Last night I got to thinking about the current state of the league. We have seen some surprising emerging teams, as well as other high-hype teams under-performing. Based on a highly complicated statistical analysis, I have ranked all the teams in their respective conferences. I have also ranked where they stand in the league as a whole. This is a complex mixture of considering where a team stands today, as well as projecting where they will be in the future. Call it prognostication if you must, but I call it:
Jazzy’s Hyper-Complex, Comprehensive Power Rankings
This is going to be a long post (comprehensive articles usually are), so let’s jump right into the Western Conference.
Key: (All real statistics courtesy of basketball-reference.com)
Jazzy’s Power Rating (JPR) - The hyper-complex part where I rate every team from 0 to 100.
SRS - Simple Rating System. A rating from basketball-reference.com that takes into account point differential and strength of schedule.
MOV - Average Margin of Victory.
1. Golden State Warriors – JPR 99 – 0 Games Behind
There is only so much you can say about this team. I hate this team, but they’re the best in the league right now. Personally, I think they will choke in the playoffs once again, but I have to admit that they have the best chance at winning it all.
Possible weaknesses: Draymond Green getting ejected in playoff games. Did they lose too much depth in the offseason, in exchange for Kevin Durant? Even after offseason additions, the team is still full of players who choked a 3-1 leads in the playoffs.
2. Houston Rockets – JPR 94 – 3.5 Games Behind
These guys are legit. James Harden has caught lightning in a bottle, putting on a spectacular display of basketball brilliance. Right now, he is at the top of my MVP candidates list. This team drops in the rankings as soon as he cools down, but if Harden can continue this level of play, they are right up there with the best of them. Defense is the major question that could determine their playoff success, but I give them the very slight edge over the Spurs in these power rankings.
Strengths: James Harden, offense.
Possible Weaknesses: Defense
3. San Antonio Spurs – JPR 93 – 2 Games Behind
The Spurs have been quietly winning, as per usual. However, I am not sure they can survive against the Warriors in a seven game series. Kawhi Leonard and LeMarcus Aldridge are superb players, but with the “change of the guard” that seems to be happening, I am left with a lot of questions about the heart and athletic capabilities of the team. Kudos to them however, because it is not possible to have a smoother rebuilding phase than they have had. The Spurs have pretty much skipped the process, and have gone straight to winning consistently. It sure helps when you are graced with multiple superstars, as well as all-star free agent signings.
Strengths: All-around good team, consistency, coaching.
Possible Weaknesses: Athleticism, being out-hustled, too much indifference.
4. Los Angeles Clippers – JPR 89 – 8 Games Behind
The Clippers are a good-but-not-great team. They have the stars, but they just don’t have the “it” factor that teams like Golden State and Cleveland seem to have. They also have reached their peak the past few years at just about the worst time possible. Now they have major injury problems. But I foresee them clawing their way back up to slightly beat us in the standings. Regardless of how the final records turn out, I feel the Clippers will be a statistically better team than the Jazz at the end of this year, even if they end up with a slightly worse record. Though that isn’t to say they are unbeatable in a playoff series.
Strengths: Stars, flopping, underrated coaching, top 10 in ORtg and DRtg.
Possible Weaknesses: Injury bug, Small Forward depth.
5. Utah Jazz – JPR 87 – 8 Games Behind
The Jazz have shown to be an elite team when healthy. George Hill is the best stopgap at Point Guard we could have possibly hoped for. Gordon Hayward is without argument playing like an all-star. Rudy Gobert is my homer pick for Defensive Player of the Year. We may need to spend a couple games acclimating to returning players such as Derrick and Alec, but we are very close to seeing the true potential of the team this year.
Strengths: When healthy, likely the best defensive team in the league, and defense performs well in the playoffs. Underrated coaching, strong home court history in playoffs.
Possible Weaknesses: Inexperience in playoffs. Are the injuries finally over?
6. Oklahoma City Thunder - JPR 86 - 8 Games Behind
The Thunder have emerged as a sneakily good defensive team, with stalwarts such as Steve Adams and Andre Roberson locking other players down. Russell Westbrook is good, but I feel he tries to use too much brawn without using much brain. I think this team as currently constructed is simply not capable of making much noise in the playoffs. I can envision them winning a series against a team like the Rockets, yet that doesn’t seem like the most likely outcome.
