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.
Before we get into the rankings for this week I’d like to make a list of the teams that have played themselves out of serious playoff contention:
The Brooklyn Nets.
That’s all. Brooklyn has 9 wins and 42 losses. They’ve played 51 games and are still trying to get double-digits in the win column. Even that level of play hasn’t been enough to mathematically eliminate them just yet. The Nets could win all 31 of their remaining games and they would still finish with a losing record. The Eastern Conference’s 2nd worst team is only 4.5 games out of it’s 8th and final playoff spot. In the Western Conference, the worst team is only 6.5 games back. This is ridiculous.
Cut the number of playoff teams from eight to six and play and football-like schedule with the two highest seeds from each conference getting a little time off to start the postseason. The first round could be a best of three series, the second round would be a best of five, the conference finals would be a best of seven, and the NBA Finals would be a best of seven also.
Of course, as long as Cleveland and Golden State continue to be super-teams, the NNFBA presents a much more reasonable playoff structure. Take only the top team in each conference from this power-ranking, and make the postseason a four-team affair that will be a more efficient use of everyone’s time. We will wait for word from the commissioner's office. In the meantime, here are the new rankings for teams based solely on their ability to beat Cleveland or Golden State.
Monday, February 6th:
San Antonio Spurs (2-0) | 1-0 vs CLE | 1-0 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = -16
Chicago Bulls (2-0) | 2-0 vs CLE | AVG Margin of Defeat = -9 | The Bulls have the pieces necessary to be a threat in the East, but they’re still trying to put those pieces together. That struggle has been made very public recently in spats between star players and coaches, played out in the locker room and on social media. Chicago’s success doesn’t rely solely on Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and Rajon Rondo. The contributions of Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez shouldn’t be underestimated. Toughness in the interior helps the Bulls maintain a top-10 defense despite their overall inconsistency.
Memphis Grizzlies (3-1) | 1-1 vs CLE | 2-0 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = -5.2 | Speaking of defense, the Grizzlies are one of only three teams holding opponents to less than 100 points per game. That may not be the most flattering way of describing defense in the NBA, but the fact remains that Memphis is one of the best on that half of the court. It’s what makes them a proven tough task for Cleveland and Golden State, at least in the regular season. Two other assets the Grizzlies have are experience and depth. Vince Carter delivers both coming off the bench and still has moments that make observers forget his age. The true x-factor could be Chandler Parsons, who is still seeing limited minutes and too many days off. If he can build up to giving the Grizzlies the production that got him a max deal, this team will stand a chance.
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
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
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) | 1-0 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 21 | The Pacers had a busy offseason in which they added Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, and Al Jefferson. After a mediocre start, the Pacers are currently on a six game winning streak entering this week’s action. Of course, none of those wins matter here in the NNFBA. They’ll take on a Cleveland team this week they last saw without LeBron James. Paul George has seen plenty of James over the years and he’ll now hope for help in the continuing development of Myles Turner, aside from offseason acquisitions. For Turner, part of what limits that development is foul trouble. This is partially a side effect of his shot-blocking capabilities. He is third in the league in blocks per game and 9th in fouls.
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
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
Washington Wizards (0-1) | 0-1 vs CLE | AVG Margin of Defeat = 11 | John Wall and a healthy Bradley Beal make up one the NBA’s best backcourts, but there’s a question of who else will show up in the postseason. The Wizards are trying to answer this question with Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, and Otto Porter. Additionally, second-year player Kelly Oubre Jr. seems to be turning himself into a solid first-option of the bench. However, the Wizards are still heavily reliant on starting five not just for standard production but often to put out fires started by poor bench play. It seemed like the Wizards were having tryouts for bench players early in the year. Lately, the rotation has been shortened and Washington has made a run featuring a dynamic home court advantage. They’ve won 17 in a row at the Verizon Center going into a Monday night matchup that matters with Cleveland.
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 | In Nikola “The Joker” Jokic, Denver has at least one piece of it’s roster figured out. Injuries and inconsistency are preventing every other player from locking down a specific role. Through this upheaval, the Nuggets have come to rely on the veteran presence of Jameer Nelson while Emmanuel Mudiay struggles with lingering health issues along with shooting woes that have plagued him in his second year. The Nuggets have assembled talent that’s worth getting excited about, but it’s hard to get hyped when players continue to miss games. If this team somehow limps into the playoffs as an eighth seed, they’ll only get massacred from Golden State for their trouble.
Minnesota Timberwolves (0-3) | 0-1 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 16.3
New York Knicks (0-4) | 0-3 vs CLE | 0-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 20.2
Oklahoma City Thunder (0-3) | 0-1 vs CLE| 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 21 | There’s no hope for the Thunder. Russell Westbrook averaging a triple-double is incredible. Unfortunately, his stats aren’t just an indicator of how good he is but also how much is required of him by his team. In order to obtain these gaudy numbers, Westbrook is shooting just 42 percent, 22nd among point guards, and trailing only James Harden in turnovers. His performance is inefficient because if he fails to have a monster game, the Thunder will most likely lose. He’s having a monster year, so OKC will make the playoffs. They’re currently on pace to be annihilated by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
I want to offer an excuse for poor predictions: it's hard to make these at the beginning of the week when lineups are subject to change for a variety of reasons. That being said, I'll still be keeping track of my record. If I go on a run, I'll retract the excuse and start bragging. Picking winners in Cleveland and Golden State games is too easy, so I'll mark wins and losses by how I did against the spread.
Cleveland Cavaliers versus:
Dallas Mavericks | Margin of Defeat = 9 (L)
Minnesota Timberwolves | Margin of Defeat = 4 (L)
New York Knicks | Margin of Defeat = 15 (W)
Golden State Warriors versus:
Charlotte Hornets | Margin of Defeat = 16 (W)
Los Angeles Clippers | Margin of Defeat = 14 (W)
Sacramento Kings | Margin of Defeat = 12 (L)
Overall Record: 3-3
Cleveland Cavaliers versus:
Washington Wizards | Margin of Defeat = -4
Indiana Pacers | Margin of Defeat = 5
Oklahoma City Thunder| Margin of Defeat = 7
Denver Nuggets | Margin of Defeat = 12
Golden State Warriors versus:
Chicago Bulls | Margin of Defeat = 5
Memphis Grizzlies | Margin of Defeat = 3
Oklahoma City Thunder | Margin of Defeat = 10