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

Hawks GM: We might have traded up with Bucks if their draft pick didn’t leak first

AP Photo/Kevin Hagen
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Let’s pick up with the No. 16 pick in last night’s NBA draft.

The Suns were on the clock and planning to pick Donte DiVincenzo. John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

But then 76ers called Phoenix about trading No. 10 pick Mikel Bridges for the No. 16 pick and a future first-rounder. The teams agreed to the deal (causing this heartbreaking moment), and the Suns picked Zhaire Smith for Philadelphia.

The next three picks:

17. Donte DiVincenzo, Bucks

18. Lonnie Walker, Spurs

19. Kevin Huerter, Hawks

Atlanta general manager Travis Schlenk on 95.7 The Game, via ESPN:

“Last night, for instance, we had the 19th pick, and we’re coming down and we’re actually talking to Milwaukee on the 17th pick, talking about trading up to get a guy we like,” Schlenk said. “There’s were a couple of guys we felt really good about on the 19th pick, obviously Kevin [Huerter] was one of them, and it leaked who Milwaukee was going to take.

“So, all of a sudden, we were able to pull back out of that deal and keep the draft pick instead of packaging picks to move up because we knew that, two guys on the board we felt really good about and only one team in between us, so that was beneficial to us last night.”

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports and Jeff Goodman of ESPN reported the Bucks picking DiVincenzo at 9:18 p.m.:

The pick became official at 9:22 p.m.:

Clearly, Atlanta wanted Huerter or “Mystery Player Not Named Donte DiVincenzo.”* Once they learned Milwaukee would take DiVincenzo at No. 17, the Hawks knew at least one of Huerter or “Mystery Player Not Named Donte DiVincenzo” would be available at No. 19.

*I think there’s a good chance it was Walker, whom San Antonio picked No. 18.

That saved the Hawks an asset(s) and cost the Bucks an asset(s), though perhaps Milwaukee couldn’t have gotten DiVincenzo at No. 19. Maybe the Spurs would’ve selected him at No. 18.

Still, the Bucks didn’t protect their internal plans well enough. Maybe that’s an organizational flaw. But this also could have been a fluky sequence of events. Perhaps, after hearing Phoenix would take DiVincenzo, someone in Milwaukee felt comfortable sharing that the Bucks wanted him. Then, when he surprisingly fell, it was too late. The information was already out there – allowing Atlanta to stand pat.

Danny Ainge unwittingly leaks Celtics’ draft pick on call with Terry Rozier during live show (video)

AP Photo/Bob Leverone
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Terry Rozier takes solace in how much Danny Ainge believes in him.

But I didn’t appreciate how deep their bond went.

Appearing on Bleacher Report’s live draft show, Rozier was asked to predict the Celtics’ No. 27 pick. So, Rozier called Ainge to ask. Shockingly, Ainge answered – with Boston on the clock. Almost certainly not knowing the call was public and live, Ainge revealed the likely selection:

Good thing the Celtics stuck with Robert Williams. That would have been extremely awkward otherwise.

As is, it was only a little awkward. Williams said today he doesn’t like to be called Bob.

Report: Rival teams expect Paul George to consider 1+1 contract with Thunder

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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Paul George has openly stated the appeal of playing for his hometown Lakers. He has also openly stated the appeal of staying with the Thunder.

That has created significant confusion about his upcoming free agency.

Could George find a compromise outcome?

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

More than one rival team has suggested to me that they expect George to strongly consider a two-year deal with the Thunder at $30.3 million next season and $32.7 million in 2019-20 that includes a player option to return to free agency next summer.

This makes sense on paper.

A 1+1 contract would give George more time to determine whether he and Russell Westbrook can win together in Oklahoma City without getting stuck there long-term if they can’t. The Thunder were starting to put it together when Andre Roberson got hurt. Perhaps, Roberson getting healthy would swing Oklahoma City’s fortunes.

George would also be eligible for a higher max salary in two years – 35% of the salary cap, up from 30% if he signs now. So, a short-term contract would allow him to maximize his potential earnings.

But George said he wanted to sign somewhere long-term this summer. He also suffered an extremely gruesome leg injury just a few years ago. He might not want to bypass guaranteed money to gamble for a little more later.

Are these rival teams just looking at the general outlook for a player in George’s position without considering his specific circumstances? Or do they know something? George could have informed teams he might become available in 2019 or 2020 so they should prepare.

I’m skeptical this is more than speculation by opposing teams. But the possibility that they’re basing their expectations on inside information makes this worth monitoring.

Heartbreaking: Watch Mikal Bridges explain joy of joining hometown 76ers while they trade him to Suns (video)

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Mikal Bridges‘ mom jumped up, pumped her fists and screamed “Yes!” through her giant grin.

The 76ers – the organization she works for in human resources – had just drafted her son No. 10 overall. Bridges, a Philadelphia native who played at Villanova, seemed as if he’d stay home for his pro career.

Bridges:

She’s very, very excited. She’s been wanting this. She’s probably more excited than I am. She was about to cry and all that. She said she didn’t want to ruin her makeup, so she’d try to hold it in. But no, she’s very excited. I’m her only son. I’m a little mama’s boy. Her son is right there around the corner again, and it’s just really cool.

Except, as Bridges was talking, the 76ers were trading him to the Suns for No. 16 pick Zhaire Smith and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder.

That extra pick carries major value. Even if you like Bridges much more than Smith – which I did, especially considering their fits in Philadelphia – that’s hard to pass up. The NBA is a business after all.

But it’s lamentable how this played out.