Strengths: Some great defensive players. Athleticism.
Possible Weaknesses: Lack of depth.
7. Memphis Grizzlies - JPR 82 - 8 Games Behind
These guys are having a quiet season, and have had the same injury bug we’ve been experiencing. Chandler Parsons recently returned, but is on a minutes restriction, and seems to have a lot of rust to shake off before he will start contributing again. You can never go wrong with a Michael Conley-Marc Gasol duo though. This is a team that the higher seeds will not want to face.
Strengths: Currently the best DRtg in the league. Sneaky good starting lineup.
Possible Weaknesses: Depth past the starting lineup.
8. Portland Trailblazers - JPR 68 - 15 Games Behind
I feel similar about the Trailblazers as I do about the Clippers. The Trailblazers have been playing without Damian Lillard, and I feel like they simply fight their way back into the playoffs when he returns. It will be a close call, however. They absolutely must address their defensive woes. I expect them to look deeply into every trade offer possible at the deadline.
Strengths: They have a superstar in Damian Lillard. CJ McCollum is extremely good as well. Good coaching.
Possible Weaknesses: Big man depth. Many decent players, but an overall lack of high level talent outside of their big 2.
9. Denver Nuggets - JPR 64 - 14.5 Games Behind
These guys are fighters. If Portland doesn’t pull things together, they are easily my next pick for the 8th seed. Denver may be in development mode, but they have a roster full of good players. They are simply missing their all-star. They seem to have a few good prospects, and may just have a star in the coming years. They are not wasting any time trying to become a good team.
Strengths: Somewhat deep roster. Good hustle and athleticism. Rising stars show flashes of excellence.
Possible Weaknesses: No elite players (yet).
10. New Orleans Pelicans - JPR 63 - 15.5 Games Behind
Anthony Davis is bound to figure things out eventually. I peg the second half of this season to be that time. The team needs more talent to surround him, but there is no excuse for him to not be able to make this a scary team to face on a nightly basis.
Strengths: Anthony Davis.
Possible Weaknesses: Everything that isn’t Anthony Davis.
11. Sacramento Kings - JPR 62 - 14.5 Games Behind
I am not a big believer in Boogie. I feel he is the epitome of stat-grabbers. He is a fantastic player, and can hit some extremely difficult shots. Yet his lack of ability to play in any form of offense is disturbing. Looking at his highlights from his 55-point game, it seems most of his shots came from isolations. That kind of basketball simply doesn’t win often in this day and age, unless there is a system behind it. This is why the Westbrook-Durant OKC could never pull through to win a championship in my opinion. There is a place for isolations, but it should not be the only way you play. At this point I don’t even care about DeMarcus’ attitude and amount of tech’s, he needs to learn how to play winning basketball.
Strengths: DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Caulie-Stein. Random hot shooting nights.
Possible Weaknesses: DeMarcus Cousins, lack of depth at just about every position.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves - JPR 60 - 18 Games Behind
They are a young team that need to be taught. Hopefully they begin to show good habits, especially on defense. I hear some of the interview quotes the players have, and it sometimes seems like the players are more interested in dunking on somebody and making the highlight reel rather than actually winning the game. Coach Thibs has his hands full. In my opinion, Ricky Rubio is holding them back. BBallBreakdown made a video on YouTube about this, and I agree wholeheartedly. Ricky cannot shoot, so defenses play off of him, and always go under screens. This clogs the lane for KAT, and simply ruins their offense on many plays. They need to trade him before they can start their ascent.
Strengths: Rising stars, good coach, many pieces they can potentially put together.
Possible Weaknesses: Youth, possibly not focused on winning, questions about whether they can get these pieces to fit.
13. Los Angeles Lakers - JPR 51 - 18.5 Games Behind
Well they had their fun surprising everybody, and now they are heading back down to the trash heap. Whether it is because of a management directive to tank, or because they simply lack real talent, this team is on the decline, and are likely going to get themselves a good lottery pick.
Strengths: Offense (kind of), good coaching.
Possible Weaknesses: Depth, lack of talent, lack of many things.
