Are the Warriors championship favorites? Adjusting for playoff rotations says yes

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It no longer matters how the Warriors played with Andrew Bogut (injured), how the Bulls played with Luol Deng (traded) or how the Heat played with Michael Beasley (out of the rotation).

Most playoff projections analyze full-season information, but teams have changed since October. Those changes will increase when rotations shrink for the playoffs.

I think it’s important to account for that, and I’m again running a model I used last season:

In an attempt to get better data, I’ve used nba wowy! to rank playoff teams by regular-season net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating), counting only the lineups that include five players projected to be in the team’s post-season rotation.

This measure is far from perfect. It doesn’t account for opponent or weigh lineups based on how often they’ll be used in the postseason, and it’s impossible to precisely predict a team’s playoff rotation.

I’ll add one more major caveat: nba wowy! appears to be missing some plays this seasons. I’m hopeful the included plays are representative, but I can’t guarantee it.

Last season, filling out the postseason bracket using my rankings yielded better results (11 of 15 series correct) than using straight seeding (9 of 15 series correct).

OKC OKC Seeds MIA MIA
HOU MIL
OKC MIA
LAC LAC BRK BRK
MEM MIA CHI
OKC MIA
DEN DEN IND IND
GSW ATL
SAS NYK
SAS SAS NYK NYK
LAL BOS
OKC OKC Me MIA MIA
HOU MIL
MEM MIA
LAC MEM BRK BRK
MEM SAS CHI
SAS MIA
DEN DEN IND IND
GSW ATL
SAS NYK
SAS SAS NYK NYK
LAL BOS

A full outlook follows, but here are a few takeaways from this year’s projections:

  • Eastern Conference standings remain largely unchanged. The only predicted upset through the conference finals is Wizards over Bulls.
  • The West, on the hand, gets turned upside down. Warriors over Clippers and Trail Blazers over Rockets are both projected as first-round upsets.
  • In fact, Golden State has the best adjusted net rating in the league. However, the Warriors face the biggest loss in the playoffs in Bogut, meaning their results are highly volatile. These numbers say Golden State is the favorite. An added dose of logic says they are not. As always, use models like these only as a piece of evaluation – not definitive projections.
  • The Wizards are the East’s big riser, moving from the No. 5 seed to third in the projections and barely behind the Heat. Because the Pacers and Heat remain 1-2, though, that projects only one series win for Washington. The Wizards have played very well when healthy, and considering they’re healthy now, it makes sense their projected playoff rotation rates highly.
  • The Thunder take a big tumble, but the model does not include a large number of Russell Westbrook minutes. I suspect Oklahoma City will fare better in real life by playing Westbrook more.
  • The Clippers also fell substantially. They have struggled mightily when Danny Granger and/or Glen Davis – two players I, perhaps mistakenly, included in Los Angeles’ rotation – see the court. Doc Rivers can avoid the downturn by managing his rotation well.
  • The Clippers, Thunder and Mavericks each have lower adjusted net ratings than overall net ratings.
  • The Nets, Bobcats and Hawks each make solid gains, but considering all three were outscored this season, they still remain at the bottom of the East.

Here are the full results of each team, with its overall ratings adjusted to include only lineups comprised completely of players in its playoff rotations:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Indiana Pacers

  • Offensive rating: 106.0 to 110.4
  • Defensive rating: 101.1 to 101.9
  • Net rating: +4.9 to +8.5

2. Miami Heat

  • Offensive rating: 110.9 to 111.8
  • Defensive rating: 106.2 to 105.4
  • Net rating: +4.7 to +6.4

5. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 106.2 to 109.5
  • Defensive rating: 104.3 to 103.2
  • Net rating: +1.9 to +6.3

4. Chicago Bulls

  • Offensive rating: 103.0 to 106.7
  • Defensive rating: 101.0 to 100.7
  • Net rating: +2.0 to +6.0

3. Toronto Raptors

  • Offensive rating: 109.5 to 111.6
  • Defensive rating: 105.4 to 106.1
  • Net rating: +4.1 to +5.5

8. Atlanta Hawks

  • Offensive rating: 109.5 to 116.9
  • Defensive rating: 109.7 to 113.1
  • Net rating: -0.2 to +3.8

6. Brooklyn Nets

  • Offensive rating: 106.4 to 108.0
  • Defensive rating: 108.4 to 105.1
  • Net rating: -2.0 to +2.9

7. Charlotte Bobcats

  • Offensive rating: 103.9 to 105.2
  • Defensive rating: 104.3 to 102.8
  • Net rating: -0.4 to +2.4

WESTERN CONFERENCE

6. Golden State Warriors

  • Offensive rating: 107.6 to 118.4
  • Defensive rating: 102.5 to 106.8
  • Net rating: +5.1 to +11.6

1. San Antonio Spurs

  • Offensive rating: 112.3 to 114.9
  • Defensive rating: 103.8 to 104.8
  • Net rating: +8.5 to +10.1

5. Portland Trail Blazers

  • Offensive rating: 114.3 to 118.5
  • Defensive rating: 110.1 to 112.0
  • Net rating: +4.2 to +6.5

4. Houston Rockets

  • Offensive rating: 111.8 to 115.5
  • Defensive rating: 107.5 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +4.3 to +5.0

3. Los Angeles Clippers

  • Offensive rating: 114.0 to  116.4
  • Defensive rating: 106.1 to 111.8
  • Net rating: +7.9 to +4.6

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Offensive rating: 108.7 to 107.9
  • Defensive rating: 103.0 to 103.9
  • Net rating: +5.7 to +4.0

7. Memphis Grizzlies

  • Offensive rating: 109.6 to 116.1
  • Defensive rating: 107.8 to 112.4
  • Net rating: +1.8 to +3.7

8. Dallas Mavericks

  • Offensive rating: 111.9 to 112.7
  • Defensive rating: 109.4 to 112.3
  • Net rating: +2.5 to +0.4

LeBron James game-time decision for Cavaliers-Celtics opener

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James may miss Cleveland’s opener Tuesday night against Boston because of a sprained left ankle.

