Mavericks (51-31)

8. 2009-10 Oklahoma City Thunder and 2007-08 Denver Nuggets (50-32)

OK, so no 2014 team is on pace to set a record for its seed. Even the ninth-place Suns fall short of the winning percentage of the 2007-08 Warriors, who missed the playoffs with a 48-34 record.

But in aggregate, this year’s group yields an incredible result:

The 2014 Western Conference teams are on pace to come closer to that hypothetical field of the best seeds of all time than an average field!

Former Lakers forward Tommy Hawkins dies

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tommy Hawkins, the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame and who played for the Los Angeles Lakers during a 10-year NBA career, has died. He was 80.

Hawkins died Wednesday in Malibu, according to the Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom he once worked as director of communications.

He graduated from Notre Dame in 1959. Hawkins was inducted into the school’s Ring of Honor and his 1,318 career rebounds remain the oldest record on the books in Fighting Irish basketball history.

Hawkins was selected by the Minneapolis Lakers in the first round of the 1959 NBA draft. He played for them as well as the Cincinnati Royals, and notched 6,672 career points and 4,607 rebounds.

Nuggets hire assistant coach, assistant general manager

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DENVER (AP) — The Denver Nuggets have hired veteran NBA coach Bob Weiss as an assistant on Michael Malone’s staff and announced the hiring of Calvin Booth as an assistant general manager.

Weiss has coached 31 seasons in the NBA, including the last four as an assistant with the Charlotte Hornets. He’s been a head coach with four teams, compiling a 223-299 career record with the Spurs, Hawks, Clippers and SuperSonics.

Prior to coaching, Weiss played a dozen seasons in the NBA.

Also Wednesday, the Nuggets made official their hiring of Booth, 41, who spent the previous four seasons in the Minnesota Timberwolves front office, serving as director of pro personnel last season.

Booth has quietly emerged as a respected evaluator of talent. He was one of the holdovers in the front office when Tom Thibodeau was hired to take over last summer as president of basketball operations and coach.

After one season working under Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden, Booth left for a promotion with the Nuggets, taking a position that will give him more responsibility and a greater say in the direction of another young team on the rise in the Western Conference.

Booth joins a Nuggets front office that includes Tim Connelly, who was promoted earlier this summer to president of basketball operations, a move that allowed Denver to hold on to promising executive Arturas Karnisovas as the team’s general manager.

Booth spent 10 years as a player in the league. Four of those seasons were with the Washington Wizards while Connelly was working there. The two also worked together in New Orleans in 2012-13, when Connelly was the assistant GM and Booth was a scout.

 

Rasheed Wallace says Zach Randolph isn’t a drug dealer: ‘The bigger the paycheck, the bigger the party’

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Kings big man Zach Randolph is charged with possessing marijuana with intent to sell, a felony – not because law enforcement has evidence Randolph planned to sell the drug, but because of the amount of the drug found.

Randolph’s agent/attorney denied the allegations.

Also sticking up for Randolph? Rasheed Wallace, who played with Randolph on the Trail Blazers.

Wallace, via TMZ:

“It seems to be — no matter who you are — the bigger the paycheck, the bigger the party,” Sheed says.

“I know for a fact he ain’t no dope dealer.”

Charging someone for intending to distributing drugs without any proof he intends to distribute drugs is hazardously lazy. Randolph – who has earned about $175 million in his career and is on a two-year, $24 million contract with Sacramento – can afford more marijuana than most. That doesn’t mean he plans to sell it.

The stakes are high for Randolph. If he’s convicted of “a felony involving the distribution of marijuana,” per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, he’d be banned from the NBA for at least two years.

Report: Enes Kanter not yet permitted to travel to Mexico, where Thunder scheduled to play

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Remember when Turkey revoked Enes Kanter‘s passport?

That looms over the Thunder’s Dec. 7 game against the Nets in Mexico City.

Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

Without a valid passport, he is unable to travel to another country other than Canada, which allows entry from U.S. residents who have a Green Card. There is no such agreement with Mexico.

Kanter could receive a re-entry permit, a special document issued to citizens of other countries whose passports have been canceled for reasons the U.S. government deems unsuitable. The permit would allow Kanter to leave the U.S. for another country, such as Mexico, and still return. And the plan is for Kanter to acquire one before OKC’s game in Mexico City. Still, he is yet to receive a re-entry permit, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. There is, however, still ample time for that process to complete.

Kanter is a high-profile millionaire working for a billion-dollar company that has a vested interest in getting him to Mexico. He likely works this out.