Bucks still elite and Warriors-Nuggets looks like high-level series when adjusting for postseason rotations

Draymond Green, Nikola Jokic, Stephen Curry in Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors
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James Harden played 1,627 minutes for the Nets this season. Lonzo Ball played 1,212 minutes for the Bulls. Rudy Gay played 1,038 minutes for the Jazz.

But Harden (traded) and Ball (injured) won’t play for Brooklyn or Chicago in the playoffs. Gay might not crack Utah’s postseason rotation.

So, how much should it matter when predicting the playoffs how the Nets played with Harden, the Bulls with Ball and the Jazz with Gay?

In an attempt to measure the competency and chemistry of the players we’ll actually see on the floor this spring/summer, I measured team performance when the entire five-man lineup was comprised of players projected to be in the postseason rotation.

These numbers shouldn’t stand alone and have shortcomings (including varying sample size, opponent quality and apportionment of minutes among postseason-rotation players, as best as those can be predicted). But they can be useful data points among the many that should be considered when evaluating teams.

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

2. Boston Celtics

    • Offensive rating: 113.9 to 123.7
    • Defensive rating: 106.5 to 110.2
    • Net Rating: +7.4 to +13.5

3. Milwaukee Bucks

    • Offensive rating: 114.4 to 116.0
    • Defensive rating: 111.2 to 102.8
    • Net Rating: +3.2 to +13.2

4. Philadelphia 76ers

  • Offensive rating: 113.3 to 112.8
  • Defensive rating: 110.6 to 104.9
  • Net Rating: +2.7 to +7.9

7. Brooklyn Nets

  • Offensive rating: 113.1 to 114.5
  • Defensive rating: 112.2 to 106.6
  • Net Rating: +0.9 to +7.9

1. Miami Heat

  • Offensive rating: 113.2 to 114.1
  • Defensive rating: 108.5 to 106.4
  • Net Rating: +4.7 to +7.7

9. Atlanta Hawks

  • Offensive rating: 115.1 to 118.7
  • Defensive rating: 113.5 to 111.1
  • Net Rating: +1.6 to +7.6

5. Toronto Raptors

  • Offensive rating: 113.3 to 112.8
  • Defensive rating: 110.6 to 106.9
  • Net Rating: +2.7 to +5.9

8. Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Offensive rating: 111.4 to 116.9
  • Defensive rating: 109.2 to 112.7
  • Net Rating: +2.2 to +4.2

10. Charlotte Hornets

  • Offensive rating: 113.7 to 118.0
  • Defensive rating: 113.2 to 114.3
  • Net Rating: +0.5 to +3.7

6. Chicago Bulls

  • Offensive rating: 112.8 to 110.7
  • Defensive rating: 113.2 to 115.5
  • Net Rating: -0.4 to -4.8

Western Conference

3. Golden State Warriors

  • Offensive rating: 111.8 to 116.1
  • Defensive rating: 106.2 to 103.4
  • Net Rating: +5.6 to +12.7

1. Phoenix Suns

  • Offensive rating: 114.6 to 118.2
  • Defensive rating: 107.0 to 108.2
  • Net Rating: +7.6 to +10.0

6. Denver Nuggets

  • Offensive rating: 113.6 to 121.0
  • Defensive rating: 111.3 to 112.1
  • Net Rating: +2.3 to +8.9

2. Memphis Grizzlies

  • Offensive rating: 114.6 to 118.5
  • Defensive rating: 108.9 to 110.3
  • Net Rating: +5.7 to +8.2

5. Utah Jazz

  • Offensive rating: 116.5 to 117.2
  • Defensive rating: 110.4 to 110.1
  • Net Rating: +6.1 to +7.1

9. New Orleans Pelicans

  • Offensive rating: 111.3 to 120.8
  • Defensive rating: 112.2 to 113.8
  • Net Rating: -0.9 to +7.0

8. L.A. Clippers

  • Offensive rating: 109.3 to 115.0
  • Defensive rating: 109.2 to 108.7
  • Net Rating: +0.1 to +6.3

4. Dallas Mavericks

  • Offensive rating: 112.0 to 112.3
  • Defensive rating: 108.6 to 106.8
  • Net Rating: +3.4 to +5.5

7. Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Offensive rating: 113.9 to 114.5
  • Defensive rating: 111.3 to 111.9
  • Net Rating: +2.6 to +2.6

10. San Antonio Spurs

  • Offensive rating: 112.1 to 102.5
  • Defensive rating: 112.0 to 103.9
  • Net Rating: +0.1 to -1.4

Observations

  • These adjustments to each team’s ratings cause less upheaval than prior years.
  • The Celtics aren’t as good defensively without Robert Williams, but they can still crank it up offensively
  • The Bucks have been excellent with their top players. Within a relatively pedestrian season for a defending champion, Milwaukee still demonstrated an elite upside.
  • The Warriors are a bona fide title contender when healthy.
  • The Suns haven’t surged to quite as high a level as other champion contenders when using only their top players. But Phoenix – the NBA’s best team all season – doesn’t necessarily need to unlock a higher level to reach its goal.
  • The Nuggets, who’ve been searching throughout the season for bench players who can help, might have found enough usable units. Despite key injuries, the starting lineup is strong with Nikola Jokic. Golden State is a tough first-round matchup, though (as Denver is for the Warriors).
  • It’ll be interesting to see how the Grizzlies – maybe the NBA’s deepest team – trim (or don’t) their rotation for the playoffs.
  • The 76ers’ projection includes Matisse Thybulle, as he’ll be eligible for at least half the games. Philadelphia rates similarly overall – better offensively, worse defensively – without him.
  • With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets are just as dangerous as you think.
  • Other play-in teams – the Hawks, Pelicans and Clippers – might be formidable, too. Atlanta rated well by this system last year, too. Not only has New Orleans been better since trading for C.J. McCollum, this team is ripe to improve with a tightened rotation. Paul George obviously lifts L.A.
  • The Maverick’ projection includes Luka Doncic. Needless to say, they’re worse off if he can’t play.
  • Slumping to the finish without Ball, the Bulls now have yet another indicator they’re in rough shape entering the playoffs.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.