How the Unanimous MVP Stacks Up Historically (Plus Playoff Rankings)

Stephen Curry
The MVP’s ridiculous heat map resembles a sinister smiley face. Coincidence?

Welcome back, Steph. The playoffs missed you.

While the NBA’s first unanimous MVP recovered from a sprained MCL, we watched the Cavs throttle the Hawks in four games and a Heat-Raptors death march featuring injured centers, inefficient guards and dubious late-game coaching. The Steph-less Warriors played some entertaining games with Portland, but it was palpable that something was lacking. Meanwhile, Thunder-Spurs is the one second round series that has been good for consistent thrills, but unfortunately they can’t play that series every night. This all came after an underwhelming round one, where even the Game 7’s were lackluster.

But the Baby-Faced Assassin is back, and he wasted no time reminding us why we fell in love with him to begin with. His 4th quarter and overtime performance in Game 4 was legendary.

Every historically great player is able to quiet a hostile crowd in the playoffs. Steph didn’t just quiet the Portland faithful – he ripped their hearts out, poked them in the eyes and slapped their mamas. The man turned billionaire Paul Allen into a damn meme:

As an encore, Curry finished off the Blazers in Game 5 singlehandedly down the stretch. His ability to hit step-back threes over bigger defenders is beyond description at this point. It used to be absurd that he would even take these shots – now you just expect them all to go in. He doesn’t even have his feet squared up to the basket on this backbreaking, series-winning dagger on Al-Farouq Aminu:

Aminu, who had a great shooting series in his own right, learned the perils of tugging on Superman’s cape. If you recall, Aminu stared down a street-clothes-dressed Curry in Game 3 after draining a corner three.

Yea, not a great move. Curry of course got the last laugh. Don’t spit into the wind…and don’t mess around with Slim.

Curry’s second-straight MVP campaign has been so transcendent, I’m not sure NBA fans could’ve gotten over it if they were cheated out of watching him do his thing in the playoffs. From Game 1 to Game 82, this Curry season has felt historic. 73 wins. 402 threes. A top-10 all-time PER. 50-45-90 shooting percentages. His value is unique because he can dominate a game while still operating within the confines of the Warriors’ offense. The ball doesn’t stick in his hands. To wit, per SportVu stats on NBAsavant.com, Curry ranked 69th in average dribbles per touch (3.613) and 73rd in average touch time (3.816 seconds). Remember Curry led the league in scoring yet played under 35 minutes per game. Just how the hell does he pull that off without playing hero ball exclusively? It just doesn’t compute.

So let’s turn our attention to the historical context of this special MVP season.

I looked at 29 other famous MVP campaigns in an effort to compare where Curry ranks by the numbers. The criteria I chose to consider: PER, counting stats titles, Win Shares, Value Over Replacement Player, Box Plus/Minus and Team Wins. I’m simply adding them up without weighing any value higher than another, because I barely passed College Algebra. I did give a player 5 points for each counting stats title they won during their MVP season. The sum total is what I call the MVP Quotient. *Note: steals, blocks, VORP, BPM are not available for Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Wilt Chamberlain. I estimated 11 BPM and 10 VORP for each.

The results:

MVPtable

As you can see, Curry grades out at the very top of the list. Above 1971-72 Kareem, 1995-96 Jordan, 1985-86 Bird, 2008-09 & 2012-13 LeBron. I’m always highly cognizant of the perils of recency bias, which is what led me to this exercise in the first place. But the numbers back up Curry’s case for the greatest offensive season of all time and, at the very least, a top-5 all-time MVP season. A season for the ages. My grandkids will hear plenty of stories about 2015-16 Steph.

Side note or two: How awesome was LeBron’s 2008-09 season? The 4th-best ever PER and it ranks 5th on this list even though he didn’t get any 5-point boosts for a counting stats title. It’s also cool to see how LBJ and Jordan dominate with seven of the top 12 MVP seasons on this list.