James injured his ankle in practice on Sept. 27 and played in just one exhibition game. He participated in the team’s morning shootaround, and a team spokesman said it will be a game-time decision whether he faces the Celtics. James is officially listed as questionable.

James took some outside shots but did very little lateral movement when the media was permitted to watch the Cavs work out.

It’s hard to imagine James missing the first opener of his career and a chance to play against former teammate Kyrie Irving, who was traded this summer to Boston after telling Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert that he wanted out. James and Irving had a sometimes rocky relationship during three seasons together, but they made it to three straight NBA Finals and won the title in 2016.

 

Why did Kyrie Irving request trade from Cavaliers? ‘I will never pinpoint anything, because that’s not what real grownups do’

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Kyrie Irving said he requested a trade from the Cavaliers because he wanted to be happy and maximize his potential.

But why did he feel that couldn’t happen in Cleveland?

Irving hasn’t come close to directly answering that question, saying things like, “My intent, like I said, was for my best intentions.” Returning to Cleveland with the Celtics, Irving was again pressed to explain.

Irving, via MassLive:

Going forward, I kind of wanted to put that to rest in terms of everyone figuring out or trying to figure out and dive in and continue to dive into a narrative that they have no idea about and that probably will never, ever be divulged, because it’s not important. This was literally just a decision I wanted to make solely based on my happiness and pushing my career forward. I don’t want to pinpoint anything. I will never pinpoint anything, because that’s not what real grownups do. They continue to move on with their life and and continue to progress, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.

Perhaps, Irving is just following Dwyane Wade‘s advice and taking the high road. But that won’t ease our collective curiosity. Fans will continue to speculate about why Irving wanted out, and reporters will continue to dig into it. Reporting and speculation have both centered on LeBron James.

If Irving eventually wants to set the record straight – and he doesn’t sound interested, lending credence to the theory he wanted to leave LeBron behind – everyone will be all ears.

Cavaliers to honor Kyrie Irving with video during tonight’s game

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Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers, stated no regard for LeBron James‘ feelings about it and slighted Cleveland as a sports city.

Yet, when Irving returns with the Celtics for tonight’s regular-season opener, the Cavs will honor him.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

The Cavaliers intend to honor Kyrie Irving on Tuesday night with a video tribute during Cleveland’s season-opening tilt against Irving’s Boston Celtics.

According to a team source, the video is a “thank you” to Irving intended to show appreciation for all he accomplished in six seasons here.

Irving had a fantastic six-year run with the Cavaliers, and he hit the biggest shot in franchise history to end Cleveland’s title drought in 2016.

But he’s now a sports villain there (not to be mistaken for a bad person). Let the fans enjoy unconditionally booing him for a night. There will be time to honor him when the wounds of his exit aren’t so fresh.

If I were the Cavs, this would be the video I’d show to commemorate Irving’s return:

LeBron James: I think Dan Gilbert’s letter was racial

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LeBron James left a job for a more appealing one in 2010. His previous employer, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, infamously published a letter that called LeBron’s decision a “cowardly betrayal,” “shameful display of selfishness and betrayal,” “shocking act of disloyalty” and “heartless and callous action.” Most ridiculously, Gilbert wrote, “Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.” Perhaps most hurtfully, Gilbert added LeBron’s choice “sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And ‘who’ we would want them to grow-up to become.”

Remember, LeBron completed his contract with Gilbert’s Cavs then signed with the Heat. Gilbert’s reaction was beyond over the top.

It was also probably rooted in racial attitudes that persist since a time rich white men held complete control over the lives of young black men.

LeBron, via Mark Anthony Green of GQ:

Did you feel like Dan Gilbert’s letter was racial?

“Um, I did. I did. It was another conversation I had to have with my kids. It was unfortunate, because I believed in my heart that I had gave that city and that owner, at that point in time, everything that I had. Unfortunately, I felt like, at that point in time, as an organization, we could not bring in enough talent to help us get to what my vision was. A lot of people say they want to win, but they really don’t know how hard it takes, or a lot of people don’t have the vision. So, you know, I don’t really like to go back on that letter, but it pops in my head a few times here, a few times there. I mean, it’s just human nature. I think that had a lot to do with race at that time, too, and that was another opportunity for me to kind of just sit back and say, ‘Okay, well, how can we get better? How can we get better? How can I get better?’ And if it happens again, then you’re able to have an even more positive outlook on it. It wasn’t the notion of I wanted to do it my way. It was the notion of I’m gonna play this game, and I’m gonna prepare myself so damn hard that when I decide to do something off the court, I want to be able to do it because I’ve paid my dues.”

We’ve obviously come a long way since slavery, but the racism used to justify that evil practice lingers. In 2017, few want to be racist. Many more do racist things. Racism is basked into our society, and it will require thoughtful recognition of it to eradicate it.

Gilbert’s letter contained racial undertones, Gilbert attempting to assert a control of LeBron he didn’t rightfully possess. If Gilbert considered how his letter fit into historical context, maybe he wouldn’t have written it. Whether or not Gilbert intended to be racist matters only so much. He danced in racist tones to vilify LeBron.

Now, maybe Gilbert has progressed. He apologized to LeBron for the letter (while trying to woo LeBron back to Cleveland in 2014) and said he’s learning more about the level of racism in this country.

But there’s still an apparent lingering distrust by LeBron toward Gilbert, and LeBron saying he still sometimes thinks about the letter only enhances that. That could matter as LeBron heads toward free agency.