Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2013 NBA Playoffs: Predicting the final playoff spots in the West



With all of the ups and downs of the Western conference during this 2012-13 NBA season, the regular season is down to crunch time with less than 15 games to go. Just a short while ago, it appeared that the Golden State Warriors would be fighting for a four or five seed but the Denver Nuggets went on a cool 15-game winning streak and the first five seeds are all but locked in the West (with some chance for interchangeability among those five).

However, the back end of the conference has three teams within a game and a half of the eight seed. The Lakers are hanging on by the slimmest of margins and seem to be riding whatever direction that the wind is taking them. Utah has battled injuries to Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap of late and Dallas is managing to hold on despite Dirk Nowitzki averaging a mediocre 16.5 points per game (lowest since his rookie year).

In the end, one game will decide which out of three teams (Dallas, Los Angeles, and Utah) makes the playoffs. How the West ends up is undoubtedly multi-factorial, and injuries will certainly play a part—as the Lakers can well attest to—and here’s where we are at so far:

Current seed
Team
Record
GB of six seed
GB of eight seed
(6)
Golden State Warriors
41-31
--
--
(7)
Houston Rockets
39-31
1
--
(8)
Los Angeles Lakers
36-35
4.5
--
(--)
Utah Jazz
35-36
5.5
1
(--)
Dallas Mavericks
34-36
6
1.5
(--)
Portland Trailblazers
33-37
7
2.5

Dallas Mavericks

The Lakers own the tiebreaker with Dallas, but there is no doubt that the Mavericks are clicking right now. A record of 7-3 in their last ten games has moved them back into relevancy. 

Something that gives the Mavericks an edge—aside from playoff experience—is the fact that they have can
expect double-digit scoring from seven or eight players a night. So even though Dirk Nowitzki has not had a superstar-type year with the likes of O.J. Mayo, Vince Carter, and Darren Collison, a 25-point nightly performance has not been necessary.

With seven of their final 12 games at home and the luxury of playing the Hornets twice and the Kings (once), the Mavericks may be the team of these five with the best record down the stretch.

Prediction: 7-5 in their final 12 games, final record of 41-41

Golden State Warriors

As the Warriors know, the six-seed is extremely valuable. It’s a ticket not to play San Antonio or Oklahoma City in the first round. Steph Curry proved on Monday against the Lakers that his ankle roll against the Wizards should not be much of a factor. Mark Jackson will undoubtedly keep an eye on his franchise player, but the six seed is the Warriors to lose.

Four of the Warriors final games are against the Kings, Hornets, Suns, and Timberwolves—literally the worst teams in the Western conference. While Oracle has provided a tremendous boost, the Warriors do have a habit of playing up or down to the competition. The Bay Area has seen some thrilling wins against San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Miami but has also watched in horror at repeated losses at the hands of the Orlando Magic and the struggling Lakers. But with seven out of 10 games left are at home, the Warriors are lined up for their third playoff appearance in two decades.

Prediction: 6-4 in their last 10 games, final record of 47-35

Houston Rockets

It has been a couple years since the Rockets have been in the playoffs but there performance this year has not been a surprise. Houston brought in two new centerpieces to run the show and while Jeremy Lin has not lived quite up to (the now-trademarked) Linsanity, James Harden has developed into a legitimate superstar.  Six of the Rockets final 12 games are at home and they play the Magic, Suns, and the Kings (twice). With the support of Chandler Parson and Omer Asik, the Rockets won’t be giving up a spot in the playoffs anytime soon.

A match-up against Oklahoma City in the first round could get very interesting.

Prediction: 7-5 in their last 12 games, final record of 45-36

Los Angeles Lakers

The tumultuous season that the Lakers have endured forced their star guard to declare a guaranteed playoff appearance. It appeared to work for a couple weeks, because Los Angeles won 10 of their subsequent 13 games. Then they hit a brick wall and fell back into their former disjointed selves, losing to the lowly Wizards and Suns. While they made a respectable loss out of what looked to be a blowout against the Warriors, the
Lakers are back to fighting for their playoff lives.

Like virtually all of the teams in this race, Los Angeles does have more than half (6) out of their remaining 11 games left at home. However, their schedule is not easy and they will end up below .500 for the rest of the season and gasping for a playoff berth. This puts LA right in the middle of my earlier analysis of the Lakers best and worst case scenarios; the reality is that Kobe’s will can only carry a team so far and it might not be enough this year. Call it injuries, lack of cohesiveness, or future Hall of Famers just not getting it done, but the Lakers will need to do serious soul-searching regardless of the outcome of this season.

Prediction: 4-7 in their last 11 games, final record of 40-42

Portland Trailblazers

As impressive as the Trailblazers have been this season, a playoff seed is not in sight. Eight of final 12 games are at home but there schedule is the strongest out of these six teams. In their final stretch, the Blazers play Brooklyn, Utah (twice), Golden State (twice), Denver, Memphis, Houston, OKC, and the Clippers. Houston and Dallas are the weakest teams that they face…the odds are against Portland even winning half of those games. They will certainly vie for a playoff spot in 2014 with a star-in-the-making at point guard in Damian Lillard but it’s not going to happen in 2013.

Prediction: 5-7 in their last 12 games, final record of 38-44

Utah Jazz

The Jazz have started slipping of late but to their relief, seven of their final 11 games left are at home. This may appear equivalent to most of the other teams in this playoff hunt but the tremendous difference is these teams’ records on their home floor. The Jazz, known for their animated home crowd, have the sixth best home record in the West at 25-9, better than any of the other four aforementioned teams. They also play the
Suns, Timberwolves (twice), and the Hornets in the final stretch. Utah owns the tiebreaker with Los Angeles (season series 2-1) and the tiebreaker with Dallas (2-1).

Superstars will win championships but teams with chemistry will earn playoff spots. The question is which team can pull it together?

One of the teams fighting for this spot is streaky and unreliable (Lakers) and another is fighting back to get into contention (Mavericks), but the Jazz have been playing horrifically of late (4-9 in March). In a race where every game counts, the combined advantages of home-court and the tiebreaking records will matter a lot but the Jazz seem to have lost their early season promise.

Prediction: 5-6 in their last 11 games, final record of 40-42

Prediction of the final standings:

Seed
Team
Record
(6)
Golden State Warriors
47-35
(7)
Houston Rockets
45-37
(8)
Dallas Mavericks
41-41
(--)
Utah Jazz
40-42
(--)
Los Angeles Lakers
40-42
(--)
Portland Trailblazers
38-44

2 comments:

  1. disqus_qp6m48GztyMarch 27, 2013 at 6:12 PM

    omg all you do is hate on kobe/the lakers

    ReplyDelete
  2. Look forward to your picks and predictions on the NBA playoffs. I have a few upsets win my picks, but only as handful of teams can stop the Heat.

    JT
    http://bookieblitz.com/

    ReplyDelete

Add your thoughts or opinion.