Dec 04, 2013 11:26 AM EST
By any metric the Eastern Conference has struggled over the past two decades in regards to their depth of quality teams. The situation has reached a tipping point this season with a model by Arturo Galletti of BoxScoreGeeks.com showing the possibility of only the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers finishing with a record above .500.
There are a plethora of factors on why the Western Conference is better this season, from greater parity at the top of the table compared to the separation the Heat have created over their four seasons together and the cyclical nature of several Eastern Conference teams rebuilding at the same time.
From a long-term perspective, the Eastern Conference has won the lottery in 11 of the past 15 years, suggesting several teams in the East have had ample opportunities to rebuild.
But last year's All-NBA Teams had 11 of 15 from the West, nine of 15 in 11-12 and 10-11, 11 in 09-10, 08-09 and 07-08.
One element that has remained constant is that weather plays a significant role in where veteran free agents choose to sign. The Heat have attracted significantly more high profile free agents to play with LeBron James than ever was possible when he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs always had a competitive advantage in signing veteran free agents during the previous decade that was more difficult during Kevin Garnett's tenure with the Minnesota Timberwolves. With Chris Paul and Doc Rivers taking control of the Los Angeles Clippers, that franchise is finally taking advantage of its weather and cultural advantages.
While the two warmest winter markets are in the Eastern Conference in Miami and Orlando, the gap between the average temperature for the two conferences as a whole is statistically significant with the Western Conference being nine degrees warmer.
Superstars that are drafted by teams in cold weather franchises certainly can be retained, but their ability to build around them with complementary pieces proves more difficult. Even the Oklahoma City Thunder have not attracted as many top players on the veteran's minimum as one would guess based on the caliber of their roster and title chances. Oklahoma City is not one of the coldest markets, but is more than 20 degrees colder than Los Angeles in January and doesn't offer some of the cultural attributes of a Chicago or New York.
Eastern Conference Average Temperature in January
Indiana Pacers: 26.5
Miami Heat: 68.1
Atlanta Hawks: 42.7
Washington Wizards: 34.9
Chicago Bulls: 22.0
Charlotte Bobcats: 41.7
Detroit Pistons: 24.5
Toronto Raptors: 21.0
Orlando Magic: 61.3
Boston Celtics: 29.3
Philadelphia 76ers: 32.3
Cleveland Cavaliers: 25.7
Brooklyn Nets: 32.1
New York Knicks: 32.1
Milwaukee Bucks: 20.7
- Average Temperature for Eastern Conference: 34.3
Western Conference Average Temperature in January
Portland Trail Blazers: 39.9
San Antonio Spurs: 50.3
Oklahoma City Thunder: 36.7
Los Angeles Clippers: 57.1
Denver Nuggets: 29.2
Golden State Warriors: 48.7
Dallas Mavericks: 44.1
Phoenix Suns: 54.2
Los Angeles Lakers: 57.1
New Orleans Pelicans: 52.6
Memphis Grizzlies: 39.9
Minnesota Timberwolves: 13.1
Sacramento Kings: 46.3
Utah Jazz: 29.2
Houston Rockets: 51.8
- Average Temperature for Western Conference: 43.3
Dec 02, 2013 6:17 PM EST
Soon to be commissioner, Adam Silver, is pushing for more fan involvement through the box score. The box score is where you find all players statistics and team total statistics throughout the game. The final box score is clearly the most important because it shows the total numbers for that game. It will clearly state why a team won or lost based on which team's statistics were better.
Most players of fantasy basketball want to know how many points their points got based on points, rebounds, assists, steals, etc. Adam Silver clearly knows more and more fans are looking at this box score. Smartly, he is marketing statistics for more fan involvement to the point that he is adding a video feature to the box score that can be found on NBA.com.
This feature has been available to NBA teams for a few years with the help of a company named Synergy. Synergy has made accessing a lot of video based on statistical categories very easy and user friendly. Obviously what an NBA general manager or coach wants to see will vary from what a NBA fan wants to see. Most NBA personnel want to see video on what the team is doing more so than just an individual, even though it’s necessary to breakdown an individual from time to time. Fans want to see what the individual player is doing. Both should want to see the category that can determine if they can be a championship team. That category is points in the paint.
The quickest formula to build a championship team is build a team that can score in the paint and also stop opposing teams from scoring in the paint. There are currently only three teams in the NBA in the top 10 in points in the paint and in the top-10 in opponents' points in the paint. They are the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls. A fairly safe bet has two of those teams in the NBA Finals this year. Not surprisingly two of those teams were in the NBA Finals last year. Of course there are other categories that we could add to building a championship team. However if you’re not trying to figure how to dominate the paint both offensively and defensively, chances are you won’t win a championship.
