Mar 24, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during national anthem before a game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to the second last edition of the 2014-2015 Nylon Calculus Power Rankings, and as I have alluded to a little while ago, we’re changing things up for the rest of the season…again. Mainly, in preparation for the end of the season, we’re spending the next two weeks putting together a better, larger, more coherent picture of the whole season and how the teams have performed over the course of the year going into the postseason, and we’re spending a little less time having fun with recency bias.
We’ll be aggregating the season’s worth of data in two different ways between this week and next week. This week, the premise is simple: we’re ranking the rankings. To get this year’s power rankings, I took the average of all the rankings done over the whole season, plus one week of rankings based off of the post-All Star NetRating (to make up for last week) and one week of rankings based off of pre-season expectations from the (not me) experts here at Nylon Calculus.
The rankings, then, were based on every team’s average ranking over every week. To keep the format of the chart similar, I also included the consistency in the rankings. The higher the value, the more consistent from week to week, the lower the value, the more the team jumped around the rankings. Consistency definitely has a hand in these rankings: the Clippers ousted the Hawks for second place in the rankings because they were constantly in the top 5, and rarely fell below, unlike the Hawks who started slow and ended slow.
That said, and keeping in mind that these rankings reflect, mostly, how teams have performed in the rankings over the whole year, let’s get to those rankings! And, shocker, the Warriors absolutely dominate the field.
The Top 10
- Golden State Warriors: Not only was this team’s average freaking rank close to first — where averages tend to drift to the middle — but they had the highest consistency of any team by a wide margin. This team wasn’t just the best all season…they were number one all year, and they never stopped, on any given week, being the best team in the league. This team is stupid good. Stupid, stupid good. Just ridiculously good. Earth shatteringly good. You get the point.
- Los Angeles Clippers: Clippers second! This is where consistency really comes into play with these rankings: the Hawks and Cavaliers both had far more top 1, 2, and 3 rankings than the Clippers, but the Clips were perpetually in the top 5, almost never falling out, and that ended up giving them the edge in the long run. Their top-5 consistency, even with Blake hurt, as been incredible, and a subtle hint at a team that may be more solidly prepped for the postseason than people think.
- Atlanta Hawks: Can you believe that the Hawks were projected to be around middle of the league by everyone at the beginning of the season? It was clear they were building something cool, but holy cow, this? The Hawks spent almost the entire year ranked second in the power rankings, and everyone short of the Cleveland Cavaliers are hoping their post-All Star slump has just been them easing off the gas to rest for what will hopefully be a magical playoff run.
- Portland Trail Blazers: Another shocker, born again out of the team being perpetually in the top 10 with very little deviation whatsoever. The Blazers are probably the only team in that middle-of-the-Western-pack to not have a prolonged, nasty slump. Despite a rash of horrible injuries, the team has never fallen off too far, but whether that’s meaningful when they get to the playoffs without Wesley Matthews and a hobbled Batum and Aldridge has yet to be seen.
- San Antonio Spurs: Remember how “the Spurs might finally be too old this year,” again? Yeah, no. There was no way to know at the time, but it turns out all the Spurs needed was Kawhi and Tony Parker to get healthy, and the rest of the team to take some time. They’re still the crazy death machine. What’s nuts, too, is that there was a ton of panic around this team all season arguing they weren’t any good, but they never really fell below the top 12. This team has been good all year, people just didn’t notice because they weren’t lighting the world on fire.
- Cleveland Cavaliers: They’ve been number 1 three times and are led by LeBron James. This is an amazing team that got knocked down a peg because they looked lost confused and upset for way longer than they were supposed to, but then LeBron got healthy and really none of it mattered. They’ll be in the Eastern Conference Finals, at least.
- Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies fell apart after the All-Star break an no one really knows if it’s all injuries (the team’s been banged up all year), Jeff Green fitting, the team hitting a wall, or some combination, but even for all the sliding recently this team is really good and has been really good and if they can just get some time to rest before the playoff slough really hits, there’s not a team (other than the Spurs) who wants to run into the Marc Gasol buzzsaw.
- Oklahoma City Thunder: Now that Durant’s out for the season and who even knows what Ibaka’s timetable really is, the Thunder are more or less done. Even if they make the playoffs over the Pelicans (likely), they’d have to beat the Warriors to make any real noise (impossible), so they just have to regroup this offseason and hope Durant doesn’t start planning his “I’m Coming Home” letter early. Their season run, though, was remarkable. They played incredibly competitive basketball on the heels of basically one, single monster (Monstar?) capable of unspeakable basketball destruction. Just because it’s over doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun.
