Adjusting for postseason rotations: Should Clippers be title favorite? Are Trail Blazers sleeping giant?

Clippers players Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Rajon Rondo and Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Luke Kennard played 1,232 minutes for the Clippers this season. His playing time slipping, he might not crack the postseason rotation.

Jaylen Brown played 1,999 minutes for the Celtics this season. Injured, he probably won’t play in the postseason.

Gary Trent Jr. played 1,262 minutes for the Trail Blazers this season. Traded to the Raptors, he won’t play in the postseason.

Most postseason projections consider full-season results. But teams’ identities can radically change by the playoffs. What does it matter now how the Clippers played with Kennard, Celtics with Brown and Trail Blazers with Trent?

So, I measured team performance when the entire five-man lineup is comprised of players projected to be in the postseason rotation.

It’s only one data point among many that should be considered, and there are plenty of shortcomings. Playoff rotations can be difficult to predict. Individual playing time in the narrowed sample might not be commensurate with postseason minutes. Opponent quality varies. Some sample sizes are small.

Still, I find it a useful indicator of the effectiveness and chemistry of players who’ll actually be on the court together in the playoffs.

Here are each team’s offensive, defensive and net ratings from NBA WOWY adjusted from the regular season to counting only lineups that include five players projected to be in the postseason rotation:

Eastern Conference

7. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 113.1 to 108.7
  • Defensive rating: 111.7 to 95.7
  • Net rating: +1.4 to +13.0

5. Atlanta Hawks

  • Offensive rating: 114.2 to 121.4
  • Defensive rating: 111.9 to 109.2
  • Net rating: +2.3 to +12.2

1. Philadelphia 76ers

  • Offensive rating: 112.7 to 115.4
  • Defensive rating: 107.2 to 105.6
  • Net rating: +5.5 to +9.8

3. Milwaukee Bucks

  • Offensive rating: 117.1 to 113.9
  • Defensive rating: 111.3 to 106.1
  • Net rating: +5.8 to +7.8

8. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 110.7 to 119.3
  • Defensive rating: 112.4 to 112.7
  • Net rating: -1.7 to +6.6

2. Brooklyn Nets

  • Offensive rating: 117.1 to 113.8
  • Defensive rating: 112.7 to 109.1
  • Net rating: +4.4 to +4.7

4. New York Knicks

  • Offensive rating: 110.2 to 108.6
  • Defensive rating: 107.9 to 104.6
  • Net rating: +2.3 to +4.0

6. Miami Heat

  • Offensive rating: 110.9 to 113.3
  • Defensive rating: 110.9 to 110.8
  • Net rating: 0.0 to +2.5

10. Charlotte Hornets

  • Offensive rating: 110.5 to 112.8
  • Defensive rating: 112.5 to 110.5
  • Net rating: -2.0 to +2.3

9. Indiana Pacers

  • Offensive rating: 111.9 to 116.0
  • Defensive rating: 111.8 to 117.1
  • Net rating: +0.1 to -1.1

Western Conference

4. L.A. Clippers

  • Offensive rating: 116.7 to 120.9
  • Defensive rating: 110.3 to 105.9
  • Net rating: +6.4 to +15.0

6. Portland Trail Blazers

  • Offensive rating: 117.1 to 121.0
  • Defensive rating: 115.2 to 107.5
  • Net rating: +1.9 to +13.5

8. Golden State Warriors

  • Offensive rating: 110.5 to 118.1
  • Defensive rating: 109.4 to 105.9
  • Net rating: +1.1 to +12.2

1. Utah Jazz

  • Offensive rating: 116.6 to 117.7
  • Defensive rating: 107.3 to 106.7
  • Net rating: +9.3 to +11.0

7. Los Angeles Lakers

  • Offensive rating: 110.0 to 111.1
  • Defensive rating: 107.2 to 104.1
  • Net rating: +2.8 to +7.0

