A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

33pt Thursday – Team Rankings/Predictions for the Western Conference (NBA 2012-2013)

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Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs, warming up f...

Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs, warming up for a game vs. Los Angeles Lakers January 28, 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is my first attempt to use the 33pt method to evaluate teams. I don’t trust this nearly as much as the player evaluations, but I’ll give it a trial run. In short, here is how I evaluated each team

Physical tools

–  Perimeter players who drive to the rim, have the power to finish help the team’s score. Length on the perimeter defensively is important. Having a shotblocker in the frontcourt helps a team’s score, as does post size/power down low.


–  Shooting and shot creation for perimeter players are key, as are post players in the frontcourt

Feel for the Game

–  I evaluate offense and defense feel for the game for each team separately, averaging my scores to create a total feel for the game score. Awareness of the court, ability to recognize space and angles offensively and defensively, and general smoothness play into this category.

To evaluate teams, because 82 divided by 3 is 27 (and change), I approximated that each score out of 11, when multiplied by 2.48 can be represented in wins, the maximum in each being 27. A good way to measure it is to multiply the win total by 3. So when you see a team with “15 Ws”, imagine that they are “45 win caliber” in that particular category.

Using this, here are my scores for the Western and Eastern Conference. Keep in mind, this is ranking teams if they hypothetically had full health, thus even including a team like the Bulls that won’t be healthy. I will mention in the write-ups whether I expect a higher or lower record if it differs from the score:

Western Conference

1. San Antonio Spurs

Physical impact: 6 (15 Ws), Skill: 8.5 (21 Ws), Feel for the Game: 10 (25 Ws). Total record: 61-21 (difference from Vegas Over/Under: +5.5)

The Spurs get a lot of physical points from their perimeter, as Parker and Ginobili’s penetration plus Leonard’s size all rank strongly in the category, but are much less strong up front with Diaw, Duncan, Splitter not dominating physically. Skill wise they are excellent due to a myriad of shooting and perimeter shot creation, with post ability. But their strength is feel for the game. Just about every Spur has a tremendous feel and basketball IQ. So much that I have an article planned for the future hypothesizing that the Spurs have used feel for the game as a major part of their team building. The Spurs combination of above average physical impact, strong skill and the best feel for the game in the league, gives them an amazing win score of 63.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

Physical impact: 9.5 (24 Ws), Skill: 6.5 (16 Ws), Feel for the Game: 7 (17 Ws). Total record: 57-25 (vs Over/Under: -3.5)

The Thunder’s strength is physical talent where they rank the best in the league in the category. They have both amazing athleticism/length on the perimeter in Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, James Harden, Kevin Durant, plus one of the signature shotblockers in the league in Serge Ibaka. Kevin Durant and James Harden are responsible for most of the Thunder’s skill score, but they’re good enough to single handily guarantee the Thunder a decent score. Finally, their feel for the game is great defensively due to their perimeter smarts and pretty good offensively, with a mix of great (Durant, Harden, Collision, Perkins, Thabo) and ok (Westbrook, Ibaka) in the category overall. The Thunder’s incredible physical talent mixed with above average skill and feel for the game give them an elite combination as well.

3. Los Angeles Lakers

Physical impact: 6 (15 Ws), Skill: 8 (20 Ws), Feel for the Game: 9 (22 Ws). Total record: 57-25 (vs Over/Under: -2.5)

The Lakers’ physical impact is all about Dwight Howard carrying them to respectability, because Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Antawn Jamison’s perimeter games and age, makes them unfriendly physical scoring players. Their skill is excellent due to those players however, with two of the most skilled guards in the league and two very skilled power forwards. A lack of perimeter depth hurts their skill score slightly.  Their feel for the game is one of the best in the league, as it is absolutely elite on the defense end and very good offensively. The Lakers rank very well in all 3 categories.

