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90'sNBARocked
11-22-2010, 12:37 PM
http://nba-point-forward.si.com/2010/11/20/easts-top-contenders-for-final-playoff-spots/
by No author mentioned


Before the season, most folks divided the the Eastern Conference into two broad tiers: six playoff locks (Miami, Boston, Orlando, Atlanta, Chicago and Milwaukee) and nine teams slap-fighting for the bottom two playoff spots. I was secretly hoping that one of those bottom nine teams would get off to a fast start and tweak this narrative a bit.

Nope.

Through Friday, none of the presumed bottom nine were over .500, and seven of the nine took up the last seven spots in the conference standings.

There is a school of thought that making the playoffs and losing in the first round is a good thing, that it gives young players valuable exposure to a more intense NBA atmosphere, and that it creates loyalty among fans. I’m not convinced on either of those counts, but let’s pretend for now that all of these teams (and their fans) really want to make the playoffs.

Are any of them ready to stand up and make the 1-8 and 2-7 series interesting for at least a quarter or two? Probably not. And though predicting teams’ postseason potential this early is a crapshoot, we’ve decided to give it a shot anyway. So, based on both numbers and all the game-watching that goes on at The Point Forward’s headquarters, here are the leading candidates for those last two playoffs spots in the East.

(All stats and records are through Nov. 19.)




1. Indiana Pacers (5-5)

If there’s a team among this group that is quietly interesting, this is the one. They’ve gone 5-5 against a pretty decent schedule, which is why various power rankings have the Pacers well above their fellow Eastern Conference also-rans. They’re the only team among this group that ranks in the top half of the league in both points scored and allowed per possession, they’re protecting the defensive glass and they’re running more conventional half-court plays (pick-and-rolls and post-ups) instead of sprinting down the floor like banshees. That’s good for center Roy Hibbert, which is probably good for Indy’s overall offensive health.

One potential landmine: The team’s decent offense is based entirely on good shooting, particularly its 39 percent mark from three-point range. Indiana ranks near the bottom in turnovers, offensive rebounding and free-throw attempts. If the shots start clanking, can the Pacers still score enough to win?
2. Charlotte Bobcats (4-8)

Your incumbent seventh seed, and still the only team here I’d put money on to make the playoffs. The Bobcats are just 4-8, but you know a hardscrabble Larry Brown team is going to finish better than it starts. The Bobcats are the same lousy offensive outfit they were last season, and that’s not likely to change. What is new, though, is Charlotte is middling on defense after leading the league last season in points allowed per possession. Like the Lakers, the Bobcats last season managed to both hold opponents to an extremely low three-point percentage and avoid fouling. They also forced turnovers more often than all but two teams.

Each of those trends has regressed to the mean this season, especially enemy long-range shooting. Opponents have hit 37 percent from deep. Expect that number to come down — and expect Charlotte’s defense to find its stinginess again.

3. New York Knicks (5-8)

Why are the Knicks No. 3? Because the math says they almost have to start shooting better from three-point range, where they have hit only 33 percent. They were bad from deep last year, too, but they weren’t this bad, and Danilo Gallinari especially is due to start shooting more like himself and less like Wilson Chandler.

They’ve also been unusually brick-tastic on long twos. The Knicks have made just 33.8 percent of their long two-point jumpers, the worst mark in the league. That should improve, and any nudge upward in long-range shooting will be more than enough to offset a coming cold streak on shots at the rim; the Knicks have hit 68 percent of those, and that won’t last.

The Knicks have the profile of an average team once you remove their early struggles from long range. They’re finishing well at the rim and drawing a lot more fouls than they did last season. Average would be plenty good enough to beat out most of this group.

4. New Jersey Nets (4-8)

I sort of like this team. I like that it’s been mildly competitive despite missing Troy Murphy and Terrence Williams for stretches, and despite Brook Lopez’s awful start. Lopez’s slow start is a big reason why the Nets are dead last in both shooting percentage on shots at the rim and made baskets per game on such shots. Both numbers will come up, and New Jersey’s offense, its weakest link, will improve when they do.

