Kyrie Irving significantly affected the Celtics’ record this season. Isaiah Thomas held a defining role on the Cavaliers for a while. Tristan Thompson played plenty for Cleveland, too.
But Irving (injured) and Thomas (traded) will have nothing to do with Boston’s and Cleveland’s playoff fortunes. If Thompson falls from the Cavs’ postseason rotation, neither will he.
Yet, any season-long metrics – including win-loss record – commonly used to predict the playoffs factor in those players. So, I’ve found how many points per 100 possessions teams score and allow when five players projected to be in the postseason rotation are on the floor together.
This is hardly a perfect measure. Teams rarely announce their playoff rotations, so we’re left with my predictions of which players will receive regular playing time in the first round. The minutes distribution among players in the adjusted rating can vary from what it’ll be during the playoffs. This doesn’t take into account opponent quality. Some teams have larger samples than others. Home-court advantage is not considered.
But I find it useful, another data point among the many necessary to evaluate the upcoming playoffs. It shows how the players we project to see on the court the next couple weeks have played together, without someone else affecting the chemistry.
Here’s each team’s offensive, defensive and net ratings adjusted from the regular season to counting only lineups that include five players projected to be in the first-round playoff rotation (using nbawowy! to calculate):
3. Philadelphia 76ers
- Offensive rating: 110.6 to 110.1
- Defensive rating: 106.1 to 99.4
- Net rating: +4.5 to +10.7
1. Toronto Raptors
- Offensive rating: 116.1 to 118.5
- Defensive rating: 107.8 to 108.2
- Net rating: +8.3 to +10.3
7. Milwaukee Bucks
- Offensive rating: 111.1 to 116.7
- Defensive rating: 111.4 to 109.1
- Net rating: -0.3 to +7.6
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
- Offensive rating: 115.0 to 116.4
- Defensive rating: 113.9 to 109.1
- Net rating: +1.1 to +7.3
8. Washington Wizards
- Offensive rating: 111.2 to 113.4
- Defensive rating: 110.6 to 108.1
- Net rating: +0.6 to +5.3
6. Miami Heat
- Offensive rating: 108.2 to 112.1
- Defensive rating: 107.8 to 107.4
- Net rating: +0.4 to +4.7
5. Indiana Pacers
- Offensive rating: 111.2 to 111.7
- Defensive rating: 109.7 to 108.0
- Net rating: +1.5 to +3.7
2. Boston Celtics
- Offensive rating: 109.7 to 106.6
- Defensive rating: 105.9 to 104.1
- Net rating: +3.8 to +2.5
1. Houston Rockets
- Offensive rating: 118.0 to 124.3
- Defensive rating: 109.1 to 112.1
- Net rating: +8.9 to +12.2
5. Utah Jazz
- Offensive rating: 109.5 to 111.9
- Defensive rating: 105.3 to 100.7
- Net rating: +4.2 to +11.2
6. New Orleans Pelicans
- Offensive rating: 111.2 to 115.2
- Defensive rating: 109.7 to 105.3
- Net rating: +1.5 to +9.9
3. Portland Trail Blazers
- Offensive rating: 111.2 to 113.6
- Defensive rating: 108.5 to 108.1
- Net rating: +2.7 to +5.5
8. Minnesota Timberwolves
- Offensive rating: 115.1 to 116.5
- Defensive rating: 112.9 to 111.4
- Net rating: +2.2 to +5.1
7. San Antonio Spurs
- Offensive rating: 109.6 to 112.4
- Defensive rating: 106.5 to 108.1
- Net rating: +3.1 to +4.3
2. Golden State Warriors
- Offensive rating: 115.1 to 109.0
- Defensive rating: 108.6 to 106.7
- Net rating: +6.5 to +2.3
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
- Offensive rating: 112.9 to 114.2
- Defensive rating: 109.3 to 111.9
- Net rating: +3.6 to +2.3
- The 76ers’ projection doesn’t include Joel Embiid, who expects to miss Game 1 against the Heat. Replace Richaun Holmes with Embiid, and the 76ers’ offensive/defensive/net ratings jump to 116.9/98.6/+18.3. Wow!
- These rankings could overrate the 76ers, though. Their schedule softened late, after Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli arrived post-buyout. Counting those two in the postseason rotation could skew the sample.
- Nearly all teams annually see their net rating improve once adjusted for the playoff rotation. This year, three teams get worse with the adjustment. All three – Celtics (Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis), Warriors (Stephen Curry) and Thunder (Andre Roberson) – are missing key players due to injury.
- The adjustment pegs four lower seeds ahead of their first-round opponent – Bucks over Celtics, Jazz over Thunder, Pelicans over Trail Blazers, Spurs over Warriors.
- Utah became a different team once Rudy Gobert got healthy.
- The Pelicans projected postseason rotation is especially tight. They might need to rely more on lesser players than projected here, lest they risk getting worn down.
- Whichever team drew depleted Boston was clearly in (relatively) good shape. The Bucks might be the best of the teams – also, Heat and Wizards – that were in the running.
- I expected the Cavaliers to improve even more with the adjustment. Isaiah Thomas trying to play his way back into form was so destructive for them. Perhaps, LeBron James dialing it up will be enough for them to win the East again.
- The Rockets’ offense will be awesome. They’ll miss Luc Mbah a Moute defensively.