Examining the Lakers Without Anthony Davis

The Los Angeles Lakers found themselves without the services of their second and, arguably, third-best players in Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder during a stretch in which they lost four in a row and five out of six games to drop from 21-6 and nipping at the heels of the red-hot Utah Jazz (who are an astonishing 27-7 and look every bit like a Finals team) to 22-11 and at risk of falling below the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers to drop all the way into fourth place and a second-round matchup with that Jazz team. The moral of …

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The NBA Eastern Conference Was Bad in 2020. It’s Getting Worse in 2021.

Almost exactly one year ago (on February 24, 2020), this site took a look at the Eastern Conference and noted that the last time a 7 seed had a losing record before it happened again with the 35-37 Brooklyn Nets was when the Boston Celtics went 40-42 in 2015. The Orlando Magic finished 33-40, which prorated to 82 games is a 37-45 record, itself the worst record by a playoff team since the Indiana Pacers won 37 games in 2011 and grabbed the 8 seed. Even worse, the ninth-best winning percentage in the East in 2020 was the 23-42 (.354) …

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There Are No New Indiana Pacers Stories

Everything that can be said about the 2021 Indiana Pacers has already been said, and we’re just two months into the regular season. Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon are the stars, and this team is a G-League team without both of them healthy. Myles Turner is what he is at this point; an elite shotblocker who can’t rebound and is such a liability on offense that no amount of involving him as a stretch 5 is going to change the fact that he’s just not a scorer. The sole upside of this is that his four-year, $72 million contract is …

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In Search of the “League Average” NBA Player (Part 3: VORP)

In the previous two iterations of this series, we took a look at PER and WS/48 in an effort to determine what constitutes a “league average” NBA player—that is, a guy who is basically a 41-41 team over 82 games (man, remember 82-game seasons? Such nostalgia) distilled into one player across one season. Today, we take a few steps back and consider not just the VORP per 82 games of the guys we’ve considered so far, a cross-section of players from the 2019 and 2020 seasons who had league-average PER (between 14.8 and 15.2) or WS/48 (between .095 and .105) …

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The NBA’s Hot Garbage Media Ruins the Sport

Today is Valentine’s Day, and with the steaming hot smell of breakups accompanying some petty BS argument between partners in a relationship wafting up from the frozen tundra of a brutal 2021 winter and your columnist too snowed in by the greater Seattle area’s complete failure to understand the concept of “winter storm awareness” to get businesses back up and running and with COVID and the American vaccine response a complete failure so egregious that it makes the owners and front office of the Minnesota Timberwolves (6-20! Jesus, guys, get it together!) look like a triumph of leadership to make …

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In Search of the “League Average” NBA Player (Part 2: WS/48)

Last week, we looked at PER to try and figure out just what constitutes a “league average” NBA player. Since that stat is normalized to 15 every season, it gave us a cross-section of players across positions and even perceived talent levels (any time you have Brook Lopez, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier on the same list, that’s a wide swath to cut.) But Tatum especially is nothing even resembling “league average”. He’s become the breakout star on a Celtics team that has made three of the last four Eastern Conference finals. Hardly “league average”. So let’s try a stat …

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The Indiana Pacers Can’t Beat Good Teams

You know that sinking feeling you get as a sports fan when you watch your team face an opponent in a “second-round playoff preview” in the middle of the regular season and, as the game goes on and the other team handily disposes of your beloved squad, that sinking feeling forms in your soul that “oh gods, we aren’t very good, are we?” Yeah, that’s how I felt about the Indiana Pacers’ losses to the Milwaukee Bucks (130-110) and Utah Jazz (103-95) over the past week, with the gut-punch 114-113 loss to a New Orleans Pelicans team that is not …

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In Search of the “League Average” NBA Player (Part 1: PER)

One of the core conceits of advanced stats is that they tend to be normalized to some kind of league average. Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is built so that league average, every year, is exactly 15. In theory, the average for Win Shares per 48 minutes should be .100, since a team that has 0.1 WS per position per game will get half a win—half a win plus half a loss equals a 41-41 record over 82 games. Value Over Replacement Player is a different animal; a “replacement player” isn’t the same thing as a league-average player. It’s meant to …

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Is Nate Bjorkgren Overusing the Pacers’ Stars?

The Indiana Pacers are a top-heavy talent team, with Malcolm Brogdon (36.9 minutes per game) and Domantas Sabonis (36.8) shouldering a huge minutes load between the two of them. Indeed, in the Pacers’ 119-110 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday night, coach Nate Bjorkgren went with what was basically an eight-deep rotation; Goga Bitadze played just shy of six minutes and Edmond Sumner just six seconds in the loss, while Brogdon, Sabonis, and Justin Holiday all played over three-quarters of the game. What’s more, with Victor Oladipo gone and Caris LeVert out indefinitely, the Pacers have a severe guard depth …

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Atlanta Hawks: Lords of the Garbage Fire

The NBA is no longer a division-intensive league. Gone are the days when a team could get a top-4 seed just by lording over a trash division, a situation that has on occasion given us garbage like the 44-38 Denver Nuggets getting to be the 3 seed in 2006, or a similarly terrible 44-38 2007 Miami Heat team making the playoffs on a championship hangover and getting swept by a 47-win Chicago Bulls team that was the lower seed in the bracket. In theory, we could see a situation where a division winner doesn’t even make the playoffs at all. …

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