The category of points in the paint is clearly important enough to be on the box score. I would even argue that it should be at the top of the box score instead of the bottom. It’s the one stat that can determine how dominate a team can be either offensively or defensively or both. Points in the paint are of little importance from a team perspective to fans, but they do remember the dunks and the blocked shots that happen in the paint. You don’t hear about fans sitting around the water cooler talking about how many points the New York Knicks scored in the paint. Or how many points that the Los Angeles Lakers gave up in the paint. They will discuss why the Knicks and the Lakers won’t win a championship this year.
Mike D’Antoni's Knicks were never known for scoring in the paint, and his Lakers are not dominating in the paint this year either. The Lakers are currently 25th in the NBA in points in the paint.
Mike Woodson’s current Knicks are not known for points in the paint either. The Knicks are currently 28th in the NBA in points in the paint.
To D’Antoni's credit, his Phoenix Suns teams did score in the paint thanks to the great Steve Nash. His teams could never stop teams from scoring in the paint. The Lakers are 29th in the NBA in opponents' points in the paint. The Knicks are better at stopping teams from scoring the paint, but they still give 40 points a game in the paint (9th in the NBA). San Antonio is 4th in the NBA in scoring the paint and 10th in the NBA in opponents points in the paint. Miami is 7th in the NBA in scoring in the paint and 4th in the NBA opponent’s points in the paint. Indiana who is currently first in the NBA in opponent’s points in the paint will struggle to beat Miami because they are 26th in the NBA in scoring in the paint. They will simply struggle to get easy baskets against Miami even though they will stay in the game with their defense.
It is very easy to say "dominate the paint and keep teams out of the paint", but it is very hard to do. You need a plan that starts with the GM that puts the right coach and players in the place. You need that coach to have a defensive scheme that keeps teams out of the paint along with players to take pride in keeping their man in front of them. You have to have a shot-blocker to help discourage players from driving at will because this is the NBA. A great NBA player will get to the basket, and you need those players to dominate the paint offensively. Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony are jump shooters. Kobe can’t dominate the paint coming off an injury and Carmelo doesn’t want to dominate the paint. Neither player nor their teams can win a championship if they are not dominating the paint. Just look at the box score.
Nov 25, 2013 7:12 PM EST
Salary cap space and flexibility means different things to different franchises due to rules such as individual max salary. The importance of these disparities come into sharper focus because of the fact very few teams win championships without MVP-caliber talent. Put simply, the ability to sign players outright means more to teams that can reasonably expect those players to come there.
For nearly my entire lifetime, one of these lines of division has been New York and Los Angeles separate from everyone else. The two massive media markets have predictably had the most reliable success bringing in elite players that they did not draft, particularly the Lakers with Shaquille O'Neal in 1996. Incidentally, the Lakers benefitted then from the lack of rules that would have allowed the Magic to retain O’Neal after his rookie deal. When the NBA put caps on how much elite players could make on the court, top media markets actually benefitted immensely because they could argue that they gave guys the best chance to maximize their fame and fortune since the salary would be substantially the same.
However, these dynamics have been subject to substantial changes.
Since buying the Clippers in 1981, Donald Sterling and his management have been the laughing stock of the league until the sudden change in fortune the last few years.
After years of success, the Knicks have also hit hard times, failing to make the conference finals since 2000 and missing the playoffs entirely seven seasons in a row.
For a stretch of years, the Lakers reaped the benefits of being the only team in a major media market team with a positive reputation in terms of ownership and the front office. Starting in 2000, Jerry Buss’ team won the NBA title five times and lost in the NBA Finals twice, making the playoffs in all but one season from then to his passing earlier this year. Since Jerry Buss gave up day-to-day control of the team, the highly regarded top of the pyramid for the Lakers has taken some serious hits and actually failed to retain a major free agent when Dwight Howard left for Houston.
In my eyes, Kobe Bryant’s extension only exacerbates this since the Lakers effectively took themselves out of true championship contention for at least the next two seasons unless they somehow pull LeBron James. While the Clippers have certainly raised their stature, Donald Sterling still looms large over the organization and we have to see whether he will be willing to pay the luxury tax to keep their current team together for a few more seasons.
