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Friday, August 29, 2014

Who Will Win the West?

{democracy:20}

Unlike the East, picking the winner of the West is a daunting task. There is much less variance between the top 7 teams in the West than the East. If given a thousand chances, I can see #7 Dallas winning the West at least 10 times. I don’t think #7 Philadelphia could win the East once if you gave them a million chances.

That being said the Lakers seem to be the clear favorite. The move to add Gasol reminds me a little bit of Detroit acquiring Rasheed Wallace in 2004. Both teams grabbed a big man midseason to accentuate their style of play. For the Pistons it was a tough suffocating defense, and for the Lakers it’s a diverse offense. In 2004 NBA analysts didn’t realize how much Rasheed helped galvanize their defense until after the playoffs. Most people didn’t expect Detroit to get past Indiana, much less take the Lakers in 5. It’s possible that Los Angeles is much better than the season stats show them to be. And if this is true, the Lakers would be head and shoulders above the rest of the West. The Lakers not only enjoy the #1 seed, but the best expected win% (.726).

That being said, the road won’t be easy for Los Angeles. Even though they have the West’s best chance, the Lakers will face some stiff competition to get to the Finals. They’ll meet either Utah or Houston in round 2. Not only were these teams within 3 games of taking the West, but each comes with their own brand of scary. Houston has been strong defensively since losing Yao Ming, and finished the season with the league’s second best defense (103.0 pts/100). On the other hand Utah has the league’s second best offense (115.4 pts/100). So no matter which team they face the Lakers will have their hands full.

In the other part of the bracket, any of the 4 teams involved in the middle seeds could advance to the Conference Finals. Personally I’d like to see the Hornets emerge, because it makes a nice story on so many levels. I liked Tyson Chandler ever since his days in Chicago. (I always thought he was the better of their center pair – and can’t tell you how many times I was laughed off RealGM’s Knicks board for stating it publicly. Probably a part of the reason I started this blog… but I digress.) I think a Hornets/Suns second round would be ideal. There’s a nice group of contrasts in that matchup: Paul vs. Nash, young vs. old, upstart vs. established.

If I had to chose any one team, I would take the Lakers. If I had to take the top 2 seeds (Lakers & Hornets) vs. the field I’d take the field. Such is life in the NBA’s West.

21 comments on “Who Will Win the West?

  1. ari

    why put Dallas and Denver in one group –Dallas certainly is has a strong chance to win it despite of seed…

    For Me, in order of liklihood:

    1.Lakers
    2.Spurs
    3.Mavericks
    4.Jazz
    5.Suns
    6.Hornets
    7.Denver
    8.Houston

  2. Owen

    It’s going to be fascinating. I think Utah actually had the best point differential in the West going into their final game against the Spurs, which they lost by 30. Not that point differential means all that much, given the impact of trades and injuries out West this season, but I still think the Jazz are very dangerous, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they win, and given I have a small but highly leveraged bet on them to do so I am rooting for them….

  3. bfellow

    The biggest weakness I see for Dallas is when they have to go against elite point guards which Kidd can’t defend anymore due to his age.

    The Mavericks since the Kidd trade have not really beaten any of the good teams in the West except a few in April but they follow key wins against Phoenix and Utah with losses to Portland and… Seattle. They’ll also miss Diop defending the big men in the West.

    I would give my vote to the 1) Lakers 2) Suns and 3) Hornets.

    In my opinion, the Lakers will be championship contenders for a long time after practically robbing Memphis of Pau Gasol while the Celtics window is about 3 years.

  4. caleb

    To start an argument, I will predict Utah to win the west.

    If Bynum comes back semi-healthy, I think it’s the Lakers… but I’m not betting on it.

    Spurs… too old. Suns.. Same. Hornets.. intriguing, but they look out of gas. Rockets… not quite there. Dallas.. too late. Denver.. weird team. Hard to see ‘em win three series.

    1. Utah
    2. Lakers
    =
    3. Spurs
    4. Rockets
    5. Suns
    6. Hornets
    =
    7. Nuggets
    8. Mavs

    I guess this would mean a 2nd round of Spurs vs. Hornets and Lakers vs. Jazz… and a Conference final of Spurs vs. Jazz. I do wonder if I’m givin ghe Spurs too much credit. If Ginobili’s not 100 percent for the first round, that would probably give Phoenix the series, and a good shot at the finals.

  5. caleb

    Here’s a Rockets question… given what’s happened the last two seasons, if you were Darryl Morey, would you try and trade Yao? What would you look for in a trade?

    And given what’s happened the last two seasons, what would other teams be willing to give?

  6. Brian Cronin

    Maybe they’ll take Curry and Crawford for him? ;)

    Seriously, though, no, I wouldn’t shop Yao. Remember, the streak began with Yao, and they looked dominant, so I’m sure they want to see what they look like with Yao.

