Tag: San Antonio Spurs

Draymond Green, LeBron James

Adjusting to playoff rotations, or holy moly Warriors and Cavaliers!


The Trail Blazers played more than 2,000 minutes with Wesley Matthews on the floor. The Cavaliers spent 786 minutes of their season trying to make Dion Waiters work. The Hawks gave Elton Brand nearly 500 minutes as they rested players on back-to-backs and deep into routs.

How much does that time matter now?

Matthews is injured. Waiters was traded. Brand will likely fall short of the rotation.

Yet, those minutes – and others like them – cloud statistical evaluations of teams’ playoff chances.

So, I’m parsing the numbers with a system I’ve used the last two years:

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.

In the two years I’ve used this formula, it has successfully predicted 22-of-30 series – one more than straight seeding. Here’s where the system and seeds differed:

Formula was correct:

  • 2014: Trail Blazers over Rockets
  • 2014: Wizards over Bulls
  • 2013: Grizzlies over Thunder
  • 2013: Grizzlies over Clippers

Seed was correct:

  • 2014: Thunder over Clippers
  • 2014: Clippers over Warriors
  • 2013: Heat over Spurs

As always, it’s important to remember the following numbers are not meant to comprehensively predict series. Many other factors are involved that are not accounted for here. But this data is a reference point, one of many to consider.

Here are the ratings for each team in the 2015 postseason adjusted from full season to using only lineups that include five players projected to be in the playoff rotation:


2. Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 118.2
  • Defensive rating: 106.9 to 101.0
  • Net rating: +4.8 to +17.2

6. Milwaukee Bucks

  • Offensive rating: 103.3 to 106.1
  • Defensive rating: 102.8 to 98.5
  • Net rating: +0.5 to +7.6

5. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 104.3 to 107.7
  • Defensive rating: 103.5 to 101.1
  • Net rating: +0.8 to +6.6

3. Chicago Bulls

  • Offensive rating: 107.7 to 108.6
  • Defensive rating: 104. 4 to 103.3
  • Net rating: +3.3 to +5.3

1. Atlanta Hawks

  • Offensive rating: 109.6 to 109.9
  • Defensive rating: 103.8 to 104.9
  • Net rating: +5.8 to +5.0

4. Toronto Raptors

  • Offensive rating: 111.6 to 112.2
  • Defensive rating: 108.3 to 108.0
  • Net rating: +3.3 to +4.2

7. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 105.3 to 105.8
  • Defensive rating: 105.2 to 105.1
  • Net rating: +0.1 to +0.7

8. Brooklyn Nets

  • Offensive rating: 105.0 to 107.7
  • Defensive rating: 108.1 to 114.2
  • Net rating: -3.1 to -6.5


1. Golden State Warriors

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 116.4
  • Defensive rating: 101.3 to 95.7
  • Net rating: +10.4 to +20.7

3. Los Angeles Clippers

  • Offensive rating: 113.2 to 117.5
  • Defensive rating: 106.3 to 105.9
  • Net rating: +6.9 to +11.6

4. Portland Trail Blazers

  • Offensive rating: 108.7 to 117.2
  • Defensive rating: 104.2 to 106.2
  • Net rating: +4.5 to +11.0

6. San Antonio Spurs

  • Offensive rating: 109.2 to 110.0
  • Defensive rating: 102.6 to 100.7
  • Net rating: +6.6 to +9.3

2. Houston Rockets

  • Offensive rating: 107.5 to 110.1
  • Defensive rating: 104.0 to 101.0
  • Net rating: 3.5 to +9.1

7. Dallas Mavericks

  • Offensive rating: 109.8 to 111.1
  • Defensive rating: 106.8 to 105.7
  • Net rating: +3.0 to +5.4

5. Memphis Grizzlies

  • Offensive rating: 106.2 to 108.0
  • Defensive rating: 102.7 to 102.7
  • Net rating: +3.5 to +5.3

8. New Orleans Pelicans

  • Offensive rating: 108.8 to 110.1
  • Defensive rating: 107.9 to 107.3
  • Net rating: +0.9 to +2.8


  • The Cavaliers and Warriors are JUGGERNAUTS with the adjusted ratings. They should absolutely be favored to reach the NBA Finals.
  • Neither team’s ascendance should be a surprised. Golden State has dominated all season, and Cleveland has soared since acquiring Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to complement LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
  • The Warriors and Cavaliers make huge gains on both sides of the ball, Cleveland more so offensively and Golden State defensively. The Warriors’ defense just looks untouchable.
  • This system predicts two first-round upsets: Bucks over Bulls and Wizards over Raptors.
  • Maybe Milwaukee’s post-deadline problems were due more to Jared Dudley and O.J. Mayo getting hurt than a trade altering the roster. With everyone healthy, the Bucks look dangerous.
  • The Wizards rated favorably here last year too, and they upset the Bulls in the first round. Washington has flaws, but leaning on a balanced starting lineup and a limited bench can work for this squad.
  • The Hawks and the Nets are the only teams with worse net ratings after the adjustment. Atlanta misses Thabo Sefolosha, whose defensive loss is noticeable and makes this deep team more susceptible to upset. The Nets just go from bad to worse, strengthening their position as poster child for playoff reform.
  • The Raptors’ defensive problems don’t seem to be caused by players who can just be dropped from the rotation. That’s a problem for Toronto.
  • The Celtics are probably a tougher out than their adjusted rating indicates. Isaiah Thomas, coming off the bench, played too much with lesser role players – which limits his impact here. Those other players will be dropped from the rotation, and Thomas could help Boston steal a game if Cleveland loses focus.
  • Once Doc Rivers trims the fat from his rotation, the Clippers make nice gains. This team is strong at the top, which I think bodes well for the playoffs.
  • Predicting whether injured players make their teams’ rotations is the hardest part of this exercise. This is mostly guesswork, but here are a few key decisions. In: Arron Afflalo, Chandler Parsons, Mike Conley, Tony Allen. Out: Tiago Splitter.
  • The Trail Blazers climb much higher than expected, but their sample is the smallest size. Their players projected to be in the playoff rotation just didn’t play much together without someone out of the rotation. Matthews obviously mucks up a lot of lineups, and Afflalo barely registers. So, Afflalo’s health wouldn’t affect much for this projection. But, with or without Afflalo, the sample is too small to draw many conclusions.
  • The Spurs get a nice bump with the adjustment, but not as large as I anticipated. Swapping the hobbled Splitter for Aron Baynes doesn’t swing it, either. San Antonio might have just run out of luck getting pitted against the Clippers in the first round. The Spurs have the NBA’s fifth-highest adjusted net rating – with the small-sample Blazers ahead of them – and might not win a single playoff series.
  • The Rockets make a bigger leap but don’t climb quite as high as San Antonio. However, claiming the No. 2 seed and getting a much easier first-round matchup should make all the difference for Houston.
  • The Mavericks (even with Parsons), Grizzlies (even with Conley and Allen) and Pelicans all get better with the adjustment, but not enough to challenge the West’s top teams. Again, though, Portland’s rating is least reliable. So, don’t be surprised if the Grizzlies – especially if Conley and Allen ge healthy, but maybe even if they don’t – win that 4/5 matchup.