Playoff Power Rankings

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers (Beat Hawks 4-0) – Just rolling through the East, licking their chops at the Heat-Raptors slap fight.
  2. Oklahoma City Thunder (Lead Spurs 3-2) – Amazingly have won 3 of  after getting trounced in Game 1. They need to close it out in Game 6, as a third straight victory in San Antonio is highly unlikely.
  3. Golden State Warriors (Beat Blazers 4-1) – Portland was a handful, even for five games, but now they get some rest. We’ll see how Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green heal up from minor injuries. The West Finals will be a bloodbath.
  4. San Antonio Spurs (Trail Thunder 3-2) – Reeling and on the ropes. But you can never count out the Spurs until the last buzzer sounds on their elimination. Wouldn’t be surprised if they win Games 6 and 7, but their offense needs an injection of life to do so.
  5. Toronto Raptors (Lead Heat 3-2) – They should beat the Heat without Hassan Whiteside. Their prize is the Cleveland slaughter.
  6. Miami Heat (Trail Raptors 3-2) – Terrible luck with Chris Bosh and now Whiteside and Luol Deng banged up. We’ll see if vintage Dwyane Wade returns to help force a Game 7.
  7. Portland Trail Blazers (Lost to Warriors 4-1)
  8. Atlanta Hawks (Lost to Cavs 4-0)
  9. Charlotte Hornets
  10. Indiana Pacers
  11. Boston Celtics
  12. Los Angeles Clippers
  13. Dallas Mavericks
  14. Detroit Pistons
  15. Houston Rockets
  16. Memphis Grizzlies

Playoff Rankings: Round 2 Rout is On

The cream has officially risen to the top. Here I thought Round 2 was going to be all-out war but – though things could change as the four series shift to the lower seed’s building – the rout is on. Cleveland has gone to another level. If they can sustain 85% of this 3-point production, they have a shot against Golden State. The Spurs go to Oklahoma tied but look to be in a class above the Thunder. An MVP-less Warriors team is mostly rolling through Portland. We shouldn’t be surprised. This entire season there have been three teams at the top, and they’re still looking down on the rest of the league. Now, Steph Curry looks to be coming back sooner than expected (hooray for blood spinning!). Here’s where we currently stand.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers (Lead Atlanta 2-0) – Broke the record for made threes in a playoff game last night (25) in a 123-98 rout of the Hawks. After watching Atlanta throttle Boston in Game 5, I tweeted the following:

    Oops.

  2. San Antonio Spurs (Tied with OKC 1-1) – The messy ending to Game 2 was glorious and bottom line is the Spurs squandered a great chance to win that game with numbers in transition. Playing in OKC is no picnic. But now the Spurs are mad. You can rely on the following equation: Gregg Popovich>Billy Donovan. Spurs in 7 (if not 6).
  3. Golden State Warriors (Lead Portland 2-0) – An amazing fourth quarter brought them back after trailing by 17 points in Game 2. Draymond Green is vaulting to another level and Klay Thompson is staking his claim to the title of best two-way shooting guard in the league. Look for more Festus Ezeli going forward (finally). The Blazers should win one at home, but this series won’t make it past Game 5. Steph should be brought back with discretion, as the Warriors can clearly beat this team without him.
  4. Miami Heat (Lead Toronto 1-0) – Dwyane Wade’s renaissance has been a joy to watch. If Kyle Lowry can’t magically turn his shot back on, the Raptors are toast. Miami’s best player and coach know how to win this time of year. It’s worth keeping an eye on Wade’s and Hassan Whiteside’s knees going forward. Word is both are fine, but a setback could change the series.
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder (Tied with San Antonio 1-1) – To pull out this series over a 67-win Spurs juggernaut, Russell Westbrook will need to impose his will as he did early in Game 2. Tony Parker simply can’t keep up with him. The “let LaMarcus get his” strategy is interesting especially since it helps put a clamp on Playoffs Danny Green and Playoffs Patty Mills. Even though the series is tied 1-1, I get the feeling they need to win both these next two games at home. They stole one in San Antonio and I don’t think they’ll get another in the Alamo.
  6. Toronto Raptors (Trailing Miami 1-0) – Sad Kyle Lowry stayed in the empty arena after Game 1 working on his jumper. Let’s hope that helps him turn things around. Jonas Valanciunas was great in Game 1, but how much of that was due to Whiteside not being 100 percent? Norman Powell needs to make an impact in this series, but at the end of the day their fate will be tied to Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
  7. Atlanta Hawks (Trailing Cleveland 2-0) – I believed. Then Earl Smith III destroyed my faith. The Hawks can’t keep Thabo Sefolosha on the floor due to his poor shooting, and unfortunately he’s the only Hawk that can even pretend to guard LeBron. I expect Paul Millsap and Al Horford to perform better in Atlanta, but it won’t be enough. The Cavs death train rolls on.
  8. Portland Trail Blazers (Trailing GSW 2-0) – The Blazers have already overachieved. They may win a game at home with their great crowd, but Golden State is on a collision course with San Antonio. They always have been. Great job this season by Terry Stotts and Damian Lillard. They have good things ahead, but need to round out their roster in the offseason.
  9. Charlotte Hornets
  10. Indiana Pacers
  11. Boston Celtics
  12. Los Angeles Clippers
  13. Dallas Mavericks
  14. Detroit Pistons
  15. Houston Rockets
  16. Memphis Grizzlies