14. Dallas Mavericks - JPR 50 - 19 Games Behind
With injuries and declining players, they simply have not played well. They may be purposefully tanking this year, in order to surround Harrison Barnes with some good pieces. I think they finish ahead of the Suns, but do not play well enough to leapfrog anybody else. Dallas has finally checked into the rest home, which they have remarkably avoided up until this point.
Strengths: Tradeable parts, good coaching.
Possible Weaknesses: Loss of spark, declining veterans.
15. Phoenix Suns - JPR 42 - 19 Games Behind
Not much to say about them. They have some players who are making a name for themselves, but I question if they have as much potential as everyone thinks. We’ll see how they are next year.
Possible Weaknesses: No real productive players, everything is still potential
Now, onto the less relevant Eastern Conference. I advise a small break here, make use of the hot cocoa your neighbor gifted you, and I’ll see you in a few minutes.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers - JPR 98 - 0 Games Behind
The Cavs are on the same road as last year. The title is theirs for the taking. Golden State is the better team, but the Cavs can certainly beat them. In my opinion, Kyrie Irving has the best handles in the league, and that sets him apart from other all-star point guards. LeBron seems to be playing as good as ever. Kevin Love is not injured. As long as they can keep this trajectory, they are serious contenders, just like they have been for the past three years.
Strengths: Continuity from last year. Some of the best counters possible to the Golden State Warriors stars.
Possible Weaknesses: A slip in their Drtg causes me to pause. Can they beat a Golden State team that has added yet another elite player to their roster?
2. Toronto Raptors - JPR 97 - 2.5 Games Behind
If the Raptors are going to win a title, it better be soon. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are playing out of their minds, and I think with a little serendipity, this could be their year to shine. If anything goes slightly wrong for the Cavs or Warriors, it is crucial for the Raptors to keep themselves in the position to take every inch of opportunity given to them. If they do not win the championship this year, how long will they be able to retain this level of play? Is it possible for them to improve in coming years? The Raptors are the under-dogs this season, but underdogs have won before.
Strengths: Best Ortg in the league.
Possible Weaknesses: Defense could be an issue, though players returning from injury could help with that.
3. Boston Celtics - JPR 86 - 6 Games Behind
Boston is in a strange situation. They have a mix of youth development, and veteran win-now. I feel this is an ideal situation for their young players. As the Spurs have shown, development in a winning culture is often more consistently effective than development in a losing culture. But Boston has some choices coming up. What are they going to do with their picks and available money?
Strengths: Coaching, some very solid pieces.
Possible Weaknesses: #NeverGettingHayward, surprisingly weak defense this season.
4. Milwaukee Bucks - JPR 81 - 9 Games Behind
This is a team on the rise. We are witnessing the ascension of Giannis Antetokounmpo. He is likely the next generational talent this league will see. While the Bucks started off the season fairly weak, Giannis is beginning to will this team to wins, and I would put them within a few games of the Hornets at the end of the season. Personally, I give them the slight edge.
Strengths: The league’s new superstar. Fairly decent depth.
Possible Weaknesses: Still in development, not quite ready to take things to the next level.
5. Charlotte Hornets - JPR 79 - 7 Games Behind
I like what the Hornets have been doing. They have been silently putting up the 6th best Drtg in the league, while being 15th in Ortg. They have shown to have good depth, with good fight. I have questions about this team’s ceiling, but they will be a solid team for years to come.
Strengths: Defense, depth.
Possible Weaknesses: Have they reached their ceiling?
6. Atlanta Hawks - JPR 70 - 8 Games Behind
Out of all the teams on this ranking, I feel the Hawks are the most likely to drop as the season progresses. The stats seem to agree. Not to mention the likelihood of Paul Millsap and/or Kyle Korver being moved in a trade. This team simply isn’t meshing together, and it is probably as good as it will ever be with the current personnel. A move to set them up for the future is needed.
Strengths: Defense, good systematic play, fairly solid depth.
Possible Weaknesses: Non-complimentary pieces. Peaked veterans.
7. Chicago Bulls - JPR 68 - 10 Games Behind
I am not a fan of the Bulls, but I cannot help but think that Dwayne Wade and Jimmy Butler drag this team into the playoffs by the end of the year. Rondo does not seem to be a good fit however, and it looks as though he may be moved to the bench. How will he react, and how will that affect team chemistry?