The Nets have improved on last year’s miserable three-point shooting, and that should hold up, even as Travis Outlaw’s three-point percentage gradually comes down from its current perch at 47 percent. Devin Harris is healthy and has rediscovered his shooting stroke, and this team is defending so much better. Don’t be totally shocked if the Nets snag a playoff spot.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-6)

Apologies to Cleveland fans, since the Cavs have the second-best record among this group, but their schedule has just been too soft for me to read much into it. This team is fun to watch, and it isn’t doing anything particularly poorly — or particularly well — so far. There’s nothing here that appears unsustainable, in either direction.

And that’s the problem, because there’s no place I can point to and say, “The Cavs are due to get better at this!” as they get deeper into a much thornier section of their schedule (which started with Friday’s loss at New Orleans).

Understand: This team isn’t bad. Not nearly as bad as many expected it to be without LeBron James. Daniel Gibson has looked better at point guard than anticipated, J.J. Hickson is working hard and Anderson Varejao is never going to stop working hard. The Cavs have hung in despite the fact that their ostensible go-to guy (Mo Williams) has missed half their games.

But I just can’t see this team scoring enough to beat enough good teams.

6. Philadelphia 76ers (3-10)

Why is Philadelphia here? There’s really no good reason, other than the abject awfulness of the three teams below it. The Sixers are 3-10, they have no viable center, they can’t score and there’s at least a chance their best all-around player (Andre Iguodala) gets dealt by the February trade deadline.

But they’re the only team in this group other than the Pacers ranked above the league average in defensive efficiency, and that should count for something. They’re forcing misses, and they are cleaning up the defensive glass; only seven teams have grabbed a higher percentage of defensive rebounds. Those are fundamentally good things.

Elton Brand looks good (if not as good as he looked 10 days ago), Jrue Holiday is developing into a stud and my unreasonable affection for Thaddeus Young’s weird game continues to make me like the Sixers more than I probably should. Their defense and small lineups should be enough to win some games against teams that don’t feel like dealing with them in February.

On the other hand, opponents have hit just 29.9 percent of their threes, and when that number starts to come up, the 76ers could be in trouble.

7. Detroit Pistons (4-8)

A total mess for reasons everyone knows — the split among the older and younger guys, and weekly clashes between coach John Kuester and one of their key players. A lack of size prevents the Pistons from doing anything good in the paint, on either end of the court. Even their once-elite offensive rebounding has fallen below league average; Ben Wallace can’t crash the boards by himself, and Detroit feels the absence of Jonas Jerebko in this area.

The scary thing for the Pistons: They are winning the three-point battle by a huge margin, and that doesn’t figure to last. Only the Sixers and Jazz have held opponents to a lower shooting percentage from deep, and only three teams have outshot Detroit from long range. That differential won’t hold up. An optimist would say the same about Detroit’s bad rebounding and lack of interior scoring, but I don’t see the personnel on hand to flip those trends.

8. Toronto Raptors (4-9)

Maybe the weirdest team in the league so far, but not one I can see making a realistic run at the playoffs. The Raptors were a good three-point shooting team last year; now they’re ranked 28th, at 29.9 percent. They used to be careful with the ball; now they turn it over a lot. They ranked 24th in offensive rebounding last season; they’re in the top five this season behind Reggie Evans, perhaps the most bizarre player in the league. They lost Chris Bosh and they’re somehow getting to the foul line more often.

Good luck figuring out which of these extremes is for real and which will reverse itself as the season goes on. It might not even matter, to be honest.

The one trend that makes complete sense: Teams are shredding the Raptors inside, shooting a high percentage on shots within 10 feet and forcing Toronto to foul often. In possibly related news: Andrea Bargnani is the Raptors’ starting center.