2. Phoenix Suns

  • Offensive rating: 116.7 to 118.6
  • Defensive rating: 110.8 to 113.2
  • Net rating: +5.9 to +5.4

5. Dallas Mavericks

  • Offensive rating: 114.8 to 116.7
  • Defensive rating: 112.5 to 112.3
  • Net rating: +2.3 to +4.4

9. Memphis Grizzlies

  • Offensive rating: 111.6 to 113.4
  • Defensive rating: 110.6 to 109.2
  • Net rating: +1.0 to +4.2

10. San Antonio Spurs

  • Offensive rating: 110.3 to 108.9
  • Defensive rating: 112.1 to 109.9
  • Net rating: -1.8 to -1.0

3. Denver Nuggets

  • Offensive rating: 116.5 to 113.6
  • Defensive rating: 111.5 to 114.9
  • Net rating: +5.0 to -1.3


  • The Clippers have looked awesome with their top players on the court, and this supports the eye test. L.A.’s adjusted net rating (+15.0) rates No. 1. This team looks like it could excel both offensively and defensively in the playoffs.
  • The eighth-place Warriors (+1.1 to +12.2) pass the No. 1 seed Jazz (+9.3 to +11.0) and the seventh-place Lakers (+2.8 to +7.0) pass the Suns (+5.9 to +5.4) in adjusted net rating. Add even more hype to the play-in teams.
  • The Lakers’ rise is no surprise. They’re obviously way better with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, both of whom missed significant time.
  • Golden State’s larger leap is less expected. But the Warriors are shaping up to have only their best, most-cohesive players on the floor in the postseason (no James Wiseman, no Kelly Oubre Jr.). A big question: Will Golden State coach Steve Kerr lean hard on those top players (especially Stephen Curry and Draymond Green) or call on lesser reserves to fill a deep rotation?
  • Phoenix feasted with Dario Saric earlier in the season, but Frank Kaminsky has seemingly surpassed him as backup center. The Suns remain good, but maybe their early success was slightly unstainable.
  • The Trail Blazers – lousy defensively overall this season – have actually defended very well when Jusuf Nurkic plays with other members of Portland’s postseason rotation. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum still pack an offensive punch. This team could be dangers – especially against the Nuggets.
  • Denver is the biggest faller in the adjusted net rating (+5.0 to -1.3). Injuries to guards Jamal Murray, Will Barton and P.J. Dozier sting. Even with impending MVP Nikola Jokic on the court, the Nuggets’ adjusted net rating is just -2.6. Denver has the offensive talent to outperform that. But it will require lineup combinations that haven’t played well together figuring things out on the fly.
  • Atlanta essentially had two bench units behind Trae Young this season – with Rajon Rondo (terrible) then with Lou Williams (mediocre). Because the Rondo units don’t count here, that leaves too much weight on the Hawks’ top lineup and inflates their adjusted net rating (+12.2). Still, there should be consideration to how well Atlanta played as key players got healthy. Plus, Williams shoring up the troublesome bench is no small issue.
  • The 76ers improve offensively and defensively with the adjustment. That doesn’t seem fluky. A healthy Joel Embiid is transformative.
  • The Bucks’ defense slipped this season as they experimented with different styles, but this suggests their top players can still crank it up on that end.
  • The adjustment doesn’t do much for the Nets because they played so little with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving together. But everyone knows they’re dangerous.
  • The Wizards have been way better lately, especially as Russell Westbrook elevates his play. But Washington’s new center rotation, featuring Daniel Gafford, has also boosted the team.
  • I wouldn’t read too much into the Celtics’ high adjusted rating (East-best +13.0). That’s a tiny sample without Jaylen Brown. But I’d least be open to the idea Boston’s remaining players can work well together.
  • The Knicks, Heat, Mavericks and Grizzlies look like solid teams. This method doesn’t reveal much untapped potential, though. That’s especially surprising for Miami, which has battled numerous health issues and played better with Jimmy Butler in the lineup.
  • The Pacers, Hornets and Spurs don’t look threatening.