Strengths: Stars paired with some rising youth.
Possible Weaknesses: Rajon Rondo may begin causing locker room drama as him minutes dwindle.
8. Detroit Pistons - JPR 67 - 11 Games Behind
The Detroit Pistons simply have too many good players to not figure things out. If a trade needs to be made, it will happen. But I feel Detroit will return to its winning ways by the end of the season, and scrape by the Wizards for the 8th seed.
Strengths: Strong point guard and Center play. Strong-willed coach.
Possible Weaknesses: Offense has not come together yet.
9. Washington Wizards - JPR 67 - 9 Games Behind
The eight and nine spots could very easily swap. The Wizards have been playing well, but at the same time not well enough. They are 13th in Ortg and 21st in Drtg. I think John Wall has taken this team about as far as it will ever go. Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. are the players the Wizards’ future hinges on. Hopefully they can find a way to get over the hump.
Strengths: A solid lineup.
Possible Weaknesses: Coaching seems to be a weakness. They can never really pull things together.
10. Indiana Pacers - JPR 66 - 9.5 Games Behind
Never count Indiana out. I just think this year is more focused on development in Indiana. They are starting a 20-year-old at C. With some of their recent free agent signings, it seems they have thrown away their identity as a defensive fortress of a team in favor of a more offensive approach (see also: Monta Ellis, Rodney Stuckey, Thaddeus Young…). Speaking of Thaddeus Young, I have never been a fan of starting him at PF. He is one of the original stretch 4s, who seems to never have figured out how to fill his role.
Strengths: Paul George, some high potential youth.
Possible Weaknesses: Too many high-volume, low-efficiency shooters.
11. New York Knicks - JPR 64 - 9.5 Games Behind
So much hype for so little product. I don’t feel like Carmelo has ever been a good fit for this team, and this year is no different. I’ll always root for Kristaps, as long as he isn’t a) playing the Jazz, or b) playing for a Western Conference team. I just don’t understand how people thought that Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah would make a difference for this team, when they couldn’t get the Bulls to the playoffs just last year.
Strengths: Kristaps and Carmelo, with a select few solid role players.
Possible Weaknesses: Consistency. Lack of depth.
12. Orlando Magic - JPR 56 - 11.5 Games Behind
Orlando has a strange roster that doesn’t seem to be getting any results. After some thinking, I feel it is likely because of their gaping hole at the PG position. Like our team in years past, they have assembled what looks to be a fairly solid roster. Evan Fournier is playing great, Vucevic is an underrated big man, and Serge Ibaka is a very capable power forward. To directly quote the Wizard of Oz,
If I only had a point guard…
“I would not be just a nuffin’,
My head all full of stuffin’,
My heart all full of pain.”.
Strengths: High potential players beginning to produce. Good roster, and serviceable coaching.
Possible Weaknesses: Point Guard
13. Miami Heat - JPR 53 - 16.5 Games Behind
They’re tanking, it’s not too hard to see. They were more adversely affected by the last free agency than Oklahoma City was. They have pretty much been forced into rebuilding mode.
Strengths: Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside. Erik Spoelstra.
Possible Weaknesses: They’re young and tanking.
14. Brooklyn Nets - JPR 43 - 17 Games Behind
This team’s management seems very confused. They seem to be tanking, but I don’t think they realize that Boston owns the right to swap first round picks with them in the upcoming draft. Maybe they just don’t understand what that entails? Regardless, the players have some fight to them, and I project them to win just a little bit more than the 76ers.
Possible Weaknesses: Much of the roster could be playing for the D-league.
15. Philidelphia 76ers - JPR 39 - 17 Games Behind
At what point do you give up on “the process”? They have been tanking for so long, with so many high draft picks. They keep trying to develop their players in a losing environment, and I think it’s taking them much longer than if they had gone a different path. Granted, they now have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, so their future is certainly bright. But do they really need a third top-3 pick?
Possible Weaknesses: They are the worst team at putting the ball through the hoop.
For anybody curious as to how I stack up the whole league, here you go.
So there you have it.
Hope you enjoyed.