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Are the Warriors championship favorites? Adjusting for playoff rotations says yes

Apr 18, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Washington Wizards v Golden State Warriors Washington Wizards v Golden State Warriors

It no longer matters how the Warriors played with Andrew Bogut (injured), how the Bulls played with Luol Deng (traded) or how the Heat played with Michael Beasley (out of the rotation).

Most playoff projections analyze full-season information, but teams have changed since October. Those changes will increase when rotations shrink for the playoffs.

I think it’s important to account for that, and I’m again running a model I used last season:

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.

I’ll add one more major caveat: nba wowy! appears to be missing some plays this seasons. I’m hopeful the included plays are representative, but I can’t guarantee it.

Last season, filling out the postseason bracket using my rankings yielded better results (11 of 15 series correct) than using straight seeding (9 of 15 series correct).

OKC OKC Seeds MIA MIA
HOU MIL
OKC MIA
LAC LAC BRK BRK
MEM MIA CHI
OKC MIA
DEN DEN IND IND
GSW ATL
SAS NYK
SAS SAS NYK NYK
LAL BOS
OKC OKC Me MIA MIA
HOU MIL
MEM MIA
LAC MEM BRK BRK
MEM SAS CHI
SAS MIA
DEN DEN IND IND
GSW ATL
SAS NYK
SAS SAS NYK NYK
LAL BOS

A full outlook follows, but here are a few takeaways from this year’s projections:

  • Eastern Conference standings remain largely unchanged. The only predicted upset through the conference finals is Wizards over Bulls.
  • The West, on the hand, gets turned upside down. Warriors over Clippers and Trail Blazers over Rockets are both projected as first-round upsets.
  • In fact, Golden State has the best adjusted net rating in the league. However, the Warriors face the biggest loss in the playoffs in Bogut, meaning their results are highly volatile. These numbers say Golden State is the favorite. An added dose of logic says they are not. As always, use models like these only as a piece of evaluation – not definitive projections.
  • The Wizards are the East’s big riser, moving from the No. 5 seed to third in the projections and barely behind the Heat. Because the Pacers and Heat remain 1-2, though, that projects only one series win for Washington. The Wizards have played very well when healthy, and considering they’re healthy now, it makes sense their projected playoff rotation rates highly.
  • The Thunder take a big tumble, but the model does not include a large number of Russell Westbrook minutes. I suspect Oklahoma City will fare better in real life by playing Westbrook more.
  • The Clippers also fell substantially. They have struggled mightily when Danny Granger and/or Glen Davis – two players I, perhaps mistakenly, included in Los Angeles’ rotation – see the court. Doc Rivers can avoid the downturn by managing his rotation well.
  • The Clippers, Thunder and Mavericks each have lower adjusted net ratings than overall net ratings.
  • The Nets, Bobcats and Hawks each make solid gains, but considering all three were outscored this season, they still remain at the bottom of the East.

Here are the full results of each team, with its overall ratings adjusted to include only lineups comprised completely of players in its playoff rotations:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Indiana Pacers

  • Offensive rating: 106.0 to 110.4
  • Defensive rating: 101.1 to 101.9
  • Net rating: +4.9 to +8.5

2. Miami Heat

  • Offensive rating: 110.9 to 111.8
  • Defensive rating: 106.2 to 105.4
  • Net rating: +4.7 to +6.4

5. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 106.2 to 109.5
  • Defensive rating: 104.3 to 103.2
  • Net rating: +1.9 to +6.3

4. Chicago Bulls

  • Offensive rating: 103.0 to 106.7
  • Defensive rating: 101.0 to 100.7
  • Net rating: +2.0 to +6.0

3. Toronto Raptors

  • Offensive rating: 109.5 to 111.6
  • Defensive rating: 105.4 to 106.1
  • Net rating: +4.1 to +5.5

8. Atlanta Hawks

  • Offensive rating: 109.5 to 116.9
  • Defensive rating: 109.7 to 113.1
  • Net rating: -0.2 to +3.8

6. Brooklyn Nets

  • Offensive rating: 106.4 to 108.0
  • Defensive rating: 108.4 to 105.1
  • Net rating: -2.0 to +2.9

7. Charlotte Bobcats

  • Offensive rating: 103.9 to 105.2
  • Defensive rating: 104.3 to 102.8
  • Net rating: -0.4 to +2.4

WESTERN CONFERENCE

6. Golden State Warriors

  • Offensive rating: 107.6 to 118.4
  • Defensive rating: 102.5 to 106.8
  • Net rating: +5.1 to +11.6

1. San Antonio Spurs

  • Offensive rating: 112.3 to 114.9
  • Defensive rating: 103.8 to 104.8
  • Net rating: +8.5 to +10.1

5. Portland Trail Blazers

  • Offensive rating: 114.3 to 118.5
  • Defensive rating: 110.1 to 112.0
  • Net rating: +4.2 to +6.5

4. Houston Rockets

  • Offensive rating: 111.8 to 115.5
  • Defensive rating: 107.5 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +4.3 to +5.0

