The league inches closer to the unofficial opening date of Christmas. Here are the rankings . . .
#30 Atlanta Hawks (3-14, -10.9, LW: 29)
#29 Chicago Bulls (4-13, -10.4, LW: 25)
#28 New York Knicks (4-13, -6.9, LW: 27)
#27 Phoenix Suns (3-13, -10.7, LW: 30)
#26 Cleveland Cavaliers (2-13, -8.6, LW: 26)
#25 Utah Jazz (8-9, -2.5, LW: 8)
#24 Washington Wizards (5-11, -5.9, LW: 24)
#23 Miami Heat (6-10, -1.3, LW: 23)
#22 Minnesota Timberwolves (7-10, -4.5, LW: 28)
#21 San Antonio Spurs (8-8, -0.9, LW: 12)
#20 Sacramento Kings (9-8, -2.2, LW: 17)
#19 Brooklyn Nets (7-10, -1.4, LW: 18)
#18 Boston Celtics (9-8, +2.4, LW: 16)
A heavy preseason favorite to win the East, the Celtics see themselves sitting fifth in the standings while ranking 19th in the league in points per game. This has nothing to do with pace either, as they rank the same per 100 possessions (105.4 PPG, 105.5 Pts/100). While being a top ten defense the league has kept them afloat, their 2-4 mark against the West doesn’t bode well, considering two have come against the Jazz and one win came in overtime against the lowly Suns. Maybe they just haven’t hit their stride yet, maybe these struggles will continue. If anyone can right the ship, Brad Stevens is that guy, but as we approach the holiday season it is a little surprising to see a preseason contender struggling a quarter of the way through.
#17 Detroit Pistons (8-6, -0.1, LW: 20)
#16 Golden State Warriors (12-6, +6.1, LW: 3)
#15 Charlotte Hornets (8-8, +4.6, LW: 7)
We have discussed this a couple of times on the show, but this isn’t just an automatic “Give the Warriors the trophy” season. Curry’s injury and Green missing become bigger problems than anyone believed. And anyone who thinks that Draymond Green isn’t the most valuable Warrior really doesn’t understand how that system works in Oakland.
#14 Orlando Magic (9-8, -2.1, LW: 22)
Quietly leading the albeit weak Southeast Division, the Magic have put up 130 points in each of the last two games and have won seven of nine. Aaron Gordon is continuing to improve and has been the team’s best player. Now, that does not make the Magic a contender, but for a team that hasn’t had playoff success since the beginning of the decade, this is a refreshing change in the Magic Kingdom.
#13 Dallas Mavericks (7-9, +0.8, LW: 21)
#12 Los Angeles Lakers (9-7, +1.3, LW: 10)
#11 Denver Nuggets (10-7, +6, LW: 9)
#10 Philadelphia 76ers (12-7, +0.3, LW: 11)
#9 New Orleans Pelicans (10-7, +2.7, LW: 14)
#8 Houston Rockets (8-7, -0.3, LW: 19)
Hard to believe that this team took the Warriors to Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals just five months ago. Now they have won four in a row by an average of 15.8 per game. Don’t give up on these guys just yet. That being said, what the hell were they thinking about when they brought Melo in? Mike D’Antoni already had that experience in New York. D’Antoni seems like a nice guy, so why torture him again? I think the Rockets are a really smart organization, but sometimes even smart teams do dumb things.
#7 Memphis Grizzlies (11-5, +3, LW: 13)
#6 Indiana Pacers (11-6, +4.8, LW: 15)
#5 Portland Trail Blazers (11-5, +6.9, LW: 1)
#4 Los Angeles Clippers (11-5, +5.1, LW: 6)
#3 Toronto Raptors (13-4, +8.4, LW: 4)
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder (10-6, +4.8, LW: 5)
#1 Milwaukee Bucks (12-4, +11.1, LW: 2)
Today’s topic I want to address is hustle stats. I know the belief that you can’t measure heart and all of the B.S. that comes with the anti-stat people, but the reality is that if the best thing you can say about a professional player is that they try hard, that means that they suck at the professional level. What really matters is results. So what if you try hard if the results mean you lose? Coaches don’t get fired if the guys aren’t trying; they get fired if the guys are winning. I’m not saying that effort doesn’t matter, what I’m saying is that a lot of times hustle is more because of success. If a team is successful, one is more likely to give a better effort than if a team is 10-20 games below .500.
The fantastic site 82games.com has a breakdown on their hustle stats and how much they each attribute to winning games. The data shows that more successful teams have more of the hustle stats, but I’m not sure how much that reflects. If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears. I’m just a firm believer that:
Talent = Success = Effort = Better Results.
But that’s just me.