Adjusting for playoff rotations round two: Watch out for the Wizards

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Before the playoffs began, I assessed each team based on projected postseason rotation.

Here’s the idea:

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.

The system and straight seeding differed twice for the first round, each method correctly predicting one of those two series:

  • My projection correct: Wizards over Raptors
  • Seeding correct: Bucks over Bulls

We now have more information – both about which players actually made the postseason rotation and how teams fared in the first round.

Here are the new adjusted ratings from full regular season to pre-playoff projection to pre-second round projection (counting first-round games and updating the postseason rotation when necessary):

EASTERN CONFERENCE

5. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 104.3 to 107.7 to 112.3
  • Defensive rating: 103.5 to 101.1 to 100.9
  • Net rating: +0.8 to +6.6 to +11.4

Kevin Seraphin, not Kris Humphries as I predicted, made the playoff rotation. That would have boosted the Wizards’ pre-playoff projection even higher, and they were already a sleeper based on this model.

A sweep of the Raptors supported all the positivity these numbers suggested about Washington.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 118.2 to 114.2
  • Defensive rating: 106.9 to 101.0 to 105.6
  • Net rating: +4.8 to +17.2 to +8.6

I left James Jones out of my projected playoff rotation. Including him would have weakened the Cavaliers’ pre-playoff adjusted numbers on both ends of the floor, but they still would have ranked second in the league behind the Warriors for adjusted net rating.

Of course, Kevin Love is the big issue headed into the next round. It’s unclear how David Blatt will replace the power forward, but I added Mike Miller and Shawn Marion to the rotation. If it’s just one of the two or neither with no other replacement, the Cavs’ adjusted net rating would be a little better.

Remove J.R. Smith, who’s suspended the first two games though counted as part of the rotation here, and Cleveland actually fares a little better on both ends (with Miller and Marion in the rotation) than it would with Smith.

Still, the picture is clear: Cleveland gets downgraded significantly without Love. Enough to lose to the Bulls? Not according to this model.

3. Chicago Bulls

  • Offensive rating: 107.7 to 108.6 to 108.4
  • Defensive rating: 104. 4 to 103.3 to 102.5
  • Net rating: +3.3 to +5.3 to +5.9

I didn’t include Tony Snell in the Bulls’ playoff rotation, but he stuck, even when Kirk Hinrich was healthy. Had I included Snell, Chicago would have fared slightly better in my first-round projections.

To the surprise of many, the Bucks pushed the Bulls to six games, but that doesn’t give me pause about Chicago. The pre-playoff projection was high on Milwaukee, and though the model actually rated the Bucks above the Bulls, I think the actual result showed the point of the projection. It’s one data point of many, and the lesson should have been that the first-round series could be closer than expected – which happened.

1. Atlanta Hawks

  • Offensive rating: 109.6 to 109.9 to 110.0
  • Defensive rating: 103.8 to 104.9 to 105.1
  • Net rating: +5.8 to +5.0 to +4.9

I incorrectly left Shelvin Mack out of the predicted rotation, though he wouldn’t have changed much.

There were reasons to be concerned about the Hawks entering the playoffs based on this model. A six-game series against the Nets was surprising, because Brooklyn also looked weak. But the first-round matchup also exposed issues with Atlanta this model predicted.

Pick the No. 1 seed to advance at your own risk.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Golden State Warriors

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 116.4 to 114.7
  • Defensive rating: 101.3 to 95.7 to 99.1
  • Net rating: +10.4 to +20.7 to +15.6

I didn’t include Marreese Speights and Leandro Barbosa in the Warriors’ rotation, but Steve Kerr did. If I had, Golden State’s projection would have suffered on both ends of the floor.

The Warriors are favored here regardless, but I believe if necessary, they can trim their rotation and become even stronger.

3. Los Angeles Clippers

  • Offensive rating: 113.2 to 117.5 to 118.8
  • Defensive rating: 106.3 to 105.9 to 105.4
  • Net rating: +6.9 to +11.6 to +13.4

I mistakenly had Spencer Hawes in the playoff rotation, but it’s clear Doc Rivers doesn’t trust him. Removing Hawes doesn’t make much difference, though it improves the Clippers’ adjusted rating a bit on both ends of the floor.

The big issue: Will Chris Paul be healthy? A playoff rotation without him projects to have an offensive/defensive/net rating of 97.0/108.1/-11.1. That’s disastrous, but it’s a small sample and overly relies on bench-heavy units. Blake Griffin and the Clippers’ other starters just didn’t play that much without Paul.

If Paul is healthy, the Clippers rate better than the Rockets. If not, lower – though it’s not clear just how much lower Los Angeles actually should be.

2. Houston Rockets

  • Offensive rating: 107.5 to 110.1 to 112.3
  • Defensive rating: 104.0 to 101.0  to 101.2
  • Net rating: 3.5 to +9.1 to +11.1

Clint Capela, not Joey Dorsey, was Houston’s backup center – and that would have boosted their pre-playoff projection on both ends of the floor.

For the most part, the Rockets are the steadier team in their second-round matchup. It’s Paul’s health that should determine everything.

Make no mistake, though: Houston’s playoff rotation is good and will require the Clippers to play well to advance.