PBT Awards: Sixth Man of the Year

Isaiah Thomas; Tyler Hansbrough; Lou Williams

Though none of us have a ballot for the NBA’s official awards, we’ll be presenting our choices and making our cases this week for each major honor.

Kurt Helin

1. Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors

2. Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors

3. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics

It was a very different year, with the usual suspects — your Jamal Crawfords, your Manu Ginobilis — not being up to form. Lou Williams was a classic sixth man for Toronto, coming in off the bench as an unrepentant gunner. But the man put up points. Not efficiently, but he put up points. Andre Iguodala willingly came off the bench and led the best second unit in the game, but Williams meant more to Toronto.

Brett Pollakoff

Sixth Man of the Year

1. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics

2. Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors

3. Marreese Speights, Golden State Warriors

There’s an argument to be made for Williams here, simply for the fact that his similar numbers to Thomas have been delivered for the Raptors all season long. While Thomas was fine as a reserve in Phoenix before being traded to Boston at the deadline, his impact with the Celtics was a big reason they made the playoffs, so he gets the nod for his performance over the second half of the season.

Sean Highkin

1. Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors

2. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics

3. Corey Brewer, Houston Rockets

Iguodala made a big-time sacrifice for the Warriors by accepting a bench role after being a starter most of his career. It turned out to be a perfect fit, not only boosting Harrison Barnes’ productivity by moving him into a starter’s role but giving Golden State a unique weapon in the second unit as a defensive stopper who can score in transition.

Thomas was signed by the Suns to be a sixth man, but it was an awkward fit with ball-dominant point guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. But a mid-season trade to Boston proved to be the actualization of what the Suns had hoped to get from him. He gave the Celtics a clear go-to scorer and late-game closer. They wouldn’t have made their late playoff push without him.

Brewer has been similarly transformative for the Rockets since his trade from the Timberwolves during the season.

Dan Feldman

1. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

2. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics

3. Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors

I’m a letter-of-the-law guy on this, and Gobert met the only criterion for this award – coming off the bench in more games than starting. He far and away had the best season among eligible players, so he gets my vote, even if he did most of his damage once he became a starter.

Thomas and Williams were close, but Thomas got the edge because was more of a catalyst for his team’s offense than Williams was. Both the Raptors and Celtics frequently ran their offenses through their backup point guards, but Williams usually had more of a capable supporting cast on the floor. Thomas was the clear driving force for Boston, especially in crunch time.

PBT Awards: Defensive Player of the Year

Draymond Green

Though none of us have a ballot for the NBA’s official awards, we’ll be presenting our choices and making our cases this week for each major honor.

Kurt Helin

1. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

2. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

3. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

If Kawhi Leonard had been healthy all season this award would have been his. That said, do not discount what Draymond Green does — the Warriors had the best defense in the NBA and did it with a system that switches everything. That only works because of Green’s versatility. He can guard spots 1-4, even some centers, which allows the entire Warriors scheme to function smoothly.

Very hard to leave Andrew Bogut off this list, he could be in the three spot easily.

Brett Pollakoff

1. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

2. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

3. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Much like the MVP award, this one comes down to how you want to define it. Leonard is the game’s best individual defender at the moment, so you could easily justify giving him this vote. But Green’s impact has been huge, and the Warriors will finish the season ranked No. 1 in defensive efficiency.

Sean Highkin

1. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

2. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

3. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

When Leonard got healthy, the Spurs started to look like the Spurs again, and that’s scary for everybody. Green has been the most important part of the Warriors’ success outside of Stephen Curry, and that’s in large part because of his defensive impact. He can guard all five positions and keeps their defense suffocating even when Andrew Bogut is off the floor. Duncan needs no explanation — at 38, he’s still as effective on the defensive end as he’s ever been.

Dan Feldman

1. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

2. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

3. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Green deserves this award this year, but I don’t think he’s the NBA’s best defender. That’d be Gobert, Leonard or Andrew Bogut. But none of those three — Gobert due to coming off the bench, Leonard and Bogut due to injury — played nearly as much as Green, and that meant Green impacted far more defensive possessions. He should be rewarded for that.

Leonard emerged as clear favorite for next year, though.