- Houston Rockets: It’s not easy to figure out how the Rockets are sitting in the two seed right now. The team has been one of the most injured all season, James Harden has had virtually no talent behind him, and they’re winning games at a rate highly disproportionate to their per 100 possession point differential. They’ve looked exploitable at points all season, and yet no one has really been able to exploit them. This is either the sign of an extremely resilient team who is ready for any challenge, or one who’s scraped by on the extraordinary talent of the probable MVP who will find themselves floundering as teams clamp down in the postseason. They’re a 50/50 flip either way.
- Dallas Mavericks: Probably the second saddest story of the season, the Mavs were putting up the greatest offense of all time and gearing up to see whether a team could actually be competitive in the postseason with a bad defense but offensive numbers we’ve never seen the likes of before, and then they gambled midseason on a trade to improve the defense and it fell apart, and now the Mavericks are the team everyone wants to play in the West. Them ranking this high is a testament to how good they were at one point, and having Dirk, Rick Carlisle, and a history of playing amazingly at some point this year makes them a longshot threat to some team in the first round, but that’s about it.
Other Teams of Interest:
- Toronto Raptors: The Raptors are kinda like Mavs East, in that they started the season outrageously well behind a historic offense and a creative coach, and then they just completely fell apart as the middle of the season hit and they realized they couldn’t defend. They’ll play someone tight in the playoffs, maybe get to the second round if all goes well but this team probably caps out at “good.”
- Chicago Bulls: The title contention talk from some corners is definitely overblown, especially with Rose down, but this team gets up for big games, and the rookie Nikola Mirotic is making a late rookie of the year run. They lose a ton of easy games and look inept at times, but when they decide to be engaged they’re killer. The team isn’t healthy going into the postseason, as Thibodeau teams historically aren’t, and it’s going to cost them, as it usually does, but if all their cards fall the right way they’ll make noise, if not be really in the mix.
- Milwaukee Bucks: Shocker that when the Bucks traded borderline-All-Star Brandon Knight for borderline-worst-impact-player-in-the-league Michael Carter-Williams they got a lot worse. The Bucks have nowhere to go but up, though, as they were a huge surprise for most of the year and, if they can get the right pieces and get MCW to not be total train wreck, they can be huge next season.
- New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis is so much fun and there’s a chance they might sneak into the playoffs, which would be cool. This team is just kinda uninteresting though, and that’s reflected in their consistency score: they just kinda sat around the middle of the league all season, having some great games and some horrible ones, while Anthony Davis did bonkers things. Without Brow, this team might be Brooklyn-levels of boring.
- Washington Wizards: They were really good at the beginning of the season and then really really awful at the end of it which puts them somewhere in the middle in these rankings, and no one totally knows what happened other than “Randy Whittman.” Here’s hoping John Wall can get a decent team around him at some point in his career.
- Phoenix Suns: The Suns never totally figured out who they were this year — I say in past tense, as they have more or less been eliminated from real playoff contention — behind all the big offseason acquisitions, and it’s not totally clear what the Dragic trade did for them either or why they had to give the Laker’s pick for Brandan Knight, but this is still a really fun team, with a lot of the most likable players in the league in Bledsoe, Knight, the Morris Twins, and Brandan Wright. Here’s hoping they finally figure something out next year.
- Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets have been pretty good for a decent stretch, but not good enough to overwhelm the bad, and it ends up landing them in poor final territory. It’s hard to figure out what happened between last season and this one other than Lance Stephenson being a cancer, but all the fun offensive team chemistry from last year, which admittedly was limited, was totally gone, and the otherwise stellar defense was abysmal without Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, who probably deserves way more DPOY buzz than he’s gotten.
- Utah Jazz: Like the Hornets, but more extreme. They’re gonna be very good next season.
- Miami Heat: The Heat are finally getting good now, after spending the entire season totally browbeaten by injuries. Wade has spent the last few months looking like its 2011 all over again, and Goran Dragic has fit in brilliantly. This team is going to be a huge pest for the rest of season.
- Brooklyn Nets: How much of a bummer is it that a team that has been just horrible all year, averaging out as the 23rd worst team in the league in aggregate ranking with a relatively high consistency, is in the playoff race in the East. I mean, that has to be some kind of a joke right? It’s not a joke? Cool.
- Philadelphia 76ers: THE 76ERS FINISHED THE SEASON NOT LAST. NOT. LAST. AGAIN! FOR THE SECOND TIME IN A ROW! Ditching MCW was a hugely positive move for Hinkie, and Nerlens Noel looks stellar. The Sixers are going places.
- New York Knicks: The Knicks are so bad that Phil Jackson spent the weekend talking about butts and it was news.