The Phoenix Suns: Runaway 2022 Favorites

Since taking a 23-point loss at the hands of the Miami Heat to drop to 30-9 on January 8, the Phoenix Suns are 27-5, carrying a 57-14 record into the last 11 games of the season. Indeed, the Suns are so far ahead of the rest of the NBA field that their magic number is just three to clinch home court throughout the Finals. Memphis, at 48-23, and Golden State, at 47-23, are the only ones who can catch them in the West, and Miami, at 47-24, is the only team mathematically alive in the East to get a Game …

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When “3s And Layups” Goes Wrong

Critics of NBA aesthetics often say that the league has degenerated into a dumbed-down version of basketball where the only thing that matter are “3s and Layups”. And to a degree, they’re right—add in free throws to the mix and you’ve got the essentials of efficient basketball, which can be statistically measured and which have time and again borne out that those elements are the best way to score points. And since you can’t win if you don’t score more points than your opponent (duh), it stands to reason you want to maximize your efficiency. Granted, the critics of aesthetics …

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At 28-34, Washington Wizards Still Overachieving

How bad are the 2022 Washington Wizards? A team that started 10-3 is 18-31 since then, including a Friday night loss to the Atlanta Hawks that was a must-win for Washington if they hoped to remain in shouting distance of the bottom end of the play-in game race in the East. Their Net Rating of minus-2.8 on the season is seventh-worst in the league, and on paper they’re actually worse than the New York Knicks (25-38) and Indiana Pacers (22-43) below them. That’s right. The Wizards, at one point in November the Eastern Conference’s top seed, is even at 28-34 …

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The Worst-Ever NBA Playoff Teams

Not long ago, I was on YouTube watching footage of Michael Jordan‘s legendary 63-point outburst in Game 2 of the 1986 first round, a game his Chicago Bulls lost to the Boston Celtics 135-131 in double overtime on their way to a sweep. That Bulls team, at 30-52 on the regular season, made the playoffs because there were only 11 teams in the Eastern Conference and three of them—29-53 Cleveland, 26-56 Indiana, and 23-59 New York—managed to be even more utterly putrescent than a Bulls team referred to as “a bunch of coke fiends” in ESPN’s 2020 smash hit documentary …

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The NBA Dunk Contest Is Obsolete

I am, by the standards of NBA fans, an old man. Even though I’m just 44, basketball’s demographic has always skewed more toward the Millennials, Zoomers, and whatever they’re going to call the generation that’s already started but who are going to be defined by being too young to have watched LeBron James play basketball—or if they do remember him, they’ll remember him the way kids born in the mid-’90s remember Michael Jordan, as “that old guy on the Wizards who used to be good.” Unlike baseball, where being a 44-year-old MLB fan makes you a kid by that league’s …

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Gordon Hayward’s Incomprehensible Legacy

Gordon Hayward is perhaps the greatest modern example of parlaying one great season into a career of making far more money than a player of his caliber has any business putting into the bank. The Boston Celtics signed him to a big free agent deal that earned Hayward about $90 million in three years between 2018 and 2020, then traded him to the Charlotte Hornets on a sign-and-trade valued at $120 million over four years. Throw in the roughly $45 million Hayward made on his restricted free agent extension after his rookie deal, and the $10 million or so he …

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Are the Memphis Grizzlies for Real?

The Memphis Grizzlies developed a reputation toward the end of the Grit N’ Grind Era of being a team that looked like a contender in February before completely falling apart in April and crashing out of the playoffs hard. This year, echoes of 2016 and 2017 may very well haunt the 2022 edition of the team as they stand 36-18 through games of Feburary 4 and sit third behind runaway leaders Phoenix and Golden State, the likeliest candidates for the Western Conference Finals. But that was true in 2016, when the Grizz stood 37-24 on March 4 and ended up …

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“Suck Faster” Revisited: Relating Pace to Net Rating

It’s been awhile since we’ve taken a deep, obscure statistical dive around here and squeezed every little dust particle of data out of it, hasn’t it? So why not put that hat back on and revisit a concept first examined in the very early days of this site’s existence? In 2017, I wrote about the Brooklyn Nets under Kenny Atkinson, long before they got their current roster, and considered how combining an up-tempo style with a plug-awful team only managed to make Brooklyn 9-35, holders of the league’s worst record on January 25, 2017, a state of affairs that ultimately …

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The Lakers’ Russell Westbrook Problem

For the past few seasons, it has become an annual event at some point around the All-Star break to point out the problems that Russell Westbrook has caused for his teams. In 2019, the question was whether Westbrook could finally break out of his “the best you’re going to get out of this guy is 48 wins and a first-round playoff exit” problem in the absence of Kevin Durant. The Oklahoma City Thunder stood at 26-18 on Jan. 17 after a loss to the Lakers, and while they would win 11 of their next 12 contests to go to 37-19, …

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Headed For A Fall: The 2022 NBA Overachievers

Through games of January 14, the 2022 NBA season is effectively at its halfway point. Only three teams—Chicago, Denver, and Toronto—have not yet played their 41st game, while Memphis and Sacramento have played 45 contests, most in the league. Some teams have grossly underachieved so far, perhaps none more so than the 15-28 Indiana Pacers, whose Net Rating stands at just minus-0.9 even after Boston and Phoenix slaughtered them this week. But perhaps more interesting is the list of teams at the other end of the scale, teams whose records on the court are better than their records on the …

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