9) Washington Wizards (4-7)

The optimist sees a team shooting at a league-average rate and wonders if the Wiz might be able to leap a bunch of these other teams if they can just figure out how to stop turning the ball over and get to the foul line once in a while. John Wall’s continued growth should help in both of those areas, right? And JaVale McGee will get better, and the team will figure out how to use Gilbert Arenas, and Yi Jianlian might finally pan out, and Andray Blatche is a beast in 30 games per season. And so on.

But you see this team do things on defense every night that would shame even last season’s Raptors. There is just too much chaos here, too much youth and too many guys who alternate too often between caring about the team and caring about themselves.

The Wizards might very well finish ahead of some teams on this list. They clearly have a brighter future than many of them. But no team would surprise me more by making the playoffs

Brad8888
11-22-2010, 12:46 PM
Interesting article.

The real question for me is whether the Pacers will continue to play better defense and rebound well when their shots stop falling, and if the focus will be on playing those who rebound and defend instead of guys whose primary potential contribution is shooting from deep.

spreedom
11-22-2010, 12:50 PM
Very interesting article indeed. I think the Nets and Wizards could definitely start putting it together once they're healthy (Washington missing Josh Howard and Jersey missing Terrence Williams) but I don't see how you can't like our chances if we stay healthy. We just have more depth than those two teams. And I don't think any of the rest will be in the playoffs except MAYBE Cleveland.

spazzxb
11-22-2010, 12:53 PM
We're number 1. we're number1. We're number 1. jk

Its good to get some recognition though even if its most likely to be 7th place in the east. lol

Lance George
11-22-2010, 12:58 PM
We're no longer garbage.

cdash
11-22-2010, 01:02 PM
Very interesting article indeed. I think the Nets and Wizards could definitely start putting it together once they're healthy (Washington missing Josh Howard and Jersey missing Terrence Williams) but I don't see how you can't like our chances if we stay healthy. We just have more depth than those two teams. And I don't think any of the rest will be in the playoffs except MAYBE Cleveland.

I don't think the Terrence Williams injury means much at all to the Nets. He wasn't exactly setting the world on fire when he was playing or a significant part of the offense.

Washington is interesting to me. I don't think they are a playoff threat, but Arenas seems to be picking it up a little, and Wall is due back soon. If Howard comes back and plays even halfway decent, they can be frisky. I'd be very surprised to see them in the playoffs, but I agree with you that the Nets and Washington are potentially frisky teams.

Everyone's preseason darlings the Knicks are doing exactly what I thought they would do. I still don't see why everyone was so high on them. Amare without Nash is about equal to David Lee. That was never a major upgrade like people made it out to be. Felton is an upgrade, but he's not a wonderful fit there, and the rest of that team is meh. I think we are a much better team than any of those listed in this article.

spreedom
11-22-2010, 01:42 PM
I don't think the Terrence Williams injury means much at all to the Nets. He wasn't exactly setting the world on fire when he was playing or a significant part of the offense.

I love Williams' game. Over the last 23 games of last season, he averaged 13/6.5/5, shooting 50% from the field and 82% from the line. He also averaged 2.4 combined blocks/steals during that same timespan. He might not be a worldbeater or anything, but he definitely improves that Nets team big time.

cdash
11-22-2010, 01:44 PM
I love Williams' game. Over the last 23 games of last season, he averaged 13/6.5/5, shooting 50% from the field and 82% from the line. He also averaged 2.4 combined blocks/steals during that same timespan. He might not be a worldbeater or anything, but he definitely improves that Nets team big time.

Yeah, and Brandon Rush posted some stellar numbers at the end of his rookie campaign too. Until he can keep it up for an entire season, I remain skeptical. He came out of the gate this season and played wildly mediocre basketball. That trashing being said, I actually like his game too. I just don't know that we can call him a difference maker at this point of his career.

90'sNBARocked
11-22-2010, 01:55 PM
I think we stand pat unless we can get a legitiment potentail all star. We have great role players but now we need an additional star next to Danny. Preferbly one who can create his own shot off the dribble

daschysta
11-22-2010, 03:37 PM
I think we stand pat unless we can get a legitiment potentail all star. We have great role players but now we need an additional star next to Danny. Preferbly one who can create his own shot off the dribble

If Roy keeps up 17/10 and we are in the playoff picture then roy is a "legitimate potential all star" (contradiction by the way). In fact if danny weren't on the team he could maybe make it.

