NBA Power Rankings Update: Who Has Been the Best Team in the Playoffs?
Even though 16 teams make the NBA playoffs, it always seems as though only a select few have a true chance to secure an NBA Finals victory.
This year, Golden State Warriors appeared locked in for a Finals berth, and our algorithms gave them just shy of a 50 percent chance to win the title. There's no denying that the Warriors were the NBA's best team during the regular season, but now that they're down 2-1 to the Memphis Grizzlies, they've actually been surpassed -- for the first time in a long time -- in terms of NBA Finals odds.
Our algorithms currently give the Warriors a 28.3 percent chance to win the NBA Finals, trailing the Los Angeles Clippers' 31.5 percent odds.
Have they been that bad? Have the Clippers been that good? What about Memphis?
What about the East? The Washington Wizards have actually been the best team in the playoffs, but how do they stack up against the contenders in the West?
Let's find out.
As a quick guide into our nERD metric, nERD indicates how efficient a team is compared to average teams in the league. A team's actual nERD score is indicative of that squad's ultimate winning percentage during an 82-game season. For some context, the Warriors led the NBA this year with a nERD of 80.7. The New York Knicks finished last with a nERD of 19.4.
|Los Angeles Clippers||11||66.20|
|Golden State Warriors||7||66.15|
|San Antonio Spurs||7||53.49|
|Portland Trail Blazers||5||33.11|
|New Orleans Pelicans||4||26.41|
Thanks to the dreadful play by the Toronto Raptors (who would have won about 3.5 games in an entire season based on their first-round performance) and the not-quite-as-bad play by the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks -- and in fairness some good play by the Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Chicago Bulls -- the top three teams in the playoffs have all come from the East.
The Brooklyn Nets played like the best first-round loser in the conference, and that's partly why the Atlanta Hawks' nERD is just 59.0 in the postseason (compared to 64.8 in the regular season). The Hawks haven't been awful or playing like a sub-.500 team, but the Wizards have simply been playing the best basketball in the playoffs, and it reflects onto their opponents.
Of course, the top- and bottom-heavy nature of the East means that the Western Conference squads are more settled near the middle of the pack as they play one another game-after-game. After all, 10 of the top 15 teams in regular season nERD were Western Conference teams.
Despite a tough series with the San Antonio Spurs, the Clippers boast the best postseason nERD in the conference, fractionally better than the Warriors who beat up on the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round.
The Grizzlies aren't that far behind, though, and it's not as though the Warriors are losing to a huge underdog. The Grizzlies finished ninth in the regular season in nERD (59.1) and are playing as well as the Clippers and Warriors are in the playoffs.
The most noticeable decline -- aside from the Raptors' plummet -- is the Houston Rockets, who boast a postseason nERD of just 38.5. For some regular season context, the Sacramento Kings finished with a nERD of 38.8.
Of course, these are small sample sizes, and opponent strength (and weakness) plays a lot into how these teams actually perform, but right now, the Wizards are the team who have the best claim to the "it" factor this postseason.