Rozier, Washington, Ball help Hornets rally past Heat 122-117


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Terry Rozier scored 31 points, P.J. Washington had 27 and the Charlotte Hornets stopped Miami’s three-game win streak with a 122-117 victory over the Heat on Sunday.

LaMelo Ball scored 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter as Charlotte improved to 7-16 at home. Gordon Hayward was a perfect 7 of 7 from the field for 20 points.

Rozier also had seven assists and six rebounds. He was 11 for 19 from the field, including a 5-for-11 performance from 3-point range. He made two buzzer-beater 3s at the end of quarters.

Jimmy Butler scored 28 points for Miami, and Tyler Herro had 24.

The Hornets, who have been hampered by injuries all season, have won four of six for the team’s best stretch of the season. Washington believes it’s a reflection of the team getting healthier.

Charlotte’s projected starting five to begin the season is finally back on the floor and appears to be starting to mesh.

“Everybody is back and everybody is healthy – and that is a major difference,” Washington said. “At the end of the day we have to keep going the way we are right now.”

Hayward has struggled with shoulder and hamstring issues, limiting the team’s highest-paid player to just 24 games.

Sunday marked his best game in months.

“He’s playing confident and getting easy baskets and just bullying guys down low,” Washington said. “He’s playing great basketball and I expect that of him every night.”

Whether a now healthy Hornets team can make a playoff push remains to be seen, but coach Steve Clifford remains optimistic.

“Getting ‘Melo and Gordon back, obviously you’re a different team,” Clifford said. “If we can get into playing set groups then we’ll have a good chance to hopefully put some good stretches together. (It helps) when they know who they’re playing with and they know where the shots are coming from.”

The Heat led 62-58 after Rozier banked in a 3 from the midcourt logo to close out the first half.

Miami went on a 10-1 run to start the third quarter. Herro knocked down two 3-pointers to help the Heat open a 13-point lead.

But Charlotte came storming back behind Washington and Rozier, who began knocking down shots from deep.

Charlotte pushed the lead to 12 with 5:54 left on a turnaround jumper by Rozier.

Miami rallied with a 10-0 run. Kyle Lowry found Bam Adebayo inside for a layup to cut the lead to 108-106.

But Charlotte had another burst as Mason Plumlee got the ball after Rozier won a jump ball and drove to the basket for a score. Ball canned an open 3-pointer to put Charlotte back up 114-106 with 1:50 left.

Washington’s rebound and score off his own miss kept Charlotte up by seven and Plumlee dunked off a pass from Washington to put the game away in the final minute.

Charlotte shot 54.2% from the field and scored 25 points in transition. The Hornets also outrebounded Miami 47-36.

“They have had a lot of injuries but when they have been fully healthy, this team can score much different than their numbers may suggest for the season,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We did not step up defensively, they got a lot of easy run-ups that quickly changed the momentum of the game.”

Bulls’ Lonzo Ball “nowhere near playing,” could miss entire season

New Orleans Pelicans v Chicago Bulls
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

“I’m trying to stay positive, keep my hopes up. I would love to play. I would never count that out.”

Lonzo Ball tried to put an optimistic face on his recovery from a second knee surgery, but he was realistic and put no timetable on a return.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan was more realistic, speaking Saturday before the Bulls took on the Magic. Via Julia Poe of the Chicago Tribune.

“He’s made some progress, but I’d be the first one to tell you he’s nowhere near playing,” Donovan said. “He’s just not. Because he’s not running on a consistent basis. When he can get to that place where he can do that consistently and be able to come back the next day and do it again, do it again and do it again — I think you’ll feel a little bit more optimistic.”