4. Los Angeles Clippers

Physical impact: 6.5 (16 Ws), Skill: 6.5 (16 Ws), Feel for the Game: 7.5 (19 Ws). Total record: 51-31 (vs Over/Under: +2.5)

The Clippers have a monster frontcourt physically with Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan, but a perimeter orientated game otherwise. Chris Paul has a large impact on both their skill and feel for the game scores offensively, players like Griffin, Crawford, Hill, Barnes, Odom help those scores as well.  Defensively feel for the game is a slightly concern. The Clippers have players lacking physical impact, skill or feel, but other players on the roster making up for it, makes their overall scores above average in all 3.

5. Memphis Grizzlies

Physical impact: 6.5 (16 Ws), Skill: 5.5 (14 Ws), Feel for the Game: 7.5 (19 Ws). Total record: 49-33 (vs Over/Under: +0.5)

The Grizzlies have good physical ability on their perimeter with Mike Conley, Jr., Rudy Gay, Tony Allen, Josh Selby and co., though it’s not the strength of their big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. This is flipped for skill, where the post players are strong and the perimeter players are very questionable due to lack of shooting. The Grizzlies have a tremendous feel for the game defensively and are quite good on the offensive end in the category.

6. Utah Jazz

Physical impact: 7 (17 Ws), Skill: 5.5 (14 Ws), Feel for the Game: 7 (17 Ws). Total record: 48-34 (vs Over/Under: +5.5)

The Jazz have a long and athletic perimeter rotation between Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams and Alec Burks, with a shotblocking big in Derrick Favors up front to further help their physical score. They have a skilled frontcourt and have improved their shooters with acquisitions of Marvin and Mo Williams, Randy Foye, but still aren’t the most skilled team in the league. Feel for the game is strong on both ends with Hayward, Marvin Williams, Alec Burks, Mo Williams, Paul Millsap, while Al Jefferson is strong offensively (but lacking defensively) and Derrick Favors the inverse, strong defensively but lacking offensively.

7. Denver Nuggets

Physical impact: 7.5 (19 Ws), Skill: 4.5 (11 Ws), Feel for the Game: 7 (17 Ws). Total record: 47-35 (vs Over/Under: -2.5)

The Nuggets love to impact the game physically, with strong athletes in the frontcourt like Kenneth Faried and Javale McGee, an elite perimeter athlete in Andre Iguodala, and a speedy/strong Ty Lawson. Skill wise they are at a bigger concern than recently. Shooting will rely on Lawson and Gallinari to perform consistently and they lack frontcourt offense in the post or shooting. Offensively they have quite a good feel for the game with Miller, Lawson, Iguodala, Gallinari, Faried’s, but the frontcourt with Faried, McGee are still young positional IQ wise on the defensive end.

8. Golden State Warriors

Physical impact: 2 (5 Ws), Skill: 7 (17 Ws), Feel for the Game: 8 (20 Ws). Total record: 42-40 (vs Over/Under: +7.5)

The Warriors have a perimeter full of jumpshot orientated players in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Brandon Rush and co. and a David Lee, Carl Landry, Andrew Bogut frontcourt that’s not entirely imposing. Their strength is skill due to their elite outside bombing, with an absolutely elite offensive feel for the game, but only decent defensive feel. Of course the Warriors are injury prone and if Curry and Bogut miss significant time, they could fall into the low 30s quickly in wins.

9. Portland Trailblazers

Physical impact: 5.5 (14 Ws), Skill: 6.5 (16 Ws), Feel for the Game: 5 (12 Ws). Total record: 42-40 (vs Over/Under: +6.5)

The Trailblazers will need players like Nolan Smith, Meyers Leonard and Will Barton to produce to make up for the lack of established depth in the lineup outside of Lamarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, and Nicolas Batum. Otherwise the Blazers have a very nice mix – they are long throughout the roster which makes up for being a jumpshooting team physically, have an array of outside shooters beside their post star Aldridge and have players with a very good feel for the game offensively, though youth should give some of that back defensively.