The other major change comes in the form of Mikhail Prokhorov and the Brooklyn Nets. For the first time since the 1980’s, a new team has entered one of these major markets and we still have to see if they have the same cachet with unrestricted free agents that the Knicks and Lakers have had over the years. It will likely take some time because of how many expensive players Brooklyn has on the books. Prokhorov’s willingness to spend to get a competitive team on the floor has certainly raised plenty of eyebrows.
The brave new world we are entering is one where none of the major market teams has the competitive advantage of their location and a top-flight organizational reputation. History and money are still (largely) on their sides but players have become more conscious of organizational quality in recent years, with LeBron James’ decision to go to Miami standing as a particularly interesting example. While having the space to sign the best players outright will continue to be a major component of their strategies, the looming unrestricted free agency of James in 2014 and Kevin Durant in 2016 will serve as major tests for the importance of playing in on the biggest stages. Incidentally, only the Clippers have serious financial commitments for 2016 at the moment so we may get to see what happens when the behemoths battle the hometown team and potentially better situations in terms of teammates in smaller markets. While we are still too far out to even speculate, these power dynamics could end up being a major story in the league during that time.
Oct 29, 2013
The following 30 questions are the biggest issues facing each NBA front office as the 13-14 regular season begins.
Aug 16, 2013
Great drafts for the Rockets, 76ers, Nets, Warriors, Hawks and Grizzlies headline this complete rundown of the 2013 offseason.
Jul 08, 2013
If the owners want to make it harder for superstars to switch teams, they have to increase the financial incentives for them to stay. Otherwise, franchises with one All-Star will forever be looking over their shoulder. To paraphrase Sean Parker, having two stars isn’t cool. Having three is.
Jun 28, 2013
Breaking down all 30 teams by category of how they fared in the often surprising, never disappointing 2013 NBA Draft.
May 24, 2013
Pundits like Bill Simmons can look at a year Dwight Howard was hurt and a year where he played in a system that minimized his strengths and magnified his weaknesses to write him off using pithy garbage like personality, but analyzing production and talent over conjecture will always win out.
May 23, 2013
Getting Dwight Howard sits within the realm of possibility for the Warriors, but it would come at a steep, steep cost unless the Lakers are more generous than expected. Wasting their amnesty on Charlie Bell and using 2013 cap space to acquire a pick last season is again continuing to hurt them.
May 20, 2013
One fun component of the Amnesty rule is that we know exactly which players are eligible for it and that number can only decrease over time since the players had to have been under contract with the same team before the new CBA.
Apr 30, 2013
An unrestricted free agent for the first time in his nine-year career, Dwight Howard will have to choose the franchise that best positions him to grow as a player and compete for championships. The time has come for Howard to decide whether he wants to be an all-time great player, or just a player that was good for his time.
Mar 31, 2013
In the past, a player could easily be swayed to come to play for the Lakers. Who wouldn't want to play for a franchise with such a rich history and strong fanbase? Who wouldn't want to play for the Buss family and add to the tradition? But the NBA has changed and so has the perception.
Feb 25, 2013
Not much has gone right for either the Lakers or Mavericks this season, but both remain worth watching, if only for the presence of Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant. Both players will hopefully continue adapting to playing at a near-MVP level in their thirties for many more seasons.
Feb 21, 2013
The Kings, Knicks, Rockets, Thunder and Cavaliers have been the most active teams at the deadline over the past decade, while the Spurs, Pistons, Heat, Lakers and Pacers have made the fewest deals.
Feb 06, 2013
Kobe Bryant’s newfound trust in his teammates has brought the team closer together and allowed the Lakers to play more loosely on both sides of the court.
Jan 31, 2013
Win-win trades that also make sense financially will become even more rare in the NBA's post-lockout era. Here are trades for the Lakers, Mavericks, Hawks, Blazers, Celtics, Nuggets and Spurs that make sense for all parties.
Jan 31, 2013
The Lakers are clearly preserving their cap space for 2014; what are there real options from a cap perspective on forming a partnership between LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant.
Jan 18, 2013
The Lakers needed to make a statement in their game against the Heat on Thursday night, and they did. The statement was basically: “We are not good enough to beat the good teams.”
Dec 14, 2012
The Heat began slowly in the fall of 2010 when their supporting cast was substandard. The Lakers now find themselves in a similar situation, compounded by injuries to several of their stars. Mitch Kupchak must upgrade the personnel for the Lakers to meet their lofty expectations.
Nov 19, 2012
Until Steve Nash’s return, and Mike D'Antoni's debut no less, we can only speculate about what the Lakers’ march towards the playoffs will look like.
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