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17 April 2005

Playoff Positioning, East vs. West & Lebron Has Chest Hair

The Spurs have poo-pooed the number 1 seed all season. I don't think they need it to get past Phoenix, but being the 2 seed means playing HOU/SACTO/DEN, all quality teams that would threaten for a conference title if they were in the East. The number 1 seed gets MEM, a team a notch below all other Western Conference playoff teams.

The Eastern Conference, on the other hand, only goes two teams deep. It's Miami or Detroit. As of now, Miami gets New Jersey in the first round. NJ is playing well, but Carter and Kidd aren't enough to get past Wade and Shaq. In the second round they'll play either WASH or CHI. These are decent teams, but they pale in comparison to their WC counterparts, DAL and HOU.

The disparity between the conferences is sad and mars the playoffs. MIA and DET effectively (especially in comparison) have byes in the first round and near byes in the second. That alone dramatically increases their chances of winning the title. I don't mean to complain; it's certainly not something the NBA can do anything about. Seeding 16 teams based on record still wouldn't be "fair" due to the unbalanced schedule.

I'm bored. Let's take each Eastern Conference team and figure out their hypothetical record as a Western Conference team. Here's the math.

MIA is 57-23, 39-11 (78%) in conference and 18-12 (60%) out. You can flip them into the WC via the following:

[0.60 * 52 + 0.78 * 30] / 82 = 67.0% WCWP%

So here's the integrated standings of the playoff teams:

PHX 76.3%
SA 73.8%
DAL 70.0%
MIA 67.0%
DET 65.2%
SEA 65.0%
HOU 61.3%
SACTO 61.3%
DEN 60.0%
WAS 56.4%
MEM 55.0%
CHI 54.7%
BOS 53.9%
MINN 52.5%
IND 52.3%
NJ 45.0%
LAC 45.0%
PHI 44.5%

The discrepancy is huge. The worst WC playoff team is better than the lowest 5 EC playoff teams. This is what I mean about the top two EC teams effectively having a bye. MIA and DET are both playing a team as good as the Clippers. Where do I sign up?

The average sports fan, along with the vast majority of the media, ignore strength of schedule. Let's take a closer look at Denver's recent streak in which they went 24-3. The average winning percentage of teams they beat was 44.55%. Now, if you remove the two games against SA (Duncan out) and the game against SEA (Radmanovic and Lewis out) the average goes down to 40.8%. Don't get me wrong, going 24-3 is impressive no matter the teams played, but the level of competition definitely dulls the shine on George Karl's head.

Oh. And Lebron James joins Nick Collison in the chest hair club. I'm sure there are others. Please feel free to add them via a comment. Somebody needs to keep track of this stuff.


Note: I am going to update this post daily instead of creating a new post.

After losing today to SEA, MINN is finally officially out of the playoff race.

Current (as of Sunday morning) Western Conference Standings:

1. Phoenix 61-19 -
2. San Antonio 59-21 2.0
3. Seattle 52-28 9.0
4. Dallas 56-24 5.0
5. Houston 49-31 12.0
6. Sacramento 49-31 12.0
7. Denver 48-32 13.0
8. Memphis 44-36 17.0

Remaining schedules:

Phoenix: DEN @SACTO
San Antonio: @MEM @MINN
Seattle: @DAL @HOU
Sacramento: @UTA PHX
Houston: LAC SEA
Denver: @PHX POR
Memphis: SA DAL

Possible scenarios:

Spurs Get #1 Seed

-In order for this to happen the Spurs need to finish with at least the same record as PHX. SA holds the tiebreaker due to the 2-1 head-to-head advantage. At this point, assuming the Spurs win out, PHX has to lose their remaining two games. PHX has home with DEN and at SACTO. SACTO and DEN will probably be playing for playoff seeding to the very last day of the season, so they possibly could run their normal rotations for these games. I think it's possible, but very unlikely, that PHX loses two in a row. Maybe a 15% chance.

Though MEM has clinched a playoff spot they still will likely play their normal rotation against the Spurs. They're badly in need of a win before the playoffs start, and beating the Spurs tomorrow would assure them of avoiding SA in round 1. I (still) give the Spurs about a 40% chance of winning out.

So, assuming I know what I'm talking about, the Spurs have less than a 10% chance of getting the #1 seed.

-If the Spurs get the #1 seed they will play MEM.

Spurs End Up with #2 Seed

-The Spurs cannot drop lower than the #2 seed.

-Who will they play? They could theoretically play SACTO, HOU or DEN. I'll break down each team's chances of ending up with the seventh seed.

-HOU/SACTO/DEN: HOU blew out DEN today. Despite that, all three teams could still end up 7th. These three teams, currently seeded 5-6-7, are all within 1 loss of each other, with HOU having the advantage on SACTO and DEN. Here's a breakdown of the two-team tie-breakers:

HOU over DEN.

HOU wins the possible three-team tiebreaker

One more win for HOU or SACTO guarantees them at least the 6th seed. If DEN loses either of its next two games it will lock itself in to the number 7 seed.

In order for SACTO to fall to the #7 seed they would have to lose their remaining two games and DEN would have to win out.

Yesterday's prediction looks to be right:


Finals Home Court Advantage

If the Spurs reach the finals they will have home court.

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All content copyright Matthew Powell 2005.