Could Ball be out for the entire season? Donovan again, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:

“My guess would be – there’s not been a specifically set date – my guess would be I think we get through the All-Star Break, I think there would probably be everybody sitting down to talk about length and time of the season, how realistic is it for him to get back, if he could get back what would the minutes look like, is it not worth having him back just because it’s too much?’’ Donovan said. “I think everything, at least in my conversations with medical about him, have always been geared towards helping him get back to playing. Certainly once you get out of the All-Star Break, with the amount of time that’s left, basically you’re at the end of February. You have all of March and not even two weeks in April, so you start to get to that point where I think there will be some conversations of, ‘OK, if he’s still not close to playing, what’s the plan moving forward?’”

Ball has undergone multiple knee surgeries. The first was in January 2022 and the expectation at the time was he would return for the playoffs, but his knee didn’t respond well during rehab. That led to a second knee surgery, and recovery from that is going slowly as well. It leaves the Bulls in a tough spot, they miss his defense and his being a floor general on offense as they have struggled to a 23-26 record this season that sees them sitting as the No. 11 seed in the East.

Pelicans Trey Murphy III reportedly invited to participate in Dunk Contest


We knew three participants invited to the All-Star Saturday night Dunk Contest: G-League fan favorite Mac McClung, the Portland Trail Blazers Shaedon Sharpe and the Houston Rockets’ KJ Martin.

The fourth slot in that event will go to the Pelicans’ Trey Murphy, reports Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

No doubt Murphy can throw it down with the best of them.

The Dunk Contest will headline All-Star Saturday night, Feb. 18, from the Vivint Arena (soon to be the Delta Center again). The event will be broadcast on TNT.

The Dunk Contest is the Saturday night headline event, but it has fallen flat in recent years. Adding a G-League dunker and young, bouncy athletes such as Murphy, Martin and Sharpe could make this one entertaining. However, what fans really want to see — what made the Dunk Contest must-watch back in the day when Jordan, Kobe, and Vince Carter were doing it — is the stars. There will be no Ja Morant, no Zion Williamson, and no Anthony Edwards in this contest.

LeBron James NBA all-time scoring record tracker


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the NBA all-time scoring record at 38,387 points since he retired in 1989. It is one of the most iconic records in sports and one thought by many that would never be broken, but LeBron James is on the verge of breaking that scoring record and doing it at age 38. How many more points does LeBron need to take over the scoring record? When is it projected to happen? Let’s break down the latest numbers (this will be updated after every Lakers game until the record is set).

How many points does LeBron James need to set the scoring record?

Abdul-Jabbar career points: 38,387
LeBron career points: 38,271

Lakers’ upcoming schedule:

Jan. 30 at Nets
Jan. 31 at Knicks
Feb. 2 at Pacers
Feb. 4 at Pelicans
Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Bucks

When is LeBron projected to set the all-time scoring record:

LeBron is averaging 30.2 points per game this season, at that pace he would set the record on Feb. 7 at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder (if he does sit out Monday against the Nets, as the team announced).

Since he turned 38 (on Dec. 30), LeBron has averaged 35.2 points per game, which would see the mark broken at home against the Thunder.

News and notes on LeBron’s quest for the record:

• The Lakers have officially listed LeBron (and Anthony Davis) as out for the game Monday night in Brooklyn. That is the first game of a back-to-back for the Lakers, and they have rested LeBron in half of those for most of the season. This will push back the date he breaks the record, making it likely it happens at Arena.

• LeBron scored 41 points — and felt he should have had a couple more — in the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Celtics Saturday on national television.

• Sixers Doc Rivers on what impresses him in LeBron’s run to this record: “LeBron has done it so differently to me [thank Kareem]. Because LeBron is not a natural scorer. LeBron is a playmaker. He got criticized early in his career for making the right decisions. And the fact that he’s now about to break the scoring record, it really points out his greatness.”

• LeBron scored 20 points in the Lakers’ win over the Spurs, a game in which Anthony Davis returned from injury and Rui Hachimura made his debut as a Laker after being traded from the Wizards.

• What has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said about LeBron passing his record? There has been a bit of frostiness between the two men, but Abdul-Jabbar was gracious in comments to Marc Stein back in 2021 about the possibility of his record falling: “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”