Reviewing the Wreckage: Updated NBA Playoffs Power Rankings

Boy, it was such a simpler time back on April 16, when I posted my original Playoffs Power Rankings. Steph Curry had two healthy feet and a non-sprained right knee, coming off a historic regular season and ready to become immortal. Chris Paul’s traffic finger was whole. Russell Westbrook was an unquestioned superstar (good call, Mark Cuban!). The NBA’s finest hour was upon us. Now just a week and some change later, the Western Conference has been turned on its head as NBA fans have lost the two best point guards in our lives. A rematch of the horrible 2007 Finals seems unavoidable. If it happens, the Cavs are much more competitive now than the first time they faced the Spurs in the Finals; yet we will still likely feel cheated, even if it’s a seven-game classic. But, alas, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Behold, the second installment of our Playoffs Power Rankings…

  1. San Antonio Spurs (Beat Memphis 4-0) [Last Week: #2] – Quietly and swiftly took care of business versus the ghost of Memphis’ roster, winning four games by an average of 19.5 points and posting an obscene 117.1 OffRtg. San Antonio gets a much tougher test in OKC in Round 2, but they’ve suddenly become my de facto favorite to win it all now that Steph is a question mark.
  2. Cleveland Cavaliers (Beat Detroit 4-0) [LWk: #3] – Proved to be too much for the Pistons in a testy series that saw LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving average a combined 69.1 points per game. The rest of the league should take notice as the big three seem to have found a rhythm finally. Then again, Detroit doesn’t present the toughest defensive matchup. The Cavs, the second-biggest beneficiaries of the recent Warriors’ woes, actually bested the Spurs by three in OffRtg in Round 1 (120.4).
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder (Beat Dallas 4-1) [LWk: #4] – In another feisty series featuring shoves, errant elbows and innumerable stare-downs, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tried to get in Westbrook’s head, or something, by saying the Thunder only had one superstar in Kevin Durant. Russ went off a couple hours later for 36 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists as the Thunder punted Dallas out of the playoffs. Russ is one of the last people on Earth I would choose to anger. Maybe that’s why I’m not a billionaire.
  4. Golden State Warriors (Lead Houston 3-1) [LWk: #1] – Let’s just get through this one before we get emotional. The greatest show on hardwood got knocked down a few pegs with news of Curry’s low-grade MCL sprain, but it’s still a damn good basketball team. Tied at halftime on the road in Game 4 with Curry shelved, the Warriors’ other stars unleashed the fury on Houston, to the tune of eight 3-pointers in the third quarter en route to a 65-38 second half. As bad as the Curry news is, they should still be favored over Portland or a CP3-less Clippers team in Round 2.
  5. Atlanta Hawks (Tied with Boston 2-2) [LWk: #7] – Instant Gratification Overreaction (IGO) Exhibit A: To everyone on the Internet complaining about the lack of competitive playoff series after two games, just let it breathe. Amazing how a series can even up once both teams have played the same amount of home games. There’s nothing wrong with the seven game series format. Still, it feels like Atlanta should be up 3-1 at the least, but somehow Boston is staying alive without its best wing defender, Avery Bradley. The Hawks had a 16-point lead in Game 4 behind Paul Millsap’s monster effort, but the rest of the team couldn’t hit an open shot. If that inefficiency corrects itself, look for ATL to advance.
