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.

J.R. Smith caught on video beating up man who allegedly vandalized his truck

J.R. Smith
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Sunday was a day of mostly peaceful protests in Los Angeles in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota last week. However, some bad actors used the protests as camouflage to loot and vandalize businesses and property near the protests.

One of those people allegedly broke the window of former NBA player J.R. Smith’s truck — and Smith ran him down and beat him up for it. Video of the beating emerged first on TMZ. (Warning, NSFW language.)

Smith quickly posted a video on his Instagram story trying to get out in front of this, saying the guy broke his truck window in a residential street — and Smith was having none of it.

“I just want you all to know right now, before you all see this s*** somewhere else. One of these little motherf****** white boys didn’t know where he was going and broke my f****** window in my truck. Broke my s***. This was a residential area. No stores over here. None of that s***. Broke my window, I chased him down and whooped his ass.

“So when the footage comes out and you all see it, I chased him down and whooped his ass. He broke my window. This ain’t no hate crime. I ain’t got no problem with nobody and nobody got no problem with me. There’s a problem with the motherf****** system, that’s it. The motherf***** broke my window and I whooped his ass. He didn’t know who window he broke and he got his ass whooped.”

It’s unknown at this time if any other legal action will come out of this, the police and prosecutors have a lot on their plates right now.

Smith was out of the NBA this season, despite getting a couple of workouts with teams.

George Floyd’s death brings back painful memories for Rockets’ Thabo Sefolosha

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Thabo Sefolosha knows what it’s like to be a black man, on the ground, being beaten by police officers.

Such was the scenario when George Floyd died in Minneapolis last week.

And five years ago, Sefolosha found himself in a similarly frightening place.

“I was just horrified by what I saw,” Sefolosha said. “That could have been me.”

Time has not healed all wounds for Sefolosha, the NBA veteran who said he was attacked by a group of New York Police Department officers in April 2015 while they were arresting him outside a nightclub in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood. The leg that was broken in the fracas is fine now. The emotional pain roared back last week when he saw video of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air in the final moments of his life as a white police officer — subsequently charged with murder — pressed a knee on his neck.

Sefolosha has seen the video. He hasn’t watched much news since. His experience with police in New York has left him with a deep distrust of law enforcement, the pangs of angst flooding back even when he walks into NBA arenas and sees uniformed officers. And the latest example of police brutality left him even more upset.

“People talk about a few rotten apples,” Sefolosha said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But you know, in my experience and from what we’re seeing, I think it’s deeper than that as a culture that’s deeply rooted in it, to be honest. That’s just my honest opinion. I think it’s really … part of a culture where it’s deeper than just a few bad apples.”

The four officers who were involved in the incident where Floyd died were fired; the one who knelt on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Massive protests have broken out in several cities in recent days, the country torn again over a black man dying at the hands of police.

Sefolosha — a black man of Swiss descent who plays for the Houston Rockets — considered but decided against joining protests in Atlanta, where he is waiting for the resumption of the NBA season that was shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m mad, for sure,” Sefolosha said. “That’s for sure. I mean, it’s 2020. Nobody should have to go through this in this time, especially after black people have given up so much for America. Black people have given up so much and done so much for this country. It’s hurtful to see it this way.”

Sefolosha’s perspective changed forever on April 8, 2015. Chris Copeland, an NBA player at the time, was among three people stabbed outside the club where Sefolosha was that night; police arrived and ordered everyone to leave the area. Sefolosha says he complied but began getting harassed by officers anyway.

Before long, he was on the ground.

Sefolosha’s leg was broken and some ligaments were torn in the fracas, and he was arrested on several charges that a jury needed about 45 minutes to determine were unfounded. He wound up suing for $50 million, alleging his civil rights were violated, settled for $4 million and gave much of that money to a public defenders’ organization working in marginalized communities.

“It changed me a lot, toward the way I see law enforcement in this country,” Sefolosha said. “And also toward the way I see the whole justice system. I went to court and I had to do all of this to prove my innocence. It really got me deep into the system and I’m really skeptical of the whole system.”

NBA players have used their platforms often in recent years to protest racial inequality. Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks filed a federal civil rights lawsuit after police used a stun gun on him and arrested him over a parking incident in 2018. On Saturday, Malcolm Brogdon of the Indiana Pacers and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics were among those taking part in Atlanta protests.

“You see what happened in Minnesota where three human beings with a badge are watching another human being killing somebody,” said Sefolosha, who has played in the NBA since 2006 and intends to return to Switzerland when he retires. “And instead of saying, ‘OK, this is my duty as a human being,’ the duty was more toward not interfering with the other officer and saying, ‘We are clan, we stick together no matter what.’ It should be the other way around.”

The NBA is closing in on finalizing a plan to resume the season in July at the Disney complex near Orlando, Florida. Sefolosha and the Rockets figure to be contenders for a championship when play resumes.

For obvious reasons, Sefolosha’s mind isn’t there yet.

“I’ll be happy to be with my teammates and reunited with basketball in general,” Sefolosha said. “But you know, we’re human beings, and the fight has been going on for too long and the same protests have been going on for too long. I think it’s definitely time for change and that should be a priority for all of us.”

Michael Jordan releases statement: “I am deeply saddened, truly pained, and plain angry”

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Michael Jordan has been famously apolitical through his playing career and after, rarely commenting on social issues. While the “Republicans buy shoes, too” comment has always stuck to him, as Roland Lazenby points out in his biography “Michael Jordan: The Life,” Jordan’s “keep your head down and don’t draw attention” political outlook was passed down as a family demeanor used to survive in rural North Carolina.

However, in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis Police officer, and the eruptions of protests nationwide, Jordan felt compelled to speak and released this statement.

Jordan’s voice is a powerful one and carries a lot of weight, as do his actions.

How he uses that voice, and the actions he takes going forward, will be watched and can hold a lot of sway.

 

On this date in NBA history: J.R. Smith forgot the score

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There comes a point in almost every NBA playoff series when one team knows it’s beat. That team threw its best punch and the other team took it and won anyway. While no NBA team would never go into the postgame press conference and say “we’re beat,” it shows up in their tone and body language.

In the 2018 NBA Finals, that moment came after Game 1.

Two years ago today, May 31, the Cavaliers went to Golden State and were on the verge of stealing Game 1 on the road. LeBron James had targeted Stephen Curry on switches to keep the Cavaliers ahead, LeBron thought he drew a charge on Kevin Durant but it was overturned on review and called a block, and a back-and-forth end of the game saw the Warriors go up one when Curry drew and and-1 foul on Kevin Love with 23.5 seconds left.

Of course, the Cavs put the ball in LeBron’s hands out top, the Cavaliers got the switch and had Curry trying to guard LeBron, when LeBron threw a bullet pass to a cutting George Hill. Klay Thompson hooked Hill, and Hill went to the ground. The foul was called and Hill went to the free-throw line.  He hit the first and tied the game 107-107.

Then came the moment.

“He thought we were up one,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said after the game, although Smith was selling at the time he was trying to bring the ball out to get a better shot. The Warriors players thought he was trying to get the ball to LeBron, maybe.

Game 1 went to overtime, where the Warriors dominated (17-7) and got the win. After the game, you could feel it around the Cavaliers — this was their chance and they missed it. The series ended in a Golden State sweep.

It’s a legendary moment of the NBA Finals, even if it’s one Smith and Cavaliers fans would like to forget.