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Don’t sleep on the Grizzlies and Hawks, or what we can learn by focusing on teams’ playoff rotations

Apr 20, 2013, 1:45 PM EDT

Memphis Grizzlies v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

As the playoffs approach, teams’ regular-season statistics will inevitably be used to compare teams. Occasionally, these numbers will be filtered in some way, but for the most part, full-year statistics will be used.

But what difference does it make now how the Grizzlies played with Rudy Gay, how the Lakers played with Kobe Bryant or how the Heat played with Juwan Howard?

Those players won’t be in their teams’ playoff rotations, so the minutes they played cloud assessments of their teams.

In an attempt to get better data, I’ve used nba wowy! to rank playoff teams by regular-season net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating), counting only the lineups that include five players projected to be in the team’s post-season rotation.

This measure is far from perfect. It doesn’t account for opponent or weigh lineups based on how often they’ll be used in the postseason, and it’s impossible to precisely predict a team’s playoff rotation.

But here are a few conclusions I could draw:

  • Every team’s net rating  improved with this adjustment, which makes sense, considering this removes the, presumably, lesser play of end-of-bench players.
  • The Hawks, whose net rating increased by 6.8, improved most.
  • The Bulls, whose net rating increased by 0.3, improved least.
  • The Thunder had the best regular-season net rating (+9.8), but that would tie for fifth after the adjustment.
  • The Grizzlies were the only lower-seeded team to pass their first-round opponent after the adjustment, and Memphis would rank ahead of the Thunder (or Rockets) in a second-round series, too.
  • The Lakers’ numbers are probably pretty unreliable, because with Kobe out, the adjusted number gives more weight to their backups than their remaining starters (who didn’t play much without Kobe).

Here’s how the adjustment affected each team’s offensive rating, defensive rating and net rating. Within each conference, teams are ordered by adjusted net rating.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Miami Heat

Offensive rating: 113.2 to 114.8

Defensive rating: 104.5 to 103.9

Net rating: +8.7 to +10.9

No. 2 New York Knicks

Offensive rating: 111.4 to 116.5

Defensive rating: 106.8 to 106.0

Net rating: +4.6 to +10.5

No. 3 Indiana Pacers

Offensive rating: 104.6 to 107.5

Defensive rating: 100.3 to 100.0

Net rating: +4.3 to +7.5

No. 6 Atlanta Hawks

Offensive rating: 105.2 to 107.7

Defensive rating: 106.2 to 101.9

Net rating: –1.0 to +5.8

No. 4 Brooklyn Nets

Offensive rating: 108.6 to 110.2

Defensive rating: 106.7 to 105.7

Net rating: +1.9 to +4.5

No. 7 Boston Celtics

Offensive rating: 103.7 to 106.3

Defensive rating: 103.9 to 104.8

Net rating: –0.2 to +1.5

No. 5 Chicago Bulls

Offensive rating: 104.1 to 104.5

Defensive rating: 103.6 to 103.7

Net rating: +0.5 to +0.8

No. 8 Milwaukee Bucks

Offensive rating: 104.2 to 106.5

Defensive rating: 107.0 to 107.8

Net rating: –2.8 to –1.3

WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 2 San Antonio Spurs

Offensive rating: 108.5 to 108.6

Defensive rating: 101.8 to 97.0

Net rating: +6.7 to +11.6

No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies

Offensive rating: 105.3 to 108.9

Defensive rating: 100.6 to 98.4

Net rating: +4.7 to +10.5

No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder

Offensive rating: 112.3 to 113.7

Defensive rating: 102.5 to 103.5

Net rating: +9.8 to +10.2

No 4. Los Angeles Clippers

Offensive rating: 111.2 to 115.4

Defensive rating: 104.1 to 105.6

Net rating: to +7.1 to +9.8

No. 8 Houston Rockets

Offensive rating: 110.4 to 112.8

Defensive rating: 106.9 to 104.6

Net rating: +3.5 to +8.2

No. 3 Denver Nuggets

Offensive rating: 111.0 to 112.0

Defensive rating: 105.7 to 106.1

Net rating: +5.3 to +5.9

No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers

Offensive rating: 108.5 to 104.7

Defensive rating: 107.2 to 99.8

Net rating: +1.3 to +4.9

No. 6 Golden State Warriors

Offensive rating: 106.5 to 110.1

Defensive rating: 105.6 to 106.8

Net rating: +0.9 to +3.3

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