  6. Miami Heat (Tied with Charlotte 2-2) [LWk: #9] – IGO Exhibit B: “Miami is red-hot and Nic Batum is out, it’s going to be an easy sweep” or some variation of that line of thinking was all over the podcast and Twitter world after Game 2. Amazingly, Miami did not continue to score at an all time team playoff rate and Charlotte’s great home court advantage helped them even the series. Initially I took Charlotte in six, but gun to my head I’ll take the Heat in seven. That Batum injury will haunt the Hornets at some point. The Heat should take care of business at home.
  7. Toronto Raptors (Tied with Indiana 2-2) [LWk: #5] – Toronto is all over the place. Determined to put to rest all the demons of playoffs past, the Raptors fell flat in Game 1, losing at home. After two straight convincing wins it seemed things had course-corrected and the 56-win team would prevail easily. Then Indiana spanked them in Game 4. DeMar DeRozan (30%FG) can’t score efficiently on Paul George and it seems he’ll be the last one to admit it. It’s up to Kyle Lowry (32%FG), who’s having his own matchup difficulties, to take the reins and finally get this team to Round 2.
  8. Charlotte Hornets (Tied with Miami 2-2) [LWk: #8] – I love the fight they showed in their two home wins, without the aforementioned Batum. Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin are an unlikely pair of playoff heroes, but they played the role well in Games 3 and 4. They combined for 55 points in Game 4, hitting half their joint field goal attempts. Steve Clifford has largely stuck to his guns on defense and waited for the Heat to stop making everything. It will be interesting to see if Miami gets hot again back in their home building, what kind of counter punch Clifford has in store.
  9. Portland Trail Blazers (Tied with LAC 2-2) [LWk: #11] – IGO Exhibit C: The Blazers looked dead in the first two games, with Paul handcuffing Damian Lillard and the rest of the Blazers struggling to score. Though they still haven’t eclipsed 100 points in the series after averaging 105/game in the regular season, Dame, CJ McCollum and Al-Farouq Aminu got loose with some home cooking. Aminu in particular was amazing last night, scoring a career playoff-high 30 points with 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks. The Clippers’ myriad injuries have opened the door for Portland, will they bust through it with two games remaining in LA?
  10. Boston Celtics (Tied with Atlanta 2-2) [LWk: #10] – I really struggled with this ranking. On the one hand they willed themselves to two straight victories to even the series. On the other hand, I just don’t feel like they’ve played all that well. Atlanta has just been missing open shots – can the Celts count on Al Horford, Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore, Dennis Schroder and Jeff Teague going 14-60 again? I’ll go out on a crazy limb and say no.
  11. Los Angeles Clippers (Tied with Portland 2-2) [LWK: #6] – With Paul expected to miss the rest of the playoffs with a broken third metacarpal, that means Austin Rivers & Jamal Crawford will be running the point. Yikes. Also, Blake Griffin is gimpy on that bad quadriceps, J.J. Redick has a bruised heel and even DeAndre Jordan got nicked up last night. It’s entirely possible Donald Sterling has a collection of Clippers voodoo dolls and is somewhere laughing maniacally. What an asshole.
  12. Indiana Pacers (Tied with Toronto 2-2) [LWk: #12] – Paul George is the best player in the series with Toronto, and that alone gives the Pacers a fighting chance. In their two losses, the Pacers just couldn’t generate enough points on the offensive end, despite how well they’ve defended the Raptors’ stars. In Game 4, Ian Mahinmi and George Hill gave George much-needed support on the offensive end with 22 points apiece. Meanwhile George held DeRozan to single-digits scoring.
  13. Houston Rockets (Trailing GSW 3-1) [LWk: #15] – We are so close to being rid of this uninspiring team. Let’s hope the Warriors put them out of their misery Wednesday so Dwight Howard and Co. can finally start their vacations. https://vine.co/v/iFVpQMzWBhO
  14. Dallas Mavericks (Lost to OKC 4-1)
  15. Detroit Pistons (Lost to Cleveland 4-0)
  16. Memphis Grizzlies (Lost to San Antonio 4-0)

