The Whiteboard: Which team has the best record with all their stars healthy?

Oct 19, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA;Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) and forward Anthony Davis (3) on the court during the game against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center. The Warriors won 121-114. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 19, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA;Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) and forward Anthony Davis (3) on the court during the game against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center. The Warriors won 121-114. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports /

Injuries have hit plenty of teams who began the season with championship hopes. How would the NBA standings look if we only counted when stars were healthy?

As with any other season, injuries have played a major role in the current state of the NBA standings. Stars like Devin Booker, Steph Curry, Zion Williamson, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and Karl-Anthony Towns have all missed extended periods. But how would the NBA standings look if we took only each team’s record this season, only in games where both of their two best players were healthy?

In terms of determining who each team’s best players actually are, I used my own subjective evaluation, factoring in projected statistical production as well as offensive and defensive primacy. It’s a little bit tricky because in some cases players who were presumed to be stars haven’t performed that way, or role players have, but I tried to consider the planned roster construction coming into the season.

In the case of teams that made a significant trade during the season, like the Brooklyn Nets, I considered the stars on the roster for each portion of the season. In their case, before the Kyrie Irving trade, I looked at games where both Kyrie and Kevin Durant were healthy. After the Durant trade, I looked at games where Nic Claxton and Mikal Bridges were healthy. I basically threw out the team games played between when Kyrie Irving was traded and when Durant was traded.

NBA Standings: Eastern Conference with two best players healthy

  1. Milwaukee Bucks (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday) — 37-10 — 0.787
  2. Boston Celtics (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown) — 37-16 — 0.698
  3. Philadelphia 76ers (Joel Embiid, James Harden) — 29-14 — 0.674
  4. Cleveland Cavaliers (Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland) — 30-20 — 0.600
  5. New York Knicks (Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle) — 36-26 — 0.581
  6. Brooklyn Nets (Various) — 26-18 — 0.565
  7. Indiana Pacers (Myles Turner, Tyrese Haliburton) — 26-21 — 0.553
  8. Miami Heat (Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo) — 27-25 — 0.519
  9. Atlanta Hawks (Trae Young and Dejounte Murray) — 30-28 — 0.517
  10. Chicago Bulls (Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan) — 29-28 — 0.509
  11. Toronto Raptors (Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet) — 23-27 — 0.460
  12. Washington Wizards (Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis) — 18-22 — 0.450
  13. Orlando Magic (Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner) — 25-36 — 0.409
  14. Charlotte Hornets (LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier) — 12-21 — 0.364
  15. Detroit Pistons (Cade Cunningham, Bojan Bogdanovic) — 3-9 — 0.250

The biggest takeaway here is probably how much Milwaukee still stands above the rest of the field. And just considering the top two stars doesn’t even take into account how good they could be if Khris Middleton is full healthy and fully effective in the playoffs, something that’s been far from a given so far this season.

The disparity between the healthiest and least-healthy teams is also fairly dramatic. The Knicks have had Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle on the court for 62 games this season. The Pistons had Cade Cunningham and Bojan Bogdanovic healthy for just 12. The Hornets had LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier healthy for just 33.

NBA Standings: Western Conference with two best players healthy

  1. Denver Nuggets (Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray) — 35-16 — 0.686
  2. Los Angeles Clippers (Kawhi Leonard, Paul George) — 22-13  — 0.629
  3. Memphis Grizzlies (Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr.) — 25-15 — 0.625
  4. Sacramento Kings (Domantas Sabonis, De’Aaron Fox) — 37-23 — 0.617
  5. New Orleans Pelicans (Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram) — 7-5 — 0.583
  6. Dallas Mavericks (Luka Doncic, Christian Wood/Kyrie Irving) — 26-20 — 0.565
  7. Phoenix Suns (Devin Booker, Chris Paul/Kevin Durant) — 13-10 — 0.565
  8. Utah Jazz (Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson) — 28-27 — 0.509
  9. Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson) — 19-19 — 0.500
  10. Los Angeles Lakers (LeBron James, Anthony Davis) — 14-14 — 0.500
  11. Minnesota Timberwolves (Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards) — 10-11 — 0.476
  12. Portland Trail Blazers (Damian Lillard, Jerami Grant) — 23-27 — 0.460
  13. Oklahoma City Thunder (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey) — 24-31 — 0.436
  14. San Antonio Spurs (Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell) — 8-20 — 0.286
  15. Houston Rockets (Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun) — 13-34 — 0.277

Taking this view only makes the Western Conference look more muddled. You have theoretical contenders like the Lakers, Suns, Clippers, Warriors and Pelicans able to hold onto that status, in part, because their star duos have all been together for 40 games or less this season. You can also see just how much the extended injury absences of players like Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zion Williamson have disrupted the seasons for their teams.

The Nuggets rise to the top of the heap here but I’m not sure this really should make Nuggets fans feel any better, especially considering they trail the Celtics and Bucks in this metric by a decent amount.

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NBA Playoffs and magic numbers

Several teams have already clinched playoff berths while others have already seen their seasons end. Which teams are next up to secure a playoff spot or a spot in the NBA Draft Lottery?

  • Pistons, Spurs, Rockets: Officially eliminated from playoff contention
  • Wizards, Pacers, Magic, Trail Blazers: Do not control their destiny. That means even if they won the rest of their remaining games they could make the No. 10 seed in their respective conferences without teams in front of them collapsing.
  • Raptors, Jazz, Pelicans, Bulls: These teams each need 13 or more wins to secure the No. 10 seed.
  • Bucks, Celtics: Have officially locked in playoff spots.

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