5. Memphis Grizzlies

  • Offensive rating: 106.2 to 108.0 to 109.1
  • Defensive rating: 102.7 to 102.7 to 102.8
  • Net rating: +3.5 to +5.3 to +6.3

I included Mike Conley in this projection. If he can’t play, the offensive/defensive/net splits go to 107.3/101.6+5.7.

That’s not as large a drop as I anticipated, but it probably doesn’t matter much. The Grizzlies land well behind the Warriors either way.

Kevin Porter Jr. a possible lottery pick heading into 2019 NBA draft

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Kevin Porter Jr. missed more than a quarter of his freshman season at USC due to injury. He missed another couple games due to suspension. When he played, he usually came off the bench. He’s only 18.

But Porter has already shown enough to impress NBA teams.

Porter, via Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

“I will be declaring for the 2019 NBA draft and I will be signing with Roc Nation Sports,” Porter told ESPN.

Porter has a wide possible range in the first round, because there’s a massive gap between his ceiling and floor. But it shouldn’t take too long for a team to bet on his upside.

A 6-foot-6 shooting guard with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Porter has a special combination of shiftiness and power with the ball in his hands. He can attack the rim and finish above it. He can also pull up for jumpers.

I don’t trust his 41% 3-point shooting at USC. That came on only 68 attempts, and he made just 52% of his free throws (though that was also on an unreliably small sample, just 46 attempts). But his stroke looks compact and smooth.

Porter can be an impressive passer. Right now, that’s more so making quick and correct standstill reads than distributing while driving.

If he improves his handle, that could really tie together all his skills.

Porter forces too many bad shots. He’s not attentive enough defensively. There are questions about his maturity.

But if he pans out at the next level, he could be awesome.

Report: LaMarcus Aldridge won’t face punishment for hitting Gary Harris in nuts (video)

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Late in the Nuggets’ Game 2 win over the Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge whacked Gary Harris in the nuts.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

It surely helped that Denver coach Michael Malone defended Aldridge.

Malone, via Mike Singer of The Denver Post:

“If there was a windup, if there was something that looked really deliberate, that’d be different, but from what I saw, and I didn’t spend much time looking at it, obviously who cares what I think?” Malone said. “It all comes down to what the NBA thinks. In watching it, obviously Gary was unfortunately the recipient of that accidental blow but I didn’t see it as something that was premeditated or done with the intent to hurt Gary.”

It also helps that Aldridge doesn’t have a reputation for dirty plays.

But this is what I can’t get totally past: If Aldridge intended to take a cheap shot, how would it have looked any different?

Ben Simmons on Jared Dudley’s assessment: ‘It’s coming from Jared Dudley. C’mon’ (video)

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Ben Simmons keyed the 76ers’ historic offensive turnaround from Game 1 to Game 2 against the Nets. He pushed the pace, attacked and created good shots for himself and teammates.

Brooklyn forward Jared Dudley explained Simmons’ improvement.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

Simmons:

It’s coming from Jared Dudley. C’mon.

Simmons’ dismissive tone makes this bigger than merely his words do. There’s definitely animosity brewing between these teams.

But this “beef” will get only as large as Simmons makes it.

He is great in transition and average in the halfcourt. Dudley’s remark wasn’t an insult. It was a scouting report.

Keeping Simmons out of transition is far easier than done. That’s part of what makes Simmons a star. He frequently creates up-tempo opportunities.

Players can’t be defined by a list of strengths and weaknesses. How often those strengths and weaknesses affect the game is important.

Simmons often makes his strengths count.

There are still questions about just how often he can do that against the best defenses, especially deep into the playoffs. His poor shooting is a liability in the halfcourt.

For now, he’ll create plenty of fastbreaks against the Nets. Simmons is a good enough player to set the style against that defense. He’s better than Dudley, who’s just a role player.

But Dudley is also a smart player. And he’s spot-on here.

Potential top-10 pick De’Andre Hunter, potential first-rounder Ty Jerome leaving Virginia for NBA draft

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De'Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome just led Virginia to a national championship.

Now, they’re trying to parlay that title into success at the next level.

Hunter and Jerome declared for the 2019 NBA drat with the intent to stay in it, Virginia announced.

Hunter will probably be a top-10, maybe even top-five, pick.

At 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a strong base and impressive lateral mobility, the forward has excellent defensive versatility. He’s steady on and off the ball. I question whether he’ll lock up the better athletes he’ll more regularly face in the NBA, but his defensive floor is quite high.

He’s also a good 3-point shooter, though his slow release limits the number of attempts he can get up. Otherwise, Hunter lacks the explosiveness and ball-handling to become a traditional star.

Maybe he’ll be an excellent 3-and-D role player. In this weak-looking draft, that possibility is enough to make him coveted.

Jerome also lacks the burst to possess high upside, but that’s more understandable late in the first round, where he’s projected. The 6-foot-5 guard is a good outside shooter with a knack for getting open. He has plenty of distributing ability for a secondary playmaker but isn’t enough of a threat to create for himself to run an offense through him.

He’s limited defensively, but he has a decent knack for when to gamble when there’s good help – like Hunter – behind him.