First 2016 NBA Power Rankings

Team Record Preseason Rank

1

Golden State 32-2

1

2

San Antonio 30-6

5

3

Oklahoma City 24-11

2

4

Cleveland 23-9

6

5

Chicago 20-12

8

6

Atlanta 21-14

9

7

Toronto 21-15

12

8

L.A. Clippers 22-13

4

9

Miami 21-13

10

10

Indiana 19-15

19

11

Boston 19-15

16

12

Dallas 19-15

21

13

Orlando 19-16

25

14

Detroit 19-16

18

15

Memphis 19-17

7

16

Utah 15-18

13

17

Charlotte 17-17

23

18

Houston 17-19

3

19

Sacramento 14-20

20

20

New York 16-19

22

21

Washington 15-17

11

22

Portland 15-22

27

23

New Orleans 11-22

14

24

Milwaukee 14-22

15

25

Phoenix 12-25

17

26

Denver 12-23

24

27

Minnesota 12-23

28

28

Brooklyn 10-24

29

29

L.A. Lakers 8-27

26

30

Philadelphia 4-33

30

The NBA’s Growing Middle Class

Untitled

 

There’s something interesting going on in the National Basketball Association that would make Bernie Sanders proud. The middle-class is expanding rapidly. Expected top-tier teams are being taxed, so to speak, by injury, chemistry issues and the weight of high expectations. Meanwhile, projected bottom-feeders are rising above the poverty line in alarming numbers as talent has increased league-wide and rising teams are finding their identities.

I’ll caveat this all by pointing out that it’s still November. In two months the market may have corrected with the rich getting richer and teams showing unexpected promise may tumble. There’s plenty of time for last season’s cream of the crop to rise into the top conference seeds, aside from New Orleans and Brooklyn. But for the time being, class lines are blurry, traditional tiers are dissolving and ultimately it’s gotten really freaking hard to put together a Power Rankings.

The Warriors stand alone at the top. They are the Koch Brothers, Bill Gates and Trump sipping Brandy in the parlor room. The 76ers, Nets, Lakers and Pelicans occupy the bottom rung, foraging for moral victories. Just about everyone else falls somewhere in the widening middle class. There are 18 teams that are within two games of .500, either at, above or below the median win income.

This is a net positive for a league that has seen just 10 different champions in the past 35 years (Lakers, Celtics, Pistons, Bulls, Rockets, Spurs, Heat, Mavericks, Warriors, 76ers). Of course, that number will remain the same if Golden State continues its torrent through the league en route to a repeat championship. But taking the long view here, the more average to potentially good teams there are, the less predictable the season becomes and the potential for haphazard playoff surprises increases. This equals more fun, more fanbase hope and more general interest in the outcomes. Just look at what parity has done for the NFL.

Will this be a blip on the radar, or a continued pattern? Time will tell, but it does seem teams are getting smarter about roster construction and the value of draft picks. Bottom feeders in small markets like Detroit and Minnesota suddenly have a jolt of energy and identity. Of course, the jump in cap space could bring us back to a world dominated by Los Angeles, Boston, Miami and other big markets. Or it could create more chaos, as smaller market teams suddenly wake up with deeper pockets.

For now, let’s embrace the unpredictable and take a stab at the Power Rankings, with each team’s record listed and some words about their identity.

The 1 Percent

  1. Golden State Warriors (12-0) – Our elitist overlords.

Crony Capitalists

2. San Antonio Spurs (9-2) – Old money mainstays.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (8-3) – Promising blue chip stock that has underperformed recently.

4. Atlanta Hawks (9-5) – New money, gets to sit at the table but no one considers them a threat to take over.

$30,000 Millionaires

5. Chicago Bulls (8-3) – Having an identity crisis. Are they a run and gun team? Well, they rank pretty low in points per 100 possessions. Do they lean on defensive principles from the Thibs era? Up and down on that side to say the least.

6. Dallas Mavericks (8-4) – The guru coach and grizzled veteran team led by an ageless German. I suspect the early success is superficial, and in a town where plastic people drive ’98 BMWs to give the impression that they’re wealthy, there’s solid team-city synergy here.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder (7-5) – Trying to stay afloat with KD injured and a horrible defense. Luckily they have Russ.