10. Dallas Mavericks

Physical impact: 1.5 (4 Ws), Skill impact: 7 (17 Ws), Feel for the Game: 8 (20 Ws). Total record: 41-41 (vs Over/Under: -4.5)

The Mavericks are nearing the bottom of the barrel in physical ability, with a jumpshooting team throughout the roster. Their skill and feel for the game is much better. Dirk, Elton Brand and Chris Kaman is one of the most skilled frontcourts in the league and players like OJ Mayo and Vince Carter on the perimeter can create shots. In feel for the game I don’t particularly like Kaman manning the middle defensively, but otherwise are strong in the category with Dirk, Shawn Marion, Elton Brand, Darren Collision among players with a strong feel on both ends.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves

Physical impact: 1.5 (4 Ws), Skill: 6 (15 Ws), Feel for the Game: 7.5 (19 Ws). Total record: 38-44 (vs Over/Under: -0.5)

The Timberwolves will struggle to find much physical impact, they have weak footspeed and Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved, Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love, Derrick Williams, Dante Cunningham are perimeter orientated for their positions. Their skill will be carried by Kevin Love’s talent since they don’t have a ton of outside shooting. Their strength is their feel for the game, particularly on the offensive end with Rubio, Roy, Kirilenko, Love practically being basketball savants and the rest being up to par.

12. Sacramento Kings

Physical impact: 8 (20 Ws), Skill: 2 (5 Ws), Feel for the Game: 1 (2 Ws). Total record: 27-55 (vs Over/Under: -2.5)

The Kings’ strength is in one category, physical impact. Demarcus Cousins is a beast at center, Thomas Robinson, Tyreke Evans can attack the rim with power and James Johnson is a great shotblocking wing. It’s in the other two categories that they struggle big time. They will have poor shooting/spacing and post finesse. They represent the bottom of the barrel in feel for the game and basketball IQ, nobody really understanding how to play off the ball properly.

13. New Orleans Hornets

Physical impact: 5 (14 Ws), Skill: 2.5 (6 Ws), Feel for the Game: 1.5 (4 Ws). Total record: 24-58 (vs Over/Under: -1.5)

Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis should help the Hornets to a decent physical score, albeit they are lacking elsewhere in the category. Their skill is a big problem considering they’re practically bowling gutterballs on the PG and SF positions in it (their best point and small forwards are… Brian Roberts and Al-Farouq Aminu?) though Gordon’s skill and Ryan Anderson helps embarrassment in the category. Their feel for the game is poor due to their youth. One day Anthony Davis will improve this category, but not as a rookie.

14. Phoenix Suns

Physical impact: 2.5 (6 Ws), Skill: 3 (7 Ws), Feel for the Game: 3.5 (9 Ws), Total record: 22-60 (vs Over/Under: -11.5)

This team is pretty messy. Their physical score is OK, Marcin Gortat and Goran Dragic providing some presence at C and PG but the rest of the roster being full of perimeter orientated players like Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley, Markieff Morris, Kendall Marshall and co. Luis Scola helps their skill score with Beasley and Morris, but their weakness creating shots on the perimeter gives them a low score. Their feel for the game is simply below average on both ends.

15. Houston Rockets

Physical impact: 1.5 (4 Ws), Skill: 2.5 (6 Ws), Feel for the Game: 3.5 (9 Ws). Total record: 19-63 (vs Over/Under: -11.5)

The Rockets’ physical impact should be among the weakest in the league as they have perimeter orientated wings like Jeremy Lin, Kevin Martin and Chandler Parsons and small jumpshooting bigs like Terrence Jones, Marcus Morris, Donatas Motiejunas on the roster. Omar Asik should help slightly physically, but not enough. Skill wise they have a few shooters like Martin and those bigs, but still are not polished enough as a team. The strong feel for the game of Lin, Martin, Parsons, Asik is dragged down by the inexperience of all their rookies.

Written by jr.

October 11, 2012 at 10:40 pm

One Response

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  1. […] My Western Conference rankings and an explanation for how I evaluate teams can be found here […]

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