3. Los Angeles Clippers

  • Offensive rating: 114.0 to  116.4
  • Defensive rating: 106.1 to 111.8
  • Net rating: +7.9 to +4.6

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Offensive rating: 108.7 to 107.9
  • Defensive rating: 103.0 to 103.9
  • Net rating: +5.7 to +4.0

7. Memphis Grizzlies

  • Offensive rating: 109.6 to 116.1
  • Defensive rating: 107.8 to 112.4
  • Net rating: +1.8 to +3.7

8. Dallas Mavericks

  • Offensive rating: 111.9 to 112.7
  • Defensive rating: 109.4 to 112.3
  • Net rating: +2.5 to +0.4
  1. fanofthegame79 - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    Call me crazy but I’ll say it’s going to be Heat over OKC in 6.

    • pfic15 - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:28 AM

      Crazy. OKC won’t make it due to Brooks getting out coached at some point. Plus those kids are playing the Grizzly/Clipper path. As far as MIA is concerned, don’t sleep on the Bulls. I’m seeing a rematch from last year .

      • adamsjohn714 - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:30 AM

        Kendrick Perkins and Fisher are like crack to Brooks. It makes no sense.

      • Eutaw's Finest - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:41 AM

        Nobody is sleeping on the Bulls. Every writer/broadcaster at ESPN, SI, NBC Sports, etc. have all picked the Bulls in the first round. Not one person is picking the Wizards. Hell, you can look at the fact that the Nets tanked their final 3 games simply so they could avoid playing the Bulls to prove that nobody is sleeping on them.

        The Wiz took 2 of 3 from Chicago this year, however the last game they played the Bulls won and it was a skull drag (granted no NeNe for Washington but still…destroyed). If the Wiz win that series it would be a miracle, however I think the winner of this series goes pretty deep. 2 very good teams. Still call Bulls in 5.

        As for the Heat, drifting along in the regular season isn’t always a safe bet. It’s worked for them in the past, but sometimes it creates lazy habits that can’t be broken come the playoffs. I think this year it catches up with them. Knocked out in the 2nd round.

      • jimeejohnson - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:23 AM

        Crack is wack. Those guys aren’t.

      • adamsjohn714 - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:18 AM

        jimeejohnson….

        those guys are wack at basketball. Especially wack since they take away minutes from better players. But yes, they don’t carry with them the detrimental effects of crack cocaine.

      • fanofthegame79 - Apr 18, 2014 at 11:12 AM

        I like the Bulls, but I don’t think they’ll have enough scoring to win in the latter rounds of the playoffs. If they play the Heat at some point, I can’t see it going past 5 games like it has the last couple times they’ve played. Very physical series, but not long (IMO). You might be right about Brooks.

      • ProBasketballPundit - Apr 18, 2014 at 11:16 AM

        @jimeejohnson Dude, seriously. You called me an idiot for not liking Animal House the other day but here you are saying Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher are good players? Holy crap I’m going to hold this over you for as long as you carry that username.

      • bigmeechy74 - Apr 18, 2014 at 11:44 AM

        Agreed. Scott brooks will keep this team from ever achieving anything. Me and you could coach them better. I truly believe that. Because we wouldn’t put perkins and fisher on the court.

  2. haaaaasoooooo - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    That’s just crazy

    • jimeejohnson - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:24 AM

      Not if you live west of I-5 like Kurt and I. Oops: sorry Dan. Have a great holiday. You, too, basketball fans.

  3. savvybynature - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    So Spurs v. Indy/Miami based on this formula then?
    Warriors could be tough when they shorten their rotations, and they have a good defense, but pretty hard to imagine them making it through the likely gauntlet of LAC, OKC the SA.

    • unxpexted1 - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:23 AM

      Thats the thing, they are a good team and i think would give miami some trouble because they have people to guard lebron, wade and bosh. But dang, trying to get through those three teams is asking a lot.

  4. unxpexted1 - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    My preseason prediction was Golden State vs Indiana. I felt good about those earlier in the year but going to be tough. I just hope GS doesn’t lose in the first round. THey made nice progress last year and you’d had for them to go backwards.

  5. phillyguyindc - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Warriors won’t make it out of the first round -especially now with Bogut out.

  6. ProBasketballPundit - Apr 18, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    I would love nothing more than for the Warriors to make the finals but I’ve lost respect for Mark Jackson. He has no clue about the X’s and O’s of being a coach. Every single speech from him is, “Come on, guy. We’ve lost heart. We need to go out there and play with heart!” Meanwhile he’s playing a lineup that’s getting killed inside and won’t make the right substitutions.

  7. bhunter1995 - Apr 18, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    GS will probably lose to the Clippers in 5-6 (more likely six) then if they happen to get that upset they will get slammed in the second round. Even with Bogut they would probobly losebto the Clips, without thier defensive anchor in the paint they will have serious problems stopping Griffin in the paint and there is no rim protection ehen CP3, Crawford or Barnes attack the bucket.

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