8. Los Angeles Clippers (6-4) – Chris Paul is banged up and maybe showing signs of serious decline? Classic case of nepotism over meritocracy in Paul’s absence.

Bernie Sanders’ Wet Dream aka The Massive Middle-Class

9. Phoenix Suns (6-5) – The frenetic pace, dual point guard threat team. Need more shot-making, though Devin Booker has been promising.

10. Toronto Raptors (7-6) – Fast starters that struggle to finish games. Defense is on the rise.

11. Miami Heat (6-4) – Another identity struggle. Dragic and Wade play drastically different styles, can Coach Spo figure out the right mix?

12. Boston Celtics (6-5) – The blue-collar everyman team that plays defense, runs and out-smarts opponents thanks to Brad Stevens.

13. Utah Jazz (6-5) – Defense, defense, defense. A team that dictates pace out of necessity and needs more consistent guard play.

14. Washington Wizards (5-4) – The small ball team that can’t figure out how to defend bigs.

15. Indiana Pacers (7-5) – The Superstar (Paul George) and role players team.

16. Detroit Pistons (6-5) – The Reggie Jackson-Andre Drummond pick and roll death machine. Lack of shooting and bench hurts their ceiling.

17. Memphis Grizzlies (6-6) – Stagnation personified. The last days of grit n grind may be upon us.

18. New York Knicks (6-6) – All it takes is a healthy Carmelo and a freakish Latvian rookie to inject life back into the Big Apple.

19. Charlotte Hornets (6-6) – Raining threes, constant attacking and pace. The Hornets are playing the Rockets model better than the Rockets.

20. Orlando Magic (6-6) – The Young, Exciting Talent & Hustle Squad. Will lose more close games than they win due to inexperience but all their games seem to be watchable.

21. Denver Nuggets (6-6) – Another surprise riser. Michael Malone has them believing; love the play of Gallo and Mudiay.

22. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-7) – Hard pressed to find a better pair of under-21 anchors on the same team in recent memory. Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns make this team must-see TV.

23. Houston Rockets (5-7) – 1-0 after Kevin McHale’s firing, but it took a miracle three to force overtime against Portland. Terrible body language, pathetic defense and the shots aren’t falling. C’mon Beard!

24. Milwaukee Bucks (5-6) – Their defense made them dangerous a year ago but it hasn’t showed up this season. Offensively they look good and Jabari Parker keeps getting better. Work cut out for them to make it back to the playoffs.

The Proletariat

25. Portland Trail Blazers (4-9) – You knew it’d be tough with all the personnel losses they endured, but Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have been electric on offense.

26. Sacramento Kings (4-8) – Their breadwinner, Demarcus Cousins, can’t be counted on due to injury and suspension. Pleasant surprise that Rajon Rondo has turned back into a triple-double machine.

The Untouchables

27. Los Angeles Lakers (2-9) – Old money denizens living in a once-beautiful castle with no heat or modern plumbing.

28. New Orleans Pelicans (1-11) – The M.A.S.H. unit that’s getting screwed out of their disability benefits.

29. Brooklyn Nets (2-10) – The Underwater Team, as they’ve mortgaged most of their future assets.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-12) – The saddest team.

 

Quick Updated Power Rankings

Note: Column on the mighty Warriors and their impact on the league coming later today.

DotB Week 2 Power Rankings

  1. Golden State Warriors (5-0)
  2. L.A. Clippers (4-1)
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers (4-1)
  4. San Antonio Spurs (3-2)
  5. Atlanta Hawks (5-1)
  6. Toronto Raptors (5-0)
  7. Chicago Bulls (4-2)
  8. Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3)
  9. Washington Wizards (3-1)
  10. Phoenix Suns (3-2)
  11. Portland Trail Blazers (4-2)
  12. Detroit Pistons (3-1)
  13. Miami Heat (3-2)
  14. Utah Jazz (3-2)
  15. Memphis Grizzlies (3-3)
  16. Houston Rockets (2-3)
  17. Minnesota Timberwolves (2-2)
  18. New York Knicks (2-3)
  19. Dallas Mavericks (2-3)
  20. Charlotte Hornets (2-3)
  21. Denver Nuggets (2-3)
  22. Indiana Pacers (2-3)
  23. Milwaukee Bucks (2-3)
  24. Boston Celtics (1-3)
  25. Orlando Magic (1-4)
  26. Sacramento Kings (1-4)
  27. New Orleans Pelicans (0-4)
  28. L.A. Lakers (0-4)
  29. Brooklyn Nets (0-5)
  30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-4)

