by Andrew Fossett (@heyfossett)
This is a power ranking for the NNFBA (National Non-Finalist Basketball Association), updated weekly with all facts necessary to determine the hierarchy of a 28-team league that doesn’t include the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Golden State Warriors. The NNFBA is in organization that I made up in hopes of creating a more expeditious playoff structure for the NBA.
LeBron James will at least wait until after Valentine’s Day to break Kevin Love’s heart. The February 23rd deadline represents the last chance for teams to make significant improvements before the playoffs. Golden State appears to be content with the current makeup of their roster, so Cleveland is the only non-NNFBA team that might make a notable move. Whatever moves occur between now and the 23rd, when the dust settles we’ll have a clearer picture of serious contenders. For now, these rankings show the teams with the best chance of preventing a repeat of last year's matchup in the NBA Finals.
Monday, February 13th:
San Antonio Spurs (2-0) | 1-0 vs CLE | 1-0 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = -16
Memphis Grizzlies (3-2) | 1-1 vs CLE | 2-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = -1.2
Atlanta Hawks (1-1) | 1-0 vs CLE | 0-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 0.5
Milwaukee Bucks (1-3) | 1-2 vs CLE | 0-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 0.75
Sacramento Kings (2-2) | 1-1 vs CLE | 1-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 4 | Winning 5 games over a stretch of 10 was good enough to bring the Kings within 1.5 games of the Western Conference’s eighth seed. What’s actually impressive is that Sacramento has recent wins over both the Cavaliers and the Warriors. Obviously, DeMarcus Cousins shoulders most of the responsibility for whatever successes the team has, but there are other elements to the Kings’ slight improvement. Injuries have forced the team to give more playing time to former 1st round picks, Ben McLemore and Willie Cauley-Stein. This organization typically hates the players it drafts and demonstrates that hatred by not developing them, giving them to other teams, or punishing them for being too good to trade. If Cousins remains in Sacramento past the end of his contract, he’ll need the team to have better player development.
Chicago Bulls (2-1) | 2-0 vs CLE | 0-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 4.3
New Orleans Pelicans (1-4) | 1-1 vs CLE | 0-3 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 6
Houston Rockets (1-2) | 0-1 vs CLE | 1-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 6.7
Utah Jazz (1-3) | 1-1 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 7.25
Detroit Pistons (1-3) | 1-1 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 8.5
Portland Trail Blazers (1-5) | 1-1 vs CLE | 0-4 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 11.7
Miami Heat (1-2) | 0-1 vs CLE | 1-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 13
Oklahoma City Thunder (1-4) | 1-1 vs CLE| 0-3 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 14
Los Angeles Clippers (1-3) | 1-0 vs CLE | 0-3 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 14.2
Los Angeles Lakers (1-3) | 0-1 vs CLE | 1-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 14.5
Dallas Mavericks (1-3) | 1-1 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 15.2
Indiana Pacers (1-2) | 1-1 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 19.7 | The Pacers played a good half against the Cavaliers last Wednesday, holding a small lead going into the break. They were promptly slaughtered in the 3rd quarter, giving up 40 points and eventually losing 132-117. This week they’ll play in Cleveland and hopefully have the services of power forward Thaddeus Young. His defensive capabilities, averaging 1.8 steals per game, could be useful in making the game more competitive. Some credit should go to Jeff Teague for basically matching the play of Kyrie Irving with 22 points and 14 assists. Teague seems to be a good fit for the Pacers, currently 5th in the league in assists per game at a career high 8.2. Unlike last year, Cleveland’s defense has been mediocre at best and they tend to struggle the most against opposing point guards. Teague could be the key to a close game this Wednesday. Also, the Pacers will have to keep Kyle Korver from hitting 8 three-pointers.
Philadelphia 76ers (0-2) | 0-2 vs CLE | AVG Margin of Defeat = 2.5
Toronto Raptors (0-5) | 0-3 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 5.4
Washington Wizards (0-2) | 0-2 vs CLE | AVG Margin of Defeat = 8
Boston Celtics (0-3) | 0-2 vs CLE | 0-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 9.3
Charlotte Hornets (0-5) | 0-3 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 11
Orlando Magic (0-2) | 0-1 vs CLE | 0-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 13
Brooklyn Nets (0-4) | 0-3 vs CLE | 0-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 13
Phoenix Suns (0-5) | 0-2 vs CLE | 0-3 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 13.4
Denver Nuggets (0-2) | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 16 | Denver acquired Mason Plumlee from the Portland Trail Blazers for Jusuf Nurkic and a 1st round pick. The Nuggets hold the 8th seed for the Western Conference playoffs by one game, so the only reason for Portland to give them Plumlee is because they also see a postseason berth as meaningless. Since they gave up a 1st round pick, Denver probably has plans for Plumlee beyond the remainder of his contract which expires this year. This would instantly give him more stability with the team than most of its current players. The Nuggets are an improving team but we won’t know how good they can be until more players take on defined roles. It’ll take improved health and at least one more offseason to figure things out.
Minnesota Timberwolves (0-3) | 0-1 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 16.3 | When the Timberwolves face Cleveland on Tuesday night they’ll be without guard Zach LaVine, who tore his ACL against the Detroit Pistons on February 3rd. Minnesota was annihilated by the Cavaliers in a previous matchup and will look to play better at home this Tuesday. Even without LaVine, this team has a collection of talent that makes them intriguing even as they struggle. Expect a better game in round two with Cleveland.
New York Knicks (0-4) | 0-3 vs CLE | 0-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 20.2
Things aren't going well for me. My focus is on making it to the All-Star break, resting up, getting healthy, and getting after it in the remainder of the regular season. I'd appreciate it if people would stop getting injured or threatening to sit out games solely for the purpose of throwing me off. Once again, the record is kept according to picks against the spread.
Cleveland Cavaliers versus:
Washington Wizards | Margin of Defeat = -4 (L)
Indiana Pacers | Margin of Defeat = 5 (W)
Oklahoma City Thunder| Margin of Defeat = 7 (L)
Denver Nuggets | Margin of Defeat = 12 (W)
Golden State Warriors versus:
Chicago Bulls | Margin of Defeat = 5 (L)
Memphis Grizzlies | Margin of Defeat = 3 (L)
Oklahoma City Thunder | Margin of Defeat = 10 (W)
Overall Record: 6-7
Cleveland Cavaliers versus:
@ Minnesota Timberwolves | Margin of Defeat = 5
Indiana Pacers | Margin of Defeat = 7
Golden State Warriors versus:
@ Denver Nuggets | Margin of Defeat = 10
Sacramento Kings | Margin of Defeat = 12