  7. caleb

    I’m no Yao hater, but I’m pretty sure they actually have a better record without him, the past two years. IMHO his trade value would be much higher than his actual value – at least his on-court value, maybe he is such a draw that he’s worth more money.

    I can think of a million options if Houston were daring.

    How about…
    Yao for Okafor and the #8 pick (and cap filler)

    Yao for Brandon Wright, Monta Ellis (and cap filler — wouldn’t need to be much, since GS still has the trade exception, I think)

    Yao for Ellis and the #14 pick (and cap filler)

    Yao for Diop (re-signed) or Sean Williams plus Vince Carter and the #11 and #18 picks

    Yao for Josh Childress, Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia

    Yao for Seattle’s draft pick (and cap filler – maybe Chris Wilcox and Earl Watson?)

    Yao for Tyrus Thomas, Drew Gooden and the #10 pick

    I don’t think the Knicks get to play this game…

  8. Ted Nelson

    I think it’s a possibility…

    The Rockets can be a good team without Yao, while another team might place more value on him looking to become a playoff team (although he is an injury risk).

    On the other hand, if the Rockets get bounced in the 1st Round again they might want to keep their All-Star center in hopes of seriosuly contending in the playoffs. Maybe rest him more throughout the season?

    The X factor that I assume means Yao isn’t going anywhere is the millions of Chinese people who are now Rockets fans, and will become … fans if Yao’s traded to … Then again if the Rockets are concerned more with basketball and another team with profits, maybe that team will drastically overpay (talent-wise) for Yao.

  9. Ray

    I just read that Stud Jackson is supposed to pick the ping pong today to decide who has the better chance at the 5th pick…. Knicks vs. Clippers….anyone know what time he supposed to do that ?

  10. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    caleb – I think if I were any of those teams I’d pull the trigger on one of those Yao deals. I think the Knicks used to have a better record without Patrick Ewing – but it would be a bit much to trade him for that reason. I think most of those deals would be good for the Knicks (to get the young players) but I’m not sure how many of them would be good for the Rockets – considering they’re trying to compete now with a cranky T-Mac (who has openly mentioned retiring early due to his bad back).

    That said I think you’re greatly underestimating the deal they could get for Yao. Remember the Bulls got 2 first rounders for Eddy Curry. The Heat got Marion for a broken Diesel. I think Yao commands a lot more – especially considering the home draw he would be.

    And I think you can take the Nets deal off the table. Vince and T-Mac together again?

  11. PeteRoc

    Mike – agreed with your assessment about Tyson Chandler in the opener…although I actually feel Curry and Chandler were (and would be) great compliments to each other (I’m the only person I know who felt and still feels the Bulls should have kept both of them). Chandler plays D, blocks shots, and rebounds, but still hasn’t developed his own offensive game. Curry is weak where Chandler is strong, but can score in ways Chandler hasn’t developed yet.

    If I were N.O., I’d see if I could steal Curry for nothing given his trade value is down after this year (didn’t check N.O.’s roster for salaries, so not sure if they could come up with throw away pieces to make a deal). I’m sure Curry can catch as many ‘oops from Paul and give them needed depth in the front court.

    As for the playtoffs, I predict the loser of the Spurs/Suns series will begin to decline a slow decline as a conference power. If “winning is a cure” then losing is a virus. Given the responsibility an aging Nash has with PHX, a lack of a “good” backup point guard, and salary cap restraints, they’ll be good enough over the next couple of years not to end up in the lottery (or in the back of the lottery with a slim chance at a good pick).

    As for SA, I think Parker will continue to get better, but Ginobili’s heading for the dreaded “2guard over 30 decline” while Duncan’s ability to dominate against the other western powers (at his age) will continue to diminish.

    Remember, the only reason SA got Duncan in the first place is because David Robinson happened to miss 70+ games the year Duncan was coming out, so they ended up in the loterry. While its possible, I don’t think they’ll literally win the lottery like that again.

  12. daaarn

    finally! but why is he still technically w/ the team? they should just make a clean break w/ him at this point

  13. tastycakes

    “Isiah will be reporting to me. There will be nobody reporting to Isiah.” — Donnie Walsh

    In other words, it’s a token job at best. Or to put it bluntly, he’s now Donnie Basketball’s bitch. I guess he’ll be getting coffee or scouting D-league games?

    Whatever, it’s a step in the right direction. Let’s hope that Billy King isn’t part of our future front office, and let’s hope that Donnie’s coaching search turns up the right guy.

  14. W.C.

    I think Isiah staying on is not the worst thing in the world. He’s still owned a ton of money. Why not keep him around in some capacity. He has absolutely no power at all. That’s the key.

  15. jon abbey

    that article says virtually nothing, and Philly’s record and chemistry the last few months speaks volumes. if King had managed to hold out a few more months, they might have signed him to an extension by now.

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