If horford were playing his natural PF position, then it would really only be down to him and noah for the backup C (bogut's injured). And Noah ain't gonna play 40 minutes per game once boozer is back.

Collison could be that guy that can create off the dribble. It's probably been his best quality shown while playing here. His ability to score at his size and get a clean shot is pretty impressive.

90'sNBARocked
11-22-2010, 03:50 PM
If Roy keeps up 17/10 and we are in the playoff picture then roy is a "legitimate potential all star" (contradiction by the way). In fact if danny weren't on the team he could maybe make it.

If horford were playing his natural PF position, then it would really only be down to him and noah for the backup C (bogut's injured). And Noah ain't gonna play 40 minutes per game once boozer is back.

Collison could be that guy that can create off the dribble. It's probably been his best quality shown while playing here. His ability to score at his size and get a clean shot is pretty impressive.

yeah probably didnt say that correctly

I think Roy can and will be an all star but what I am talking about is a guy who can create his own shot of the dribble with the game on the line

daschysta
11-22-2010, 03:55 PM
yeah probably didnt say that correctly

I think Roy can and will be an all star but what I am talking about is a guy who can create his own shot of the dribble with the game on the line

Let's hope for our sakes Collison can be that sort of player. I do think ATM he's the best on the team at getting his own shot, except suprisingly, Ford.... Ford's mid range jumper is suprisingly consistant.

Unclebuck
11-22-2010, 04:03 PM
Every season the same thing happens. Except for the top 3 or maybe 4 teams and maybe 1 or 2 teams at the bottom - all the other teams are bunched up until about mid January and then 3 or 4 of the bunched up teams start playing really well. (last year it was the Bucks and a coupld of others that from Mid January on were pretty good) that same thing will happen this year.

MyFavMartin
11-22-2010, 04:24 PM
Bring on Boston/Orlando/Miami!!!

Trophy
11-22-2010, 04:25 PM
Nice to see the hardwork is earning us a lot of credit.

It's all about consistency and playing hard every night.

IndyProdigy
11-23-2010, 01:52 AM
and we play this well with mcroberts playing 25 min per and doing hardly anything next to nothing. i think our team will only get better once rush and hans start and price gets more PT

Indra
11-23-2010, 07:53 AM
Hey, if the playoffs start today we're the 6th seed. What's all this "bottom nine" talk? ;)

dohman
11-23-2010, 11:16 AM
wooohooo we are the shiniest turd :)

CableKC
11-23-2010, 01:02 PM
The writer of this article does bring up an important point. Are we relying too heavily on our jumpshots falling as opposed to trying to balance out our scoring/offense by attacking the basket ( hence the disparaging concern about our FTAs )?

I do notice that we do take a lot of jumpshots compared to plays designed to attack the paint.

90'sNBARocked
11-23-2010, 05:06 PM
The writer of this article does bring up an important point. Are we relying too heavily on our jumpshots falling as opposed to trying to balance out our scoring/offense by attacking the basket ( hence the disparaging concern about our FTAs )?

I do notice that we do take a lot of jumpshots compared to plays designed to attack the paint.

absolutely we are

That is why we can blow out Denver, then get blow out by Philly

Problem is we dont really have any creators on the team, in fact, TJ is about the only Pacer that can consistently get his own shot

MillerTime
11-23-2010, 05:35 PM
If the Pacers can stay healthy, they'll manage to sneak into the playoffs. They'll most likey have a first round exit, but it'll definitely be a shift in the right direction.

With all the cap space we have next year, I hope we're able to get a big named PF. We could trade a 2nd rounder for a top notch PF (considering we'll be well under the cap).

Lets all see how it pans out. It definitely feels beter to be a Pacer fan now