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Essay: ‘Power’ Ranking the Middling, Mediocre, Mid-tier Malaise…

March 12, 2013 Leave a comment

…that comprise the NBA’s playoff teams with little chance of even sniffing the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

The unlucky truth of the matter is that 29 teams are going to end their season in disappointment whenever they’re eliminated from the playoffs or playoff contention this spring. Of those 29, only four–and that’s stretching things a little bit*–are actually title contenders. The rest are composed of lottery teams, and the squishy in-between spot where a team’s not good enough to really scare the top four in the playoffs, but they’re not so bad that a first round draft choice won’t immediately improve their roster and their chances to improve moving forward. So you’re stuck with the mid-tier, where moving up into one of the top teams in the league is a lot less likely than the inevitable drop to a lottery franchise.

We see this all the time, and right now there are 12 teams with very little chance of either making a Conference Final, or drafting a player that will get them into the Conference Finals in the ensuing years. That’s not to say they’re incapable of bettering themselves in free agency (Houston has a lot of cap room; so will Atlanta if they don’t sign Josh Smith to a max contract; Utah is an enigma, and no one can figure out why they kept two front court players whose contracts expire this summer), but after eliminating the Heat, Thunder, Spurs and Clippers** you’re left with a coterie of mid-tier teams trying to play up to those four. Here they are ranked by their current talent level, their record this season, their overall play on offense and defense, and the possibility for future improvement with the right draft picks, free agency moves and refinement of their roster’s current skill set.

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Power Ranking: The Best Secondary Units

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

 

Close your eyes and imagine an NBA where no current starters exist. Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Kobe Bryant? Never born. It’s an alternate universe, where the most adept bench players are thrust into the starting lineup. James Harden is the league’s best player and Jamal Crawford is headed straight for the Hall of Fame.

As I rank these hypothetical teams and how they’d fare if their bench players were to become full-time starters, the purpose of this exercise is to shed some light on the depth of a few playoff contenders that are expected to make some noise this spring. I realize that in a normal postseason teams use seven, eight-man rotations; for 48 minutes at least one starter will always be on the court. But right now, despite there being a thankful and guaranteed day of rest between each game, this year’s playoffs could still see a few teams benefit from the rotations that bore them their high seeds in the first place.

(Editor’s Note: I tried really hard to include the Lakers in this fictional exercise, but after 15 minutes of looking over their lineups, all I could do was cry. I don’t want to live in a world where Josh McRoberts is a starting center. I can’t. I WON’T. If all their starters never existed, this team would be set aflame and left for dead on the side of a highway. Then they’d move to Kansas City.)

Some of these lineups I’ve thought up on my own—as they’re the most traditional five-man units the team could have without deploying a starter—and others have in fact been of regular to semi-regular use by their respective coaches. With the latter, I’ll squeeze out some basic numbers with help from the two invaluable websites, BasketballValue.com and 82games.com. (Keep in mind, some of the points per possession numbers are based on very small sample sizes.) Read more…

Categories: Power Rankings

Power Ranking: The NBA’s 10 Most Dreadful Players

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

 

The 440-something players who make up the NBA’s current labor force are a carefully selected collection of some of the most athletic, physically gifted specimens the human race has to offer. They combine the wherewithal and vision of a flying predator with a physical ability to float, dart, and do mid-air gymnastics minute after minute. The only thing that appears to stop them is each other (or, in the case of LeBron James, themselves).

Nobody in the league is “bad” at basketball, and when we use words like “terrible” or “atrocious” to describe a player’s performance it’s understood that the adjectives are used on a relative scale to whatever Player A’s colleagues are doing. With that being said, these are the guys who haven’t been fulfilling the duties they’re currently being paid to carry out—some of them may not even deserve a roster spot in the league right now. It’s simply too tough to make an argument for anything positive they’re bringing on the court.

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Power Ranking: The One-Dimensional All-Stars

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment

 

At the behest of those who enjoy watching beautiful people doing beautiful things, Ben Wallace has announced he will retire at the end of this season. One of the hungriest underdogs to ever play basketball, Wallace hammered himself into a niche with unprecedented brute force, becoming known for much, much more than a scraggly afro.

He was respected, beloved, and, to some degree, feared. Wallace was a rare breed: SO good as a rebounding defensive presence and SO bad as an offensive threat. In his honor, I’ve decided to rank all the modern day one-dimensional players, with Ben Wallace in mind as the Godfather of them all. The league has very few players who’re equally effective on offense as they are on defense, but one doesn’t have to overshadow the other (for example, the 2008 Kevin Garnett tilted the entire league with his defensive intensity—it became apart of his identity as he forced the Celtics to keep up on their way to a championship—but it wasn’t like he struggled on offense); this list highlights 14 guys who excel on one end of the floor while leaving much to be desired on the other. Read more…

Power Ranking: Sorting The All-Star Reserves

February 8, 2012 1 comment

This week I’ll be ranking who I believe deserves to be a reserve in the 2012 All-Star game. All 14 players, from both conferences, will be lumped together and placed in order—from “totally obvious” (1) to “I guess he could maybe be an All-Star?” (14). Read more…

Power Ranking: Diving Into Depression

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

In this week’s Power Ranking, I’ll be positioning 11 teams that are currently filling their respective fanbase with a deep, dark case of depression. Most of these are teams we already thought would be terrible, but others are groups that looked to torpedo others before imploding on their own. Highly paid free agents can do that to you, and unrealistic expectations are sometimes a fan’s greatest reason for pain. Read more…

Power Ranking Week 2: Optimism vs. Pessimism

January 21, 2012 Leave a comment

I liked the whole “optimism vs. pessimism” idea so much in the inaugural Power Ranking that I’ve decided to stick with it this week. Read more…

Power Ranking: Optimism vs. Pessimism

January 13, 2012 2 comments

Introducing Shaky Ankles’ very first Power Ranking feature—a weekly breakdown of interesting, list worthy NBA related news. This section will undoubtedly be toyed with as the season progresses, but for the most part it should read as a typical Power Ranking, which is something that’s always so much fun to scroll through!

In our inaugural post, we end this week with our Top 8 cases of pessimism vs. top 8 cases of optimism. Pretty self-explanatory: These are issues that inspire hope or reek of failure. Enjoy! Read more…

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