Opening Power Rankings + Division Rankings

The 2015-16 season starts tomorrow, so let’s kick things off with the first iteration of the Power Rankings. The Power Rankings are where I see the teams as of today, while the Division Rankings are a projection of the order of finish. So there may be discrepancies in the order of things. This ranking will be updated several times per month.

NBA Power Rankings

  1. Golden State Warriors (NOP, Tuesday)
  2. Oklahoma City Thunder (SAN, Wednesday)
  3. Houston Rockets (DEN, Weds)
  4. Los Angeles Clippers (@Sac, Weds)
  5. San Antonio Spurs (@OKC, Weds)
  6. Cleveland Cavaliers (@Chi, Tues)
  7. Memphis Grizzlies (CLE, Weds)
  8. Chicago Bulls (CLE, Tues)
  9. Atlanta Hawks (DET, Tues)
  10. Miami Heat (CHA, Weds)
  11. Washington Wizards (@Orl, Weds)
  12. Toronto Raptors (IND, Weds)
  13. Utah Jazz (@Det, Weds)
  14. New Orleans Pelicans (@GSW, Tues)
  15. Milwaukee Bucks (NYK, Weds)
  16. Boston Celtics (PHI, Weds)
  17. Phoenix Suns (DAL, Weds)
  18. Detroit Pistons (@Atl, Tues)
  19. Indiana Pacers (@Tor, Weds)
  20. Sacramento Kings (LAC, Weds)
  21. Dallas Mavericks (@Phx, Weds)
  22. New York Knicks (@Mil, Weds)
  23. Charlotte Hornets (@Mia, Weds)
  24. Denver Nuggets (@Hou, Weds)
  25. Orlando Magic (WSH, Weds)
  26. Los Angeles Lakers (MIN, Weds)
  27. Portland Trail Blazers (NOP, Weds)
  28. Minnesota Timberwolves (@LAL, Weds)
  29. Brooklyn Nets (CHI, Weds)
  30. Philadelphia 76ers (@Bos, Weds)

Division Rankings

This is purely because I enjoy listing things. Divisions don’t really matter anymore. They’ve been taken out of the playoff seeding picture. But they still exist, and I’m anxious for the season to start, so I’m ranking the divisions dammit.

Cream of the Crop

  1. Southwest Division – It’s almost unfair how stacked this group is. These teams will battle it out all season in a gauntlet, becoming stronger teams in the process. Predicted order of finish – 1, Rockets 2. Spurs 3. Grizzlies 4. Pelicans 5. Mavs

Second Tier

2. Central Division – The Cavs and Bulls may be the East’s two best, and the rest of the division is on the rise. 1. Cavs 2. Bulls 3. Bucks 4. Pistons 5. Pacers

3. Pacific Division – Very top heavy, but a couple other teams have boom or bust potential, specifically the Kings and Suns. The Lakers could also be decent if everything breaks right. 1. Warriors 2. Clippers 3. Suns 4. Kings 5. Lakers

4. Southeast Division – A solid group, with three teams that can conceivably make a play for a top 2 seed in the East. Orlando should be improving. 1. Miami 2. Atlanta 3. Washington 4. Orlando 5. Charlotte

Greatness, then Garbage

5. Northwest Division – OKC could win 60 games and an NBA title. Utah should make the playoffs. With Portland tumbling, the bottom falls out pretty quickly. 1. Thunder 2. Jazz 3. Nuggets 4. Blazers 5. Timberwolves

Wasteland

6. Atlantic Division – Once again, this will be the weakest division. However, Boston has high hopes and Toronto could surprise. 1. Raptors 2. Celtics 3. Knicks 4. Nets 5. 76ers