Adjusting for playoff rotations again favors Warriors over Cavaliers in NBA Finals

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Just like last year, adjusting for playoff rotations presented the Warriors and Cavaliers as heavy favorites in their conferences.

Just like last year, the Warriors and Cavaliers are meeting in the NBA Finals.

And just like last year, the Warriors hold a decided edge

A reminder how this works: I’ve used nba wowy! to rank teams by net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) during the regular season and playoffs, counting only lineups that include five players in the team’s postseason rotation. Here’s each team’s rating, from the regular season adjusted to only lineups that include five players projected to be in the Finals rotation:

1. Golden State Warriors

  • Offensive rating: 114.9 1 to 117.4
  • Defensive rating: 104.1 to 100.6
  • Net rating: +10.8 to +16.8

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Offensive rating: 111.4 to 118.3
  • Defensive rating: 105.1 to 106.2
  • Net rating: +6.3 to +12.1

Observations:

  • This is similar to last year, when Golden State’s adjusted net rating entering the Finals was +16.9 and Cleveland’s was +12.3.
  • The big difference is style. The Warriors (114.0) and Cavaliers (114.8) had lower adjusted offensive ratings last year. Obviously, that means both Golden State (97.1) and Cleveland (102.5) also had better adjusted defensive ratings.
  • Overall, the story is the same: The Cavs can probably hold their own offensively, but can they match the Warriors’ defense?
  • I included Richard Jefferson in Cleveland’s rotation – he has played in all 14 games – but, with Tyronn Lue saying the team wants to play fast, he’s the most obvious potential cut. Remove him, and the Cavaliers’ adjusted offensive/defensive/net ratings move to 121.4/107.9/+13.5. That’s better, but it still doesn’t match Golden State.
  • The Warriors have less room to trim their 10-man rotation in this series. Two players on the fringe, Marreese Speights and Festus Ezeli, will probably be needed to combat Cleveland’s rebounding advantage.